Tag Archive | The West Wing

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What did you watch this fortnight? Including Banshee, The Americans, Mr Selfridge, Hitchcock and Silver Linings Playbook

Posted on March 18, 2013 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week fortnight?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week fortnight that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Engrenages/Spiral (BBC4/Netflix)
  • Top Gear (BBC2/BBC America)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can't be sure which.

Surprising, despite my time away, I've actually managed to get my viewing queue down to more or less nothing: last night's Shameless (US) and This Is Kevin. I've even found time to watch some more House of Cards, which I note is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray. Buy it, it's really good. 

Admittedly, to get back on track, I've had to drop Red Widow (ABC), Lightfields (ITV) and Broadchurch (ITV) from the viewing queue before I'd even started watching them, and Shetland (BBC) didn't even get a look-in, but such is life.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars (fingers crossed, reviews of the final four episodes of Spiral - bloody BBC4 - tomorrow):

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): The first of the two episodes since last entry was actually the first rubbish one so far: it was entirely obvious what the twist was and the counter-trap laid by the FBI was clumsy. The second was much better, showing us for the first time what Matthew Rhys' character gave up and that no spy can truly be trusted to tell the truth. The Russian dubbing was a bit poor, though.  
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): A strong finish to the season with the typical violence we've come to expect and virtually all the loose plot threads brought together at the end. Add on some creepy Amish incest and Banshee season two (coming 2014) looks like it'll be worth watching. Not quite sure why that video didn't go viral, though.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Zombies are so hot right now. But I think it's a misstep. Plus that vaccine was remarkably easy to come by.
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): Good to see the Travis/Lori relationship being developed. And the Alanis Morisette episode was a nice callback to the cast's previous work and the Cox/Springsteen episode.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV): Two eps, the second of which was a little bit blah, beyond the continuing development of Blake's moving relationship with his housekeeper. The first was a more intriguing piece dealing with the death penalty and featured some early forensic science. I like how Blake isn't afraid to proclaim himself a scientist, a period statement if ever there was one.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Features a The Wire reunion. Otherwise, same old, same old.
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS): A slightly limp ending to the season, with Jeremy Piven not proving up to the challenge of delivering lines in anything less than a Barnum style and far too much time spent over the season on soap opera intrigues. All the same, the play at the end was a welcome bit of acid to the normal proceedings and David Calder, whom I almost didn't recognise, was fantastic as the King. Will I watch if Gregory Fitoussi isn't back next year, though? I think not.  
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): Fiona's speech last week was a powerful moment, whereas this week's episode is far more comedic (in a good way). 
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Odd how unlikable Sherman has become. That's good character development for you. Mind you, my mother in law has given up watching it now because it's making her sad to see what's happening to all the characters she liked.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1):Tying into history well and good to see Romans who aren't complete idiots for a change, particularly Caesar. Not long to go now, but we all know where it's heading, so it should be an interesting few episodes. Hopefully, not more 'rape as a character point', though, please?

And in movies, which I saw a few of on a teeny tiny screen in the back of a chair:

  • Lincoln: Essentially two and half hours of historical talking that's less exciting than an episode of The West Wing. A brilliant performance from Daniel Day Lewis and eye-opening in terms of the legal manoeuvers that Lincoln and others used to indulge in back then, but not as involving as it should be.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Good central performances from everyone (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles and even Chris Rock), with Cooper and Lawrence two mentally damaged people who offer to help each other on the road to recovery. But it's an unempathising, predictable movie with the standard message that crazy is more interesting than normal and that leaves you cold beyond the normal romcom parameters. Plus Cooper and Lawrence is a little bit too May to December to avoid a certain amount of queasiness.
  • Hitchcock: Surprisingly jaunty for a movie about the true story of the making of a movie based on a real-life serial killer and in which the director has a peep hole into his leading ladies' dressing rooms. Anthony Hopkins is surprisingly light as Hitch compared to Toby Jones in The Girl, Scarlett Johansson is aces but perhaps a little too self-possessed as Janet Leigh while Helen Mirren is great as Hitchcock's real-life partner in crime Alma, who was as much responsible for the success and quality of his movies as her husband was. Nice touch to have it book-ended in the style of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, too. 
  • Van Helsing: Possibly the worst movie ever made

"What did you watch this 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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Preview: 1600 Penn 1x1 (NBC)

Posted on December 18, 2012 | comment | Bookmark and Share

1600 Penn

In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, NBC. Starts January 10

In US TV, there's the thing called 'development'. It's when someone comes to a TV network with an idea for a show, except it doesn't quite work. So the idea goes into development so that the problems can be solved, ideally before it goes into production.

Of course, even then, it's not too late for the show to change. Take The West Wing. Originally, the president wasn't going to show up at all - he would only ever be talked about, but would never appear. But come the pilot episode, the President needed to appear, the producers cast Martin Sheen and the rest is history.

But sometimes, despite all these safety valves, one big, looming, giant black hole of a problem can't be removed, usually as a result of politics, sometimes because it's one of the executive producers or it's even the person who came up with the idea for the TV show in the first place.

To preserve some air of mystery and suspense, I'll let you guess what the problem is with 1600 Penn - a sort of West Wing meets Modern Family set in the White House - that couldn't be removed before it aired. I'll give you a clue: have a look at the cast photo.

Here's a trailer if you need any more clues:

Continue reading "Preview: 1600 Penn 1x1 (NBC)"

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The West Wing cast reunited! Again! To help one of their sisters! Not again!

Posted on September 20, 2012 | comment | Bookmark and Share

It's at times like this, particularly now that The Newsroom's on the air and offering a pale political shadow of its predecessor, that we wish Aaron Sorkin was still dedicating his life to giving us more episodes of The West Wing. The show that effectively predicted that a young non-white politician would soon be the president of the United States, it's sorely missed and with a fall season of soon-to-be-forgotten dramas lined up for most networks and a stream of "WTF were they thinking commissioning that?" already polluting NBC's schedules, one might be wondering why no one has thought of reuniting the old gang.

I say no one, but actually they have been reuniting quite a lot of late. Bradley Whitford was doing a walk and talk somewhere near Rob Lowe over on Parks and Recreation in April. Martin Sheen, Allison Janney, Dulé Hill, Joshua Malina, Melissa Fitzgerald and William Duffy got together for a public service announcement over on Funny or Die back in May.

Is that enough though? Hell, no. We want a full deck!

Thankfully, we've got something pretty damn close. In an ad to get Bridget Mary McCormack* elected to the Michigan Supreme Court and to explain how US voting forms work, we have Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney, Mary McCormack, Melissa Fitzgerald, Lily Tomlin and, yes, Martin Sheen, all recreating their The West Wing characters.

And you know what? It actually feels like the real thing. Woo hoo! Now get voting and/or writing to NBC and Aaron Sorkin.

* Yes, Bridget Mary McCormack is Mary McCormack's sister, now you ask

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