What did you watch this week? Including The Following, Spartacus, Mr Selfridge, Being Human (US) and Arrow

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, Archer, 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, Spartacus and Suits. These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

Being added to the list this week after rather a long time hovering close to the qualifying bar is Vegas – it’s not an absolute must-recommend but it’s about as good as network TV is probably ever going to be able to do with a period gangster show set in Las Vegas and it did have a cracker of an episode this week that managed to mix comedy with the nasty to great effect.

I’m also sticking Banshee on, even if it’s going to be a bit too ultraviolent for a lot of people and doesn’t exactly aim for verisimilitude a lot of the time. Spartacus is back and so is Top Gear: strange how the three presenters are great when they’re together, merely bearable when there’s two of them, and unbearable when it’s just one of them.

Some new shows started this week, none of which I had a chance to watch: The Americans, which has started on FX and has been acquired by ITV, which looks good but at two hours, was just a little bit too much for me to have caught in time; last night’s Do No Harm, which is a modern Jeckyll and Hyde story on NBC; BBC2’s Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe and Channel 4’s Derek with Ricky Gervais. I’ll review them all (or the first two at least) when I’ve had a chance to watch them, probably on Tuesday. Oh yes, and Netflix has the whole of the new House of Cards for us to watch, too.

Also in the viewing queue: this week’s episodes of Suits, 30 Rock and Yes Prime Minister. But that’s it.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • Archer: Timothy Olyphant from Justified is gay for Archer. As fun as always, with a great ending that used silence to maximum effect.
  • Arrow: I appreciate that the producers would probably rather be making ‘Batman: The Early Years’, but did they have to take an existing Green Arrow villain (Count Vertigo) and basically turn him into the Joker, even getting the actor to do an impression of Heath Ledger? Good ep though. The flashbacks could do with advancing the story a bit faster, now, and when are they going to make the IT/general purpose science girl a regular?
  • Being Human (US): Curious how they’re shifting the show’s power dynamics to make it more female-centric. Where once it was all about Aidan and Josh with Sally a bit of an after-thought (a bit like the original then), it’s now all about Aidan, Nora and Sally instead. Everything’s in flux though, so let’s see if they can stabilise with the new dynamic.
  • Bob Servant Independent: Tried watching it, but despite Brian Cox’s best efforts it’s the usual “small man in a small town trying to be big” stick that huge chunks of bad British comedy are based on. So I gave up.
  • The Carrie Diaries: Got about 10 minutes into episode two before we completely lost the ability to concentrate. We’ll try again but I suspect this is a definite dud.
  • The Following: Well, what an amazing turnround. After a deeply nasty first ep that was empty and full of misogyny, it’s like the producers have sat down, asked “What’s wrong with this show?” and done as much as they could to fix it. So they’ve amped up the characterisation, dropped a lot of the sadism, dropped the rubbish female character and added a couple of good and interesting female characters, added in some Scream meta-ness, and focused a lot more on character relationships. Don’t watch episode one, if I were you, but start watching from episode two instead. Assuming you fancy watching a show about Edgar Allen Poe-inspired serial killers, that is.
  • Go On: A good Lauren episode and a good expansion of the set up with some more incidental characters. But it really needs to get funnier if it’s too avoid cancellation, as well as drop a few of the more rubbish characters that are hogging up the screen time.
  • Mr Selfridge: The first downright poor episode of the show, more soap opera than drama, and with some terrible acting in some quarters. But still enjoyable and had a few interesting historical notes about ‘the rational dressing’ movement.
  • Spartacus: Usually, it takes the show two or three episodes before it settles down and stops being all about the swearing, sex and violence, and gets on with the plot. This season, they’ve leapt straight in with plot and characterisation. Yes, it’s still a blood-bath and there was an orgy or two – it is still Spartacus – but some clever plotting and writing and actually not much by way of ornate swearing for a change. Also featured Ty from The Almighty Johnsons in a bit part, which was odd.
  • Suits: A decent Louis episode but not as clever as in previous weeks.
  • Yes, Prime Minister: Episode two was a marked improvement on episode one, but watching re-runs of the original, it’s clear just how inferior the new version is, both in terms of writing and performance, and it’s actually a little offensive at times. All the same, it does have some insight and good qualities, so if you’ve nothing better to watch, try 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?

  • GYAD

    THE FOLLOWING – Didn't really feel the misogyny. Undertones of bog-standard plastic-pretty-people cast and contrived plots but good leads and fresh concept keep it interesting.

    CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS – Old US-Italian miniseries with Gabriel Byrne in the lead. Well produced, intelligently scripted and compelling, if slightly cheap.

    CARNIVALE – Don't care much for magic or the surly lead but it has a great cast, is beautifully shot and is very evocative.

    NEW 30 ROCK – Probably the best look inside the heads of NYC's cultural elite that we'll ever get.

    BOB SERVANT INDEPENDENT – Over-familiar and just plain unfunny, despite good cast.

    NEW YES, PRIME MINISTER – As you say, clearly not as good as it used to be but still entertaining and informative.

  • bob

    Ty! Excellent. I will look forward to that. Yes, I am a bit behind. But I did see Do No Harm. It was so bad. Sean Garrity (Rescue Me) should not be allowed to be a surgeon… The pilot was just full of cliches and not as much fun as it could have been. But I'm looking forward to episode 2. Am I crazy?

    Speaking of crazy, Seth Gabel did a great job in Arrow as Count Vertigo and the ending cracked me up big time as it left the door open for him to come back- but this time, he'll be insane. Insaner.

    Good to hear that episode 2 of the Following isn't as dreadful as episode 1 but still, that's 50% more misogynistic episodes than I like. (Yes, GYAD- I certainly felt uncomfortable with the treatment of women).

  • Mark Carroll

    I liked Carnivale quite a lot. It was at least mysterious and different and made its own kind of sense.

    Shame about Bob Servant Independent. I had it queued but I don't think I'll bother.

  • Mark Carroll

    We have Derek and Charlie Brooker still to watch too, and I think we're a Suits behind. We've caught up with Once Upon a Time which seems about as ever; it's sufficiently entertaining.

    I watched Michael Portillo do more of his train journey stuff, which was okay, and a strange show with a loosely-practising Muslim lady in Britain talking to women who'd converted to Islam, which I didn't find to be much of a source of extra insight.

    Top Gear was also about as expected; I would like it to be a little more about cars, perhaps, but we don't get Discovery so it's not like Fifth Gear is an alternative.

  • Do No Harm review coming up today or tomorrow, now I've seen it. Not that there's much point with the lowest ever recorded ratings for a mid-season debut�

  • The misogyny is having a succession of female victims who are there to be naked and/or mutilated and/or killed, only one strong female character ��who also hates the hero and is boring – with the remaining female characters being 'sinful transgressors' (the adulteress wife or just plain evil). But the second episode gets rid of rubbish strong female character in favour of two good strong female characters, gets rid of (most of) the mass murder and torture of women or at least stops revelling in it, and makes adulteress woman have her 'affair' after her divorce (little bit of retcon there). Still not a great show, but at least not as anti-women as it was.

  • GYAD

    Ah. I can't really say I felt the same way: female victims made sense, to me at least, as the serial killer was a heterosexual male influenced by Gothic literature; the wife's adultery never felt like it was being depicted as sinful (if anything the reverse, as the husband was the evil one whilst the lover was the hero); and the tedious female cop felt more like misjudged feminism than anything else.

    I've got the second episode recorded and I'll be interested to see how the story and the female characters develop.

  • GYAD

    Yeah, I'm liking the mysteries being set up and the unusual setting in Carnivale.

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