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)
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


  • 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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