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.

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)
Danse Vaudou
A slightly more mundane episode, in which the dead come back to life thanks to Papa Midnite’s voodoo going a bit wrong. However, a pre-Spectre Jim Corrigan made his first appearance, and Constantine properly got to smoke, too. Unfortunately, Zed got more to do and it’s now very obvious she can’t act.
First episode

Gotham (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
Lovecraft
Despite the rocky start and fact the show has one of the most uniformly bad casts of any show on TV, Gotham’s really starting to get good, and this mid-season finale wasn’t afraid to take things to their logical conclusions. Great to see Sean Pertwee demonstrating Alfred Pennyworth’s lesser known military background (Royal Marines in this, Special Air Services (sic) in the comics) and simultaneously tempering Jada Pinkett Smith’s Fish Mooney, too. But Ben McKenzie really has to stop growling – Christian Bale can pull it off, McKenzie can’t.
First episode

Gracepoint (US: Fox; UK: ITV)
Episode eight
Wading through the filler episodes to reach the end now. I’m really just wishing they would reveal whodunnit.
First episode

Mulaney (US: Fox)
Patriot Acts
Slightly dull episode involving a marine and everyone wishing they were a marine. Minimal (but greater than zero) laughs, too.
First episode

Scorpion (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
Talismans
Thankfully, possibly the most ludicrous episode of anything involving soldiers I’ve ever seen, so glad to see Scorpion’s back on form. Also, no Bosnia is not still a thing, and I’m pretty sure the Bosnian embassy and tourist board is going to be on the phone to CBS soon, if they haven’t been already.
First episode

State of Affairs (US: NBC)
Secrets and Lies
Removing all the bad Heigl behaviour and most of the action of the first episode in favour of people stuck in rooms talking, episode two was still a reasonably good network spy drama, albeit intensely predictable – if you didn’t see where everything was leading by the end, I’m assuming TV is a relatively new experience for you. More politicking at the White House that made it all feel a bit Madam Secretary, too, but not in a bad way. Wouldn’t stand up next to an episode of The Sandbaggers, but what would?  
First episode

The recommended list

Elementary (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
Rip Off
A return to more prosaic form after last week’s pretty decent episode, with an entirely Watson-free episode focused more on Gregson and Winter. Some Holmesian deductions for a change and some clever plotting, but lacking the zing and references to the books it needs to be anything more than ordinary. Will Watson’s book be the season arc this year, though, I wonder?
First episode

The Fall (UK: BBC Two; US: Hulu)
Episode 3
A typically brilliant first half for the episode that draws equally brilliantly on its Northern Ireland setting, followed by a second half that disappointingly descended into the ridiculous and fell into all the traps expected of a series with a strong, independent woman being chased by a serial killer. What a shame. Still, I’m hoping it’ll pick up and that some of the events were merely there to nod towards Archie Punjabi’s role in The Good Wife.
First episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
Power Outage
A power-sucking meta-human turns up and drains the Flash of his powers. Oh nos. Will he get them back by the end and in time to save the girl? The answer is not quite what you’d expect and the focus on Professor Wells in the episode made for a good change of pace and maintained interest in the ongoing season arc.
First episode

The Newsroom (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Main Justice
Another really good, exciting episode – it looks like Aaron Sorkin’s finally worked out how to make The Newsroom work, just as he’s abandoned all plans for a fourth season. Typical.
First episode




  • Mark Carroll

    To my surprise, thinking over the last week's viewing, early “House” is continuing to be my favourite. I have been watching “The Fall” and it seems well-made and acted, but it's not exactly entertaining and a lot seems to go on without much real payoff.

    Some of the how-to-build-a-Mediaeval-castle show has been interesting, but it doesn't exactly wholly hold my attention.

    We watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and I was again struck by how very blandly generic much of the music was from the bands. I fear for whatever demographic might actually be enjoying the selection. Naturally we watched some of the usual MST3K Thankgiving Day marathon on YouTube too, including a dreadful Sindbad film, but at this point they're usually ones they've seen.

  • GYAD

    GRACELAND – A truly ludicrous cliffhanger end to a series that has utterly lost the plot in its second season.

    ROCKFORD FILES – What's scarier, the villains or the 70s fashion?

    TOAST OF LONDON – Alternately funny and repulsive.

    DETECTORISTS – An excellent end to one of the quietest but best and most charming British series of the year.