What have you been watching? Including Medea (Almeida), The Beautiful Lie, The Player, Y Gwyll and Limitless

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.

With no Cumberemergency to take me away from it all this week, here’s WHYBW, right on schedule. This week, I’ve already reviewed the first episode of ABC’s rather bad (in all senses of the word) Wicked City, and passed a third-episode verdict on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend; of course, Supergirl began this week on CBS and Sky1, but I previewed that a while ago. That means that after the jump, you can enjoy my thoughts on the latest episodes of 800 Words, Arrow, The Beautiful Lie, Blindspot, The Flash, Limitless, The Player, Y Gwyll and You’re The Worst.

But I’ve also been to the theatre again! Proper theatre, too – none of that ‘theatre at the movies’ rubbish, neither.

Medea (Almeida, until November 14)
Remember Clueless and how everyone was impressed at how Amy Heckerling had taken Jane Austen’s Emma and modernised it for American teenagers? Remember how it wasn’t called Emma

That’s probably Medea‘s biggest failing. Had it been called Northern London Writer Is Getting A Divorce From Her Actor Husband Jason and the Kids Are Being Dragged Into It, people would probably have been raving about it being a great modern feminist play, with marvellous parallels to the Euripidean Medea

However, if you call something Medea, there’s a certain expectation that there should be a certain amount of dialogue, plot, characters, etc from the original. Whereas this Medea has virtually no lines, few characters, few themes and few plot elements in common with the original. Which is probably why no one’s been raving about it.

On its own terms, it’s not bad. In terms of staging, it’s a sort of halfway house between the Almeida’s almost traditional Bakkhai and its archly inventive Oresteia, sometimes a little too pretentious for its own good to the point of laughability, but usually taking good decisions about how to depict events. Kate Fleetwood is as good as Helen McCrory was at the National last year, but less ‘actorly’ about it. The feminism isn’t so much sub-text as both text and super-text, with endless debates about the place of women in society, women’s value, men, fathers et al. The changes made by Rachel Cusk feel almost autobiographical – even if they aren’t, you’ll still feel they are by the end of it.

The worst aspect of the play is that it has the somewhat clumsy move of having a god/goddess explain the feminism of it all to the audience at the end. It also feels, given how much plot innovations Cusk has added to the text, like she’s realised she’s run out of time, as virtually everything that gets set up by her ends up explained concluded hurriedly at the end by this god/goddess. You could potentially argue that it’s a traditional move for a Greek tragedy, to have a god explain the plot, but it sits poorly in such an otherwise modern play. 

It’s intermittently interesting and clever, with a lot to say for itself, even if it could say a lot of it with considerably more subtlety and maybe better pacing, too. But whatever you do, don’t go in thinking you’re going to see something that’s anything like what Euripides wrote.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

800 Words (Australia: Seven)
1×7
More mardy teenage girlness, but at least some semblance of modern newspaper practice is arriving in Sydney. Still, if this weren’t the penultimate episode, I’d have given up on this rudderless show by now. I think I’ll watch the next episode but I won’t be back for the second season, I don’t think, unless the finale’s a stonker. Although they called it the ‘season final’ – is that an Australianism for finale, because it has been renewed for a second season?
Reviews: First episode

The Beautiful Lie (Australia: ABC)
1×2
This was more what I was expecting from episode one – lots of people whining and talking about true love in a very tedious way. Little of the originality and verve of the first episode and the characters are now starting to annoy. Still some fun in the mix, but another of these and I’m out.
Reviews: First episode

Blindspot (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
1×6 – Cede Your Soul
Think the episode title’s a bit meaningless? That’s because it turns out all the episode titles are anagrams and are actually clues in their own rights. A bit of a mindless filler ep, but fine as NBC action TV goes, and at least the ‘computer hacking’ wasn’t as egregious as it could have been.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Player (US: NBC)
1×5 – The Norseman
A hunt the serial killer episode, but one with at least some originality, albeit one that’ll probably have the Asatruists up in arms. There’s a bit more fun than normal in the dialogue, but less action, although thankfully we’re now getting a regular Wesley Snipes martial arts fight to finish off each episode. I’m not quite sure why NBC is putting the best bits of each episode on YouTube, since it means you don’t have to watch the rest of the ep, but thank them all the same – Wesley starts fighting at the 3 minute mark.

Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×4 – Beyond Redemption
No John Constantine after all – that’s next week, it turns out. Instead, this week, we had procrastination, with every single plot thread eked out past the point the story could support it. The only highlight? The new Arrow cave, of course.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×4 – The Fury of Firestorm
While Arrow is busily bringing Sara back to life so she can be White Canary on the forthcoming Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash is brewing up some of her future co-stars, and this week was the ‘Robbie Amell didn’t want to be in it, so let’s find his replacement for Firestorm – how about a black guy like in the comics?’ episode. It was fine for what it was, but notable really only for the end.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Limitless (US: CBS)
1×6 – Side Effects May Include…
And the conversion is complete. Since the second episode and the decision to turn the show into Chuck 2.0Limitless has had a hard time juggling the darker aspects of the pilot episode with its better comedic side – and also juxtaposing the series Bradley Cooper with the movie Bradley Cooper. Here, the show effectively retcons everything into a coherent whole (with a little room for evil wiggling), so that it can ditch the dark parts of the show until it needs them again. Hats off to you guys – I wasn’t sure how you were going to do it, but now you have.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (UK: S4C)
2×7 
Finally, an episode that showed some of the promise that the first series showed, with a proper mystery, DCI Tom only glowering a bit, the supporting cast remembered and getting something to do, and the hints at conspiracy and cover-ups that had appeared to have gone by the wayside of late. Next week’s the last episode of the series, though, I think. Typical, hey?
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst series

You’re The Worst (US: FXX)
2×8 – Spooky Sunday Funday
A delicious sequel episode to the first season’s Sunday Funday, just in time for Halloween. The evil fun house was brilliant and almost scary at times, and the little character touches around Gretchen and Jimmy were beautiful. I wonder how many levels of irony there were around Chris Geere’s costume though (“He’s a character in a fake English sitcom. But it’s an obvious parody of English sitcoms. But it’s an obvious parody of what Americans think English sitcoms are like. But Americans will know it’s a parody of that, too. But…”
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

  • benjitek

    I gave up on Limitless a while back — but sounds like it got better…?

  • Mark Carroll

    I've not gotten to see “You're the Worst” for a while: I've been trying to get earlier nights, so I've missed that useful space after the kids have gone to bed. And, while I was in the room for “Gotham”, “The Flash”, etc., this week, I can't say that I actually bothered to pay attention, it was more interesting to research insurance and suchlike online.

    While I did pay attention to “The Walking Dead”, “Once Upon a Time”, etc., there was nothing very special there to change anybody's mind about anything.

    We're now into season four of “The 4400”. It's maybe not quite as good, and the domestic character interactions (outside the professional Federal agent stuff) annoy my wife a little, but we're far enough along now I guess we'll stick with it: though it may say something that I really don't remember from the first time how it all goes.

    “The Blacklist” was reasonable, but slightly unintentionally silly and nothing special. It attempted credible IT stuff slightly painfully, though not down to CSI levels.

    Right now, though I don't like it as much as last season now it has a different emphasis, “The Affair” is the main new thing I look forward to each week and actually care about not missing. (Well, “Doctor Who” too.) The latest episode had plenty of Maura Tierney. Noah needs to calm down a bit and be more thoughtful, but it never goes implausibly far like that, so it's probably just how he is. He's damn lucky to have Alison anyway. It's nice to see Richard Schiff as the attorney even if his part is minor; there are a couple of legal arcs this season.

  • I'd say it got better from about episode two and it's been about the same quality since. It's got a lot more heart than a lot of other shows. It's still not astonishing, since the procedural side of things is a bit limp, but what it's doing, it's doing well.

  • Don't tell me I've got to start watching The Affair again.

  • Mark Carroll

    Personally I find it hard to resist a show that has Ruth Wilson, Maura
    Tierney, and a bit of Richard Schiff too, especially as it's a
    decent-quality production with what seems to be a thought-through arc. Though, if last season didn't make you automatically watch this season, then I think you're safe to wrap it up after the first to be honest, even if you wonder why the setting was flashbacks from an interview room.

  • I liked it – I just struggled to be enthusiastic about it. Maybe one day then.

  • benjitek

    Re-visited the show. It did pick up enough to put it back in the queue 🙂

    Didn't really care for the quick fix for those severe withdrawal symptoms, seemed like a lazy way to conclude a plot element. Could've been a high point of the story but turned out to be a wasted use of Bradley Cooper.

  • I think it was an expedient way to deal with an element that had been overshadowing the show, so it could do other things. There are hints that it hasn't gone away.

    Bradley Cooper ain't going anywhere – he's exec producer and it's his production company that makes it. He'll be back 😉