Tag Archive | Life on Mars

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Review: Chance 1x1-1x3 (US: Hulu)

Posted on October 31, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Chance

In the US: Wednesdays, Hulu

For most people in the UK, Hugh Laurie is Hugh Laurie. He may have played Gregory House in House for umpteen seasons, but he's also the guy from Blackadder, Bertie Wooster in Jeeves and Wooster, and Stephen Fry's comedy writing partner for most of the 80s and early 90s.

For most Americans, though, he's House. He is the grumpy, misanthropic, genius American doctor from House. End of. So you can kind of understand why Laurie would take on a two-season role as an eponymous doctor again, if only to cleanse American viewers' memories by playing something similar, but crucially different in one big regard: he's nice.

Based on the novel by Ken Humm (John from Cincinnati), Chance sees Laurie playing a consultant psychologist, who tries to sort out treatment for people who have neurological problems. When Gretchen Mol (Life on Mars) is referred to him with disassociative personality disorder, which she says started after her cop husband Paul Adelstein (Prison Break) began to abuse her, he tries to help her but soon the husband is coming after him.

Meanwhile, the non-confrontational Laurie is in the middle of a no-fault divorce from his wife Diane Farr (Numb3rs) and needs money. When he takes his antique desk to Clarke Peters (The Wire) to be sold, Peters tells him he could get nearly twice as much money if it still had the metalwork on it. Fortunately, Ethan Suplee (My Name is Earl) works for him and could add the missing metalwork if Laurie doesn't mind a little deception. In turn, Suplee doesn't mind a little bit of ultra-violence and is potentially willing to help Laurie out with his other problem…

I'll play a little game now. I'll list a few things and you have to say at which word you realised what the show's biggest influence is.

San Francisco. Psychiatry. Blonde. Femme fatale. Different personalities. Hitchcockian strings.

Well, if you haven't got it already, the answer's Vertigo, one of Alfred Hitchock's finest, in which Jimmy Stewart falls for Kim Novak who plays two women who turn out to be just the one. Certainly, Chance has huge ladels of both Vertigo and film noir spread all over it. There's also lashings of Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanours, with Suplee and Peters leading the normally ethical Laurie towards a life of escalating moral infractions towards possibly even murder.

But Chance is certainly a lot more than that and knows that you know what its references are. Certainly, Laurie doesn't do anything massively stupid, instead doing all manner of smart, prudent things rather than leaping in at the deep end. There's also a certain House of Cards - David Mamet's, that is - quality to it all which the show is also keen to highlight. Is maths tutor Mol really disassociative or is she faking it? Is Adelstein really doing all the things that he seems to be doing or is the surprisingly bright Suplee actually doing it all to lure Laurie into a huge con? Could they even all be in league with one another?

Chance wants you to be wondering all of these things, which is why, despite its depressing qualities, it's also compelling, very tense and claustrophobic (rather than vertiginous). The double meaning in the title, which becomes hugely important in the second episode, makes you wonder exactly how much of what's going on is genuine coincidence and what's not - or even if Laurie's character is facing a Sixth Sense discovery that he's had a brain injury himself. Even if you're not exactly sure what the trap is, you can feel the jaws slowly closing around Laurie, who's a good guy who wants to do the right thing.

It's a good, smart, well-paced thriller that's definitely worth a try.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with a female lead? No
TMINE's prediction: Commissioned for two seasons

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What have you been watching? Including Hooten and the Lady, Doctor, Doctor and High Maintenance

Posted on September 19, 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.

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. 

Après lui le déluge. This week marks the proper kicking off in the US of a big selection of the Fall schedule, so brace yourself for a flotilla of reviews as the likes of Designated Survivor, Notorious, The Good Place, This Is Us, Lethal Weapon and Pitch head down the pipes towards. I've saved myself some of that burden by previewing a couple of shows already, including Speechless (US: ABC) and Son of Zorn (US: Fox); I've also reviewed the first episodes of Quarry (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) and Better Things (US: FX), and passed a third-episode verdict on Four In The Morning (Canada: CBC). 

I'll do my best to keep up, but I might get caught up on some rapids somewhere - maybe by deciding to watch the rest of saison 2 of Le Bureau Des Légendes (The Bureau) (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon).

After the jump, I'll be reviewing the regulars, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot and You're The Worst, as well as the second episode of newcomer Quarry. But if you think that the list above is all I've been watching, you don't know me very well:

Home From Home (UK: BBC Two)
I tuned into this comedy pilot purely for old times' sake, since it starred my TV wife Joanna Page. It sees Page married to Johnny Vegas for some unfathomable reason and the two of them deciding to buy a cottage in the Lake District and dragging their kids along to stay with them. Unfortunately, in the transit down the motorway, they forgot to bring any jokes with them. Somehow, I doubt it will make it to series…

Hooten and the Lady (UK: Sky1)
There can't have been many people who, when they first heard of Lara Croft, thought to themselves "Wouldn't she better if she were split in half - one half an aristocratic archaeologist, the other an adventurer who likes diving off things and grunting?" Yet Tony Jordan (Life on Mars, Hustle) apparently did, as can be seen from his new Sky1 show Hooten and the Lady.

As nominatively determined to dreadfulness as its spiritual predecessor Bonekickers, it sees Ophelia Lovibond - last seen ruining Elementary - deciding the best thing to do to fight government cutbacks at the British Museum is throw aside over a century of archaeological best practice, revive the good old days of Empire and cultural insensitivity, and head off down the Amazon a-lootin' 'n' a-pilligin'. There she meets American petty criminal Michael Landes (Love Soup, Save Meand they strike a pact to combine his brawn and her brains in an effort to get rich and save museums. 

The show wants to be a sort of Indiana Jones meets the screwball comedies of the 40s and 50s, but in reality is a near-unwatchable fan fic version of Lara Croft meets Relic Hunter, but without the charm, stunts or wit of either. The decade and a half's age difference between the two leads doesn't help conjure an air of romance, either, even assuming there were more to either character than a thinly sketched character background more suited for a murder-mystery weekend.

Everybody involved looks like they're having fun out on location somewhere sunny. The rest of as we sit through their irritating, by the numbers, 'flirtatious banter'? Less so.

Doctor, Doctor (Australia: Nine)
After taking over most of Australia's TV channels, the omnipresent Rodger Corser (The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Beautiful Lie, Party Tricks) now makes his moves on the Nine Network with this surprisingly enjoyable Australian redo of Doc Hollywood that also feels like it's here to stick two fingers up at Seven's somewhat clunky 800 words, which has just returned for a second season, as well as wave in passing at ABC Australia's Rake and USA's Royal Pains.

Corser plays a top Sydney heart surgeon who's got one too many addictions for his own good. An incident at a party ends up with the arrogant Corser being stuck on probation for a year but, with few friends and the Australian health service in desperate need of GPs in rural areas, Corser finds himself sent back to general practice in his home town.

There, he has to deal with his politician mother, the fiancée he stood up and who's now married to his brother, his uninterested father, his gun-mad foster brother and everyone he grew up with. Oh yes, and not remembering any general medicine any more, so having to Google everything, half his patients being a plane-ride away, not being able to do any surgery or else he'll lose his licence, and an Irish nurse who's not going to help him quit substance-abuse any time soon.

Doctor, Doctor is actually a lot more charming yet simultaneously harder edged than you might think. Corser's character is as big a dick as Rake's, yet Corser is engaging enough to make you like him. The fact he's a coke-head who likes to party-hard on whatever other substances you might have to hand is also a lot darker than someone with a single incident behind him. There's also the coming to terms with general practice, as well as the denizens of the local hospital, which is pretty entertaining.

It's unlikely ever to make it to the UK, given Nine's strapped enough for cash as it is, but I used to think that about Hulu, too, and look what happened there. Give it a whirl if you can.

High Maintenance (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic - probably)
Originally a Vimeo web series and maintaining a lot of that feel, High Maintenance sees its co-writer-creator Ben Sinclair playing a pot-delivering, New York cyclist who encounters new and odd customers in every episode.

While billed as a comedy, it's probably better to think of it as a frequently amusing series of vignettes skewering characters, the first a katana-wielding strongman who seems reluctant to pay, the second a gay man who realises he's spending too much time with his fag hag flatmate rather than other gay men. With Sinclair an in-story Rod Serling, don't be too surprised to discover there's a twist in the tail with each vignette, the first having an absolute kicker of a resolution. But also be prepared for a lot of cringe comedy along the way, as the drug-focus of the piece means the show goes to some dark and uncomfortable places along the way.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including Hooten and the Lady, Doctor, Doctor and High Maintenance"

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Preview: Outcast 1x1 (US: Cinemax; UK: Fox UK)

Posted on May 26, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Outcast

In the US: Fridays, Cinemax. Starts June 3
In the UK: Tuesdays, 10pm, Fox UK. Starts June 7

The Exorcist was justifiably proclaimed as one of the best movies of the 70s and perhaps the scariest movie of all time. Despite being about demonic possession of a young girl, its horror comes from the crisis of faith of a young priest who at first tries to explain the possession rationally, before the slow accumulation of facts and his partnership with an older, self-assured priest (Max Von Sydow) on an exorcism force him to acknowledge that the Devil - and God - exists.

This year, we're facing not one but two TV versions of The Exorcist, both of them airing on a Fox of one kind or another. The first, airing on Fox in the US, is explicitly a remake of the movie:

The second, airing on Cinemax in the US but Fox UK in the UK, is Outcast. Although based on Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead)'s comic of the same name, it's basically a remake of The Exorcist, with a young man (Patrick Fugit) gradually coming to accept the truth of demonic possession thanks to the sights he beholds while working with an older priest on an exorcism of a child.

Surprisingly, of the two shows, Outcast looks like it's by far the better remake. Even more surprisingly, Outcast is also a partial remake of 2008 ITV Buffy knock-off shitfest Demons. Because who should be playing the older American demon-hunter of the piece? Why it's none other than Life on Mars' Philip Glenister again.

Here's a trailer.

Continue reading "Preview: Outcast 1x1 (US: Cinemax; UK: Fox UK)"

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