Archive | US TV reviews

Reviews of US television programmes

December 15, 2014

What have you been watching? Including Ground Floor, Arrow, The Flash, The Newsroom, The Machine, Jack Reacher and Red 2

Posted on December 15, 2014 | 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.

Time for a little bit of a catch-up, given I haven’t done one of these in a fortnight. There are still a few things in my viewing queue that I haven’t yet had time to watch: last night’s The Librarians I’ll cover in a third-episode verdict this week and I’ll probably do the same for The Legacy, although the subtitling makes it hard to watch when I’m doing the ironing. I’ll also try to give Netflix’s Marco Polo a watch, given they dumped the whole series online over the weekend.

I have managed to watch a few films, though.

Red 2 (2013)
The gang from Red are back to far less effect, with Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and Helen Mirren joined by Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lee Byung-hun as the old/amateur spies (plus one deadly young one) forced to use their lifetime of skills to save the world. Again. There’s a lot more travelling to foreign climes but only Byung-hun’s martial arts and Hopkins’ performance really lift the piece above the humdrum, with most of the interesting edges of the first movie filed off or toned down. It does give us a brief onscreen meeting of Hopkins and Brian Cox, which is probably the only time you’ll get two Hannibal Lecters together.

Jack Reacher (2012)
Tom Cruise is improbably the 6’5” military policeman of the Lee Childs novels, here investigating a seemingly random sniper shooting with an obvious suspect who needs his help being vindicated. A perfectly adequate, reasonably intelligent thriller with military trappings that does little to excite, beyond a few decent fights. Rosamund Pike is wasted.

The Machine (2013)
A strange little independent sci-fi thriller funded by the Welsh Government, of all things, in which scientists Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz work on developing intelligent machines for the Ministry of Defence and have to wrestle with the Turing Test, the nature of consciousness and intelligence, and other existential questions, as well as killer robots. Lotz is the obvious star, demonstrating all the qualities that made her such a powerful presence in the second season of Arrow, but Stephens is no slouch either. The film doesn’t quite manage to square all its intellectual concerns with its need for gore, and the ultra low budget means that the action is largely confined to a couple of rooms. But it’s a lot more interesting and intelligent than you might have expected. Plus it’s got Siwan Morris from Mine All Mine and Caerdydd in it

After the jump, I’ll be running through lots and lots of episodes of: Arrow, Constantine, Elementary, The Fall, Forever, The Flash, Gracepoint, Ground Floor, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, The Newsroom, Scorpion and State of Affairs.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including Ground Floor, Arrow, The Flash, The Newsroom, The Machine, Jack Reacher and Red 2"

December 12, 2014

Review: The Librarians 1x1-1x2 (US: TNT; UK: SyFy)

Posted on December 12, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

The Librarians

In the US: Sundays, 8/7c, TNT
In the UK: Mondays, 8pm, Syfy

As I remarked a while back, TNT is best known for airing crime shows, both scripted and unscripted. While there have been a few exceptions over the years, the vast bulk of its output has been about cops and solving mysteries and the few exceptions along the way have mostly perished and died very quickly.

One of the few things on TNT that hasn’t involved crime and yet has survived the years is Noah Wyle. As well as his alien invasion show, Falling Skies, he’s also been the lead in an occasional series of TV movies based around a character called The Librarian. Part Indiana Jones, part Nicolas Cage in National Treasure, the Librarian has roamed the Earth for the best part of a decade, cracking ancient clues, engaging in daring-do, so that he can find lost magical artefacts such as Excalibur and the Spear of Destiny, so they can be safeguarded in a New York magical library run by Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin.

This year, though, TNT is making a concerted effort to branch out into other genres as part of its ‘boom’ campaign. Yes, ‘TNT – boom’: you can imagine how long it took them to think that one up. Surprisingly, ‘boom’s been doing quite well. While Legends isn’t the world’s best show, it’s an decent enough attempt to branch out into the spy genre and has been renewed for a second season. The big cable hit of the summer was TNT’s The Last Ship, a delightful combination of ship warfare and killer viruses that I loved and which is also back for a second season next year.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that TNT’s ‘boom' is giving us The Librarians, an attempt to turn this occasional movie series into a potentially far more lucrative multi-episode TV series. Beginning with a two part special, the series sees 'the Serpent Brotherhood’ trying to kill off the Librarian and any other potential Librarians so they can return magic to the world and then rule it.

Wyle has to round up the surviving potential librarians, who are largely former TNT stars (Rebecca Romijn from King & Maxwell and Christian Kane from Leverage), protect the library and save the world. And while it has a budget of about $4, the authenticity of a Ratner’s ring, the attention to historical detail of an Asterix book and an ensemble of actors about as convincing as the average glove puppet, it’s actually a very enjoyable bit of family fun.

Here’s a trailer:

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December 3, 2014

Third-episode verdict: State of Affairs (US: NBC)

Posted on December 3, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerStateOfAffairs.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Normally, TV shows go up and down from episode to episode on the Barrometer, the world's finest measurer of TV quality that doesn't wear sunglasses. Occasionally, they stay the same, but only by consistently offering the same good or bad features that earned them their first rating.

So State of Affairs is a rare beast indeed: a show that changes from episode to episode, giving the viewer new things to think about, yet still being consistently the same on average. It's enough to make the Barrometer burst into a show tune of surprise.

Starring Katherine Heigl as the double-surnamed Charleston Tucker, a CIA analyst who happens to be the president's ex-daughter-in-law-to-be (it's complicated), the first episode surprised almost everyone into singing show tunes with its first episode by being on NBC, starring Katherine Heigl yet not being appalling. In fact, in places, it was quite good.

Since then, the show has managed to kill off some of its stupider features (no one calls Heigl 'Charleston' any more; she rarely wears cocktail dresses, not even to see her psychiatrist) while adding in some new ones (stupid potential office romance; stupid husband for the president; James Remar in a stupid hat) and maintaining the status quo on some others (the stupid ongoing conspiracy theory that requires Heigl to nip out of important operations to have chats on park benches). Thus the show has managed to preserve its overall 'well, that wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be' Barrometer rating for three episodes.

Despite the somewhat mixed bag that the first episode presented, the show has now firmly become Homeland lite, with Heigl a network TV Claire Danes with the much more fun 'drunken promiscuity' replacing 'bipolar disorder' and all her nemeses seemingly coming from Africa rather than the Middle East. Just for luck and a little variety, the show tried to go a bit Tom Clancy by having a Russian nuclear submarine be the subject of episode two (and even referenced The Hunt for Red October for luck), but that wasn't fooling anyone.

Indeed, the show's biggest Achilles Heel is its tendency to pluck stories from the headlines for inspiration. While that can work in the right hands, sorting out Boko Haram inside an hour for example verges on the distasteful rather than the inspired.

The show does its best and sometimes succeeds at being a relatively gritty bit of spy fun, despite its protagonists confined to sitting around in rooms talking. This can be done, as The Sandbaggers demonstrated, but it's hampered by its network, its own superficiality and its pulling of punches. 

Worth watching if you like Heigl and find Homeland to be too frustrating, probably not worth watching if you have much else to do.

Barrometer rating: 3
Rob's prediction: Will probably make it to at least a season, perhaps more, with some judicious scheduling, since if it faces any real competition, it'll probably perish into the firefight

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