What have you been watching this week (w/e October 15)?

David Tennant in Single Father

Back to its regular Friday slot, here’s “What have you been watching this week?” your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week.

As usual, not completely up to date with everything, with this week’s late arrivals being Community, the live episode of 30 Rock, Cougar Town, Modern Family, Hellcats and Being Erica. But that ain’t bad, huh? Oh, and I’ve given up on Parenthood. Sorry, Monica and Erica, but that show really isn’t going anywhere with your characters so I’m out.

  • The Apprentice: So this week’s it’s the women’s turn to be cocks. Nice to see that bit of equal opportunities. Now Karren Brady is someone who I’ve had a little bit of time for in the past, given she was the youngest woman to become the MD of a public limited company and she used to be quite funny on Baddiel and Skinner’s Fantasy Football League. But she was a bit blah on Junior Apprentice and hasn’t done much to shine compared to the wonderful Margaret in this series of The Apprentice. Until the boardroom, this week, that is when the women all decided to have a major bicker-fest and our Karren interrupted them to tell them they were not only being absolutely unemployable morons, but they were bad representatives of business women and were probably putting off young girls from wanting to go into business. Karren Brady is now an official Heroine of Britain – cherish her.
  • Being Erica: I’m an episode behind, but I quite enjoyed the last episode, which had all sorts of revelations about Erica’s brother. Okay, they were so cryptically done that we actually had to rewind the episode to work out exactly what had happened, but it was interesting to see them raised. Couldn’t quite see how Erica had managed to get through life (and the previous two seasons) with a mindset that the only choices she could see for her situation were either do nothing or go nuclear – when clearly blackmail was a good option as well – but hey ho, it was fun.
  • Boardwalk Empire: I’m on episode two now (so that’s only two eps behind). The revenue agent investigating Nucky is awesome, as are the writing, Gretchen Mol and Kelly Macdonald. Still not quite feeling the love, though, but I’m getting there.
  • Chuck: They should really just make this the Awesome show, because he really is awesome. Otherwise, so so and very silly.
  • Dexter: Ah, that’s more like it. After two eps treading water, we’re finally getting to the good stuff (which includes Julia Stiles, obviously) and with the kids largely out of the way, we can explore this month’s real plot: will Dexter finally get caught?
  • House: Better this week, a bit more like the House of old, and good to see they’ve realised their woman-deficit. I also guessed the mysterious illness, so I’m feeling well chuffed with myself.
  • Life Unexpected: This week, the One Tree Hill crossover episode. I’ve never seen One Tree Hill (despite my namesake’s presence in the cast), but judging from the characters that I guess are from One Tree Hill, it involves an awful lot of very dull ballad singing. Can’t believe that Baze and Cate would allow Lux to go to a concert dressed like that, particularly if they’re there, too, but hey ho. Also can’t believe that Ryan is still with Cate, given the amount of crap-dumping she’s performed on him. We also got our first Roswell reference of the series, which I’m sure about 10% of the audience got, given the demographic. Nice to see Cate’s mum back. Now where’s Abby. Come on. Where is she?
  • Mad Men: Another excellent episode, filled with a surprising amount of tension as well. What will happen in the finale on Sunday? Can’t wait.
  • Rubicon: Awesome. As I’ve remarked elsewhere, Rubicon has very much been like a crossword puzzle. For the first nine or ten episodes of clue-filling, it’s been slow and frustrating. But now we’re in the end stretch, the glittering jewel that Rubicon has revealed itself to be is finally exposed. If you’re waiting for it on BBC4, all I can say is stick with until the end, since it’s probably the only realistic spy show the US has yet produced and it’s very much worth watching – once you’re over the slow beginning. Incidentally, this is mostly because of the change in showrunner and not how the show was originally going to run – which just goes to show you that sometimes a show’s creator is the worst person to actually write it.
  • Single Father: It’s David Tennant! He’s playing a photographer whose wife gets killed in a car accident. He does it very well, and the rest of the (adult) cast is good, too. But it’s all very muddy. Having four kids, one of whom isn’t his means too much time is spent trying to give each kid a background and character. Is Suranne Jones supposed to be his ex-wife (we thought someone say she was but did we mishear?)? The time-jumping narrative makes it hard to follow as well. As a result, what could be a clear and tragic story seems to have decided to veer into some very odd areas and even if SJ is supposed to be his ex, I’m not convinced that DT and she would end up doing that (you know what), just as he’s breaking down over how much he misses his wife. The episode also failed to allow DT to really express himself, with no real sensation that he’s truly destroyed by this until the end – it’s more like a logistical problem for most of the story. All the same, a decent enough drama and I’ll be sticking around for episode 2.
  • Stargate Universe: Another good one. I do hope that the ending is final for that character, since it would be nice to see SGU taking that kind of risk (just like BSG), but I can’t help but feel they might bottle it. Fingers crossed though. Not quite sure why no one’s worked out Rush is keeping a very big secret, though – he’s not behaving in a way that makes you think “Yes, I’ll trust that man.”
  • thorne: sleepyhead: The first of Sky’s three-part adaptation of the novel, which sees David Morrissey as a police officer investigating what looks like a serial killer. I’m actually watching it right now, so I’m only 15 minutes in (and Sky+, that miracle of technology, chopped the first couple of minutes off as well), but it’s only sort of grabbing me. It looks good, if a little over-stylised at times. The story’s interesting. Morrissey’s good. But it’s too early to say whether this can actually differentiate itself from other cop shows, since so far, it’s not done anything too extraordinary. I’ll let you know next week (or in the comments) whether it gets better.

But what have you been watching?

As always, no spoilers unless you’re going to use the <spoiler> </spoiler> tags, please. If you’ve reviewed something on your blog, you can put a link to it here rather than repeat yourself (although too many links and you might get killed by the spam filter).

  • SK

    Watched Single Father too, now — I think the ’10 weeks later’ caption was to skip over the bit where he was totally destroyed, and go straight into ‘holding it together on the surface by being busy all the time’, hence the logistics.
    I agree that there’s too many kids: at the moment it feels like we don’t have a story, more a collection of characetr background notes that we’re being spoon-fed. Hopefully that’ll change: the search for the stepdaughter’s biological father could go either way, providing a story or giving yet more opportunity for background-exposition.
    I was confused by the ‘ex-wife’ comment too, but I rewound it and I think that it was the other blonde woman in that shot with Suranne Jones that the characters was referring to– you know, the one who doesn’t appear anywhere else in the episode before or after.

  • I’m just hoping the music score will be toned down for ep2. It nearly destroyed the emotional tone for me last week.
    (Actually the one character I did get confused by was the sister: I spent ages not quite grasping WHOSE sister she was: Dave’s or Rita’s).

  • I agree that Rubicon has been getting really good lately. I disagree, though, that it’s “realistic.” I think the day-to-day routine stuff definitely rings true (and that’s my favorite part), but all the conspiracy stuff feels almost out of another show. I’ve never been a conspiracy buff, but that just smacks of paranoia and doesn’t really seem realistic at all to me. I wish the ongoing plot were something like a hunt for a mole at API or something–especially since the new showrunner mentions Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in that Onion interview you link to. Of course, the end of the Cold War really eliminated those plots to a large extent, and 24 got the TV watching public used to multiple moles in every government agency all exposed within hours, so that might not be so exciting. I just think the conspiracy angle is hurting what’s otherwise a very cool, character-driven espionage show with the potential to seem realistic.

  • MediumRob

    “I agree that Rubicon has been getting really good lately. I disagree, though, that it’s “realistic.” I think the day-to-day routine stuff definitely rings true (and that’s my favorite part), but all the conspiracy stuff feels almost out of another show.”
    I’d agree with that. Rubicon is definitely the most realistic US spy show I’ve seen, but it’s not completely realistic – the conspiracy theory stuff is definitely its Achilles heel and that is pretty much a relic of the show’s creator and AMC’s original angle on the show, rather than the new show runner’s. I get the impression from the interview he might have gotten rid of that altogether if he could. I’ll talk about the finale later though…

  • SK

    And (this is more ‘what have you not been watching this week?’) I only just found out from my parents that V has already started on ‘Channel One’ (seriously, are branders these days just trying to come up with the most annoying names they can)?
    So if you’re in the UK and you’ve been waiting for V because Supergirl was the only possible reason for watching Smallville and even she wasn’t quite tempting enough to put up with the rest of Smallville, well, you’ve already missed the first episode so happy catching up.
    On a happier note though Community was still brilliant. Having a character who treats the programme as if it’s a TV programme really really shouldn’t work, and yet somehow, it really really really does.

  • MediumRob

    “And (this is more ‘what have you not been watching this week?’) I only just found out from my parents that V has already started on ‘Channel One’ (seriously, are branders these days just trying to come up with the most annoying names they can)?”
    It was Virgin 1, but when Virgin sold it to BSkyB, they had to rename it Channel 1. I don’t think they put much effort into it because Sky is closing both it and Bravo soon, since they duplicate Sky 1/Sky 3.
    “So if you’re in the UK and you’ve been waiting for V because Supergirl was the only possible reason for watching Smallville and even she wasn’t quite tempting enough to put up with the rest of Smallville, well, you’ve already missed the first episode so happy catching up.”
    That assumes you’re watching Smallville for Laura Vandervoort, rather than the character of Supergirl.
    “On a happier note though Community was still brilliant. Having a character who treats the programme as if it’s a TV programme really really shouldn’t work, and yet somehow, it really really really does. ”
    Abed is awesome. As is Community.

  • SK

    I don’t think anybody’s ever watched Smallville for a character? (Certainly the girls (and it’s always girls) I know who watch it are pretty clear that it’s Tom Welling, rather than Clark Kent, who holds the secret of its appeal).
    But, oh no, they’re closing Mumblymumble 1? That’s one less free-to-air outlet for US drama in the UK. And I guess no way for me to watch more Chuck at all unless I spring for a Virgin+ box (not going to happen) or buy/rent the DVDs (so I guess that’s what I’ll be doing). Any idea when?
    My parents will be distraught at losing the constant drip-feed of Star Trek, too. I guess I better tell them to fill up their hard drive with it while they can…

  • MediumRob

    “I don’t think anybody’s ever watched Smallville for a character? (Certainly the girls (and it’s always girls) I know who watch it are pretty clear that it’s Tom Welling, rather than Clark Kent, who holds the secret of its appeal).”
    Depends what you mean by ‘character’. I’m currently watching it to see what they do with the characters, rather than because I’m invested in their personalities. I used to like Chloe as a character, back in the day, though, but they removed everything that made her interesting about four seasons ago.
    “But, oh no, they’re closing Mumblymumble 1? That’s one less free-to-air outlet for US drama in the UK. And I guess no way for me to watch more Chuck at all unless I spring for a Virgin+ box (not going to happen) or buy/rent the DVDs (so I guess that’s what I’ll be doing). Any idea when?”
    Chuck season 3 is out on DVD next Monday. Chuck season 4 is far, far away since it’s only a few eps in and NBC only confirmed a full season pick-up today. Don’t know when Channel 1 will be shutting down though, only that its Freeview slot will be taken over by Challenge TV.

  • SK

    I thought Chuck series four had already started on Living? I was hoping that next year it would be on something free-to-air, but that seems impossible now (it was always an outside shot, I guess).
    Challenge TV. O joy, O rapture.

  • MediumRob

    “I thought Chuck series four had already started on Living?”
    It probably has, but NBC didn’t initially give a full season pick-up to the show for this season since its ratings were so sucky (although not quite as sucky as Heroes’). I don’t know how much the original order would have been for, but it could have been six, eight or 13, with the option of more if ratings held up. They’ve actually been suckier this year, IIRC, but since all of NBC’s new shows have been doing so badly, Chuck’s ratings haven’t been so bad in comparison, which is why it’s been given a 24-episode pick-up.
    Hence, no fixed DVD release date. Of course, NBC could always cut the episode count like it did (several times) with 100 Questions, or cut the count and then realise it’s up sh*t creek without a paddle again and order more episodes like it did with Trauma, so I imagine there won’t be a release date for a while yet (unless they just fix the date so far ahead, it won’t matter either way, but I suspect they won’t do that since they’ll want it as close to UK season end as possible).

  • SK

    Yes, I expect that (if I’m prepared to pay for the DVDs as soon as they come out) I won’t actually delay my experience of watching it that much, as pretty near everything these days comes out on DVD as soon as, if not before, the series ends its first run.
    Doctor Who being the notable exception. Presumably that’s because they want to make it a Christmas-market thing. I’m still deciding whether to get this series — it’ll be the first since series one, if I do — and use it as the spur to upgrade to blurry disks to go with my new TV.

  • Mark Carroll

    It is interesting how seasons are soon followed by DVDs. I’m never more than a season behind with something (well, unless it’s a non-US thing that’s taking its time to appear in the US at all), and, really, the wait is just fine, if I get really short of things to watch I can usually find something more. It certainly makes it quite pain-free for me to not bother with proper cable TV channels that cost real money. It’ll be nice when someday the rights and market segmentation people can see past the idiocy of trying to limit availability by geographic region.
    I bought a new DVD player a few months ago but no Blu-Ray yet, it still all seems rather more expensive than the value it offers. DVDs as they are are already rather good. HD is nice, but mostly it just means I can see imperfections in old politicians’ faces much better. I get used to things quickly. I watched a fair amount of Blake’s 7 on a little TV with a dead red gun and even that was easy to get used to.
    I’ve been wondering how long Laura Vandervoort’s character will survive in V. I’m assuming we’re not ending it like the original, that was too silly. I think, quite a while yet, but I guess they’re also quite eager to show how ruthless Anna is. And I wonder if this ten more episodes is likely to be it.

  • SK

    When you say ending it like the original, do you mean the balloons and the red dust? That doesn’t seem hugely silly.
    I don’t think you’ll ever see the end of geographic segmentation as long as there are such vast disparities in what you can charge in, say, the UK versus South Africa. Though you might seem more simultaneous releases (my last project is releasing in the UK six days after the US).

  • MediumRob

    “When you say ending it like the original, do you mean the balloons and the red dust? That doesn’t seem hugely silly.”
    Spoilers: the star child using her special powers to take the mothership out of orbit and whatever word is was in Visitor language she kept repeating – peace/love/whatever – that Diana objected to

  • SK

    Oh, the ending of the series, not the serial. Let’s just pretend the series never happened, okay everybody?

  • MediumRob

    “Oh, the ending of the series, not the serial. Let’s just pretend the series never happened, okay everybody?”
    That is the ending of the (second) mini-series, “V: The Final Battle”. It happens after the hot-air balloons and the red dust drop.
    The series I ignore, too.

  • SK

    Oh. Well, we’ll ignore that, too, then. The Visitors arrived, turned out to be lizards posing as Nazis, were defeated in a clever long-term way, and left AND THAT WAS IT.
    Still meaning to get back to the discussion about series length, but this may be a point of evidence.