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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.

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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.

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Yes, American TV has improved since the 1990s

Posted on June 15, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It’s always tempting to think that either

  1. We’re living in a golden age or
  2. Things are just getting worse as time goes on

Nevertheless, US TV has arguably had three great eras: the ‘Westinghouse era’, the Steve Bochco era and the HBO/post-HBO cable renaissance, and I do genuinely think we are almost certainly living in a golden age of US TV.

Do I have proof? Well, I think if we look at the following collection of title sequences for US TV shows that debuted as part of the 1995 season, we can see that things have definitely improved. Apart from the fact that you almost certainly remember none of them, they’re just plain shoddy. Particularly Burke’s Law, which was a revival of a show you’ve almost certainly forgotten from the 1960s but which nevertheless still had a better title sequence than the revival did.

There are a couple of outliers: there's Due South, of course. No one say anything bad about Due South. Party of Five many people rated, although I never watched it.

But you’ll almost certainly remember Diagnosis Murder and Touched By An Angel not because they were good but because they're either perpetually repeated on daytime TV or/and they were memorably awful and cheesy.

Of course, we need to compare and contrast with more recent times to prove our general hypothesis that TV is getting better. So let’s pick a relatively recent season at random: the 2008 season. That was a mere seven years ago now but 13 years after the 1995 season. Sigh.

So how many of these shows do you remember and turned out to be timeless classics?

Actually, quite a few were classics of varying degrees when they debuted, including Generation Kill, Sons of Anarchy, Leverage, Fringe, True Blood and The Mentalist, as well as arguably Dollhouse - although that doesn’t mean they didn’t get worse as time went on. There were also several memorable shows, although not always for the right reasons: Life on Mars (US), My Own Worst Enemy and Knight Rider - I’m looking at you here. Indeed, although it’s no excuse, many of the duffest shows can be laid at the door of NBC, which was then notoriously going through one of its worst ever creative periods thanks to a change in management.

So, yes, I think we can conclude that US TV is getting better. Thanks science!

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