What have you been watching? Including The Smoke, The Americans, Elementary, Arrow and True Detective

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.

So a few days away, just as all the new shows started and a whole bunch returned following the Winter Olympics, has meant a lot of things – namely I’m behind on quite a few show but have managed to watch an awful lot of House of Cards.

So after the jump, reviews of what I have seen – The Smoke, Almost Human, Fleming, Helix, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, The Blacklist, Elementary, Line of Duty and True Detective.

New stuff
As far as the new stuff goes, although I’ve managed to sneak up a review of About A Boy, I’ve still got to make my way through Mixology, Mind Games and Janet King – I should have reviews up on Monday or Tuesday next week, I hope. But I did manage to watch:

The Smoke (Sky 1)
Jamie Bamber, Jodie Whittaker and Rhashan Stone are firefighters (or firefighters partners). There’s fires. And that’s about it, really. There’s nothing really engaging about the whole thing, the attempts at ‘working class dialogue’ are insulting and Bamber’s accent is… interesting.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Almost Human (Fox)
The change of showrunner – Naren Shankar of ST:TNG, no less – seems to be paying off, not just in plotting but in terms of giving Minka Kelly something to do. Not absolutely the most engrossing of episodes, but cleverer, more interesting and with a reduced ‘bro’ factor to boot. Also, surprisingly moving with an actual message, which was new. Close to promotion

Fleming (Sky Atlantic/BBC America)
Episode 2
Again, a first half that was a bit rubbish, followed by a pretty decent second half, albeit one in which the Second World War itself doesn’t actually seem like much peril. However, when it all got a bit ‘rapey’ again towards the end of the second episode, I decided this wasn’t my cup of tea, even if it was based on real events involving James Bond’s author, so I’ve decided to ditch it.

Helix (SyFy/5*)
Answers are percolating through and Jeri Ryan is chewing the scenery. Just about managing to be creepy again, too. But I doubt this is ever going to do too much that’s remarkable.

The recommended list
Again, a fair few episodes of things to make my way through, including 19-2, Community, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Life of Rock with Brian Pern, Moone Boy and Perception, but as well as Vikings, I did manage to watch:

The Americans (FX/ITV)
The return of one of last year’s best new shows, with Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as Russian sleeper agents in 1980s America. Lots of running around, lots of deep meaning and parallels drawn to illustrate the sad nature of the two spies’ assignment, fear aplenty and a sense of authenticity at almost every level. But I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much as previous episodes, beyond the wig fight at the beginning, which was amusing.

Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
Time of Death
Robert Knepper arrives as The Clock King, Black Canary arrives to make Felicity, Laurel and her parents feel a bit inadequate. Laurel acts like a complete tit and we get some not very good, implausible Chinese staff fights. But Slade Wilson turns up so that makes everything good.  

Banshee (Cinemax)
Ways To Bury A Man
More fights and big bangs but a little empty.

The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)
Madeline Pratt
The first downright rubbish episode, despite the presence of Jennifer Ehle as Raymond’s paramour. Megan Boone’s attempts at acting were downright awful, too. James Spader was great, mind. But he always is.

Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living) and Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
So amiable and easy going but with so little happening, I’ve decided to stop watching it and reviewing it. My wife is still watching it though and I’m still recommending it, since every individual episode is good. They’re just never remarkable or better than good.

Elementary (Fox/Sky Living)
The One Percent Solution
Lestrade turns up and tries to do the consulting detective thing, too. Enjoyable enough and with some weird Roman references (Romulus and Remus, Marcus Aurelius), but largely only worth it to see Sean Pertwee and Jonny Lee Miller together and Holmes’ Tottenham reference.

House of Cards (Netflix)
I’m about 10 episodes in now and I have to say that without the original series to act as a template, this is starting to feel a little pointless as a season, just feeding off what was set up in the first season. However, it’s all superior stuff, with some great individual moments and episodes, some good, feminist moments, and some pleasing miserablism.

Line of Duty (BBC2)
Episode 3
Not quite as tense as last week, and edged slightly towards the very silly end of the spectrum that season one occupied. But still highly recommended and Keeley Hawes is doing some remarkable work.

True Detective (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
Haunted Houses
Slightly inferior to previous episodes, but we’re heading towards the end now and things are really coming together.

“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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