In the US: Sundays, 9/8c, NBC In the UK: Acquired by BBC Two. Will air in May
Three episodes into American Odyssey, a sort of Crash meets State of Affairs meets Zero Dark Thirty that sees three separate characters investigating a single conspiracy in countries over the world, and we’ve not seen a single Cyclops. No pirates. No witches. Not even a helpful princess doing her washing. In short, there ain’t much Odyssey in American Odyssey.
There’s a lot of special forces soldier Anna Friel talking Arabic and wondering where she can find a PC with a USB port for her flash drive full of incriminating documents, while being passed parcel-like between different groups of kidnappers in Mali.
There’s a lot of corporate investigator Peter Facinelli looking pained as he discovers that it’s really not that easy to investigate incredibly powerful multinational companies in cahoots with the US military and trying to cover up the fact they’re co-funding al Qaeda.
There’s even a lot of trustfunder-turned-Occupy Wall Streeter Jake Robinson running around trying to find an email from Friel while the very obvious fake journalist he’s with comes up with really poor excuses for why people keep dying/going missing/changing their story et al as soon as Robinson mentions them to her.
But despite its supposed inspiration from Homer, there's not a single whirlpool or monster, goddess or dead hero to be spotted for miles, let alone a spouse at home weaving a tapestry every night to hold off the suitors.
What. A. Swizz*.
On the plus side, though, as I mentioned in my review of the first episode, it does all feel a step up from the usual military-industrial complex conspiracy theories that we’ve had up until now. There are some Greeks - or should I say ‘Greeks’ given the Alexis Tsipras-alike Greek ambassador is played by Orla Brady. There’s lots of Arabs in various shades of grey (well, mostly shades of black, but there are shades) and they get to speak Arabic… and French, because lo-and-behold, just turned up in episode three as a drug dealer, ready to parle français, is Spiral/Engrenage’s own Grégory Fitoussi - I do hope he didn’t quit to be in this.
Nevertheless, a step up is not the same as ascending to the top of Mount Olympus. Despite narrowly evading a “look around the room to guess the inspiration for the Leet Hacker’s password” scene, episode two saw a silly amount of moments where anyone who’s ever even received an email will know the show is being technically illiterate. There’s a heinous amount of coincidences going on, including one boy’s uncle whom he’s never met turning out to be the exact person on TV he was looking at unsuspectingly (and judgementally) earlier in the same episode. And there are so many suspicious deaths and implausible official denials happening that the baddies might as well put up signposts saying “This way to the government cover-up!"
So while it’s definitely in the upper end of the genre, with some lovely location work, a decent cast and a proper attempt to tie what could be very generic into real world events, American Odyssey is unfortunately a bit more of a miss than a hit.
* Oh, there is one obvious reference to Greek myth, BTW - there’s a character called Kharon scheduled to pop off in later episodes, Kharon/Charon being the ferryman who took travellers across the Styx to the underworld. Not to be pedantic, though, but Kharon isn't actually mentioned in The Odyssey, as he only appears much later as a figure in Greek religion. Oh well. Still. A. Swizz.
Barrometer rating: 2 TMINE prediction: Given its ratings, it’s unlikely to get a second season, and to be honest, it probably doesn’t deserve one
It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.
The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there'sLocate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.
Last one of these for a fortnight, as I’m on holiday next Monday. But somehow, following last week’s purge and with a bit of efficiency, I’m bang up to speed with practically everything and I’ve watched some new shows:
The Odd Couple (US: CBS)
Somehow, some strange sort of comedy lifeboat has been erected at NBC and floated off a big bunch of its more talented comedy actors to this CBS show based on the classic Neil Simon play/movie/TV series of the late 60s/early 70s about two divorced men, one a slob, one a tad OCD, who end up living together. Here, Matthew Perry (late of Go On) takes on the Jack Klugman role, once again playing a DJ; Thomas Lennon (Sean Saves The World) takes the Tony Randall role; Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) is Perry's PA; Wendell Pierce (The Michael J Fox Show) is one of Lennon and Perry’s mutual friends.
But despite the source material, the cast and the likes of Joe Keenan behind the scenes, it’s not that good. There are times when it comes close to funny and there’s more intelligence than you might have expected of a CBS comedy, with Perry’s romance with Leslie Bibb in the first episode not going quite how you’d expect; Lennon is as good as always, as is Perry, even if Perry is a more natural fit to Lennon’s role. It’s also better at characterisation than you’d expect and never hits the miserable bitterness of We Are Men, But it’s never laugh out loud funny. Or even funny. Needed to be a lot better, basically, given its pedigree.
X Company (Canada: CBC)
Second World War spy action drama, based on Canada’s real-life spy training base Camp X. In this first episode, a bunch of non-descript young people overact a lot as they’re sent undercover into a French village, while a bunch of better characterised people are systematically killed off. This being a Canadian show, lots of the Nazis are quite nice, as are the Canadians, while the Brits, whether working for or against Camp X, are bastards. For reasons unknown, everyone German (some of them actually played by Germans) speaks German, while despite Canada’s bilingualism, everyone else speaks English.
The first 15 minutes is quite horrendous and I almost stopped watching after that, but after that initial attempt to woo the viewer with action, everything settles down and becomes a lot more interesting. It’s still not great, but one of the better efforts from Canada of late. Incidentally, as I predicted not so long ago, 2015 is indeed turning out to be the Year of Synthesia
Living With Models (UK: Comedy Central)
Ordinary schlub looking for a flat finds one… occupied by models. Close your eyes. Imagine the series. Whatever you just imagined is better than the series itself.
Hostages (UK: BBC4; Israeli: Channel 10 – aired in 2013)
This Israeli show that sees a surgeon’s family taken hostage to force her to kill one of her patients – the Prime Minister – has already been adapted by the US as Hostages. However, despite having seen that show, I quite enjoyed this version, as it’s considerably better – more low key in the exact same way as Prisoners of War was. Although many of the beats are the same, the structure’s different, more time is taken and it does actually feel like a thriller at times. There’s plenty of genre clichés, such as the “illegal gun dealer who demands more money from the man he’s just sold the guns to” and “the bad ass cop who faces down a hostage-taker single-handled”, but largely, it’s not bad, and it does everything better than the US remake does – a step down from Engrenages, naturally, but a step up from Salamander. Good to see BBC4 branching out into Sky Arts’ usual territory, too.
After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Fortitude, Gallipoli, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter,State of Affairs and Suits. Oh, Vikings and Bosch are back, too.
About the blog
A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
Add in film, theatre, art, books, events, competitions and even weekly reviews of Wonder Woman comics, and you've (hopefully) got officially the fourth best blog on the web for media lovers. Oh yes, and there's The Barrometer, the ultimate guide to quality TV.
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"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
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"Billing itself as 'officially the fourth most popular UK TV blog', there are several whimsical regulars here that could help it climb as high as number three…"
I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.