What did you watch last fortnight? Including Parents, Romanzo Criminale and Drive

Sky 1's Parents

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

The usual recommendations from the first-run shows are: Continuum, The Daily Show, Suits and Prisoners of War. Hunt them down.

Here’s a few thoughts on those and what else I’ve been watching:

  • Burn Notice: Continues to tread slightly away from its formula, so I’m countenancing watching it again.
  • Wilfred: Is now just dark, not funny at all, so I gave up after the first 10 minutes of episode two.
  • Suits: Loving the Hardman narrative and that they’re starting to explore the secondary characters more. The must-see show of the week.
  • Continuum: Starting to weaken a little, now most of the SF elements have been stripped from the present-day side of things. But still a pretty good show, and Rachel Nichols is an involving lead.
  • Men At Work: Thought I’d give it a try again since Alex Breckenridge was in last week’s episode, but they gave her one funny line, and the rest of the show was as desperately unfunny as the previous episodes I saw.
  • Parents: I must remember that although Sky Atlantic is getting better, Sky 1 is merely trying to get better. Despite the presence of Sally Phillips and Tom Conti, this is a really poor sitcom about Phillips getting fired from her job and being forced to move herself and her family back in with her parents. Couldn’t even survive one episode, although Phillips is as excellent as always and it did have a few decent touches.
  • The Newsroom: Dear God, what is up Sorkin’s writing of female characters. Quite a poor episode, too, that had me yawning for most of it, and it comes to something that Olivia Munn was actually the least annoying actress on the show (Emily Mortimer and Alison Pill beating her on that score). I’m hoping last night’s episode was better
  • Line of Duty: Episode two was marginally less ludicrous than episode one, but most of the flaws are the same, particularly the lead’s lack of charisma. But it did have a very interesting cliffhanger, so I’ll be sticking around for episode three.
  • Romanzo Criminale: Sky Arts is currently repeating what is supposedly Italy’s finest TV show. This is a very low bar indeed, apparently, because this tale of the Mafia in the Rome of the 70s was so laughably ridiculous, I switched off after 10 minutes. I think there’s an intended level of humour to it, but it was just plain daft.
  • Royal Pains: Marginally improving, but the departure of Jill Flint in a typically unresolved, undramatic way signalled a sharp downturn in quality for the last episode.
  • Prisoners of War: It’s interesting to see what elements of this were retained for Homeland, since they are both similar and different. No terrorist plot and no real Carrie character for the original, but still enough elements retained by the remake that you can still see how much the remake owes to its originator.
  • Alan Partridge: The two new Sky Atlantic episodes both contained a good number of funny moments, but I didn’t think the episodes as great as everyone else seems to. But a good deal funnier than Parents.
  • Coming Here Soon: BBC3 does investigative reporting. Give me strength. Just horrendous. Like a lot of BBC3 shows, this has a good concept at its core – here, it’s let’s go and talk to the people on the ground about how the economic crisis is affecting real people in different countries – and then in an attempt to get young people to watch it, puts a suitable young person with no training or perceivable talent beyond an ability to talk to other people in the role of reporter. Here we had Stacey Dooley tackling Greece – someone who thinks the Parthenon is the Akropolips (sic) and who “totally, totally gets” the situation. While she had a certain gumption and the show did manage to speak to some useful spokespeople, it was so utterly bereft of any ability to ask any probing questions of those it had concluded had done Greek society wrong, that you might as well have sent a tape recorder instead – and then ignored it and simply passed judgement anyway. As a sample, in an interview with a Greek politician who said there were basically two ways to resolve the crisis – a bad way and a very bad way and the politicians had had to go for the first option, all Dooley could do was say after the interview was over “I don’t understand how people can do this.” What option would she have picked or does she disagree with the fundamentals of the politician’s premise? Who knows. It’s just A Bad Thing and politicians should only do Good Things using their special magic powers. Judging by the BBC3 blog on the subject, I’m not the only one who thought it was a bit of a waste of time.
  • Blackout: No, not the SyFy gameshow but BBC1 trying to do noir with Christopher Ecceleston (currently appearing as quite a poor Creon in Antigone at the National at the moment. Sigh) and apparently that means renting out an old copy of Dark City. Possibly a good script in there, although given that the way to indicate Ecclescake is an alcoholic is to have him with a drink in his hand at all times and having is wife comment on it so not the subtlest of scripts if it is, but the direction is so effected and stupid, that it’s impossible to pay any attention to its possible saving graces.

And in movies:

  • The Ghost: Essentially, one of the least thrilling thrillers ever, with Ewan McGregor as a ghost-writer hired to edit the memoirs of Pierce Brosnan’s Blair-like former PM, following the demise of the previous ghost-writer in suspicious circumstances. Sometimes funny, with one good twist, but that’s about it.

  • Drive: Starring that Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, who are both so hot right now, this is a La Samourai-esque thriller about a taciturn getaway driver who’s empty existence is turned upside down by a waitress he meets and her ex-husband. Surprisingly little driving but a whole lot of ultra-violence, it’s a beautifully shot and intelligent thriller with a great cast that includes Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman. Not to everyone’s taste, but if you can stomach a little blood and do look the occasional tense car chase, this is one movie that is very definitely worth watching. Incidentally, it’s free on Netflix – yes a decent recent movie on Netflix: how extraordinary. The trailer does give away almost all of the movie, mind.

Still to watch: Mesrine – Killer Instinct, starring the always reliable Vincent Cassel, in a French gangster mini-series that has already aired on FX but is now on BBC4. Anyone seen it? Also on the Sky box is the latest Ken Branagh Wallander and Sinbad, which looks fun and has that nice Naveen Andrews from Lost as a baddie.

“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?

  • The other David

    Lost internet for about a week, so I'm a little backed up, but I have to agree that Line of Duty is not all that great — so-so, but not great. With no more of Ms. McKee to be seen, like you, I'll be giving it one more episode a chance, but it's not looking good.

    Like you, I tried Blackout and was looking forward to seeing Christopher Ecceleston, but, yes, the 'constant drink in the hand' thing was a overdone, and the constant rain look (was that supposed to give a pseudo-noir look to it?) was tiresome. I was pleased to see Lyndsey Marshal in it, but I had to keep reminding myself she wasn't playing Lady Sarah Hill (from Garrow's Law). Although I did like her hair style on her, but that's not enough to keep me sticking around with it.

    The new Branagh Wallander is interesting, but I can't decide whether they're trying to stuff this Wallander back into his box or go in a new direction. If it's the former, I'll be disappointed. But if the later, it could be interesting.

    Haven't caught up with Continuum or Newsroom, but am looking forward to them.

    Movies: Saw part of Certified Copy and enjoyed the parts I could understand (I don't speak French or Italian). But that was mainly because it's got Juliette Binoche, who is speaking English which wasn't all that heavily French accented (which surprised me — see Jet Lag). I'm looking forward to the rest of the movie once I can get some decent subtitles for the non-English parts.

    Yes, I've seen Mesrine. While I like Vincent Cassel (see him at his most f'd up in Dobermann), I wasn't all impressed with either of the Mesrines. They're alright, just nothing I'd write home to mom about.

  • Mark Carroll

    I'll stick with Suits for season two and give Drive a try. Mostly I have things waiting to be watched, as I'm away from home at present.

    We did see Avatar (at last) and Brave, both of which felt fairly unsurprising and unremarkable but passed the time. Brave could have done with feeling a little less Disney; there was one song in particular that made me roll my eyes, but I'm probably not the target audience. I think the kids rather liked them both though.