What have you been watching? Including Legends, Dim Ond y Gwir, Arrow, 800 Words 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.

Brace yourself – a new wave of TV shows is about to hit us, because we’re about to hit the mid, mid US season, and Amazon and Netflix are busy hitting us with new pilots and new shows even as I type. So consider this a lull. 

Elsewhere this week, I’ve reviewed the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead (US: Starz) and passed a third-episode verdict on The Beautiful Lie (Australia: ABC), which means that after the jump, I’m going to be talking about the season finale of Arrow, Blindspot, Doctor Who, The Flash, Grandfathered, The Last Kingdom, Limitless, The Player, Supergirl and You’re The Worst, as well as the season finales of 800 Words and Y Gwyll. I also final caught up with the final few episodes of Strike Back

But that’s not all I watched this week. I’ve also watched two new shows: Dim Ond Y Gwir and Legends. What do you mean Legends isn’t new? Well, that’s strangely debatable…

Dim Ond Y Gwir (UK: S4C – available on iPlayer)
Flush with the success of detective show Y Gwyll/Hinterland, S4C has decided to branch out into another genre: the courtdroom drama. Dim Ond Y Gwir (Only the Truth) is a half-hour weekly affair that follows ‘law court workers as they go about their daily lives’. In the first episode, this amounts to watching various ancillary workers man the metal detectors, while someone in the cafe bakes a cake. Meanwhile, up in the courts themselves, we have barrister Rebecca Trehearn dealing with one case when it turns out that the opposite barrister is her ex-boyfriend! Oh noes.

Filmed in Caernarfon where it’s actually not that uncommon for cases to be heard in Welsh, this is a pretty poor affair, with the supposed sexy ex more the kind of guy who sidles up to women when they’re drunk in bars, almost no legal accuracy in the proceedings whatsoever, and the case hinging on whether Trehearn will bother defending her client if she thinks he’s guilty or not (big reveal at the end that has no legal bearing!). The acting is also pretty dreadful, too, and the budget’s probably about £3.50. Sorry, S4C – this one ain’t going to go global.

Legends (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)
So, as we all remember, but are possibly wondering if we imagined it all, Legends was a very sub-par piece of US TV in which Sean Bean was the US’s best undercover FBI agent, a human chameleon able to become whomever he wanted while his NCIS-style buddies back at home base helped him to overcome computer problems and the like, as he assumed a new identity every week. Unfortunately, Bean’s personality might itself be a ‘legend’ and he’s forgotten who he really is. Oh noes.

The big reveal at the end of the first season (look away for year-old spoilers) is that yes, Bean was really MI6 and that he’d lost his memory in an accident. The big problem is that he’s then framed for murdering a top FBI director. Oops. 

‘TNT – Bang’? Not really.

But in between seasons, the show changed showrunner and new boy Ken Biller (Perception) decided not just to change direction but perform a ‘hard reset’ of the entire show. Severely hard. Out of the show are everyone except Bean and Rosewood‘s Morris Chestnut (for a few episodes at least) – even Ali Larter, those cads. The entire show has also moved to Europe and now covers several timelines – Bean’s upbringing at a rather nasty Northern public school in the 70s, undercover work in Prague in 2001 and two modern day storylines involving Bean’s attempts to rediscover his old life in London and a new FBI agent’s attempts to find him through the Prague connection. 

And it’s just the weirdest thing. An almost entirely new show that feels like a British spy show, feels even like it’s been written by a Brit (bar the swearing), but shot US-style. It’s basically Homeland meets The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. I’m still reeling from the changes, they’re so profound. It’s now a really good spy show, although the plot about the radicalisation of young London Muslims is a bit trite, and Bean’s character seems to have forgotten the whole ‘best undercover agent ever’ thing, judging by how much he’s cocking up. 

All the same, despite the absence of our Ali (sob), even if you gave up on Legends the first time, give it a go this time round, since you might as well be watching a new show.

Movies
Would you believe it, I actually had some time to watch a couple of oldish movies, too.

Sherlock Holmes and The Secret Code (aka Dressed to Kill) (1946) (Amazon Instant Video)
One of the great things about growing up in the 80s was that BBC Two regularly used to show all the old Basil Rathbone movies at 6pm of an evening. Which was great. Seeing as Amazon Instant Video has quite a few of them to view for free, I thought I’d give Dressed To Kill a go. It’s basically Conan’s Doyle The Six Napoleons/Blue Carbuncle but with a set of music boxes that a set of villains are trying to get for some nefarious reason. The chief villain is basically Irene Adler except not: an actress who outwits Holmes and Watson, even reading A Scandal in Bohemia and his monograph on cigarette ash to find out Holmes’ methods of operation and turning them against him.

There’s not much detection, most of it being Rathbone just making lucky guesses, but it’s fun and a lot smarter than you’d have thought for something pretty much cranked out post-War in a job lot.

Pacific Rim (2013) (Amazon Instant Video)
One of those movies where you look at who the writer/director is and go, “Really? I mean really?” Basically, Transformers meets the Godzilla movies but with the monster and biological horror that we do actually all associate with Guillermo Del Toro, it sees a bunch of giant monsters emerging from the sea to destroy the world’s cities, but the world at a loss to respond until they think of sticking people in giant robots to punch them to death.

There’s far more action than there was in the most recent Godzilla, it’s got some interesting ideas and it’s got Idris Elba as the leader of the plucky robot pilots, but it’s very silly and to be honest, I’d rather have watched old episodes of Star Fleet instead, as they have more charm.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

800 Words (Australia: Seven)
1×8
Not the stonker of a finale the show needed to have in order to win me back next year. As aimless as it was in previous episodes, we can only hope that mardy daughter stays in Sydney and that Dad gets back on with his life in New Zealand.
Reviews: First episode

Blindspot (US: NBC; UK: Sky Living)
1×7 – Sent on Tour
Lou Diamond Philips turned up so that he could be tied up a lot and not do much this episode. Meanwhile, Tech Girl has relationship issues. Basically, a meat and potatoes episode designed to get us a bit further into the show’s plot, but without much real depth.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Grandfathered (US: Fox)
1×5 – Edie’s Two Dads
Not, unfortunately, a tribute episode to My Two Dads, but one where John Stamos accidentally gets mistaken as his own son’s boyfriend, with hilariously incestuous results. The charm’s all there this week, but not the funnies, so much, but it came bravely close many, many times.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Last Kingdom (US: BBC America; UK: BBC Two)
1×4 
Minimal Alfred means minimal enjoyment, but now that Tedious Hero (son of Tedious Hero) is spending more time with the Saxons, he’s proving less tedious. But more Alfred, please.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Player (US: NBC)
1×6 – A House Is Not A Home
It’s starting to feel like the show’s given up a bit. While the series arc continues evolving, sometimes in unexpected ways, there’s not much of the energy and fun the show had when it started. Even the stunts are a bit weaker, and the title sequence doesn’t even feel like it’s trying any more. Dead Man Walking and all that, but I’ll keep watching.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Supergirl (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)
1×2 – Stronger Together
Supergirl is kind of a strange show. On the one hand, it’s made by Greg Berlanti’s production company, which makes Arrow and The Flash, and it’s got a CBS rather than CW budget; on the other, it’s got some quite terrible dialogue, hideous acting (particularly from Laura Benanti who’s normally guaranteed to be the best thing in any show she’s in – cf The Playboy Club and Go On), a subtext that’s text and smashed into your brain whenever possible, some really astonishingly bad special effects and stunt scenes that would have embarassed Morecambe and Wise. I’m not sure how these things can be reconciled. All the same, it’s fun to watch and charming, plus totally nerdtastic, even if it needs to stop comparing itself with the Superman mythos every five minutes.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode 

The recommended list

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×5 – Haunted
John Constantine’s here to save the day and speed the plot up at last. I wasn’t huge fan of Constantine when it started, as you may have noticed, but it did get a lot better over the course of the season and Matt Ryan really grew on me. To his and Arrow‘s credit, the episode recaptured the NBC show’s feel almost perfectly, and it was also interesting to see how much lighter both Arrow and Stephen Amell are becoming in contrast. It should also be noticed, Lost fans, that this is how you do an interesting ‘origin of the tattoos’ episode. And yay, (spoiler alert) Sara’s back now.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
9×7 – The Zygon Invasion
The first of the co-funding obligated filming expeditions to the US. You’d think being in the US they could actually find some Americans to play a convincing SWAT team, but no. I doubt they’d even once used their second amendment rights. But a relatively decent story, with a blindingly obvious subtext about immigration, and the Zygons get to be nasty, rather than just figures of fun.
Where can I watch it?

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×5 – The Darkness And The Light
After last week’s filler ep, we’re back on track with Zoom and Wells. The show’s still feeling a little off, like it’s lost some of its first season joie de vivre, with everyone sitting about moping rather than cohering, which this ep tries a little to fix. But there’s still plenty of fun and it’s still one of the things I look forward to each week.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode  

Limitless (US: CBS)
1×7 – Brian Finch’s Black Op
The other thing I look forward to each week is Limitless, because each week, it can now be guaranteed to do something interesting in terms of storytelling. This week, as well as getting in Andrei ‘The Pitbull’ Arlovski from the new Universal Soldier franchise to essentially be very Russian, rather than beat people up, the entire episode was one huge Ferris Bueller’s Day Off tribute, right down to fourth-wall breaking. The main plot was a little flat, but man, was that a good tribute, and they even got Jennifer Carpenter to dress up as Sloane.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Strike Back: Legacy (UK: Sky 1; US: Cinemax)
5×6-5×10
I finally got round to watching the final episodes of this. Kind of like the final season of Continuum, in that every episode was a game of “I wonder which regular character they’re going to kill off this week,” but not in an especially thrilling way. Overall, not the best season of the show, with few surprises and no really remarkable stunts. But despite its misogyny, daftness and indestructible leads, the show was smarter than it sometimes seemed, was very ‘agile’ with its plotting, willing to create and ditch storylines every two episodes, had some superb fights and shootouts in its time, and was about the closest anyone’s ever got to doing a modern day Professionals. 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode  

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (UK: S4C)
2×8 
Together with the previous episode, probably the best story of the season and the second-best of the show so far, but the epic number of almost identical “let’s be sad because a kid’s dead” stories is getting tedious – variety, guys. And could they send DCI Tom on a self-defence course because he’s rubbish in a fight? To be honest, though, there’s been nothing truly great this season, and if I come back for season three, the show will probably get downgraded from the Recommended category.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst series

You’re The Worst (US: FXX)
2×9 – LCD Soundsystem
Like Limitless, another show exhibiting creativity aplenty, this week giving us a 10-minute starter scene with a couple we’ve never met before but who seem to have it all (Justin Kirk from Tyrant, Animal Practice and Tara Summers from Ringer and Rake (US)), before delivering a searing insight into the death of dreams and losing your coolness, as well as Gretchen’s continuing depression. Not what I’d call funny, so much as powerful, clever and ambitious.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode




  • Mark Carroll

    I actually went to the cinema: we saw “The Martian”. While for me not as amazing as many seemed to find it — watching it once suffices — it was a good, solid story, the abundant science didn't make me cringe too badly, and in general it's nice to see more manned spaceflight stuff. It was worth the ticket price.

    “Gotham” continues much as it has: it remains well-made and hitting the target it consistently aims for. If you like early Gotham, you'll keep on liking it. For me, it's missable, but I'm glad it's there.

    “Grimm” is back. It's mostly unintentionally silly and the plot remains centered around implausible international organizations and their members' doings. I wouldn't be watching if my family didn't. There have been good episodes of the show, generally back in the monster-of-the-week days, but not for a while now. (I did like Krampus!)

    “Once Upon a Time” continues. It's not the subtlest of shows and the plots seem kind of pulling random things out of our bottoms. Also, something more for my family, I'd have bowed out a while ago and not made a mistake in doing so, frankly it's utter bobbins. Perhaps Emma's brushing up against darkness is mildly interesting lately, but perhaps only because she was so uninteresting before. Does Jennifer Morrison ever appear in anything that doesn't have her wearing awful outfits?

    We finished “The 4400” off. It was getting a little silly and random toward the end, and things are a little too reversible (not as badly as with “Grimm” or “Once Upon a Time”, mind), but it wasn't too bad. Some of the characters irritated my wife (she wasn't sure she was able to root for people she suspected she was meant to) and, while I'm not sure the show intended to finish when it did, it's probably good that we didn't get any more. The plot did kind of hang together in the end and overall the experience was a positive one, better than I remembered from the first time around, but I can see why I forgot how the last season went.

    The latest of “The Blacklist” was a bit unintentionally daft in all its threads. Not one of the better of this season's episodes. Less cleverness and advancement, and more craziness and conspiracy. Something happened toward the end where its significance isn't yet obvious. Another thing happened where I think we know what it signifies but I forgot.

    My wife likes the “Brian Pern” rock legend thing which is back to the BBC. For me, it is good satire that reliably bubbles just a little below actually being funny, but I confess that I was actually amused by the Day of the Triffids performance with Roger Moore.

    I've actually been back to re-watching that Terminator series, “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”; now I'm starting the second season. Overall it's a good show, one of the few things I actually look forward to. It is certainly bearing a re-watching. There are things of the week, and plot advancement, and general fun.

    The latest Zygon “Doctor Who” was for me nothing special: not awful or cringeworthy, but not exactly all that great either, for me we're remaining comfortably middling this season. I got to thinking that perhaps part of my problem is that it focuses too much on the regulars, this latest episode especially. I think I like it more when the regulars just become a part of the larger situation, more influencing than driving, and the new environment and its inhabitants become a bigger part of the story and I care about them and their challenges more. Also, the Clara surprise was such an easy guess that even I managed it in advance, and I hadn't noticed the immigration subtext.

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