What have you been watching? Including Remedy, Spun Out, W1A and Ender’s Game

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’ll be getting round to The CW’s The 100 either today or early next week, but I did try a few other new shows, too: two Canadian, one British.

Remedy (Canada: Global)
Dillon Casey is a doctor who comes from a family of medics, all of whom work at the same hospital for some reason. After cocking up something chronic, he’s forced to come back as a porter and we get to see hospital life from the viewpoint of everyone who works there who isn’t a medic. Which might be interesting and different (at least, if you’ve never watched Casualty), except it’s so self-consciously quirky and ‘family’, it’s practically unwatchable, so I gave up. Only really notable for Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint).

Spun Out (Canada: CTV)
For reasons best known only to Canada, they’ve decided to produce a totally unrequested response to CBS’s The Crazy Ones that’s even worse. Starring Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall fame, it’s a multi-camera sitcom about a PR agency run by Foley, together with his daughter, and all the highjinks they get up to once newbie Billy from BSG turns up. All the same, it’s possibly one of the least funny things TV has ever produced.

W1A (UK: BBC2)
A follow up to BBC4’s cult comedy 2012, this reunites Hugh Bonneville and Jessica Hynes as the former Olympic organisers now recruited by the BBC to handle sensitive issues. I’ve not worked an awful lot for the BBC but it is recognisably accurate but exaggerated as a piece of satire. How funny it is for people who don’t work in television, I’m not sure, although parallels with any large organisation no doubt abound. Most of the humour, though, comes from wordplay, mostly provided by narrator David Tennant, and in the cameos by famous people, such as one by Alan Yentob and Salman Rushdie that’ll send your eyebrows through the roof. 

Bonneville is, of course, the hapless sensible everyman, dealing with a quagmire of neverending meetings with ‘timewasting morons’, trying to use common sense of all things to deal with problems. However, the show has a slightly dodgy edge, with Bonneville fighting against the excesses of liberal political correctness so the show also treads a slightly tricky path around things like the Countryfile age discrimination suit. Generally, a promising start, so I’ll be tuning in next week.

I also watched a movie:

Ender’s Game
Evil insect aliens attack the Earth and 50 years later, we’re still preparing in case they come back by training kids in war planning, in the hope their brains will be flexible and fast enough that they’ll make great generals. Essentially, Harry Potter in space school, right down to its own version of Quidditch, but with a pleasingly darker, smarter, nastier edge, our hero essentially someone who can outstrategise his bullies rather than who spends the whole time feeling put upon. The final battle is a big intense surprise; Ben Kingsley’s awful New Zealand accent is not a surprise. 

After the jump, the regulars, with reviews of Believe, Enlisted, Resurrection, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, The Blacklist, Community, Continuum, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Hannibal, Line of Duty and Suits

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending
I’ve done a few third-episode verdicts this week:

But here’s what else I’ve been watching:

Believe (US: NBC; UK: Watch)
Bullets and Tears
And so the reboot begins. After a quirky pilot but ordinary pilot episode, the powers that be have obviously decided that quirky was bad and so have blanded the show into a regular old show. My suspicion that all the mysteries of the show would be spun out forever turns out to have been completely wrong, with pretty much everything beyond the central relationship between the super-powered girl and her escort explained, beyond putting some inconsistent ambivalency on both groups to make bad look better and good look worse. Other than some heartwarming moments including a nice effects scene where super-girl animates some soft toys, there wasn’t much else to commend the episode – and super-girl is getting very annoying, very quickly, too. One saving grace: Trieste Kelly Dunn from Banshee has shown up as an FBI agent.
First episode review

Enlisted (US: Fox)
Vets
Stacy Keach, Dean Stockwell, Barry Bostwick turn up and out-act everyone. However, the episode aired out of order so we have middle brother’s girlfriend revealing she has a child to middle brother weeks after we’ve already met said child. We did get a reference to Swiss cheese memory (Quantum Leap), though, and the last five minutes, which included real vets in a therapy group, was actually pretty moving.
First episode review

Resurrection (US: ABC)
Unearth
Less impressive, less heart warming, and just a general continuation of previous storylines with nothing much new, except possibly another returned dead person. No sign of an explanation for what’s going on yet, either.
First episode review 

The recommended list
I’ve already given you my thoughts on this week’s Vikings, this week’s 19-2, Community and The Doctor Blake Mysteries are still in the pile, and I still haven’t watched any episodes of Jonathan Creek, so something tells me that’s going on the backburner.

19-2 (Canada: Bravo)
Lovers
A headless suicide, a mayor with a rent boy, and a lesbian with gun. What more can you ask for?

The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV)
A Little Night Music
A welcome return to form, with some Russian socialist perspectives on religion, a doozy of a fight and the joys of some real honeytrap manipulation. Yay! 

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
Suicide Squad
Comic book writer Bryan Miller was on script duty and turned in an excellent piece following Diggle and Amanda Waller’s Suicide Squad. Audrie Marie Anderson was back again and after so many years in The Unit as a wife, got to be a solider at last. Laurel returned, too – boo! – although frankly how long it is before she’s dropped and replaced as a regular by the vastly more interesting Sarah, I don’t know.

Banshee (US: Cinemax/UK: Sky Atlantic)
Bullets and Tears 
A much needed thematic summary to a season that had seemed a bit aimless, but was essentially arguing not only that you can’t escape your past but there are some things you can’t go back to and that require fresh starts. As well a series of sad flashbacks to 15 years’ earlier that had echoes of Requiem for a Dream in terms of people optimistically plotting out their futures, only to see them turn out terribly, there were some references to the first season to which it essentially acted as a prequel. And if the first season was all about the application of prison justice to the real world, this essentially argued that a prison cycle of revenge and violence will end with everyone dead. Where season three goes, though, beyond some icky Amish incest would be too tricky for me to predict.

The Blacklist (US: NBC/UK: Sky Living)
Mako Tanida
One unexpected plot twist and Banshee‘s Hoon Lee didn’t really help the main plot to distinguish itself. But the b-plot involving Tom was very welcome, even if it did feature the world’s most stupid secret agent (spoiler) why didn’t she just say she would phone him in an hour, rather than hanging around?

Community (US: NBC)
VCR Maintenance and Educational Publishing
In contrast to last week’s classic, this one didn’t quite work and was just a bit niche and nerdy instead. It was livened up by Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan’s turn as an actor in one of those old VCR games, which the episode did satirise quite nicely.

Continuum (Canada: Showcase, US: SyFy; UK: SyFy)
Minute By Minute
The welcome return of Canada’s best TV show aka evil Blake’s 7. Thrilling in a lot of ways, running up and down lots of corridors not being one of them, with genuine surprises and some real tension. I’m not entirely sure the timey wimey stuff all worked, since it appears to contradict a lot of the first season ground rules on predestination. The basis for the freelancers takes the show worryingly close to going up its own arse and falling for the fatal science-fiction TV mistake of swamping a show in ludicrous mythology. Nevertheless, the shift away from predestination allowed the show to rewrite the end of the second season and effectively fix a lot of the mistakes and character mistakes that we saw there. Fingers crossed the Liber8 stuff will be equally approved when they return next week.

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Australia: ABC1; UK: BBC1, Alias)
Mortal coil
Not an especially great episode, more notable for the continuing emphasis on Doctor Blake’s age this season. However, the reference to Fromelles in this centenary of the First World War was interesting, since it’s not something as a Brit I knew much about, but which looms large in the Australian consciousness. 

Hannibal (NBC US/Sky Living UK)
Hassun
A bit of a filler episode, advancing the plot in terms of events but not in terms of developments. However, it was interesting to see Hannibal almost apologising for what he’s done through a series of ‘tributes’ to Will and to see Shawn Doyle from Endgame as Will’s lawyer. 

Line of Duty (UK: BBC2)
Episode 6
A satisfying end to an excellent season, and a good lead into the inevitable season three, too. Overall, the best bit of British drama I’ve seen since The Fall.

Suits (US: USA Network; UK: Dave)
Moot Point
Although the continuing focus on the characters’ soapy relationships is continuing to grate and Louis is no longer a plausible human being, there was an uptick in the legal shenanigans to be had between Harvey and his arch-nemesis, although nothing to truly rival the first season’s highpoints. 

“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

    “Suits” isn't sounding promising, but I'll take an improved “The Americans” over that.

    “W1A” sounds like something the wife would like, I'll make sure we catch it.

    Son has now read “Ender's Game” so I permit him to watch it someday. We'll get to it.

    I still haven’t watched any episodes of “Jonathan Creek” either.

    “The Blacklist”'s main reveal was seriously implausible. Still, it entertains. We might be learning more over this season.

    There has been some great Pink Floyd stuff on BBC lately, a concert and a documentary.

    We're re-watching “The League of Gentlemen”. It's quite good.

  • bob

    I recently blasted through all the Rake episodes (Australian original of course not the remake) as Netflix have the first two seasons. Absolutely brilliant. I don't like legal shows due to David E Kelley giving the genre a terrible name but this show easily won me over and grabbed my interest with its dysfunctional characters and disastrous lives. It feels raw and real and has enough darkness to it to make me feel really invested in the drama and yet it is also silly and funning with brilliant dialogue and amusing satire. Just perfect.

  • Mark Carroll

    Thank you for the tip. We will give it a go ourselves.

  • GYAD

    W1A – Scarily accurate but not actually funny. Also, in pointless fact-checking, a Cornish athlete did win an Olympic medal.

    SUSPECTS – A too-big subject to be dealt with properly in 45 minutes. Hopefully the next season will have smaller crimes, less dramatics and more multiculturalism.

    LONGMIRE – Back and better than ever. Old fashioned masculinity, great scenery, and exciting/touching stories.

    IRONSIDE – As bad as expected.

    PAGE EIGHT – Nicely made and acted but abysmally plotted and utterly predictable (Islamist terrorism doesn't exist, Israel & the USA are pure evil, and Tony Blair lied).

  • bob

    Did I really write funning instead of funny? I am working too much… Sheesh.

  • It's definitely leagues better than the US version. As you say, it can be a little silly but it actually has things to say and unlike Kinnear, Roxborough's character is quite definitely a match for the title, being very Falstaffian.

    Actually, the only people I know who don't like Rake are Australians, and they just don't like Richard Roxborough (who's a little OTT, I'll admit)

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