What have you been watching? Including Backstrom, Young Drunk Punk, 19-2, Spiral and Galavant

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.

Lots of new shows to deal with this past week, including 12 Monkeys. Unfortunately, it’s my busy time of the month, so I won’t be able to deal with them at length and there’s a few third-episode verdicts I’m going to have skip, too. Fortunately, though, all the new shows don’t really warrant full reviews…

Backstrom (US: Fox)
Despite having been canned by CBS straight after its pilot, this adaptation of Leif GW Persson’s Bäckström books has been resurrected over at Fox and once again demonstrates that the US really shouldn’t be adapting Nordic Noir. It stars Rainn Wilson from The Office as the eponymous Backstrom, a Portland police detective who’s best thought of as Gregory House MD but without the talent, the charm or the looks, bungling his way from crime scene to crime scene being lazy and offensive and being proved right because the script demands it, rather than because of any insight. So the producers think it very funny that Backstrom have the nearest – and indeed only – black person around arrested because he’s black so probably was involved in the crime. My, how comically racist! Except the black person is involved in the crime – how actually racist!

There’s some decent supporting characters, including an MMA-beat cop (Page Kennedy); a New Age medical examiner (Kristoffer Polaha from Ringer, Valentine, Life Unexpected), whom everyone reacts to like he’s English, even though he doesn’t even have an accent; an investigator whom everyone reacts to like she’s French, because she is (Beatrice Rosen); and Dennis Haysbert (The Unit, 24) as Backstrom’s boss. But this is as lazy as Backstrom himself, trying to fake being intelligent and gimmicky by having Backstrom ‘empathise’ (saying out loud, “I am character x, I feel y, therefore I would have done z”) and come up with insight such as “Anyone who says ‘Absolutely not’ is absolutely lying”, rather than actually being intelligent or having insight.

Weirdly, between moving from CBS to Fox, there’s been some recasting and a lot of the funnier and smarter stuff has been removed, making it worse not better than it was before.

Young Drunk Punk (Canada: City TV)
After last year’s slew of 80s nostalgia shows in the US, time for some 80s nostalgia from Canada, with Young Drunk Punk, in which two teenage nerd punk-wannabes search for their destinies after leaving high school. Despite being written by and starring Bruce McCulloch (Kids In The Hall) this is very much like the previous half dozen Canadian comedies that have come by in having a total laugh count of zero.

After the jump, 19-2, Arrow, Banshee, Constantine, Cougar Town, Elementary, The Flash, Galavant, Gotham, The Ground Floor, Hindsight, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, State of Affairs, Spiral (Engrenages) and Togetherness. One of them’s on the verge of getting recommended, one of them’s going to be dropped, and one of them is on the borderline. But which ones? You’ll find out after the jump.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

Constantine (US: NBC; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
Quid Pro Quo
Long time DC villain Felix Faust makes an appearance in what is otherwise a Chas background story, explaining how come he’s immortal. Nothing too exciting, but a solid piece of work.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; Third episode

Cougar Town (US: TBS; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
Full Grown Boy + To Find A Friend
The arrival of a new character, just as we see the departure of Brian Van Holt, but despite all the changes, nothing much of note in the episodes, beyond another Undateable actor turning up (Ron Funches).
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; Third episode

Elementary (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
The Illustrious Client (1)
Stuart Townsend arrives as we see the expansion of Kitty’s storyline so it’s more in keeping with that of the story after which the episode is named. And unfortunately, it’s still not great. This week’s had better be good, is all I’m saying…
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Galavant (US: ABC)
Completely Mad… Alena + Dungeons and Dragon Lady + My Cousin Izzy + It’s All In The Executions
Well, that’s the end of the first season and despite the plaintiff pleas in the final song for a second season and so many cliffhangers you could practically make Dover out of them, I doubt it’ll get them and it probably shouldn’t. Notwithstanding the final four episodes featuring a guest cast including Rutger Hauer, Anthony Head, Weird Al and Ricky Gervais, the show has only been intermittently funny and deserving of said cast. Some good ideas, but the whole thing would have been better as a movie. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned from the whole thing, it’s that Vinny Jones is actually a very good comedy actor when a script plays to his strengths and has never been better.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First and second episode

Gotham (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
What the Little Bird Told Him
The appalling acting outbreak spreads – even to John Dorman – with only the Penguin left behind. A somewhat rubbish villain this week, but some good arc plotting overall. No young Bruce and Selina, though, I notice.
When’s it airing near me?
First episode

Hindsight (US: VH1)
I Never
Oh dear. It’s gone dumb again, although not as dumb as the first episode, and it seems like we’re going to be alternating between career and personal life every other episode. It’s a shame, because aspects of this are really good (most of them Laura Ramsey), and it can be good and smart. But it would rather pretend to be dumb most of the time, so it can just have some more 90s music. Just as an example the show figures that no one cares that in 1995, it would be nearly a decade before Enron collapses. We know now that it collapses, don’t we? So it’s funny that some guy in 1995 who’ll probably have left the company very rich when it folds is working for Enron in 1995, isn’t it? Ha ha ha. Or maybe it’s just because the writers can’t think of any good 90s references. I should also point out that Michael Mann’s Manhunter does not have an unreliable narrator, but the character was stoned when he said that, so maybe that doesn’t count. I might stick with this one, or I might not. Let’s see how I feel by the end of the week.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode

Marvel’s Agent Carter (US: ABC)
Time and Tide
The first episode written by a woman so perhaps not too surprising that it’s the best episode so far. Unlike the first two episodes, it didn’t feel like it was trying to hit you round the head with its feminism, but used the attitudes of the period nicely as a backdrop. On top of that, we had the fleshing out of Jarvis and the death of another character. There was no prequel fun at all this time, but it’s good that it feels it doesn’t have to at this point.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
Traib
To a certain extent, a show like this lives and dies by its fantasy sequences and this week featured nearly an episode-long fantasy about composing a text message, the other main one being an exorcism of an ex-girlfriend’s possessions. Some of this hit home, but despite the presence of Battlestar Galactica’s Michael Hogan (yes, the show’s filmed in Canada. How did you know?), it just wasn’t funny enough, and given the characters are more annoying and offensive than identifiable and likeable, that meant the show didn’t have much to fall back on. Plenty of laugh points, though, so not a total loss.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

State of Affairs (US: NBC)
Cry Havoc
A good episode, action-packed, that manages to pull off a post-9/11 terrorist attack as tastefully as possible. The mole is revealed, too, in what’s the best episode so far. In fact, it now feels a bit like Rubicon did towards the end (although not as smart). Not quite a recommended yet, but not far off now.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Togetherness (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Handcuffs + Insanity
I don’t think this one’s a keeper, I’m afraid. As the title implies, how much you’ll love this show depends on how much you love seeing the characters together and I don’t love seeing them together. They all annoy me and they’re not funny. Together. Individually, they’re fine, but together, their middle-aged LA concerns are just too much like naval-gazing. Do I care if one of them annoyed a director by trying to use coyote noises in an audio dub? Do I care if a failing actor is able to talk to a producer at a party about anything except toilet roll? Do I care that Melanie Lynskey’s character is getting the sex she wants from her husband? The combined answer to all these questions is no. So this is another one for the burn pile.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

The recommended list

19-2 (Canada: Bravo)
School
An amazing opening episode to the second season, directed by Podz, the director of the original French-Canadian series. After an initial reintroduction to the characters, practically the entire episode then details a shooting at a school, and features an act-long tracking shot to beat True Detective’s famous tour de force. Despite the almost non-stop action and tension, the regulars all got to shine in the acting stakes. Truly, the best drama Canada’s made for a decade. Catch the whole of the episode below while you can.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
Left Behind
With Arrow dead (apparently), it’s up to the rest of the Arrow gang to protect Starling City, assuming they still want to. While the lack of (spoiler)Lazarus Pit has been annoying, since it stretches credulity to the limit otherwise, and the interplay between the regulars without Oliver is well handled and suitably moody. And of course this is the traditional point in the season when the flashback and present day narratives marry up, too, which sweetened the episode even more. None of it makes the slightest sense, of course, but you can’t have everything. Vinny Jones is nowhere near as good in this as in Galavant, by the way. He doesn’t even sing.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Banshee (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)
A Fixer of Sorts
I should know never to try to predict what’s going to happen on Banshee – it never works. Suffice it to say, things took a different turn this week. Excessively, sadistically violent, even by the excessively, sadistically violent standards of Banshee, and venturing into ultra-implausibility in terms of what damage human beings can take and survive, the episode was still a stunning one in terms of drama and the continuing themes of being unable to escape your past, even the relatively recent past, and of violence begetting violence and ultimately death. And then, of course, there was the twist at the end and lines like “You know someone before you know about them,” which was quite decent. Meaghan Rath from Being Human (US) joins the growing ranks of native Americans not played by native Americans on the show, but is reasonably sparky with what she’s being given.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes; third episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
Revenge of the Rogues
It’s a Prison Break reunion with regular Flash villain Wentworth Miller joined by his hot-tempered brother Dominic Purcell to try to take down the Flash. Both ham it up for all they’re worth and the episode also takes the time to tinker with the dynamics of the show’s characters, with an inspired Odd Couple pairing at the end.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Ground Floor (US: TBS)
Wicked Wedding
Silly tattoos, way too much singing and multiple trips to see Wicked still make for a decent and sweet enough episode. John C McGinley’s wife turned up and despite all of Doozer’s efforts and a script that makes it entirely obvious that that was the intended casting, Christa Miller didn’t play her.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode

Spiral (Engrenages) (France: Canal+; UK: BBC Four; US: Hulu)
Season 5, episodes five and six
Something of a return to Spiral traditions, with coy subtitling, incompetent police work and a few too many implausible connections between sub-plots, but still hugely enjoyable. Roban appears to be suffering from a trope, too. However, Oh. My. God. The ending. I didn’t see that coming, despite the fact that certain people were way too happy and well behaved for way too long.
When’s it airing near me?




  • GYAD

    INTRUDERS – Why was this drama made?

    ROCKFORD FILES – Charmingly shambolic. Brown blazer, brown tie and khaki slacks…

    EXTANT – Dull family drama with an SF edge.

    BORGIA: FAITH & FEAR – Alternately brilliant and exploitative.

  • Gareth Williams

    I'm watching very little at the moment.

    Broadchurch is a bit of a mess but there's nothing else on and it at least holds your attention.

    I found the bits in Starling City in Arrow a little too soapy. I did like the flashback tie-up though.

    The Flash is still good fun.

    I've still not caught up with Constantine. Gotham I'm watching on Channel 5.

    I managed to get to see Whiplash, despite it not being shown near me, and it is quite Brilliant. J Jonah Jameson is absolutely superb in it.

  • Mark Carroll

    Family watched Backstrom. It was pretty dreadful. Boring, with awful dialogue.

    I've been watching a little of some freestyle winter games thing from Austria on BBC which has been quite nice background.

    I am also getting going with Bondarchuk's War and Peace and so far it's good. It seems fairly faithful.

    We finally watched Esio Trot. It was generally quite good, also fairly faithful I think. Once sufficed.

    Did I mention last week we watched Her? (Not my idea.) It actually left me annoyed. The characters didn't really endear themselves to me and it generally felt quite unsatisfying.

    Usual family things like Grimm amble along more or less as one might expect. The same could be said for Top Gear.

    Really, not much to mention right now, certainly nothing I'm much excited about.

    One thing that was quite good was “Surviving the Holocaust – Freddie Knoller's War”. It held my attention and the guy came across as pretty genuine and had an interesting story to tell.

    Oh, and we got going with the latest Archer. That still seems good.

  • Intruders is a bit odd and pointless, isn't it? And bad.

  • No one's really loving Broadchurch any more, are they? I guess one good series from Chibnall was all anyone could ever ask for.

  • Her's interesting but frustrating – as soon as it has a good idea, of which it has quite a few, it moves on without really examining it.

    We're quite liking Archer, but I'm not reviewing it (cf Modern Family, The Daily Show et al)

  • GYAD

    Intruders is one of those shows where you'd love to have been in the room when they commissioned it because it's just so pointless.

    And eight parts too…

  • JustStark

    I haven't watched Intruders yet though I read the novel and it saddened me greatly: I will still defend Only Forward as one of the greatest books ever written, so to see Michael gradually sink through the thriller-by-numbers of the Blood Of Angels trilogy, to that, was very depressing.

    The Servants is quite good though, I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse.

  • Mark Carroll

    I'd never heard of this stuff. I'll give “Only Forward” a try.

  • GYAD

    I didn't even realise it was based on a novel…

    I've never heard of “Only Forward”. Is it really that good?

  • It's the mandatory inclusion of a bunch of Brits with very bad American accents that makes me wonder what they were thinking? “It's for BBC America! That means it needs to be the BBC… in America!”

  • GYAD

    Especially as they are bringing over so many Americans to the UK…

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