What have you been watching? Including Vinyl, Wanted and Vikings

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.

Apologies for the silence this week – you can blame Windows 8 for that. It wasn’t even my Windows 8 (like I’d have it in the house), but the Windows 8 of somewhere at which I do volunteer work. My advice? Don’t try to fix Windows 8 – just wipe it and start again. Which is what I eventually did.

Anyway, that meant I couldn’t write about tele for several days, but don’t worry – it didn’t mean I couldn’t watch tele. Elsewhere, of course, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of:

And after the jump, I’ll be dealing with the regulars: American Crime, Arrow, Billions, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Flash, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, The Shannara Chronicles, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and The X-Files. At least one of those gets the chop this week. Can you guess, which? This week also saw the return of Vikings, so I’ll be having a go at that, too. 

Out yesterday was Netflix’s Love, and I’ll try to give that a watch over the next few day; I’ll probably be playing catch-up with BBC4’s showing of Iceland’s Trapped, too.

But there was a couple of new shows out in the past week or so that although Windows 8 stopped me from reviewing them, I did manage to get a chance to watch them. Largely while I was fixing Windows 8.

Vinyl (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger co-created this story of the 70s music business, in which Bobby Carnavale (Cupid, Boardwalk Empire, Nurse Jackie) plays the boss of a struggling company trying to work out what’s hip and cool, as punk et al arrive on the scene. Scorsese directs, there’s a soundtrack including Slade and Abba, there’s a strong supporting cast, including Ian Hart, Paul Ben-Victor, Juno Temple, Olivia Wilde, Ray Romano and Birgitte Hjort Sørensen. What could go wrong? Well, lots apparently. Maybe it’s just because it’s about the music business, in which I have minimal interest. Maybe it’s because of the sexism, racism, et al of the period. Maybe it’s some of the dodgy English accents floating around. Whatever it was, despite its having a certain degree of authenticity, I barely made it to the end of the extremely long pilot episode. Not for me.

Wanted (Australia: Seven)
Continuing her majestic stranglehold on all of Seven’s drama output, Rebecca Gibney stars in this odd-couple-on-the-run drama that she also created. Gibney plays a rebellious, free-spirited but broke checkout woman; Geraldine Hakewill is an uptight accountant with a nerdy boyfriend and a criminal secret. They’re both waiting for a bus when a car chase ends in front of them and they witness a murder. Unfortunately for them, crooked cops are involved in the action and before you know, there are more bodies, everyone thinks they’re responsible and they’re on the run, while trying to clear their name and avoid getting caught by bad cop Nicholas Bell or good cop Stephen Peacocke. It’s mildly diverting stuff, but everything goes pretty much how you expect, the jokes are weak, and neither Gibney nor Hakewill make you want to hang out with either of them, let alone go on the run with them.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Billions (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×5 – The Good Life
A good soundtrack as usual, but daft shagging all over the place. Also all over the place was the plot. All the same, the concentration on the secondary characters was a worthwhile endeavour, there was plenty of fun, and we got a return of the chess-playing from the first episode, which made it a marked uptick from some of the latest episodes.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×5 – Fail-Safe
So there were some obvious highlights: a Flash cameo; the arrival of a future Green Arrow; Victor Garber’s almost super-textual line as a gay man about Russia’s present situation; Wentworth Miller getting to say “This isn’t my first Prison Break”; Brandon Routh getting to be a boy scout. But this still isn’t gelling for me. Despite everything supposedly being ‘fate of the world’ type stuff, it’s all just too silly and lacking in proper peril. There’s enough good stuff in it (Caity Lotz, principally) to keep watching, but it really needs to get its groove on to avoid being a completely wasted opportunity.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
1×4 – Manly What-Nots
Some attempts to give Lauren German some personality and a sense of humour pay off, while DB Woodside and Lesley-Ann Brandt are wisely given something more to do, too. All the same, as always, the ‘crime that must be solved’ is a bit generic and the darker edges are nowhere near dark enough. 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode; third episode

The Magicians (US: Syfy)
1×5 – Mendings, Major and Minor
So help me, just like last week, the characters this week weren’t completely insufferable but surprisingly, this week, they were almost likable. I guess it’s a brave move to start off with a bunch of complete gits and not give you even the slightest thing to like about them for three weeks, after which you let them evolve into acceptable human beings. There were even some touching moments involving model aeroplane assembly and the magic was as scary as always. Hmm. I might be starting to enjoy The Magicians. How odd.
Where can I see it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Okkupert (Occupied) (Norway: TV2; UK: Sky Arts)
1×6 – September
Given its exciting premise and the biggest budget of any Norwegian TV show ever, you’d have thought they’d be going for a bit more intrigue and action than this. But everything’s so timid. You’ve been invaded by Russia, guys! There’s been a terrorist incident! And people just get a bit cross with each other?
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Second Chance (US: Fox)
1×6 – Palimpset
The second show of the week to feature Banshee’s Joseph Gatt (Stan Lee’s Lucky Man being the other), here almost unrecognisable as a ‘monster’ (no spoilers). An enjoyable but otherwise unremarkable episode, though, until it’s revealed there’s a new season arc to keep an eye on. 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episode

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man (UK: Sky 1)
1×5
The show improves slightly, despite dispensing with its main villain, by finally opening up the throttle on the lucky braclet and taking things for a darker turn. Fans of Heroes might be excited to see Sendhil Ramamurthy, too.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The X-Files (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
10×5 – Babylon
Well, that was… horrid. I had a feeling it would be, given Chris Carter was writing it, but I hadn’t anticipated in what way. Yes, it was the multiple failed attempts to do humour, married with a trite look at Islamic fundamentalism, coupled with the tedious thoughts on the nature of the universe and humanity that used to plague the old series. Still, fun to see more of the cast of Continuum (Roger Cross must be a cert by now, surely?), as well as the mini-me versions of Mulder and Scully (including Robbie Amell from The Tomorrow People and The Flash), since undoubtedly Fox will be trying to do a spin-off version with them at some point. 
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: 10×110×1-10×3

The recommended list

American Crime (US: ABC)
2×8
And it all goes in a completely different direction again, one that I didn’t see coming. And as usual, we get to see how everything has been inevitable from the beginning, thanks to the nature of US society, systems, patriarchy et al. Stunningly well written drama; stunningly bleak. But worth it.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episodethird episode

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×14 – Code of Silence
Everything’s just getting a bit silly and Smallville now, isn’t it? At least the fight scenes got progressively better during the episode.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC One/Alibi)
4×3 – Lucky Numbers
Following the usual re-establishment of the series parameters in the first two episodes, here we get the start of some new season arcs that should take it in some new directions at least. Nice also to see Doctor Blake now no longer the big liberal of the first season but being outed as a bit of a conservative compared to the young people of the time. Also good to see a story that at least doesn’t start with being all about a murder.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×14 – Escape From Earth-2
Could that be an actual death? Hmm. It seems unlikely, but you never know. Generally a good episode that packed a lot in, even if parts of it were bobbins (really? Create something made of ice to climb up?) 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Limitless (US: CBS)
1×15 – Undercover!
The first actual clunker of the season, despite some very brave attempts using some imaginative storytelling techniques to breathe some life into the prosaic central plot, which was almost a callback to the first episode in its procedural tone.
Where can I watch it?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
2×7 – Cactus
Some good ‘audience nod’ moments (nod, as in ‘been there, done that’, even if it is during an asteroid collision), as well as some attempts to see things from a female perspective for a change.
When’s it airing near me?
Review: First episode

Marvel’s Agent Carter (US: ABC; UK: FOX)
2×6-2×7 
Two in one go was enough to make me decide to call it a day on Agent Carter. Despite loving the characters, if this much Agent Carter in one go can’t excite me in the slightest, I don’t think I should be filling up my weekly viewing capacity with it. It’s just so bereft of spark beyond its characters, even with nuclear devices and super-science, that it feels like a chore watching it. Bye, bye, Carter and good luck.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

The Shannara Chronicles (US: MTV; UK: 5*)
1×8 – Utopia
I’m enjoying the crossover between standard generic fantasy and post-apocalyptic disaster that’s started to appear in the past two episodes, with guns, music and Star Trek all making an appearance. The rest of the episode was a bit take-it-or-leave-it though.
Where can I watch it?
Review: First three episodes

Vikings (US: History; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
4×1 – A Good Treason
A series that’s on notice this season, given how inadequate the third season was. However, the first episode of this fourth season was very promising, with plenty of fights, treachery, a touch of myth, and whatever incomprehensible old French dialect everyone’s supposed to be speaking in Paris (it seems less like modern French than Old French so Langue d’oïl? Anyone?). So I’m sticking with it!
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: Season one review




  • GYAD

    LIMITLESS – Insufferable magic pixie man solves things with straight foil woman in wonderful PC land. Elementary w/ drugs.

    THE PEOPLE VS OJ – Boring, pointless…and what was with the Rodney King archive footage?

    OCCUPIED – Good idea, well done but kinda flat and dull. Like Ikea.

    DEUTSCHLAND 83 – Great aesthetics and music from an unusual source but let down by absurdly implausible plotting.

    VINYL – The 70s without any of the energy, grit or seediness. Basically a nostalgic ethnic (Scorsese) Boomer circle-jerk.

  • Mark Carroll

    I'm not yet leaping back into “Vikings”, I'm fearing it's starting to become another kind of expensively made soap opera. We'll see.

    We did get back into “The Walking Dead” as my wife likes it. This latest episode since the mid-season break was actually quite good though mostly happened in sufficient dark it wasn't always clear what was going on. While avoiding spoilers: we got to dust off some old stuff ready to move on with some new, and the new doesn't yet look too much like stuff we've already seen, so I'll give it a bit more of a chance yet than it probably really deserves.

    But, ha, yes, when I have to do admin-y things with Windows 7 I seem to spend a lot of time waiting around for it to do things. I've no idea why it's so painfully slow, goodness knows how people who have to use it from day to day live with it.

    I didn't find “X-Files” so bad to be honest. It wasn't among the best either and the initial incident seemed too clichéd but it was good enough to keep me watching, especially as with some variety not all are going to be hits. I think it may have been better than episode 1.

    We're still plodding along with the latest season of “The Bridge”. I'm enjoying that, it actually holds my attention, which is just as well because if I paid less notice then I'd start losing track of who's who. It is interesting to see Saga trying to deal with her emotions.

    “Grimm” is including enough monster-of-the-week to not be too obsessed with the silly international wesen conspiracy rubbish. I wouldn't be watching were it just me though. “The Blacklist”'s indeed settling back into a reasonable version of how it once was, but doesn't have enough compellingly new to really be worth further attention.

    We still haven't finished “House”, we're on the last season, which is actually staying quite good. It's one of the things that, even on this second viewing, still holds my attention reasonably. It doesn't feel too silly and isn't always boringly retreading the same ground.

    The BBC showed the 'horror' film “Black Sheep”, I think it must be a low-budget New Zealand thing, where a genetic mutation turns the farm's sheep evil. It's pretty predictable and stereotyped, but I suspect intentionally so: it's silly enough that I think everyone was basically having a bunch of fun with it, and my family found the result very entertaining.

    We watched “The Changeling” (the older ghost one, not the newer swapped-child one), that was quite good. There weren't any amazing sophisticated twists or anything, but for its time it does a decent enough job of telling a reasonably coherent tale without much tedious filler; my son judged it scarier than “It Follows”.

  • Which Limitless ep did you watch? The first one's a bit rubbish, but it then becomes more like Chuck after that. Brian's always irritating, though, but that's somewhat intentional – there's an entire episode about how irritating everyone finds him

  • I yearn for the halcyon days of Windows 7 and you could do Safe Mode with F8.

    I take your point with Vikings. I suspect this season has that potential in spades. But at least the first ep was full of exciting things

  • GYAD

    The first one. Not sure if I could make a second one – the desire to choke the lead out was almost overwhelming, even if it does have the nice girl from Dexter.

  • Fair enough. But if not a completely different show, it does change quite a bit right from the second episode, so it might be worth give a later episode a go at random.

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

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