What have you been watching this week (w/e January 28)?

Being Human

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. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

As you may have noticed, patient reader, I didn’t one of these last week, because I was busily killing myself trying to meet some deadlines. Oops. But it’s here now, my memories having faded only a little bit. I’ve come to a little decision though: there are a number of shows that are basically the same every week, so to avoid boring you, I’ll only give them a mini-review if they actually do something different for a change, otherwise I’ll just flag them us as worth watching.

So Cougar Town, Modern Family, Michel Roux’s Service, House, 30 Rock, the returning Royal Pains, Top Gear and The Daily Show – watch them, they’re good, but I’ve not got a lot to say about them that.

I’ve also got a slight backlog to if anyone would like to wade in with a mini-review of the following (to let me/us know if I should bother watching them), please do: Danish show The Killing, which I hear is rather good; the returning Archer, which definitely was good last season; last night’s Community; this week’s Chuck; this week’s Episodes; last night’s 30 Rock; Baker Boys (Welsh thing starring Eve Myles about the effects of the recession of a small Welsh community); and last night’s Fairly Legal.

I should also point out that if an effort to clear my backlog, I ditched both FX’s dark manly boxing drama Lights Out, which Joe says is really good but one episode is more than any one person can bear; and Off The Map, ABC’s “US doctors in the wilds of South America” show from the people who brought you Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice – I watched five minutes of it and couldn’t face watching any more.

So after all that, after the jump, mini-reviews of Being Human, Being Human (US/Canada), last week’s Community, last week’s Episodes, How TV Ruined Your Life, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Penn and Teller: Fool Us, Perfect Couples, The Secret Mediterranean with Trevor McDonald, Southland, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, and The Ten O’Clock Show.

Being Human (iPlayer)
So it’s back! Hooray! Nina’s now a series regular, they’ve all moved to Barry Island, Robson Green is a naked hardcore werewolf and Dennis Pennis has dyed his hair blonde. Jane’s done a much longer, better review than this, so I’ll just say a few things:

  1. I guessed that the guest star of the week had to have been on EastEnders because she was young, female, had a sort of East End accent and was very, very irritating. If we were supposed to like her, she was miscast.
  2. The Mitchell thread was dull. Very, very dull. George’s was typically OTT and Annie was a bit dull, obviously not having much to do beyond sit inside a Royal Mail sorting office cage.
  3. Purgatory is very low budget
  4. Robson Green was surprisingly good
  5. Rhys from Torchwood is daft, no matter what he’s in
  6. I enjoyed it all, apart from Mitchell’s bit and it had a good ending

Being Human (Canada/US) (SyFy)
It’s tricky to judge this since it’s still an almost identical retread of the original (interesting though that they had Aidan save Josh when in the original it was Annie who saved George). There are a few things that are new and done well, such as the vampire strength and speed, but this is largely a blander version of the UK version and every time you watch the UK version you think, “Hmm. That could be done better,” then think of the US version and add, “Or worse.” Maybe if I hadn’t seen the UK version already, I’d be thinking differently, so I might stick with it to see what happens when it veers away from that blueprint. At the moment, though, it’s like watching a VHS copy of the HD original.

Community (Hulu)
Nice to see the show returning to normal after the weird and wacky exploits of last year. Good to see the Jeff-Annie-Britta triangle mined and I enjoyed the surprised revelation about who Jeff was going to see at the end. More like this, please.

Episodes (iPlayer)
Still not funny, although Matt LeBlanc was very good. Needs more actual jokes, you know?

How TV Ruined Your Life (iPlayer)
Basically, an over-extended version of one of Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe monologues, this one about how TV news and drama has tapped into our fears over the years. While it was fun to see clips from a few old TV shows that he’d already featured on Screen Wipe (Jigsaw and Pipkins, for example), the rest of it was way too stretched out to even make a sensible argument or overcome my boredom. What it really needed was Adam Curtis to do the whole thing. What a shame.

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (4oD)
Oh dear. I can’t help but feel that documentaries are supposed to be mind-opening, not mind-closing. Watching this, with six-year-old girls in high heels and boob tubes and older girls being taken out of school at 11 to be groomed to be wives (“We’re never going to be lawyers or doctors. We’re going to be house wives.”), I do feel myself feeling significantly less well disposed towards Gypsies than when I started watching.

Penn and Teller: Fool Us (STV Player)
Magicians Penn and Teller dare other magicians to perform a trick that they can’t guess the secret of. A great bit of TV actually, with Penn and Teller showing how good they are as magicians, and that they do actually love what they do.

Perfect Couples (Hulu)
I started watching episode two. It started funny but then it just got a bit dull and a bit insanely implausible and badly acted so I turned off. Still, Olivia Munn seems to be getting better. She’s been okay on The Daily Show, too. All the same, best to avoid this ‘comedy’.

Last week’s had some interesting moments but wasn’t essentially much to write home about (okay, it’s Southland, so better than just about every other hour of TV on at the moment). This week’s, however – wow. For about the first 50 minutes, actually the funniest Southland episode so far, with some great moments between Ben and John, John showing Ben that he doesn’t actually know as much as he thinks he does. Then the last 10 minutes. Oh my. Powerful stuff that will leave you traumatised. Watch this show.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena (Starz online)
So it’s back. The most tasteless and gratuitous show on TV has returned as a prequel, so although pretty much everyone died by the end of the last season, they’re all back for this six-parter – but without Spartacus, of course. Written by Steven De Knight, the creator of the show, this was largely like all the early episodes of the first season: lots of softcore nudity, lots of CGI bloodletting in gory detail, lots of x-rated swearing, all without a huge amount of plot to justify it. However, given the concertina nature of the season length, by about halfway, it had started to find itself a plot and became a lot more interesting. Okay, we had to endure new recruit Jaime Murray (Valentine, Dexter) and Lucy Lawless having HD opium-induced lesbian sex, but apart from that, it was pretty entertaining and good to see John Hannah front and centre on this one.

The Secret Mediterranean with Trevor McDonald (STV Player)
A very odd show that seems designed to do just three things:

  1. Give Trevor McDonald a job
  2. Take some very lovely pictures of some very lovely scenery
  3. Tell some very dull stories about life in the Mediterranean, while ignoring any kind of big picture.

Best watched with the sound turned off really.

The Ten O’Clock Show (4oD)
Oh dear. Britain’s answer to The Daily Show is laughably poor, with so much crammed in that nothing can be done in any detail. Giving poor David Mitchell interviewing duties is just a disaster, Lauren Laverne, who I like as a DJ, is just out of her depth, Charlie Brooker’s recycling material, leaving the surprising winner out of all of this Jimmy Carr. Still, episode 2 was better than episode 1, so hopefully they’ll get the early wobbles out of the way and try not to do so much each week.

  • As you say I have rhapsodised about Being Human on my blog – I loved the Mitchell storyline, and liked the EE girl, though I thought I wouldn’t. Must appeal to the catholic in me or summat. It did seem very catholic somehow.
    I have been enraptured by Human Planet, which I watch with my 8 yo as the rest of the family are out on a Thursday. The first week on people who live by the sea was amazing, the desert of week 2 not so fascinating, but this week’s Arctic was incredible. Almost as brilliant is the ten mins or so at the end, when they show how they filmed it. Those film crew deserve medals. The Arctic lot got stuck on floating ice and had a mad dash to get off it. Completely gripping wonderful telly & fab to watch with your children.
    Otherwise am enjoying Episodes, and finding it quite interesting that Tamsin Grieg’s character is so much harder then Steven Mangan’s.
    Made the mistake of watching Silent Witness and nearly threw brickbats at the telly. Harry was terminally stupid in episode 1 and had far too much terminally dull sex and then metarmorphosed into Jason Bourne in episode 2. They did have a great cliffhanger but resolved it n 5 mins. Harry was totally slappable hero and the whole thing worse then the ending of last series of Spooks. Which was a shame as the previous week’s two parter was brilliant.

  • PS thanks for mentioning my review. Am flattered (-:

  • Mark Carroll

    Thanks to this blog, I seem to be knowing more about what’s been on in British television lately than do the British people I chat with on the telephone. I am sad to be missing Human Planet; hopefully someday it will be out on DVD here.
    I am working my way through the first season of Community. So far, I am liking it; I think we all do. I think we watched some random primetime American crime dramas (Law and Order, Criminal Minds, whatever), out of which I think the original CSI remains one of the better. Not really unmissable, but I don’t yet find myself wondering why I bother. Oh, we did watch Castle, that was reasonable, we had a smidgeon of arc development.
    Did I mention last week that I did watch Inception? In case I did, I’ll be brief, basically: worth watching once, but I preferred Shutter Island. I also watched a South Korean film called “Mother” which was quite good. It was nicely shot, and I like windows into other cultures and, not being Hollywood, the ending wasn’t predictable saccharine.
    Mostly I’ve been reading, though.

  • MediumRob

    Aargh! I left some out:
    Chuck (previous week’s episode – Chuck vs the Balcony): so boring, we switched off halfway through.
    Harry’s Law: switched that off after 15 minutes because it was intrinsically stupid, implausible and boring
    Life Unexpected (series finale): well, if the show had been like the last four episodes for most of its run, it would have been a lot more interesting and probably wouldn’t have been cancelled. Far more dramatic, with lots of interesting and occasionally gritty and unpleasant things happening. Trouble is, for the finale, they essentially pressed a magic reset button marked “two years later” that put everything back the way the show found it and gave everyone a happy ending. So (spoilers) Baze and Cate end up together; Ryan and Cate get their radio show back; Baze gets his bar back; Ryan ends up with Julia with a baby; Lux ends up with Jones; English teacher pal ends up with Erin Karpluk. Emma’s chucked to one side in mere seconds to achieve this happy ending. And everyone’s still friends. Slightly irritatingly, the show suffered from its usual trick right through to the end of having characters who are important for good lengths of its run who mysteriously disappear for no good reason. So Paige who’s vitally important for half the second season disappears midway through the run and is never seen again. Cate’s mum and sister Abby, who dominate most of the first season, appear in just one episode and don’t even turn up for Lux’s graduation. Bug just legs it in episode one of the second season, despite being vitally important all the way through the first. And so on. All the same, a nice way to end the show.

  • The Killing is AWESOME: totally worth watching and catching up on. Strong female character, flawed but not utterly dumb; a throw-things-at-the-screen numpty colleague (who has flashes of rare wit and insight); sympathetically portrayed parents of the victim; wonderfully dodgy politicians (I do love a political backdrop to stories); and plenty of twisty turns.
    Good photography and some nice in-jokes about the Swedes.