What have you been watching? Including Extant, Tyrant, The Last Ship, Suits, 24 and Halt and Catch Fire

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 – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

Oh, why do they do this? The rest of the week is a gaping hole of misery, reality shows, American Ninja and God knows what else, yet come Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, suddenly it’s all systems go and the US networks chuck everything they’ve got at the schedules.

I’ve tried my best and this week, I’ve managed to review the following new shows:

But still in the first-run viewing queue are USA’s Satisfaction, El Rey’s Matador, and The Divide. The latter’s from WE tv, which doesn’t even make scripted drama, and it aired two hour-long episodes in one go. What chance does that give me? It’s like they’re doing it deliberately to annoy me, now.

Fingers crossed, though, I’ll be able to play catch-up over the weekend and review them all on Monday and Tuesday next week.

Anyway, after the jump, a round-up of the regulars that I did watch, with reviews of 24, Extant, Halt and Catch Fire, The Last Ship, Suits and Tyrant.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Because of the aforementioned glut of programming on Wednesday and Thursday, I’ve still got episodes of The Bridge (US) and Welcome To Sweden to watch. But I did get round to watching:

Extant (US: CBS; UK: Amazon Prime))
A nose dive in quality right from the introduction that explains this is “a story about family”. Oh please no. The plot that was hinted at in the pilot then gets dragged out considerably for the episode, with nothing really exciting happening. Even a chase ends up with no actual chasing. The show also provides a very odd vision of the future, where everyone still has mobile phones yet there’s AIs in human bodies. And why does Hiroyuki Sanada always end up running the secret conspiracy (cf Helix)?
First episode

Tyrant (US: FX)
Sins of the Father
The first genuinely good episode so far, with the show now settling down to give a thoughtful examination of issues in the Middle East, rather than showing us what a dodgy rapist the new boss is. While the combination of Saudi Arabia, Syria and now Libya is making the show’s setting look like the Worst Case Scenario Middle Eastern Country – which the casual viewer might confuse with All of The Middle East – the show is doing a decent job of showing the difficulties of bringing peace to a country that’s known nothing but abuse for decades. The female characters are getting something to do at last, too, and BBC World News is getting a surprising amount of free advertising. However, when Justin Kirk turns up to represent the American position, it stops heading into nuanced territory.
First episode Third episode

The recommended list

24 (US: Fox; UK: Sky 1)
Episode 12
Firstly, I forget to mention that it was David Yip playing the Chinese president. The Chinese Detective himself! Brilliant. However, in this finale and possible final episode for 24, we saw the return of Manny Coto and co to writing duty, which meant a slight drop in quality, unfortunately. Unfortunately, the CIA proved itself useless as protection detail, ignoring the first rule of assassination attempts, which is to get the target away from the area as soon as possible, in favour of milling around. Whoops. And then there was a samurai sword. Seriously, does no one know the difference between China and Japan? And what was it doing on a freighter anyway. Still, William Devane’s Alzheimer’s speech was actually moving and there were thrills and spills aplenty. 24:LAD has proved to be one of the best 24 seasons, albeit one without any true high-points, and the finale left everything hanging for another possible season, rather than any true rounding off of storylines, which was a bit disappointing.

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC)
Once again, the pacing of developments feels off, with weeks and months disappearing between episodes for milestones to suddenly get hit in the episodes themselves. Joe’s third-episode revelation returned thanks to DB Woodside, to make it more than just a throwaway moment; Mrs Clark’s storyline went in an unexpected direction, Halt and Catch Fire being a tricky old thing to predict; and Gordon’s descent into madness was equally unexpected but not especially welcome.
First episode Third episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT)
We’ll Get There
After the high octane firefights of the first three episodes, a slight slowing down to add some depth to the main characters, introduce a few supporting characters and focus again on the supplies and maintenance issue. Nevertheless, considerable tension and ship-based fun from this ‘(ship in a) bottle’ episode, and a surprisingly quick arrival at a vaccine (unless it’s a bluff). The stirring patriotism almost overwhelmed the episode but was surprisingly tolerable, too.
First episode Third episode

Pound of Flesh
The usual split between the Mike/Harvey fighting and the insane antics of Louis and Donna. Odd that in an episode when someone should be rushed to hospital for overwork that a lawyer who bills by the hour and a secretary who works for the man who won’t let anyone else have even a day off spend the entire time learning the lines to a play. The Harvey/Mike stuff at one point almost felt like old Suits, except from the POV of someone going up against Harvey, but it still feels weak and slow moving compared to the first and second seasons focused, case-an-episode approach.
First episode Third episode


  • 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.