What did you watch last week (w/e October 28)?

Batman Year One

Time for “What did you watch last week?”, my chance to tell you what I watched last week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case we’ve missed them.

My recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: Dexter, Modern Family, Happy Endings, Homeland, Suburgatory and Community.

Things you might enjoy but that I’m not necessarily recommending: Being Erica, House, Chuck and Ringer.

In the backlog: Friday’s Boss, Sunday’s Walking Dead, Braquo and Dexter, and last night’s House. I’ll be reviewing Grimm later today.

A few thoughts on the regulars:

  • Dexter: most seasons of Dexter don’t really get interesting until episode seven, which is probably why I’m feeling very bored watching it at the moment, despite the presence of Edward James Olmos in a show set in Miami. I’m hoping it’ll kick off soon.
  • Chuck: boring. Sorry, I’m still not sure why this show is still limping on. It’s vaguely amusing, has a couple of fun pop culture references each episodes, but I’m struggling to work out why I’m still watching it, beyond “because it’s on its final season and you’ve been watching it for four years”. Except there’s talk of possibly another season after this, so messed up are NBC’s ratings at the moment.
  • Happy Endings: has entered the “season 2 of Friends” paradigm in which the characters get a little broader and a little more stereotypical, while the plots get sillier. But it was good to have an episode in which Alex got to shine – imagine that: a show in which Elisha Cuthbert is actually good.
  • Homeland: after nothing but brilliance since the first episode, this week’s was the first episode that felt a little disappointing, just because it didn’t feel like anything had actually been achieved by the narrative that wasn’t obvious and predictable. It’s still the best drama on TV though.
  • American Horror Story: a simple formula – no Alex Breckenridge, no watch. She wasn’t in it this week so I didn’t feel compelled to watch it, which should tell you something about the show.
  • Community: loved Abed’s Halloween story – you can tell Dan Harmon is almost as Asperger’s as Abed is – and it’s great to see the show on form again.
  • Suburgatory: still great, so clearly I’m going to have to revise my rule from “only great when Emily Kapnek writes it” to “only great when women write it”
  • The Walking Dead: more engrossing and scary than previous episodes, but has a treading water feel to it.
  • Strike Back: Project Dawn: the final episode managed to ditch its trademark female nudity in favour of ludicrous plot revelations. If you were expecting an explosive conclusion, you’d have been surprised, since there were few set pieces. On the whole, a largely ridiculous season in terms of plot and very misogynistic, but absolutely far and away the best action show on British TV: no other show, not even Spooks, comes close to being able to shootouts, car chases, et al as well Strike Back.
  • Once Upon A Time: Largely the same as the first episode except more boring. A few nuggets of interesting ideas in there, but the show still has the big problem that the baddies are the only interesting characters in the whole thing and most of the show is dedicated to them and explaining their motivations. Also, when your idea of an action sequence is chopping down a tree, you really need to up the ante on the excitement levels.

And in the movies section was Batman: Year One (available on DVD/Blu-Ray from Amazon as well as from the iTunes Store), which was based on Frank Miller’s legendary graphic novel (parts of which were used for Batman Begins), this was a surprisingly faithful adaptation, not just in terms of plot and text, but also in terms of art. Some of the darker edges were removed – the insanity of “Yes, father, I will become a bat” got expunged – as well as some of Miller’s more misogynistic tendencies – the Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle fight is a draw in this rather than an easy knockout for Bruce. The animation was also a little cheap at times, at least with things like moving cars, which looked very CGI. But really good, if a little inconclusive (for obvious reasons) and a surprising but effective choice of vocal cast (Ben McKenzie from Southland as Bruce Wayne, Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad as Jim Gordon, Katee Sackhoff from BSG as Sarah Essen and Eliza Dushku from Dollhouse as Selina Kyle).

It came with a Catwoman short movie that’s not only exploitative but boring and with Dushkua clearly as bored as we are, so best ignore that. Makes you wonder, though, given the quality of the main feature, why the cocked up so badly with the Wonder Woman animated movie they did a few years ago, which managed to mangle not just the characters and WW’s origin, but also managed to make WW a largely unpowered, unlikeable misandrist. If they can be this faithful to essentially a non-canon 20-year old graphic novel, why not do a better job with Perez’s WW origin series?

“What did you watch last week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched. 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?

  • Mark Carroll

    “Community” was okay, but I’m still not finding it as must-see as I used to. I didn’t actually watch much. Filmwise, I bothered with “Hanna” which is about as advertised; not the most plausible or satisfying, but it passed the time perfectly adequately and probably wouldn’t disappoint. Also, “The Red Chapel”, which was again about as advertised; not especially amusing, but it’s interesting to see a rare window into North Korea, and to see what relaxing fun a visit there wasn’t.

  • The other David

    Watched all four seasons/series of Jeeves and Wooster and loved it! Well, by the end it was becoming rather predictable, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. I’ve also been enjoying Downton Abbey, not as much as season/series 1, but it is scrumptious. I found it especially enjoyable that Jeeves and Wooster used Highclere Castle as well, but I did find it interesting that it was used more in the way of a backdrop than as a character as is being done in Downton. It was really enjoyable to see the staircase, etc. and go, “Hey, I know that!”

  • bob

    I actually have to concur that Community has been disappointing of late… I think it is just that last year’s halloween episode was so amazing, it made me expect better this year. But instead it was a hollow “seven stories” episode hot on the heels on a “seven stories” episode. Bad planning, folks.
    Seven stories in ~22 minutes does not make for a happy bob.

  • MediumRob

    Jeeves and Wooster is great.
    I neglected to mention Misfits, which came back for a third series. The new powers feel more like one-off jokes at the moment, rather than anything useful. New Misfit feels like a Northern Nathan, although his double identity works quite well to alleviate that. Still very good overall and looks like they’re going for character stuff again, which is nice.

  • Haven’t been watching a great deal, but keep forgetting to mention how much I’ve enjoyed the Fades. Chiefly for Mac played wonderfully by Daniel Kalyuua. There was a lot of bonkers stuff, and not all of it made sense, but the last episode was really gripping and contained a genuinely shocking moment. Also think they’ve set it up really well for second series. Went to see Johnny English Reborn two days later and Daniel Kalyuua shone in that too. Think he’s a real star in the making.
    Watched Death in Paradise which is the undemanding easy viewing which I require at the moment.
    And Downton Abbey is still must see tv, though the plots are even more silly this time around.
    My guilty pleasure though is Doctors which I watch doing the ironing, which has the silliest plots on earth, but is somehow quite compelling.

    • SK

      Of course, Wodehouse’s books become very repetitive as well: they all have basically the same plot, but the joy is in the language. Anyone who can put five or six totally original and laugh-out-loud metaphors on every single page is definitely some kind of genius.
      Two final episodes: The Fades and Hidden. Both deeply flawed, Hidden more so.
      The Fades the problem was that there was never any sense of Paul having to make any kind of choice. He spent the whole episode trying to do something, and then it turned out that he was doing the correct thing, but just in the wrong place, so he moved to the right place, did it, it worked. No having to choose between, for example, vengeance or saving the world; or having to sacrifice anything; or, well, any character-based resolution at all. It was all just spiritual babble combined with special effects. I’d say it was disappointing, but the first episode kind of set up that expectation. So instead it was just pedestrian.
      Hidden had the greater problem in that after four episodes of thriller-esque running around, the climax turned its main character into a passive observer. Literally: the climax was all about getting Philip Glennister into a position where he could watch another character make the crucial choice. Seriously, how much was spent on that and nobody noticed?
      One first episode: Death in Paradise. Now, that was rather better: nice clever clues (they actually tell you who did it right at the start!), excellent sense of place, good lines. I mean, nothing terribly novel, but all well done.
      Finished the first series of Wilfred, finally. Though it wasn’t bad, taken as a whole.