Archive | US TV reviews

Reviews of US television programmes


August 22, 2016

What have you been watching? Including My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, Mr Robot, The Last Ship and Outcast

Posted on August 22, 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. 

Well, look at that. I'm back blogging in August. Okay, the Daily News won't be back until September and I'm not going daily until then for anything else, either, but there's a good chance I'll be peppering August with further posts, including a look at the latest Amazon pilots, such as The Tick, Jean-Claude Van Johnson and I Love Dick, I hope.

Elsewhere, I reviewed the first season of Baron Noir (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon Prime), which was my holiday project, and I left you with my thoughts on Stranger Things (Netflix) and Star Trek Beyond (2016) before I went. But surprisingly, since then, there hasn't actually been much new TV and as I did quite a purge before the holidays, the only regulars I'll be covering after the jump are The Last Ship and Mr Robot, as well as everything up to the season finale of Outcast. I also haven't been to the movies, being away and all, not even to see Jason Bourne

But we did watch one movie rather a lot:

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 (2016) (iTunes)
The sequel to the worldwide success that was wedding culture-clash comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002), My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 brings back virtually the entire cast to just about manage to do something different, with Nia Vardalos and John Corbett's daughter Elena Kampouris (American Odyssey) having to choose whether to go away to college or not, while facing the constant pressure to get married to a good Greek boy; meanwhile, Vardalos' parents discover the priest at their wedding didn't sign the certificate, meaning they're going to have to have - you guessed it - a big fat Greek wedding.

Vardalos' script is mostly a mother-daughter story, but is also partly a rejoinder to the original movie's stereotypical portrayal of Greek culture, emphasising its potential for acceptance and diversity as well as the cloying conservatism shown in the original movie. Wisely, it also gives Andrea Martin far more to do. However, there are few of the original's insights, various plot lines (eg Corbett's relationship with his parents) go virtually nowhere, the Greek (what little there is of it, even between people who are from Greece) is atrocious, and the general message of hope and pushing boundaries of the original is destroyed, with Vardalos' travel agency having closed between movies, forcing her to work for the family restaurant again, and her brother's artistic talents going precisely nowhere either.

Nice to see everyone back together again, but a shame that Vardalos doesn't have much left to say, it seems (did she use it all up on the TV series?).

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July 21, 2016

Mini-review: Vice Principals 1x1 (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

Posted on July 21, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Walton Goggins and Danny McBride in Vice Principals

In the US: Sundays, 10.30pm, HBO
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9.35pm, Sky Atlantic. Starts July 26th

This year, it seems, is the year that US TV has decided it wants not only to go back to school but to go back to school childishly. "Being an adult hard? How about a bunch of teachers who behave like kids? Wouldn't you like to watch that?" seems to be the theory.

We've already had Teachers and Those Who Can't from TV Land and TruTV respectively, offering us just that, and now we have HBO's efforts at the same, Vice Principals, in which Walton Goggins (Justified, The Shield, The Hateful Eight) and Danny McBride (Eastbound and Down, Tropic Thunder) are - yes, you guessed it - vice principals at the same US High School. Goggins is the sweet-talking but ultimately two-faced popular one; McBride is the foul-mouthed, inadequate dick that everyone hates; both hate each other.

Then the principal (Bill Murray - yes, Bill Murray) decides to stand down for the sake of his sick wife, prompting a contest between his deputies to replace him, only for both their dreams to be dashed as outsider Kimberly Hebert Gregory (Devious Maids) gets the top spot instead. My enemy's enemy is my friend so McBride and Goggins unite to defeat their new opponent - but such is their ineptitude, all's that likely is mutually assured destruction instead.

The show has several strands of (attempted) comedy. With McBride co-creating and writing, as per Eastbound and Down, it's not surprise there's his usual parade of attempted alpha male put-downs, extreme dickery and inappropriate teaching methods, here filtered through a more inadequate, more self-aware, less sports-obsessed prism than Kenny Powers. There's also the childish squabbling between McBride and Goggins, and their frequently politically incorrect antagonism towards Gregory's 'smart, sassy black woman' routine - which, subtly, is itself as manufactured as both McBride and Goggins' facades.

But despite all those elements at play, Vice Principals isn't hugely funny, except towards the end of this first episode when the two enemies unite, and largely feels like watered down Eastbound and Down. McBride's ex-wife Busy Philipps (Cougar Town) doesn't get to do much beyond be the butt of his ineptitude, while Shea Whigham as her new husband largely gets to play the unexpectedly nice guy that McBride doesn't quite know how to deal with, without getting to cause any laughs himself. 

An almost-interesting looking at failing masculinity and petty power struggles, Vice Principals might get better in its second episode when hostilities take off. The fact that it's a definite two-season, 18-episode run means that it should have a fixed story arc that takes as long as it needs, no more, no less, which is another plus. At the moment, though, it feels like it needs work: must try harder.

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July 18, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Mr Robot, Marco Polo, The Last Ship and Outcast

Posted on July 18, 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. 

Today's is going to be the last WHYBW for quite some time now, since I'm off on my traditional summer break from next week. Whether I'll take all of August off remains to be seen, but let's not start promising anything at this point.

Before then, I'll be reviewing the first episode of Vice Principals (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) and I've got plans to have a look over a couple of French shows on Netflix and Amazon, too. I might even have a look at Netflix's Stranger Things, which debuted on Friday.

I've already reviewed the first episode of Barracuda (Australia: ABC), but after the jump, I'll be looking at the latest episodes of 19-2, The Kettering Incident, The Last Ship, Outcast and Preacher, as well the return of Mr Robot and the rest of season two of Marco Polo. Given that I'm going to be away on holiday, will I employ my usual July ruthlessness and purge from the viewing list any that I can't be bothered to catch up with? It's a possibility…

At this point, I'd normally tell you about the movies I watched last week. Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, we couldn't get through either Joy or Hail, Caesar!, since they were both a bit dull. That might be the closest I ever get to reviewing them, but you never know.

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