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Reviews of US television programmes


May 26, 2016

Preview: Outcast 1x1 (US: Cinemax; UK: Fox UK)

Posted on May 26, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Outcast

In the US: Fridays, Cinemax. Starts June 3
In the UK: Tuesdays, 10pm, Fox UK. Starts June 7

The Exorcist was justifiably proclaimed as one of the best movies of the 70s and perhaps the scariest movie of all time. Despite being about demonic possession of a young girl, its horror comes from the crisis of faith of a young priest who at first tries to explain the possession rationally, before the slow accumulation of facts and his partnership with an older, self-assured priest (Max Von Sydow) on an exorcism force him to acknowledge that the Devil - and God - exists.

This year, we're facing not one but two TV versions of The Exorcist, both of them airing on a Fox of one kind or another. The first, airing on Fox in the US, is explicitly a remake of the movie:

The second, airing on Cinemax in the US but Fox UK in the UK, is Outcast. Although based on Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead)'s comic of the same name, it's basically a remake of The Exorcist, with a young man (Patrick Fugit) gradually coming to accept the truth of demonic possession thanks to the sights he beholds while working with an older priest on an exorcism of a child.

Surprisingly, of the two shows, Outcast looks like it's by far the better remake. Even more surprisingly, Outcast is also a partial remake of 2008 ITV Buffy knock-off shitfest Demons. Because who should be playing the older American demon-hunter of the piece? Why it's none other than Life on Mars' Philip Glenister again.

Here's a trailer.

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May 25, 2016

Preview: Preacher 1x1-1x3 (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Prime)

Posted on May 25, 2016 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Preacher

In the US: Sundays, 9pm (8c), AMC
In the UK: Episodes available on Amazon Prime the day after US airing

Maybe I just found Garth Ennis at the wrong time. Hellblazer had been one of my favourite comics at university, thanks to Jamie Delano's unique blend of horror, politics and a UK setting. When he left the title, I expected more of the same. Instead, I got Garth Ennis.

For many, Ennis was the best writer of John Constantine, combining horror with a knowing playfulness that undercut the action. For me, I was losing amoral tussles with hunger demons as a metaphor for Western consumption and Ethiopia in favour of tricks on the Devil involving transmuted holy water. Horses for courses, but Ennis was definitely not my 3.15 from Aintree.

That's probably why I never read Preacher, Ennis' magnum opus. Even to tell you what it was about, I'd have to look at Wikipedia. To a lot of comics fans, that's tantamount to not being able to explain the plot of Hamlet, but I don't care - Garth Ennis stole my student Constantine, wah, wah, it's not fair.

So is AMC's Preacherwritten and exec-produced by (of all people) Seth Rogen and his childhood pal Evan Goldberg, a faithful adaptation of this esteemed comic? Don't know and don't care, either. Ennis - pphhtt. Wah.

What I can tell you is that it stars Dominic Cooper (Captain America, Fleming) as the improbably named Texan, Jessie Custer, a bad-as-they-come criminal who returns to become the preacher in his home town when his father dies. Trouble is he's a very bad preacher who's not really convinced there is a God. Then one day, just as he's planning to give it all up and return to his bad, bad ways, he asks one last time for a sign from God of His existence… and, surprisingly, he receives it. And now, whenever he tells someone to do something, they do it - often more literally than Jessie intended. It's almost like the Preacher now speaks the very word of God.

And that's basically episode one, which you might have already seen. I've left out Tulip (Ruth Negga from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD), Jessie's former partner-in-crime, who's got 'one last job for him' and isn't going to take no for an answer. I've also left out Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun from This is England and Misfits), the century-old Irish vampire who's being chased by a group of religious fanatics. 

We can talk about them and the next two episodes after the jump.

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May 23, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Lady Dynamite, Vis a Vis (Locked Up), Banshee and DC's Legends of Tomorrow

Posted on May 23, 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. 

It's the last WHYBW? for a little while, since I'm off on holiday next week. Fingers crossed, it'll be back on the 6th, but don't be surprised if the 10th or more likely the 11th is the actual date. You know me.

There have been a few new shows this week, although the networks oddly decided to start them on Friday and over the weekend for the most part, meaning that I haven't had a chance to watch most of them yet. Preacher (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Prime) started airing last night, but Amazon crazily got its act together and gave me access to previews of the first three episodes. However, it only gave me access on Friday, so it might be a couple of days before I get through all three of them. Also coming this week (more crossed fingers - how many hands do you have?) is a preview of Outcast (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic).

But I have managed to watch a couple of new shows:

Lady Dynamite (Netflix)
Yet another "promises much, offers little" comedy from Netflix, with Maria Bamford the actress/comedienne playing 'Maria Bamford', the actress/comedienne, as she navigates family, life, mental illness, stand-up comedy, acting, etc. Coming from Pam Brady and Mitchell Hurwitz of Arrested Development fame, you'd expect a lot more of Lady Dynamite than you would of normal comedies. It certainly thinks it's better than normal comedies, playing with form and convention, from its 70s-style title sequence, its breaking of the fourth wall and having Patton Oswalt and John Mulaney turn up to critique the show's narrative choices, through to Bamford fight-tuning the colour balance for the video of the scene by asking the editor to adjust it.

But despite watching the show for an episode and a half, I didn't laugh once. I admired its cleverness, its time jumps and more. But I didn't laugh. I was also very irritated by Bamford, who's as close to the female equivalent of Pee Wee Herman as it's possible to get, I suspect. And following on as it does from Netflix's Flaked, perhaps I had less patience than I once did for YA show about a dysfunctional, self-involved Californian.

Then again, I never really laughed at Arrested Development, so YMMV.

Vis a Vis (Locked Up) (Spain: Antena 3; UK: Channel 4)
Young woman gets sent to prison and meets lots of other women of varying degrees of friendliness. The first 15 minutes or so are basically Orange Is the New Black again, but after that, the show becomes more of a thriller, with our friendly little office worker having to learn to survive inside. If you want to box-set it, all 11 episodes are now on All 4, but I didn't find it particularly arresting (see what I did there?).

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, The Americans, Arrow, The Flash, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the season finale of DC's Legends of Tomorrow and the series finale of Banshee

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