What have you been watching? Including Blunt Talk, The Island/Το Νησί, Y Gwyll/Hinterland, Impastor, Continuum and You’re The Worst

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.

Can you feel it? Can you? It’s coming. It’s nearly here. It’s the Fall 2015-16 US TV season! Hoorah!

But not until next week. Not properly, anyway, which is why the only new US TV show I’ve reviewed this week is FX’s The Bastard Executioner and the only regular US shows I’ll be examining after the jump are the season finale of Impastor and the latest You’re The Worst. In desperation, I even went back a few weeks to give Patrick Stewart’s new August-debuting series a go, too.

Blunt Talk (US: Starz)
Patrick Stewart plays a former British marine turned US chat show host whose ratings are on the down turn. He ends up high on drugs and alcohol, and in the arms (and bosom) of a young, transgender prostitute, and is promptly arrested – well, once he’s stopped beating up the cops. What will happen to his career now?

This is a comedy by the way. It’s not one of those crazy old-fashioned things with jokes, but instead mainly seems to get by on seeing Stewart not being a ‘English gentleman’. This might amuse Americans, unused to English people doing such things, but as Stewart himself points out in the show, we’re a bit more used to idiosyncratic Englishmen here.

The only rays of hope in the show are the moments Stewart has by himself with Adrian Scarborough (Gavin & Stacey, Plebs), his former Falklands batman, which are actually pretty good fun, even if filtered through a strange US prism.

Overall, by the end of the first episode, I really wasn’t sure what the point of the show was. It’s not satirising anything, it’s not doing a The Newsroom or a The Larry Sanders Show. It’s just Stewart being a mild-mannered, self-harming dick.

Here’s a trailer.

But that’s it for US TV. Oh well.

However, there’s more to the world than America. Indeed, elsewhere, I’ve reviewed the first episode of Australia and New Zealand’s new 800 Words, and after the jump, I’ll be looking at the continuing adventures of Canada’s Continuum and the return of Wales’ Y Gwyll/Hinterland. There’s lovely, hey?

And as if all that wasn’t enough, I broke a rule and took a look at some Greek TV.

The Island/Το Νησί (Greece: Mega)
The reason for my rule-breaking is that this year marked the 10th anniversary of the publication of Victoria Hislop’s The Island, a novel set in the first half of the 20th century on the Greek islands of Crete and Spinalonga. On Spinalonga is a fortress where Greece used to send people with leprosy until a cure was discovered in the 1950s and the story is about various love affairs, some of which involve people who end up on the island, and how that affects their families.

As well as a Q&A with Hislop, the night featured an airing of the first episode of Το Νησί, Greek television’s 2010/11 24-part adaptation of the novel, which despite being made for €4m and a couple of bottles of raki, is actually very lavish and emptied the streets when it aired. Indeed, it has only ever been beaten in the ratings twice, both times by sporting events, one of which was the opening of the Athens Olympics.

The adaptation is pretty faithful to the book, right down to the modern-day London bookending, which features a pre-Downton Abbey Dan Stevens. It’s all very lavish and well made in Greek terms, too, although equally, it’s very Greek and emotionally drawn out, too. Acting’s pretty good, with Evgenia Dimitropoulou playing a double-role of both the modern day Alexis and her own aunt Anna – as Alexis, she does a good job of playing a British-Greek girl who doesn’t speak Greek that well (hers is about as good as mine, in fact), although she seems to understand an awful lot, even some quite obscure words such as λεπρός (leper), when she winds up in Crete.

The series has never aired in the UK, surprisingly, although I’m sure BBC Four will get round to it some day. However, you can watch all of it on YouTube, albeit without subtitles, if you hunt around.

There were a few celebs among the audience at the Q&A, including Patrick Barlow and Robert Young, but one in particular pretty much stalked me all over Blackfriars and at the Q&A the entire evening. He made his bilingual acting debut in the first episode of the series, which I’ve embedded below – see if you can spot him. I’ll give you a clue – he first appears at the 3m59s point.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Impastor (US: TV Land)
1×10 – Exodus
In which our fake vicar has to try to get out of town to escape the people after him, but starts to discover he’s going to miss everyone – and wonders if he can get in some quick break-up sex on the way out. An odd little first season in retrospect that never quite lived up to the humour and darkness in the first few episodes, and which was never quite sure what it wanted to do or was better at – tell a story about a straight man pretending to be gay or a criminal pretending to be a Lutheran pastor – and oddly choosing to do the latter most of the time. All the same, some good comedy over the season and probably one I’ll be tuning in for again next season.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode

The recommended list

Continuum (Canada: Showcase; UK: SyFy)
4×2 – Rush Hour
Less promising than part 1, this ep sees our Keira forging some unlikely alliances and the general beginning of writing out various characters in preparation for the series finale. Some actually quite cracking fight scenes involving Victor Webster and Roger Cross, but a bit ploddy overall.
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (UK: S4C)
The return of the gloomy, Welsh-only version of BBC Four’s Hinterland, and it appears we have a change of format – either it’s time for some series-long arcs or we’re down to one-hour stories, judging by the way everything got almost completely wrapped up by the end of the episode. As usual, this feels like Welsh Wallander, judging by the tissue-thin grasp of police procedure going on, but as with Wallander, the point of the show isn’t to investigate crimes but to expose the inherent misery of existence, here personified by kids getting brain damaged or killed by dodgy drugs. Generally, an improvement over last series, though, despite numerous scenes of the police driving out to AN Other Moody Welsh location just to ask a couple of questions, with a decent plot, decent acting thanks to everyone being a lot happier in Welsh and some attempts to give the characters pasts and lives outside of police work.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; first series

You’re The Worst (US: FXX)
2×2 – Crevasses
After last week’s very slightly disappointing first episode, the worst couple of the world came back at full power, with Gretchen discovering she has no adult possessions of her own and working out whether she’s ready for that next stage of commitment now she’s moved in with Jimmy. From the opening Trivial Pursuit game through the bravura exploits in the mall, a delightful piece of intelligent amorality with everyone just feeling very real, despite the comedic exaggerations, and everything coming across as original and fresh, rather than a retread of the same old tropes.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode


  • Rob Buckley

    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.

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