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What have you been watching? Including Girlboss, Doctor Who, The Magicians and Fortitude

Posted on April 24, 2017 | 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 and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.

You can definitely tell we're between seasons at the moment, can't you? Some new shows have started up (such as Famous In Love) and there are a lot more on the way, but this week, there have been very few of the regulars to watch, just The AmericansDoctor Who and the season finale of The Magicians, all of which I'll talk about after the jump, as well as the return last night of Silicon Valley.

The rest of the time, I've been playing catch-up on Fortitude, which I'll also talk about in a minute, as well as watching Seven Types of Ambiguity. I'm four episodes into that now, so I'll a do a full season review later in the week once I've watched the remaining two, along with National Geographic's Genius.

I did, however, take a glance at one other new show over the weekend:

Girlboss (Netflix)
Based on Sophia Amoruso's book of (almost) the same name (#GirlBoss), this is a 'loose… real loose' reimagining of Amoruso's climb from rags to riches in which Britt Robertson (Life Unexpected, Under The Dome) is a girl so down-and-out that she sleeps with men so she has somewhere to stay for the night and gets repeatedly fired from jobs because she doesn't want to work for anyone. But what does she want to do? She doesn't know, until one day she discovers she has a gift for spotting expensive second-hand clothes being given away for next to nothing. Before you know it, she's setting up her own eBay fashion business, which will go on to be worth millions.

I actually already knew about Amaruso already, because her book was the subject of some Greek translation I had to do once, Amoruso being Greek/Italian-American ("Sofia often stole from shops, which Americans call 'shoplifting', for which we don't have a specific word"). Turning Amaruso into the daughter of a rich WASP (a minor reunion for Robertson as it's Breaking Bad/Under The Dome's Dean Norris) robs the story of some potential variety, as does shifting the action from the early 90s to the mid-00s. However, it still manages to maintain the main highlights of Amaruso's career and (loose) dedication to anarchism, and be a moderately interesting story about a young woman's journey to try to discover what she wants to do with her life and then learn how to start and run an ultimatly hugely successful business.

But it's not great. Enjoyable enough, a different sort of story for young women from the standard current 'handsome prince' tales (eg Famous In Love) and Robertson is still very watchable, but neither bad nor great in its telling, just a bit average.

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News: BBC One's gunpowder plot; Brian Pern tribute; new Stephen King drama; + more

Posted on February 20, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

New UK TV shows

New UK TV show casting

  • Julia Ormond, Philippa Coulthard, Joseph Quinn et al joins BBC One's Howard's End

US TV

US TV show casting

New US TV shows

New US TV show casting

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Third-episode verdict: Powerless (US: NBC)

Posted on February 17, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerPowerless.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Thursdays, 8.30/7.30c, NBC

You always have to give a show that's had a revamp a little time to settle in. A little.

When Powerless was commissioned, it was a slightly different show from the one we have now. Set in the world of DC Comics, it featured a slightly dodgy insurance agency run by a supervillain that was trying to make money off the poor folks trampled by superheroes in their fight to stop the bad guys.

But twixt pilot and series, there was a bit of retooling. By the first aired episode, cynical old Vanessa Hudgens had turned into a dewy-eyed optimist wanting to make a difference in a branch of Wayne Industries run by Batman's incompetent narcissist cousin (Alan Tudyk). Trouble is she has a bunch of people rejected by Better Off Ted working for her, including Danny Pudi and Ron Funches, all of whom can do little more than copy Lexcorp's inventions. Can Hudgens turn the division round, save everyone from getting fired, help the little people and meet lots of her superhero idols, all without a single superpower to her?

Watching the first episode, the answer seemed to be "Who cares?", "Why aren't there any proper superheroes in this?" and "When do the jokes start?"

The second episode actually proved worse, since the first episode raised the occasional titter, whereas the second was practically soporific, beyond a nice joke about training videos being like The Shining.

Still, there's a reason that I do these as third-episode verdicts, not second-episode verdicts. You have to give things time. And while episode three wasn't exactly an exercise in hilarity, it was at least a reverse of the previous episode's trajectory and I was able to watch the whole thing with a slight grin on my face, at least. The show featured a superhero I'd actually heard of, although it was The Olympian, so I wouldn't describe that as a mainstream pick by the writers. There were a few in-jokes for comic book fans, with Gail Simone and Marv Wolfman getting name-checked. There was also a halfway decent attempt to tie the show a bit more into mainstream community by making Funches Atlantean ("Atlantis: home of Aquaman and character actor William H Macey"), allowing copious references to Aquaman. Corbin Bernsen's arrival as Tudyk's dad seemed to make everyone up their game. And the opening dialogue among the characters about racism ("I thought you said you were from Atlanta" "No, that's Donald Glover, but it might be racist that you heard that") almost made me laugh.

Almost. Because we're still not exactly in Silicon Valley or Man Seeking Woman territory here. But the show is at least finding its feet now. I doubt, given that we'll be at episode four next week, that the show will ever drag itself out of its z-list superhero obsession or become even laugh-out-loud funny. Not giving Danny Pudi any decent lines is a Category A disaster. But you can at least watch it and not feel like Superman near Lex Luthor's kryptonite ring any more, which is a definite improvement.

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