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What have you been watching? Including Backstrom, Young Drunk Punk, 19-2, Spiral and Galavant

Posted on January 26, 2015 | comments | 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. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there's Locate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Lots of new shows to deal with this past week, including 12 Monkeys. Unfortunately, it’s my busy time of the month, so I won’t be able to deal with them at length and there’s a few third-episode verdicts I’m going to have skip, too. Fortunately, though, all the new shows don’t really warrant full reviews…

Backstrom (US: Fox)
Despite having been canned by CBS straight after its pilot, this adaptation of Leif GW Persson’s Bäckström books has been resurrected over at Fox and once again demonstrates that the US really shouldn’t be adapting Nordic Noir. It stars Rainn Wilson from The Office as the eponymous Backstrom, a Portland police detective who’s best thought of as Gregory House MD but without the talent, the charm or the looks, bungling his way from crime scene to crime scene being lazy and offensive and being proved right because the script demands it, rather than because of any insight. So the producers think it very funny that Backstrom have the nearest - and indeed only - black person around arrested because he’s black so probably was involved in the crime. My, how comically racist! Except the black person is involved in the crime - how actually racist!

There’s some decent supporting characters, including an MMA-beat cop (Page Kennedy); a New Age medical examiner (Kristoffer Polaha from Ringer, Valentine, Life Unexpected), whom everyone reacts to like he’s English, even though he doesn’t even have an accent; an investigator whom everyone reacts to like she’s French, because she is (Beatrice Rosen); and Dennis Haysbert (The Unit, 24) as Backstrom’s boss. But this is as lazy as Backstrom himself, trying to fake being intelligent and gimmicky by having Backstrom ‘empathise’ (saying out loud, “I am character x, I feel y, therefore I would have done z”) and come up with insight such as “Anyone who says ‘Absolutely not’ is absolutely lying”, rather than actually being intelligent or having insight.

Weirdly, between moving from CBS to Fox, there’s been some recasting and a lot of the funnier and smarter stuff has been removed, making it worse not better than it was before.

Young Drunk Punk (Canada: City TV)
After last year’s slew of 80s nostalgia shows in the US, time for some 80s nostalgia from Canada, with Young Drunk Punk, in which two teenage nerd punk-wannabes search for their destinies after leaving high school. Despite being written by and starring Bruce McCulloch (Kids In The Hall) this is very much like the previous half dozen Canadian comedies that have come by in having a total laugh count of zero.

After the jump, 19-2, Arrow, Banshee, Constantine, Cougar Town, Elementary, The Flash, Galavant, Gotham, The Ground Floor, Hindsight, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, State of Affairs, Spiral (Engrenages) and Togetherness. One of them’s on the verge of getting recommended, one of them’s going to be dropped, and one of them is on the borderline. But which ones? You’ll find out after the jump.

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What did you watch last week? Including Ambassadors, You, Me and Them, and The Tunnel

Posted on October 28, 2013 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch last week?, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I watched last week 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's Locate TV.

Elsewhere, you can find my third-episode verdict on The Tomorrow People. Still in the viewing queue are last night's Serangoon Road and Homeland and Saturday's Atlantis, which given I haven't watched last week's episode either is probably telling me something. NBC's Dracula I hope to be reviewing either today or tomorrow - certainly before Thursday when it airs on Sky Living.

But I've tried some new shows:

Ambassadors (BBC2)
David Mitchell and Robert Webb of Peep Show et al are a UK ambassador and a member of his staff, working together to further UK interests by covering up Mitchell's cock-ups and framing the French as best they can. Unfortunately, if it weren't for the fact that Mitchell and Webb were in it, you wouldn't know it was a comedy, it's that unfunny. Okay, to be fair a couple of laughs were emitted while watching it, but they may have been reflex actions.

You, Me and Them (Gold)
Seemingly a contradiction in terms, UK Gold - the home of old tele - is making its first new sitcom. From the makers of (terminally unfunny show) Outnumbered, it sees Anthony Head (Buffy et al) in a relationship with the 26-years-younger and impressively English now Eve Myles (Torchwood). They're happy together, but everyone from Myles' extended family to Head's ex-wife and friends has an opinion on their somewhat icky relationship. Will the relationship weather this family-based storm?

Despite the impressive cast (Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Rawle and Susie Blake are in there, too, as Head's ex-wife and Myles' parents respectively), this suffers the same problem as Ambassadors in not being funny, although here, everyone is doing their hardest to convince you that actually it is. A few good lines here and there, but you do have to be the kind of person who thinks even the mention of sex or simple bad parenting is comedy gold to find this remotely entertaining. And isn't it weird when Anthony Head uses his real accent?

Shows I'm watching but not necessarily recommending
Agents of Shield (ABC/Channel 4)
Ooh, secrets are revealed! But they're not that secret or incriminating! And no one cares! And are we going to get anything except lots of Extremis this season?

The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)
After last week's stonking Manhunter tribute, this week we got a tiny Prison Break tribute, with Robert Knepper playing a man who's good at escaping from prison, although what a shame about his limp arm. I think the plan now is to have every actor who's ever played a famous villain face off against Spader in a series of tribute episodes, while Spader archly hams away. It'll be fun to watch if that's what they do. And maybe next week we'll get some answers about what's up with Megan Boone's hubby?

The Tunnel (Sky Atlantic/Canal+)
The story progresses, with prostitution the apparent political motive for the villain in this version of The Bridge. Things on the English side of the story are once again far more interesting than on the French side, with the Brtis served well by Ben Richards' ear for blokey English dialogue ("If he messes with my bitches…", "Hey Tupac, this is South Kent not LA.") and Stephen Dillane giving an outstanding performance as the English plod. If only the same could be said for new arrival Keeley Hawes… First episode review.

Recommended shows
Arrow
 (The CW/Sky 1)
A veritable DC comics fest, with Tony Daniel's Dollmaker arriving on the scene (you may have noticed a head nod in the name of the Dollmaker's attorney), Black Canary getting her own non-super-powered scream and - oh my gods - the mention of none other than Ra's Al Ghul himself. We may even have the beginnings of a Deathstroke origin story. But oh dear, everyone on the island's been captured and locked up again! Tsk, tsk.

Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
The A-story was more interesting as a notion - Holmes isn't getting cases so looks for them and one seemingly minor incident becomes a full blown, major investigation - than as a crime. The B-story, however, was more interesting from the point of view of character development. The show's really starting to need a new Moriarty, although I really liked the old one…

Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
Ooh, a new character, as well as the return of Nathan Lane. Finally, something to change the formula. One question: are the women and girls who aren't Gloria going to get some storylines soon?

Serangoon Road (ABC1/HBO Asia)
A really exciting episode, pitting our hero (and heroine) against the black market, MI6 and others. Now officially on the recommended list.

"What did you watch last 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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Review: Crossing Lines 1x1 (NBC/TF1)

Posted on June 28, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Crossing Lines

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, NBC
In France: TF1. No air date yet

Crime, these days, is global. In Europe, which doesn't have an equivalent to the FBI specifically tasked with investigating 'federal' crimes, if you're a computer hacker in Poland, you can steal money from a French bank as easily as if you were in Paris and the policiers will have a devil of a time bringing you to book. If you've killed someone in London and are looking to avoid the police, a quick trip on the Eurostar over to Brussels and even if the Met know you committed the crime, getting the Federale Politie/Police Fédérale/Föderale Polizei to not only talk to each other but find you and arrest you will be far more challenging for them than getting the South Tyneside police to do the same.

My, if only there were some kind of pan-European bunch of cops tasked with investigating crimes that cross EU state boundaries, able to skirt these kind of jurisdictional issues so they can bring to heel criminals who have escaped justice because of lack of co-operation between forces.

Well, there isn't, but Crossing Lines, a US-French-German co-production, imagines such an elite group of cops, albeit one that needs an American lead for in-story reasons that are a little opaque and for real-world reasons that are far more explicable.

It stars William Fichtner (Prison Break, Invasion, MDs) as a crippled New York cop who's moved to the Netherlands and become a garbage collector for reasons that are initially inexplicable but become clearer by the end of the pilot. He's recruited for his deductive powers (and American-ness) by a French detective (singer and occasional actor Marc Lavoine) who heads up an elite team of cops at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The team also includes a British interrogation specialist (Genevieve O'Reilly), a Northern Irish weapons specialist and former traveller (Richard Flood), a German technology expert (Tom Wlaschiha from HBO's Game of Thrones), an Italian undercover specialist (Gabriella Pession) and a French crime analyst with an eidetic memory (Moon Dailly from France 3's Commissaire Magellan). Together with the help of an ICC inspector (Donald Sutherland - do I really have to tell you who he is?), the team can investigate crimes other groups can't touch.

Their first case? Well, given the series was created by one of the show runners of Criminal Minds, despite the shiny international cast, the numerous glossy European locations, relatively high budget and a surprising nose for local cultural differences, would it surprise you if I told you it was a relatively dull, tedious, cliched affair involving an American serial killer? Probably not.

Here's a trailer:

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