What have you been watching? Including Black Sails, Broad City, White House Down and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

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. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV.

The January TV deluge is dying down, mostly in preparation for the February TV deluge, but also because of the Winter Olympics. Nevertheless, I’m still a little bit behind, with a Helix, Archer and The Three Musketeers to watch, so to cut my losses, I’ve abandoned attempts to watch:

  • Mr Selfridge, largely because I’d have to deal with the atrocious ITV Player but also the first season got too soapy for my liking and the fake cockney/posh accents started to grate after a while.
  • House of Fools continued in much the same vein as the first episode – surreal and a bit sexist, but not quite as funny as you’d hope.
  • Being Human I’m abandoning after three and a bit seasons, because it’s not going anywhere especially interesting and where it is going is too far removed from where it started (three supernatural flatmates). The second episode was better than the first, though.
  • Looking – I suspect this is not a show for me.

My third episode verdict of True Detective should be up tomorrow.

This week, I have managed to watch a couple of new shows, though.

Black Sails (Starz)
A prequel to Treasure Island that shows us the young, handsome Long John Silver in action on board a pirate ship in the Caribbean. And that sentence is probably the most interesting thing about the show, because despite the fact I love things maritime (Greenwich, Portsmouth, Master and Commander, the Aubrey and Maturin series, et al) and despite the pirates, the surfeit of female full frontal nudity, the exotic location, the boats, Mark Ryan from Robin of Sherwood and the occasional sea battle, this was possibly the most boring show I’ve watched in a long time, as it was largely about pirate bureaucracy. Plus pirates were gits, not nice guys. Dull, dull, dull.

Broad City (Comedy Central)
Based on the web series, this sees two female friends in dead end jobs trying to get by in life. Desperately tries to be fun and funny, while commenting on life at the crap end of the labour market for young people, but never actually manages to be funny.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending:

The Tomorrow People (The CW/E4)
Evil street Tomorrow People show up and beat up our nice Tomorrow People, requiring the new leader to deal out some punishment. Okay as episodes go, but this one’s close to getting dropped, too.

And in the recommended list:

Archer (FX/Channel 5)
Not where I thought that reboot was going. Some great individual moments.

Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
Full on Deathstroke! This is what we want!

Banshee (Cinemax)
A very much better return to normal, although more soft porn sex that we could have done without. Strangely, Sheriff Hood seems to be getting beat up a lot these days, despite being number one bad ass last year. Interesting to see an episode focusing on the native Americans rather than the Amish for a change.

The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)
This year’s seen an odd focus on “black list” members, this episode dealing with – I’m not joking – an evil adoption agency. However, evil adoption agency turned out to be very creepy indeed and Campbell Scott was great, as was the continuing James Spader ‘vengeance’ sub-plot. In true NBC “we don’t really want any success” style, we now have to wait until after the Winter Olympics for the next episode. Weird note: odd references to Greek myth, with a fertility clinic called Galatea (the statue brought to life by Pygmalion) and an employee who works there called Nestor (the old warrior in the Trojan War).

The Bridge (BBC4)
Some weird, sometimes unpleasant sex things are going on and I’m wondering if we’ve been given another red herring to deal with. The usual excellence of The Bridge.

Community (NBC/some random UK channel)
Another one of Community’s traditional pan-college games, this time: keeping your feet off the imaginary lava. Very funny and a lovely send off for a certain character. Made Abed look a bit crazy, though.

And in movies:

White House Down
Channing Tatum wants a job on the Secret Service and while he’s at the White House, baddies take over and try to kidnap president Jamie Foxx. A stupid film, but one that knows it – essentially, it’s Die Hard in the White House but with the President blowing things up with a rocket launcher – and it’s got James Woods, Maggie Gyllenhaal and a whole host of people you’ll recognise off minor TV shows (Jason Clarke from Brotherhood/The Chicago Code, Jimmi Simpson from Breakout Kings, Lance Reddick from The Wire and Fringe, etc). Yet it’s also cleverer than you might think. Worth a try if you’ve nothing else to watch.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
A surprisingly not-awful origin story for Tom Clancy’s hero (this is his fourth movie), with Chris Pine adopting the mantel of the dull but earnest all-American brainy marine hero, recruited to the CIA by Kevin Costner. Here he also has to defend America from being destroyed by evil Russian Kenneth Branagh, while trying to keep his relationship with Keira Knightley together. Surprisingly competent, it falls between two stools, not quite being pure spy realism but not being very escapist either and trying to homage the 60s, the 80s and modern day spy thrillers. There are also bits that don’t make a lick of sense, either. Intriguingly, as with most Clancy things, it’s all about Americans working together as a team, all being good at their jobs but nuts in the overall awesome US spy machine. Pretty good overall.

“What have you been watching?” 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?


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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