What have you been watching? Including The Anomaly, Constantine, Chef and Doctor Who

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.

Sunday’s overload of TV, as well as a generally busy weekend, means that I’m very slightly behind on my viewing. That means that still in the viewing queue are the latest episodes of The Affair, Homeland, Mulaney and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. I’ve also got the first episode of The McCarthys to watch as well. As a result, I think “What have you been watching?” should shift to Friday again for the next few weeks, to deal with the latest schedule fun.

I did give The Knick (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) a brief try. This is Steven Soderburgh’s little project, starring Clive Owen, which aired in the Summer while I was away on holiday. Set in a turn of the 20th century American hospital, it appears to exist mainly to allow Soderburgh to play around with a brilliant surgeon who’s a racist drug addict and for Owen to try out an American accent that doesn’t fit him very well. It didn’t inspire me to watch any more of it anyway.

Before I get on to the regulars, though, I’ll briefly mention a few films I watched this week.

Chef (2014)
Jon Favreau is a cook who ends up having a fight with a restaurant critic (Oliver Platt) and getting fired. He decides to go back to basics by driving around the US in a van, but thanks to the fight going viral – and his son tagging along for the ride helps out a lot there – he soon becomes incredibly popular. Largely, the movie exists as a metaphor for Favreau’s experiences of going from independent movie making to big franchise movies (eg Iron Man) and back to indie movies again, and he’s got a lot of acting pals along with him to help (eg Sofia Vergara, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downey Jr). But it feels very self-satisfied, not least to the effect the portly Favreau has on women, and ultimately very predictable.

How Do You Know (2010)
Reese Witherspoon is a baseball player who hooks up with fellow athlete and ‘playa’ Owen Wilson. But should she really be with lawyer Paul Rudd, who’s a little bit too ready to commit. How will she know? Why should you care? You shouldn’t and won’t. A fabulous cast that also includes Jack Nicholson, and directed by TV comedy super-director James L Brooks, but the funny bits are all in the trailer.

The Anomaly (2014)
A strange futuristic little movie, in which Noel Clarke from Doctor Who is a soldier who keeps waking up to find himself in all kinds of strange situations, only for him to lose consciousness again after 10 minutes. Cue the next strange situation. Over time, he begins to piece together what’s going on – at least, when he’s not being punched a lot by Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries) – and it could change the world. Directed by Clarke and also featuring Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect, Ground Floor), it looks surprisingly good for a low budget indie movie and has some good ideas: in its own way, it’s the Megaville of this decade. But it’s somewhat sabotaged by some well choreographed but poorly shot, impactless fight scenes, a decision that all the female characters should be topless/naked at some point or other, and by leaving Brian Cox to almost literally hang around with nothing to do. Blink and you’ll miss Freema Agyeman as Clarke’s wife.

That’s it for new new shows, though, but after the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, The Blacklist, Constantine, Doctor Who, Elementary, Forever, Gotham, Gracepoint, Homeland, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Muianey, Plebs and Scorpion. Will I be dropping any this week?

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Elsewhere, I’ve given third episode verdicts on Marry Me and Jane The Virgin.

Constantine (US: NBC; UK: Amazon Prime)
The Darkness Beneath
After opening with a potentially interesting format in its first episode, Constantine has basically reverted to a boogie monster of the week style series, almost completely unwatchable in its sub-Grimm dullness. This is despite all sorts of weirdness going on: the replacement of Lucy Griffiths with Angélica Celaya as Zed, having an entire mining town in Pennsylvania obsessed with Wales, Matt Ryan’s accent and anti-Romani racism. I’m not even sure I’ll make it through to episode 3.
First episode

Forever (US: ABC; UK: Sky 1)
Fallen Idol
Back to plain old mystery of the week. Sigh.
First episode Third-episode verdict

Gotham (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
Spirit of the Goat
As stupid as the episode title suggests, right down to its conclusion (spoiler: it was the hypnotherapist wot got everyone else to done it). But as always, a good ending.
First episode

Gracepoint (US: Fox; UK: ITV)
Episode five
The murder mystery is becoming moderately engrossing now, even as the Tennant-Gunn side of things is dialled down. Tennant’s also becoming increasingly Tennanty and comedic. But still very watchable.
First episode Third episode

Mulaney (US: Fox)
The Doula + Halloween
Two episodes that weren’t quite as good as the first episode, but still made me laugh, which is more than most other comedies are doing right now. And Halloween was more frightening than Constantine.
First episode

Scorpion (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
True Colors
It’s art forgery time, but unfortunately, it’s not quite ludicrous enough to be entertaining. The framing device – a psychiatric evaluation of the team by Shohreh Aghdashloo – moderately enlivened proceedings, as did an NCIS: LA crossover by Linda Hunt, but the main cast were too tedious to really make you care about events, until right at the end.
First episode

The recommended list

I’ve already passed my third-episode verdict on The Affair, but here’s what else I’ve watched.

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
The Magician
In which John Barrowman shows up and demonstrates that actually, sometimes he’s not that bad an actor – in fact, he can be quite good. Felicity was largely absent, thanks to being in The Flash this week, unfortunately. Laurel is still… Laurel.
First episode

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
The Mombasa Cartel
An attempt to simulate some of the more political episodes of the first season that didn’t work especially well, given most of the points came out of Red’s mouth. However, some welcome characterisation for one of the supporting cast (no, no clues). The Lizzie’s secret thing has to end soon, though.
First episode

Doctor Who (UK: BBC1; US: BBC America)
Dark Water
Steven Moffat’s back and engineering a surprisingly creeping Halloween episode as well as the return – in fan-outraging form – of an old enemy (spoiler: Missy turns out to have been The Master with a sex change all the time) and an almost intriguing return of another old enemy (spoiler: the Cybermen). Not that despite the fact it only happened in the final five minutes that last spoiler is actually a spoiler, given it’s the preview frame for the episode on the iPlayer. A very decent effort, with Capaldi coming off as reasonably likeable for a change, the Danny/Clara characterisation a little odd but well played, and the central ideas are largely blinding. Surprisingly conventional for Moffat, but good.

Elementary (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
Enough Nemesis to Go Around
It’s eight months after the second season and it’s all change – kind of. Holmes has a helper, Watson has her own detective business and new boyfriend (Raza Jaffrey). But otherwise the series is a little bit same old, same old, although at least there was a ridiculous central mystery to be solved. It might be time to wave goodbye to this one soon.

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
Going Rogue
Felicity from Arrow shows up to visit Barry and show everyone else how to be a proper nerd. Meanwhile, Wentworth Miller from Prison Break returns to TV after a bit of a break as Captain Cold, but forgets to defrost his acting skills along the way. Generally, a fun little episode as always.

Plebs (UK: ITV2)
The Phallus
Oops. Turned out there’s another two episodes left this series. The first of a two-parter, The Phallus is as puerile (fun little Latin joke for you there) as the name suggests, with the boys running into an old school friend that they used to mock, but finding out he’s now a powerful lawyer and potentially useful in matters legal. Nicely flipping round current British xenophobia, we also have British immigrants Cynthia and her slave potentially being deported back to Britain for not having their papers. Not one of the show’s best, but still entertaining.
First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    I didn't actually take much notice of that episode of The Blacklist so I suppose I can't have found it all that engaging. Doctor Who was indeed better, though the (second spoiler) better have a better plan than looking at things then walking around. The family have been watching Once Upon a Time, Grimm, that kind of thing, which all seem about the same as ever.

    The Walking Dead continues to progress reasonably. I'm not regretting being sucked into watching.

    I rewatched Snatch. Mostly it was fairly mindless, though the weaving together of some of the coincidences to have threads touch each other was okay. It was worth this second viewing.

    I watched more of the Rome thing. We got onto the birth of Christianity. It was quite good.

    The main excitement was that we went to see The Babadook. It was actually rather good. It had many of the good elements to make a film scary. The son was annoying for a while, but decreasingly so as it went on. It didn't all entirely make sense, but that's to be expected. Overall, not a disappointment.

  • Gareth Williams

    Constantine -Matt Ryan's accent was better in episode two, it's still a composite of various northern sounding accents but at least it was a lot less Welsh. Speaking of Welsh, the church in the last episode was called St. Asaph and that was where I was born, which saved the whole thing for me really.

    The Flash -Is it just me that thinks it's a bit weird that Barry is trying to shack up with someone who, for all intents and purposes, is basically his step-sister?!

    Arrow -Barrowman has been OK this series: he even looks a lot less rubbery, but that may have been due to the lighting.

    Doctor Who -Those windows may have been a nice, little hint if the Cybermen hadn't appeared in all the trailers. I worked out the Missy/Master naming thing in the first episode, too; so, yay me.

  • JustStark

    I can think of a more interesting Time Lady to be the villain, who was left behind and got called 'Mistress' a lot.

  • The dialogue was very much designed to make fans think that, IMO.

  • I heard Babadook was good, so I'll put that on my provisional list, too!

  • I wasn't sure how much 'Missy' was a double-bluff. It might still be. But probably not.

    The Flash: yes, that's weird. She's also bland. It's interesting how much Barry and Felicity clicked compared to him and Iris, who's a tad bland. “Opposites attract”. Clearly not?

    Constantine – I guess that was the only thing that could have saved the episode

  • JustStark

    Indeed. It just makes it a bit of a let-down.

    'Which one are you? Which one are you? Which one are oh you're the only other one who ever shows up these days, I suppose I could have just guessed that.'

  • JustStark

    Also, you know, evil K-9 = the bestest thing ever.

  • Mark Carroll

    If you see it, I'll be interested in your opinion: it's a long time since I watched much horror. I was just taking a look at http://www.rollingstone.com/mo… to see if I can watch more and establish baselines for comparison.

  • You must really hate season 8 of classic Who. And most of the Davison years

  • JustStark

    You must really hate season 8 of classic Who. And most of the Davison years

    I'm not keen on the Pertwee era as a whole, no (I think I'm probably the only person whose DVD shelf goes straight from 'The War Games' to 'Kinda).

    But at least by the Davison era you get the impression that the Doctor is just as bored by the Master's constant turning up as the viewer; certainly Davison never bothers to act surprised. It's less, 'Gallifreyan technology?! Which rogue Time Lord could you possibly be??!' and more, 'Oh, something's a little bit anachronistic here, I wonder if the Master's around somewhere again.'

  • JustStark

    (Actually, it does annoy me quite how much the new series keeps bringing back the same monsters / baddies, again and again. Davison, Baker II & McCoy all faced the Daleks once; in the new series there's a Dalek story every year. And yes, I know there are issues with the Nation Estate that makes that the cheaper option, but as a viewer it gets annoying. you know every year 'the Dalek episode' is coming up. And same is true of the Cybermen.

    I suppose at least Smith never faced the Master, which is good, but I had hoped we'd seen the end of the annoying git and Moffat would come up with a new baddy.

    Or just turn Romana evil. That would have been (along with evil K-9) brilliant. They could even have got Mrs Dawkins to do a cameo, after all, they got her husband a couple of years ago.

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