What did you watch last week? Including Magic City, Best Friends Forever, Tower Heist and Arrested Development

It’s “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 e’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations from the first-run shows: The Almighty Johnsons, The Apprentice, Awake, Being Human (US), BeTipul, Community, The Daily Show, Happy Endings, Mad Men, Ringer, Shameless (US) and 30 Rock. Hunt them down.

You’ll notice that after last week’s episode and this week’s mindbender, Awake has now been promoted to the A-Team – go and watch it.

So first a few shows I’ve tried over the past week but didn’t have the time to review separately:

  • Arrested Development: Miracle of miracles, Netflix actually has something to watch (even if its new releases section hasn’t changed in two months) so I thought I’d catch up with my list of shows that everyone loves that I’ve never found the time to watch (next up: The Sopranos). I’m now up to episode eight of AD and I’m not laughing much, but it’s promising at least. When does it get good? I’ll probably keep watching for Portia De Rossi for a while at least – she’s a lot hotter than I remember.
  • Best Friends Forever: NBC’s latest attempt to do a female-oriented comedy show does at least not insult your intelligence unlike Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea? It has a quirky line in dialogue and the central characters are fun and idiosyncratic. But it’s another of those shows that seem to have been written by women who have never met any men before, only seen them on TV, and which assumes that women want to watch shows in which other women want to talk about waxing, relationships, divorces, etc, and nothing else. Not funny enough to keep watching unfortunately.
  • Magic City: Not even a knock-off of Mad Men, this is a terrible Starz knock-off of The Playboy Club of all things. Basic set-up: mobster hotel boss in 1950s Miami. And that’s it. No other distinguishable characters and although it looks fantastic, it’s only real appeals are lots of nudity, that Ukranian woman who was in the second Daniel Craig Bond movie (I think it’s her anyway) and Christian Cooke from ITV’s Demons, putting on his Sontaran Stragem accent. Utterly forgettable.
  • The Syndicate: Well, I did try to watch some more of it, but the only scenes I could get through were the ones with Joanna Page that didn’t involve any stereotypical, overacting northerners. So not much of it.

And a few thoughts on the regulars:

  • The Almighty Johnsons – A really, really good episode, with some actual swordfighting in it. The goddesses got to do something for a change, although they’re still being treated badly by gods and scriptwriters alike, and Loki got to do more than just posture.
  • Being Human (US) – I haven’t finished yesterday’s episode yet, which has been really good so far. But last week’s was a bit wishy washy although the writing out of a certain character was unexpected and well handled.
  • Community – A decent pastiche of civil war documentaries, and the Britta photography was fabulous, as was the reference to The Cape , but not as funny as last week’s.
  • Happy Endings – Overall, a disappointing second season, lacking the bite of the first. Disappointing was the increasing flamboyance of Max, the gay character, who had been refreshing unstereotypical last season. Plenty of fun to be had, though, although the finale had a little bit of a forced cliffhanger.
  • Mad Men – More interesting than the first episode, Betty getting some intriguing nuances, likewise Don.
  • Missing – a big improvement: the fights were decent, Sean Bean, John Carradine and Gina McKee were back. The predictions I made in my first review are coming true, it seems, which means that it’s all a double-bluff, since my predictions can never be true.
  • Ringer – Even Ioan is finding it hard to keep a straight face at times, but it’s still gripping me.
  • Shameless – which I should have written about last week, but didn’t. All in all, an odd season that consisted mainly of writing out characters and returning everything to the status quo after going in several directions for the first half of the season. But the journey was still very much worth taking.
  • 30 Rock – better than the previous episode.
  • Touch – it seems like all the guest characters might actually start getting linked together, which hints at a greater story arc that should make the show that much more interesting to watch. But I showed my wife the episodes and as predicted, blood nearly came out of her ears whenever they showed a supposed health or social worker interacting with special needs boy.
  • Two and a Half Men – Sophie Winkleman’s still in it and is making it watchable, but otherwise a horrible, horrible show.

And in movies:

  • Tower Heist: Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy – with associated extras – get their own back on the 1%. Has its moments, but directed by Brett Ratner so as entirely average as you’d expect.

“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

    “Community” may have been well done but I didn't actually laugh at any point. It's not been working for me lately, again, the latest episode especially.

    “Awake” is maintaining my interest. We'll see how it goes. It's certainly one of the better things on.

    “House” is still quite good, maybe not the best but much better than its worst. Still one of the better things on.

    “Grimm” remains about as ever. The latest episode was about normal, not exactly among the best.

    We saw “Ring of Bright Water” (or something like that); not my choice. It was okay, but rather dull and unlikely at times. Once was maybe too many times.

    Once was definitely too many times for “Hop”, a children's Easter film. It was earnest, and the kids didn't mind it, but it was predictable fluff and I mostly blocked it out.

    “The Ides of March” was okay, about what you'd expect. Well done, and good if you like that sort of political campaign film.

    If “Arrested Development” isn't working for you by now, it probably won't. Sorry about that.

  • bob

    I did enjoy the sword fight on Almighty Johnsons. Surprisingly well done. A good episode indeed.

    Thanks for the warning to stay away from Magic City. I will do as advised and avoid it.

  • Robin Parker

    episode 8 of Arrested is, I think, In God With Trust, the introduction of the phrase 'never nude'. I'd be tempted to say that if you don't get it by now, maybe you won't. But I'd stick around for episode 10, Pier Pressure, which is one of the best. And if you do carry on, you get 2 sublime Julia Louis-Dreyfus episodes later on, and some great reveals in the final couple of episodes of series 1.

    And if you do stick with it even further, you get Series 2, Episode 4: “Good Grief” which is near perfect.

  • I tried Arrested Development on Netflix, but gave up during series 2; and I'm surprised I actually lasted that long. I've also given up on Netflix.

    I'm really starting to get into Awake, especially with that serial killer attempting to mix the time-lines; I assume after reading his shrink's file.

  • SK

    Been ages since I did one of these. And I can never remember when I watched things, so it's always just a bit of a round-up. Still, okay, then.

    I watched the ides of March too (I try to see as many of the screenwriting Oscar nominees as I can) and thought it quite good, very much in the mould of theatrical adaptations. Not sure why it was nominated for the Oscar though, it wasn't that good. Certainly not as good as The Guard, which I also saw recently.

    I also watched the first episode of The Syndicate, but having gone away and come back to a full hard disk I think it may be one of the things which gets dumped unwatched. Not that it's bad, just not particularly engrossing.

    I've been keeping up with Homeland, though, and been very impressed with it. Very very clever plotting, especially the lie detector episode. I'm especially amazed at the way they keep both major plotlines as interesting as each other: most programmes that try, there's one that is boring and you end up resenting the time they spend on it and wishing they'd get back to the other. Here, every time they jump from the marine and his alien wife back to Juliet you're frustrated because you wanted to see more, and vice-versa. And Mandy Patinkin, who like squares the quality of everything he's in just by turning up. Rather tip-top.

    First two episodes of Once Upon A Time. So-so. Mainly watchable for the evil queen, it's as if the screen actually dims when she's not there: even the real-world bits without her seem more drab than the night-time fairytale world bits with her in. I actually checked my TV but no, it is just that the rest of the cast is that boring.

    Finales of Being Human (meh — isn't it getting really annoying how Mark Gatiss is becoming shorthand for 'look, this character is evil and sinister and IMPORTANT, pay attention and thus apparently removing any need to demonstrate that the character is such things? Doesn't help that he plays head-vampire with exactly the same languid superciliousness as he plays Mycroft Holmes and, well, absolutely every other r�le too) and Skins (Not too bad, though it has started to repeat itself: I guess there just aren't that many different stories you can tell about hedonistic teenagers).

    Finished Lowdown: ended as good as it began. I really do recommend it.

    Have started watching, thanks to Blockbuster DVD rentals, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. My, what a lot of nude women. Both I will continue with for the moment. Rather fun to recognise bits of Antrim standing in for the blasted northern wastes.

    Am a bit annoyed that I will have to wait for the disks before I can see this series of Mad Men, as I already have a hard-disk recorder that is mine and I don't want to pay Virgin to rent one that is theirs. But hey, patience is good.

    Saw Senna too. Not being terribly interested in Formula One, I thought it nevertheless managed to tell a compelling story. However as often happens when reality is edited into a story, it left me wondering about what had been left out: we saw few races Senna lost, for example, so I wonder if his rivals' accusations of recklessness were not baseless, only they'd edited out the evidence that might have revealed that? Good, though.

    So, high-points: Homeland and Lowdown. All in all it's been a good week(ish) for single-word compound-noun titles.

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