What have you been watching? Including Interstellar, Arrow, Gotham, Elementary and Plebs

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.

Despite the fact a couple of shows in the US have decided to take a wee break this week, the moving of “What have you been watching?” to a Friday hasn’t quite solved my backlog issues. So I haven’t yet watched this week’s The Affair or Jane The Virgin – which might be telling me something, or might not be. Otherwise, I’m up to date.

Elsewhere, I reviewed The McCarthys and I managed to watch a movie this evening:

Interstellar (2014)
Christopher Nolan’s latest. Christopher Nolan is, of course, a genius and Interstellar is another convention-defying, mainstream movie industry-defying blockbuster with little busting or indeed action. Three of its biggest stars are only revealed halfway through and the whole thing is set in some dystopian near future where the Earth is dying and our only hope is for Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway to travel through a wormhole to a distant galaxy and try to find a new planet. An odd combination of 2001, 2010, Silent Running, Planet of the Apes and, erm, Signs, it’s thoughtful, tries its best with science – it’s one of the few movies to even attempt to have the repercussions of relativity as a main plot point, let alone worry about whether a black hole is spinning or not in order for its singularity to be of the right kind, or try to simulate five dimensions with just two – and has some lovely outer space bits filmed in Iceland.

But I don’t know whether it’s because I’m a genius, too, because virtually all the twists and turns the movie runs through seemed blindingly obvious to me. I saw them all coming and was mildly disappointed when the movie did exactly what I expected it to do, particularly in one particularly bonkers bit towards the end. YMMV, but I’m off to watch Gravity and Inception again after this, both of which do aspects of Interstellar much much better. Still, it is a Christopher Nolan movie so automatically in the top 10% of all movies this year, despite a run time of three hours and nine minutes, and it does handles emotions and the people side of things much better than previous Nolan movies have, while still being very smart.

After the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, The Blacklist, Elementary, Gotham, Gracepoint, Homeland, Muianey, Plebs, Selfie and Scorpion.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Gotham (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
Penguin’s Umbrella
Now that’s more like it. After weeks of rubbish episodes, finally we get showrunner Bruno Heller writing the script by himself for a change and it’s a doozy, a single piece on the Penguin and his machinations, without a stupid guest villain of the week (okay, Victor Zsasz, but he wasn’t that bad). Add on top of that lots of revelations about things we’ve already seen and thought we’d understood (but hadn’t), and action scenes that weren’t stupid and we might finally be seeing the beginnings of a Gotham worth watching.
First episode

Gracepoint (US: Fox; UK: ITV)
Episode six
A combination of filler episode and painful character piece, with Nick Nolte’s ‘paedo’ coming under the spotlight. A little dull, but with some standout moments and some welcome comedy from Tennant and Potts towards the end.
First episode Third episode

Mulaney (US: Fox)
Sweet Jane
A reasonable mix of funny and not, with Martin Short as usual having the best parts (this week aided by Penny Marshall and Lorraine Bracco). A clever meta-shout out to Mulaney’s obvious Seinfeld inspirations, but the choice to satirise Friends was odd. They also need to lose the stand-up bits, because they’re terrible.
First episode

Scorpion (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
Father’s Day
In case the ‘Robert Patrick as father figure’ metaphor hadn’t been spelt out already, here it was again for your delectation. Again, it was all about family – tediously so a lot of the time – but this was the first episode where the geniuses actually felt like geniuses at times, rather than people who have a scriptwriter who changes the laws of physics to make them be geniuses.
First episode

Selfie (US: ABC)
Even Hell Has Two Bars/Never Block Cookies
A double helping of Selfie this week, with the initially dreadful but ultimately sublime Even Hell Has Two Bars, written by showrunner Emily Kapnek, which started to nudge the romcom side of things in the right direction. Never Block Cookies, on the other hand, nudged it away again. Oh well. As a sidenote, it has to be said the episodes do have some great titles and it’s still a show that almost gets social media and has something to say about it, even when a lot of the time it’s ’social media is mad’.
First episode

The recommended list

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak
How Felicity came to be Felicity, effectively, and we even got her mum turning up. Bonus! Not the comedyfest we might have been hoping for, although Felicity’s mum’s “How many millionaires do you know?” was priceless, and Brandon Routh is proving to be surprisingly great at comedy. The ending? Well, what to make of that, other than to wonder if the ‘al Ghul’ in Ra’s al Ghul is significant…
First episode

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
The Scimitar
Stuff about Iranian assassin and nuclear secrets. Stuff not that interesting. Yawn. Where’s the energy of season one gone? But a lovely ending that should hopefully answer that last question.
First episode

Elementary (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
The Five Orange Pipz
Little resemblance to the original Holmes story, as you might have expected from Elementary, as well as few signs of the show we loved in season one. The Kitty/Watson/Sherlock feud triangle is spoiling the show’s mojo. But Holmes is starting to deduce things again, which is promising at least.
First episode

Homeland (US: Showtime; UK: Channel 4)
From A to B and Back Again
The most 24 episode of the season so far, one filled with “Oh FFS” moments and pointless stupidities, as well as epic twists, all with the Homeland quality-sheen doing it’s best to make you think it’s actually smarter than it is. Still, after all this meandering, we now have a strong through drive for the plot, and hopefully some fun spy stuff to look forward to, as Pakistani intelligence comes properly online.
First episode

Plebs (UK: ITV2)
The Race
The series finale (yes, definitely!) ends with big changes in every area of the show, as well as the customary mix of crudeness and surprising erudition and charm that marks it out from the rest of ITV2. Not as good as series as the first, and if the show ended after this, I wouldn’t be fussed. But a whole lot better than it could have been, so if it does return, I’ll be duly happy.
First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    Reviews of “Interstellar” so far have made me feel comfortable about skipping it; I'm not sure I'd find the investment satisfying.

    I did watch that episode of “The Blacklist” and can't actually remember the ending, which isn't a good sign. Other our-family staples like “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” are similarly unremarkable, as are the usual BBC comedy panel quiz shows, among which I'd probably list HIGNFY and “Would I Lie to You?” among the best; “Never Mind the Buzzcocks” tends to be rather hit or miss with the other panel members, I think I liked earlier seasons more.

    I've resorted to watching early “House”. The pilot was a bit obvious but season one has been progressing okay. So far, it's not subtle, but still good.

    At some point I plan to get around to “You're the Worst” but haven't felt in the mood for an American sitcom.

    We finished season three of “Game of Thrones”. The last few didn't draw me in quite as much, but the show at least retains good production values and it's hard to guess where it'll go next.

  • Interstellar looks great and probably needs to be seen in an IMAX cinema with a brilliant sound system to do it justice; a lot of the criticisms that might be levelled at it are true of 2001, too, since in many ways it's a film about spectacle. Certainly, the stuff involving black holes and wormholes, as well as the ice planet, are beautiful. It's just a bit too convinced of its own magnificence and intellect.

    The Blacklist reveal will come back to you with the next episode since it's a major plot point. But I almost forgot about it, too, before I wrote the review, which as you say isn't a good sign.

  • GYAD

    GRACELAND – Oddly, getting better now most of the silly relationship drama is out of the way. Still not good enough though.

    DETECTORISTS – Quietly funny.

    DOMINION – I can accept the hokey concept, just not the risible acting, writing and directing.

    STALKER – Misogyny or twisted female fantasy? Terribly cast and pornographically violent anyway.

    TOAST OF LONDON – Funny/crude.

    A RUMOR OF WAR – A well made and intelligent adaptation.

    THE PASSING BELLS – Yet another BBC WWI drama turns out to be a combo of Eastenders dramatics and kid's history.