What have you been watching? Including Birdman, The Blacklist, Arrow and American Crime

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.

Elsewhere, I’ve already previewed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and reviewed Grace and Frankie, which is all the new shows I’ve had time for this week (so far…). But it’s winding down time for a lot more shows this week, so after the jump, as well as the latest episodes of Community, The Flash, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley, a look at the season finales of American Crime, Arrow, The Blacklist and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. Some of these I won’t be returning to next year, some I will.

I have, however, watched a movie. Well, half of one.

Birdman (2014)
Michael Keaton is a washed up actor who once played a superhero. No, that’s his role in this, which is as meta as it sounds. Here, he’s trying to put on a Broadway play to revive his career. Unfortunately, while Naomi Watts is great, the male lead isn’t, but when an accident puts him out of the running and Ed Norton volunteers to replace him, Keaton finally has a chance at success. Except Norton’s a flake and producer Zach Galifianakis won’t let Keaton fire him, because they can’t afford to.

Unfortunately, this is dull stuff. We managed to get halfway through before we lost interest completely and if you were expecting anything really to riff off Keaton’s Batman credentials in that time, you’d be wrong, beyond a couple of jokes and occasional voiceover – I believe ‘Birdman’ turns up later. Instead, it’s largely about the relationships between the film’s slightly tedious, annoying characters (including Andrea Riseborough and Emma Stone). Maybe it gets better in the second half but the first lost us.

The film’s most notable feature, though, is director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s decision to shoot the entire movie to make it look like a single continuous take. While it’s fascinating to watch (and to see if you can spot the joins), it’s more an intellectual puzzle rather than anything involving.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending  

The Blacklist (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
2×22 – Tom Connolly
A surprisingly dark place to end the season on and finally all of the show’s secrets have been divulged. Not a great episode in and of itself, although the twists to which it revealed the solutions are quite fun. But overall not a great season, with too few highs and many, many lows. The finale puts the show in a position to once again reboot its format, but I think I’ll be out as there’s simply too little to interest me now.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD (US: ABC; UK: Channel 4)
2×21-2×22 – SOS
Everything and the kitchen sink were thrown into this to make it exciting and to provide enough cliffhangers to make us wanting to watch the next season. We had Kyle McLachlan in full on loon mode; we had mutant powers aplenty; we had some attempts at decent fight scenes. But I think I’m out now. I’ve stopped caring about the original characters, and while the new characters were a good addition that definitely improved it, the continuing existence of the dull old cast means I’m not engaged. The fact this is so PG-13, even with torture scenes, doesn’t help, either. It’s a shame because for a brief interlude at the end of the first season, the show briefly became the most interesting programme on TV. But the producers failed to follow through by giving us a fanwank-tastic show bereft of both fun and edge with a solid foundation – and Ward just isn’t a decent supervillain. Oh well.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode, Third episode

The recommended list

American Crime (US: ABC)
Everything concludes pretty much as miserably as it looked like it would, with deaths, deaths and more deaths. But there was light at the end of the tunnel for some, which left us with an optimistic feel and a moral – as long as you can get as far away from possible from American crime and stick with the right people, you stand a chance of being happy; otherwise, you’re doomed. Overall, one of the most impressive US TV shows in years, certainly on broadcast TV, albeit one that was very hard to watch at times.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
3×23 – My Name is Oliver Queen
Not quite the barnstorming finale of previous years, but quite fun nevertheless, with a couple of ‘origin stories’ thrown in for good measure. But the get out clause at the beginning was as close to a King of the Rocketmen solution as it was possible to get and showed the difficulties of having genuine superheroes in the Arrow universe. All the same, a pretty decent season and a very unexpected way to wind things up, although how they’ll reboot next year is anyone’s guess.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Community (US: Yahoo; UK: Sony Entertainment Television)
6×10 – Basic RV Repair and Palmistry
Something of an odd, more or less ‘bottle episode’ involving an RV, a Zardoz-esque giant hand and too many mobile phones. The first three-quarters is an oddly flat affair with almost no laughs that’s more meta-analysis than actual plot, with a fun payoff to a line in a previous episode (spoiler: Abed marking off a flashback point) then starts to stop being fun once Abed makes it all a bit ‘too Christopher Nolan’ (in his own words). But the final quarter has some actual laugh out loud moments and the final tag scene with husband and wife comedians Matt Besser and Danielle Schneider is delightfully memorable, despite its similarities with the previous season’s ‘Vince Gilligan scene’ (and yes, there are Breaking Bad references in this episode, thanks to the RV)
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×22 – Rogue Air
Another show that threw the entire kitchen sink into the mix this week, with a cornucopia of villains and heroes in a variety of fun fight scenes, that handily dispensed of one of the shows major problems (spoilers: what to do with all the enhanced people stuck in particle accelerator). While I’m unconvinced that (spoiler: Oliver could take time out from running the League of Assassins) to lend a hand and the trailer for the episode ruined all elements of surprise as to what the ultimate showdown would be, it was overall something of a cracker, despite the archly camp first half with Wentworth Miller and Peyton List (wot no Dominic Purcell?), and neatly set up the next crossover with Arrow.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode  

Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
5×5 – Kill The Boy
A bit dull in places, thanks to our already having seen Stanza’s storyline played out with Joffrey. But everything with Stannis was gold.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; first season; second and third seasons

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×5 – Server Space
An episode with a few good ideas, but one that didn’t quite gel and there were some ideas that fell flat and were too juvenile. But it’s now interesting to see how the series’ overall arc is panning out as they go from idea through angel investment through VC and beyond to launch.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.