What have you been watching this week (w/e December 10)?

Robert's Web

Oops. Back after a two week gap, it’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.

So I’ve caught up on a few things, fallen behind on a few others. It’s all so tricky, this TV-watching lark. Fortunately, it’s December in the US, which means House, Chuck et al are all sitting it out for a while.

After the jump, Al Murray’s German Adventure, The Apprentice, Chuck, Community, Dexter, In Treatment, Misfits, Modern Family, No Ordinary Family, Peep Show, Robert’s Web, Running Wilde, Smallville, Stargate Universe, and The Walking Dead.

  • Al Murray’s German Adventure: In which comedian Al Murray (aka “the Pub Landlord”) went off to Germany to explore its history, culture, et al. Now, if your mission is to try to convince people that Germany isn’t full of mentallers and is actually interesting (which, of course, it isn’t and it is), surely you should actually try to make your show interesting? Because I’m struggling through it and it’s boring as hell. It doesn’t help that he’s gone in the middle of the winter when it’s absolutely freezing.
  • The Apprentice: What the hell is Stuart doing in this competition, still?
  • Burn Notice: A week behind, but last week’s was a bit rubbish: almost taking the piss out of the whole series and the audience with its lack of plausibility. Still, some nice explosions.
  • Chuck: A good place to leave things, but why exactly was Chuck’s dad’s gift to Ellie a thing for giving Chuck back the Intersect, just in case Chuck’s mum had disabled it for him?
  • Community: Haven’t seen last night’s, but last week’s was marvellously unfunny. I say marvellously because after all the surreal activities of the season, last week’s was entirely a realistic character piece that actually helped you to get to know the characters better.
  • Dexter: Little bit annoyed that Lumen has been abducted, but brilliant stuff all the same. Looked forward to the finale on Sunday.
  • Horizon: An old episode called What happened before the Big Bang? Surprisingly, in contrast to a whole load of Horizon episodes I could mention, I actually learnt quite a lot from this one. Very good.
  • In Treatment: So now it’s all over and we had to wait until the final week to see the marvellous structure of the entire thing. Odd to see that every strand has in fact been about the impotence, dangers and limitations of therapy, particularly the brilliant Sunil strand, but glad to see it so rewarding at the end. Will there be a fourth season after this one, though?
  • Misfits: Last night’s episode had a real “jump the shark” moment, but both last week’s and this week’s were both top quality
  • Modern Family: Some funny moments, but Sofia Vergara’s performance is starting to grate a little. She needs to dial it down a notch.
  • No Ordinary Family: Julie Benz in action and the whole show’s getting darker. Nothing too extraordinary but nice.
  • Peep Show: Obviously very funny, but not quite possessed of the dark edge of yesteryear. Loving it though.
  • Robert’s Web: Some funny jokes, but largely just a big sneer by Robert Webb at things in an updating of Clive James’s show for the Internet/post Jimmy Carr age. He’s better than that, surely?
  • Running Wilde: I haven’t seen this week’s but last week’s was moderately dire with a few funny moments, quite a few down to a cameo by Jonathan from 30 Rock. I know! And I wish they could work out whether Peter Serafinowicz’s character is supposed to be a friend or an enemy (no, he’s not a frenemy) because his characterisation is all over the place.
  • Smallville: A fun parallel universe episode that saw the return of Lionel Luther. And not back to his old self but to a complete evil self. Magic. But what’s happened to Tess? She’s gone all flaccid.
  • Stargate Universe: Slightly weak as a mid-season finale – more or less what we had as the end of season 1 – but I’m fascinated to see how they get out of it. I’m suspecting Chloe might have something to do with it.
  • The Walking Dead: Cool way to end the season, but with only six episodes, they haven’t really gone anywhere or staked out themes beyond “surviving a zombie apocalypse leads to hard choices”. Looking forward to next season, which will be longer.

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).

  • MediumRob

    I forgot to mention the Twin Peaks tribute episode of Psych. While it was lovely to see the likes of Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee and even the log lady, the actual story was desperately dull, the script was unfunny and none of the big guns, such as Kyle McClachlan, were in it. And it reminded me why I stopped watching Psych in the first place.
    I turned off after 20 minutes.

  • SK

    I’m disappointed with the second series of Misfits actually — yes, the characters and dialogue are still great, but the problem is that now it’s lost the great subversive exploration of various themes that made the first series more than just a fun drama about ASBO-bearing superheroes. For example, last series the Nathan-centric episode had his mother’s new boyfriend turning out to be a literal monster. So far, so Buffy, the Vampire Slayer — real drama turned metaphor. Indeed there was at least one episode of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer with that exact plot. But then in a wonderful scene it’s subverted as it turns out the mother knows about her boyfriend’s nocturnal problem, the easy, done-to-death solutions are no longer available, and it becomes more poignant and real.
    This series? His brother shows up and teaches Nathan he should make things up with his estranged dad, by dying before he himself has a chance to. Yawn.
    But what’s worse is the revelation of the identity of the hooded man — oh my giddy aunt, could there have been a more boring answer to that question? So a programme that started off as being great because it had superpowers in it but mostly ignored them in favour of actually saying interesting things, is now all about the worst kind of comic-book plotting. Honestly, if there’s a worse plot than that one in comic books, I don’t know about it.
    So as a result all we’re left with is something that’s funny, involving and very entertaining, where the original was funny, involving, very entertaining, and had depth. So I think this is a great argument as to why sequels are bad and it would have been better had Overman done something different instead of returning to the Misfits world.

  • A string of Thursday scheduled events and weekends full of business have meant (thanks to a barely functioning Virgin catch-up service) that I’ve not really seen Misfits apart from the first couple of eps (which I enjoyed a lot). Meh. Much annoyed. I’m hoping to catch up when 4 repeat it in a bit when I can make my mind up about the spoilery bits I’ve avoided in online reviews. I think I heard the guy was on the radio the other day and was asked if there was to be a third series and he replied “I’m not allowed to say”. Sigh. Keep things small and wonderful and get out before it goes wrong…

  • MediumRob

    “So I think this is a great argument as to why sequels are bad and it would have been better had Overman done something different instead of returning to the Misfits world. ”
    However, I think episode two of this series, is in many ways better than anything in series one. So if we hadn’t had a second series, we’d never have got that. I guess it depends on whether you want every single episode to have the exact same consistency or whether you want greater variability which can lead to (yes) much worse episodes or alternatively much better episodes – or both.
    It could have been Ian Levine under the mask. That would have been worse.

  • SK

    The brother episode? Seriously? There was nothing in that to even compare with series one — I mean, the moral at the end was ‘get to know your estranged father’! Is there a more tedious, yawn-enducing, Hollywoody theme in all TV? Seriously, what was great about series one was that it always subverted the obvious – but here we had the most obvious cliche (sorry, dunno how to do accents on iPod) done absolutely straight. It was also full of wasted opportunities, like the power-reversing drugs which could have been used to explore the characters but just weren’t, at all, instead just mainly being used to do that rooftop prolepsis farther into the tedious series plot.
    Seriously, that episode was everything that’s wrong with series two in microcosm — did it have a single redeeming aspect, a single inch of depth to compare with series one? Because it seemed to me to be as shallow and plot-driven as the rest of series two, if not more so.

  • MediumRob

    I liked the ideas of the power-reversing drug, Nathan being able to see dead people, the death of his brother, the trick-out where you think he has saved his brother, and the interplay with the car thieves. I agree the estranged father bit had a relatively commonplace moral, but at the end, Nathan and daddy didn’t exactly end up happy pals. It was more than Nathan cut him a break for once out of fear of getting haunted, rather than because he now loves daddy. Indeed, daddy hasn’t been seen since and the episode showed him to be even more of a cock than previous episodes had shown him to be. Isn’t half the point of Misfits to say: people are a bit shit, so even when they start doing the right thing, they just can’t be arsed to follow through?
    It might just be – judging by tonight’s ep – that HO’s running out of ideas and losing a little depth, although there were some good moments in the episode even if the overall effect wasn’t much because of the magic reset button that is Curtis. But equally, given the relative mundanity of Dirk Gently, I think he’s faring better with Misfits than he did with a seemingly completely new idea.