What have you been watching? Including Doll and Em, Star-Crossed, House of Cards, and Moone Boy

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.

I’m off on a secret mission for a few days (okay, holiday), which is why this is a day early, so I’ve still got a few things in my viewing queue: lots of season two of House of Cards as well as Sky’s new firefighter drama Smoke which starts tonight but which has been on Sky Go for a while and last night’s episodes of 19-2 and Fleming. But I have managed to sneek in some new shows as well as my regular viewing choices.

Star-Crossed (The CW)
A Romeo and Juliet tale in which aliens crashland on Earth and try to integrate into the local small town US population, where they face prejudice, as well as possible potential romance with humans. Not even a tenth as interesting or as deep as Roswell, which is saying something, and absolutely every choice made has been the most generic. Incredibly dull, too, and the leads so far exceed their characters’ supposed ages, they actually have wrinkles in some cases.

Doll and Em (Sky Living)
Real-life best friends Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells pen a tale about best friends Em and Doll, with Doll joining actress Em in LA to work for her when her relationship falls apart. It’s all very naturalistic and obviously feels like a real friendship. Funny? Not in the slightest and there’s nothing you can glean from it that you won’t have from a dozen other shows like it (eg Entourage, Episodes, Curb Your Enthusiasm). YMMV.

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

Almost Human (Fox)
A slight drop-off as we have some hacked home security systems killing their owners. There’s also an ill advised new subplot about Dorian having someone else’s memories embedded in him. A Matrix tribute of about three lines of dialogue really wasn’t worth the effort either, and as usual, attempts to depict hackers on-screen have the authenticity of Californian champagne.

Helix (SyFy/Channel 5)
Jeri Ryan’s here and having fun, but still just a low budget TV Resident Evil with more secrets than necessary and too few answers too make it interesting. But I’m still watching, so what do I know?

Salamander (BBC4)
Gave up on this in episode three when the top-secret conspirators started telling each other about their top-secret conspiracy and Aquaman’s dad took refuge in a monastery. There’s silly and then there’s Belgian silly, apparently.

And in the recommended list:

Banshee (Cinemax)
A bit more of a traditional Banshee episode, with plenty of fights and a British bruiser in town called Quentin to deal with. Not quite the way I expected the Hood Jr storyline to end. Enjoyable, but nothing special.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/BBC1)
A superior effort to the first episde, with much needed characterisation for the new cop in town, and some lovely moments for the original characters as they learn all about this new fangled rock and roll thing. A little bit worried about the message at the end (don’t believe girls).

The Life of Rock with Brian Pern (BBC4)
Promoted to recommended after this week’s episode, this mock documentary about the Peter Gabriel-like Pern (the star of some 2009/10 video blogs) has decided it’s no longer content satirising merely the prog rock groups of the 70s, it’s now working it’s way through the TV and films of the 70s and 80s, too. With piss-takes of everything from Swap Shop and Triangle through Doctor Who and Labyrinth, it also features a cast worth dying for, as well as comedy characters from other shows (Mike Smash from The Fast Show and Mulligan and O’Hare from The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer). If you know the period, you’ll love it.

House of Cards (Netflix)
No, don’t spoil me. I’m only three eps in. If you’ve seen the original, then you’ll already know of one Big Thing that happens in season two, but largely it’s plotting its own path at the moment, with Frank conspiring to get the right man (actually a woman, but he doesn’t want anyone to know that yet) to replace him as chief whip. Seems to have had a healthy dose of feminism added to it between seasons, and it’s as engrossing as always, if perhaps a little less tightly plotted. The hacking details are very accurate, too, I’m pleased to say.

Line of Duty (BBC2)
Superbly tense, with a wonderful couple of reversals towards the end. Much recommended.

Moone Boy (Sky1)
The return of Chris O’Dowd’s delightful, semi-autobiographical sitcom about growing up as a young boy (with an imaginary friend) in Ireland in the late 80s and early 90s. We started with a trip to the countryside to visit some Gaelic speakers, which was both funny and educational, thanks in part to a cameo by Jonny Vegas as another imaginary friend.

True Detective (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Best episode so far. Extremely clever and we finally get to see where it’s all headed. A bit worried that it’s about to head into fantasyland though and jump the shark. Fingers crossed.

And in movies

In a slightly futuristic LA, lonely Joaquim Phoenix falls in love with his new operating system (the voice of Scarlett Johansson). As a movie it’s full of ideas about loneliness, the nature of human connection, whether virtual connections are as good as in-person connections, the nature of artificial intelligence, what we expect from relationships, how the expectations of others change our relationships and so on. But it’s a movie free of messages or conclusions, that merely likes to flirt rather with the ideas rather than explore them in any depth. Sad, funny, beautifully performed, it’s ultimately as empty as some of its characters’ lives.


“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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