What did you watch last week? Including Political Animals, Covert Affairs, Wallander, The Newsroom, Perception and Line of Duty

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 I’ve missed them.

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

Also being added to the list this week (with some reservations) is The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing-but-with-journalists TV show within a TV show. It’s still very flawed; white, usually middle-aged men are still the heroes, with everyone else orbiting around them and glorifying their names; and the whole Bigfoot thing in the latest episode was beyond ridiculous. But this was the first episode that really felt fun, that dialled all these flaws down to a minimum, that actually made me like Olivia Munn a lot, and that didn’t feel that smug at all. Worth tuning in if you miss The West Wing.

Ken Branagh’s Wallander is back on as well, although I’ve only seen the first of the two episodes that have been broadcast so far. Although the absence of Tom Hiddleston (Loki from Thor/Avengers Assemble) is keenly felt, this was the first episode from the three series so far that I felt actually worked as both a proper crime story and a Wallander story, rather than simply a great big hour and a half version of ‘The Scream’, in which a guy with minimal understanding of police procedure twats around and falls over his own feet a lot. While there was a certain element of that (spoiler: Wallander’s breaking into the yard), it was a decent story, well executed. I’m not sure if that’s because it was only based on a short story, so the script writers had to fill in the blanks himself or herself, rather than relying on Mansell’s apparently sketchy approach to police procedure. Added to the recommended list anyway.

A new show and some returning shows appeared on the radar and I’ve given them a try, at least:

  • Political Animals: Basically, a parallel universe in which Sigourney Weaver is Hillary Clinton, Ciaran Hinds is Bill Clinton, and after Hillary loses the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama, she asks Bill for a divorce. Everyone involved seems to find this all very funny and entertaining, in a cheeky schoolboy, “look how naughty I am!” kind of way, even Weaver, but I lost interest after about 10 minutes, just after the Russian foreign minister goosed pseudo-Hillary at a press conference.

  • Covert Affairs: there have been changes promised and as well as the death of one regular and the welcome arrival of Sarah Clarke (Nina Myers from 24) as Piper Perabo’s new, kick ass, women-power boss, we have the somewhat surprising casting of Richard Coyle – yes, Jeff the Welsh one from Coupling – as a Cambridge-educated, billionaire super-spy, who used to be in the Russian special forces. Hmmm, that’s not entirely plausible, is it? I wouldn’t say it’s that much better than it was before – even the death of the aforementioned regular had the emotional impact of being told that your local convenience store is out of Bran Flakes – but it was intriguing enough for me to want to watch the next episode, particularly since the first episode was not only set in Morocco, but actually filmed in Morocco, rather than the Mojave Desert, which is the usual way of these things.

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

  • Burn Notice: Nice to see Painkiller Jane/Terminator 3‘s Terminatrix Kristanna Loken getting some work again from someone other than Uwe Boll, but even though it’s innovating, it still feels like it’s going through the motions.
  • Continuum: After last week’s lacklustre effort, we’re back on form again, albeit one that only lightly touched on the series arc. Guest starring Tahmoh Penikett from BSG and Dollhouse (I suspect he’ll be back in future episodes), we got a fleshing out of sidekick’s character and most important of all, the return of the suit and some decent sci-fi concepts.
  • Line of Duty: Such a shame. Episode three started so well. It wasn’t as ridiculous as it had been in previous episodes, there was progression, character development. It was almost going to end up on the recommended list. Then something so stupid happened (spoiler: Lennie James is kidnapped by the drug dealers) that I had to abandon it in disgust.
  • Perception: although a somewhat format-bound show, there were more than a few sparks of intelligence in the second episode. As predicted, we did have a guest syndrome, although not in the way I predicted it, and so the show actually managed to come up with a plot I’d never seen before (unless I squint at one of the worst episodes of CSI: Miami that was ever made). BSG‘s Jamie Bamber is a welcome addition, although he sounds like a complete tool with his normal accent for some reason. And they’re playing with the hallucination side of things pretty well, too. Worth watching then for what they do on top of the formula, rather than the formula itself, I think.
  • Royal Pains: The return of Boris to the main plot is to be welcomed, as is the (spoiler) reintegration of Hank into the Hankmed family so that all the regulars are in one place. But Paige’s storyline needs some work and Reshma Shetty needs acting classes urgently.
  • Suits: Really, this is the top show on TV right now, so you should be watching it. Good to see the return of Eric Close as the only guy who can mess with Harvey and the Louis sub-plot is being handled well. The minor complaint, as always, is that it’s all very ‘male gaze’, even when dealing with the strong female characters.

Still to watch on the Sky box: Mesrine – Killer Instinct and Sinbad. Still. Plus Sky Arts 2’s Maison close, which started on Sunday. Anyone catch it?

“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?


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.