Archive | TV reviews

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


May 1, 2015

What have you been watching? Including 8MMM Aboriginal Radio, Arrow, The Flash and Community

Posted on May 1, 2015 | 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.

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.

It’s May Day weekend here in the UK this week, so given the usual Bank Holiday weather, I imagine lots of you have some TV binging to do.

Would Sir or Madam care for some recommendations? I’ve already reviewed Avengers: Age of Ultron elsewhere and after the jump, I’ll be looking at my regular TV viewing: American Crime, American Odyssey, Arrow, The Blacklist, Community, The Flash, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Silicon Valley.

But first, a newbie.

8MMM Aboriginal Radio (Australia: ABC)
8MMM is an Aboriginal-owned radio station in the middle of nowhere that needs a vital influx of training, so a bunch of white people turn up to pass on the benefit of their wisdom to the existing Aboriginal and white staff. Some of the white people are a bit racist, some of them are very earnest and trying very hard not to be racist, some of them want to have sex with Aboriginal people and some of them actually want to be Aboriginal. The Aboriginal people? Well, what a bunch of stereotype-busters they are.

A lot of this is going to be impenetrable to anyone who isn’t well versed in Australian culture – as well as references to Bogans, lots of other bits of Australian slang and disparaging graffiti about Canberra, the warning at the beginning to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples that the show contains images and videos of dead people is also standard enough that I wasn’t sure if 8MMM was taking the piss out of it, given it’s supposed to be a comedy, it’s fictional and there aren’t any dead people in it, or it was supposed to be a genuine warning. Or both.

If it was a joke, it was about the funniest part of the show, though, which was a relatively lifeless affair redeemed only by a diverse cast (most of whom, unfortunately, can’t act) and the occasional bit of comedy, such as a cursed chair in the radio station and a joke about the ’stolen generations’, that poked fun at the show’s own earnest attempts to prove its credentials.

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April 28, 2015

Review: The Comedians 1x1-1x3 (US: FX)

Posted on April 28, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Comedians

In the US: Thursdays, 10pm, FX

In 2015, FX commissioned a sketch show from comedians Billy Crystal and Josh Gad. Billy Crystal wasn’t too happy about this but the network wasn’t going to commission it without Gad, so Crystal went along with it. Surprisingly enough, the entire process of commissioning the series, creating and filming the pilot, as well as making the series was filmed by a crew, who also filmed Crystal and Gad’s personal life at the same time.

None of the above paragraph is true, but that’s the basic premise of FX’s The Comedians, which is based on Sweden’s SVT’s Ulveson And Herngren.

The conceit of the show is that Crystal and Gad are playing versions of themselves, Crystal the OAP Jewish comedian with the big ego and back catalogue, Gad the equally egotistical upcoming young comedian who wants to be big with the Latino, black and Filipino audience, and whose frequent use of the phrase ‘suck his dick’ doesn’t endear himself to Crystal.

Indeed, nothing Gad does in the first three episodes pleases Crystal, whether it’s trying to bring in his own director after Crystal fires Larry Charles (played by the real Larry Charles) or intruding on Crystal’s wife (Dana Delaney, not playing herself) when she’s naked, and that’s where a lot of the intended humour comes in. The rest of the humour largely comes from the two comedians’ narcissism, with Crystal dropping in names, awards, etc, at the drop of a hat, Gad mentioning Frozen and Book of Mormon every chance he gets, complicated by the fact most of the people around them are too young to get Crystal’s references, and the fact Gad seems more proud of 1600 Penn than anything else.

There’s also the usual young v old tropes, with Gad constantly on his phone surfing the Internet, more cameos from other stars such as Will Sasso, a transgender director (Steve Weber from Studio 60 et al) and general cringe comedy.

The trouble is that very little of this is very funny and has largely been done better in both Extras and Episodes. It relies on jokes going wrong, knowing a reasonable amount about both Crystal and Gad, finding people stoned funny, finding people offended and embarrassed funny, finding Crystal and Gad hating each other funny, and more, none of which it should rely on. Where it does venture into jokes with the supposed sketch show, even then, it’s still not funny.

I’ve tried three episodes and I’m out now. But humour’s subjective so you might want to give it a try. However, even with two types of humour, it still missed me.

Barrometer rating: 4
Rob’s prediction: I’ll be surprised if it lasts more than a season, but you never know.

April 27, 2015

Review: Happyish 1x1 (US: Showtime)

Posted on April 27, 2015 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Happyish

In the US: Sundays, 9.30pm ET/PT, Showtime

WASP dissatisfaction. How may I count the ways you’ve manifested yourself over the past decade or so on US TV? Well, there’s Satisfaction, obviously, and The Affair. There was Necessary Roughness and In Treatment, for those who like lots of therapy to cope with their dissatisfaction, Enlightened for those who wanted to think about rising above their job dissatisfaction. For those who are just dissatisfied with society and the Internet and social media, there was Selfie, while for those who were prepared to put up with their dissatisfaction in the hope things would get better, there was Togetherness and Marriage.

And let’s face, the dissatisfaction doesn’t stop there. You could probably add a few extras to that list, if you thought about it about.

Generally, the picture from TV would appear to be, if you’re middle to upper middle class in America and middle-aged, although things could obviously be a lot worse, apparently you’re just dissatisfied with how modern life is. Everyone seemingly caring about the young people who can barely even read a book, while you’re having to learn about the Facebook and the Twitter and foreigners, just to keep up. And just as your body’s getting all saggy and the sex is going away, you’re expected to be working out and taking protein like crazy, so you can have abs. There was no such thing as abs when you were growing up, was there?

All this while you’re having to work some well paid job that you don’t actually like that much.

And here we are with yet another slightly self-pitying ‘comedy drama’ about the same old same old. This was apparently so important to Showtime and its demographic that when its leading man actually died (Philip Seymour Hoffman, may he rest in peace), the network decided that it absolutely had to go ahead with the project with a new leading man (Steve Coogan).

Here Coogan plays a dissatisfied ad man (Mad Men), the ironically named Thom Payne, supposedly living the American Dream with his wife (Kathryn Hahn from Free Agents), but who’s disconcerted by all the young people who work for him, the young Swedes who are taking over the agency and basically everything in modern life. He’s the kind of knob who reads Camus on the train while everyone is reading the Kindle version of the paperback version of the hardback version of Steve Jobs’ biography. He hates his job, just as everyone else does, but more vocally, something that annoys his friend-boss Bradley Whitford.

And a more tedious half-hour it would be hard to find. Apart from the fact it’s mind-numbing repetition of a dozen other “grumpy old men” dramas, Coogan is just not American enough, either to say “asshole” as frequently as he does or to be dissatisfied with the American Dream that he’s so busy ripping apart. Not got a six-pack at 44, Steve? No one ever told you to get one – you’re English. So don’t worry about it, laugh at the Americans and their silly ways, and then go down the pub to laugh at them some more with your mates. Either that or get off your ‘ass’ and go down the gym like the American Dream you apparently want to embrace once upon a time tells you to.

Incidentally, I should note here that Coogan’s character is 44 years old. Is it because I’m 42 that I’ve read Camus and know who Frank Miller is, am on Facebook and can use Twitter? Am I in the sweet spot between generations, able to bridge the gap between young and old? Or is it because this isn’t the most well observed pieces of writing and actually, what the show thinks is a generational gap is actually a class gap?

I leave that one up to you guys to decide (be nice).

The show does try to liven things up a bit with Fight Club style commentary and dream sequences…

…that unfortunately lack any of its perception or fights, and a sequence in which Coogan has sex with a cartoon grandmother, but it's not enough. By the end of it, you'll be longing for the sweet release of death almost more than Coogan does.

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