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What have you been watching? Including פאודה (Fauda), Incorporated, The Crown and Arrow-verse crossover

Posted on December 5, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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. There's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. 

Who launches new shows at the start of December? Not many networks, which is why I haven't reviewed too much in the past week, although you may have caught my third-episode verdict on Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix) if you were hanging on my every word. 

But with Thanksgiving over, all the regular TV shows have come back - at least until their Christmas breaks in a week or so. That means that after the jump, I'll be taking a look at the following regulars:

Canada
Travelers

US
Ash vs Evil Dead, Chance, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Designated Survivor, DIrk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Falling Water, The Flash, Frequency, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, People of Earth, Son of Zorn, Supergirl and Timeless

The Internet
Goliath

For one week and one week only, thanks to the fact there was the four-way superhero crossover on The CW, Arrow also makes a return. Will I stick with it afterwards? Maybe - after all, not only will I be dropping at least one show this week, I'm also going to be promoting a show, too…

Surprisingly, though, a couple of networks decided that actually, the start of December is a perfect time to launch a new TV show:

Incorporated (US: Syfy)
Hailing from no less a pair of minds (or at least their production company) than Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Incorporated is one of those 'futuristic thriller' things set in the near future where the whole world's gone to pot: corporations now run everything and either you work for them in the 'green zone' living it up and holidaying on the beaches of Reykjavík now that global warming's properly kicked in or you live out in the 'red zones' in favelas, fighting for your life while trying to make a quick buck selling one of the last three or so cigarettes made from real tobacco that exist in the world.

Against this backdrop, you have former red-zoner Sean Teale (Skins) sneaking his way around a top company at the behest of Ian Tracey (Continuum, Intelligence, Travelers) in order to find out where the sister of pal Eddie Ramos is. Can he work his way to the top of the corporate ladder, by any means necessary, including framing his rivals so they get a visit from scary Dennis Haysbert (24, The Unit)?

Incorporated is ostensibly a futuristic industrial espionage thriller, but is really 49% Gattaca, 49% Elysium and 2% Soylent Green. While clearly a lot of thought has gone into imagining this future Earth of self-driving cars and face transplants - although even today we have better IT - little thought has gone into working out why we should care about Teale and his problems or any really complex bits of industrial tradecraft. Oh look, here comes a scene where Teale has to steal some data from a computer while he's in someone else's office. Can he copy it all in just a few minutes? Now - maybe not. In 2074? Of course he bloody can with his 100Tbps USB 23.0 interface and still have time left over to play holographic Tetris with his cranial implant.

The only interesting and new thing about the show that I noted was the use of capoeira as the favella martial art of choice, which was a nice touch. Otherwise, slow-moving and oddly devoid of human interest.

פאודה (Fauda) (Israel: Yes; UK: Netflix)
Somewhat different from Netflix's other Israeli spy show - the comedy Mossad 101 - this is a political thriller from Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff, based on their experiences of doing military service in the IDF's Duvdevan special unit. It sees former Mista'arvim (undercover counter-terrorist) commander Lior Raz (The Gordin Cell) being lured from his vineyard to supervise an operation - the capture of a Hamas leader known as 'the Panther' (Hisham Sulliman), whom Raz supposedly killed two years earlier. Except the Panther isn't dead and everything doesn't quite go as planned…

As with most Netflix 'originals', this is actually a simple acquisition, this time from Israel's Yes network, where the show aired last year, winning no fewer than six of Israel's equivalents of BAFTAs, the Ophirs, including Best Drama. I've only watched the first episode so far, and that's a relatively plot-heavy piece that leaves little time for any real character development. But it's action-packed, sympathetic not only to Arabs but also Hamas (surprisingly enough), and is pretty even-handed, with our heroes even taking unarmed civilians hostage at one point.

There's nothing I've seen, beyond its novel setting and authenticity, to make it stand out from any other good guy/terrorist Moby Dick piece, but it's certainly promising enough to make me want to watch more.

The Crown (Netflix)
I've been promising for weeks to cover this, but we've been stalled at episode 8 for a month now, so time to at least discuss what I've seen so far. The first of seven or so seasons, each focusing on a different decade of her life, The Crown is a moderately fictional biopic of none other than Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy from Crossbones, White Heat, Going Postal).

Season 1 starts off giving us a woman who had no plans to do much except be a wife, mother and horse breeder, until the death of her father King George VI (the miscast Jared Harris from The Other Boleyn Girl, Mad Men, Fringe, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and To The Ends of the Earth, when Netflix should have stumped up the cash to get Colin Firth to redo his The King's Speech turn) catapults her and hubby Philip (Matt Smith - Doctor Who, Terminator: Genisys) into one of the most constitutionally important roles in the UK. In an age of increasing modernity, with the monarchy increasingly looking like an anachronistic relic, Foy then has to find a role for herself as well as for the Crown, while juggling the competing demands of her husband, duty, previous kings and queens, her randy sister Margaret and Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow).

While there are attempts to give the show some Game of Thrones-like qualities, thanks to the machinations of Churchill, abdicated uncle Edward VIII and quasi-father-in-law Lord Mountbatten (Greg Wise), The Crown really sits as a halfway house between writer Peter Morgan's The Queen and The Audience. Oddly episodic for Netflix thanks to the nature of real-life, the show is something of an unplanned origin story, going from historic incident to historic incident in the 1950s, showing us how Elizabeth might have evolved from someone whose most important thought was whether to take her husband's adopted surname to being someone with the power to depose the government if she so chooses - albeit running the risk of losing all power if she ever exercises it.

Unlike The Audience, which was firmly on Elizabeth's side, making her an ambitious woman with plenty of ideas for government that she has to put to one side, The Crown is less concerned with this Elizabeth and her supervising of Margaret's scandalous love life, and is more on the side of Philip, something helped perhaps by Smith's magnificent performance/impersonation. Here, Philip's more notorious qualities are toned down to make him a sympathetic, dedicated naval officer (albeit one who would rather have been in the air force), loving husband and father, and firm embracer of modernity, forced to abandon his ambitions and kneel to his wife by the necessities of the throne and the Crown. 

There are parts of The Crown that feel made up, particularly anything to do with Edward VIII or Churchill, and although a little research reveals that they are actually absolutely true, it doesn't help with the show's verisimilitude. Foy, who's shown herself to be sparky in other shows and is almost perfect casting as the young Elizabeth, is nevertheless done no favours by Morgan. He tosses her a few bones, such as being able to repair a truck thanks to her wartime service as a mechanic, or her requests for a proper education to supplement the constitution-focused training she got as a child, which she's able to use to outmanoeuvre polticians. But that's largely drowned out by thankless duty after thankless duty after tragic loss being dropped on her shoulders - such is the burden of 'the Crown'.

But it's beautifully made, highly enjoyable, far more palatable than Downton Abbey, frequently funny, frequently tear-jerking, often romantic and just like Elizabeth, finds a reason for the monarchy in this day and age.

We will watch the rest of it. Just as soon as lovely wife's finished Master Chef - The Professionals, The Grand Tour, My Kitchen Rules Australia, and Strictly Come Dancing. Oh yes, and The Walking Dead.

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Review: Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)

Posted on October 19, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Travelers

In Canada: Mondays, 9pm ET, Showcase
In the UK: Acquired by Netflix

Given that Canada, Showcase and Brad Wright have been so central to science fiction television, particularly time travel shows, in the past few decades, we shouldn't be surprised that with the US lining up the likes of Timeless, Frequency, Time After Time and Making History, all three have decided to get in on the act to produce something similar but different.

Travelers flips most time travel stories on their head by having travelers coming from the future to our present in order to prevent a terrible disaster from occuring. So far, so identical to Showcase's own Continuum. The difference here is that the time travelers are (apparently) the good guys and they're from the far off future, a future so distant the human race is in danger of extinction, something they'd quite like to prevent by changing things now.

But most important of all, they can't actually physically travel through time. Instead, provided they know the exact time and place someone is going to die, they can project their minds back in time into the 'host' and take over their body à la Chocky and Quantum Leap.

Travelers' first episode, written by Wright, is mainly establishment of the lives and families of the hosts who are shortly going to die and be replaced by an 'elite unit' of time travelers. We have the learning disabled Mackenzie Porter (Hell on Wheels, Blackstone); douche high school quarterback and cage fighter Jared Paul Abrahamson (Awkward); abused single mum Nesta Marlee Cooper (Heroes: Reborn); and drug-addicted college student Reilly Dolman.

Chasing after them after he becomes aware of some 'odd traffic' on the dark web is FBI agent Eric McCormack (Trust Me, Will and GracePerception). 

Then, of course, the time travelers turn up and the show then becomes about the differences between the hosts and their new inhabitants, who can fight back, don't have an addiction, aren't learning disabled, aren't complete dicks and so on. And despite having done their research, the time travelers still have a huge culture gap to navigate, from the little things such as text message slang and not answering the front door naked through to quite big things like how people talk and discovering that people lie on social media and that maybe one of the hosts isn't who she claimed to be online.

Shot in the style of Wright's previous big offering, Stargate UniverseTravelers is an edgy and surprisingly intimate affair, trying its best to make all of this not ridiculous, something it does pretty well. To be fair, though, there's actually precious little about the time travelers' mission so it's hard to tell if something extraordinarily silly is round the corner. Instead, it's mostly about changing behaviours and what happens if someone starts acting very differently from how they used to behave - and whether other people will allow that or get suspicious.

Basically, it's a science-fiction spy show with a whole bunch of sleeper agents suddenly being activated. It's The Americans but with a different kind of time travel. Hopefully.

The characters and stories are engrossing, McCormack is as pleasing as ever and everyone, particularly Porter and Dolman, does well with what they've got. There's even an appearance by ubiquitous former Huck Finn and Continuum regular Ian Tracey.

There's a big twist at the end that will be entirely ruined if you watch the trailer below, but Travelers is definitely a very promising first start to a series that's also got a big chunk of Netflix co-production money behind it. I'm hoping for great things, but we'll see how it goes.

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Dallas's theme tune had lyrics… but only in France

Posted on March 29, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

So I was listening to the World in Words podcast this morning and discovered a fascinating fact. When Dallas aired on French TV back in the 80s, French broadcasters wanted to explain the show to its audience. So along with a new theme tune, they wrote some lyrics to explain it to them. Listen to them for yourselves:

And here are the lyrics in French in all their glory [via]:

Dallas
Ton univers impitoyable
Dallas
Glorifie la loi du plus fort
Dallas
Et sous ton soleil implacable
Dallas
Tu ne redoutes que la mort

Dallas
Patrie du dollar du pétrole
Dallas
Tu ne connais pas la pitié
Dallas
Le revolver est ton idole
Dallas
Tu te raccroches à ton passé

Dallas
Malheur à celui qui n'a pas compris
Dallas
Un jour il y perdra la vie
Dallas
Ton univers impitoyable
Dallas
Glorifie la loi du plus fort

Dallas
Malheur à celui qui n'a pas compris
Dallas
Un jour il y perdra la vie
Dallas
Ton univers impitoyable
Dallas
Glorifie la loi du plus fort

Dallas
Malheur à celui qui n'a pas compris
Dallas
Un jour il y perdra la vie
Dallas
Ton univers impitoyable

Which more or less means [via, since I can't be arsed to translate it myself]:

Dallas, your ruthless world,
Dallas, where might is right,
Dallas, and under your relentless sun,
Dallas, only death is feared.

Dallas, home of the oil dollar,
Dallas, you do not know pity;
Dallas, the revolver is your idol,
Dallas, you cling to the past.

Dallas, woe to him who does not understand,
Dallas, one day he will lose his life.
Dallas, your ruthless world,
Dallas, where might is right.

Wowzers, hey? But accurate.

Incidentally, it was not alone in this. I mentioned this discovery of mine to French TV journalist Thierry Attard, hoping to find out more, as he is not only a noted expert and consultant on European dubbing, he's literally written the book on it. He reveals that this is just the tip of the iceberg:

I hate when they put a French song on a foreign series. In the 80s they were legion: Hart to Hart, Vegas, Mr Merlin… Santa Barbara, The Bold and the Beautiful, Buck Rogers, The A Team, Days of our Lives (this one didn't last long). If my memory serves and without chronology, we can add Starsky & Hutch, Knots Landing. Later, Prison Break or... Heroes.

So much fun to be had! I leave the full quest to you, gentle reader, but brace yourself - here's your starter for 10. It's Prison Break's French lyrics:

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