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What did you watch this week? Including The Following, Spartacus, Mr Selfridge, Being Human (US) and Arrow

Posted on February 1, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First, the usual recommendations: 30 Rock, Archer, Arrow, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, Don't Trust The B----- in Apartment 23, Cougar Town, Elementary, Go On, Last Resort, Modern Family, Mr Selfridge, Shameless, Spartacus and Suits. These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can't be sure which.

Being added to the list this week after rather a long time hovering close to the qualifying bar is Vegas - it's not an absolute must-recommend but it's about as good as network TV is probably ever going to be able to do with a period gangster show set in Las Vegas and it did have a cracker of an episode this week that managed to mix comedy with the nasty to great effect.

I'm also sticking Banshee on, even if it's going to be a bit too ultraviolent for a lot of people and doesn't exactly aim for verisimilitude a lot of the time. Spartacus is back and so is Top Gear: strange how the three presenters are great when they're together, merely bearable when there's two of them, and unbearable when it's just one of them.

Some new shows started this week, none of which I had a chance to watch: The Americans, which has started on FX and has been acquired by ITV, which looks good but at two hours, was just a little bit too much for me to have caught in time; last night's Do No Harm, which is a modern Jeckyll and Hyde story on NBC; BBC2's Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe and Channel 4's Derek with Ricky Gervais. I'll review them all (or the first two at least) when I've had a chance to watch them, probably on Tuesday. Oh yes, and Netflix has the whole of the new House of Cards for us to watch, too.

Also in the viewing queue: this week's episodes of Suits, 30 Rock and Yes Prime Minister. But that's it.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • Archer: Timothy Olyphant from Justified is gay for Archer. As fun as always, with a great ending that used silence to maximum effect.
  • Arrow: I appreciate that the producers would probably rather be making 'Batman: The Early Years', but did they have to take an existing Green Arrow villain (Count Vertigo) and basically turn him into the Joker, even getting the actor to do an impression of Heath Ledger? Good ep though. The flashbacks could do with advancing the story a bit faster, now, and when are they going to make the IT/general purpose science girl a regular?
  • Being Human (US): Curious how they're shifting the show's power dynamics to make it more female-centric. Where once it was all about Aidan and Josh with Sally a bit of an after-thought (a bit like the original then), it's now all about Aidan, Nora and Sally instead. Everything's in flux though, so let's see if they can stabilise with the new dynamic.
  • Bob Servant Independent: Tried watching it, but despite Brian Cox's best efforts it's the usual "small man in a small town trying to be big" stick that huge chunks of bad British comedy are based on. So I gave up.
  • The Carrie Diaries: Got about 10 minutes into episode two before we completely lost the ability to concentrate. We'll try again but I suspect this is a definite dud.
  • The Following: Well, what an amazing turnround. After a deeply nasty first ep that was empty and full of misogyny, it's like the producers have sat down, asked "What's wrong with this show?" and done as much as they could to fix it. So they've amped up the characterisation, dropped a lot of the sadism, dropped the rubbish female character and added a couple of good and interesting female characters, added in some Scream meta-ness, and focused a lot more on character relationships. Don't watch episode one, if I were you, but start watching from episode two instead. Assuming you fancy watching a show about Edgar Allen Poe-inspired serial killers, that is.
  • Go On: A good Lauren episode and a good expansion of the set up with some more incidental characters. But it really needs to get funnier if it's too avoid cancellation, as well as drop a few of the more rubbish characters that are hogging up the screen time.
  • Mr Selfridge: The first downright poor episode of the show, more soap opera than drama, and with some terrible acting in some quarters. But still enjoyable and had a few interesting historical notes about 'the rational dressing' movement.
  • Spartacus: Usually, it takes the show two or three episodes before it settles down and stops being all about the swearing, sex and violence, and gets on with the plot. This season, they've leapt straight in with plot and characterisation. Yes, it's still a blood-bath and there was an orgy or two - it is still Spartacus - but some clever plotting and writing and actually not much by way of ornate swearing for a change. Also featured Ty from The Almighty Johnsons in a bit part, which was odd.
  • Suits: A decent Louis episode but not as clever as in previous weeks.
  • Yes, Prime Minister: Episode two was a marked improvement on episode one, but watching re-runs of the original, it's clear just how inferior the new version is, both in terms of writing and performance, and it's actually a little offensive at times. All the same, it does have some insight and good qualities, so if you've nothing better to watch, try it.

"What did you watch this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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What did you watch this week? Including Django Unchained, Last Resort, The Wedding Band and Mr Selfridge

Posted on January 25, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First, the usual recommendations: 30 Rock, Archer, Arrow, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, Don't Trust The B----- in Apartment 23, Cougar Town, Elementary, Go On, Last Resort, Modern Family, Mr Selfridge, Shameless, Suits and The Wedding Band. These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can't be sure which

More temporal casualties, with Hard, A Young Doctor's Notebook, Utopia and Spies of Warsaw all being purged from the Sky+ box, thanks in part to Guy's time-saving recommendations (see? There is a point to this feature). I've also still got to watch this week's Carrie Diaries, Archer, Suits, Modern Family, Cougar Town, Yes Prime Minister, the penultimate episode of 30 Rock, and Bob Servant Independent, which started on Wednesday. But I think I'm getting back down to manageable levels now.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • Archer: I neglected to mention the return of this last week - foolish me. As always, thoroughly recommended as the funniest thing on TV at the moment.
  • Arrow: Another decent episode. Nothing spectacular or unpredictable in the A-plot, but the flashback B-plot continues to impress.
  • Being Human (US): A slight return to the humour of early episodes as the series continues in its unpredictable new direction. The arrival of Xander Berkeley heralds good things, I suspect, too.
  • Go On: I can watch a show with Piper Perabo in that isn't the tedious Covert Affairs - woo hoo! Pulling a Southland, the show is also now having swearing but bleeped out and pixellated nudity, which is somewhat surprising. Not the funniest thing I've ever seen, though.
  • Last Resort: Both a surprising ending and an unsurprising ending for the show. Some things were a little rushed, some things didn't make a whole load of sense but virtually all the plot strands got wrapped up, some of them unpredictably. The action scenes were there, but not as tense as in previous weeks, and the drama didn't quite work in the ways they intended. But generally, a good way to end the show and reassuring that they didn't try to hold out for a pick-up by another network by leaving everything open-ended. At 13 eps, too, it feels like they mined the idea probably as much as they could have sustained it, anyway.
  • Mr Selfridge: Parallel universe time. A flagship ITV show that has a French character (played by Spiral's Grégory Fitoussi no less) who's becoming practically as important as the lead, he gets to meet other French characters, also played by French actors and they get to speak in French. With subtitles. How very, very weird. So much to love, but the plot is slowing down a little now, with evolution rather than revolution being the name of the game. Some characters are getting less interesting, some more. Still worth watching.
  • Shameless: A thrilling antidote to the typical US drama (cf Arrow), this week focusing on how fathers can suck completely and ruin your life, and giving the moral that if you're poor, the only way to stop being poor isn't following the American dream, it's stealing or scamming. Indeed, Fiona's storyline this week was all about the poverty trap and how when someone tries to escape their life, they can end up worse off than if they'd stayed where they were
  • The Wedding Band: And so it ends. Oh well. But the penultimate episode did feature not only James Marsters using his Spike from Buffy accent to play an aging English rock star but an actual English actor playing an English character who instantly identifies him as coming from Merseyside. When the band question how he knows, Marsters replies: "Any Englishman can instantly spot from another Englishman's accent where he's from to within 10 miles." I'm assuming they were taking the piss out of Marsters there, either with or without his cooperation. The show ended with a minor emotional cliffhanger that will now never be resolved, unfortunately. Shame, it was a pretty good show that could have developed over time, but now TBS is going to focus on half-hour comedies and Big Bang Theory re-runs instead.

  • Yes, Prime Minister: Not a patch on the original, either in terms of the writing or the cast, but not without funny moments. Sir Humphrey is the biggest problem, since he comes across less as part of the establishment, more an odious selfish scheme; Bernard is now just an idiot; and Hacker is a blowhard, rather than a politician out of his depth. But I'll be watching episode two at least - when I have the time.

And, in movies:

Django Unchained
Way too long and not quite up to the standards of previous Tarantino movies in terms of dialogue, but still a really good and very surprising movie. Surprising in terms of how unflinching it is in dealing with the incredibly insane nature of 19th century American slavery, but also in having a humorous German character as a hero (the always incredible Christoph Waltz) and having segments of the movie in German. Samuel L Jackson gives one of his best ever performances and is practically unrecognisable, while Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of his best performances in years as an evil plantation owner. Definitely worth watching, perhaps more at home than in the cinema, though.

"What did you watch this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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What did you watch this week? Including Quartet, Blandings, Farther Brown, Being Human (US), Suits, My Mad Fat Diary and Way To Go

Posted on January 18, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First, the usual recommendations: 30 Rock, Arrow, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, Don't Trust The B----- in Apartment 23, Cougar Town, Elementary, Go On, Last Resort, Modern Family, Mr Selfridge, Shameless, Suits and The Wedding Band.

With more than a few shows already in the watch queue and the return of the likes of Shameless, Arrow, Suits and Being Human (US) expanding it vastly, I had to take take executive action and (based in part on some of your recommendations or lack thereof) decided I wasn't going to bother either starting or continuing with Ripper Street, Restless, Borgen, Cracked, Deception, and 1600 Penn. Life's too short. Despite that, Hard, A Young Doctor's Notebook and Spies of Warsaw are still sitting on the Sky+ box, waiting to be watched, I haven't even started on Channel 4's Utopia (no one else has either, apparently, judging by the ratings) and the penultimate The Wedding Band is waiting my perusal. The Carrie Diaries - the prequel to Sex and the City set during her high school years and featuring Freema Agyeman of Doctor Who - is awaiting my wife and some stiff drinks. Hopefully, I'll get round to new Yes, Prime Minister, too, although everyone says it's rubbish.

I did give a few new shows a try though:

Blandings
Based in part on the rather funny PG Wodehouse novels and starring Jennifer Saunders, Mark Williams and Timothy Spall. Now, the books themselves aren't exactly hard-hitting bits of realism, but there's nothing worse than a comedy in which everyone involved (with the exception of the above-mentioned) is grinning and acting like idiots because they know the whole thing is silly. So I gave up after 10 minutes. Absolutely horrendous and twee.

Father Brown
Mark Williams again, this time starring in another series of adaptations of classic novels: in this case, GK Chesterton's Father Brown stories about a vicar who investigate crimes in his parish. This is being stripped five episodes a week by BBC Daytime and has all the qualities of a Radio 4 afternoon play (I guess the same sort of people will be watching as listen to those): it's dull, badly acted, poorly characterised and has as 'issue' that needs to be dealt with, in this case homophobia. Didn't make a lick of sense either and there was surprisingly little Father Brown in it, who showed very little of the "steel trap" mind for which he was so notable. One for if you're stuck at home during the day and have nothing else to watch, I think. Here's the first episode to try, just in case it might float your boat.

My Mad Fat Diary
Growing up in the 90s must have been hard if you were a mentally ill, overweight teenage girls. Apparently. Ian Hart's good as the girl in question's therapist, but I didn't get further than 10 minutes through this to find out if it had any other redeeming qualities.

Way To Go
Three down-at-heel, down-on-their-luck blokes decide to set up an assisted suicide business. In common with a lot of shows on BBC3, it's not very good at all, despite having been written by US-writer Bob Kushell (The Simpsons, Third Rock…) and featuring Blake Harrison of The InBetweeners, but that's largely down to both the filming and the cast, which both work against any actual comedy occurring. It also falls victim to the other "US writer discovers British creative freedoms" syndrome - a substitution of things that would be banned on US TV for things that might be funny.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • Arrow: A bit of a return to form, although a somewhat predictable A-plot, dealing with our hero's case of the yips. Quite why a (spoiler)fire-damaged fireman in a protective suit should be more handy in a fight than Arrow, I don't know. I do have to wonder when Dinah Lance is going to Black Canary up (or do anything exciting), too, since she's not got much to do at the moment.
  • Being Human (US): the original British show is now just a dot in the distance as its Canadian/US cousin strikes off in completely differently directions. There were three cliffhangers at the end of last season and thankfully they've all been resolved in completely unpredicted ways. While's Aidan's resolution is both a gamechanger and convenient, Sally's is going to be interesting and Josh's could go anywhere. Certainly a step above season three of the British series by several miles.
  • Cougar Town: What can I say? It's on, it's comfortable, it's basically the US version of Last of the Summer Wine, just 20 years earlier and with more wine.
  • The Daily Show: Any particular reason why, when The Daily Show decided to visit The Newsroom, that they didn't speak to former correspondent Olivia Munn? Conspiracy theorists: on your marks, get set, go…!
  • Don't Trust The B----: Thankfully, ABC is ending its policy of showing two episodes of the show a week. While not a bad idea in theory, the problem is that the Sunday episodes were all unaired episodes from season one, which meant that almost two different shows were airing: one in which our heroines are barely friends, nice girl is still working at the coffee shop and Chloe the bitch is actually still quite evil, the other in which we catch up to a less edgy but somewhat nicer show that seems more comfortable in itself.
  • Go On: Welcome back Chandler Bing. I wondered how long it would be before they gave our supposedly alpha male sports fun a few more 'feminine' traits and here we've hit pay-dirt. A few twists on relationships that I wasn't expecting, and I have to ask: where does US TV keep finding these attractive yet incredibly wooden British actresses with cut-glass accents?
  • Last Resort: All very exciting and such, but a bit less daring than I expected and they seem to have left a lot to be crammed into the finale. I do hope this isn't going to be a rush job.
  • Modern Family: Starting to find its mojo again and featuring some lovely moments, particularly between Hayley and Phil.
  • Mr Selfridge: Mercifully shorter than episode one and with more for Grégory Fitoussi to do as well, beyond the usual problem of dodgy acting, another pretty much perfect episode.
  • Suits: Hooray! One of the best shows on TV is back. The starts of some decent plots here, but I do worry that Louis is getting a little too silly to be plausible.
  • Shameless: A little too comfortable a start for the show, which was a bit edgier in previous seasons, but some standout moments, especially those relating to Jimmy/Steve and (spoiler)his father in law.
  • Vegas: After dragging its feet into a proper serial story, things are starting to speed up now. Virtually all the cast, including Carrie Anne Moss, now have something to do, too. One more good 'un and it'll be on the recommended list.

And, in movies:

Quartet
Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut, set in a retirement for musicians. Into the home comes the ex-wife of one of the residents and all hell breaks loose. An impressive cast that includes Tom Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly, as well as Sheridan Smith as the manager of the home and Andrew Sachs as another of the residents, the film is beautifully shot and despite a few good lines, also quite astonishingly dull. My mother-in-law turned to me halfway through, almost in tears at how dull it was. Still, it does have a few things to say about old age and it not being the end of everything.

However, I will confess that when the credits rolled and youthful pictures of everyone in the movie - it's populated by actual musicians and singers who were in very important productions and orchestras in their heyday - rolled past, emphasising that for most of them, this would be the last thing of renown they would ever be involved in (slightly neutralising the message of the movie), I did blub rather a lot.

"What did you watch this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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