What have you been watching? Including Scotland in a Day, Red Oaks, Doctor Who and The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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.

The deluge is about to begin, with a whole slew of new US shows going to kick off this week, more the following week. Fortunately, I’m braced and prepared, and have got right up to date with all my tele. Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of a few shows that have begun to air:

Also starting this week, but which I’ve miraculously already reviewed is Forever (US: ABC; UK: Sky1), which premieres tonight. But that’s it so far.

I have also watched a couple of other one-offs.

Scotland in a Day (UK: Channel 4)
Timed nicely to coincide with the referendum, Scottish comedian Jack Docherty – you may remember he had Channel 5’s first late night chat show – shows us various famous Scottish actors (e.g. John Hannah, Dougie Henshall) and various famous not-Scottish actors (e.g. Doon MacKichan, Isy Suttie) pretending to be real people in an attempt to be funny that largely falls flat on its face. It’s one saving grace is that Docherty resurrects the marvellous McGlashan from Absolutely for the piece.

Red Oaks (Amazon Prime)
Yet another attempt to do 80s nostalgia (cf The Americans, The Goldbergs), this time giving us a young Jewish guy at college trying to work out what he wants to do in life, so becomes an assistant tennis pro at the Jewish country club where his girlfriend works as an aerobics instructor. Were it not for the occasional Walkman and old car, you’d never know this was set in the 80s, and were it not for the fact it says so on the description, you’d never know this was a comedy either. There’s plenty of Jewish jokes (“A C is a Jewish F”) and bonus points for casting Paul Reiser and Jennifer Grey, but the lack of fun, insight and decent female roles make this a considerable waste of time, and Craig Roberts is incredibly miscast.

Even more excitingly, I watched a couple of movies:

The Amazing Spider-man 2 (2013)
If there was one thing that made The Amazing Spider-Man any good, it was the chemistry between Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield. Naturally enough, Sony wanted to make the most of this so created a 2h20m film that separates them for most of it, filling that run time with not one, not two but three classic Spider-Man villains, all of whom get perfunctory characterisation and storylines. And then right at the end, it stupidly repeats the ending of the first movie. I’m slightly at a loss for how so many elements can have been so badly misused, whether it’s Jamie Foxx as Electro, Paul Giamatti as Rhino (yes, they got one of America’s finest actors to play a Russian in a rhino suit) or both Stone and Garfield. It does look very good, I’ll admit, with some excellent use of bullet time to illustrate Spider-man super agility, but they really needed to spend a lot more time on the script (while simultaneously spending a lot less time on it, if you see what I mean).

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)
My sister had really raved about this, as had Mark Kermode on Radio 5, the trailer seemed really funny and the cast seemed epic (Ralph Fiennes, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, F Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Tom Wilkinson, et al), so I was really looking forward to Wes Anderson’s latest. All those plus points were even enough to convince my wife to watch it. However, she fell asleep halfway through and I was seriously bored. While it looked and felt beautiful, and there were some great individual lines, the big laughs were almost all confined to moments shown in the trailer, and were few and far between in the movie itself. Disappointing, with the exception of Ralph Fiennes who turns out to be a superb comic actor.

After the jump, the regulars: Legends, Doctor Who and You’re The Worst.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Legends (US: TNT; UK: Sky 1)
Gauntlet
Now becoming very much the sort of show you’d expect from Howard “24 and Homeland” Gordon, with Sean Bean now off having tense fights and spy moments with utterly expected but well handled outcomes. Could well be recommended by the end of the season.

The recommended list

Doctor Who (UK: BBC1; US: BBC America)
Time Heist
The best Stephen Thompson script of any series, either Doctor Who or Sherlock, although I suspect as always that Steven Moffat might have had a hand in the good bits. Essentially, Hustle but with the Doctor and co, it’s the first story so far where Capaldi’s Doctor hasn’t been a total git, and while it was pretty predictable in most places, even with the twists, and lots of it involved running around corridors, it was a diverting enough episode with a sweet ending.

You’re The Worst (US: FX)
Fists and Feet and Stuff
While not exactly the perfect finale, given the amount of artifice necessary to get everyone to their respects end-points in the space of one episode, this was pretty much everything great in You’re The Worst all stuck in one place, with pathos, misery, comedy, satire, outright silliness and large-scale deceit. Unfortunately, with ratings this low, it’s likely not to get renewed for a second season, but I don’t think there’s been a single bad episode in its entire run. Watch it while you can.
First episode




  • Mark Carroll

    Okay, maybe I'll watch “You're the Worst”; It turns out that I do seem to have convenient access to it.

    Yes: I thought “The Grand Budapest Hotel” hit a number of intended targets really well, except for that once was enough. For me, there wasn't really any engaging tension, for instance.

    The latest Doctor Who has been enough now to make me really cautiously optimistic about this season. They are generally different and interesting and we have had some reasonable use of time travel.

    We are finishing off season 4 of “The Walking Dead”. It is okay, it keeps me watching. Not too annoying at the moment. There were a couple of annoyances but they are now deceased. I wonder how much more it has to bring us, though, that in some other way it hasn't already done.

    For mindless entertainment sometimes we watch “Pointless”.

  • Robin

    Scotland In A Day was always bound to be a mixed bag but I felt like it hit the target enough to be enjoyable (and captured the feel of the …In A Day series well). As well as Doherty (and Moray Hunter turning up at the end, which was lovely), Kayvan Novak's tat-seller and John Hannah's indecisive man were enjoyable as were the pregnant wife sketches (even if the storyline was pinched from 30 Rock…)

  • The ending of Grand Budapest Hotel somewhat redeems it, but obviously don't make it any funnier. Otherwise, big let down