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What have you been watching? Including Strange Empire, Coverband, Electra, The Flash and Doctor Who

Posted on October 20, 2014 | comments | 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.

You may have noticed I was playing epic catch-up on Saturday, in contravention of my normal rule of weekend blogging. So on top of Friday’s all out efforts and a couple of extra ones today, I’ve reviewed the following new shows, some of which have already been acquired for Blighty’s viewing pleasure:

Yay, me. No back log now. Time to have regular weekends again. Phew.

In fact, so ahead of myself am I that I’ll point out that ages ago, I reviewed NBC’s Constantine, which starts on Friday. Okay, it’s changed a bit since the pilot but you’ll get the general point.

But I’ve not stopped there. Oh no. Because I’ve also watched a New Zealand and a Canadian show just for luck. Okay, I was a bit behind on all of them, so I’ve only seen the first episode of each, but honestly, that felt like enough.

Strange Empire (Canada: CBC)
Set in the 1860s on the Alberta-Montana border, this sees three women (Cara Gee, Tattiawna Jones and Melissa Farman from Lost) band together for survival after virtually all the men in their town are murdered and those remaining behind battle for power. Very nicely made and already being described as the saviour of CBC, it's historically interesting but about as tedious as any other western, and none of the characters really grabbed me.

Coverband (New Zealand: TV One)
A one-hit wonder band reunite back in New Zealand years after they were famous. Unfortunately, the female lead singer was the one who was a success, leaving the terminally unsexy rest of the band to make it by themselves, something at which they fail miserably. Now having to deal with the pressures of normal lives and forced to do cover versions of other bands’ records, they suck completely until they stagecrashed by Laughton Kora, who shows them what rock charisma and singing really are, so they hire him. Kind of.

It’s an amiable and accurate enough show, based on cast member Johnny Barker’s own experiences as an Auckland cover band musician, and were there enough time in the world, I’d probably tune in for a few more episodes. But the show’s not so inspiring that I’ll throw something else aside for it and I’ve already seen The Wedding Band crash and burn, so I don’t think I need to see that happen again.

Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t want to produce any globally available videos of its own shows, apparently, so here’s a picture of the cast to tide you over.


That's it for new new shows, but after the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, black-ish, The Blacklist, Doctor Who, The Flash, Forever, Gotham, Homeland, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Plebs, Scorpion, Selfie and The Walking Dead.

But hey! Before you go, I should mention I went to the theatre, too!

Electra (Old Vic)
Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra, a new translation of Sophocles’ original text by Greek tragedy stalwart Frank McGuinness, music by PJ Harvey – what could go wrong? Well, not much actually, beyond a certain staticness to the direction, a slightly weak performance by Jack Lowden as Orestes and a very strange performance by Tyrone Huggins as Aegisthus. Other than that, a fine piece of work, surprisingly faithfully staged (although that’s not quite how Greek people prayed), with an outstanding performance by Thomas and a surprisingly funny text by McGuinness – in part to cover up for casting slightly older than originally written, but also to hide the unlikelihood of Electra not recognising Orestes. Liz White (Life on Mars) gives the best performance I’ve ever seen from her as Chrysothemis, Electra’s sister.  

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The cast of The Wire recently reunited for PaleyFest. Want to watch a video of them all together?

Posted on October 18, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

As well as producers David Simon and Nina Noble, Wendell Pierce (Bunk Moreland), Sonja Sohn (Kima Greggs), Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little), Seth Gilliam (Ellis Carver), Jim True-Frost (Roland Pryzbylewski), John Doman (William Rawls), Lawrence Gilliard Jr (D’Angelo Barksdale), JD Williams (Bodie), Robert Wisdom (Bunny Colvin), Tristan Wilds (Michael Lee) and Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield) all turned up on Thursday night, and there were video appearances by Idris Elba (Stringer Bell) and Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty). And you can watch the entire 1h20 minute panel below. Enjoy!


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Mini-review: The Divide 1x1-1x2 (WEtv)

Posted on July 24, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Divide

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, WEtv

I’d like to write a really long review of The Divide. After all, it’s the first scripted drama on a channel hitherto known best for reality TV – WEtv. It’s a thoughtful look at the grey areas of morality, the US legal system, the death penalty, how forensic science affects process, and how politics, race and the politics of race can warp everything. It’s got two members of the cast of The Wire in it – Chris Bauer and Clarke Peters – as well as Homeland’s ‘evil blonde female muslim terrorist’ Malin Ireland. It’s from AMC Studios, was originally developed for AMC by long-time producer David Manson (House of Cards) and is show-run by the Emmy-winning John Tinker (Judging Amy).

It all sounds good and important, right? Except my mind’s a total blank. The show’s good but utterly uninspiring. It was hard to bring myself to watch the double-length first episode; the third episode was on last night and I really couldn't be arsed to watch it.

Trying to put my finger on why I can’t be arsed isn’t easy. It’s all very good quality, just generic good quality. The characters have standard issues – Ireland is studying to join the bar but works in her spare time to reprieve the wrongly convicted because her dad is on death row. She has a slightly self-destructive relationship with a cop, but whenever there’s an issue, the cop wants to talk it through, quickly dispelling any real drama.

Equally, the show is at extreme pains not to have heroes or villains. It doesn’t want to take sides on capital punishment, essentially giving members of the audience justification for their beliefs, whatever they might be: it even claims at one point that ‘no one in the US has ever been executed for a crime that they were proven not to have committed’. Everyone’s dedicated to doing the right thing, just interpreting that differently for different reasons. The twist – (spoiler alert) Bauer was present for the crime but didn’t commit the crime and there’s been a cover-up to protect the person who was actually there – is just astonishingly obvious that you’ll spend the whole of the second half waiting for everyone on-screen to catch up with you, even though they have all the same facts you do.

It’s worthy and dull. It’s so dull that even AMC rejected it, but not so mesmerisingly dull that it could find a home on Sundance TV. It’s too smart for network TV, too stupid for basic cable. If you like a generic thriller that’s a cut above TNT’s Murder In the First but nowhere near as entertaining, here’s your boy. Otherwise, steer clear.

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