Archive | UK TV reviews

Reviews of UK TV programmes


March 4, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Ófærð (Trapped), The Shannara Chronicles, Lucifer and The X-Files

Posted on March 4, 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.

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.

I'm back. You may have noticed at least some stirring of activity from TMINE this week, following my return, with a third-episode verdict on 11.22.63 (US: Hulu; UK: Fox), but the trouble with going away for a bit is that you have to catch up with all the things you should have been doing while you were away. 

But I have. Just about. Okay, I didn't make it more than 10 minutes through Netflix's Love, despite Gillian Jacobs being in the cast. I will try to remedy that next week, although there's a whole bunch of new shows just beginning right now, including Hap and Leonard, Damien, Slasher and The Family, that will warrant some of my time, too. I can't imagine myself trying to watch Netflix's Fuller House, though.

After the jump, the regulars, some of them getting a double helping of reviewing: American Crime, Arrow, Billions, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, The Shannara Chronicles, Stan Lee's Lucky Man, Supergirl, Vikings and The X-Files. I'll admit now that I might be a bit hazy about some of them.

As well as all of those, I managed to watch the first three episodes of…

Ófærð (Trapped) (Iceland: RÚV; UK: BBC Four)
Small-town Icelandic police officer (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson) has to deal with winter and his personal problems, as well as the bigwigs of Reykjavik and a ferry full of annoyed passengers, when a chopped up body is found in the sea. Is the murderer one of the passengers, who is the victim and is it all linked to something in town?

Thematically, the show has a lot in common with Fortitude (although without the horror/sci-fi twist) and not just the location of the filming. It's all about the claustrophobia of an artic island in winter, people having to get on with one another because there's nowhere else to go, and quirky police who've never had to deal with anything except parking tickets and stolen cameras having to deal with people trafficking, gangsters and vicious murders. There's also the inevitable concern of not wanting foreign investors to be scared off by the crime.

Ólafsson is a strong, bear-like presence against the beautifully photographed and breathtaking Icelandic landscape. The characters are interesting and the show avoids the dramatic absurdities of Den Som Dræber (Those Who Kill), 100 Code, etc, in favour of a far less flashy telling of a plausible story. And there's fun Icelandic-Danish conflicts, too. So far, it's shaping up to be my favourite Nordic Noir after The Bridge.

At least for the first three episodes. I'll let you know if that changes…

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February 20, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Vinyl, Wanted and Vikings

Posted on February 20, 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. 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.

Apologies for the silence this week - you can blame Windows 8 for that. It wasn't even my Windows 8 (like I'd have it in the house), but the Windows 8 of somewhere at which I do volunteer work. My advice? Don't try to fix Windows 8 - just wipe it and start again. Which is what I eventually did.

Anyway, that meant I couldn't write about tele for several days, but don't worry - it didn't mean I couldn't watch tele. Elsewhere, of course, I've reviewed the first episodes of:

And after the jump, I'll be dealing with the regulars: American Crime, Arrow, Billions, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel's Agent Carter, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, The Shannara Chronicles, Stan Lee's Lucky Man and The X-Files. At least one of those gets the chop this week. Can you guess, which? This week also saw the return of Vikings, so I'll be having a go at that, too. 

Out yesterday was Netflix's Love, and I'll try to give that a watch over the next few day; I'll probably be playing catch-up with BBC4's showing of Iceland's Trapped, too.

But there was a couple of new shows out in the past week or so that although Windows 8 stopped me from reviewing them, I did manage to get a chance to watch them. Largely while I was fixing Windows 8.

Vinyl (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger co-created this story of the 70s music business, in which Bobby Carnavale (Cupid, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie) plays the boss of a struggling company trying to work out what's hip and cool, as punk et al arrive on the scene. Scorsese directs, there's a soundtrack including Slade and Abba, there's a strong supporting cast, including Ian Hart, Paul Ben-Victor, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. What could go wrong? Well, lots apparently. Maybe it's just because it's about the music business, in which I have minimal interest. Maybe it's because of the sexism, racism, et al of the period. Maybe it's some of the dodgy English accents floating around. Whatever it was, despite its having a certain degree of authenticity, I barely made it to the end of the extremely long pilot episode. Not for me.

Wanted (Australia: Seven)
Continuing her majestic stranglehold on all of Seven's drama output, Rebecca Gibney stars in this odd-couple-on-the-run drama that she also created. Gibney plays a rebellious, free-spirited but broke checkout woman; Geraldine Hakewill is an uptight accountant with a nerdy boyfriend and a criminal secret. They're both waiting for a bus when a car chase ends in front of them and they witness a murder. Unfortunately for them, crooked cops are involved in the action and before you know, there are more bodies, everyone thinks they're responsible and they're on the run, while trying to clear their name and avoid getting caught by bad cop Nicholas Bell or good cop Stephen Peacocke. It's mildly diverting stuff, but everything goes pretty much how you expect, the jokes are weak, and neither Gibney nor Hakewill make you want to hang out with either of them, let alone go on the run with them.

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February 11, 2016

Third-episode verdict: Stan Lee's Lucky Man (UK: Sky1)

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

BarrometerLuckyMan.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the UK: Fridays, 9pm, Sky1

Stan Lee's Lucky Man's biggest asset is also its biggest problem - Stan Lee. He came up with the idea for the show, it's his name that probably got the show made and it's that name that will get most viewers tuning in.

Trouble is, as soon as you stick the name Stan Lee in the title, there's a certain expectation there'll be superheroics and super-fun. Unfortunately, in the hands of series writer Neil Biswas (The Take), there's neither.

The show sees James Nesbitt play a cop with a gambling problem who suddenly gets a mystical lucky bracelet that helps him both to win big at the casino and to solve crimes, but at a price to others. There's the occasional bit of supernaturalness thanks to said bracelet, but we're largely talking about things falling on the floor at opportune moments so that Nesbitt can spot there's something under a table, rather than Final Destination-style domino effects resulting in bags of money to fall into Nesbitt's lap. Not at all the time - there's a speedboat chase in episode one and an impressive sprint across a busy motorway in episode two, for example, but that's as superheroic as the show has managed to get.

Rather than superheroics, what we've had in spades instead is Nesbitt moping around, getting upset by his good luck's flipside effects on others, and investigating murders, all while leather-clad motorcylist Sienna Guillory drops by to provide the occasional hint about the bracelet's powers and various members of the police grouch about Nesbitt's supposed corrupt tendencies. An interesting character study mixed with a bit of fantasy and a police procedural? Yes. Something to rival Daredevil? Not in the slightest.

If you keep that in mind, chances are you might enjoy the show. There's a decent enough supporting cast, even if Nesbitt is miscast; the story's not bad and is even a bit edgy; and what supernatural qualities the show does have it does well. It's even got Banshee's 'Albino' (Londoner Joseph Gatt) as the big bad who's after Nesbitt's jewellery. 

It's just not the new superhero show you might have been looking for.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would the show be better with a female lead? Yes
TMINE's prediction: Unlikely to get a second series unless it gets any overseas sales

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