The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

Third-episode verdict: Riverdale (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Available on Netflix. New episode every Friday

Which would you rather make: the next Twin Peaks or the next Smallville? It’s not as easy a choice as you might think. Sure, Twin Peaks is revered enough that it’s coming back after 25 years and it gets mentioned in all manner of “Top n shows in TV history” lists whereas Smallville never won and never will win any critics awards for its fine storytelling. But Smallville also lasted a record-breaking 10 seasons to become the longest-running North American science-fiction series, whereas Twin Peaks never even made it to three.

In its first episode, Riverdale seemed to be aiming to be the new Twin Peaks. A reimagining of the long-lasting American comic book Archie set in a genial small town, complete with a classic love triangle in the form of swell guy and gals Archie, Veronica and Betty, Riverdale updated it, put new spins on all the old characters and then threw in a murder-mystery for luck. Replete with ravishing visuals and smart dialogue, it gave younger and older viewers plenty to enjoy, including thrills and excitement, without sacrificing the comic’s generally genial atmosphere.

Since then, the show has started to change into something a bit more conventional and ‘teenish’. Episode two occupied a halfway house between the old aesthetic and the new aesthetic, with the show trying to be both a dark murder mystery and a full-on comedy and not quite working as it shifted between tones. Nevertheless, the bonding between Betty and Veronica was well executed and the dialogue maintained its smartness, at least. And, of course, we got Jossy and the Pussycats singing their own version of classic The Archies song ‘Sugar, Sugar’:

Episode three continued the descent in quality by being a modern-day “Very Special Episode” about slut-shaming that decided to take in Wild Things along the way for no well defined reason. Smartness and sassiness generally went down a hole, and the need for the very white Archie’s musical ambitions to bear fruit via the all-black, all-female Josie and the Pussycats led to a nails-on-chalkboard attempt to square that particular circle… as well as yet another musical number in the style of Smallville‘s frequent trips to ‘the Talon’.

Riverdale‘s not entirely lost sight of its original ambitions and episode three has the rather marvellous suggestion that sweet as apple pie Betty might have multiple personality disorder and could even be her own crazy (murderous) twin sister, Polly. But the adults have stopped being adult and have started to become cliched, and the murder-mystery side of things has become more than a little silly. Coupled with the continuing inappropriate and probably illegal relationship between Archie and his music teacher, where it’s hard to tell which is the adult and which is the child, and it’s all starting to feel far less promising than when it started.

There could still be plenty of mileage in Riverdale – after all, not every episode of Twin Peaks was a classic, let alone Smallville. It’s still got a winning cast and a reasonably strong foundation. It just needs to decide what it wants to do in life.

What have you been watching? Including Flaked, The Intern, Lucifer and Billions

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*. 

As you might have noticed, things are hotting up in the tele stakes. In the past week, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of:

But that’s by no means all the new shows. In the next few days, I’m hoping to give Underground (US: WGN America) a look over, as well as – assuming it’s not cancelled before then, given its ratings – Of Kings And Prophets (US: ABC), which sees one ‘Ray Winstone’ playing King Saul of Israel, who has to deal with some bloke called ‘David’. Careful – no spoilers, please.

I still haven’t got round to watching Netflix’s Love, but I did manage to watch a couple of episodes of…: 

Flaked (Netflix)
Will Arnett is Chip, a furniture store owner in Venice Beach, California, who spends a lot of his time:

  1. Hanging around at AA meetings
  2. Cycling everywhere, because he’s been banned from driving, having killed someone while on drugs
  3. Having sex with/fancying much younger women
  4. Lying about pretty much everything

And that’s about it, really. Just as Master of None didn’t have much plot and was really just a series of character moments, so Flaked is really a character study of a complete tosser who screws over everyone he meets, albeit in very small ways, for his own selfish needs. There also aren’t many jokes, either.

Despite that, it’s actually quite watchable, in part thanks to Arnett, in part because it’s smarter than this otherwise standard ‘edgy’ comedy format would suggest. The Venice Beach location is different from the usual standard settings for sitcoms, too.

There’s also a certain knowingness about the show similar to Arrested Development‘s (perhaps because of exec producer Mitch Hurwitz) that makes it less of a male fantasy: Arnett may be sleeping with hot young women a lot, but his unattractive male friends aren’t, and even Arnett is finding it all a bit empty and pointless, having nothing culturally in common with the woman he professes to love. 

I’ll try to watch the remaining episodes this week – Daredevil season two is on the way, very soon, so I’m going to need to clear the decks – and let you know how the rest of it goes. If you can’t wait, don’t go into it expecting big laughs. Instead, just expect to enjoy a lot of Will Arnett hanging out with a bunch of people and having a little sex.

I haven’t managed to watch any more episodes of Ófærð (Trapped), unfortunately, but after the jump, the regulars, including a couple of season finales and some double-episode rundowns: 11.22.63, American Crime, Billions, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and Vikings. At least one of the recommended shows is being demoted – can you guess which one?

But first, a movie:

The Intern (2015) (iTunes)
Four things in the credits made me think this was going to be absolute unwatchable: the title, which in combination with Anne Hathaway’s presence, made we think I was going to be getting The Devil Wears Prada 2; writer/director Nancy Meyers, whose It’s Complicated was so unimaginably bad and dull, I nearly fell asleep in the cinema; and Robert De Niro, who has been working purely for the cash for what feels like decades now.

However, I needn’t have been worried, since it seems like everyone involved induced everyone else to raise their games. De Niro looks like he’s actually putting some effort in as the 70-year-old retired widower who takes an internship at an Internet start-up to give himself something to do and ends up becoming friends with CEO Hathaway. Hathaway is likable and believable as the perfectionist workaholic businesswomen, while Meyers (who, in case we forget, also wrote Private Benjamin, Irreconcilable Differences, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Baby Boom, Father of the Bride and The Holiday) turns in a surprisingly authentic look at both twentysomethings and seventysomethings in modern business.

The first half of the movie is better than the second, with my lovely wife (who set up and runs her own company) finding a lot to identify with, but the second half adds an unnecessary dramatic twist that ruins a lot of the good, frequently (unpreachy) feminist work the first half develops. De Niro’s romance with in-house masseuse Rene Russo doesn’t quite work and a lot of plots are developed but ultimately go nowhere. The firm’s grasp of business isn’t totally top notch either, such as the question of why Hathaway’s firm needs a new CEO, rather than a halfway competent COO for Hathaway to delegate to.

Nevertheless, frequently moving, frequently funny, with a good range of characters and surprisingly smart, The Intern is that rare breed of movie: one aimed at adults that is entertaining, enjoyable but untaxing. I also think it speaks to my age that I identified far more with De Niro than with any of the 20something man-boys he works with.

* If you’re wondering where all the references to Locate TV have got to this week, turns out they’re shutting down on Wednesday. Can’t say I’m totally surprised, given the effort v reward potential of the idea, but it’s a shame all the same.

Continue reading

What have you been watching? Including Vinyl, Wanted and Vikings

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.

Apologies for the silence this week – you can blame Windows 8 for that. It wasn’t even my Windows 8 (like I’d have it in the house), but the Windows 8 of somewhere at which I do volunteer work. My advice? Don’t try to fix Windows 8 – just wipe it and start again. Which is what I eventually did.

Anyway, that meant I couldn’t write about tele for several days, but don’t worry – it didn’t mean I couldn’t watch tele. Elsewhere, of course, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of:

And after the jump, I’ll be dealing with the regulars: American Crime, Arrow, Billions, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, The Shannara Chronicles, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and The X-Files. At least one of those gets the chop this week. Can you guess, which? This week also saw the return of Vikings, so I’ll be having a go at that, too. 

Out yesterday was Netflix’s Love, and I’ll try to give that a watch over the next few day; I’ll probably be playing catch-up with BBC4’s showing of Iceland’s Trapped, too.

But there was a couple of new shows out in the past week or so that although Windows 8 stopped me from reviewing them, I did manage to get a chance to watch them. Largely while I was fixing Windows 8.

Vinyl (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger co-created this story of the 70s music business, in which Bobby Carnavale (Cupid, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie) plays the boss of a struggling company trying to work out what’s hip and cool, as punk et al arrive on the scene. Scorsese directs, there’s a soundtrack including Slade and Abba, there’s a strong supporting cast, including Ian Hart, Paul Ben-Victor, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. What could go wrong? Well, lots apparently. Maybe it’s just because it’s about the music business, in which I have minimal interest. Maybe it’s because of the sexism, racism, et al of the period. Maybe it’s some of the dodgy English accents floating around. Whatever it was, despite its having a certain degree of authenticity, I barely made it to the end of the extremely long pilot episode. Not for me.

Wanted (Australia: Seven)
Continuing her majestic stranglehold on all of Seven’s drama output, Rebecca Gibney stars in this odd-couple-on-the-run drama that she also created. Gibney plays a rebellious, free-spirited but broke checkout woman; Geraldine Hakewill is an uptight accountant with a nerdy boyfriend and a criminal secret. They’re both waiting for a bus when a car chase ends in front of them and they witness a murder. Unfortunately for them, crooked cops are involved in the action and before you know, there are more bodies, everyone thinks they’re responsible and they’re on the run, while trying to clear their name and avoid getting caught by bad cop Nicholas Bell or good cop Stephen Peacocke. It’s mildly diverting stuff, but everything goes pretty much how you expect, the jokes are weak, and neither Gibney nor Hakewill make you want to hang out with either of them, let alone go on the run with them.

Continue reading

Review: The Shannara Chronicles 1×1-1×3 (US: MTV)

The Shannara Chronicles

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, MTV
In the UK: Not yet acquired

When Into The Badlands arrived on our screens the other side of Christmas, I tried very hard to work out why it wasn’t any good. After all, it had impeccable source material to work with and a decent cast, and it had imported Hong Kong martial arts stars and choreographers to jazz up the fights. Except it was hackneyed and dull.

Was it because it was on AMC, famed for almost fetishing slow storytelling? Or was it simply because it was from Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who perhaps aren’t up to post-apocalyptic quest dramas?

It turns out it’s probably a bit of both, but perhaps not for the reasons I was thinking of. I think it’s because Gough and Millar were putting all their effort into the rather similar The Shannara Chronicles.

Continue reading

What have you been watching? Including The Bridge, Arrow, The Flash, Legends and You’re The Worst

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.

December’s here, Christmas is nearly upon us and a lot of series are coming to the end of their current seasons or have had their mid-season finales. The only new shows hitting our screens now are either trying to get in under the wire by box-setting us or are mere previews for shows that will get their full runs next year. Cases in point are South of Hell (US: WE tv) and Superstore (US: NBC), which I reviewed earlier this week

That means that after the jump, given I’ve already passed a third-episode verdict on Into The Badlands (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Instant Video), I’ll only be looking at Arrow, Bron/Broen (The Bridge), Doctor Who, The Flash, Grandfathered, Legends, Supergirl and You’re The Worst. I’ve made a start on The Man In The High Castle but I’ve only got a couple of episodes in, so I’ll save them up for a full review next week or the week after. Some time before Christmas anyway.

Continue reading

Review: Into The Badlands 1×1 (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)

Into the Badlands

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, AMC
In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon Instant Video

There is a famous paradox. Although Knight Rider claimed it was Zeno’s Paradox, it’s not. But it is at least a paradox. Here it is:

What happens when an unstoppable force hits an immovable object?

What’s the answer? Into the Badlands. How so? Because it’s an actual, real-world test of that paradox. It takes the unstoppable force that is the Hong Kong martial arts movie and confronts it with the immobable object of an AMC TV series.

Despite the likes of Indonesia’s The Raid coming along to challenge them, Hong Kong martial arts movies are, of course, the fastest genre in the world. If you have any interest in martial movies, you watch Hong Kong martial arts to see the best – and fastest – martial artists the silver screen has to offer. I’m most partial to classic Jet Li myself, but Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan et al have all formed part of my viewing habits since Jonathan Ross’s Son of The Incredibly Strange Film Show revealed their delights to me back in the 80s.

And the slowest genre in the world? AMC TV series. The network practically fetishises slowness:


Even its fastest shows – Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul – have a glacial chill to them, and that’s before we consider the almost geological time scales over which the likes of Mad Men, Hell on Wheels and Halt and Catch Fire operate.

And Into The Badlands is a deliberate attempt to bring these two genres together. Rather bizarrely the brainchild of Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, it stars Daniel Wu, an American actor but the star of dozens of Hong Kong martial arts movies.

The show is set in a post-apocalyptic America. This isn’t that surprising: martial arts date from before guns and are made largely redundant by the presence of guns, so a martial arts movie usually needs to have a reason for there to not be any guns – something somewhat problematic in modern-day and even historic America, but not so hard in a post-apocalyptic, post-technological society. Unles you turn the guns into a virtue, of course.

As with most other post-apocalyptic societies, everything’s become weirdly patriarchal and feudal in Into The Badlands, with seven ‘barons’ now running America, following a series of wars. Each has made their territory safe and stopped the wars by getting rid of guns. In return, everyone either learns how to be a ‘Clipper’ – martial arts soldier cops – assuming they’re male or goes to work in the fields picking poppies or getting married to the Baron.

Wu plays one such Clipper, who patrols the territories, enforcing the justice of his increasingly unstable, increasingly bewived Baron (Marton Csokas from Falcón, Rogue, The Equalizer, The Bourne Supremacy). One day, he comes across a peaceful boy sought after by another Baron, ‘The Widow’, only to discover that he gets superhero killing powers at odd moments. 

What will he do? WIll he take the boy into the lawless ‘Badlands’ between Barons’ terrorities, looking for the boy’s mother and answers to his own past? And will he do it before the Sun expands into a Red Giant and dies (aka the next AMC Upfronts)?

Continue reading

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

Third-episode verdict: Supergirl (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, CBS
In the UK: Thursdays, 8pm, Sky1

Supergirl has been something of a roller coaster ride. First, there was the trailer, which made pretty much everyone go “WTF?”, given how close it was to the Saturday Night Live Black Widow parody sketch. Then there was relief and excitement as the first episode revealed that the trailer had been deceptive and the show was smarter and a lot more fun than the trailer had indicated. Then we hit the downslope that were episodes two and three.

So I’m going to do something that the show itself does almost every five minutes and really shouldn’t – compare it with Superman. Or at least Smallville (and various other CW superhero shows). Despite being made by Greg Berlanti (producer of The Flash and Arrow for The CW) for CBS, a TV network that can probably spend more per programme than The CW can spend on its entire drama output, Supergirl is inept superhero fare that ignores pretty much everything Smallville and those others shows did right.

Berlanti and co probably thought they knew what they were doing from the outset, having done so well before and working with a reasonably well known property – and that’s part of the problem. Laziness. The show feels like it’s going through the motions. It’s a Smallville monster of the week show, filled with characters from the Superman universe whom we’re expected to both know about and love, despite the show putting in minimal effort.

Despite through necessity being a ‘kryptonite freak of the week’ show, Smallville worked because it obeyed some simple rules (at least at first): don’t insult your audience’s intelligence, provide characters that the audience can love, tease out the mythos but respect it, and if your budget isn’t enough to convince the audience a man (or girl) can fly, don’t try to, but instead do special effects you can afford. 

With its micro-budget, Smallville was at pains to make the relationships between its characters fun, interesting and plausible, giving us very little ‘big bad’ action per week in favour of ‘how did you feel about that?’ scenes, all of which could work nicely on Supergirl, too. Instead, we have some of the most painful superhero dialogue committed to our TV screens since Nightman, coupled with special effects that would have looked bad 10 years ago and fight scenes that appear to be performed by people who have never even been to a tae-bo class. It’s embarrassing. Maybe Arrow has used up all the good stuntmen and stuntwomen, but for a show about someone with superspeed, those fights aren’t half slow.

There’s also the constant referencing of Superman, even though we’re well into the third episode. For a show that thought it necessary to bring in Cat Grant and Jimmy Olsen from the Superman universe to give the show a headstart, to in the third episode still be making comparisons between Superman and Supergirl and then to bring in Lois Lane’s sister is to be lacking in confidence in yourself. Maybe that’s deliberate, with a character who’s still discovering herself, but it would help if Supergirl really had faith in its heroine and her ability to interest people in her own right, as well as in establishing its own mythos (or using Supergirl’s own comic strip characters).

To its credit, the show does have a lot going for it in its cast: Melissa Benoist is a perfect Supergirl, while Mehcad Brooks is a superior, convention-defying Jimmy Olsen. Calista Flockhart brings the right kind of humour to the role of the Devil Wears Prada-esque Cat Grant, although Tracy Scoggins’ Lois & Clark Cat Grant got better lines and was more believable back in the day. Laura Benanti in the dual role of Supergirl’s mother and evil aunt is normally brilliant, although not in this, so I’m hoping she’ll get the hang of the show in later episodes.

It’s also fun, rather than a gloomfest. True, that fun is at the expense of any kind of pretence at realism in any area, and while the show can obviously play the ‘it’s about an indestructible alien from another planet working as an intern on a newspaper’ card, it would be nice to think that, for example:

  • There would be some kind of resemblance to publishing as we know it
  • She wouldn’t confess her secret to pretty much anyone within earshot
  • She wouldn’t get not just one but two super well-equipped secret bases
  • She wouldn’t start running out of a room full of people removing her glasses and letting her hair down as soon as there was any hint at danger

There’s suspension of disbelief and then there’s taking the mick. 

But it is fun, at least, and although it takes constant references to Superman to show it, it does at least have a feminist conscience, which is probably enough to keep me watching. All the same, this could have been so much better than it is, as the pilot episode partially showed. I’m hoping for a reboot later down the line, or else this will be the second Supergirl who’ll get grounded too soon.

Barrometer rating: 3
TMINE prediction: Despite a record-breaking start, ratings are plummeting quickly, so this could be a one-season wonder in the making

Preview: Impastor 1×1 (US: TV Land)

Impastor

In the US: Wednesdays, 10.30/9.30c, TV Land
In the UK: Not yet acquired

There’s a long tradition of comedy shows about men and women of the cloth. Think All Gas and Gaiters, Oh, Brother!, Oh, Father!, Troubles and Strife, Rev, Father Ted, The Vicar of Dibley. Ironic, isn’t it, though – all those shows are from this side of the Atlantic, rather than the very much more religious US. You could probably have a long think and come up with some US comedy shows about reverends, but you’d be hard pushed.

Maybe it’s too serious a subject for the US to tackle – at least, head on. But when they can come at it at an angle, maybe not.

TV Land – the comedy network for people who like things the way they used to be when they were young – is currently trying to bring a relatively younger audience, and given it was probably the last US network to have a go at a religious sitcom with The Soul Man, it seems fitting that they’re giving it another go with Impastor. The Soul Man was, of course, about an R&B singer who becomes a preacher. Whether it was ’too black’ for TV Land’s audience, only TV Land can say, but Impastor is certainly a whole lot whiter. But that doesn’t mean TV Land is forsaking diversity. Oh no.

Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville, Breaking In) is gambling addict and small-time criminal Buddy. When all seems lost and even his girlfriend Aimee Garcia (Dexter) has deserted him, he decides to take his own life by jumping off a bridge. Fortunately, at the last moment, a vicar on the way to his new job intercedes. Unfortunately for the vicar, he plummets to his own doom instead and Buddy seizes the opportunity to take his place… and perhaps his possessions, money, etc. Except Buddy turns out to have an accidental talent for ‘pastoring’.

If only he didn’t have to pretend to be gay, too.

Here’s a trailer and if you’re quick, below it is the entire episode:

Continue reading

Preview: Supergirl 1×1 (US: CBS)

Supergirl costume

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, CBS. Starts November
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Is there truly no such thing as bad publicity? That is what George Schweitzer would apparently argue, based on how many hits the trailer for Supergirl got – 10 million.

Never mind that a lot of those who watched the trailer thought that it was nothing more than the Saturday Night Live spoof Black Widow sketch actually turned into a real TV show, with horrific cliches oozing from every pore. They watched it and for Schweitzer that’s all that counts. Presumably that’s what he’s paid to do and whether people subsequently tune in and enjoy the show is the purview of someone else.

But can a trailer truly convey what a show is like? Or by judicious editing can you make it seem like a completely different show? Even if that show is terrible and your show is actually quite good?

Someone needs to find out. That someone is me. Brace yourself – I’m reviewing the pilot after the jump.

But in case you haven’t watched it, here’s that trailer.

Continue reading

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 3

Third-episode verdict: Constantine (US: NBC; UK: Amazon Prime)

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Amazon Prime

Three episodes into Constantine, the latest attempt to adapt DC’s Vertigo horror comic Hellblazer in another medium, and we’re seeing marked signs of improvement after a very variable first couple of episodes. The pilot (which was modified slightly for the transmitted first episode to get rid of Lucy Griffiths) wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great: a PG-13 bit of horror, with a variably-accented, atypically moral John Constantine, that was about on a par with the average first season episode of SupernaturalMatt Ryan’s Constantine is a watered down version of the comic book character: a non-smoking, generic working class Brit (accent says lots of places in the North, driving licence says Liverpool, slang says London), a man constantly acting like an unnuanced supernatural tough guy, rather than a mercurial amoral, trickster, prepared to manipulate and betray in the interest of the bigger picture (or himself).

Things didn’t get any better with episode two. In fact, they got worse, as it was a truly dreadful, virtually unwatchable affair: a sub-Grimm bit of dullness, with Constantine chasing generic monsters in a mysteriously Welsh-obsessed Pennsylvania mining town. Bringing in anti-Romani racism just for larks, it was about stupid and soporific as it’s possible for a show about the paranormal to get, without its writers having been trepanned first – and that’s despite the show bringing in Angélica Celaya as a considerably more interesting replacement for Griffiths. 

But the third episode has given me hope. While the ‘threat of the week’ was the somewhat generic ‘cursed LP’, the general furniture of the story was a whole lot better. The script by BSG/Smallville veteran Mark Verheiden drew a lot on the comic to flesh out Constantine, bringing in his punk band background (a bit of time travel maths or a longevity spell might be needed to square that) and favoured adversary/supernatural bystander Papa Midnite and his Ace of Winchesters. There was humour and general bad behaviour, too, and the show should get Brownie points for both an excellent use of ‘Anarchy in the UK’ and a couple of Doctor Who references that included a dimensionally transcendental house and the Constantine equivalent of psychic paper.

Constantine is still a tame affair that uses gore as a substitute for true horror. It relies on the iconography of the comic to give us the TV version of Constantine, Zed, Chas and other characters, but without giving us any real meat to their bones or signs that these are real people with real pasts, rather than Very Important Things That Had Happened To Them. And its plot are generic at best, unwatchable at worst.

But the show’s definitely getting there now. It’s drawing on some of the comic’s best bits to give us some things we haven’t really seen on TV before. Constantine is doing proper Hellblazer-esque magic. And we’re getting a proper roster of characters built up.

If it’s to survive in the ratings and be something more than Supernatural meets Grimm, the show needs to put on its big boy pants and truly embrace the darkness and Hellblazer‘s combination of heresy, politics and the personal. That’s assuming its got any chance of attracting back anyone who watched its offensively poor second episode, which is unlikely. And, of course, one good episode doesn’t mean everything that follows is going to be golden.

However, after the second episode, I was fairly certain I wasn’t going to be watching Constantine after the third, so it might still be in with a chance.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: If it makes it to a season, I’ll be surprised, two seasons and I’ll be amazed, but some piece of dark magic might still save it