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Reviews of UK TV programmes


March 23, 2015

What have you been watching? Including The Royals, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Community, The Flash and 19-2

Posted on March 23, 2015 | 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.

Well, it’s been another epic week in TV land (not to be confused with “I can’t believe you can still see the" TV Land - the network for older, nostalgic, probably slightly visually challenged folk), with loads of new shows, as well as some returning ones. I haven’t managed to find the time to tune into Netflix’s new thriller series, Bloodlines, which was released on Friday, but this week, I’ve managed to take a gander at:

I also had a look at the first two episodes of…

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Tina Fey’s new sitcom (unfortunately not starring Fey) in which one of four female cult members holed up underground are rescued by the authorities, and while three of them are happy to return home, one of them is spunky enough to try to make a new life for herself. Her name? Kimmy Schmidt. First, Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) manages to find herself a ‘home’ (aka small cubbyhole, it being New York) to live in with failed actor Titus Andromedon (Tituss Burgess) and makes a sort of a friend in the form of Lillian Kaushtupper (Carol Kane). Then she gets a job looking after the son of the delightfully named and incredibly rich trophy wife Jaqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski). Will she buckle under all these pressures or will she prove unbreakable?

As with 30 Rock before it, this is a show that grows from a not especially auspicious pilot episode redeemed by one character (Jack in 30 Rock, Mrs Voorhees here) to become funnier over time. But it’s still not hilarious by the second episode and if you’ve ever seen The Nanny Diaries, you’ll find yourself noticing not only how very similar they are in a lot of ways but also that there's:

  1. A complete lack of Scarlett Johansson in this, who was much funnier
  2. A complete lack of Chris Evans or anyone even in a similar role. He was funny in that, too
  3. Nowhere near as much intelligence in the script-writing, despite the source.

All the same, there are some laugh out loud moments involving IP licensing and the revelation of who Voorhees’ parents are, so I’m going to bear with and watch the rest of it - when I have a mo.

I also tried to watch…

The Royals (US/UK: E!)
Liz Hurley becomes queen and has to supervise the rest of her equally inappropriate, bonk-tastic family. Or something. I did manage to get through the young Harry-alike playing darts and managing to get a bullseye every time while not really looking, to impress an American girl into bed. But I gave up after 10 minutes, in part because it's really hard to watch that much soft porn shagging on your iPad when you're commuting on a train, without people thinking you're a perv, and I didn't manage to get back to it. Oh well. I don't think I'll be missing much. Joan Collins is in it, too, apparently. But then she was in Benidorm.

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Fortitude, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Vikings. One of these is being demoted this week. I wonder which one?

On top of that, we also have the return of Community. Woo hoo? You’ll find out the answer to that one after the break, too.

Wondering where Dig and American Crime are? The short answer is: waiting for third-episode verdicts tomorrow and maybe Wednesday. The long answer? I've got to watch them first…

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March 16, 2015

What have you been watching? Including The Producers, Divergent, Dig, Gallipoli, Fortitude and Vikings

Posted on March 16, 2015 | 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.

Well, I’ve not quite caught up with my backlog. Nearly, but not quite. To be fair, the deluge of new shows has continued and this week I’ve already dealt with the first episode of American Crime and Powers, not to mention the first three of Secrets and Lies. But I’ve had to put on the backburner for a couple of days at least the first two episodes of A&E’s The Returned, a remake of Canal+’s Les Revenants, as well as E!’s first foray last night into insulting the British scripted programming, The Royals. I’ve also had to hold off starting on both the third season of House of Cards and Netflix’s new Tina Fey sitcom The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. But I will get round to all of them, I promise.

After the jump then, the regulars and the new regulars including 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, American Crime, Banshee, The Blacklist, Dig, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Fortitude, Gallipoli, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Vikings. One of them has been promoted to ‘recommended’ status and one of them narrowly avoided demotion – which ones do you think they were?

But I’ve also watched a couple of movies and been to the theatre!

The Producers (touring production, Bromley Churchill Theatre)
Musical adaptation of the Mel Brooks movie classic, in which theatrical producer Zero Mostel discovered from accountant Gene Wilder that he could make a fortune from a flop, and the duo conspired to put on the worst play imaginable: Springtime For Hitler. This touring production sees Cory English take on the Zero Mostel role, Jason Manford take on Wilder’s, with Phill Jupitus, Louise Spence and David Bedella rounding off the rest of the cast. Despite Manford, Jupitus and Spence being the big names, it’s English who’s the film’s focus and who gets the lion’s share of the work, the others getting surprisingly little to do. But the cast itself, right down to the dancers, are all uniformly excellent, even if Manford spends a little too much time in the first half trying to copy Wilder’s vocal patterns rather than giving his own interpretation. Not quite as funny as the original film, and with too many songs for its own good, it’s nevertheless a top notch night out.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) (iTunes)
Catness is out with the resistance in the third part of the series, which dials back in the action in favour of lots of propaganda videos, as each side tries to out PR the other in the ongoing civil war. It's all a bit bleak and miserable actually, with very little respite from the darkness, making it the hardest watch of the series so far.

Divergent (2004) (iTunes)
More young adult, post-apocalyptic misery. To maintain peace and prosperity, society gets divided into factions following a terrible war and just as with Harry Potter’s sorting hat, everyone gets sorted into factions that suit their personalities. Except Shailene Woodley’s Tris is ‘Divergent’ and could belong to any number of factions, so picks ‘Dauntless'. Unfortunately, the ‘Erudites’ don’t like that, because they have a naughty scheme up their sleeves that the Divergents could ruin.

Very much a watered down Hunger Games, with flimsy logic and a thinly veiled metaphor for High School life (are you a nerd, a jock, on the debate team, a wallflower or are you really just such an individual?) meshed poorly with a very sub-Equilibrium post-apocalyptic background and fight scenes and a Twilight-style ‘special’ heroine whom everyone is after because she’s so special, yet simultaneously special. All the same, it's actually enjoyable enough stuff, with some darkish moments, a plucky heroine, Theo James (Golden Boy, Bedlam) almost summoning up a personality for a change and Ashley Judd getting to use her Missing training for all of five minutes.

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February 23, 2015

What have you been watching? Including Hostages, The Odd Couple, X Company, Living With Models and Bosch

Posted on February 23, 2015 | 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'sLocate TV - they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Last one of these for a fortnight, as I’m on holiday next Monday. But somehow, following last week’s purge and with a bit of efficiency, I’m bang up to speed with practically everything and I’ve watched some new shows:

The Odd Couple (US: CBS)
Somehow, some strange sort of comedy lifeboat has been erected at NBC and floated off a big bunch of its more talented comedy actors to this CBS show based on the classic Neil Simon play/movie/TV series of the late 60s/early 70s about two divorced men, one a slob, one a tad OCD, who end up living together. Here, Matthew Perry (late of Go On) takes on the Jack Klugman role, once again playing a DJ; Thomas Lennon (Sean Saves The World) takes the Tony Randall role; Yvette Nicole Brown (Community) is Perry's PA; Wendell Pierce (The Michael J Fox Show) is one of Lennon and Perry’s mutual friends.

But despite the source material, the cast and the likes of Joe Keenan behind the scenes, it’s not that good. There are times when it comes close to funny and there’s more intelligence than you might have expected of a CBS comedy, with Perry’s romance with Leslie Bibb in the first episode not going quite how you’d expect; Lennon is as good as always, as is Perry, even if Perry is a more natural fit to Lennon’s role. It’s also better at characterisation than you’d expect and never hits the miserable bitterness of We Are Men, But it’s never laugh out loud funny. Or even funny. Needed to be a lot better, basically, given its pedigree.

X Company (Canada: CBC)
Second World War spy action drama, based on Canada’s real-life spy training base Camp X. In this first episode, a bunch of non-descript young people overact a lot as they’re sent undercover into a French village, while a bunch of better characterised people are systematically killed off. This being a Canadian show, lots of the Nazis are quite nice, as are the Canadians, while the Brits, whether working for or against Camp X, are bastards. For reasons unknown, everyone German (some of them actually played by Germans) speaks German, while despite Canada’s bilingualism, everyone else speaks English.

The first 15 minutes is quite horrendous and I almost stopped watching after that, but after that initial attempt to woo the viewer with action, everything settles down and becomes a lot more interesting. It’s still not great, but one of the better efforts from Canada of late. Incidentally, as I predicted not so long ago, 2015 is indeed turning out to be the Year of Synthesia

Living With Models (UK: Comedy Central)
Ordinary schlub looking for a flat finds one… occupied by models. Close your eyes. Imagine the series. Whatever you just imagined is better than the series itself.

Hostages (UK: BBC4; Israeli: Channel 10 – aired in 2013)
This Israeli show that sees a surgeon’s family taken hostage to force her to kill one of her patients – the Prime Minister – has already been adapted by the US as Hostages. However, despite having seen that show, I quite enjoyed this version, as it’s considerably better – more low key in the exact same way as Prisoners of War was. Although many of the beats are the same, the structure’s different, more time is taken and it does actually feel like a thriller at times. There’s plenty of genre clichés, such as the “illegal gun dealer who demands more money from the man he’s just sold the guns to” and “the bad ass cop who faces down a hostage-taker single-handled”, but largely, it’s not bad, and it does everything better than the US remake does – a step down from Engrenages, naturally, but a step up from Salamander. Good to see BBC4 branching out into Sky Arts’ usual territory, too.

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Fortitude, Gallipoli, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, State of Affairs and Suits. Oh, Vikings and Bosch are back, too.

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