What have you been watching? Including Flaked, The Intern, Lucifer and Billions

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*. 

As you might have noticed, things are hotting up in the tele stakes. In the past week, I’ve reviewed the first episodes of:

But that’s by no means all the new shows. In the next few days, I’m hoping to give Underground (US: WGN America) a look over, as well as – assuming it’s not cancelled before then, given its ratings – Of Kings And Prophets (US: ABC), which sees one ‘Ray Winstone’ playing King Saul of Israel, who has to deal with some bloke called ‘David’. Careful – no spoilers, please.

I still haven’t got round to watching Netflix’s Love, but I did manage to watch a couple of episodes of…: 

Flaked (Netflix)
Will Arnett is Chip, a furniture store owner in Venice Beach, California, who spends a lot of his time:

  1. Hanging around at AA meetings
  2. Cycling everywhere, because he’s been banned from driving, having killed someone while on drugs
  3. Having sex with/fancying much younger women
  4. Lying about pretty much everything

And that’s about it, really. Just as Master of None didn’t have much plot and was really just a series of character moments, so Flaked is really a character study of a complete tosser who screws over everyone he meets, albeit in very small ways, for his own selfish needs. There also aren’t many jokes, either.

Despite that, it’s actually quite watchable, in part thanks to Arnett, in part because it’s smarter than this otherwise standard ‘edgy’ comedy format would suggest. The Venice Beach location is different from the usual standard settings for sitcoms, too.

There’s also a certain knowingness about the show similar to Arrested Development‘s (perhaps because of exec producer Mitch Hurwitz) that makes it less of a male fantasy: Arnett may be sleeping with hot young women a lot, but his unattractive male friends aren’t, and even Arnett is finding it all a bit empty and pointless, having nothing culturally in common with the woman he professes to love. 

I’ll try to watch the remaining episodes this week – Daredevil season two is on the way, very soon, so I’m going to need to clear the decks – and let you know how the rest of it goes. If you can’t wait, don’t go into it expecting big laughs. Instead, just expect to enjoy a lot of Will Arnett hanging out with a bunch of people and having a little sex.

I haven’t managed to watch any more episodes of Ófærð (Trapped), unfortunately, but after the jump, the regulars, including a couple of season finales and some double-episode rundowns: 11.22.63, American Crime, Billions, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man and Vikings. At least one of the recommended shows is being demoted – can you guess which one?

But first, a movie:

The Intern (2015) (iTunes)
Four things in the credits made me think this was going to be absolute unwatchable: the title, which in combination with Anne Hathaway’s presence, made we think I was going to be getting The Devil Wears Prada 2; writer/director Nancy Meyers, whose It’s Complicated was so unimaginably bad and dull, I nearly fell asleep in the cinema; and Robert De Niro, who has been working purely for the cash for what feels like decades now.

However, I needn’t have been worried, since it seems like everyone involved induced everyone else to raise their games. De Niro looks like he’s actually putting some effort in as the 70-year-old retired widower who takes an internship at an Internet start-up to give himself something to do and ends up becoming friends with CEO Hathaway. Hathaway is likable and believable as the perfectionist workaholic businesswomen, while Meyers (who, in case we forget, also wrote Private Benjamin, Irreconcilable Differences, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Baby Boom, Father of the Bride and The Holiday) turns in a surprisingly authentic look at both twentysomethings and seventysomethings in modern business.

The first half of the movie is better than the second, with my lovely wife (who set up and runs her own company) finding a lot to identify with, but the second half adds an unnecessary dramatic twist that ruins a lot of the good, frequently (unpreachy) feminist work the first half develops. De Niro’s romance with in-house masseuse Rene Russo doesn’t quite work and a lot of plots are developed but ultimately go nowhere. The firm’s grasp of business isn’t totally top notch either, such as the question of why Hathaway’s firm needs a new CEO, rather than a halfway competent COO for Hathaway to delegate to.

Nevertheless, frequently moving, frequently funny, with a good range of characters and surprisingly smart, The Intern is that rare breed of movie: one aimed at adults that is entertaining, enjoyable but untaxing. I also think it speaks to my age that I identified far more with De Niro than with any of the 20something man-boys he works with.

* If you’re wondering where all the references to Locate TV have got to this week, turns out they’re shutting down on Wednesday. Can’t say I’m totally surprised, given the effort v reward potential of the idea, but it’s a shame all the same.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

11.22.63 (US: Hulu; UK: Fox International)
1×4 – The Eyes of Texas
Showing how little the producers care about any level of depth in the show, we manage to nimbly skip past the Bay of Pigs incident and the Cuban missile crisis to wind up in March 1963, with Franco and helper monkey more interested in dealing with abusive husbands, current and ex. Yawn.
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Billions (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×7 – The Punch – 1×8 – Boasts and Rails
The first two episodes that have managed to really show why Giamatti should be chasing after Lewis so doggedly, they are nevertheless more interested in showing just how much more money the private sector can offer than the public sector can. There’s also an ongoing plot about a mole at Lewis’s firm that has an easily guessable twist. Nevertheless, some strong writing and performances.
Reviews: First episodethird episode 

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×8 – Night of the Hawk
Another time travel show that’s not really interested in any depth, Legends of Tomorrow takes a trip to the 50s to reference Smallville but as always, fails to evoke any real feel for the era, beyond clothes and discrimination. While I appreciate there’s that sci-fi pill that enables them to speak foreign languages, I’m not totally convinced that it would or could translate ‘ninja’, ‘freak out’ or ‘serial killer’ in both directions – all terms bandied about decades before they came into common parlance. A few things for Routh and Lotz to do, and it’s nice to have a predatory lesbian as a heroine, but otherwise this is becoming more a feat of endurance than anything that’s very enjoyable.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
1×7 – Wingman
No adversary of note after all, but the show is now making some wise choices in terms of pairing up the characters to give them all something to do and expand them, with Tom Ellis and DB Woodside getting some choice angelic moments. But it feels like it’s losing a bit of its gusto, even if the ‘crime of the week’ element was mercifully small.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Magicians (US: Syfy)
1×8 – The Strangled Heart
Attempts to make the last, largely hateful characters more human pay off and a return to the promising horror of the first episodes also contribute to the idea that the show is going interesting places at last. I imagine that as a novel (or series of novels) the structure works well, but in a TV show, it’s been hard going.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Okkupert (Occupied) (Norway: TV2; UK: Sky Arts)
1×9 – December
Another hard-going show that’s finally got its skates on, Okkupert is now delivering rebellion and uprising, as well as action scenes aplenty. I do wonder if the relative lack of homegrown drama in Norway means that producers have a lot more luxury when it comes to drawing out action over weeks, rather than frontloading everything as per the US.
Reviews: First episode

Second Chance (US: Fox)
1×8 – May Old Acquaintance Be Forgot – 1×9 – When You Have To Go There They Have To Take You In
After all the efforts to remove the Frankenstein from the show at the beginning, it’s interesting to see the show spiralling its plots back to its roots, by not only giving us Bride of Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster, but Frankenstein himself, all in the space of a couple of episodes. The reduction in the crime of the week content also suggests that the show could become quite interesting in the next few weeks, and major format changes could be incoming.
Reviews: First episode

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man (UK: Sky 1)
1×7 – 1×8 – My Brother’s Keeper
A show that’s still trying to be one-part crime story to one-part London tourist board film, Lucky Man is following quite a strongly delineated story arc through, but has yet to really find the fun in terms of his mystical bracelet and its possibilities. Said bracelet is also not as lucky as it seems to be, judging from the conclusion to episode 8. But a good fight scene for a change.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Vikings (US: History; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
4×4 – Yol
Instant demotion for the once-promising Vikings following quite its worst episode ever. While the idea of explaining the origin of the Yule log is quite promising and there are elements of the season arc in it that are equally intriguing, the sheer stupidity of everything, from Rollo’s sexy adventures in Paris (remind me – how long has he had to become secretly fluent in Old French now?) through Ragnar’s drug trip, made me almost abandon the show completely. The lack of anything for Katheryn Winnick to do this season and Ragnar’s continued mooching make it clear that the producers’ hearts are now elsewhere.
Reviews: Season one review

The recommended list

American Crime (US: ABC)
2×10
A surprisingly open-ending finale to the season and to two of the stories at least, but a strong one nevertheless. Not as powerful as the first season, but with many excellent individual episodes and moments, the show ultimately didn’t really come to any conclusions but left it up to the viewer to make up their own minds. Unfortunately, with some many different things to consider – male rape, the effect of a rape accusation, web vigilantism, school shootings, LGBT bullying, black-Latino racism, income inequality, the pressure on young people, sentencing rules, patriarchy, et al – it’s hard really to decide on one single issue to decide upon. However, as a general exploration of some difficult themes and their complications, that makes you think, it’s been an outstanding if difficult piece of work.
Review: First episodethird episode

The Doctor Blake Mysteries (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC One/Alibi)
4×5 – The Price of Love – 4×6 – A Difficult Lie
Well, you knew that as soon as Doctor Blake’s wife turned up, there had to be something behind it all that potentially could still result in him and Jean together again afterwards, and here’s the groundwork for that. Otherwise, a very silly (The Price of Love) and a slightly silly (A Difficult Lie) murder of the week, enlivened by a bit of swinging in both cases. There’s a pun in there.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Limitless (US: CBS)
1×17 – Close Encounters
Daft as a brush, science that’s beyond ludicrous (bacteria that eat electrons and result in city-wide blackout), Rebecca-Brian conflict, but with very little of the storytelling flourishes we’ve come to expect, this was the worst episode of the series since the first. Not an out-and-out bust mind, with plenty of individual character moments that worked, but not a great ride.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
2×10 – Balloon
A low-key ending to the season that nevertheless gives us warring giant robots and other marvellous flights of fancy (one literal one). A generally excellent season that’s expanded the formula and avoided Josh becoming too one-note. Looking forward to the next one.
Review: First episode




  • GYAD

    OCCUPIED – Great concept but fairly slow, often too predictable and weirdly passive.

    QUANTICO – Hilarious/Horrible. Weimerica: The Cop Show

  • Stuart Nathan

    Trusted sources tell me that a Constantine guest appearance on Lucifer might just be on the cards.

  • Cheers Stu! If true, that would be top news indeed!

  • You'll need to get to episode eight before Occupied starts getting good, I'm afraid. It's still not great, but it's definitely getting a lot better of late

  • Stuart Nathan

    I don't think they ever met in the comics. The First of the Fallen wasn't the same character (Garth Ennis created him, not Neil Gaiman).

  • Good knowledge. Googling suggests that appears to be the consensus bar this: “Constantine also makes a small cameo in Vertigo's Lucifer. In issue No. 5 he is seen drinking at Lucifer Morningstar's bar Lux, among guests that seek an audience with Lucifer about the gateway to the void outside of creation. According to himself he's not there to propose a trade with Lucifer, only to take “a quick look at the field”. Lucifer Morningstar makes a return cameo in Hellblazer No. 192. Lucifer writer Mike Carey wrote Hellblazer between issues 175–215.”

  • Stuart Nathan

    Certainly wouldn't put it past Mike. I'll ask him when I next get a chance!

  • GYAD

    Yeah, I've been following your reviews. It's different enough as a concept that it feels worthwhile getting through the slow stuff but it can be a slog. If the characters were more interesting then I think it would be more bearable, but they're too predictable. This is the 99th Scandi journo who appears to do no work apart from arguing with the editor and a single investigation…

  • Scandi journi stops being as predictable from about ep 8, too. He's also massively implausible, posting things on the web site that his editor tells him not to post and then going off and doing investigations for the BBC! Any freelance (? I'm assuming) who did that wouldn't be getting re-commissioned after that…

  • Mark Carroll

    “The Walking Dead”'s actually been reasonable lately. I was ready to finish with it, suspecting that it had run out of plot, but it's actually been quite engaging and different lately.

    “Grimm” is certainly advancing the arc a bit now. It's nothing amazing but there's enough in the air now that I'd bother to keep watching a little more.

    “Gotham”'s coming along nicely lately too. It does a good job of maintaining the atmosphere. We've been covering some comic-book territory decently.

    We watched “Ex Machina”. I had my doubts, from reviews and trailers, and they were confirmed. I don't think my family was thrilled either. It was better than I'd expected, but I doubt it was artistically worth the budget.

    We finished off “Deutschland 83”. (I picked a good time to read “The Dead Hand”, it seems.) It was good fun, I enjoyed it. It moved along well and evoked the period nicely.

    We also finally finished off the BBC radio adaptation of Asimov's Foundation trilogy from 1973. The later episodes didn't seem quite as good, but whether that was due to the source material or the change in writer I don't know. In general I'm not sure I'd recommend it as a way to experience the story.

    Most notably, we finished off “Wonderfalls”. That was an experience. As quirky sitcoms go, it was excellent stuff. Sure, it occasionally traded believability for a witty line, and I'm not sure some of the middle episodes were among the best, but the premise and Caroline Dhavernas' acting generally combined to make the show an engaging pleasure and it also generally delivered the payoffs.

    We've started “The Night Manager”. I liked the first episode. We'll see where it goes. So far it's a good premise and nicely shot.

  • GYAD

    Aha…yeah, not exactly journo best practice…

    (Also it would only be realistic if the BBC made him go on three training courses and then fill in a hundred tedious forms first)

  • Lovely wife has managed to watch all six seasons of The Walking Dead in the past three weeks and loves it. Some middle seasons were hard going but she seems to be enjoying it/obsessed by it at the moment

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • Pingback: Review: Great News 1x1-1x2 (US: NBC) - The Medium is Not Enough()