What did you watch last week? Including The Syndicate, Punisher: War Zone and Steven Seagal’s True Justice

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 US shows: The Almighty Johnsons, Being Human (US), BeTipul, Community, The Daily Show, Happy Endings, Mad Men, Ringer, Shameless (US), Spartacus and 30 Rock. Hunt them down.

For the love of Joanna Page, I’ve been trying to watch The Syndicate, but it’s hard going. I know it’s written by Kay Mellor, who’s both quite good and a Leeds native, but like every BBC drama about ‘regular people’, it’s just so patronising, with every Northerner written as or acted as a stereotype. Heaven forfend that you might overlap with another stereotype, such as ‘the overweight woman’ because then you’ll be comedy relief in a show in which everyone is pretty much self-pastiching anyway. But I’m going to keep giving it a try. Apparently, they focus on one character every week and Joanna’s episode four.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars, apart from last night’s Mad Men, which I’ve still to watch:

  • The Almighty Johnsons – There’s light at last! A bit more of a season one-style episode than some of the latest efforts have been and I’m hoping it’s a sign that there’s going to be a bit more balance to the show in the next few episodes.
  • Awake – Interesting ending, which suggests some more possible story arc and for once, the story was really more about relationships than the procedural. But there were bits I didn’t get at all (why did he go to the warehouse, just because it was the one his wife used?). Surprisingly though, as the series is progressing, I’m glad there’s no sci-fi reason for what’s happening being suggested and that one reality might actually turn out to be a dream.
  • Being Human (US) –  Nice to see some funny in what has become quite dark, even if it was for a limited time only, but a bit of a soapy episode and the return of the “less fun than she used to be” Nora wasn’t as welcome as I thought it would be.
  • Community – Who would have thought that last year’s KFC product placement show could ever have been topped? John Goodman was marvellous, but the show’s starting to sideline Pearce and Chiang a bit too much at the moment.
  • Happy Endings – Would have made more sense if I’d watched Three’s Company, but some good moments, largely from Elisha Cuthbert, and a great end sketch saved it. Feels better in retrospect than when I was actually watching it.
  • Mad Men – Interesting but dull, like all Mad Men season openers. But how messed up were Don and Megan? Ouch. Oh and that song? WTF?
  • Ringer – Well, it all seems to be coming together, suggesting there may all have been a cunning plan all along. But there were too many obvious misdirects that you could see coming a mile off. Fun to see them happen though.
  • Spartacus – Bloody, with some very interesting choices that mostly neutralised most of this season, with the deaths (you knew there would be some) predominantly the ones who have been wandering around without much story this year. I’ve started to notice, incidentally, that the least effective stories are typically the ones written by Steven DeKnight and this finale was no different. Despite everything that happened, there wasn’t quite enough surprise and good writing to really lift this beyond the good. But it was still good.
  • True Justice – Quite how I could have missed this when it aired on 5 USA this year, I don’t know, but now it’s airing on Reelz, I’ve finally caught up with it. Written by Steven Seagal, created by Steven Seagal and starring Steven Seagal, this is the first TV show I’ve ever watched that’s made from pure Carusonium, the most talentless element in the known universe. Just fascinatingly bad, borderline (if not actually) racist, terribly acted, sometimes impenetrable Canadian accents (seriously, when have you ever heard an impenetrable Canadian accent before this? And it’s supposed to be set in Seattle, FFS), horribly exploitative (it actually has one of the female leads poledancing in the titles) and the fight scenes are so badly directed, you can’t see what’s happening half the time – which given the only good thing about a Steven Seagal movie or TV series is watching some excellent aikido, entirely removes the only good thing about the series even before it starts.
  • 30 Rock – Possibly the first duff one this year, although the meditation scenes were fun.

And in movies:

  • Punisher: War Zone – I wasn’t expecting much of this, which I was largely watching to see how Ray Stevenson did in a lead role and how Lexi Alexander did in her own element (fights – she’s a former world karate and kickboxing champion, who even taught the US marines), but this was substantially worse than I was expecting. More or less everyone appears to be in it for the cash, particularly Dominic West, sporting possibly the worst Brooklyn accent committed to celluloid; Colin Salmon’s US accent isn’t much better, although Stevenson’s is acceptable. The violence is incredibly sadistic, although given the nature of the subject matter and the fact they’re trying to get closer to the comic, maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising. The writing is abysmal. Julie Benz is entirely wasted. Don’t watch. Well, watch this trailer to see how bad it is and how awful West’s accent is.

“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?

  • Punisher War Zone is hilariously awful. A truly bizarre attempt at translating Garth Ennis's over-the-top violence to celluloid, which leads to hilarious slapstick like Frank Castle putting a chair leg through someone's face. Hilarious when drawn by Steve Dillon, funny/awful when attempted in a film.

    Ray Stevenson is decent enough in it, he seems to be making a living as a character actor in various action movies (Book of Eli, Thor, etc) which is great as I loved him as Titus Pullo in Rome.

  • I was only really watching because of Stevenson's performances in Thor and Rome

  • Mark Carroll

    Mostly I've been working on season one of “Boardwalk Empire”. It seemed for a while to me to be well-made but not actually especially engaging. Mid-season, there was an episode I actually quite liked, so I'll see if that continues.

    I finished off season two of “The Killing”. It was quite good, worth watching overall, no worse than the first season. My wife much liked it.

    I watched “Community” but can't actually remember it, which isn't a great sign. “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” were both okay, and much as I've grown to expect. We have a new “House” coming tonight but I've obviously not yet seen that. We've been watching “Person of Interest” which, while a bit silly, and not something I'd seek out myself, hasn't actually bored or annoyed me.

    My wife watched “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” which I found passable but nothing special.

    We watched a NOVA with Brian Greene and quantum thingums which was actually rather better than I expected, even with lay treatment of things like hidden variables theories.

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