What have you been watching? Including Cara Fi, The Comeback, Neville’s Island, Robocop (2014), Constantine 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.

First, I’ll apologise in advance for the typos: I’m just heading out the door to watch The Imitation Game.

Anwyay, we’re nearing Thanksgiving and the Christmas season (aka ‘December’) which means that viewing options are starting to drop off, new shows are few and far between, and old shows are giving us their mid-season finales. But I have watched a couple of new things, including State of Affairs, which I’ve reviewed elsewhere.

Cara Fi (UK: S4C)
A dying Welsh village puts the faces of its single men on the sides of milk cartons to attract women there. Starring Dave Coaches (Steffan Rhodri) from Gavin & Stacey, it’s pretty gentle, not especially romantic comedy with a sad basis in reality. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but it’s a different change of pace from the usual fare and it clips along decently enough.

The Comeback (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Lisa Kudrow plays a fading, once semi-famous actress, trying to use reality TV to make a comeback, only to discover that she might get a second chance, playing a thinly veiled pastiche version of herself in a sitcom. Technically the show’s second season, it’s first season airing in 2005, and since then, most of its young stars (Kellan Lutz, Malin Akerman) have gone on to better things, although Akerman makes a cameo in the first episode, Lutz lined up for a later appearance. However, as with the first season, this is such an insider TV show that even though I’ve been writing about TV and US TV for the best part of two decades, even I found it a bit niche. More damningly, I didn’t laugh once. Fans says the show’s simply ahead of the curve, in which case I’ll probably find it funny in 10 years’ time, but seeing as most of it is cringe comedy and laughing at people who’ve fallen on hard times, maybe not.

I’ve also watched a movie:

Robocop (2014)
Remake of the 1980s ‘classic’, this hits neither the original’s lows nor its highs, loses virtually all the satire, and ditches Nancy Allen’s tough female partner for Omar from The Wire. Nevertheless, the story of a murdered cop turned into a cybernetic police officer for a privatised police force does actually do some interesting and different things, looking at the concepts of free will, the nature of perception, media manipulation, the disabled, prosthetics, and the tensions between altruistic science and those funding it. It’s certainly not memorable and will probably be forgotten about soon enough, but it’s nevertheless a pretty decent film that would probably be a lot more noticeable and notable were it not for the original.

And I’ve been to the theatre, too.

Neville’s Island (Duke of York’s)
Four Northern middle managers (Neil Morrissey, Adrian Edmondson, Miles Jupp, Robert Webb) go the wrong way on an outward bounds course and end up stuck on an island in the Lake District. How will they get on together? Will they escape? And will any of them go mad and attack the others? I’m not saying, but it’s a fun play which ultimately doesn’t say a whole lot, but is entertaining nevertheless, with some good performances. It also features one of the best sets I’ve ever seen – or smelt. Seriously, that’s some moist piney goodness they’ve got going on there.

After the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, Constantine, Elementary, The Fall, The Flash, Forever, Gotham, Gracepoint, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, The Newsroom and Scorpion.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

I haven’t watched last night’s Gracepoint yet. Sorry. I’ll get there.

Constantine (US: NBC; UK: Amazon Prime)
A Feast of Friends
The upward trajectory continues, thanks in part to stealing basically the entire plot of issue #1 of Hellblazer. While we’re still very much in PG-13 horror territory, with much of Jamie Delano’s original script lightened, it’s still an episode that genuinely felt like proper John Constantine and a proper piece of dark fun. Zed, unfortunately, seemed a little irrelevant this week, though.
First episode Third episode

Forever (US: ABC; UK: Sky 1)
An episode about jazz, so probably the least said about it the better.
First episode

Gotham (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
Harvey Dent
Proto-Two Face turns up as the show continues the gradual process of shaving off the stupider, more comic book aspects of its story. Generally good moments, and as usual everything involving Penguin, Bruce and Alfred was great; but the Selina Kyle/Bruce Wayne bits were great, too, so the overall average for the show is improving. A long way off being recommended viewing, but not on the death watch list any more.
First episode

Gracepoint (US: Fox; UK: ITV)
Episode seven
A largely dull filler episode, enlivened mainly by revelations about David Tennant’s character. I’m really in it for the long haul at this point, since there’s only three episodes to go now. But clearly that’s about three more than there should have been.
First episode Third episode

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (US: ABC; UK: Channel 4)
The Writing on the Wall + The Things We Bury
We’re hitting mid-season, everything’s getting exciting, a lot of the plot threads are being rounded off, Kyle MacLachlan’s character is shaping up nicely, others are getting interesting again. I’m assuming cancellation is just around the corner?
First episode

Scorpion (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
Rogue Element
Robert Patrick’s ex-wife turns up and the continuing “he’s like a dad to me” sub-text is once again rendered as text. Reasonably exciting, with lots of explosions and car chases, but still not as ludicrous as I’d like.
First episode

The recommended list

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
Draw Back Your Bow
Getting very silly now, with Cupid showing up to stalk Arrow. Pretty much everything good about the show now is Felicity and Ray Palmer, with everything else a bit tedious and by the numbers, with something close to borderline sexual harassment being endorsed. I’m hoping for a major pick up in quality soon…
First episode

Elementary (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
The best episode of the season so far, with a surprising venture into artificial intelligence. A bravely ambiguous ending which suggests more to come, it also featured Rubicon’s marvellous Michael Cristofer. I do hope he’s back soon. Also, Americans – learn the difference between a tortoise and a turtle. We don’t really have turtles (the big ones with flippers that can swim) in the UK (we have small terrapins in tanks of water), but we all know about tortoises (they’re the small ones with legs on Blue Peter), so at a pinch, we’ll call something that carries its own house around with it and walks a tortoise, not a turtle. Unlike Americans who prefer a turtle.
First episode

The Fall (UK: BBC Two; US: Hulu)
Episodes 1 and 2
Brilliant and disturbing as always, with one of the best soundtracks on TV thanks to David Holmes. Gillian Anderson is back chasing serial killer Jamie Dornan across Northern Ireland and is getting close to her target at last. With some of the most accurate portrayals of the complexity of police work in terms of politics, procedure and even economics, a recommended but difficult programme to watch at times. But do watch it if you can.
First episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
The Flash Is Born
Lots of Easter eggs for fans of the comics, but mainly good for the Flash getting his name and his speed on.
First episode

The Newsroom (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Boston + Run
I neglected to mention this last week (stupid list!), but The Newsroom is back and better than ever. We’ve got Kat Dennings, lots of Olivia Munn, intrigue, excitement, relevance rather than simply lecturing, and all the dull characters are largely being shunted to one side. And we have some good dialogue, too. Still nothing near the brilliance of The West Wing, but one of the top shows of the week.
First 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.

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