What did you watch this week? Including The Newsroom, Suits, The World’s End and Continuum

Slightly later than usual, it’s “What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched thislast 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 up, the usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever.

Summer has arrived though and started to fill up my viewing queue with new shows. I’m continuing to watch Under the Dome, but it’s getting close to being edged out of the viewing pile, what with it been the standard Stephen King fare. But it has its moments, so I’m sticking with it. The Bridge (US) is proving slightly inferior to the original, despite following largely on the same path, except the Aspie detective in this one is clearly more of a hindrance than an asset at this stage, and a lot less an unapologetic force of nature than Saga Norin was.

However, I’m on holiday in a week’s time, so with all the new stuff I’ve had to drop Being Mary Jane from the viewing queue and my plans to keep watching Crossing Lines have been dropped because there are now much better shows to fill my time with. I’ve also abandoned Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, on the general grounds that it’s Jane Campion and the trailer makes it looks dreadful. 

Kerry Packer… is still in the queue though, since I might just about get around to watching it at some point, and Orange is the New Black, Netflix’s new comedy-drama from Weeds‘ creator set in a women’s prison, will be available forever so I’m not rushing into it. I’ve also got last night’s Newsroom and Ray Donovan to work my through as well, although the latter might not last long if the queue fills up any more.

I did have a little time to try out some new shows though: 

Room 9
The Africa Channel’s Torchwood-esque (it’s even got a Captain Harkness in it) import from South Africa. That turned out to be cock, though, with poor acting and over the top humour  – not so much X-Files as Miracles, with lots of ghosts and the like to investigate, and the production standards of 1980s Canadian syndicated TV to make it all seem realistic.  

Count Arthur Strong
BBC2’s adaptation of the Radio 4 comedy about an old music hall comedian turned out to be paralysingly unfunny, despite Rory Kinnear doing his best.

But here’s what I thought of this week’s recommended shows:

The Almighty Johnsons (TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Another ‘re-orienter’, with various new directions set up for characters, although good to see a certain regular character returning. Stronger on laughs than previous eps, weaker on plot drive. Also seemed to be a lot less for the female characters to do. They need to start plotting a course for a stronger story arc soon, too.

Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
The budget that the producers had been saving up at the start of the season is now being spent well, with two episodes of strong sci-fi fun in a row, some surprise returning characters and the series arcs now tying together nicely. It still has a little something missing – the tight plotting of the first season – but it’s about an episode or two away from having that and more again.

The Newsroom (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
The return of Aaron Sorkin’s somewhat chaotic attempt to do the fun and import of The West Wing, except in a newsroom. Far less preachy than last year, more interested in talking about how journalists get stories than about how they should be covering them, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. There’s also far less outright sexism: everyone’s about the relationships still, but the women are now allowed to be interested in work, too, and not be hopelessly incompetent at it. Having said that, Olivia Munn’s character is now being called ‘Money Skirt’. Still not quite the quality it should be, but not hitting anywhere near as many of the bum notes as it was hitting last season.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
A great big kick in the gonads for any shippers out there and contained some of the worst ‘Tourette’s’ acting ever committed to video. However, a decent enough procedural.

Satisfaction (CTV)
A good, funny episode, dealing with the problem facing any young couple that settles down: the loss of cool. 

Suits (USA/Dave)
The return of the best lawyer show on TV. Dramatically, it’s still doing very interesting things, and the Machiavellian manipulations are still excellent. But, as well as the slightly suspect English stereotypes, the show is playing up the comedy angle more and more, which is in danger of destabilising the show. Definitely still recommended, though.

And in movies:

The World’s End
The third of the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Pegg is a high school rebel who never grew up and wants to get the old gang back together for a 12-pub crawl in Newford Haven, despite their being in their late 30s now and all deeply in hate with him. Except problematically, most of the inhabitants of Newford Haven have been replaced by alien robots.

It has quite a lot going for it and will make you laugh a lot, since it is essentially the closest you’re going to get to a Spaced movie. The ending really isn’t what you’re expecting and there’s an element to the storytelling that doesn’t appear in the trailer that will make you think you imagined it the first time you saw and will then turn out to be awesomely cool when you realise it’s going to be repeated throughout the movie.

But it does have one colossal problem: the massive lack of decent female roles in the movie. Where Jessica Stephenson/Hynes should be, instead, we have nothing but men as far as the eye can see – Rosamund Pike, the main female character in the movie, gets minimal lines or things to do and like most of the (largely dialogue-less) women who feature in the story, she’s there as an object of male desire rather than as a character in her own right. To a certain extent, it’s justifiable in the sense that it’s about boys who’ve never really grown up, but it’s still a big problem with the movie.

Flawed but fun.

“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

    AWAKE – High concept and well shot but quickly turned into run of the mill procedural (in which the criminal's motive was never explained, annoyingly).

    RAY DONOVAN – Clever set up and loads of good actors make this enjoyable, even if it's OTT (Criminal dad, suicidal druggie sister, alcoholic brother abused by priests as kid and another brother with Parkinsons).

    RUN – Well photographed in the 'real' London, with top actors and ripped from the headlines plots but often turned into poverty/immigration porn. Better as thrillers.

    TOP OF THE LAKE – A great location, an unusual setting and an interesting mystery make up for the bonkers 1970s style feminism of Jane Campion.

    THE RETURNED – Very Gallic and all the better for it, with nice photography, acting and subtle writing.

    FAMILY TREE – Gently amusing but lacking real laughs.

  • Mark Carroll

    Well, thank you for watching Room 9 so I don't have to.

    We watched the first season of The Booth at the End, which I think we like. I finished off Endgame, which maintained its initial quality and seems to have been cancelled with arc unresolved. We started the new season of Ink Master, having previously found tattoo reality competitions surprisingly interesting.

    I rewatched Primer. I still have some questions, but I think I basically get it until I think about any one part of it too hard. It's so nearly very good.

  • Awake has about four good episodes. The ending, if you make it that far, is very frustrating at first since you think it's one thing, but it turns out that it's just too ambiguous for its own good and it actually means something else.

    Run looked like 'gritty BAFTA' material so I steered clear of it.

    Agree re: Family Tree, Ray Donovan.

    The Returned I tried but found too slight to compel me to watch more than two episodes.

  • Endgame was great and cancelled before its time – good to see Shawn Doyle getting things to do still. The Booth at the End I've seen on FX's web site and Netflix – would you recommend?

  • GYAD

    Ah, well that's good to know about AWAKE.

    RUN was very BAFTA-esque, especially the one with Olivia Colman. She was fantastic but the story never really told you anything you didn't already know. It just wallowed in the squalor rather than offering insight.

  • Mark Carroll

    Yes, I would recommend it. I think I have more tolerance for slowness than you do, and I don't expect to re-watch it, but it is a short enough show that I would recommend the first series. (The second is okay, but I am not sure that it really adds much.) If nothing else, it is an interesting example of how to shoot a whole season in only one room.

  • Good recommend and I agree about season two, which I found a lot more arch

  • It's worth watching for those four episodes (the first, the seventh? – it's got penguins in the episode title – and the last couple), but they had to stop mid-season for a rethink so until that rethink, it's very procedural with that slightly weird twist