What have you been watching? Including 8MMM Aboriginal Radio, Arrow, The Flash and Community

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.

It’s May Day weekend here in the UK this week, so given the usual Bank Holiday weather, I imagine lots of you have some TV binging to do.

Would Sir or Madam care for some recommendations? I’ve already reviewed Avengers: Age of Ultron elsewhere and after the jump, I’ll be looking at my regular TV viewing: American Crime, American Odyssey, Arrow, The Blacklist, Community, The Flash, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and Silicon Valley.

But first, a newbie.

8MMM Aboriginal Radio (Australia: ABC)
8MMM is an Aboriginal-owned radio station in the middle of nowhere that needs a vital influx of training, so a bunch of white people turn up to pass on the benefit of their wisdom to the existing Aboriginal and white staff. Some of the white people are a bit racist, some of them are very earnest and trying very hard not to be racist, some of them want to have sex with Aboriginal people and some of them actually want to be Aboriginal. The Aboriginal people? Well, what a bunch of stereotype-busters they are.

A lot of this is going to be impenetrable to anyone who isn’t well versed in Australian culture – as well as references to Bogans, lots of other bits of Australian slang and disparaging graffiti about Canberra, the warning at the beginning to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples that the show contains images and videos of dead people is also standard enough that I wasn’t sure if 8MMM was taking the piss out of it, given it’s supposed to be a comedy, it’s fictional and there aren’t any dead people in it, or it was supposed to be a genuine warning. Or both.

If it was a joke, it was about the funniest part of the show, though, which was a relatively lifeless affair redeemed only by a diverse cast (most of whom, unfortunately, can’t act) and the occasional bit of comedy, such as a cursed chair in the radio station and a joke about the ’stolen generations’, that poked fun at the show’s own earnest attempts to prove its credentials.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending  

I’ve already reviewed the first episode of Happyish, the first three episodes of The Comedians and the whole of Deadline Gallipoli this week. But here’s what else I’ve been watching

American Odyssey (US: NBC; UK: BBC Two, to air this month)
1×4 – Tango Uniform
More pass the parcel with Anna Friel, although she shows a bit more gumption this week, and more “that’s not how technology works” moments – really, someone’s bugging a cellphone and you think they’re going leave clicks on the line: what switchboard are they tapped into, hey, Mr Writer? Sarah Wynter’s thankless task of nagging wife who will support her husband’s Very Important Mission gets even more thankless. We stop caring about the trustfunder, when we’re not having to face him having an embarrassing sex scene. And we wonder if anyone could have come up with a stupider plan to flush out AAA than the terrorists did this week. Next week looks exciting, though.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
2×20 – Quon Zhang
More secrets revealed, but actually they weren’t that interesting. Oh well, only a few more episodes to go now, so I think I’ll stick it out to the end of the season then give up. It’s a shame, since James Spader is just so good.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (US: ABC; UK: Channel 4)
2×19 – The The Dirty Half Dozen
The original gang’s back together, with Skye temporarily back from being boring to spar with Ward on a secret mission. And it actually felt quite nice for a change. But the last five minutes then turned into Marvel’s Advert for Ultron, which wasn’t quite as fun, despite a Maria Hill cameo.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode, Third episode

The recommended list

American Crime (US: ABC)
Which way’s is it going? You can see misery in the near future for some, potential light for others, but it feels like the hammer could drop at any moment and they’ll all be ruined. Gripping and gruelling in equal measure.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
3×21 – Al Sah-him
No crossover this week, despite the imminent threat to one character could have been quite easily fixed with a quick call to The Flash. On the whole quiet a silly episode, as we’re once again back in “what will the Arrow team do without Olly?” territory, albeit with a slightly different answer thanks to Ra’s not quite having had Olly’s informed consent to his nicking an old Batman story line. Talking of not having informed consent, what’s up with that ending, hey? Also, how come Nyssa’s so pants at fighting compared to Olly, given she’s been training her entire life? Oh well.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Community (US: Yahoo; UK: Sony Entertainment Television)
6×8 – Intro to Recycled Cinema
What would have been a killer episode in the first few seasons shows how tired the series is. Here we have the citizens of Greendale making a fake sci-fi movie, but rather than pastiche sci-fi movies in a precise way that shows a love of the genre as the old Community would have done, it’s more a pastiche of a pastiche of sci-fi movies. Jeff’s monologue towards the end did lift the episode in a typically meta way, being as much a commentary on Joel McHale’s career in comparison to former NBC time slot neighbour Chris Pratt’s (or even Donald Glover et al’s), and we also had a bevy of cameos from Steve Guttenberg to Fresh Off The Boat’s Randall Park (this time playing himself), but it was weak tea indeed, to quote Larry Wilmore.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×20 – The Trap
Future goodies galore as we learn more about the Reverse Flash, the Flash’s future, Eddie, parallel timelines, computer programming and more. There’s a reveal that was obvious but demonstrates that a previous episode’s dud B-plot wasn’t quite as dud as it might have looked at the time, and we also get a couple of unexpected flashbacks. Impressive and there’s still a few episodes until the finale amazingly enough.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×3 – Bad Money
As accurate a portrayal of Silicon Valley douchebags as you could hope (or fear) to see realised in yet another searingly precise and funny episode.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

  • Mark Carroll

    I've probably been reading more than watching television lately. There hasn't been much on that I've felt like watching. It says something that a highlight has been the return of Jools Holland's show, which itself is a very hit or miss affair, though reliably a bit peculiar.

    The Blacklist isn't exactly engaging me, nor is the family's catching up with The Flash, which balances mildly amusing moments with further truly painful science. When they watch Gotham, that still draws my attention more. I suppose that The Blacklist just grows increasingly obviously unrealistic.

    W1A's back, fairly good as before. I still think it would be far better if it were just a little less silly (e.g., no Siobhan) because it would still be entertaining and a whole lot more plausible.

    One BBC show I liked was one about Delphi. They talked about all the people passing through in ancient times, and of course the temple and oracular stuff and whatnot.

  • Andy Butcher

    Another busy week, so I fell further behind on several things. Of what I have managed to watch so far (planning to have a catch up session this weekend)…

    Overall I thought it was a great week for the superhero shows.

    Flash continued the momentum towards the finale really nicely, and really underlined for me what a fantastic job Tom Cavanagh has been doing all season. In many ways, I'd say he's been the single most important aspect of the show's success, and I really hope they find a way to continue having him as a regular in season 2 somehow. I find it hard to imagine the show being any good without him.

    SHIELD turned in another of the all-too-infrequent episodes where it demonstrates what a great show it could be, if only it could maintain the momentum and quality from week to week. Awesome fight scene for Skye/Daisy/Quake, and so many great lines that I was actually glad Ward came back (as most of the best lines were related to him).

    I also liked the Avengers tie-in, if only because it made Coulson the equivalent of the rebel spies who stole the plans to the Death Star… 🙂

    Arrow's reach may have slightly exceeded its grasp, but the fact that after three seasons the writers are still so ambitious is one of the reasons I love the show. Still have no idea how the hell they're going to resolve everything with only two episodes to go, but at least we got a strong hint about who the big bad is going to be next season.

    Oh, and as far as Nyssa goes, I don't think it was really about fighting skills, it was about will and identity, which have both been strong themes throughout the whole show (and especially this season).

    Other stuff, in no particular order:

    * Saw that Helix has been cancelled, and was well behind on Season 2 anyway, so finally dropped it. Don't really know why I stuck with it as long as I did.

    * Elementary has been clawing its way back into my affections since the Kitty storyline was (finally) resolved and we're back to Holmes and Watson.

    * Much to my dismay, the second episode of The Messengers started laying on the Christianity a bit. Am gonna see how the third episode plays out this weekend, but I don't hold out much hope for it now.

    * Am now 9 episodes behind on the Blacklist, but can still myself catching up over the summer (when there's generally a lot less to watch anyway).

    * Powers has now finished its run, so am preparing to binge it sometime over the next few weeks.

  • I quite liked the Delphi doc, although I watched it the first time round and it's a bit hazy in my memory now – pretty in terms of locations, although I don't remember learning much and having my usual quibbles with it.

    Blacklist is soon for the chop, I suspect. Plus it's ratings are tanking in the US

  • Tom Cavanagh is aces in everything and I'm hoping the mighty power of time travel allows for the original DW to be saved. Or perhaps there'll be some sort of battle for ownership of the body or something.

    If your SHIELD suggestion is correct, that suggests the Star Wars spin-off movie about the rebel spies is going to largely be pants 😉

    Powers was dreadful, but YMMV. Is Elementary in any ways Sherlock Holmes still or is just its own thing now?

  • JustStark

    we learn more about the Reverse Flash

    Please don't tell me that the Reverse Flash isn't somebody who wears blue and can run really really fast but only backwards.

  • Would you accept yellow?

  • JustStark

    As long as they can only run backwards.

  • Would you accept “they can only run backwards… through time”?

  • JustStark

    As long as they have to keep looking over their shoulder to see where they're going.

  • It's an aspect of the comics that hasn't been transferred over to the TV series, probably for health and safety reasons

  • Andy Butcher

    I've heard mixed reports about Powers – a couple of friends claim that it although the start is shaky it really picks up as it progresses, so I figure it's worth a look (and the comic was superb, so at least it has good source material to draw on). Will let you know what I think when I get around to watching it.

    The appeal of Elementary for me has always been the reinterpretations of Holmes and Watson and their relationship – the characters, basically. When Kitty came in for a big chunk of the current season it broke up the Holmes/Watson relationship. Now she's gone and we're back to Holmes and Watson, I'm enjoying it again.

    The big problem remains that the 'case of the week' is normally solved in a very standard police procedural fashion that bears little resemblance to how Holmes actually works in the books. But I still like the modern versions of Holmes and Watson, so I keep watching but not recommending. 🙂

  • Andy Butcher

    I think there has to be a degree of willing suspension of disbelief with comic book shows, especially one about a character as fundamentally problematic (from the point of view of reality) as The Flash. The science isn't so much painful as non-existent.

    Mind you, I freely admit to being wildly inconsistent with what I'm willing to suspend my disbelief for, so I completely understand how you might find it annoying. 😉

  • Mark Carroll

    Some other shows manage to deftly gloss over any explanations or at least manage to make them not brazen bobbins. For instance, this nonsense in Daredevil about how Matt's heightened senses let him do the things we see him capable of, or how Dr Manhattan was formed in Watchmen, we avoid much explanation of, and I think for the best; similarly, we didn't hear too much daftness about the mechanisms by which Matt's new suit is effective. I generally find that unintentional silliness grates: while I might have enjoyed, say, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, one of the (several) things I find ongoingly implausible about CSI: Miami is simply that the department is quite that well funded.

    With The Flash it's not too big a deal, though, compared with that I don't care a whole lot what happens to the characters; there isn't anyone much avoiding waving needless silliness at me — detail not really required by the premise or plot — while attractively causing curiosity or entertainment, at least for me, and the plot is enough pulled out of people's bottoms ad hoc that there's not much point investing in that. Some shows save themselves in other ways, like House's acerbic wit. Now I think about it more, it's hard for me to be much invested in The Flash when I keep suspecting that many problems will be solved with the help of something else we just invented so the next step of plot would resolve as we wished.

  • Andy Butcher

    I have a lot more faith in the showrunners/writers than you do, at least when it comes to plotting. I'm pretty sure they've had the structure of the whole first season mapped out since the start, and know where they're going with it.

    With that said, I do agree that I care a little less about the characters in the Flash than those in Arrow. Obviously some of this is because I've spent nearly three seasons with Team Arrow and only a season with Team Flash. But I think some of it is down to the different natures of the two shows.

    In Arrow, everyone suffers, and Ollie himself is subjected to near-Buffy levels of pain. Maybe it's just me, but seeing characters go through hell tends to make me care more about them, through both empathy and sympathy.

    Flash, on the other hand, is a LOT more fun than Arrow, but a necessary aspect of that lighter tone is that the characters suffer less, and I suspect that's at least partly why I am less attached to them. It's perhaps telling that the Flash character I love the most is actually the villain. 😉

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