What did you watch this week? Including Arrow, 30 Rock, Banshee, Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe and Elementary

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: Archer, Arrow, Banshee, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, Cougar Town, Elementary, Go On, Modern Family, Mr Selfridge, Shameless, Spartacus, Suits, Top Gear and Vegas. These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

Don’t forget, UK readers – season 4 of Spiral aka Engrenages will start tomorrow on BBC4 at 9pm. Two episodes, of course. Anyone want episode-by-episode reviews?

I tried to watch Derek, Ricky Gervais’s new ‘comedy’, but after five minutes of offensive, unwatchable, poorly acted cobblers, we switched off. New Yes Prime Minister got given its notice after two episodes, because despite attempts to update it for modern politics, it still feels like an 80s show with 80s characters, yet at the same time isn’t faithful enough to them to work.

Still in the viewing queue: this week’s episode of The Doctor Blake Mysteries as well as most of House of Cards and The Carrie Diaries, which I suspect might never get watched. But that’s about it. Except for Community, which finally returned last night. Normally I’d just recommend it straight off, but without Dan Harmon as show runner, I’m going to watch the ep then decide, since the signs have not been good.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • 30 Rock: A pretty poor finale, redeemed by about 15 minutes of quality material. But then, that’s pretty much what the first episode was like, so that’s probably appropriate, and it did have some fun things to say about women, work and childcare at the same time. Goodbye Liz Lemon – you were great while you were here.
  • The Americans: A really good second episode that had all the good qualities of the first, but with added spy evilness on the part of the KGB/our heroes, as well as guest impersonations of Casper Weinberger and British defence secretary John Nott. The end part really makes you sympathise with the Soviets. Plus we finally have some actual Russians, speaking Russians, which contrasts well with ‘the Americans’ themselves.  
  • Arrow: On the plus side of Arrow, something I haven’t mentioned is that the producers have absolutely no reverence for the comics: they’ll use what they want and change what doesn’t fit. Case in point: the arrival of (spoiler)Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, this week. Now they’ve cast Spartacus‘s Manu Bennett in the role, simply because he’s so cool, and they’ve simply made his character Australian and a member of the Australian SIS as a result. Marvellous.
  • Banshee: Unlike Arrow, Banshee wants everyone to be American. So even though they’ve got a New Zealander in the lead role (he was one of the Wests in Outrageous Fortune) and a Dane as the villain, they’re still making them pretend to be Americans. Last week’s episode was a characteristic mix of the ludicrous and the great, so I encourage you all to give it a try.
  • Being Human (US): They’re starting to hint at an Aidan and Sally relationship, as per the original, I notice, which is intriguing. I’m also curious about what’s happened to Josh’s family, given he has no reason not to see them any more.
  • Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe: Basically, just like all his other Wipes but with less to say, a weird attempt at a collaborative movie review feature and a more inspired “reading out of comments from the Internet”. Not his best, but still watchable.
  • Cougar Town: Ooh! The writers remembered that everyone is supposed to have a job.
  • Elementary: An odd choice for the post-Superbowl episode, with very little to commend it, but last night’s featuring not just John Hannah in full Scottish mode but also an ex member of The Unit was a big improvement. It was also one of the first episodes that felt like a proper Holmes story, too, with a few references here and there to the originals. It also raised the intriguing suggestion that the reason that Holmes doesn’t feel like Holmes is because he needs drugs and now he’s sober, he’s not the man he used to be as a result. Could be a good narrative direction they’re going to go in there.
  • Spartacus: Julius Caesar has arrived! Otherwise, a largely unremarkable episode.
  • Suits: Two fabulous episodes made even more fabulous by Wendell Pierce (Bunk from The Wire) and the return of (spoiler alert)Daniel Hardman. Gives House of Cards a run for its money in terms of manipulations.
  • Vegas: A bit more for Carrie Anne Moss to do this week, but her character is so lifeless, that’s still not much. But a good episode and I wasn’t expecting many of the twists the show turned up this week, either.

“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?

  • Mark Carroll

    Without mentioning the unremarkable time-filling stuff …

    I'm watching “The Shadow Line” at the moment. It started out seeming awfully silly with people saying unlikely things in weird interactions, but it's sucked me in anyway.

    I'll let the family watch “Community” for me first. Ignorance may yet be bliss.

    I liked “Derek”. I'm not exactly the instigator of the watching, but it was okay and it seemed a lot more sympathetic to me than it did to you. I might just be insensitive.

    Huh, no “Spiral” season 3 in between the latest 2 repeat and the 4 showing. Maybe I missed it.

    I've been listening to Radio 4, too. My wife much likes “Cabin Pressure”, which is entertaining enough.

    Mmm, Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe thing hasn't been amazing but better than not having it at all.

  • ColumbaHVC

    I'd appreciate episode-by-episode reviews of Spiral Rob, but if I'm the only one I won't be too beaten up if you don't.

  • Rullsenberg

    Oh yes, me too re: Spiral, but don't feel pushed – you are a busy man!

  • Rullsenberg

    Charlie Brooker – this week had special significance for entirely personal reasons: they used some great Sky news clips from business people (hoping to get some gloomy prospects responses) and included amongst them was Jonathan from PageFortyFive, the awesome comic shop in Nottingham. Which had it's most successful year yet!!! Amidst the gloom, comics buck the trend.

  • I did a week by week review of The Shadow Line if you search back through the archives. It was a tad silly

  • aylwardreed

    Really? I thought the 30 Rock finale was excellent and capped off what has been a quite superb season. Great to see it going out on a high.

  • Yes, we both sat there feeling very bored and then when we realised it was a double-length episode, panic set in

  • aylwardreed

    Ah well, each to their own I guess.

  • Community was a mess, I'll have to reserve judgement for a couple more episodes. There was a Muppet Babies reference, which can't be bad.

    I've subscribed to Netflix for the month to watch House of cards, then I'm out again.

  • Am really enjoying Utopia. It is bonkers, bleak, and very funny at times… Also quite good at subverting expectations, which I always like.
    Also think Ripper Street very good. Matthew McFadyen particularly impressive in the last episode.
    And am really enjoying the new Being Human series… it feels like it's found its feet again, and I like the new set up, so it's a shame they're pulling the plug, as I think they've proved it has legs beyond the original threesome. Ho hum.. Phil Davies is awesomely creepy.

  • Still haven't seen it yet. That should probably tell me something.

  • Utopia and Ripper Street were both victims to my cramped viewing schedule, unfortunately, as was Black Mirror last night. Matthew McFadyen reminds me too much of Nick Briggs from Big Finish – aka the voice of the Daleks – for me to take him seriously though.

  • Mark Carroll

    We'll give Black Mirror a try, it's on the queue.

  • GYAD

    SPARTACUS WotD – Violence without meaning, sex as meat, cod Shakespearian dialogue and terrible acting.

    CARNIVALE – Like LOST, you get mystery after mystery but few answers. Best bit is the production design & cinematography.

    DANCING ON THE EDGE – A drama without any drama (no real conflict), combined with a clich�d/contrived attitude to race relations. Beautifully made but slow and pointless.

    THE FOLLOWING – Increasingly soap-ish, with only the duel between Purefoy and Bacon remaining interesting.

    NEW YES PRIME MINISTER – Tepid but intelligent. Its origins as a play is really hurting it dramatically.

  • Spartacus: But apart from that� No, really, it's one of those things you have to get over with Spartacus – the ridiculous violence, swearing and sex are this silly layer that sits on top of some clever plotting and scheming, typically by the Romans. I gave up on the show after the first three episodes because of its excesses, but people said it got better so I went back and they actually were right. The Guardian sums it up nicely: http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-a

    Dancing on the Edge: Stephen Poliakoff, isn't it? Nuff said.

  • bob

    Spartacus isn't as good as it used to be with John Hannah but it's still got a lot more going for it than sex and violence, I agree. It does have clever plotting and also I would say deep themes and trials for the characters. It's hugely impressive as a drama that is taking an epic story, a far cry from the small ambitions of the vast majority of tv.

    I feel quite amazed that such a work of art sprang up from the abysmal first few episodes. But not too amazed- Steven DeKnight has Whedonverse pedigree.

  • GYAD

    I've actually watched several episodes of Spartacus before, but the absence of John Hannah and Lucy Lawless really hurts the show. Ratings success has also led to an exaggeration of the worst parts of the show – the blood and sex – whilst the move out of gladiatorial combat has actually stunted a lot of the visual flare and clever action scenes it used to have.

  • GYAD

    I have to say, it's extremely impressive and I wish that other channels were inspired by Starz example. I'd love to see more historical epics on TV.