What have you been watching? Including The Imitation Game, Great Britain, State of Affairs and The Fall

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.

Last round-up for a fortnight, since I’m going to be away next week. But with it being Thanksgiving this week and a lot of shows delivering up their mid-season finales, I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot on to watch next week. I might even have to watch British TV for a change. Shudder.

I didn’t quite have time to get round to watching and reviewing Sky Arts’ Danish import The Legacy, but I’ll definitely be doing that on Monday. Definitely. And I’m in two minds about whether to bother with BBC One’s spooky Remember Me, featuring Michael Palin. But I did manage to watch both a movie and a play.

The Imitation Game (2014)
A potted biography of British mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), covering his childhood, work during World War Two breaking the Nazi Engima machine cypher and eventual chemical castration following conviction for his criminal conviction for homosexuality. Cumberbatch is outstanding as the older Turing, while Keira Knightley excels as a fellow Bletchley Park brain and Turing’s fiancée, despite having a pretty underwritten role to deal with. Although the script is more at pains to express how much international involvement there was in the Engima effort, unlike certain movies I could mention, it isn’t brilliantly executed and glosses over a lot of the work necessary in the decryption, both before and after it was initially cracked. However, the story, Turing and the cast (which also includes Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance and Rory Kinnear) are strong enough that despite the script’s flaws, the movie still wows over the audience and is deservedly likely to be this year’s King Speech.

Great Britain (Theatre Royal Haymarket)
Richard Bean (One Man, Two Guvnors) casts his eyes over UK newspaper history for the past 30 years and sticks it all together in one tabloid, The Free Press, which soon discovers that hacking people’s voicemails isn’t that hard – particularly if you’re both literally and figuratively in bed with the police. It’s a very well executed piece that draws on fake TV broadcasts, newspapers, audience interaction and even YouTube mash-ups to tell its story, and the more you know, the funnier it gets, with Andy Coulson, Kelvin MacKenzie, Rupert Murdoch, Rebekah Brooks, Piers Morgan and others all getting skewered by proxy through their various fictional amalgams and equivalents. Lucy Punch (Ben and Kate, The Class, Bad Teacher) takes over from Billie Piper in this production, as the definitely-not-any-real-person tabloid protagonist, and makes the role her own, even if her accent fails to convince as either working class or Bristolian. Definitely of interest to anyone who knows anything about modern newspaper history and knows what the News Bunny was, or to anyone who likes a laugh.

After the jump, I’ll be running through: Constantine, Elementary, The Fall, The Flash, Gotham, Gracepoint, Mulaney, The Newsroom, Scorpion and State of Affairs.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including The Imitation Game, Great Britain, State of Affairs and The Fall”

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What TV’s on at the BFI in January 2015?

It’s time for our regular look at the TV that the BFI is showing, this time in January 2015. And it’s very much a month of foreign TV, for a change. Kind of.

As well as a preview of Sky Atlantic’s Fortitude, starring the likes of Stanley Tucci and Sofie Gråbøl and filmed in Iceland, there’s a season of Eric Rohmer’s French TV documentaries and a season of British TV dramatisations of American plays, starring the likes of Eartha Kitt, John Malkovich and Eli Wallach. But just for a bit of variety, there’s a couple of plays starring Maggie Smith.

Continue reading “What TV’s on at the BFI in January 2015?”

Classic TV

Nostalgia Corner: Where’s Elvis This Week? (1996)

Jon Stewart in Where's Elvis This Week?

Back in the 90s, Brits loved Americans and Americans loved Brits. To some extent, this started with the love-in between Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in the 80s, when American movies and TV shows also began to reign truly supreme in UK cinemas and on our TV screens, but a period under George HW Bush dimmed the fires of passion somewhat.

Then along came Bill Clinton and suddenly we couldn’t get enough of the US, particularly on BBC2, which worked at particular length to get more US shows on our screens. TV Nation was a co-production between NBC and BBC2 that explored British and American cultures using journalists and comedians from both sides of the Atlantic. BBC2 also bought in for a six-week experiment famous US movie review show Siskel and Ebert, even getting them to film a special segment for UK viewers at the end of the run (this isn’t it – no one could be bothered to record it).

Probably the least successful, least remembered example of this Americophilia is Where’s Elvis This Week?, a five-episode, Saturday night BBC2 show hosted by Jon Stewart. Yes, him off The Daily Show. That Jon Stewart.

Trying his best to be hip and cool in a leather jacket, despite

  1. The Jon Stewart Show having recently been cancelled
  2. Craig Kilborn being set to continue hosting The Daily Show for a further two years
  3. Being Jon Stewart

Stewart presided over a panel of two Brits and two Americans who tried to explain each other’s news to each other and give their opinions of the other country’s news. And what panels they were. The likes of Christopher Hitchens, Dave Chappelle, Eddie Izzard, former mayor of New York Ed Koch, Nora Ephron, Armando Iannucci, Joe Queenan, David Baddiel and others all showed up and did their best to be both interesting and funny, despite the format and the occasional additional lame duck panellist such as Tony Hawks (no, not that one). Stewart, in turn and despite being obviously uncomfortable with just about every aspect of the show, did his best to play the laid-back, regular Joe foil, but every so often, exposed his intellect with a particularly smart comment.

Just like America’s love for Bill Clinton, neither the show nor the Americophilia lasted very long, and it was promptly cancelled, thankfully putting everyone out of their misery. But you can still watch this experiment in transatlantic comedy below. For those that care, here were the line-ups for the five episodes, so you can decide which one to give a whirl. It’s worth noting that Christopher Hitchens comes up with something profound at the end of his episode, prefixing it with “I’ve just thought of something profound”:

  1. Eddie Izzard, Phil Jupitus, Laurie Pike, Scott Capurro
  2. Dave Chappelle, Helen Gurley Brown, Christopher Hitchens, Tony Hawks
  3. Felix Dexter, Norm MacDonald, Joe Queenan, Lowri Turner
  4. Martin Clunes, David Baddiel, Ed Koch, Wendy Wasserstein
  5. Armando Iannucci, Craig Kilborn, Arthur Smith, Nora Ephron

So yes, if you watch the fifth one, you’ll get to see the first two hosts of The Daily Show at the same time for perhaps the only time in TV history. Historic, hey?

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