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What have you been watching? Including The Grand Tour, Hypernormalisation, Doctor Doctor and Hyde & Seek

Posted on November 21, 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. There's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. 

Ironically, just as I've started catching up with everything again, we're about to enter the lull in US TV marked by Thanksgiving December. That means that this week will probably be marked by ventures into Internet TV again, including, I hope, a return to Le bureau des légendes (The Bureau). But always expect the unexpected, since there'll be a few new shows popping up, I'm sure. Hell, Australian Community TV just debuted the six-part ghostly Sonnigsburg, so I'm sure there'll be something coming along I wasn't expecting.

Elsewhere this week, I reviewed Good Behavior (US: TNT) and Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix). We've still not got round to watching any more of The Crown, Westworld or Humans, and I've not yet made a start on Y Gwyll, so that means that after the jump, we'll be looking at the latest episodes of Ash vs Evil Dead, Chance, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Designated Survivor, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, Falling Water, Frequency, Good Behavior, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, Lucifer, People of Earth, Supergirl, Timeless and Travelers, as well as the season finales of Doctor Doctor and Hyde and Seek. One show's getting promoted, at leat one show's getting dropped - can you guess which?

But first, as well as a film review, a slight diversion from TMINE's normal remit…

The Grand Tour (Amazon)
TMINE's dedication to scripted shows wasn't always so pure, back in the day. That meant I used to cover shows that included Top Gear. That stopped a while ago, in part because of the shift in focus caused by there not being enough time in the world to watch unscripted as well as scripted TV, but also in part because I stopped watching Top Gear - it had simply stopped doing anything new, and I was bored.

Following Jeremy Clarkson's leaving the BBC, James May and Richard Hammond in his wake, the Top Gear trio signed up with Amazon to do a new show. What manner of show it would be we didn't know, because Clarkson allegedly had a non-compete clause prohibiting him from doing another car show. Given the name, The Grand Tour, maybe it was just going to be a bunch of the old Top Gear travel documentaries.

Anyway, for old time's sake, I decided to 'tune in' today to see what The Grand Tour was like.

Guess what. It's… a car show. More so, it's Top Gear again, just a bit swearier and a bit glossier. More or less every feature of Top Gear has, in fact, moved over to The Grand Tour (note the reversed initials in the title), with just a few changes.

For starters, in its first episode at least, it simply relocates its studio setting from an old hangar in SW London to a tent in the Mojave desert, with each subsequent episode relocating the show to another part of the world (Johannesburg and Barbados have been promised).

From inside the tent, surrounded by a native audience, the trio then do the same bickering routine as always, with plenty of races with supercars to break that up. However, everything is done on an Amazon budget, with computer graphics, travel to Portugal for races, et al. And where an element might have got copyright-infringingly close to Top Gear, the show makes changes to the format. Gone is the Stig, replaced by… The American, a tame Nascar driver, for example, and since they can't use the Top Gear track to test cars any more, they've had to use a different one.

As I said, the reason I gave up on Top Gear was that it stopped innovating. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it's all the changes, rather than the keepers from the Top Gear format, that are the best bits of The Grand Tour and remind you how good the former was before it started coasting. The celebrity guest spot was great; the new parts of the track are great; the more scripted aspects of the audience interactions are great; the celebrity guests spot was great.

Where it was at its most dull was when it was Jeremy Clarkson just driving around in a supercar to amuse himself. Nearly nodded off at that point I did.

As a show, Top Gear was at its best when it was all three of the hosts together in an engine-driven bickerfest travelogue in the style of Three Men In A Boat. The fewer of the hosts together and the more it was about cars, the less interesting it became. If the producers of The Grand Tour remember this and remember not to rest on their laurels, The Grand Tour could become what Top Gear once was - a weekly fixture in our house.

Hypernormalisation (iPlayer)
I'd already given you the bingo card, but I've now had a chance to watch this latest Adam Curtis documentary about why the world is the way it is. Impeccably timed to arrive in a post-Brexit, post-Trump world, it shows how attempts to create stability without politics has given us an era in which everything seems real, nothing seems true and no one wants to do anything about it through politics for fear that the boat will be rocked in ways no one can predict.

Clocking in at just under three hours, Hypernormalisation gives us all manner of brilliant and astonishing documentary footage, but is still the least persuasive of Curtis' oeuvre so far. Ironically, given that Curtis critiques our need for simplistic answers to complex problems, his argument is probably too simplistic to be true. But it still takes us to exciting thoughts and considerations about the world that are probably close to the truth but which nevertheless are just hints at the real truth - if such a thing now exists.

All the same, simply through reminding us of all manner of things that have long since been forgotten about, as well as of the fact that what's normal now wasn't always, it's well worth a watch.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including The Grand Tour, Hypernormalisation, Doctor Doctor and Hyde & Seek"

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The Top Gear trio brainstorm a name for their new Amazon show

Posted on April 11, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Individually, they're all massively irritating. Together, they're really funny (although YMMV). It's the former presenters of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, who have a car show coming to Amazon this Autumn. All they need now is a name for it…

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News: Patrick J Adams is a superhero; Kevin Bishop does Porridge; new Top Gear trailer; + more

Posted on April 1, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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