What did you watch this week? Including The Fall, Harry, Hannibal, The Rum Diary and Don’t Trust The B—-

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, which are somewhat dwindling now ‘summer’ has arrived:

  • Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • Don’t Trust The B—- (ABC)
  • The Fall (BBC2/Netflix)
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)

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

I tried a few new shows this week. I’ll save my thoughts on NBC’s Save Me for a full review, but here’s what I thought of the others:

The Fall (BBC2/Netflix)
Gillian Anderson in what is essentially Prime Suspect 20 years on – writer Allan Cubitt also wrote Prime Suspect 2 – and, for my money, almost as good. Anderson plays a Met police detective superintendent who goes to Belfast to audit an investigation into a murder. However, she quickly realises that she’s chasing a serial killer (Jamie Dornan). Rather than this being a whodunnit, we know from the beginning of Dornan’s culpability – instead, this a dual character piece that examines the equally cool, equally focused killer and cop. The investigation, which also touches on the different and highly political nature of policing in Northern Ireland (the police are all armed and the police station is more like a fort), is handled as realistically and as sensitively as can be, but there are disturbing scenes, despite the overall lack of any blood or violence.

Anderson is great as the cop, who unlike Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison, doesn’t need to convince anyone of her abilities and is happy to have casual sex with whomever she pleases without apology, rather than agonise over relationships; Dornan’s equally good as the killer, who blends right in and even has a young daughter to care after. The writing’s first rate, although there are a few slaps-forehead moments and obviously, it’s yet another serial killer show. There’s also lots of good roles for both men and women. Weirdly, Archie Punjab from The Good Wife shows up as a motorcycle-riding pathologist.

Definitely one to watch – it’s going on the recommended list. American readers – this has been acquired by Netflix and shoot be available from the 28th of this month, but you can watch the first episode below.

Harry (TV3)
A six-part New Zealand series about a widowered cop with a teenage daughter and who’s doing his best to hunt down some violent robbers in a poor community. He has to work against the higher-ups, who are more concerned by headlines that the communities they police and against the demands of his job in raising his daughter. So far, so ordinary, you might think, and largely it is, despite the presence of Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) as Harry’s boss, complete with his normal NZ/Australian accent. What’s more interesting is that Harry is co-written by the star, Oscar Kightley, a Maori actor, and the show is bilingual and set largely in the Maori community. It’s got more in common with UK police shows than with US shows, although there are interesting differences, but beyond the cultural issues and twists, there’s not much here that you won’t have seen before.

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

  • Arrested Development (Netflix): In preparation for the fourth Netflix-exclusive season, I’m trying once again to get into the original series. I’m up to about episode 13 and there have been a couple of episodes where I’ve ‘got’ what everyone loves about the show, but it’s not as funny as it should be.
  • Don’t Trust The B—- (ABC): The final batch of episodes are now available to stream from the ABC web site. Such a disappointment that the show was cancelled, since there’s some real dark originality in these episodes.
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living): Superbly featuring a cameo by Lance Henriksen (Millennium), this week’s episode minimised the normal body horror slightly in favour of one of its other themes: the horror of madness, with Will becoming increasingly unhinged and worried for his own sanity. However, the most disturbing revelations are another character’s and left until last. I’m still deeply impressed by the show, and if NBC cancel it, they deserve everything they’re going to get. I’ve also just realised that Caroline Dhavernas (Dr Bloom) was the star of Bryan Fuller’s Wonderfalls, which shows you just what a loyal guy he is.

And in movies:

The Rum Diary
Directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I), based on a novel by Hunter S Thompson, starring Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart, it should all be great, huh? The novel certainly has an interesting story: Thompson wrote it in the 60s but it was never published until Depp found it lying around and persuaded Thompson to unleash it on the world. To be honest, it’s not a great novel: set on Puerto Rico, it lacks voice, although you get some of the hints of Thompson’s future themes (substance abuse, misogyny), and is really a mood piece about a journalist finding his way on the island.

The film, however, takes all of that and runs with it. Sharing little of the plot or dialogue, and losing a lot of the characters, it’s essentially a prequel to Thompson’s line, reconstructing the whole story so that it’s about how a journalist finds his voice in fighting against rich interests. With minor elements of the novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and even Withnail and I, it’s a whole lot better than the book, too, ditching the misogyny and aimlessness in favour of a much stronger narrative drive, although it still shares some unwelcome elements, including a rape scene (mercifully different from the book’s deeply unpleasant version). Johnny Depp returns to form as Paul Kemp, while Heard is clearly a little out of her depth at this stage in her career. There are some funny moments, but it’s not a movie to go out of your way to see, and doesn’t come close to the best of any of those involved.

“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

    We're also watching and liking The Fall and Hannibal.

    We've been watching the broadcast of season four of Justified. It's not bad, considering how long it's been on now, but I wouldn't say that it's really impressed me for a while nor does it seem to be bringing anything new. I'll keep watching, and it passes the time, but by now I'm not sure it has all that much extra to offer.

    If you've watched that much Arrested Development and aren't really much of a fan, I'd suggest your time could best be spent otherwise; sorry it didn't really work for you like it did for our family. It's not about to get far better if you keep watching.

    I've been liking that BBC wildlife miniseries on the Hebrides; it's nicely shot. We also started the History of Scotland which of course is another Neil Oliver thing but thankfully without strange parts where they seem to be trying to get more narrative out of him while he's running his town centre errands.

    My wife's been happily watching the 10 O'Clock Live thing with assorted BBC-staple comedians, which I find passable but quite missable.

    I think that Grimm's season must be just about over, maybe Once Upon a Time too. I'm not sure that they have anything worthwhile to add from here on, but perhaps the arc of Grimm has some potential with this keys and whatnot, and neither show has yet descended into tedious awfulness, the quality's been reasonable.

    Oh, we watched Eurovision. It was okay, though I try never to watch it sober. I can't say that any of the songs were all that memorable — normally there's a couple of weird different okay ones that make the others worth tolerating — and the voting didn't much correspond with my impressions (for instance, I thought the French song better than the Dutch one), but it was okay, the hosting wasn't as cringeworthy as it can be (though with one strikingly bad moment), and my daughter wants to watch it again.

  • GYAD

    LONGMIRE – A resounding season finale to my favourite recent show. Characters, filming & stories all superbly pitched, with a unique setting & strong masculine element.

    ARNE DAHL – Extremely well filmed but poorly written and melodramatic, as well as being marred by crude anti-Americanism and graphic nudity.

    ELEMENTARY – Despite the Adler/Moriarty revelation, really quite boring.

    THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER: THE MURDER IN ANGEL LANE – Better than the first one but the second act is a slog and the protagonist is too underdeveloped.

    MURDER ON THE HOME FRONT – Despite a great premise, this was a silly cartoon populated by ridiculous characters and dominated by anachronisms.

    WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE LIKELY LADS? – What a terrific sitcom, even after all these years.

    VICIOUS – Still a guilty pleasure.

  • Okay, I might up on Arrested Development then. I tried watching the first episode of the new season today, and that was dreadful, so all the effort was probably for naut.

  • The trouble with Elementary is that the show doesn't have any real flair. It has some nice ideas, many better than Sherlock's, but no real flair in implementation. I don't think there's been even one deduction with which you'd think 'Sherlock Holmes'. But Adler/Moriarty was great

  • Julia Williams

    I'm watching the Fall, but jeez it's grim. Gillian Anderson is wonderful of course. Maybe it's just me but I find the juxtaposition of happy family man and serial killer stomach churningly uncomfortable at times, but it is compelling, so will probably keep watching.

    Nothing very new on the Apprentice, but I have enjoyed watching it anyway.

    As I have been recuperating from an operation, I ended up watching ALOT of How I Met Your Mother and Big Bang Theory last week, but I also rewatched the first series of Life on Mars which was very enjoyable.

    And we saw Life on Pi on Sunday. Hmm… I read the book just before (have been reading a lot too) and have to say I find the whole concept overrated and overhyped, but it was a very pretty film. My eldest daughter thinks I am heartless 🙂

  • GYAD

    I agree. I think it also suffers from being too insular, with New York often relegated to a backdrop and the secondary characters languishing as walk on parts.

    NYC is a very diverse, interesting place but too often ELEMENTARY seems to take place only among murderous rich white people and their nice houses/boardrooms.

  • I like the juxtaposition – it subverts the idea of the serial killer being a loner, separate from society, and builds the idea of misogyny being part of society

  • Julia Williams

    You're probably right, it's just the way the child saw what he was doing with the babysitter, and the fact he hides his book in her room, and took her to that empty house. Ugh. But it is clever. Oh and that his wife has no idea. That's such a horrible, horrible thought, and how do you live with yourself and your family when the truth is discovered. Necessarily creepy, but uncomfortable to watch.

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  • Mark Carroll

    I've also just realised that Caroline Dhavernas (Dr Bloom) was the star of Bryan Fuller's Wonderfalls

    It certainly took me a good few minutes to recognize her!