What did you watch this fortnight? Including Trance, Rogue, Bates Motel, Endeavour and Southland

It’s “What did you watch this weekfortnight?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this weekfortnight 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)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • Doctor Who (BBC1/BBC America)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Endeavour (ITV1)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Plebs (ITV2)
  • 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. Continuum returns in Canada tonight, so I’d suggest tuning in for that, too.

Still in the viewing queue: Friday night’s Las Vegas and last night’s Doctor Who (review tomorrow when I’ve seen it), as well as Netflix’s new release, Hemlock Grove. But I’ve tried a few new shows in the past couple of weeks:

Arne Dahl (BBC4)
Basically – as Stu_N put it – The Professionals with pilchards. Dreadful.

Rogue (DirecTV)
Thandie Newton is a very implausible, undercover cop whose son gets killed and she blames herself. Despite the decent cast, which includes Martin Csokas from Falcón and Ian Hart, an incredibly forgettable, derivative show.

I also watched the Easter Jonathan Creek special, which despite a whole lot of merits (the cast, the changes in format), was absolute ridiculous and bore no resemblance to reality. Plus how do you cast both Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer in a show and not have them meet?

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I’m still trying:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): The usual problem that when show runner Joe Weisberg isn’t involved in the scripting, the episode just isn’t as authentic-feeling as the other episodes. The developments between the two Russians feel a little padded out, and I’m not sure they would have been quite so merciful this week, given their need to preserve their identities.
  • Bates Motel (A&E/Universal): Quite tedious now, and in no sense really related to Psycho, beyond names and presumably the eventual conclusion. Despite those blips of interest in the first three episodes, the show’s settled on a very dull formula now, with only Vera Farmiga’s character offering any real reason to watch.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Another show that finished, leaving a lot of hanging storyline threads. The revelations haven’t been as impressive or as interesting as you might have hoped, and as I said last night, it does feel like the whole of this season could have been covered in just an episode or two.
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): A somewhat uninteresting way to end the season, but also slightly deeper than normal. The writers didn’t take the show anywhere especially new, but having Tippi Hedren show up for the finale was worth watching it for anyway.
  • Endeavour (ITV1): Inspector Morse, back in its natural period – the 1950s. Nowhere near as impressive as its pilot episode, boiling down to an ability to solve crossword puzzles rather than make deductions, but Anton Lessing was perfect as the new superintendent.
  • Plebs (ITV2): More ahistorical than normal, with the arrival of bananas and a Thracian with a Russian accent (Anna Skellern from Big Finish’s Sapphire and Steel range), but still good fun, surprisingly historical in other ways and Bryan Murphy (George from George and Mildred) showed up as an old soldier.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): A good and surprisingly optimistic finale that felt almost like a series finale. Where does the show go next?
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Two episodes to finish off the season and perhaps the series. The first was a very hard and traumatic episode that unfortunately crossed the Southland line – despite being based on a real-life incident, didn’t feel like a Southland episode because it stopped being able the everyday life of cops. Thankfully, the final episode was more of a return to normal. It finished off a number of plot threads and left several hanging, in a way both satisfying a season-finale and a series-finale. And, of course, for one character, a shocking but entirely plausible end (?). If it is the series finale, that would be a shame for probably the best and most realistic cop show since The Wire.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): And so it ends. Probably the most surprising bit of quality TV, given its graphic novel violence, sex and swearing (and Starz network home), Spartacus has continued to make Roman history interesting and Machiavellian fun. The finale was just about as good as it ever could be, given Spartacus has to disappear or die, the revolution has to fail, and Caesar and Crassus have to go on to rule Rome. Perhaps a little too anti-Roman, but it was still as intriguing as ever.
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Michael Chiklis’s direction somehow made the usual sets look cheap and like a backlot, but the show is clearly struggling now to expand its format. I’m hoping that Carrie-Anne Moss gets a promotion now, since she’s had so precious little to do. Nevertheless, the show does look like it’s limping towards cancellation.

And in movies:

Danny Boyle directing, Joe Ahearne writing, Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy and Vince Cassel starring in a semi-Inception-like story about an art dealer who steals a painting with the help of a gang, but when he gets hit on the head, forgets where he hid the painting. So Cassel takes McAvoy to see hypnotherapist Dawson in an effort to recover its location, and she takes McAvoy (and the audience) through several levels of reality. While it does interesting things in terms of flipping notions of who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist in the narrative, has some shocking full-frontal nudity and violence, and says some interesting things about gender in thriller narrative, if you pay attention, you’ll have guessed most of the story’s secrets and revelations ages before the end.

“What did you watch this weekfortnight?” 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?

  • Gareth Williams

    When Southland ended, it felt like a cliffhanger but the more I thought about it makes a pretty decent ending to the programme.

    (Edited to remove lots of spoilers!)

  • Southland spoilers!

    I've been enjoying Bates Motel. The 'is he imagining it or not' guessing game. *no Bradley doesn't exsist*!

    Not sure about The Americans, I've seen the first one which felt like it was trying a bit too hard to be edgy but I'll watch a few more just to be sure. Has anyone seen Red Widow yet? Again I've not heard much about it but it sounded like it might be good.Finally I think Hannibal so far is brilliant. Episode 2 , mushrooms. I will say no more except don't watch just after eating!

  • The Bates Motel guessing game slightly bored me. It was an interesting idea, but if you can't trust anything you see because it might be you have no real foundation for anything. Everyone could be imagined. Or not. The refutation of their existence could be imagined. Or not. And so on.

    Red Widow came out at the wrong time for me to watch it and it's not being doing well in the ratings, so I'm not bothering trying to catch it.

    Reviews of Hannibal elsewhere

  • Mark Carroll

    We've been watching The Great British Bakeoff repeats, which have been okay. The Jonathan Creek wasn't too bad, I thought. We also watched some more season five of Babylon 5; it has been remaining better than I'd remembered. I finally got around to Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning which was quite reasonable for what it was.

    The Brian Blessed HIGNFY was a bit strange. I'll welcome a return to some normality.

    Judging by the above, there hasn't really been much on, at least that's reached me. We're probably behind with a couple of the normal things though. I started to watch Boris Godunov but I started feeling like I just didn't have the time right now and I began to fall asleep.

  • Mark Carroll

    bah, season four of Babylon 5, I mean

  • GYAD

    30 ROCK – Disturbed to discover that in my household, I was the only one who got the Tyler Perry reference

    HUMAN TARGET – A rare-misfire with a tasteless Princess Diana conspiracy theory (!) story and terrible British accents.

    ELEMENTARY – Another episode where the villain is rather predictably the richest white guy in the room.

    STRIKE BACK – I never watched the first series but it's turning out to be the best. Well written, well-thought out action drama.

    CRACKER: LUCKY WHITE GHOST – Old TV-movie spin off from the series. Bad camera-work, a terribly Freudian motive for the killer and some silly anti-imperialism but the dialogue was great and there were good working class characters.

    DA VINCI'S DEMONS – Like all medieval dramas where the lead wears leather trousers, it was terrible. Bad CGI, awful history and tepid attempts to be daring.

    THE DRESDEN FILES – Sorry Canada, your attempts to be sexy are awful. Good when it stick to the classic world-weary private eye formula.

    JACK TAYLOR – Irish-German co-production of Ken Bruen's Irish noir novels. First was mediocre, second was good, third was great. Looking forward to the next two.

    HAWAII 5-O – The original, not the re-make. Silly beyond belief with terrible 1960s hair/clothes fashions and amusingly pulpy dialogue. Some sublime camera work though.

  • The first Strike Back was probably the best one, because Jed Mercurio wrote the first story and a lot of the foundation work. He's not the best writer in the world, but he's a lot better than Frank Spotnitz when Spotnitz is doing his “I'm writing pulp” routine.

  • The Jonathan Creek story fell apart at the end, I thought, in that while it was all mechanically possible, it entirely bypassed normal human behaviour (would nuns really have done that? Would anyone have done that particular cover-up?) It was ingenious yet simultaneously very silly.

  • Mark Carroll

    True, they probably wouldn't have.

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