What have you been watching? Including Sneaky Pete, Mr Robot, Impastor and Humans

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.

What have I been watching? Well, to be honest, since Tuesday, not much, but this entry is mostly so I can get back on schedule with a regular Friday WHYBW. All the same, I have managed to watch a few things, both regular and new.

Elsewhere, I’ve previewed a couple of pilots for series that will be airing this month: NBC’s Blindspot and Fox’s Minority Report. After the jump, I’ll also be reviewing Impastor, Humans and the season finale of Mr Robot.

But on the recommendation of Benjitek, I decided to watch the pilot episode of Sneaky Pete.

Sneaky Pete (Amazon)
The joint idea of David Shore (the creator of House) and Bryan Cranston (do I really need to tell you who that is?), Sneaky Pete was originally developed for CBS but was ultimately rejected in May. Amazon then picked it up and such has been its popularity in the past month, it was awarded a full series a couple of days ago.

The basic idea is a sort of more amiable Banshee, less romantic Le Retour de Martin Guerre. Giovanni Ribisi (Phoebe’s white trash brother in Friends) is a conman who gets released from prison. Having to lay low for a while and in need of cash, he turns up at the door of his lifer cellmate’s family, pretending to be the brother/grandson they haven’t seen in over 20 years. The family runs a bail bondsmen business and Ribisi soon discovers he has a talent for using his criminal skills to catch other criminals. He also realises that this could be the family he’s never really had until now… and that his ‘sister’ (Marin Ireland from The Divide, Homeland and The Slap) is quite hot. All he has to do is to keep everyone from finding out who he really is, avoid falling in love with Ireland and prevent the guy he owes money to (Cranston) from amputating all his real brother’s fingers in lieu of cash.

It takes about five or ten minutes for the show to get going, but after that, it’s pretty engaging. More network in tone than most Amazon shows, right down to the tame swearing, it’s actually quite genteel and smart, with neither Ribisi nor Ireland being happy using guns, so using just their wits and their ability to run to entrap/evade criminals in a sort of Mission: Impossible without spies. There’s also Margo Martindale being entertainingly sassy, as the one family member who realises that Ribisi isn’t who he claims to be, but isn’t that fussed about it.

Not The Wire by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely worth a look and I’m quite looking forward to the series now. Thanks Benjitek!

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Impastor (US: TV Land)
1×8 – Bingo Tell It On The Mountain
Another episode that shows the writers are increasingly interested in the idea of a criminal pretending to be a Lutheran pastor than they are in the idea of a straight man pretending to be a gay man. A somewhat gentle affair (that’s code for ‘not especially funny’), the episode still had a reasonable number of dark moments around gambling addiction and it also managed to provide some decently intelligent moments that bucked the general sitcom trend in terms of Dick Barton-esque ‘With one bound, Dick was free!’ solutions to dilemmas.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode

The recommended list

Humans (UK: Channel 4; US: AMC)
1×7-1×8
My lovely wife had grown somewhat tired of the pace of Humans so we actually skipped straight to episode 8 to see what happened. I then went back and watched episode 7 afterwards, which probably gives me a slightly skewed view of the final episodes, with the big bundle of surprises in episode 7 already known to me by the time I’d seen them.

Still, putting on my Giant Top Hat of Imagination to simulate what it would have been like to have watched them the right way round, I’d have to say a pretty strong end to the season, with some good twists and some tear-jerking moments, although the finale was a bit weak in terms of where it left things and the removal of a couple of characters in episode seven felt forced to say the least.

All the same, a great first season overall that makes you wonder why Channel 4 does so little sci-fi, since when it does it (eg Black Mirror, Ultraviolet), it does it so well.

You can tell, incidentally, how much Humans is UK sci-fi (of Swedish origin) by just how nice everyone is, even the baddies. Even the SWAT team was quite nice.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Mr Robot (US: USA Network)
1×10 – eps1.9_zer0-day.avi
A somewhat bewildering finale to the best show this year, to be honest. Mr Robot has essentially been driven by two narrative questions for nine episodes – who is Mr Robot and will fsociety succeed with their hacking of Evil Corp?

With the first answered in episode 9, the question was what the show would do with its second question. And it was pretty comprehensively answered, although in a surprising move, between episodes, leaving the finale to pick up the pieces and spin out more mysteries. Indeed, if you thought episode nine answered the first question, the finale makes it clear that it was just part of a larger question: who is everyone? Particularly Elliot. There are some big clues that (spoiler alert) Elliot is also the Swedish guy, except that wouldn’t make a huge amount of sense. But reality is now so conclusively untrustworthy at this point that maybe it does.

The question is: what happens in season two now the world has more or less ended?
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode; third episode




  • benjitek

    The sudden character removals from Humans were happened as they threw out the characters that were combined from the original. They were composites from Real Humans, and where that plot led wasn't possible with the changes they made. The combo-characters had to go, mostly.

    Humans steadily veered away from the original until the finale, where not a single plot element took place in Real Humans. They chopped out a very good part of the story, where Laura becomes the lawyer for one of the 'missing' characters, another of Dr Elster's special hubots, who wants to legally adopt her stepson when her husband dies. The husband knew their marriage wasn't legal, but until his death everyone in the family, including the ex-wife, thought his wife was human. Huge sub-plot, great court scenes… gone 🙁

    Killing Dr. Millican made sense, he was a composite. In the original he was Laura's father, the doctor was a separate character. He, and both of his hubots, were major parts of the story in both season 1 & 2.

    Humans is the condensed 'Readers-Digest' version of Real Humans. The creator of Real Humans made a tidy sum selling the rights to his story — which is a good thing 😉 Just glad I saw his version: http://goo.gl/tuffRo

  • Mark Carroll

    Agreed about “Mr. Robot”. I wonder how much I'll actually still remember by the time next season rolls around, but I'll definitely be watching. Depending on how “Sneaky Pete” goes perhaps you'll also suck me into that. Still resisting “Impastor”. After all, watching “In Treatment” takes a fair bit of time! I expect to be done with the second season within a couple more weeks, that's been going along well, broadly such that one would probably like it about as much as one liked the first. It helps the show to be moving between the different characters, which provides some variety, but it is also good that occasionally the therapist does have some interesting comments for them. I wonder how well we're tracking the Israeli original.

    The family still watch “Mushishi”, fairly easy-going anime. It reminds me a little of “Kino's Journey” in being wandering around to interact with the weird different thing of the week but, while it's nowhere near as good, it still passes the time adequately in a missable way.

    The BBC haven't brought me much this week. The family watch “The Great British Bake-Off”; maybe that's a guilty pleasure. It's no different from previous seasons, but it can be engaging and entertaining. I watched a documentary about waves, too; it told us some interesting scientific things, and spent the other half of the time having the presenter telling us and everybody else about how dumb he'd been about waves before, then we moved on to hearing about his childhood and mother's death and whatnot, which probably interested him rather more than it did me. There was an unintentionally funny moment where one of his interviewees had a transient bewildered look as they realized they'd have to come up with a polite response to the silly comment, and there was a strange subthread in which we thought it worth spending time with a philosopher who needed his tie fixing so we could discuss how waves are like people.

  • Ah well. In a sense, it's good to know they're not just slavishly remaking the original, but treading their own path. This way we get a new thing and the old thing isn't ruined

  • benjitek

    Yeah… it'll appeal more to the masses. It's easier for kids to follow, not quite so adult as the original…

  • JustStark

    I'd like to see the original for comparison; is it available in English in any way other than illegal copies on video-sharing sites, does anyone know?

  • benjitek
  • Depends whether you class Vimeo as a video-sharing site or not:

    http://www.the-medium-is-not-e

    Otherwise, no. You can get versions with Dutch and French subtitles off Amazon, but not with English subtitles

  • Les sous-titres sont en Français, non?

  • JustStark

    Oh, okay — I think I didn't read that carefully enough and thought 'clip' in all the titles meant it was just, well, clips, not full episodes. I'll have a look at that then sometime. Ta.