What have you been watching? Including You’re The Worst, Tyrant, The Strain, Suits 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.

With August and the summer holidays approaching, it’s going to be the last ‘What have you been watching?’ for a few weeks, so I’ll leave you with this one as a happy memory. And because the holidays are upon us, I’m going to be ruthless with a few shows that might have got as far as a third-episode verdict any other time of the year. So I’m not bothering with last night’s Rush, Satisfaction or Marriage, because the shows aren’t good enough for me to go to any effort in catching up with when I’m back from my holidays. They’re probably going to be cancelled anyway.

This week, I’ve managed to review the following new shows:

But after the jump, a round-up of the regulars, with reviews of The Bridge (US), Halt and Catch Fire, The Last Ship, The Strain, Suits, Tyrant and You’re The Worst.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

I’ve already done a third-episode verdicts on Extant and Welcome To Sweden elsewhere, in case you were wondering.

The Bridge (US) (US: FX)
Ghost of a Flea
Time to give up. The show very clearly has gone off-plan now. The original show, of course, was largely about a female detective and her work relationship with a male detective who’s her polar opposite. Two episodes into the second season and it’s now very clear that the writers have no interest in their female detective now they’ve ditched the format, far preferring to focus on the male detective. They’re also far more interested in Ted Levine, and Matthew Lillard’s junkie journalist and his investigations than Sonja Cross. There are attempts to make it wild and wacky, with the taxidermy dog and DEA agents that like painting fantasy wargame miniatures, as well as some very dodgy stuff involving Franka Potente and a teenage boy. But it’s just not interesting. And what happened to Annabeth Gish from the first season?
First episode Third episode

The Strain (US: FX; UK: Watch)
The Box
Unlike the somewhat terrible first episode, which had many things not going for it but which almost never was dull, this was more than a touch boring, filling the show full of prosaic moments (ooh, an AA meeting where the hero admits all his flaws!), arrant stupidity on most characters’ parts (did no one think showing the UV light results might be a good idea?), continual lack of appreciation of procedure (notably the coroners’ office, which apparently only has one employee and no visitors per day) and zero plausibility. We did get a voiceover from Carlton Cuse at the beginning and another Lostie, Kevin Durand, but that really didn’t balance anything out. And the final vampire effect was laughable. So in keeping with my holiday ruthlessness, I’m dropping this one, too.
First episode  

Tyrant (US: FX)
Hail Mary
Obviously a sports reference in the episode title, but still a Christian one, presumably ironic. Despite numerous attempts for the show to excuse its actions by saying that it knows how naive its lead is being, it is only being equally naive at the moment. However, unless the show is essentially say, “Hey, we can fix the Middle East!”, which I don’t think the writers are naive enough to believe, this looks like a bait and switch. Plus, you know, the title of the show, although that’s possibly more of a reference to evil brother than the good lead, now that Gideon Raff’s off the show and the hero’s not slapping his son around.
First episode Third episode

The recommended list

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC)
The 214s
Once again, a leap forward in time, with all the drama happening between episodes, which is a novel way to tell a story, at least. But as always, the show is far slippier than it first appears, with Cameron really proving that she’s a proper hacker and Gordon going in a very unexpected direction, which seems odd, but was on a par with some of the things that went down at the time. It does feel like everything’s coming together now as finally all the characters have revealed themselves, have come to like each other and now have a joint mission.
First episode Third episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT)
El Toro
Back to land battles, fire fights and jingoism, as a team put ashore in Nicaragua and encounter a society run along Mayan principles in a show that’s rapidly shaping up into ‘original Star Trek but with ships’. No, really. This episode saw them operating along the ‘What Would Kirk Do’ approach to interfering in other cultures, but it was still hard not to whoop by the end, as always. The oddest thing is the relationship between Rhona Mitry, who’s softening and the mercenary, which at first glance looked tacky and unpleasant, but is shaping up into something surprisingly genteel and pleasant.
First episode Third episode

Suits (US: USA; UK: Dave)
Litt The Hell Up
I’m still not quite sure where they’re going with this. Louis is as ridiculous as always, despite previous weeks’ attempts to redeem him. The plot is just a neverending series of U-turns. The soapy side is quite dreary. What worked in previous Suits seasons, apart from some clever legal chess playing, was the Mike-Harvey relationship. Apart, they’re just dicks; together they work as characters, as was painfully obvious last week. I might tune in next time to see what’s happening but I imagine a big red reset button in the show’s future. But I’m not sure if I’m going to carry on with this when I get back to find out.
First episode Third episode

You’re The Worst (US: FX)
A speedy promotion for You’re The Worst, which continues to be both funny and compelling as the unlikely couple try to build up a relationship that involves something other than sex. The episode featured some great dialogue, including a Joseph Campbell ‘Hero’s Journey’ debate about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, a very sly Terry Richardson gag and a joke about the Welsh only English people will get. All you need to know about the show is that it has a theme by ‘Slothrust’, which makes sense for the show both as Slo-thrust or Sloth-rust.
First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    With shows like “You're the Worst” available it is sounding like you won't be losing much through your ruthlessness.

    We saw “The Book Thief” which I thought a generally good and well-cast adaptation of the book.

    Maybe I'll occasionally add extra comments while you're away about other things I watch.

  • GYAD

    ULTRAVIOLET – Stylish and clever. Has aged well.

    ALIAS SMITH AND JONES – Cheesy if cheery. Has aged badly.

  • Mark Carroll

    So, I've been watching more things. “The Silver Linings Playbook” exceeded my low expectations, though how plausible it was I don't know. “The Book of Eli” was about as one'd expect, perhaps a little better; the central point felt implausible, but didn't much impact the entertainment.

    I got going with “The Last Ship”. It is indeed quite good, at least as much as I might have hoped, with nothing much dragging it down. I like that the plot is moving at a fair rate. I wasn't quite sure I got the bit about targeting a specific gene with the vaccine, what the good doctor was up to there; I guess this virus has a significant capsid if it's so transmissible; I also wasn't sure why having the primordial strain was so critical; but, it doesn't really matter.

    “Falling Skies” remains generally good over season 2. I look forward to the next. I am rewatching the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” and am finding that better than I recalled, though I am only in season 2 at the moment, perhaps the tedium increases later. The acting is actually often quite good.

    I saw the newer “Total Recall”. It wasn't too bad as a bit of mindless entertainment. The plot change was welcome, no Martian stuff here. Curious to have the Australian/British angle.

    I also saw “Incendies” which was quite good. I wouldn't say it was great, and I wasn't very sucked into the personal family drama or thrilled by the big twist toward the end, but the view of Lebanon, both within and without the civil war, was interesting.

    The view of Syria in “Inescapable” was also interesting, but I struggled a bit more with its plausibility. It was entertaining, and I do like seeing Alexander Siddig, though in this case I doubt his character's ability to be so effective in the given situation.

    “World War Z” also turned out to be a little better than I expected. (Hmm, another patient-zero search, interesting; I am clearly missing some basic virology.) The previews had made it look a bit silly, but it held my interest.

    I finally saw “Species” too; the worst special effects were the title sequence. It was all a bit silly, really. It wasn't too bad, and attempted to have something of a plot, but it didn't much engage me; once was enough.

    I watched much of “Divergent” without audio, over somebody's shoulder on an aeroplane. With many Hollywood films, I find that I get not a lot less out of them with that approach than I might from seeing them at the cinema, and one can watch a couple of films at once like that. I hadn't guessed from the previews how very much of the film was spent with the protagonist and her colleagues doing their training.