What have you been watching? Including Dig, Maximum Choppage, The Americans, Fortitude, 12 Monkeys and Vikings

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’sLocate TV – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

A couple of days away and once again the new shows descend! It’s like they know. I’ve done my best to watch them all, and you might have noticed my reviews of The Last Man on Earth, CSI: Cyber and Battle Creek over the past week. I’m putting off my review of ABC’s remake of Secret and Lies until tomorrow when I’ve had a chance to watch the third episode (yes, they showed the first two on the same night) and American Crime only arrived on the scene on Thursday so I’ll be giving that a go either tomorrow or Wednesday. Netflix’s also dumped the whole of the new Tina Fey sitcom The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt onto our queues on Friday, which I’ll at least try to make a start on this week, too.

Which just leaves the following, which I have actually managed to watch but which don’t really merit full reviews of their own.

Dig (US: USA Network)
Tim Kring (Heroes) and Gideon Raff (Homeland, Tyrant) collaborate on what is essentially Touch 2, with FBI agent Jason Isaacs coming to Jerusalem to hunt down a murderer, only to be drawn into Jewish mysticism and Dan Brown-style prophecies and conspiracies involving a red-haired archaeology student and the guy who played Hardman in Suits (the fabulous David Costabile) having a big collection of cloned kids and a black-hair-free cow in Norway. It’s novel to have both the Israeli location shooting and the solely Jewish rather than Christian mythology as the foundation of the plot, but already it’s so intricate and beardy weirdy that I’m not really tempted to watch any more of the silliness. But there are enough bonkers elements, including Richard E Grant, to make me watch at least one more episode, I think.

Maximum Choppage (Australia: ABC2)
Asian guy returns to Melbourne after three years away in Beijing at a martial arts school, whereupon his family and friends demand that he protect them from local gangs. Unfortunately, it turns out he’s actually been at Marshall Arts School, learning how to paint and edit videos, which means he and his female kung fu-tastic best friend have to pull off a series of elaborate con tricks on everyone to keep the neighbourhood in check by convincing the baddies that he really is a true warrior. Written by and starring Lawrence Leung, it works best when it’s sending up the plots of 70s and 80s kung fu movies and transposing them onto modern Melbourne, worst when it has a bad guy called ‘Kai Lee’ who likes to sing ‘The Locomotion’. Not bad and occasionally quite titter-worthy, but not as good as the average episode of Hong Kong Phooey.

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, 19-2, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, The Blacklist, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Forever, Fortitude, Gallipoli, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Suits and Vikings.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending

I didn’t manage to watch Agents of SHIELD, I’m afraid. But here’s what I did watch.

12 Monkeys (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
The Keys/Yesterday
Quite an interesting place to take the show in the first of the episodes, albeit a place that anyone paying attention (or counting the number of episodes) would have known couldn’t have been the case. The second episode adds a new, future layer that includes good old Xander Berkeley that’s actually interesting, unlike the sub Mad Max stuff we’ve had so far. And more timey wifey fun, too. Just about ready for promotion to recommended, this one.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Gallipoli (Australia: Nine)
A Man Alone/The Deeper Scar
More misery as we get into the ‘senseless slaughter’ phase of the war, with a brief slightly inexplicable venture into the lonely plight of the sniper. I’m not 100% convinced by the ‘aboriginal’ character, either. All the same, as tear-jerking in its alternately subtle and necessarily gory depiction of the senselessness of the war. It should be noted, incidentally, that ratings are now low enough that Nine is dumping out two episodes a week instead of one, which is a little disappointing.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

Forever (US: ABC; UK: Sky1)
Memories of Murder
An episode that could easily have been retitled A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, with some poignancy in terms of Ioan’s dead wife. As usual, the murder itself somewhat ordinary.
+ Social Engineering
Didn’t make a whole load of sense and Internet stuff that at times felt like a pilot for a rubbish new ABC show and was dangerously close to CSI: Cyber, but fortunately we avoided that in the end. There was also a resolution to Ioan’s dilemma that came straight out of Suits. But a nice bit of fleshing out of past history for a chunk of Ioan’s history.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; Third episode

Fortitude (UK: Sky Atlantic; US: Pivot TV)
Episode 5-6 (6-7)
Well that’s all gone a bit odd, hasn’t it? After revealing the killer to both the viewer and the audience in the first of the episodes, which was in itself an precedent-setting shape for a 10-episode series to take, we’re now in the territory of The Strain and Helix, with seemingly an ancient virus coughed up by mammoths and now flushed down the sewers. You can see where the set up has been for all of this (no one’s allowed to die on Fortitude…), but it’s more than a tad unexpected. Still, looking forward to zombie Christopher Eccleston at some point in our future.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First three episodes

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
+ Branzino
Not quite as funny, despite the presence of Portlandia’s Carrie Brownstein.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

The recommended list

19-2 (Canada: Bravo)
Tables/Property Line
The mole plot pace increases thanks to some important revelations, but I think I couldn’t care less about the personal lives of the various officers, I’m afraid.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

The Americans (US: FX)
Salang Pass/Born Again
Two general “eat your greens” episodes that advance the general plots but without doing anything too much in terms of innovation. But along the way, some great moments, including the disturbing revelations of what Phil was taught in terms of seduction and sex by the KGB and the points about Reagan’s cosying up to the South African administration. The show is also very cleverly treading the paedophile knife-edge, creating just as much tension as the other plots.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
Nanda Parbat
Ra’s Al Ghul is back and Arrow gets one of Batman’s old plots in a very solid episode that managed to juggle all kinds of storylines and do them justice. And I’ve just realised that Ra’s is actually a good guy over in Gallipoli, which took me a little time to spot.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Banshee (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)
All The Wisdom I Got Left/Even God Doesn’t Know What To Make Of You
We reach peak Banshee violence with the conclusion of the Native American storyline, while getting another flashback, this time to the Hood/Job meeting. Proving once again to be both one of the best written and directed while simultaneously insanely violent and sickening shows on TV.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes; third episode

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
The Deer Hunter
A terrible, dull episode, despite attempts to get political. Amanda Plummer appears to have cornered the market in weird old female serial killers, too.
+ T. Earl King VI
Daftness on top of daftness, yet somehow it all worked, largely thanks to James Spader.  
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC One/Alibi)
This Town and This Place/By The Southern Cross
The thorny question of why there aren’t any aborigines in Ballarat finally gets addressed, while we get yet another new police officer in the cast, albeit one who was in a few episodes of the first season.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

Marvel’s Agent Carter (US: ABC)
A slightly unsatisfying conclusion to a decent first season that ultimately proved a little too unwilling to do anything too significant with the MCU (a proper Black Widow origin episode would have been good).
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Suits (US: USA Network; UK: Dave)
Intent/Not Just A Pretty Face
Lots of plot lines wrapped up, a bit of soapiness and important moments between several characters. Overall, a very promising half-season improvement, which takes Suits off my personal death row.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Vikings (US: History; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
The Wanderer/Warrior’s Fate
More lovely old languages, Linus Roache gets to have some proper fun, we have some proper supernatural stuff thanks to the arrival of Kevin Durand and we get the first hints of France being an element of interest this season. Oddly, both the Ragnar and the “women back home” storylines are starting to feel a little superfluous, though.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: Season one review