What have you been watching? Including Legends, Forever, Outlander, A to Z, Selfie and Intruders

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.

Okay, I’ll admit it – I hadn’t intended to leave it quite as long as a month before I started blogging again. But what with work, August, bank holidays, etc, I actually didn’t have the time – until now.

But now I’m back and I can cast my eye back over August’s viewing, making it look like an almost deliberate decision. After the jump, I’ll look at the few recurring shows I’m still watching, as well as those that finished their seasons while I was away.

However, before that, let’s have a look at some of the new shows that popped up in August that I was able to take a gander at. There’s a few I missed out on (e.g. Garfunkel and Oates), but not that many, fortunately, so here’s pretty much all of August’s new TV rundown as well as some previews of some new shows that have already slapped their pilots on the Internet.

A To Z (US: NBC. Starts October 2, 9.30/8.30c)
A relatively benign and almost fun romcom that chronicles the relationship ups and downs of the implausibly named Andrew and Zelda (hence the title). To flip the format slightly, Andrew is the romantic one who believes in fate, Zelda is the uptight lawyer. To not flip the format at all, there are also a couple of best friends who don’t really do anything unexpected or different.

On the whole, though, it’s not bad. It does, however, shoot itself in the foot almost instantly by having narrator Katey Sagal explain that the series covers the whole x number of days of the relationship, dooming the relationship from the beginning. And while there is an easy get out (they break up then get back together again), it puts a significant downer on what actually might have been quite a nice, feelgood show. It also doesn’t help that Cristin Miloti plays Zelda, because she was the mother in How I Met Your Mother. And died in that.

Immigration summary: Lenora Crichlow (English) plays Zelda’s best friend. Otherwise, surprisingly all-American.

Forever (US: Starts September 23, 10pm, ABC; UK: Sky 1, October 2014)
Ioan Gruffudd is a New York chief medical examiner… who also happens to be immortal. Whenever he dies, he wakes up in a nearby watery mass (e.g. river, lake, sea). He’s a bit fed up of living, despite having acquired hundreds of years of expertise in languages, science, medicine, etc, and a deductive skill that puts Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes to shame, so spends his time with the dead, trying to work out a cure for his immortality. Along the way, though, he helps to solve crimes.

Obviously, this is Highlander without the sword fights. Well, I say ‘obviously’, but right at the end of the first episode, there’s a massive Highlander reference (spoiler: someone is found dead with a Masamune katana in their chest, just like Connor MacLeod’s). This comes right down to the show having its own Rachel in the shape of Judd Hirsch, constant pining over a long-dead wife and a potential new love interest who’s a NYPD cop. But there’s also a bit of humour and although it might seem like a procedural as well, any show that has one of its chief suspects arrested and his house searched and then allows him to continue investigating the crime and examining the evidence is clearly not going for mimesis.

Gruffudd is good, Hirsch is Hirsch and everyone else is just okay. There’s a bit of promise with a series arc that involves a potential adversary/friend for Gruffudd. But it’s not inspiring or compelling, so I doubt it’ll last that long.

Immigration summary: Ioan Gruffudd is all-Welsh, of course; Lorraine Toussaint is from Trinidad; Donnie Keshawarz is American-Canadian-Afghani. Otherwise, all-American for a change.

Intruders (US: Saturdays, 10/9c, BBC America; UK: BBC2, Autumn 2014)
BBC America appears to be confused here in that they seem to think that they should be making programmes that are BBC programmes, just in America. So we have a largely all-Brit cast, including John Simm and James Frain, faking American accents (badly) in the kind of poor sci-fi/fantasy that BBC1 seems to do so well these days (eg Outcasts, Paradox). Here, we have a secret society that seeks immortality by hiding inside other people’s bodies, which might seem an interesting idea at first, but instead gives us some rubbish devil worship scenes and Simm meandering around feeling sorry for himself. Almost lone American Mira Sorvino is wasted.

Immigration summary: Simm and Frain – both Brits – as is Millie Brown, who’s a possessed kid. She learnt her American accent watching the Disney Channel, apparently: beat that, American child actors!

Legends (US: TNT. Wednesdays, 9/8c, TNT)
Sean Bean is an undercover FBI operative who can psychologically transform himself into another person for each job. Unfortunately, not only is he starting to find the lines between himself and his false identities are blurring, there’s the distinct possibility he might not even be who he thinks he really is. Oh dear.

Unfortunately, this promising idea gets squandered a lot, thanks to TNT’s efforts to turn the show into a sort of NCIS, with a tedious backroom staff watching and listening to Bean’s every move and arranging hacks of banks and official records in mere seconds, as the case needs it. As a result, Bean’s superb versatility and Ali Larter, who plays Bean’s ex-girlfriend/FBI handler, are the only reasons to watch the show. Having said that, the third episode almost managed to register as “not bad”, rather than “terrifyingly awful”.

Immigration summary: Sean Bean – apparently, the kind of Brit who can pass as a stuttering West Virginian for up to nine months at a time, when no American could.

Outlander (US: Starz. Saturdays, 9pm ET/PT)
Post-War nurse while off with her genealogy-obsessed husband in Scotland, touches a stone circle and finds herself back in 1743, where she meets a buff Highland lad, fighting the Red Coats. Will she succumb to his charms like that fortune teller said she would?

Largely, if it weren’t for BSG‘s Ronald D Moore behind the scenes and the fact that it airs on Starz so there’s plenty of sex and violence, this would be on The CW, trying to appeal to teenage girls alongside Reign. I did watch this with my lovely wife and neither of us could find anything that appealing or romantic about the show; buff Highland lad seemed a bit bereft of charisma and charm as is WW2 nurse; and her hubbie (Tobias Menzies from Doctor Who, The Honourable Woman, Game of Thrones, et al) was actually quite nice. We never got as far as episode two.

Immigration summary: Literally everyone is either British or Irish. Everyone.

Selfie (US: Tuesdays, 8pm/7pm, ABC)
Loose updating of My Fair Lady for the social media age, with Eliza Dooley (former Doctor Who companion Karen Gillan) coming a viral cropper and recruiting marketing guru Henry Higenbottam (Harold and Kumar’s John Cho) to rehabilitate her image. Instead, Higgins tries to rehabilitate her and make her less self-centred.

Created by Suburgatory’s Emily Kapnek, this is a marked disappointment, although it still displays her usual wit and intelligence in a few places at least. There are few laughs, few decent characters apart from those inherited from the original and only the beginnings of a vestigial romance between Gillan and Cho. I’ll probably watch episode two, but it’s on thin ice.

Immigration summary: Apart from Gillan, there’s also David Harewood (Homeland) as her boss.

Movies

Guess what? I also watched some movies!

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Admirable, joyful addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with an origin story showing how the slightly dickish ‘guardians’ come together to defend a utopia from an intergalactic religious zealot (the wonderful Lee Pace from Halt and Catch Fire). There’s a lot to like about the film, which isn’t quite as good as Captain America 2 (IMHO), but I didn’t love it, possibly because of the characters (except for Groot). It does have the best soundtrack of the Marvel movies, too.

Transcendence (2014)
Scientist Johnny Depp dies and gets turned into an artificial intelligence, where he starts to get both world-changing and human-changing ideas. For about 90% of its run, it appears to be a modern-day, biologically enhanced version of Colossus: The Forbin Project, before the ending flips everything on its head. A real slow-mover, it does feature some very interesting ideas, but is still massively too long. Definitely best seen at home.

After the jump, the regulars, including The Last Ship, Halt and Catch Fire, Suits, Tyrant, Doctor Who and You’re The Worst.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Tyrant (US: FX; UK: FOX UK)
Preventative Medicine, What The World Needs Now, Meet The New Boss, Gaslight, Gone Fishing
After eventually settling down from the ructions caused by the parting of ways with Gideon Raff, the show goes in the direction you pretty much expect, with attempted coups et al, before pulling out the rug from underneath everyone in the finale. Not bad, although eventually it simply became a story about two brothers disagreeing a lot and Adam Rayner needed to be a lot more charismatic than he was. The show probably should stop right now… but probably won’t.
First episode Third episode

The recommended list

Doctor Who (UK: BBC1; US: BBC America)
Deep Breath, Into The Dalek
The new Doctor has arrived, as has Ben Wheatley on direction, but new scriptwriters haven’t. Peter Capaldi is great and almost totally unlikeable as the Doctor, which is novel; Clara now has something to do and a personality to boot, which is also novel. However, as well as some simply appalling action scenes, Deep Breath took all of 45 minutes to get interesting, while Into The Dalek was largely a knock-off of 2005’s Dalek. Surprisingly, though, I really enjoyed Into The Dalek, which managed to be both introspective and unpleasant. Still, it feels like not only is Steven Moffat running out of ideas, judging by the repetition, but that the BBC is running out of money, because there have been some pretty awful effects.

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC)
Up Helly Aa, 1984
Renewed for a second season, this has been a big surprise from start to finish. A little loose with history, the show did manage to turn it to good with an almost perfect ending to Up Helly Aa and 1984 ended the show in typical slipperiness, daring to show failure – or perhaps survival is a better word – rather than success for our heroes. Definitively worth watching and whether they’ll invent the Internet next season or not is as good a guess as any.
First episode Third episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT)
Lockdown, SOS, Two Sailors Walk Into A Bar, Trials, No Place Like Home
Well that was all very unexpected. With such a high concept, you’d have expected the show to have eked out its storylines as much as possible, but by the end of its first season, pretty much everything has been resolved, with the maximum action possible. Whether the show will become a new Walking Dead for its second season or not, I couldn’t say, but its first season has been great.
First episode Third episode

Suits
We’re Done, Exposure, Gone, We’re In Rome
Magic resets have been pushed to restore pretty much everything to the status quo, with a surprise twist for Louis in the final episode that almost redeemed him as a character. As I said this time last year, I’m not sure I can be bothered with the next few episodes, since the ‘clever lawyers who outmanoeuvre the opposition outside the courtroom’ show has pretty much disappeared now, but I’ll probably tune into the first of the new eps in the Autumn, just to see where the show heads now – as I did last year.
First episode Third episode

You’re The Worst (US: FX)
Keys Open Doors, What Normal People Do, Sunday Funday, PTSD, Equally Dead Inside
As the relationship between the toxic couple has continued to pass through the usual milestones (the key to the door, emotional opening up, first threesomes, etc), the show has managed to maintain a consistent funniness and nastiness, combined with a simultaneous ability to stay likeable, which is pretty amazing. It is beginning to feel a little ‘male gaze’, which is odd for a rom com, but it’s certainly the funniest comedy on TV at the moment (that I’m watching, at least).
First episode




  • Gareth Williams

    I gave up watching everything this summer: Falling Skies (finally!), Under the Dome (ditto), Extant and The Last Ship. TLS was OK but I got fed up looking at, and listening to Rhona Mitra. I get hung up on unimportant issues as the final straw was having an English Scientist, on board a US Navy ship, using scientific equipment displaying a temperature reading in Fahrenheit; as the writers think the US audience is too stupid to realise that 20°c greater than 5°c.

    Doctor Who – I was impressed that they had a helium balloon made out if human skin on a children's show, but yes, the dinosaur was pants. I preferred the first episode, to the second, but preferred Capaldi in the latter.

  • Mark Carroll

    “Doctor Who” hasn't been too bad, in that it has so far avoided staying far along several rather annoying dimensions it could have and previously has: especially, some past episodes have been so ridiculous, for the sake of being funny or charming, that disbelief just could not be suspended. There is a shortage of ideas, yes, and for a while we haven't had anything of the quality of some of the episodes from earlier seasons, but they are okay, I found the Dalek one fairly entertaining, actually, not too bothersome at all. Peter Capaldi has been good, and Clara has too, and there have been some good lines, and what direction change there has been is welcome. I wasn't struck by special effects awfulness. Now we just need some good ideas and a continued lid on the silliness.

    I rewatched the 'reimagined' “Battlestar Galactica” and it seemed better this time around, not so much of what I remembered as boring political angst that resolved unsurprisingly for the end of each episode, and random daft mythical stuff apparently made up as it went along. It actually seemed more coherent, and dragging less. Sure, if there is destiny and angel-things and whatnot, the guidance was provided in a rather needlessly strange and roundabout way, but it was worth the viewing time.

    I also watched “Rubicon”. I liked it, it was good. Cancelled on a partial cliff-hanger, but certainly one of the better series I've seen lately, not as deleteriously slow-moving as reviews suggested.

  • This is the show that has Rhona Mitra being the least Rhona Mitra I've ever seen her, to be fair. And I'm wondering how much of her equipment came from the ship itself, rather than being her own, or perhaps working at the CDC for so long, she learnt to think in Farenheit. But yes, silly. Good show, though.

  • I really loved Rubicon. Shame it had to end. http://www.the-medium-is-not-e

  • bob

    Thanks for the (continued) “You're the Worst” recommendations. I finally got around to watching it. Only seen two episodes but it really is very good. Thanks!

  • Glad you liked it! I think it's being largely overlooked because of the timeslot, network, etc, but it's a genuinely funny, different romcom.

  • GYAD

    WALTER – Staggeringly unfunny and utterly stupid. A single call to SO13 would have solved the entire episode.

    BRAQUO – Utterly ludicrous cops vs. Vors tosh but full of tremendous wounded machismo and gutsy story-telling.

    OUR WORLD WAR – Finally, WWI dramas about the war itself. Sadly a little too obviously 'yoof' with the absurd accents and melodramatic combat.

    AMBER – Like “Broadchurch”, only Irish and worse.

    GOMORRAH – Skips around too much but feels authentically grimy.

    TYRANT – A weedy lead and silly know-nothing Americans scupper a good idea. “Dallas” in Damascus.

    OUTLANDER – Exquisitely made but cat-lady tosh of the highest order.

    LEGENDS – Altogether too predictable.

    FALLING SKIES – Nothing says guerrilla warfare better than marching a column of civilians over open ground, without scouts, whilst bickering.

    THE LAST SHIP – So much action, they forgot to include characters. Or suspense.

  • Mark Carroll

    Thank you: your discussion of the two strands was usefully explanatory.

  • I'd agree with most of that, but would suggest sticking with The Last Ship since it does surprise later on. Braquo I particularly agree with, but found it just too ludicrous and the characters just too stupid to be able to watch what were some interesting story choices.

  • You're welcome. It's a show that does stick with you surprisingly, since it did feel like a proper spy show in a way that the likes of Homeland never really achieved.

  • GYAD

    Fair enough, I'll see what the next episode is like and go from there.

  • Episode 2 (and to some extent 3) are direct continuations from 1 and don't dwell that much on much beyond plot and action. The more self-contained bottle episodes with characterisation turn up in the middle of the season.

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  • Linda Anderson

    Forever is really good and worth watching. The reviewer for this article is way off the mark and needs to find another job since they can't recognize what is good and what isn't.

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