What did you watch this week (w/e January 27)?

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

First, the usual recommendations: Archer, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, House, Modern Family, Happy Endings, Portlandia, Royal Pains, Shameless (US), Southland, Suburgatory and 30 Rock. Do watch them.

Deleted from the viewing queue from last week is Eternal Law. Life’s too short.

But here’s what I did watch:

  • Are You There, Chelsea? Episode two veered straight into utterly unfunny CBS comedy territory within five minutes so promptly got switched off.
  • Arctic Air: A Canadian show all about an airline company in a small, northerly part of Canada that expects to be up-and-coming very soon. A new pilot gets recruited, except he used to live there and it stirs up all kinds of former rivalries and problems. Starring every Canadian actor you’ve ever seen in bit parts in other shows, including Michael Hogan from Battlestar Galactica, it’s about as soporific and unremarkable as they come.
  • Archer: Burt Reynolds – awesome, that’s all I can say.
  • Borgia: Thanks to the mighty power of Netflix, which I’m sure I’ll review some time this week, I’ve managed to watch this Canal+ drama about the Borgias before a UK network acquires it. Okay, having watched it, I’d be surprised if any UK network acquired because it turns out that yes, there is a worse version of the Borgias’s story than The Borgias. While the latter is full of pasty Brits with the sex appeal of kippers and Borgia features a cast of pan-European (relative) hotties in various states of undress, this is a dreadfully written show, with every line of dialogue reeking as though it came from the hand of James Thackara. And it has John Doman from The Wire as Rodrigo Borgia. Fine he may be as a politicking Baltimore cop, but Jeremy Irons he is not and neither is he an Italian pope in waiting.
  • The LA Complex: Still relatively fun. Still quite soapy. You can slowly watch everyone’s careers plummetting into Hell. But this really isn’t for my age group, so I’m giving up.
  • Mad Dogs: Series two of this Sky show starring John Simm, Philip Glenister, Marc Warren and Max Beesley makes even less sense than the first series, is even less action-packed and riveting, and hasn’t even got the benefit of Ben Chaplin this time. But it does look gorgeous in HD.
  • Shameless: still excellent, but has lost some of the relationship detail of the previous series that gave the show a heart.
  • Spartacus: Vengeance: A pale shadow of the previous series. Andy Whitfield is much-missed but several actors have also recast so I couldn’t remember who anyone was and the new actors didn’t leave much of an impression. The absence of John Hannah’s character is leaving a huge whole in the show, too. Liam McIntyre really isn’t any good as Spartacus, unfortunately, lacking the depth and vulnerability of Whitfield, and (spoiler) Lucy Lawless’s character has gone off at the deep end so can’t do much that’s useful. The ultra-violence and nudity are still there, of course, but as of yet, the plotting has yet to take off.
  • 30 Rock: God bless Kelsey Grammer. A couple of genuinely funny episodes.

And in movies:

  • Ip Man: Donnie Yen in a lavish periodical about Bruce Lee’s wing chun instructor Ip Man. Good fight scenes, although nothing you’d call climatic, and intensely reverential to Man to the extent that no one can get a punch in at any point, even when it’s 10 against 1. Although it’s understandable given the history involved, the film also lacks the even-handedness towards the Japanese of films such as Jet Li’s Fist of Legend, leaving a nasty taste in the mouth.
  • The Change Up: Ryan Reynolds and Justin Bateman swap bodies and lives in a comedy from the writers of The Hangover. While not the funniest film ever committed to celluloid, it does have some laugh out loud moments and there is a weird almost rom-com element to it involving Olivia Wilde. It feels better overall, in fact, than the individual elements.
  • Primer: Again, I watched this courtesy of Netflix, and it’s a low-budget movie about a group of scientists who accidentally invent a time machine. However, the first 15 minutes are almost entirely wiring and soldering, by which point I lost the will to watch the rest of the movie. I will probably watch the rest of it at some point, though, since it’s supposed to be good. Just not yet:

"What did you watch this 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

    I’m skipping the Being Human remake; the original was okay but not amazing, and life’s too short.
    House, Once Upon a Time, Grimm, etc. amble on about as usual. They’re all quite watchable, but I can certainly bear to wait a few days before getting around to them. I am not expecting them to deliver anything exciting and new.
    I caught a Modern Family or two; my daughter likes it. It’s okay, not too bad; mind you, I don’t think it’s much managed to genuinely amuse me this season, but I think when it started out it might have.
    We are finally getting around to the last part-season of the Sarah Jane Adventures. It seems a bit silly and overdone to me in places, but the kids are certainly quite gripped by it, and exchange hypotheses with each other during viewing.
    I liked Primer. I do think it’s good, but afterward I didn’t rush to buy my own copy on DVD. The movie I most recently watched was Love Exposure, which was silly more in intentional than unintentional ways, I think, and not as tedious and lewd as it could have been. Overall, rather better than I expected, though I wasn’t sure what it expect. The plot certainly felt rather novel.
    We finally got around to watching the first season of Engrenages. It seems a bit all over the place at times but I liked it. It was nice to see a different justice system in action and the characterization was reasonable. I’ll bother getting around to the next season.
    Oh, we also finally got around to the second season of Stargate Universe. It’s actually quite good. There are some “what was that supposed to be?” episodes, but that’s a hazard of actually having some variety in plots, and we’re not done with it yet but so far low points aren’t all that low. For me, it’s actually one of the better science fiction show series in recent years; what happens seems to me to be more realistic than just random or contrived, which is all too rare.

  • Jonathan Reed

    After you’ve been harking on about it for a while now I finally got into Archer and, with seemingly everyone I know being out of town for the weekend, nailed all of season 1 and 2. Fucking brilliant.

  • TemplarJ

    I watched ‘Suits’ because you told me to. And you were right, I thought it was great.
    I’ve also been quite absorbed by the second series of Hawaii 5-0 which is quite, quite mental but astonishingly slick for weekly TV. Scary skinny women though, Grace Park looks as if she only eats make believe food.

  • MediumRob

    “I’m skipping the Being Human remake; the original was okay but not amazing, and life’s too short.”
    And yet you’re watching Once Upon A Time and Grimm… 😉
    “We finally got around to watching the first season of Engrenages. It seems a bit all over the place at times but I liked it.”
    It is. The second season is a bit more on the ball, although it tails off at the end.
    “Oh, we also finally got around to the second season of Stargate Universe. It’s actually quite good.”
    It is, isn’t it?
    @Jonathan/TemplarJ: I am always right. People should just watch what I tell them to watch.

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