What have you been watching this week (w/e October 8)

The Apprentice

A little later than normal, but it’s here at last, your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV that they might be missing – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched this week.

Lovely wife is back and we’ve managed to catch up on the backlog almost. Still got this week’s episode of Being Erica to watch, but otherwise, we’re sorted.

  • The Apprentice: Well, it’s back – Britain’s biggest collection of complete cocks has expanded once again. This year, the BBC is slightly taking the piss since although there are a few female cocks (that blonde one with the glasses) and a few female incompetents, all the men are absolute cocks – or at least, all the ones they decided to put on screen, since there were a few who apparently didn’t say so much as a word. Still, if you want a slightly upmarket version of The X-Factor to shout at, you can’t really do better than this, and thankfully, the biggest cock of the entire episode was thrown off.
  • Being Erica: Episode two felt a bit more like Being Erica of old, despite the new format, with Erica having to deal with the fallout of her relationship decisions at the end of season two. Dr Tom’s back to his old self, too, with no hint of all the politics suggested by episode 1. However, just in case you thought that it was male writers who had the monopoly on being unable to write unconvincing dialogue for the opposite gender, this week, not one male character, gay or straight, had a convincing line of dialogue. I don’t think it’s because they’re Canadian.
  • Boardwalk Empire: I’m finally working my way through these and am on to episode two. For the uninitiated, this is a 1920s gangster story set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Steve Buscemi is the city treasurer. He’s half-gangster, half-legitimate town figure and boy is he glad that prohibition has set in. Episode 1 was directed by exec producer Martin Scorsese and was as beautiful a piece of work as you’re going to find on TV – wonderfully evocative of the era and an interesting contrast to the austerely beautiful aesthetics of Mad Men. It was also one of the bloodiest pieces of work I’ve seen for a while, with a full-on shot of someone getting their face blown off with a shotgun. With a supporting cast including Gretchen Mol (Life on Mars US), Kelly MacDonald (State of Play, Trainspotting), Michael K Williams (The Wire) and Dabney Coleman (Major Dad – tee hee), it’s very much must-see TV but despite that, it’s actually not that enjoyable yet. I hear it’s a bit like The Wire, in that it builds over the season, so I’ll be sticking with this for a while at least. Oh, in case you’re wondering UK readers, yes, it had been acquired, and it’s going to be one of the flagship programmes on Sky’s new Sky Atlantic TV channel.
  • Chuck: More guest stars again this week, with Stone Cold Steve Austin and Nicole Ritchie returning. Okay as they go, good to see Chuck flashing again, but nothing remarkable, and mostly about getting everything back to the status quo at the Buy More.
  • Community: Last week’s was good, but okay, despite the double cameo of Drew Carey and Rob Corddry: some individually great moments (the chloroform scene), but as a whole, nothing too special. But this week’s was the first truly awesome episode this season. Most of this is down to John Oliver (of The Daily Show), who’s going to be pretty much a cast regular this season as the anthropology lecturer, despite being a psychologist and not knowing anything about anthropology. Every single line, more or less, particularly when dealing with “Señor Chang”, was comedy gold, and Britta and Annie’s bickering, Pearce’s neo-Buddhism and even Betty White’s cameo were excellent. By the way, UK viewers, season one has finally started airing on the Viva channel in the UK. No, I have no idea WTF that is, but at least it’s on Freeview.
  • Cougar Town: Just chugging along. The funniest thing about it is the constant renaming of the show in the titles (this week “(badly titled) Cougar Town“). But it’s enjoyable, both textually and actually like hanging out with a group of drunk 40 year olds who like to play games with each other.
  • Dexter: Hmm. Dexter struggles with family. Dexter’s out hunting. Been here before. Enjoyable enough, but needs a little something more.
  • Detroit 1-8-7: I got about 20 minutes into episode one of this fake dramedy documentary cop show with Michael Imperioli (of The Sopranos and Life on Mars US) set in Detroit before quitting. Southland does the whole “fake documentary” thing far better, and this was actually quite tasteless (not in a good way, unless you find cellphones with inappropriate ringtones going off during “your daughter is dead” scenes entertaining), unfunny and uninvolving, with nothing new to say or do (Look, guys, it’s the rookie detective being sick at his first murder scene. Seen that before?). Weirdly, do you find it slightly offensive that the hero of the piece is the only white person in the cast?
  • Hellcats: The fourth episode of the series was a little bit on the rubbish side and oh no, no, no, no, no, ended with a goddamn music set piece to show off Aly Michalka‘s musical skills. Really, we don’t need that: that’s so early 2000s (cf Buffy, Charmed). Even Smallville ditched the Talon music scenes by season three. Episode five was more interesting with Christian judgementalism being dolled out by in great big ladles by Teryl Rothery at Ashley Tisdale and Marti going off to do a less comedic Legally Blonde against Gale Harold’s orders. It seems to have settled down into a Fame thing, with a bit of relationship soapiness and a dance routine each episode, the near-journalistic quality of the first eps a distant memory. But it’s still a good show. One thing I have noticed though: for cheerleaders, they don’t seem to spending a whole lot of time around football matches, do they?
  • House: Has now turned into fan fiction. Ugh.
  • Life Unexpected: How many of you are roughly 30 years old like Baze and Cate? How many of you reckon you’re a tad more grown up them then? Oh, practically all of you then. Really, could we have a bit more adult behaviour from the adults, please? Even Emma Caulfield’s acting like she’s 21 again. Paige, at least, is growing on me (particularly now I realise she’s scream queen Arielle Kebbel), but the absence of Abby is getting more and more glaring. But, at least the last episode remembered that Lux used to be a foster kid and brought back Tash to rub in the fact that life is usually pretty sh*te for foster kids.
  • Mad Men: A good episode as always. A nice illustration of how expectations of the behaviour of expectant fathers has changed and a good character piece for everyone from Roger downwards.
  • Modern Family: The earthquake episode was pretty funny, particularly thanks to the guest cameo by Nathan Lane. But can we have a non-camp gay man in this, just for a change? They do exist you know. Oh, and could Phil stop being such a dick? Thank you.
  • No Ordinary Family: Another piece of semi-family fun that never quite hits any highs but never really gets to any lows. Our family is busy adjusting to their new powers, with teenage boy revealing that he’s now got a super brain (or at least can spout math mumbo-jumbo that’s entirely irrelevant to the actual problem being solved, but it sounds good) and everyone else working out how to control their own powers. Some good bits with both Michael Chiklis and Julie Benz and a surprisingly nasty ending to the episode. This might just turn out to be the second decent new drama of the season.
  • Outsourced: Well, I made it through to the episode two and not only was that completely bereft of humour, it was about an offensive as episode one. Given that this is actually the most successful of all of NBC’s new shows so far this season, and it isn’t exactly storming the ratings, it does make you wonder if anyone’s sorry they jumped the gun and cancelled Heroes now. I’m out anyway, so no ep three for me. Avoid this, if possible, because even though the characters are sympathetic, everything else is dire.
  • Parenthood: I’m not exactly sure why I’m watching this beyond an admiration for the house-husband character and a general liking for both Monica Potter and Erika Christensen. I feel a ruthless streak coming on, to be honest, since there’s not really much here anymore, and all sorts of season one plotlines seem to have been dropped (Christensen’s battle with the hot housewife after her husband, grandfather’s investment cock-ups, etc).
  • Rubicon: OMFG. Something happened! Awesome! At last, we have some action, we finally know what this whole conspiracy is about and the bad guys have finally bought themselves a clue. If this were 24, all this would have been in episode 1, rather than episode 11, but at least we know now.
  • Smallville: In episode 2, Michael Shanks as an expert on ancient Egypt. Typecast, much? In episode 3, the return of Supergirl – better! Lots of in-jokes to the comics, which, let’s face it, is what the whole point of Smallville is, and everything does seem to be developing in pleasing directions as well. I’ll stick with it for Supergirl for now.
  • Stargate Universe: Ah, now that’s more like it. After last week’s disappointing start to the first season, we have Stargate Universe‘s patented “whatever can go wrong absolutely definitely will go wrong” school of drama, with deaths, murders, and everyone being self-serving and calculating exactly who to screw over. One slight disappointment is the easy way in which Rush solved the master code problem in between episodes, but it has given us the return of Louise Lombard. Also a little disappointed with how quickly they gave up on the possibility of having Lou Diamond Phillips as a spy in the Alliance Camp. But a good episode all the same.
  • 30 Rock: Last week’s was a bit daft, but still fun and did at least have Elizabeth Banks in it. This week’s was the first edgy show of the season, with a big send up of NBC’s lack of diversity that gave us a shout out to Community star Donald Glover (former writer for 30 Rock) but singularly failed to mention Undercovers. I wonder why that is, apart from Undercovers being dreadful. Some great moments.

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).


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.