What have you been watching? Including Lady Dynamite, Vis a Vis (Locked Up), Banshee and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

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. 

It’s the last WHYBW? for a little while, since I’m off on holiday next week. Fingers crossed, it’ll be back on the 6th, but don’t be surprised if the 10th or more likely the 11th is the actual date. You know me.

There have been a few new shows this week, although the networks oddly decided to start them on Friday and over the weekend for the most part, meaning that I haven’t had a chance to watch most of them yet. Preacher (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Prime) started airing last night, but Amazon crazily got its act together and gave me access to previews of the first three episodes. However, it only gave me access on Friday, so it might be a couple of days before I get through all three of them. Also coming this week (more crossed fingers – how many hands do you have?) is a preview of Outcast (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic).

But I have managed to watch a couple of new shows:

Lady Dynamite (Netflix)
Yet another “promises much, offers little” comedy from Netflix, with Maria Bamford the actress/comedienne playing ‘Maria Bamford’, the actress/comedienne, as she navigates family, life, mental illness, stand-up comedy, acting, etc. Coming from Pam Brady and Mitchell Hurwitz of Arrested Development fame, you’d expect a lot more of Lady Dynamite than you would of normal comedies. It certainly thinks it’s better than normal comedies, playing with form and convention, from its 70s-style title sequence, its breaking of the fourth wall and having Patton Oswalt and John Mulaney turn up to critique the show’s narrative choices, through to Bamford fight-tuning the colour balance for the video of the scene by asking the editor to adjust it.

But despite watching the show for an episode and a half, I didn’t laugh once. I admired its cleverness, its time jumps and more. But I didn’t laugh. I was also very irritated by Bamford, who’s as close to the female equivalent of Pee Wee Herman as it’s possible to get, I suspect. And following on as it does from Netflix’s Flaked, perhaps I had less patience than I once did for YA show about a dysfunctional, self-involved Californian.

Then again, I never really laughed at Arrested Development, so YMMV.

Vis a Vis (Locked Up) (Spain: Antena 3; UK: Channel 4)
Young woman gets sent to prison and meets lots of other women of varying degrees of friendliness. The first 15 minutes or so are basically Orange Is the New Black again, but after that, the show becomes more of a thriller, with our friendly little office worker having to learn to survive inside. If you want to box-set it, all 11 episodes are now on All 4, but I didn’t find it particularly arresting (see what I did there?).

After the jump, the regulars: 12 Monkeys, The Americans, Arrow, The Flash, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the season finale of DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and the series finale of Banshee

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

12 Monkeys (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
2×5 – Bodies of Water
In which the show sets out its case for us to continue watching it. I’m not entirely convinced, but the time travel twists by themselves might be enough to convince me.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×22 – Lost In The Flood
Yes, yes, Noah’s Ark. Like anyone hadn’t spotted that reference by now. The show’s improving again in its final surge to the season finale, but everything’s feeling very tired now, with by-the-numbers fights, character twists and plot developments.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
1×16 – Legendary
Another good episode to finish the season with, including some new powers for a couple of characters, although it doesn’t feel like the show earned its solution to the Vandal Savage problem, merely conjuring it up at the last moment when the show needed it. Overall, a bit of a waste of time, with nothing that really excelled, character development that never really worked and often made us hate the characters instead, some terrible acting and terrible effects, as well as terrible plotting. That said, it seemed to find its feet in the second half of the season, suggesting the second season will be better. Hopefully.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV Encore)
4×10 – Munchkins
This felt a little forced to me, with everyone suspecting the worst, despite the Pastor’s obvious predicament. But still back to season 1’s heights.
Review: First episodethird episode

Banshee (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)
4×8 – Requiem
Practically a perfect send-off for Banshee, which evolved from being an ultra-violent piece of pulp fiction through to being one of the smartest, best directed shows on TV, looking at themes of justice, atonement, diversity, sorrow, aging, loss, love, family, the cost of crime on the soul and finding meaning in life… while having an epic fight scene every episode. While its final season has been an odd change of pace and the serial killer storyline (and Eliza Dushku) really didn’t add much to the mix, overall, the finale managed to resolve long-standing plot threads, given decent send-offs for most of the characters and even be moving in places. 
Reviews: First two episodesthird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×22 – Invincible
You could see where this one was going, couldn’t you? Despite that, a solid episode, more twists and reveals, and it was good for fans to finally see Amanda Pays and John Wesley Shipp sharing a scene together for the first time in The Flash in 25 years.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
6×5 – The Door
The best episode of the season so far, with Hodor getting an origins story, among other things, but that’s the least of the revelations, albeit the most moving. Generally, the signs seem to be that show has decided to stop treading water in favour of powering through to the end of the story, although that might be a red herring. Shame they didn’t get Sean Bean back this episode, though.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst seasonsecond and third seasons

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
3×5 – The Empty Chair
A little bit less fun than normal, with something of a filler episode, and the chess playing by Laurie was pretty obvious. But smart and funny in abundance, as usual.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Tunnel (Tunnel) (UK: Sky Atlantic; France: Canal+)
Ben Richards’s dialogue but some very silly moments slightly spoiled this episode, bringing it back more in line with Bron/Broen in terms of daft master criminals.
Reviews: First episode

  • Mark Carroll

    I thought “Banshee” wrapped up reasonably. It wasn't amazing, more inevitability than surprises — in general I can't say this past season has exactly been my favourite — but there were some good moments and, especially when compared with current alternatives, it was certainly worth watching.

    I didn't yet get around to starting “Preacher” and look forward to your review of those first few.

    I think this season of “Gotham” must be nearly done but not quite yet. We've seen plenty of Hugo Strange who has made a nice change. “Gotham” too is pushing silliness a bit far (even for it) and it's rather confirming my fear that we keep getting the same people and just change the situations around enough that before long most regulars' histories will look varied indeed. It's hard to care what happens at any point if it's all going to be turned around a while later anyway.

    “The Blacklist” was quite good. We got some explanation and things happened but I'm not sure that the finale gave enough satisfaction for me to continue. “Grimm” was (compared to much of the mediocre season) a significant improvement: in a double episode finale many things happened. “Archer” was okay. Nothing too special among those.

    I am enjoying “Game of Thrones” lately. It's returned to being binge-worthy, not that I can now I'm not behind. Some explanations, some payoff, some new questions, definite movement, and I expect there are some shocking surprises yet to come.

    We're halfway through the first season of “Agent Carter” having finally got around to it. It's simple fun. I think my wife and I like it more than the kids do. I think it achieves what it aims for. I'm surprised to even find Angie engaging. I don't know if I'll bother with later seasons but I do hope this first wraps up agreeably.

  • There's a point about halfway to 3/4 through Agent Carter's first season (so soon for you!) where it gets good, thanks to the back story of one character (no spoilers). You'll know it when you see it. The second season has no such point

    Banshee's ending wasn't amazing, but it was satisfying and did everything it needed to do, I thought. And it left you thinking.

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