What have you been watching? Including The Martian, Arrow, The Flash and Continuum

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.

So I got a bit snowed under with work on Friday and then went out for the evening, which meant ‘What have you been watching?’ didn’t happen. Sorry about that. Fingers crossed, things will be back to normal by the end of this week.

Anyway, here it is now. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet had a chance to watch last night’s Quantico, Blood & Oil, and Y Gwyll, but never fear third-episode verdicts of the first two will be arriving in the next few days, as will a third-episode verdict on The Player and a review of BBC America’s new Vikings v Saxons show The Last Kingdom

However, the delay does mean I’ll be able to provide my thoughts on Friday’s Dr Ken and the last ever Continuum, as well as Saturday’s Doctor Who. You’ll find them after the jump, snuggled in the warm embrace of reviews of the latest episodes of: 800 Words, Arrow, Blindspot, Code Black, The Flash, Grandfathered, The Grinder, Scream Queens and You’re The Worst

Just in case you think I was slacking, though, elsewhere I did manage to review the first episodes of new shows This Life (Canada: CBC) and Dr Ken (US: ABC), as well as provide third-episode verdicts on Blindspot (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living), The Muppets (US: ABC; UK: Sky1) and Limitless (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living).

And, I went to see a movie, too:

The Martian (2015) (in cinemas now)
Ridley Scott and Drew Goddard’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling ‘MacGyver in space’ novel, in which an astronaut is accidentally left behind on Mars and must use his advanced knowledge of science and engineering to survive, re-establish contact with Earth and then somehow get home again. Despite being very faithful to Weir’s original plotline and dialogue, it’s neverthless a different beast to the book, which was originally published online a chapter at a time, presenting a different scientific or engineering challenge with each installment. Most of the science and a lot of the tension have gone, to the extent that huge chunks get replaced with a ‘seven months later’ caption, although you can still see some of it left behind in various places.

All the same, it’s different, rather than inferior to the book – a cinematic experience rather than a literary one that’s more about survival than solving problems single-handedly – and is easily Scott’s best work in years, as well as probably his funniest ever. A great cast in a movie that largely tries to get science right, doesn’t pick sides and actually looks great in 3D for a change.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

800 Words (Australia: Seven)
The first episode to really bother giving any kind of background to the ‘bevy of lovelies’ flocking around Erik Thomson and all the better for it, with Thomson wondering if he’s ready to start dating yet, his children clearly not wanting him to. The best episode so far, with a good ending and some good work by Michelle Langstone, who’s shaping up to be the series’ unexpected heroine.
Reviews: First episode

Code Black (US: CBS; UK: Watch)
1×2 – We Plug Holes
A show that bucks the general Fall trend by not getting any better in the second episode. Indeed, the second episode was basically the first episode again, but with less exposition. If you like brusque doctors and nurses being dicks to each other and patients, while wading through bloody floors, this could be the show for you but I’m out.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode 

Dr Ken (US: ABC)
1×2 – The Seminar
I sat as stoney-faced as Dr Ken’s parents all the way through this. Just despearately unfunny. No more for me. Please.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Grandfathered (US: Fox)
1×2 – Dad Face
Less charming and stupider than the first episode, this second episode sees John Stamos learning that being a father/grandfather means that you can’t spend all your time at parties and having sex with women young enough to be your daughters – and who might actually be your daughters. Since a lot of the show relies on liking Stamos, the producers probably need to do a bit more to make him be likeable, rather than a dick, and the romantic side-plot getting dropped didn’t help either. But there’s still enough in there to make me want to keep watching.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

The Grinder (US: Fox)
1×2 – A Hero Has Fallen
A marginally better second episode that once again thinks it’s clever than it actually is, giving us front and centre a discussion about the difficulties of second episodes of TV shows and how they reboot shows while still trying to preserve elements of the pilot episode. While most of the episode concerns Fred Savage’s attempts to find his narrative place both in the TV show itself and in Rob Lowe’s TV-oriented brain, the producers clearly learned from Kumail Nanjiani’s presence in the pilot and have recruited Natalie Morales (White CollarThe Middlemanto take his place and provide some much-needed deadpan cynicism. I’ll be checking in for at least one more episode to watch how she fits in.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Scream Queens (US: Fox; UK: E4)
1×4 – Haunted House
Time to call it a day on this one, for a couple of simple reasons. One, I’m not in the 16-24 demographic any more by quite some considerably tragic distance. Two, I don’t really enjoy horror movies any more, largely because of point one. While Scream Queens maintained a high laugh and satire count, those weren’t problems enough to make me stop watching. But as the inventiveness has died down a little, Scream Queens has become a somewhat gory horror pastiche in the style of Scream, but without a central hero or heroine whom you can really root for. It still has lots going for, but one for the young folk rather than me, I think.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First two episodes

The recommended list

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×1 – Green Arrow
After effectively ending the show at the end of last season, season four starts with the producers doing some sterling work to restart the show as we know it. And rather than mess around or gloss over previous story arcs to do it, this time round, they’ve decided to both return to basics – spoiler alert: Ollie gets returned to the island in the flashbacks – while giving us the always interesting Neal McDonough as big bad, magic-using Damien Darhk. It all fits together nicely, although there’s a couple of moments when you ask “Really?”, but at this point, it’s just perfectly executed comic book fun. Yes, fun. In Arrow.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

Continuum (Canada: Showcase; UK: SyFy)
4×5 – The Desperate Hours/ 4×6 – Final Hour

And after all that, it’s over. In a sense, it’s the ending you probably could have predicted from the first episode; in another, it was entirely twistier, turnier and sadder than you might have expected. Clearly suffering from both a low budget and having to squish four seasons of story into six episodes, this final season hasn’t exactly been a triumphant success so much as a minor miracle it hung together at all. Lots didn’t make sense, lots seemed to come out of nowhere, plenty of questions never got answered. But the final episode was at least a fitting conclusion for the show, even if the journey to get there wasn’t as good as you hoped it might have been.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
9×3 – Under The Lake/9×4 – Before the Flood
A stonking, scary “base under siege” story, followed by a less satisfying attempt to do timey wimey that still was a whole lot better and smarter than it could have been. It’s all a bit unclear what ‘the Fisher King’ was really up to, but generally a good endorsement for the new two-parter format.
Where can I watch it?

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×1 – The Man Who Saved Central City
Worryingly close at times to losing the fun that made season one so enjoyable and with a cop out on (spoiler alert) the release of Barry’s dad from prison, the signs were that maybe the show had lost some of its mojo over the summer. But the first episode managed to pull it together and give us ample fun, comic book references and hints at the season ahead that more than made up for those slightly necessary stumbles in tone. Good to have you back Flash.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (UK: S4C)
Another two-parter that ends with the sunshine coming out to suggest that the next one won’t be so miserable (hint: it will be). Some great acting fighting against a turgid script, but at least even within the show, it’s being acknowledged that DCI Tom is bobbins at police procedure and his failings are dicking things up for everyone else.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst series

You’re The Worst (US: FXX)
2×5 – We Can Do Better Than This
Turns out the previous ending’s episode wasn’t as bleak as I’d thought, but still a bit sad, and more or less repeated this episode, just for luck. Otherwise, the episode’s highlight was Gretchen and Lindsay trying to beat the Bechdel Test and Jimmy’s attempts to novelise an episode of NCIS: LA.
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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