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Third-episode verdict: Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)

Posted on October 18, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerTimeless.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Acquired by E4

The biggest problem with the first episode of NBC's new sci-fi show Timeless was that it just wasn't fun. A time travel adventure in which a historian, an engineer and a soldier gamely head off each week into the past to stop Goran Višnjić from changing history for the better (he claims) should have been a laugh, particularly with our very own Paterson Joseph being the owner of said time machine. 

But it wasn't. It was dreary. It had a dreary choice of destination - the Hindenburg disaster. Thanks to the presence of her dying mum, its heroine (Abigail Spencer) was more a tragic figure than a fangirl let loose in a comic shop when all the boys have been sent packing. Ex-Delta soldier (Matt Lanter) was more male model than special forces operative, and he was just as tragic as Spencer thanks to his pining for his dead wife.

The one potential comic piece of comic relief, engineer/time travel pilot Malcolm Barrett, basically had to endure being black in the American past, something he quite rightly pointed out before they went was never going to be fun whenever they ended up, but in actuality meant he wasn't just the token black guy - he was the token black guy representing all black people ever. That's gotta suck.

Worst of all was the fact that Team Spencer were busily trying to preserve history as recorded, right down to making sure everyone who died stays dead, even if that means burning to death horribly in a fiery balloon accident. Bit of a downer, no?

As always, though, there's a reason why TMINE always waits for at least three episodes before passing final verdict: shows can evolve and get better as producers work out what's wrong and fix it. And while Timeless still isn't the new Doctor Who or even the new Quantum Leap, it's certainly becoming a lot more entertaining. Episode two took us to see the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, episode three took us to Las Vegas in the 60s to watch atomic bomb tests and I can see from the schedule that episode four is going to involve the plucky Americans teaming up with Ian Fleming to fight the Nazis during World War Two. Now that's a bit more fun than the Hindenburg Disaster, now isn't it?

The producers - Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and Shawn Ryan (The Unit, The Shield), in case you were wondering - are also making the central team themselves a bit more fun, although they've haven't bothered giving Barrett and Lanter any real character traits or background other than "comic black history spokesperson" and "inept soldier widower". Time changes, Spencer's life changes, but theirs seem to stay resolutely the same and butterfly effect-proof.

Barrett may continually get the short end of the stick for being black wherever he ends up, albeit in different ways each time, but he now sometimes manages to use his second class status for the better. Lanter seems to have trouble even holding a gun, but he's now getting some occasionally amusing lines.

Perhaps the show's main selling point is that just like Doctor Who when that started, Timeless is trying its level best to make history come alive - through history's own supporting cast. You already know Lincoln, you've seen Daniel Day Lewis do a good performance as Lincoln, so yet another Lincoln wouldn't have much impact. But what must it have been like to have been Lincoln's son? Or JFK's mistress? Or a black soldier from the North during the Civil War? While the fact Timeless actually allows its time travellers to change history, even quite significantly, means that the narrative can never be trusted to tell historical fact, it's still fun to have Spencer sit down and essentially interview this supporting cast like a GCSE History empathy essay come to life.

After three episodes Timeless has crafted a formula for itself that's popcorn-tastic but enjoyable nonsense. Its action scenes are weak, its historical detail weak, its story arc weak and its humour - you guessed it - weak. But it's now getting a certain confidence up that makes it a reasonably entertaining view. It might even make the kiddies who watch it start to enjoy history. 

If you need to waste an hour a week on amiable, people-centred, historical sci-fi nonsense, Timeless is worth a try. 

Barrometer rating: 3
Would it be better with a female lead? N/A
TMINE's prediction: Will probably last about as long as Revolution

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

Posted on January 26, 2015 | 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.

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.

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

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That time when Anderson Cooper and The Unit crossed over with Black Widow

Posted on November 19, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Black Widow #12

This month's issue of Black Widow is out today. Yes, her off The Avengers:

And the observant will notice from the front cover that CNN’s Anderson Cooper is a guest star in this issue. No, really.

Anderson Cooper in Black Widow

Odd, hey? Still, anything to get people reading it, I say. But you’d have to be very observant to spot the crossover with The Unit in this issue as well:

The Unit in Black Widow

Spot it?

Blink and you’ll have missed the fact that 'Dirt Diver’ was the call sign of The Unit’s Mack Gerhard.

Gosh, what a TV-filled comic this month.

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