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An archive of the blog's TV reviews. There's also an archive and an A-Z index of all reviews.


May 22, 2017

Review: Downward Dog 1x1 (US: ABC)

Posted on May 22, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Downward Dog

In the US: Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC

Downward Dog feels like an also-ran. When I was commenting last week how I was sure there were more new TV shows due our way soon, I was recalling from my write-up of last year's Upfronts that the show existed and was a mid-season replacement, and as mid-season was running out, surely Downward Dog had to be on on our screens soon (whither Still Star-Crossed?). 

More so, I wrote it up as "A dog comments on a woman's life", in part because of Imaginary Mary, which I wrote up as "An imaginary friend comments on a woman's life". It was clearly not just a second tier show, but a second tier show following in the wake of a near identical second tier show on the exact same network, but without even the benefit of Imaginary Mary's Jenna Elfman, making it probably a fifth tier show at best. 

Or so I thought. 

Based on a web series of the same name, Downward Dog sees Fargo's Allison Tolman playing some sort of creative in advertising. She puts together presentations for ad campaigns anyway. Whatever it is she does, it doesn't make her happy, in part because her boss Barry Rothbart (The Wolf of Wall Street) thinks he's a feminist but is really a mansplainer who'll go for any ad campaign containing French words and nudity.

Her personal life? Even less happy, since she's broken up from her boyfriend Lucas Neff (Raising Hope) and spends most of her nights in, crying to herself and drinking red wine.

Which cheers up her dog no end. That's quality time, he says. Because the conceit of Downward Dog is that her dog talks to camera, except rather than simply saying "Bunnies… food… meat… hugs… sleep" in continuous cycles, he talks to the camera like an emotionally hyperaware man talking to his therapist. He's still a dog, so doesn't understand that when Tolman drives off every morning, she's driving to work, not just having fun by herself. He doesn't think they're in a relationship either (thankfully), although they clearly have a relationship, and so 'Ned' spends most of his time dryly discussing what Tolman is doing wrong and how it affects him, his loneliness when she's out and so on. Oh yes, and the fact the neighbourhood cat (Lady Dynamite's Maria Bamford) is clearly a sociopath who wishes to destroy him emotionally.

So the show is of two halves. The workplace half is pretty ordinary stuff, with the standard Working Girl approach to work, with Tolman discovering her inner strength with the help of both Ned and gal pal Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Love), after being kept down by her boss. The far more interesting half is Ned and his commentary - perhaps unsurprisingly, as that's the core of the web series. At times, that's genuinely funny, although it's not until the dream sequence at the end that there was a real, life-out-loud moment. 

It's gentle, but human stuff that dog owners will probably find funnier than the pet-less will. It's smart, although not so much that you'll hear dozens of philosophical nuggets you'll have never heard of before. Downward Dog is nothing hugely remarkable, but for a fifth-tier, Jenna Elfman-less, mid-season ABC replacement, it's a lot better than it should be.

May 16, 2017

What have you been watching? Including American Gods, Master of None, Lucifer and The Americans

Posted on May 16, 2017 | 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 and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.

That flood of new shows I was expected? Hasn't shown up. Hmmm. Wonder why. Anyway, we're still on a Tuesday because Sunday is still quite full, plus Upfronts week coverage took a bit of work to put together yesterday.

That means it's time to look at the regulars, including the latest episodes of American Gods, The Americans, Doctor Who, The Flash, Great News, The Handmaid's Tale, Lucifer and Silicon Valley. Netflix also released season two of Master of None on Friday and I've watched… an episode of it. So I can talk about that, at least, after the jump. See you in a mo. 

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May 9, 2017

What have you been watching? Including Dear White People, Great News, Doctor Who and Silicon Valley

Posted on May 9, 2017 | 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 and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.

Slightly later than normal this week thanks to everyone and their auntie suddenly thinking Sunday nights are the best time to broadcast TV shows. Monday nights? Not so much, so here we are on Tuesday, perhaps for a little time, perhaps for one week only.

Earlier this week, I reviewed the first episode of American Gods (US: Starz; UK: Amazon) and the first three episodes of The Handmaid's Tale (US: Hulu; UK: Amazon). But time and time wait for no man, not even me, so I'll be reviewing the second and fourth episodes of those two respective shows after the jump, along with the usual regulars: The Americans, Doctor Who, The Flash, Great News, Lucifer and Silicon Valley.

But I did try to watch something else as well. Albeit a tad unsuccessfully.

Dear White People (Netflix)
Follow-up TV series to the massively successful movie that explores the modern day nuances and mores of race, class, race again, sex and race (again). Set on a modern day US Ivy League college campus, it looks at what happens when a humour magazine organises a black-face Halloween party. The 'Dear White People' of the title is the name of a college radio show run by Logan Browning (Powers, Hit The Floor) in which she tries to explain to white people what they're doing might be racist, while they in turn phone in to explain to her how racist she's being.

And that's all I got.

The first 10 minutes were actually quite funny - astute critiques of what forms racism can take in an age in which accusing someone of racism is seemingly worse than their actually being racist, as well as insights into how racism changes depending on the classes of both those being racist and those targeted, and even how what constitutes racism can vary from one person to another.

I'd like to have carried on watching, but then came a point where I realised I literally had no idea what people were saying. The words didn't mean anything to me. I am old and white and British, and the cast are predominantly young and black and American, and I simply couldn't understand their lexicon and references, or when I did, it was five to 10 seconds after the line had been delivered.

What I caught was very good, though, so I may come back to it - with the subtitles turned on and tablet in hand set to the Urban Dictionary so I can work out what's going on and maybe learn a little, too.

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