Archive | TV reviews

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


April 28, 2016

Third-episode verdict: Game of Silence (US: NBC)

Posted on April 28, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerGameOfSilence.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Does a show have to be miserable to be good? Some people, usually quite pretentious/depressed/Buddhist ones, will argue that all life is suffering and therefore to depict life correctly, you must depict suffering. Always.

Whether that's true or not, if a TV show is good but miserable, will you still want to watch it?

Game of Silence, NBC's remake of Turkey's Suskunlar, is prime misery, with a bunch of childhood friends finding their past catching up with them decades later, when one of their number bumps into one of the men who abused him in prison and kills him. The gang the dead man was with - largely composed of people who were also in prison - end up killing him and before you know it, there's a mounting war as the remaining friends try to find evidence that will put the baddies in prison, and the baddies try to stop them.

Just like ABC's American CrimeGame of Silence is surprisingly grown-up and well made for network TV. While it's nowhere near as realistic as that show and is often downright unbelievable, it's surprisingly nuanced. Rather than simply go in all guns blazing, our heroes try to put together a legal case, collecting evidence along the way. And rather than paint the abusers as nothing but monsters, the show is at pains to show that it's the penal system that caused the problems - both the heroes and the abusers did terrible things because of the nature of prison life, becoming hardened and inhuman. There are frequent flashbacks not just to the heroes' childhood and what happened to them, but also to the abusers', and there are side plots that illuminate this central thesis and argue that prison should be the last possible punishment for crimes, as it makes people more likely to become worse versions of themselves, not better.

The show is also, while unwilling to actually show anything happening, more than happy to describe and imply paedophile parties, repeated raped, physical abuse and more, as well as depict all the traumatic effects that can have on the psyche.

The trouble is that none of this is fun to watch. It's not helped by the lack of humour, any real human warmth, or decent acting. To be fair, the show does try hard to depict some real camaraderie between the friends, but everyone's so traumatised and/or soon-to-be-dead, that it doesn't work. The fact, as the title suggests, that no one's talking about this with anyone except each other, means that everyone else in the show is an outsider to this group of not especially joyful people.

Game of Silence is a good show, not a great one, and it would really have benefited from better casting and a bit of humour from time to time. I'll probably stick with it for a couple more episodes, but I'm not expecting to be enjoying myself as I do.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with female leads? Yes, although might be a bit exploitative
TMINE's prediction: With bad ratings, this is unlikely to last more than a season, if that.

April 25, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Bridge of Spies, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley

Posted on April 25, 2016 | 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. 

I spent most of the weekend not watching a lot of things I was supposed to be watching, instead watching season one of Daredevil again - it's so much better than the second season, which is starting to feel more disappointing with every passing day. But that doesn't mean I'm not up to date. It just means I still haven't watched Ófærð (Trapped) yet.

Elsewhere, I've reviewed Containment (US: The CW; UK: E4) and passed a third-episode verdict on The Detour (US: TBS). I'll be passing a third-episode verdict on Game on Silence either tomorrow or Wednesday. That means that after the jump, we'll have a look at the latest episodes of The Americans, Banshee, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Limitless, Lopez, Lucifer and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the season finale of Supergirl. HBO's also just brought back Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley , so I'll be looking over them, too.

But first, a movie:

Bridge of Spies (2015) (iTunes)
Slightly soporific Spielberg biopic of Cold War lawyer James B Donovan (Tom Hanks), who defended notorious spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), and ended up helping in negotiations in Berlin to exchange Abel for U2 pilot Gary Powers. He does that by talking about the Constitution and what it is to be American. All solidly made but that summary is really all you need to know, in what is basically a not very subtle commentary on post-9/11 US attitudes to human rights, treating enemy combatants civilly, etc. If you do watch it, don't be surprised that there's a chunk in the middle in German without subtitles, as that's deliberate. Don't worry - they're just talking about how expensive his coat is.

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April 21, 2016

Review: Containment 1x1 (US: The CW; UK: E4)

Posted on April 21, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The CW's Containment

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Acquired by E4 for Summer airing

Normally, the way this blog works is that I scour the world looking for TV shows that you all might want to watch (or avoid) and review them. Then, at some indeterminate point in the future, maybe a few months later, maybe not at all, eventually they'll arrive on some UK TV channel or Internet service and, maybe you'll look back and read what I said about them, to see if they're worth watching (or avoiding).

As you can imagine, with that kind of top editorial USP and universal appeal, TMINE has become one of the top traffic destinations on the Internet, as well as a veritable ad magnet, and I've become famous. Normal people can hardly spend a day without mentioning how much they like TMINE in regular conversation down the pub, launderette or wherever. Why just today, I was talking to someone I've worked with for about four years about top US TV shows and I mentioned that I always watched the first three episodes of any TV show to see whether it's good or bad.

"Do you?" she said, obviously bewildered why anyone would do that. 

That's how famous the Carusometer and Barrometer have made me.

Anyway, with Containment, most of you will probably be able to turn the tables on me. The CW's latest show - its third and final new one this year - sees the outbreak of a lethal new disease in Atlanta that can be communicated by bodily fluids or contact. So quickly does it spread, the government decides that everyone walking four to six feet apart from one another isn't enough and it needs to quarantine the outbreak, so sticks a great big fence round it.

Some people, most of them young and pretty, get stuck on the outside; some people, most of them young and pretty, get stuck on the inside - usually, relationship partners get stuck on the opposite sides of the fence (what are the odds of that?). Is that going to be enough to stop the virus? Will everyone be reunited after a couple of days when the fence comes down, as the government promises? And just how many relationships will get started or ended by the quarantine?

Well, if the flashforward to Day 3 at the start and end of the first episode is anything to go by, it'll be just three small notches down the Bad Things scale from 'Zombie Apocalypse' by that point.

So why will you be able to turn the tables on me? Well, what if I give you the hint that everyone keeps talking about a 'cordon sanitaire' and 'inside the cordon'?

Yes, that's right. It's an adaptation of Belgian drama Cordon, which you all probably watched on BBC Four last year:

I didn't. I'd tried Salamander. That was the best Belgium had to offer. It was rubbishCordon was second choice, so why bother with that, hey?

So was it good then? Does it end well? I've read Wiki about it now, and this seems pretty close to it so far, which means you probably know better than I do whether Containment is going to be good, as I've only seen the first episode.

Anyway, this is semi-pants, semi-good, and I say this as someone with a repeatedly self-professed love for the 'killer virus' genre. Despite largely having a cast of Brits, Australians and Canadians all struggling to survive, it's basically a CW/American-isation of a more adult Euro-thriller.

David Gyasi (Apparitions, Cloud Atlas, Interstellar) is the noble cop struggling to keep his community and his relationship together, while he tries to work out the true agenda of the ambivalent and strangely stern government doctor running things, Claudia Black (Stargate, Farscape); Chris Wood (The Vampire Diaries) is his pal cop, oddly resentful he's trapped inside the hot zone with cute single parent teacher Kristen Gutoskie (Beaver Falls, Republic of Doyle); Hanna Mangan Lawrence (Spartacus) is the pregnant teenager on the run who's now trapped in the city; and George Young (The Brian Jackson Show) is the plucky Brit doctor trying to come up with a cure.

The show is often at pains to do the least interesting, most soapiest thing possible, cutting away as soon as "the science part" begins to have someone sulking like a teenager who's not allowed to play on the XBox again until they've done their homework because killer viruses are, like, just so unfair, dad. Vectors and proteins aren't anywhere near as interesting as wondering how this 100% fatal killer virus outbreak makes you feel about your relationship, is it, not when those relationships are so 100% completely predictable?

There is a slightly offensive part (imported and translated into 'merican from Cordon's Afghan) that has the killer virus, which turns out to have been weaponised, being brought into the US by a Syrian refugee. From both Wiki and the show's own production notes, which reveal that journalist Trevor St John (One Life To Live) is going to pop up in later episodes, suspicious of the government's story, it seems this is a bit of a ruse, so I'm not going to get too het up about it, but it's notable that the muslim family are the first ones under suspicion and carted off to quarantine.

But those problems aside, it's not as much of a clunker as it could have been, certainly not compared to Between, the almost platonic CW ideal of Containment. It's a bit more gruesome and death-filled than you might expect; it is actually filmed in Atlanta and while it's not quite 54% black and no one's doing a Georgia accent, the cast is reasonably diverse; there is some science in there; some of the dialogue is occasionally pretty good; and there's the occasional scene that touches on the frightening. I'm sure the conspiracy theory is going to turn out to be insanely ridiculous, but we've not had to endure that yet, and it all seems moderately enticing at the moment.

If there's nothing better on and you've not seen Cordon, give Containment a go to see if it's to your liking - it's a 'limited series' so hopefully won't take up too much of your life if you decide to stick with it, too. But Containment is a low-rent US adaptation of a low-rent Belgian TV show in the scheme things, so don't have great expectations going in - especially not if you already know how the original ends.

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Containment

Does the Flemish for 'killer virus' translate into 'merican?