What have you been watching? Including Marseille, Captain America: Civil War and The Americans


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. 

Quiet, isn’t it? Where has all the new TV gone? Despite a fortnight in between WHYBWs, all I’ve managed to cover are the third episodes of Containment (US: The CW; UK: E4) and Game of Silence (US: NBC). I’m sure there’s something somewhere that I can review, but I just haven’t spotted it.

Okay, so there’s a new series of comedy pilots on Australia’s ABC on Wednesday, but being pilots, there doesn’t seem much point in reviewing them – I did like the sound of Ronnie Chieng: International Student, though. There’s a new Canadian Molly Ringwald/Jason Priestley sitcom, Raising Expectations, that started last night on the Family Channel – I just need to work out a way of watching it.

Amazon Prime’s picked up Hulu’s Casual, too. I didn’t watch that when it first appeared on Hulu since I figured “What’s the chance any UK network is going to pick up something on Hulu, hey?” There’s me duped. I might watch that, too, but I suspect the ship has sailed on that one.

In fact, the only new thing I’ve spotted that I haven’t yet reviewed, and had both the inclination and the ability to review was…

Marseille (Netflix)
Following on from last year’s Narcos, which was effectively Netflix’s first Spanish-language original drama, now we have Marseille, the company’s first French-language original. It stars – who else? – Gérard Depardieu as the mayor of Marseille, having to balance the competing demands of a degenerative disease, his family life, a drug habit, his back-stabbing protégé, a project to renovate the city with a new casino, and the mafia.

And it’s nothing special. I did say ‘original’, but for all intents and purposes, it’s Starz’s Boss but in French, with just a hint of Les hommes de l’ombre (Spin). It’s got the usual misogyny of such shows. It’s got the slightly tedious offsetting of power and crime. It’s billed as ‘steamy’ but is surprisingly perfunctory (and again misogynistic) for a French show. None of the characters are especially engaging and Depardieu oddly doesn’t have half the presence that Kelsey Grammer did in Boss. Subtitling loses quite a bit in translation and you’ll often have points where you wonder what people are reacting to as a result of what’s allegedly said (eg there’s a point where two women are laughing when one of them says ‘chick’. It makes a bit more sense if you know she actually said ‘poof’). And oddly for Netflix, the production values are pretty low, with more than a hint of ‘stuck in a cheapo studio with a cheapo video camera’ at times.

More laughable than gritty, it’s hard enough to get through one episode, let alone all eight, so I’m not going to try.

After the jump, it’s the regulars: 12 Monkeys, The Americans, Arrow, Banshee, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Game of Silence, Game of Thrones, Lopez, Silicon Valley and The Tunnel. Most of those are double helpings, since there was no WHYBW last Monday, it being a Bank Holiday everywhere; two of them will be getting crossed off the viewing list, too. I’ll also be looking at the season finales of both Limitless and Lucifer.

But before that, a movie!

Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Depending on how you want to look at it, this is probably better titled Captain America: Winter Soldier 2 or The Avengers 2.5, since it sees Cap continuing his mission to find and rehabilitate his brainwashed pal, Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes, with various members of The Avengers either trying to help him or hinder him after Barnes is implicated in an act of terrorism.

Otherwise, the plot is more or less identical to that of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with its concerns about collateral damage from superheroics and the consequent need for legal limits on superhuman powers. Yet despite the huge cast from the other movies (only Thor and Hulk are absent) and the necessity to launch both Black Panther and Spider-Man off its back, it manages to be a million times better than DC’s drudgefest. Once again directed by Winter Soldier‘s Russo Brothers (who got the gig directing, of all things, the paintball episode of Community), it manages to make all previous superhero movies look plodding and stupid, balancing comic book fun with gritty Euro thriller aesthetics, while serving all its characters well, being by turns tear-jerking, funny, breath-taking and tense.  

It’s a little longer than it needs to be, but nevertheless, afterwards we came out so drained by the spectacle, it took about three hours down the pub to recover. It also rendered Age of Ultron unwatchable. Some would argue it already was, but we’d enjoyed it at the time.

Best Marvel movie so far.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

12 Monkeys (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
2×2 – Primary – 2×3 – One Hundred Years
And the reboot continues in an effort to make the show a bit less grim and a bit more human. Not a lot of it makes sense, the Cole-Cassie ructions rob the show of a little of its charm and did I miss something that enables Cole to start travelling through time again? But it is more enjoyable, if a bit more silly and a bit more beardy-weirdy. 
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×19 – Canary Cry – 4×20 – Genesis
In which the show tries to make us care about That Dead Character We Didn’t Care About and fails. Later, the show tries to give us a big reveal that anyone paying the slightest attention would have worked out about five months ago. How disappointing.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×13 – Leviathan – 1×14 – River of Time
In which a whole bunch of very silly superheroes and villains make a lot of very silly decisions and we stop caring. If your heroes are just absolute idiots, unless it’s Red Dwarf, there’s almost no fun in watching them.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

Game of Silence
1×4 – The Uninvited
It’s still a pretty good revenge story, but it’s just not fun to watch and I find it hard to root for any of the characters. So I think it’s time to move on.
Reviews: First two episodes; third episode

Lopez (US: TV Land)
1×5 – Land of the Rings
The second show I’m giving up on this week, Lopez is simply just not as funny as it needs to be and features a guy I just don’t know enough about to want to follow. YMMV.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon Instant Video)
1x13 – Take Me Back To Hell
A slightly low key end to a show that spent a season trying to work out what it was about and still didn’t come up with much better than ‘Tom Ellis having a ball’. The cliffhanger is more fun as a notion than truly exciting. The show really needs to lose its procedural element next season to stand a chance of being a good show, since apart from Ellis and his fun with the other characters, Lucifer doesn’t have much else going for it.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV Encore)
4×7 – Travel Agents – 4×8 – The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears
Everything comes to a head and a marvellous dramatic device, which you’d normally expect in a season finale, allows the show to do a huge amount in just a few scenes. Some lovely acting from all the regulars, as well as the supporting cast, also moves the show in new directions. Top work.
Review: First episodethird episode

Banshee (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)
4×5 – A Little Late To Grow A Pair – 4×6 – Only One Way A Dogfight Ends
Having for three seasons given us chaos and mayhem as entertainment, Banshee‘s apparently decided to show us that chaos and mayhem lead eventually to nothing but a handful of ashes, empty lives and tears, with the show focusing on the emotions of everyone involved as usual. I feel that the show’s conclusion might be suitably pessimistic, which would be a brave choice but a smart one. Cool fight, though.
Reviews: First two episodesthird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×19 – Back To Normal – 2×20 – Rupture
Lots of things you probably could have guessed would have happened simply from having read Wikipedia and looking at some character names, but a clever way to bring them all together. Still, Barry’s dead now, right? End of story. Or was that just simply a slightly daft cliffhanger?
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
6×2 – Home – 6×3 – Oathbreaker
And the storyline juggling continues, and someone comes back from the dead. You could probably have guessed who that would be – and probably did guess – which, despite the lack of books on which to base the series, is making this the most predictable season so far. All the same, a couple of enjoyable episodes and I’m liking the flashbacks. Will we get Sean Bean back, I wonder?
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst seasonsecond and third seasons

Limitless (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
1×22 – Finale: Part Two!
A great big reset button ensures the show’s format will remain intact next season and the whole thing promises to be Chuck 2.0 properly. Nice cameos at the end by the most notable members of the supporting cast of the season, too. Overall, a season marked by highs in storytelling approaches, rather than plots, and by some great comedic moments; the lows have been when the show has tried merely to retread the movie. I’m cautiously optimistic for next season, though.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
3×2 – Two In The Box – 3×3 – Meinertzhagen’s Haversack
I do worry this is becoming almost impenetrable to anyone without an interest in enterprise IT and a knowledge of Silicon Valley business politics. That said, it’s still ridiculously funny, if you know the difference between an application server and an appliance. Top Ocean’s 11 intrigue in the second episode, too, albeit wonderfully reinvented for the current crowd.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Tunnel (Tunnel) (UK: Sky Atlantic; France: Canal+)
2×3-2×4
Well, blimey. You can tell why those postponed the airing of the season, can’t you, given how prescient it’s been. I’m also glad to see how French political and cultural concerns are far more of a factor this season, with the show basing its narrative around religion and society in a way that wouldn’t really work in the UK. Impressive work, Sky Atlantic.
Reviews: First episode




  • Mark Carroll

    I watched some more “Archer” but, meh, it has the occasional good line. Maybe it had long ago given me about as much as it can, I prefer the earlier seasons. Maybe I should give something like “Mike Tyson Mysteries” a go instead.

    I'm an episode behind you with “Banshee” but it's nice to see a character progressively returning. I'm not as invested as I was, though; perhaps the murder investigation as the driver doesn't really work for me. Still not sure what I think of the flashback approach.

    “Gotham”'s staying reasonable but the twists and turns and gains and losses are starting to approach “Once Upon a Time” levels of “does it even matter?”. Still, it's earned enough credit that I'll give it plenty of chance yet to shift gear to something more persistently engaging.

    “Grimm”'s remaining deeply silly but mostly without the annoying European stuff. After this season I may check if my family want to watch the next.

    I have been enjoying “The Americans”. That's been moving quite well, a fair few interesting character moments, and I generally end each episode wondering where things will go next.

    I have enjoyed “Game of Thrones” too. It's not quite so binge-worthy nor surprising at the moment but at least we're out of the unremitting misery of last season, apart from in the Iron Islands where it's always miserable.

    The kids found “Your Lie in April” which we've been enjoying. Children's piano competitions aren't typical anime fare, and goodness it moves so slowly, but honestly it's a change from the usual shallow silly rubbish full of daft grand events and posturing.

    As usual we watched a couple of BBC documentaries. I rather enjoyed Jonathan Meades' discussion of Brutalist architecture. It was full of information, opinion, scorn, with the ideas coming thick and fast. It was so highbrow as to seem a parody, especially with the weird visual tricks with heads and whatnot and wondering when he'd next pronounce a word strangely, but it was also interesting and certainly didn't waste my time. We've also been following “The Silk Road”: despite being cast as an eyewitness journey of discovery which feels rather false given how much planning must have gone into it, I am learning plenty, seeing everything from Chinese Muslims to the remains of the Sogdians.

    We've also been watching films. The Czech “Alice” made for some strange viewing but I think it might have indeed caught the spirit of Alice in Wonderland without simply following the story in a manner designed to delight children. The Japanese “The Grudge” is supposed to be horror but honestly I found it rather pedestrian. It made some internal sense but I didn't exactly find it compelling or remotely plausible; I've no idea how it spawned such a series, together with American remakes, and the way that people cowered in fear for ages, even hiding under bedclothes for goodness' sake, made me think they deserved to die.

    “The Lunchbox” was a very human tale from Mumbai. I didn't find it riveting or exciting, but I did enjoy the window into life and culture. More interestingly, we saw “Look Who's Back” about the inexplicable resurrection of Hitler. That was generally entertaining; comedy making some serious points. Perhaps a kind of “Borat” but less silly and perhaps more apt. The driving plot was about as subtle and sophisticated as that of “Death to Smoochy” but for all that it was well done.

  • I gave up on Archer seasons ago – the Miami Vice inspired one I think. It just had lost something along the way. I guess it's hard being magnificent and boundary crossing for so long

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  • Mark Carroll

    Yeah, my “earlier” may indeed be exactly pre-Vice.

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