Archive | US TV reviews

Reviews of US television programmes

July 25, 2014

What have you been watching? Including You're The Worst, Tyrant, The Strain, Suits and Halt and Catch Fire

Posted on July 25, 2014 | 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.

With August and the summer holidays approaching, it’s going to be the last ‘What have you been watching?' for a few weeks, so I’ll leave you with this one as a happy memory. And because the holidays are upon us, I’m going to be ruthless with a few shows that might have got as far as a third-episode verdict any other time of the year. So I’m not bothering with last night’s Rush, Satisfaction or Marriage, because the shows aren’t good enough for me to go to any effort in catching up with when I’m back from my holidays. They're probably going to be cancelled anyway.

This week, I’ve managed to review the following new shows:

But after the jump, a round-up of the regulars, with reviews of The Bridge (US), Halt and Catch Fire, The Last Ship, The Strain, Suits, Tyrant and You’re The Worst.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including You're The Worst, Tyrant, The Strain, Suits and Halt and Catch Fire"

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Third-episode verdict: Welcome To Sweden (TV4/NBC)

Posted on July 25, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerWelcomeToSweden.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In Sweden: Aired starting in March on TV4 in Sweden
In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC

Three episodes into the TV4-NBC English language co-production, Welcome To Sweden, and the big problem I had with the first episode is still true: it’s just not as funny as it should be.

The show does pretty much everything right in terms of production in this romcom based on American Greg Poehler’s real-life attempts to adapt to life in Sweden when he emigrates there to be with his girlfriend. It’s shot in Sweden, has Swedish writers and has Swedish actors. It’s got a decent array of characters. It has a bevy of guest stars, from both sides of the Atlantic, including Will Ferrell and most of the cast of Parks and Recreation. It plays with stereotypes but knows enough to transcend them. It’s not afraid to have half the show in Swedish, half in English. There aren’t even any male-female stereotypes to deal with, despite its being a romcom.

But the joke count in both Swedish and English is remarkably low, and most of the situations on the show can be found in any romcom, whether it’s “having sex in the room next to the parents” to “passing the immigration department’s tests”, without really doing anything innovative with one. Each episode gives perhaps one or two laughs at most, usually from the Swedish side rather than the American side, although episode two saw Poehler having to pretend to be Canadian when some American-hating Iraq war refugees turn up at his language class. And when the laughs aren't coming from the Swedes joking about Poehler’s height, it's from the guest stars playing versions of themselves, whether it’s Will Ferrell’s hopelessly well adjusted, Swedophile who learnt Swedish by listening to husky-toned language tapes, or Parks and Recreation’s Amy “Greg’s sister” Poehler and Audrey Plaza playing themselves as self-centred, vapid druggies.

In other words, the central set-up isn’t that great; it’s the few things in each episode other than that that actually provide the very gentle comedy.

If you like Parks and Recreation’s first season, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. If you speak Swedish, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. Otherwise, you’ll almost certainly want to love Welcome To Sweden, but you just won’t find it that funny.

Rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Unlikely to get a second season, but funnier things have happened

July 24, 2014

Mini-review: The Divide 1x1-1x2 (WEtv)

Posted on July 24, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Divide

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, WEtv

I’d like to write a really long review of The Divide. After all, it’s the first scripted drama on a channel hitherto known best for reality TV – WEtv. It’s a thoughtful look at the grey areas of morality, the US legal system, the death penalty, how forensic science affects process, and how politics, race and the politics of race can warp everything. It’s got two members of the cast of The Wire in it – Chris Bauer and Clarke Peters – as well as Homeland’s ‘evil blonde female muslim terrorist’ Malin Ireland. It’s from AMC Studios, was originally developed for AMC by long-time producer David Manson (House of Cards) and is show-run by the Emmy-winning John Tinker (Judging Amy).

It all sounds good and important, right? Except my mind’s a total blank. The show’s good but utterly uninspiring. It was hard to bring myself to watch the double-length first episode; the third episode was on last night and I really couldn't be arsed to watch it.

Trying to put my finger on why I can’t be arsed isn’t easy. It’s all very good quality, just generic good quality. The characters have standard issues – Ireland is studying to join the bar but works in her spare time to reprieve the wrongly convicted because her dad is on death row. She has a slightly self-destructive relationship with a cop, but whenever there’s an issue, the cop wants to talk it through, quickly dispelling any real drama.

Equally, the show is at extreme pains not to have heroes or villains. It doesn’t want to take sides on capital punishment, essentially giving members of the audience justification for their beliefs, whatever they might be: it even claims at one point that ‘no one in the US has ever been executed for a crime that they were proven not to have committed’. Everyone’s dedicated to doing the right thing, just interpreting that differently for different reasons. The twist – (spoiler alert) Bauer was present for the crime but didn’t commit the crime and there’s been a cover-up to protect the person who was actually there – is just astonishingly obvious that you’ll spend the whole of the second half waiting for everyone on-screen to catch up with you, even though they have all the same facts you do.

It’s worthy and dull. It’s so dull that even AMC rejected it, but not so mesmerisingly dull that it could find a home on Sundance TV. It’s too smart for network TV, too stupid for basic cable. If you like a generic thriller that’s a cut above TNT’s Murder In the First but nowhere near as entertaining, here’s your boy. Otherwise, steer clear.

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