What did you watch last week? Including Argo, Bomb Girls, Redfern Now, Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 and Men in Black 3

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

First, the usual recommendations: 30 Rock, Arrow, Don’t Trust The B—– in Apartment 23, Go On, The Last Resort, and Modern Family.

Still in the viewing pile: this weekend’s Dexter and The Wedding Band, and a queue of Strike Back and 30 Rock that’s as long as your arm. But here’s a few thoughts on what I have been watching.

  • Arrow: A bit of a down-tick in quality, the show essentially being about why the Arrow starts fighting ordinary crime, rather than just rich people, and largely suffering from a whole heap of silliness as a result. But even bad Arrow episodes are still quite good.
  • Bomb Girls: A Canadian period series set in World War 2 in Canada. Currently airing on ITV3. I missed it when it aired in Canada, but I’m not that fussed, since although it seemed a reasonable show of its type and it had James McGowan from The Border in it, there weren’t many characters to draw me in.

  • Don’t Trust The B—– in Apartment 23: A topical one this, tied into People’s Sexiest Man of the Year issue. The first episode in a while to tie back into the idea that the B—– is a con-woman, not just insensitive, it was another fun watch.
  • Elementary: The first of the Keith Szarabajka projects of the week, this went largely in the directions expected of it, although with a few twists here and there. The show’s largely finding its feet now and remembering it’s Sherlock Holmes, not just a procedural. Separating up Holmes and Watson so Watson could investigate Irene Adler was a bold move, but it worked. Not sure about the ending, but it would fit in nicely with the idea that she is one of the only people capable of fooling Holmes. Or he could be lying.
  • Go On: Has acquired a new title sequence for no good reason. It’s not the worst title sequence ever – The Mindy Project has that – but it’s odd that it’s now getting one after all this time. A well-handled episode that possibly introduced a new character, but nothing extraordinary.
  • Happy Endings: Sad to say, but I’m giving up on this. It’s just not funny any more and they’ve messed around too much with Max, so I’ve deleted it from the queue.
  • Homeland: Not quite as ridiculous as last week, but it’s now so 24-ish, it’s impossible to take seriously. Plus it has one of the daftest sex scenes you’ll have seen in a while.
  • The Last Resort: The first episode without much action fun to keep things going, it also buckled a bit under the strain of the smuggler narrative.
  • The Mindy Project: Getting funnier again, but it does have the worst title sequence ever. Hard to tell if this was shown out of chronological order or not, because there were lines in it that didn’t make sense this late in the run.
  • Misfits: Off the viewing list as well. It’s lost its purpose now, not having any particular story to tell or any particularly interesting characters to tell it with. The cast try their best, but it’s not fun and it’s quite misogynistic.
  • Modern Family: A good one. Matthew Broderick did well.
  • Redfern Now: A The Street-like Australian show that Jimmy McGovern had a hand in shaping and featuring an Aboriginal cast and set in a Sydney suburb. While the first episode, which dealt with one woman’s attempts to look after her mentally ill sister’s children, did have its bleaker moments, this was more a look at triumph in adversity. Not something that’s really up my street (ho, ho), but a decent enough show for what it is. Worth a try if you’re looking for something a little different.

  • Suburgatory: Off the viewing list. Not really satirical or even funny any more.
  • Vegas: The best episode since the first one. Carrie-Anne Moss finally got something to do and with the introduction of Michael Chiklis’ wife, there’s almost a separate female narrative that runs parallel to the main male one, which is an interesting historical twist. The original theme of the different shades of grey of the two protagonists got a re-viewing as well and I liked the obvious parallels to the original JFK election debate, too. Perilously close to the recommend list, now.

And in movies:

  • Argo: The second Keith Szarabajka project of the week, this one a tad more appropriate to a former star of The Equalizer. Here he plays a smaller part in a film based on the true story of how the CIA extracted six Americans from Iran during the 1979 Revolution by faking a science-fiction movie called Argo. Beautifully directed by the lead, Ben Affleck, it’s tense and funny in equal measure, with some frightening scenes of crowd violence and some wonderful recreations of LA in the 1970s that actually make you wonder “how did they do that?” more than most CGI in sci-fi blockbusters. The 1970s Warner Bros logo is a delight and they even get Jimmy Carter at the end, but the fact that practically everyone in it has been in a TV show I’ve watched at some point was distracting (Oh, it’s her from Homeland… Breaking Bad… The Mindy Project… Alias… Damages…!). Recommended, though.

  • Men In Black 3: A real surprise. While it takes a while to really get going and it lacks the energy of the previous two, it’s certainly a whole lot more original than the second one. Josh Brolin is great as young Tommy Lee Jones. There’s also some real pathos at the end. If you’ve given it a miss since you think you know what it’ll be like, give it a try – you might be surprised.

  • Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2: While it suffers largely from the same problems as the previous movies in the franchise – too long, not much happening, not enough time spent on developing the secondary characters – this does at least have a decent, extended fight scene and Bella changes from being a wet domestic abuse victim to something a whole lot more kick ass, thankfully. I watched this in a screening packed full of teenage girls and it turns out that teenage girls en masse have forgiven Kristen Stewart for whatever ‘sins’ she might have committed, and that not only do they like ‘an eye for an eye’, they’re also partial to a decapitation or two, judging by the whoops and cheers. That might be just a SE London thing, though. They also get a bit embarrassed by on-screen sex. Possibly the most gruesome of the movies, it’s also slightly spoilt by Michael Sheen going colossally over the top, but otherwise, it’s surprisingly not bad.

“What did you watch last 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

    Thank you, I'll add “Argo” to the list.

    I watched that thing — something like, “Islam: The Untold Story” — with the guy who thinks the evidence that Mohammad set out from Mecca and conquered all these things for Islam is rather thin. It took twenty minutes to get going at all and had the most irritating visual rubbish. If one distills out of it any interesting actual content … it felt like an interesting idea that was a bit too thinly justified. I'd have liked to see more actual experts weigh in.

    We still watch “HIGMNFY”, “QI: XL”, “Homeland”; they're staying on the list.

    A while ago the BBC showed an ELO concert from Wembley in 1978. It was actually quite good, if one likes that sort of thing.

    I'm finally getting around to watching “A Very British Coup”. It's okay so far, but I've liked other such British political dramas more.

    I'm sure there must be something else, but it's not coming to mind.

  • I have not seen spoiler text in a while, Rob. Thanks for that, made me smile. I agree that Elementary is so much better than I thought it would be. Let's see how they stand up to a 22 episode season.

  • bob

    I think this is my favourite Misfits series since the first. It's just as strong as ever and I have liked all the characters in this series. Never liked Alisha or Simon…

  • A Very British Coup gets a lot better towards the end, IIRC. But it's a bit more a product of its time than House of Cards, say.

  • I keep forgetting about spoiler text. I think Elementary has the possibility to last a long time, simply because they're dripping out Holmes references so slowly, they could keep going for years at this rate. I don't think they've even remade a single Conan Doyle story so far.

  • It feels more and more like it's just there to give Joe Gilgun things to do to the exclusion really of everyone and everything else. They had the same problem with Robert Sheehan in the second series, more or less. It's also gone more or less completely standalone and lost the few serial elements it used to have, and despite all the murders, nothing feels very consequential: yes, you can tie up your girlfriend for weeks at a time, but she won't be that fussed; yes, you can murder people all the time, but no one will notice they've disappeared; yes, everyone on an estate can have superpowers, but no one in the rest of the world is going to notice; and so on.

  • SK

    The first series was good because it took the Skins formula of each episode being basically a self-contained story focused on one of the characters, where their power was the central metaphor, and there were a few serial elements that were tied up at the end.

    It should have stopped there, really, because whereas the first series was 'saying things with the characters' every series since has been 'finding stuff for the characters to do.'

  • GYAD

    FALCON – Flashy but underwhelming. Seville never got the attention it deserved, the women lacked Latin poise, and the only developed character was the lead. Hopefully this is simply early steps as there is a lot of promise (and I like Charlie Creed-Miles!).

    SECRET STATE – Absolutely laughable. Took itself too seriously and thought it was very clever but full of scenes where people behaved in completely unreal ways. Also, the conspiracy itself is so over the top and one-dimensional that it almost feels like a parody of left-wing conspiracy thrillers (the baddies aren't just Americans – they're Texans!).

    THE KILLING III – Hooray! Well-directed, well-acted, well-written drama. I was hooked from the first sign of Sarah Lund's new sweater to the brilliant end theme.

    THE SHIELD S5 – I watched too many of these too quickly when I first discovered it, which burnt me out halfway through. So now I'm coming back and watching what I missed. It's fantastic. Great characters, thrilling action, a nice mix of tones, constant surprises and no political correctness. It's hard to watch any other US cop show after watching this.

  • I think series 2 was quite missable, in retrospect, but series 3 did at least have a story arc

  • Falc�n, like Wallander, basically employs the “foreigners are just like Brits in character, if not culture” technique. So while the characters are foreign and have foreign cultural issues, the actors are never asked to be 'Spanish' or 'Swedish'. It's the performance mirror of the same thing they do with the languages.

  • Julia Williams

    My two eldest are long over Twilight, but they both went to see Breaking Dawn anyway. Mainly to laugh. Eldest said it was surprisingly better then she thought, but main action scene she liked not in book & then was a dream. So she felt cheated.
    I've been watching Young Apprentice.I think the kids they get on it are often quite talented, even if they squabble alot. Given the time they had to produce a cookbook the other week, I thought they did very well for amateurs, even if the losing team ignored the market research:-)
    Loving Dara O'Brian's Science Club. FOr a complete ignoramus I'm learning a lot in a fun way.
    And Hebburn. Still loving Hebburn.

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