What did you watch this month? Including Homeland, Low Winter Sun, Chickens, Strike Back and Elysium

It’s “What did you watch this weekmonth?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched last month while I was away on holiday 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.

In my preview queue is a couple of shows, including ABC’s Trophy Wife, which I hope to review for you properly on Tuesday. But I have tried a couple of new things, despite the summer TV quiet.

New shows I tried this week
(Sky 1 HD)
Some of the cast of The InBetweeners try to write a First World War comedy about a bunch of guys left behind during the Great War, who have to deal with being accused of cowardice, etc.

Anyway, it’s 10 minutes of my life I’m not getting back.

Low Winter Sun (AMC/FOX)
A remake of the Channel 4 mini-series of the same name set in Edinburgh, the show had relocated to Detroit to retell us the tale of a good cop who commits a revenge murder with the help of another cop and thinks he’s got away with it. Except things start to unravel.

It sounds good and given it’s remarkably managed to get the star of the original – Mark Strong – to repeat his performance but with a US accent, with fellow stalwart Brit Lennie James joining him for the ride, you’d think it would be good. But effectively, it’s a season-long episode of Columbo with the guy who played Daniel Hardman on Suits as a less well written Columbo. I stuck it out for four episodes before the plot got so thin that I decided not to bother with it any more.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Under The Dome (CBS/Channel 5)
Just rubbish. I’m only watching because I’ve got this far and there’s nothing else on.

Under the Dome TV Schedule

The Bridge (US) (FX)
We’re nearing the end and it’s definitive now that it’s simply not as good as the original, despite sticking more or less to exactly the same storyline. Problematically, the show has removed a lot of the strengths from the Saga Norin/Sonja Cross character and pushed them onto the male characters, making her more of a liability and one who’s stuck in the office most of the time. But the show did drop one particular, ridiculous twist, which I’m thankful for, anyway. The Annabeth Gish storyline is looking more and more pointless, though.

Strike Back (Cinemax/Sky 1)
The return of the modern day Professionals, this time with the assistance of former SAS dynamo… Robson Green (who, of course, was in Soldier Soldier but never did much fighting). Strong female characters keep cropping up to get shot and killed or go mental, which isn’t very helpful, and having Brits like Martin Clunes turn up is very distracting. But the action sequences are as impressive as ever, as is the camaraderie and the cross-Atlantic strafing.

Recommended shows
The Almighty Johnsons
(TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Really pushing ahead very strongly now, and getting some of its darker edges back, without going to season 2 extremes. Lovely use of myth, as well.

The Almighty Johnsons TV Schedule

Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
A much better second half than first half to the season, with all the budget saved up for the end this time. Some good twists and revelations, as well. But it’s in extreme danger of disappearing ourobouros style up in its own arse with the rapid development of unnecessary mythology.

Continuum TV Schedule

Homeland (Showtime/Channel 4)
Not yet back, of course, but I’ve had a gander at the first episode of the third season and I’m glad to report that it’s remembered it’s an adult show, rather than simply 24 on cable TV. Carrie’s still unbalanced and there’s no sign of you-know-who yet, with most of the first episode looking at the fallout from the bombing at the end of the last season and the political ramifications and changes in the US that have resulted. Impressive, but Brodie’s family is really starting to irritate now.

The Newsroom (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Better than the first season and the season arc is a lot stronger and more interesting, as well. Sorkin and co have also gone to quite extreme lengths to ditch virtually every romantic storyline possible along the way. But it’s now so plot-focused, it’s lost all sense of character, making it less engaging. Plus Olivia Munn is being criminally under-used and where they are using her, it’s entirely inappropriately. Only one appearance by Jane Fonda this entire season, too.

The Newsroom TV Schedule

Perception (TNT/Watch)
Overall, a disappointingly formulaic season that ended on a low and lost the show a lot of its unique characteristics along the way.

Perception TV Schedule

Satisfaction (CTV)
Still funny, but I’m giving up on it because, like many, I want to punch most of the cast, now.

Satisfaction TV Schedule

Suits (USA/Dave)
Same problems as The Newsroom – strong plot, less involved in the characters. The fact the show has focused on more or less a single case the entire season has also robbed it of a lot of variety. And no matter what, I still can’t see Max Beesley as a Cambridge lawyer. Sorry.

Suits TV Schedule

And in movies

I Give It A Year
Another tedious attempt to capture the magic that was Four Weddings and a Funeral in another Brit rom-com, this time with Rafe Spall and Rose Byrne getting married against everyone’s recommendations. Nine months later, they’re having problems. Generally, despite the presence of Stephen Merchant, Minnie Driver, Anna Faris, Olivia Colman and Simon Baker, a pretty miserable movie, bereft of laughter but full of misery. So steer clear of it – all the good jokes are in the trailer.

Neill Blomkamp tries to repeat the success of District 9 but with a much bigger budget. Set in 2154, it sees Matt Damon as a blue collar worker trapped on the over-crowded earth with all the rest of the poor, while the rich all life on a space-station called Elysium that fixes all their problems and even cures all their diseases – except the rich don’t care enough to offer the same facilities to the poor. Now, in many ways it’s a very clever film with lots to say. The imagination that’s gone into the weaponry, set design and future tech are all superb. It’s just the plot and the characterisation that are mundane, with Damon having less personality than an implanted Total Recall Arnie and everyone else painted so thinly, they’d disappear if they turned sideways. It actually makes for quite a boring movie and yet again, despite it being 2154, you’d be hard-pushed to spot even 25% of the main characters being female, let alone women with power (baddie Jodie Foster and that’s it). Disappointing, despite all the imagination that went into 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?

  • Gareth Williams

    So, I take it that you followed through with your threat not to watch the final series of Dexter?

    It's been awful, if you're wondering?

  • I have been wondering – I was almost tempted back at one point. Sounds like I was wise to stay away!

  • Mark Carroll

    Thanks for keeping an eye on Continuum and the third season of Homeland. I shall watch them when they come my way. For my part, mostly I watched the whole of Prisoners of War. It moved slowly at first, but was far less silly that Homeland, and kept us engaged to the end, and it wrapped up well.

    We're watching Suits. Yes, many-episode cases aren't best for me. It's okay, but honestly I'm more interested in the cases than the characters with their posturing and their wisecracks, and the cases mostly aren't all that interesting either.

    I wasn't rushing to watch Elysium. I watched Point Blank (the later, French one) and that seemed well made but somehow didn't draw me in.

    We have been enjoying Kino's Journey. It is nicely variable without having bad episodes. Few shows can manage that.

    My guilty pleasure is InkMaster, the reality tattoo competition. It's quite interesting, given that I know nothing of the field. Well, that and The Great British Bake-Off, I guess.

  • GYAD

    CHICKENS – Good concept but historically inaccurate and simply unfunny.

    LOW WINTER SUN – Nicely shot but the plot is too thin to sustain. Also, I never knew that almost all the murder victims and criminals in Detroit were white…

    THE RETURNED – OK, we get no answers but a fab bit of telly anyway. Lovingly shot, acted and written.

    UNDER THE DOME – like “The Returned”, only rubbish.

    RAY DONOVON – Competent but ultimately rather dull. And, God, isn't LA awful.

    THE PATH TO 9/11 (repeat on Fox) – Brilliantly shot with solid acting & writing. One of the few terrorism series to convince, as it should being largely factual.

    TOP OF THE LAKE – Slowly turned into one of the BBC's very best series of recent years, except for the hysterical all-men-are-rapists ending.

    TOP BOY – C4s annual celebration of black criminality. Well made but thuggish and unpleasant.

    PAT AND CABBAGE – A loud and jaunty soundtrack tries and fails to disguise the lack of any actual humour.

  • Did you watch the second season of Prisoners of War? It aired about a year ago in Israel but I don't think Sky Arts has aired it yet (it's scheduled for 'the autumn').

  • LA is awful. We thought it would be brilliant, but we'd exhausted virtually everything it had to offer in about four hours

  • Mark Carroll

    Yes, I watched the second season too. (We don't get Sky, so we have to rely on others.) The pace picks up some and things aren't left hanging at the end: certainly not a disappointment. We had the occasional late night through wanting to watch the next episode.

    If you don't need English subtitles, you can watch it all for free online at http://www.mako.co.il/mako-vod

  • Rob Buckley

    If only I were that multi-lingual. I'll hold out until Sky then. Hopefully someone else can benefit though – thanks!

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