Tag Archive | Smallville

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

Posted on February 16, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerRiverdale.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

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.

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

Posted on March 14, 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*. 

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.

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

Posted on February 20, 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. 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.

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