What did you watch this fortnight? Including Banshee, The Americans, Mr Selfridge, Hitchcock and Silver Linings Playbook

It’s “What did you watch this week fortnight?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week fortnight 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:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Engrenages/Spiral (BBC4/Netflix)
  • Top Gear (BBC2/BBC America)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

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

Surprising, despite my time away, I’ve actually managed to get my viewing queue down to more or less nothing: last night’s Shameless (US) and This Is Kevin. I’ve even found time to watch some more House of Cards, which I note is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray. Buy it, it’s really good. 

Admittedly, to get back on track, I’ve had to drop Red Widow (ABC), Lightfields (ITV) and Broadchurch (ITV) from the viewing queue before I’d even started watching them, and Shetland (BBC) didn’t even get a look-in, but such is life.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars (fingers crossed, reviews of the final four episodes of Spiral – bloody BBC4 – tomorrow):

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): The first of the two episodes since last entry was actually the first rubbish one so far: it was entirely obvious what the twist was and the counter-trap laid by the FBI was clumsy. The second was much better, showing us for the first time what Matthew Rhys’ character gave up and that no spy can truly be trusted to tell the truth. The Russian dubbing was a bit poor, though.  
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): A strong finish to the season with the typical violence we’ve come to expect and virtually all the loose plot threads brought together at the end. Add on some creepy Amish incest and Banshee season two (coming 2014) looks like it’ll be worth watching. Not quite sure why that video didn’t go viral, though.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Zombies are so hot right now. But I think it’s a misstep. Plus that vaccine was remarkably easy to come by.
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): Good to see the Travis/Lori relationship being developed. And the Alanis Morisette episode was a nice callback to the cast’s previous work and the Cox/Springsteen episode.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV): Two eps, the second of which was a little bit blah, beyond the continuing development of Blake’s moving relationship with his housekeeper. The first was a more intriguing piece dealing with the death penalty and featured some early forensic science. I like how Blake isn’t afraid to proclaim himself a scientist, a period statement if ever there was one.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Features a The Wire reunion. Otherwise, same old, same old.
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS): A slightly limp ending to the season, with Jeremy Piven not proving up to the challenge of delivering lines in anything less than a Barnum style and far too much time spent over the season on soap opera intrigues. All the same, the play at the end was a welcome bit of acid to the normal proceedings and David Calder, whom I almost didn’t recognise, was fantastic as the King. Will I watch if Gregory Fitoussi isn’t back next year, though? I think not.  
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): Fiona’s speech last week was a powerful moment, whereas this week’s episode is far more comedic (in a good way). 
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Odd how unlikable Sherman has become. That’s good character development for you. Mind you, my mother in law has given up watching it now because it’s making her sad to see what’s happening to all the characters she liked.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1):Tying into history well and good to see Romans who aren’t complete idiots for a change, particularly Caesar. Not long to go now, but we all know where it’s heading, so it should be an interesting few episodes. Hopefully, not more ‘rape as a character point’, though, please?

And in movies, which I saw a few of on a teeny tiny screen in the back of a chair:

  • Lincoln: Essentially two and half hours of historical talking that’s less exciting than an episode of The West Wing. A brilliant performance from Daniel Day Lewis and eye-opening in terms of the legal manoeuvers that Lincoln and others used to indulge in back then, but not as involving as it should be.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Good central performances from everyone (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles and even Chris Rock), with Cooper and Lawrence two mentally damaged people who offer to help each other on the road to recovery. But it’s an unempathising, predictable movie with the standard message that crazy is more interesting than normal and that leaves you cold beyond the normal romcom parameters. Plus Cooper and Lawrence is a little bit too May to December to avoid a certain amount of queasiness.
  • Hitchcock: Surprisingly jaunty for a movie about the true story of the making of a movie based on a real-life serial killer and in which the director has a peep hole into his leading ladies’ dressing rooms. Anthony Hopkins is surprisingly light as Hitch compared to Toby Jones in The Girl, Scarlett Johansson is aces but perhaps a little too self-possessed as Janet Leigh while Helen Mirren is great as Hitchcock’s real-life partner in crime Alma, who was as much responsible for the success and quality of his movies as her husband was. Nice touch to have it book-ended in the style of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, too. 
  • Van Helsing: Possibly the worst movie ever made

“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?

  • The last time you did one of these, I might have said that that week's Community wasn't too bad. Well, the following episode was just terrible; I'm yet to watch the one after. I will stick it out until it's inevitable, blessed cancellation.

    BTW, I don't think I made it past the ten minute mark with Van Helsing.

  • Mark Carroll

    I'm still avoiding “Community”, preferring to remember it as being a good show. I'm glad to know that “Banshee” is well worth keeping on the list.

    The “Top Gear” Africa special stuff was reasonable; I think I've liked the series a bit more again lately. “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” keep ambling along quite acceptably; they've not yet descended into the downhill that makes me question the value of further episodes. “Suits” I'm liking slightly less lately, but it's still good to watch, and has some good character moments. “CSI” is ambling along quite well too, perhaps as filler, but one of the better such shows.

    I'm liking “The Americans” but I'm probably an episode behind you. We finished off “Cabin Pressure” and it stayed pretty reliably good throughout.

    We've been watching some old stuff. The “House of Cards” trilogy, while it ends well, and with the central characters after all the screen-time making sense, I do think the first season the best. With the “Alien” quadrilogy, I am thinking that, while they are all good, the first remains the best and, moreover, is sufficient. We're into “Yes Minister” too which ambles along quite acceptably; I'm enjoying it, but it may not help that I remember it too well.

    We've also been watching “Babylon 5”. It's a good show. We're in the first season. It has failings, principally that it's dreadful at humour, and a number of the more significant lines are so cheesy that they belong in a Marvel comic, but the overall plotting and character development make it worthwhile. It also helps that episodes tend to have a couple of subthreads so, if one's not all that great, at least there's the other.

  • I was stuck on a coach for four and a half hours with it. I had no choice.

  • Re: B5. It's only after about Signs and Portents in the first season that there are hints of it getting good. The end of the season and thereafter are much better.

    Banshee's ridiculous, insanely violent but great. I think that sums it nicely.

  • GYAD

    30 ROCK – Brilliantly funny.

    SEA PATROL – Unintentionally funny Aussie 'adventure' series set on a Royal Australian Navy patrol ship.

    LONGMIRE – A genuinely adult programme with rounded characters, believable plots, an interesting (fresh!) setting and a good cast of non-plastic actors.

    HUMAN TARGET – Simply well made escapist fun action.

    HAWAII 5-0 – ADD inducing slick trash/fun. TV fast food.

    BLUESTONE 42 – In the highest traditions of BBC3: crass, tasteless and unfunny. Combat comedy doesn't work.

    UTOPIA – Great music, intriguing characters, and some wonderfully human moments but let down by the nihilistic gory violence.

    CHASE – A dreadfully unsympathetic lead (who is too small for the stunts) and an awful comic relief character nearly sink this but the parallel criminal narrative is always interesting.

    CRIME STORY – Old 1980s Michael Mann series set in the 60s. A loose plot and low production values (compared to today) but very believable and exciting, with a gritty take on the era and a clever avoidance of gore.

    PERSON OF INTEREST – In typical fashion, a rebellious girl means one who (gasp) has a nose-stud and hangs out with skateboarders. Super slick, good leads but too twee.

    WPC 56 – Like FATHER BROWN, a gentle crowd-pleaser with authentic costumes, inauthentic attitudes and a light coating of political correctness.

    Worst film ever? Werner Herzog's HEART OF GLASS. He hypnotised the cast (it shows) of non-professionals (which also shows). Includes a baffling ending which relies on you knowing the explanatory metaphor before watching the film.

  • Thanks for the warnings on Bluestone 42 and WPC56.

    Just try Van Helsing. Just for a few moments. You'll see what I mean.

  • Rullsenberg

    Saw Van Helsing at the cinema. Yes, I PAID to watch it. It is pretty dire.

  • Rullsenberg

    Itching to read your thoughts on the final four episodes of Spiral – watched the finale last night (final two episodes) and you must have heard me screaming near the end, surely?! Exhaustion at least meant I slept well last night!

  • Rullsenberg

    House of Cards remake on DVD? Getting me some of that…

  • GYAD

    I've watched it (many years ago) and it is pretty dreadful, especially coming after the two rollicking Mummy films.

  • Don't forget to buy it through the link above so that I can bask in the 5-10p in commission it gives me�

  • I'll get round to it at some point, I'm sure�

  • Rullsenberg

    Rightly or wrongly am trying to avoid Amazon at the mo… sorry you may not get that 10p. Should I send you a cheque directly in recompense?

  • That would be lovely. I take PayPal, too