What did you watch this week? Including Quartet, Blandings, Father Brown, Being Human (US), Suits, My Mad Fat Diary and Way To Go

It’s “What did you watch this week?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this 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, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, Don’t Trust The B—– in Apartment 23, Cougar Town, Elementary, Go On, Last Resort, Modern Family, Mr Selfridge, Shameless, Suits and The Wedding Band.

With more than a few shows already in the watch queue and the return of the likes of Shameless, Arrow, Suits and Being Human (US) expanding it vastly, I had to take take executive action and (based in part on some of your recommendations or lack thereof) decided I wasn’t going to bother either starting or continuing with Ripper Street, Restless, Borgen, Cracked, Deception, and 1600 Penn. Life’s too short. Despite that, Hard, A Young Doctor’s Notebook and Spies of Warsaw are still sitting on the Sky+ box, waiting to be watched, I haven’t even started on Channel 4’s Utopia (no one else has either, apparently, judging by the ratings) and the penultimate The Wedding Band is waiting my perusal. The Carrie Diaries – the prequel to Sex and the City set during her high school years and featuring Freema Agyeman of Doctor Who – is awaiting my wife and some stiff drinks. Hopefully, I’ll get round to new Yes, Prime Minister, too, although everyone says it’s rubbish.

I did give a few new shows a try though:

Based in part on the rather funny PG Wodehouse novels and starring Jennifer Saunders, Mark Williams and Timothy Spall. Now, the books themselves aren’t exactly hard-hitting bits of realism, but there’s nothing worse than a comedy in which everyone involved (with the exception of the above-mentioned) is grinning and acting like idiots because they know the whole thing is silly. So I gave up after 10 minutes. Absolutely horrendous and twee.

Father Brown
Mark Williams again, this time starring in another series of adaptations of classic novels: in this case, GK Chesterton’s Father Brown stories about a vicar who investigate crimes in his parish. This is being stripped five episodes a week by BBC Daytime and has all the qualities of a Radio 4 afternoon play (I guess the same sort of people will be watching as listen to those): it’s dull, badly acted, poorly characterised and has as ‘issue’ that needs to be dealt with, in this case homophobia. Didn’t make a lick of sense either and there was surprisingly little Father Brown in it, who showed very little of the “steel trap” mind for which he was so notable. One for if you’re stuck at home during the day and have nothing else to watch, I think. Here’s the first episode to try, just in case it might float your boat.

My Mad Fat Diary
Growing up in the 90s must have been hard if you were a mentally ill, overweight teenage girls. Apparently. Ian Hart’s good as the girl in question’s therapist, but I didn’t get further than 10 minutes through this to find out if it had any other redeeming qualities.

Way To Go
Three down-at-heel, down-on-their-luck blokes decide to set up an assisted suicide business. In common with a lot of shows on BBC3, it’s not very good at all, despite having been written by US-writer Bob Kushell (The Simpsons, Third Rock…) and featuring Blake Harrison of The InBetweeners, but that’s largely down to both the filming and the cast, which both work against any actual comedy occurring. It also falls victim to the other “US writer discovers British creative freedoms” syndrome – a substitution of things that would be banned on US TV for things that might be funny.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • Arrow: A bit of a return to form, although a somewhat predictable A-plot, dealing with our hero’s case of the yips. Quite why a (spoiler)fire-damaged fireman in a protective suit should be more handy in a fight than Arrow, I don’t know. I do have to wonder when Dinah Lance is going to Black Canary up (or do anything exciting), too, since she’s not got much to do at the moment.
  • Being Human (US): the original British show is now just a dot in the distance as its Canadian/US cousin strikes off in completely differently directions. There were three cliffhangers at the end of last season and thankfully they’ve all been resolved in completely unpredicted ways. While’s Aidan’s resolution is both a gamechanger and convenient, Sally’s is going to be interesting and Josh’s could go anywhere. Certainly a step above season three of the British series by several miles.
  • Cougar Town: What can I say? It’s on, it’s comfortable, it’s basically the US version of Last of the Summer Wine, just 20 years earlier and with more wine.
  • The Daily Show: Any particular reason why, when The Daily Show decided to visit The Newsroom, that they didn’t speak to former correspondent Olivia Munn? Conspiracy theorists: on your marks, get set, go…!
  • Don’t Trust The B—-: Thankfully, ABC is ending its policy of showing two episodes of the show a week. While not a bad idea in theory, the problem is that the Sunday episodes were all unaired episodes from season one, which meant that almost two different shows were airing: one in which our heroines are barely friends, nice girl is still working at the coffee shop and Chloe the bitch is actually still quite evil, the other in which we catch up to a less edgy but somewhat nicer show that seems more comfortable in itself.
  • Go On: Welcome back Chandler Bing. I wondered how long it would be before they gave our supposedly alpha male sports fun a few more ‘feminine’ traits and here we’ve hit pay-dirt. A few twists on relationships that I wasn’t expecting, and I have to ask: where does US TV keep finding these attractive yet incredibly wooden British actresses with cut-glass accents?
  • Last Resort: All very exciting and such, but a bit less daring than I expected and they seem to have left a lot to be crammed into the finale. I do hope this isn’t going to be a rush job.
  • Modern Family: Starting to find its mojo again and featuring some lovely moments, particularly between Hayley and Phil.
  • Mr Selfridge: Mercifully shorter than episode one and with more for Grégory Fitoussi to do as well, beyond the usual problem of dodgy acting, another pretty much perfect episode.
  • Suits: Hooray! One of the best shows on TV is back. The starts of some decent plots here, but I do worry that Louis is getting a little too silly to be plausible.
  • Shameless: A little too comfortable a start for the show, which was a bit edgier in previous seasons, but some standout moments, especially those relating to Jimmy/Steve and (spoiler)his father in law.
  • Vegas: After dragging its feet into a proper serial story, things are starting to speed up now. Virtually all the cast, including Carrie Anne Moss, now have something to do, too. One more good ‘un and it’ll be on the recommended list.

And, in movies:

Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, set in a retirement for musicians. Into the home comes the ex-wife of one of the residents and all hell breaks loose. An impressive cast that includes Tom Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins and Billy Connolly, as well as Sheridan Smith as the manager of the home and Andrew Sachs as another of the residents, the film is beautifully shot and despite a few good lines, also quite astonishingly dull. My mother-in-law turned to me halfway through, almost in tears at how dull it was. Still, it does have a few things to say about old age and it not being the end of everything.

However, I will confess that when the credits rolled and youthful pictures of everyone in the movie – it’s populated by actual musicians and singers who were in very important productions and orchestras in their heyday – rolled past, emphasising that for most of them, this would be the last thing of renown they would ever be involved in (slightly neutralising the message of the movie), I did blub rather a lot.

“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?