What have you been watching this week (w/e May 14)?

The Apprentice

Coming to you, live from my sickbed (sneeze, sneeze, cough, cough), it’s “What have you been watching this week?”, my chance to tell you what I’ve been watching this week and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we’ve missed them.

My usual recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: Community, Cougar Town, The Daily Show, Doctor Who, Endgame, Happy Endings, House, Modern Family and Stargate Universe. Watch them (and keep an eye on The Stage‘s TV Today Square Eyes feature as well) or you’ll be missing out on the good stuff.

However, just to give you an idea of their relative merits, this is the order I actually prefer the regulars on the list: Community, Happy Endings, Endgame, Modern Family, Doctor Who, The Daily Show, House, Cougar Town and Stargate Universe. Make of that what you will.

I should also add I’m now adding Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle to the list, since it’s absolutely brilliant, practically perfect. Watch it.

Now to the irregulars and new things, as well as a few thoughts on some of those regulars:

  • The Apprentice: Well, it’s back with a slightly saner prize and teams that aren’t quite so hateful. Episode two gave me a chance to put on one of my other journalistic hats and nerd out (“Of course, you notice they’re not producing any iPhone apps because of the time it would take to get the app on the App Store”), as did all the tech journos I know on Twitter. Not sure why they went for Wired and TechCrunch, which aren’t the most obvious online sites for new app news, but perhaps no one else want to be involved. My money’s on Jim for the final, since he seems really good. No obvious female leader at the moment, since they’re all quite irritating at the moment. Let’s wait and see. Also, have you noticed that Karren Brady has started to become more Margarety?
  • Business Nightmares with Evan Davis: quite an entertaining business documentary, with Evan Davis running through some of the worst design mistakes in business history with some of the people involved, including “New Coke” and the release of the original Mini at a price that was less that it was actually possible to make it for. Well shot, well directed and Evan Davis actually made some good points. Will be watching the next episode.
  • Chuck: the best episode in ages, full of numerous Star Wars, Terminator and other pop culture references, it still didn’t have as much bite as I’d have liked, but it was a decent hour of TV with a good ending.
  • Cougar Town: Lovely bits with Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame – she happens to be married to the guy who plays Andy.
  • Endgame: Peter Wingfield has even worse Russian accent than the star, but good to see him getting work. Quite a good episode, too.
  • Happy Endings: ridiculously funny, especially the final tattooing scene. Nice that they’re slowly slipping in details about each of the friends (we learn Elisha Cuthbert runs her own business this week) and that they’re keeping it real (money and rent came up, too), while they’re simultaneously being silly.
  • Night Shift: the first Icelandic comedy – if not TV programme – broadcast on British television, this is comedy in the same way that Ibsen is comedy. Set in a Shell petrol station, it’s largely about three not especially interesting, introverted blokes and the customers who come in during the night shift. Not especially funny, but oddly compelling. I’ve only tried the first episode, but I’ll give the next episode a try.
  • Running Wilde: Kind of lolloping along on FX now. Not actually very funny any more though.
  • Sex and the British Sitcom: something I recorded a while back, a BBC4 documentary about the changing attitude towards sex of British sitcoms. A very decent piece of work, full of both expected and unexpected sitcoms, as well as a very valid comparison with US sitcoms. Worth watching if it comes round again.
  • The Shadow Line: much better than the first episode, with some really tense scenes and Ralph Spall’s psychopath character being extremely creepy and Stephen Rea just being awesome. But it still feels like someone’s done this marvellous thriller then tried to stick the dialogue from Marion & Geoff into it. Still, as long as you keep thinking, “Pretend it’s David Lynch”, it’s worth watching, I think.
  • Smallville: the season and series finale. Surprising dull and underpowered for the conclusion of 10 years of TV and full of some of the dumbest moments imaginable, it still was suitably reverential, finally had some iconic moments we’ve all been waiting for, and was so lovely in its mimicking of the movies right at the end, I’m actually now watching Superman. Great to see Michael Rosenbaum back in action, too.
  • Stargate Universe: And after all that, it ends with a whimper. Clearly designed to leave the door open in case the production team were able to convince anyone to continue the show in some other form – they didn’t – it was a little unsatisfying, answering none of the questions raised during the series, but had just enough of the “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong” ethos that differentiated it from its predecessors. I don’t think I enjoyed season two as much as I did the far bleaker first season, although the characterisation was a lot better – there were just too many unfinished plot threads, too many new weaker plot threads to deal with instead, and things just started to get too nice. But it was still a whole lot better than the likes of Warehouse 13, which gets to live, so I think the wrong decision was made there. This also means that for the first time in what must be nearly a decade and a half, even two decades, there’s no Stargate-related TV show airing – it’s the end of an era.
  • The Untold Battle of Trafalgar: a slight lie in that the supposed untold story was of about how many foreign sailors took part on the English side at the Battle of Trafalgar – and that was actually what is known as a ‘told story’ – the actual untold story was new research into what the Bellerophon did at Trafalgar. Wonderfully recreated, very detailed, actually a pretty decent documentary. Go and watch it.

But what have you been watching?

“What have you been watching this week?” is 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?


  • 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.

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