What have you been watching? Including Inspector De Luca, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Hannibal and Vikings

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.

New shows I’ve already reviewed this week:

I’ve still got S4C’s 35 Diwrnod to watch – hopefully, I’ll get a mini-review up later today. But I did also watch:

Inspector De Luca (UK: BBC4; Italy: Rai 1)
Breaking Sky Arts’ stranglehold on South Mediterranean TV again, BBC4’s managed to find this 2008 series from Italy, based on Carlo Lucarelli’s series of books. Set in fascist Italy during the 1930s, it’s actually very good. Although the hero’s a bit rubbish, he’s tenacious and interested in serving justice at a time when justice and the law could be very different creatures. The show has a real feel for both place and period, will little touches such as dogs named after Haile Selassie, the Italian version of the Hitler Youth, torture and more all making an appearance, even if Il Duce himself doesn’t. It’s also quite chilling in its depiction of life under fascist rule. Well worth a watch, even if there’s an obvious bit of bad dubbing and a truly awful soundtrack.

I also watched a movie:

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Easily one of the best and smartest of the Marvel films to date. It’s a slight cliché, particularly thanks to the presence of Robert Redford, to say that it’s like a 1970s conspiracy theory movie, but it very much is, particularly The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor. And with Captain America representing 1940s morality and having to deal with an age of profiling, drone warfare and more, it’s not just an interesting critique of the Marvel Universe, it’s also a critique of American domestic and foreign policies of the past couple of decades.

Of course, it’s still comics based, so there are nice little hat tips here and there, not only to the existing Marvel Cinema Universe (Iron Man, Hulk and others all get talked about) but to bits yet unseen – Dr Strange even gets name-checked at one point and then there’s the teaser for Avengers 2. Best of all, as well as the quite brutal car chases and fight scenes, which 3D ruins so watch it in 2D if possible, we do get lots of Black Widow (hoorah!) even if her more interesting comic book background has been ditched. And you’ll never look at Jenny Agutter the same way again. Heartily recommended, particularly because the ending utterly messes up Agents of SHIELD.

After the jump, the regulars, with reviews of Crisis, Secrets and Lies, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, The Blacklist, Community, Continuum, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Hannibal and Suits

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

I’ve done a few third-episode verdicts this week:

W1A remains in the viewing pile, too, as does the second episode of The 100. But here’s what else I’ve been watching:

Crisis (NBC)
If You Are Watching This I Am Dead
Essentially an episode intended to set up the male lead for him to be able to do some running around with the goodies. Otherwise, about half as smart as the first episode and involving a lot of silliness involving a Pakistani embassy, which to be fair, was handled relatively sensitively. Also featured Faran Tahir from Iron Man.
First episode review

Secrets and Lies (Australia: Network Ten; UK: Channel 5)
Episode 4
Such an incredibly stupid opening with our hero doing something so astonishingly dumb it robbed the show of any credibility (spoiler: he finds the murder weapon in his truck, so not only does he pick it up and put all his fingerprints on it, he hides it inside his house) that I immediately decided not to watch any more episodes. Life’s too short for this kind of silliness.
Third-episode verdict

The recommended list

As usual, this week’s 19-2, and The Doctor Blake Mysteries are still in the pile, and I still haven’t watched any episodes of Jonathan Creek. But I’ve also got the latest Suits to work through, too. Here’s what I have watched, though

19-2 (Canada: Bravo)
Medals
Less and less about the police work, more and more about the characters, but still great stuff all the same. Plus a great, fun fight.

The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV)
The Deal
Not quite as good as last week’s but covered USSR-Israeli politics, including the Refuseniks, well, and gave us some dastardly KGB manipulations. As usual, a game of Spot The Former Stargate Star revealed the show’s Canadian filming location.

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
Birds of Prey
Essentially a Sarah episode (yay!), we got the return of Huntress (would be a yay if she weren’t played by such an atrocious actress). Despite the Birds of Prey episode title – and shout out to Gail Simone – there was no team up, though, but a couple off storylines played out well. Surprising amount of Laurel in this one, too, so maybe she’s not being written out. Although if she can’t recognise her own sister when she’s five feet away, just because she’s wearing a mask and has disguised her voice, perhaps she ought to be.

The Blacklist (US: NBC/UK: Sky Living)
Ivan
A cyberhacking episode, which was a bit dull, with once again Tom still the more interesting part of the show. But we’re still not much further down the line in terms of plot developments than we were before Christmas and we had possibly the stupidest chase scene on TV history of the past few years.

Community (US: NBC)
Advanced Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
A sequel to but not a patch on its previous hallowed D&D episode. It didn’t even feel like they were playing a game of D&D. Shame.

Continuum (Canada: Showcase, US: SyFy; UK: SyFy)
Minute Man
The second season of Witchblade isn’t everybody’s ideal template for a TV show, but Continuum is boldly resetting while simultaneously not resetting everything that happened during its own second season, trying to restore it to more of a season one feel. We’ve the return of a newly united Liber8 and the apparent departure of a load of other characters, more of the style of plotting we grew to expect from the first season, all with a bit of timey-wimey thrown in. It’s got a way to go, including a bit more foreshadowing, tech fun, suit antics and the like, but it’s heading back in the right direction.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Australia: ABC1; UK: BBC1, Alias)
The Silence
A child abuse case you could spot coming a mile off, coupled with a Midsummer Murders style method of dispatch, but sensitively handled, and the school bully element added both background to the main characters and characterisation to Lawson. The female characters aren’t getting much story time this season, though.

Hannibal (NBC US/Sky Living UK)
Takiawase
A practically perfect episode that was such as emotional roller-coaster, I had to stop halfway through (the first time for any show ever) because it was so draining. As well as the welcome return of Gina Torres, we got good use of the cast, some wonderful dialogue, and some tremendously moving scenes involving the Crawfords. But we also got scenes of genuine horror that were impossible to watch because of their implications, rather than anything depicted, as well as some intense sequences that evoked both Dali’s surrealism and even Picasso’s cubism that were astonishing to watch. The only weak point was Amanda Plummer’s bee-loving serial killer of the week. Just amazing TV.

House of Cards (Netflix)
Just one episode to go now, and although the show clearly has lost a lot in the plot stakes compared with season one, it’s still top-notch TV. There’s one incredibly surprising scene of sexuality that even gives the original BBC mini-series a run for its money.

Vikings (USA: History; UK: Amazon Prime)
Answers in Blood
The action separates between Wessex and Scandinavia, with Ragnarr having to deal with an encroachment on his own turf while Æthelstan has a crisis of faith again – this time being tempted back to Christianity. Indeed, beyond a rather excellent and bloody battle, the episode is all about faith, with Christians getting visions of the Virgin Mary, pagans getting visions of the real world. We learn a little more about the Christianity of the time and their attitudes to marriage and how unfavourably they compare to contemporary pagan beliefs. We also get to see the first battle of future king of Sweden Bjǫrn Járnsíða. A definite much-watch, as usual.

“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?




  • Mark Carroll

    Is “Inspector De Luca” dubbed into English? I was hoping for subtitles.

    Possibly because Doctor Blake isn't hitting iPlayer this season, we did get around to the first “Jonathan Creek” which, while deeply silly at times, and seemed to involve some rather large mostly unexplained leaps, did still entertain the family reasonably well.

    I did find “The Blacklist”s cyberhacking thing rather dull, surprising only by how much more implausible it got as it went on, but I thought we had some major plot development in a central character's accepting of a situation.

    “W1A” has been okay. Siobhan can push at the silliness a bit too unrelentingly, but mostly it satisfactorily achieves making us worry that maybe it is actually half like that in reality, and again seems to have been entertaining the family adequately.

    I've been liking the BBC's “The First World War” (though there's a lot of it) rather more than “Britain's Great War” in terms of interesting engagement per unit time, but both are okay.

    We finally got around to starting “Secrets of Bones” which is about as good as I think it could have been, but dividing it into half-hour chunks was a good idea as I don't think I could have taken an hour at a time.

    We started on the Australian “Rake” and it shows some promise, we'll keep with it for now.

  • Inspector De Luca is indeed in Italian with English subtitles. However, one of the characters – a journalist, no less – has been redubbed in some way, still in Italian. It might just be the iPlayer chronically losing audio sync but only when he's on-screen, but it's very noticeable either way.

  • Gareth Williams

    Do you know that has been mostly poor recently? The Daily Show.

    It's lost its best correspondent (John Oliver) and is currently missing, and could lose its best interviewer (Jason Jones.) Its constant churn of newcomers means that continuity is also lost. Or has the news just been dull?

  • JustStark

    The Daily Show was always rubbish: satire is supposed to be deadpan, not mugging to the audience going, 'Eh? Eh? Yeah, am I right?'

    I've watched the first two series of Community. Should I skip the next two and wait for this fifth one to come out on DVD? Or should I watch the third one and just skip the fourth?

  • I think Oliver merely band-aided over the show's existing problems. I forward-wind through all the correspondents – Oliver was the only one I actually stuck around to watch, after giving them all a try. Samantha Bee's 'indie theatre' is proving an interesting alternative to the standard reports, though.

  • The third series isn't as good as the first two, but is still worth watching.

    Being covered in nuclear waste is preferable to watching the fourth season.

    The fifth season has actually been pretty good overall, with a couple of classics. A few duff ones but a generally high standard.

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