Archive | US TV reviews

Reviews of US television programmes


February 11, 2016

Third-episode verdict: Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon Instant Video)

Posted on February 11, 2016 | comments | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerLucifer.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Tuesdays, Amazon Instant Video

Since the 80s, there's been a move on US TV away from shows about lone heroes towards more ensemble pieces with a core cast of characters. Whether it's to provide variety, to support the number of plots of a long-running season, to give the main actor respite from arduous filming duties, or to hedge bets in case the lead isn't that popular, the trend is clear. When you look at remakes, it becomes even more obvious with formerly hero-centric shows taking on the trappings of ensemble pieces, whether it's Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Night Stalker, Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation or Hawaii Five-O and Hawaii Five-0.

Normally this is by design, so the trouble comes when you forget what kind of show you're making - is it a lone hero show or an ensemble show? Try to make both at the same time and you end up with something that's not good at either.

Lucifer is a case in point. As the name suggests, it's a show about the Devil himself. Adapted from the DC/Vertigo comic, it sees Miranda's Tom Ellis as the bored fallen angel Lucifer Morningstar taking a vacation from Hell in Los Angeles, where he has loads of fun running a night club, shagging and generally tempting mortals. One day, he runs into a police detective (Lauren German) when one of his protégés is murdered, and he starts trying to solve crimes with her so he can keep up his former day job of punishing evil-doers.

It's a somewhat silly idea but as I pointed out in my review of the first episode, it all works largely because of Ellis who's clearly having the time of his life as a decidedly English supporting character from the Old and New Testaments ("I'll rip his bollocks off then stamp on them one at a time"). He alternates between luxuriating in raining down diabolical torture and pain upon anyone who crosses him and camping up to the point you think he's impersonating Kenneth Williams. It's a marvellously engaging performance.

The trouble is that although the show is really all about Lucifer, the comic is more of an ensemble piece. And Lucifer takes on trappings of Lucifer to become partly an ensemble show as well, spending time with German, her young daughter, her ex- (Southland/True Blood/Arrow's Kevin Alejandro), Lucifer's fellow devil Maze (Lesley-Ann Brandt from Spartacus and The Librarians) and Lucifer's therapist/shag partner Rachael Harris (The Hangover, Suits, Surviving Jack). Which would be fine if any of them were in any way interesting or at least having as much fun as Ellis.

Perhaps if the show could also decide not to throw all its moments of characterisation at Lucifer but give each a few scraps from the table, it might be possible to care about them or even like them a little. But it doesn't. The result is you have Ellis, bright and shiny in centre-stage, surrounded by pale shadows who take away from his screen time with their tedious concerns, but don't really add anything except when they're acting as sounding boards and ways to expand on Lucifer's character.

The plots are also a little timid and repetitive. Murder followed by investigation in which Lucifer charms people and gets them to confess their deepest desires, all while German somberly and without any trace of real animation uses various synonyms of 'back off' to stop Lucifer from muscling in on her investigations, which Lucifer then studiously ignores. Even when Lucifer gets up to potentially exciting acts of sin, it's Fox at its tamest: a 'devil's threesome' and a foursome, none of which is ever shown, just the monring after when everyone wakes up with their clothes and underwear still intact.

The show works best when Ellis gets to enjoy himself and the writers provide lines and situations for him to really chow down on the scenery. It also becomes 100% more interesting whenever it's dealing with the supernatural. Interactions with fellow angel DB Woodside, sent by God to convince Lucifer to resume normal duties, give someone for Ellis to really bounce off, while Lucifer's acts of devilish punishment give the show a welcome edge of iron.

But for Lucifer to really work, it needs to decide whether it's an ensemble show or a lone hero show: either drop some of the additional characters to really focus on Lucifer or give them something to do that makes them more than mere stock characters. 

Barrometer rating: 3
Would it be better with a female lead? No. Different, but not better
TMINE's prediction: Could get a second season but a bit touch and go at the moment and needs to strengthen itself up to avoid a trip to ratings Hell

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February 8, 2016

Fourth-episode verdict: DC's Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)

Posted on February 8, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerLegendsofTomorrow.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, The CW
In the UK: Thursdays, 8pm, Sky 1. Starts March 3 (TBC)

You know what should be both fun and awesome? DC's Legends of Tomorrow. You know what is instead just a bit limp and unremarkable? DC's Legends of Tomorrow. It's such a disappointment. 

It has a great central idea: take all the best supporting characters from both The Flash and Arrow, stick them together as a team, and have them travelling throughout time to defeat an immortal Big Bad. It's a limited series, promising us all kinds of possibilities in terms of character development and mortality. It has elements ripped straight from Doctor Who, right down to having Rory (Arthur Darvill) playing time hunter Rip Torn. It's got a great cast, including the two Prison Break brothers Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell, former Superman Brandon Routh, the kick ass Caity Lotz and the very cool Victor Garber. 

But each and every episode, from beginning to end, bar the second, has been nothing except low-budget, comic book escapism of the highest order, with no real significance or import. Even deaths are trivial and a bit meaningless.

Character development is defined as 'starting off a bit mopey/fighty and progressively becoming a bit more/less mopey/fighty'. Fights are a bit poor. Special effects are okay at best. Attempts to recreate a particular time period largely come down to giving everyone some new clothes to wear, while someone hangs up a banner on a Canadian building and hopes everyone will just buy it as 1975/1986/2000 BC. Plots are a bit poor. Dialogue's sometimes okay, but largely not. Acting is frequently hammy and dreadful. 

Given all the effort that's been spent on developing the characters in other series, it almost feels like the producers thought it would just be so awesome having everyone together, they didn't need to put any effort into the eventual team-up. Or maybe everyone good was already so tied up with Arrow and The Flash that it was left to the B-team to put together DC's Legends of Tomorrow. Or maybe it's simply because The CW doesn't actually have the budget to put together an entire TV series like The Avengers.

An unthreatening villain facing a not especially inspiring team-up in a series of uninspiring, plot loophole-riddled, joyless episodes of comic strip harmless? Who could resist? Probably not me actually. I'm not loving it, but the idea of not watching it seems odd, simply because of the good members of the cast.

All the same, I really, really wish it was a lot better than it actually is.

Barrometer rating:  3
Would it be better with female leads? N/A
TMINE's prediction: Unlikely to get renewed with the current team, but the mooted anthology-type structure with completely different characters could well get traction

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February 6, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Okkupert (Occupied), Lucifer and Marvel's Agent Carter

Posted on February 6, 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.

Well, I've culled and the fact I've culled means that alles in Ordnung now. If I hadn't been doing some last minute editing of articles for the Financial Times yesterday (ook, hark at me), WHYBW would have been with you then. Now it's today, so that means I've been able to slip a couple more shows into my viewing schedule.

This week I've already passed third-episode verdicts on:

But I'll be saving my third-episode verdicts on Stan Lee's Lucky Man (UK: Sky1) and DC's Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1) until Monday. That means that after the jump you can see what I thought of the latest episodes of American Crime, Arrow, The Flash, Lucifer, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel's Agent Carter, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, Supergirl and The Shannara Chronicles. This week's theme? Relationships with fathers. Can you guess which shows feature them? Other than Lucifer, obvs?

I might watch the latest 100 Code tonight. Or I might watch Sicario instead. The latter seems a better a choice. Anyone got any better suggestions?

I'd let you know what I thought of Guy Ritchie's movie version of The Man From UNCLE, but we only watched 10 minutes of it last night before my wife fell to sleep, which is probably not a good enough sample of it to pass a fair judgement. And to be fair, we both thought it wasn't bad. Not proper Man From UNCLE and quite silly, too, but interesting in its own right so far, particularly the take on Napoleon Solo, and a good recreation of Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including Okkupert (Occupied), Lucifer and Marvel's Agent Carter"

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