What have you been watching? Including Fleming, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, The Moodys, Salamander and Suspects

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.

With the Winter Olympics now in full flow in the US, I’m only slightly behind on shows now, with only Sunday’s Babylon and The Musketeers as well as Wednesday’s Inside No 9 to find time for. But with so little new TV on in the US, I’ve resorted to watching some new shows on UK TV as well as the Internet.

Alpha House (Amazon Prime/Lovefilm)
A group of US politicians all live in a house together (or something). A decent cast, including John Goodman, and Gary Trudeau, the creator of ‘Doonesbury’, writing should have spelt hilarity. But while it does feel authentic in its situations (albeit with a comedic twist), the funny that should have been there never really turned up. Only the first episode is available on Lovefilm at the moment, but the whole series is on Amazon Prime in the US.

Fleming (Sky Atlantic/BBC America)
Dominic Cooper and Lara Pulver play Mr and Mrs Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, in a biopic (with a slight economy with the truth) that sees how the two met pre-War when she was still married to someone else and how the feckless Fleming got his act together during the Second World War in naval intelligence, before eventually writing the novels we all know and love. A first half hour of outright tedium almost put me off the whole thing, but the second half was a lot stronger, albeit with a hint of the ‘rapey’, so I’ll be tuning in for episode two. Has already finished its run on BBC America, I believe.

Inside No 9 (BBC2/online)
I’ve only watched the first part of this a dark, comedic anthology from Reece Sheersmith and Steve Pemberton of League of Gentlemen fame. Set in various houses, all numbered 9, the show gives various actors a chance to shine, and for Sheersmith and Pemberton to play implausible grotesques. The first was a little ‘And?’ but well acted (big kudos to Tim Key in particular), so I’ll be giving number two a chance when I find the time. A third is available online.

The Life of Rock with Brian Pern (BBC4)
Simon Day and numerous musicians and comedians all rip the piss out of Peter Gabriel and other prog rockers of the 70s. Very precise in its targets, so if you know the music and bands of the era, you’ll probably get more out of this than the lay audience. I found it moderately amusing but with some very good individual moments.

The Moodys (ABC1)
Follow up to the popular Australian show, The Moodys At Christmas, featuring the eponymous family. Not especially funny, although the generational culture conflicts rang true, but I imagine it’s funnier if you’re Australian and saw the first series.

Salamander (BBC4)
Belgian import that sees a bank robbed but only the safety deposit boxes of important people raided. A police detective investigates and opens up a whole heap of trouble for himself and his family, as the victims and thieves try to cover up the robbery. About as realistic as an episode of 24, and it’s not helped by it all being very silly and having a guy who looks like Aquaman’s dad as the virile hero. But it’s a decent enough show that reminds me enough of 1970s cop dramas that nostalgia will keep me watching.

Suspects (Channel Five)
Channel 5’s first foray into original drama production in donkey’s years is a semi-improvised police drama that sees the National Lottery’s Fay Ripley investigating various crimes with the help of her team. Shot in shakey-cam, it has a documentary feel (in part because it’s Channel 5 and so colossally low budget) and you do genuinely believe you’re watching a proper police investigation a lot of the time. Which is fine, but I don’t want to watch a documentary about the police; I want to watch a drama.

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

Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
Probably the best episode since the first one, with shock near-deaths as a cliffhanger, some comedy that actually worked for a change and the characters actually being characters. Too little too late?

Almost Human (Fox)
A change of showrunner gives us two good episodes in a row. The first had Gina Carano (woo hoo!) as a eyeliner-wearing soldier android/gynoid and also provided us with more background story. Meanwhile, for more or less the first time since the pilot, we had an episode dealing with the failed raid Karl Urban’s character led and what his evil girlfriend might have been up to. Some good scripting, some good action and some good characters – plus Gina Carano – means this is almost ready to go on the recommended list.

Enlisted (Fox)
A good point about sexism in the military and sexism towards women in the military. Otherwise, an okay episode.

Helix (SyFy/Channel 5)
Progress is being made, story is advancing and Jeri Ryan is arriving in tonight’s episode. I’m going to keep watching.

Rake (Fox)
Reviewed elsewhere on the blog.

And in the recommended list:

19-2 (Bravo Canada)
Reviewed elsewhere on the blog.

Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
Nyssa Al Ghul turned up, Black Canary returned and all sorts of weird things happened sexually. There were some good fights, at least. Plus we now have one person who can pronounce Ra’s Al Ghul correctly, at least.

Banshee (Cinemax)
A road trip episode unlike all previous Banshee episodes. Lovely direction, some surprises in terms of wrong-footing with the plotting, and the general message that you can’t escape your past and live a happy life once you’ve done certain things. Excellent viewing.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/BBC1)
The return of the period Australian detective drama and the return of Doctor Blake himself after a trip overseas. Some unavoidable changes in the cast (a death in between seasons and an actor having gone off to the US to seek their fortune) as well as one in-story change haven’t really affected the show that much, although the various emotional repercussions of the overseas trip have been largely brushed under the carpet in a five-minute scene. A decent enough, well plotted episode, though.

Line of Duty (BBC2)
I gave up on the first season because it lacked subtlety and got very silly. However, this second season is an automatic recommendation already, because the first episode was such a cracker. Keeley Hawes is likeable for a change, despite possibly being evil; Jessica Raine is as great as ever. But who saw that ending coming? Tense and a must-see – at least for the next episode. Also, nice head-nod to the first series in the missing persons file.

True Detective (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Another show promoted to the recommended list this week, thanks to a cracker of a fourth episode. The plot is sorting itself out, the characters are really developing and some superb direction make this another must-see. First episode review, third-episode verdict.

“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.