What have you been watching? Including Deadpool, The Americans and The Tunnel (Tunnel)

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. 

Well would you look at that – back as scheduled. Miracles will never cease.

As usual, though, the networks have carefully timed a batch of new shows to start airing while I’ve been away. I’ll be reviewing them in the next few days, but hold your horses on discussing Animal Kingdom (US: TNT), Private Eyes (Canada: CBC), Feed The Beast (US: AMC; UK: BT Vision) and Cleverman (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC Four) until then, if you’ve seen them.

After the jump, I’ll be looking at the season/series finales of Arrow, The Flash and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the dwindling regulars (won’t someone give us some good new TV, please?): 12 Monkeys, The Americans, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley. Surprisingly, despite my reduced viewing list, one of these is for the chop because I can’t even.

Before that, though, I’ve seen not one, but two superhero movies!

Deadpool (2015) (iTunes)
Ryan Reynolds in the first of Marvel’s adult-oriented superhero movies, here playing a mercenary who gets given mutant powers at the cost of his good looks, so tries to get the Brit scientist/kickboxer who experimented on him (Ed Skrein from The Transporter Refueled and Game of Thrones) to undo the damage so he can get back his girl (Morena Baccarin from Firefly and Homeland). But as well as his looks, the newly-christened Deadpool also loses his sanity – for some reason, he thinks he’s in a superhero movie and chooses to satirise anything and everything about it, as well as talk to the audience he thinks is watching him…

Although not as funny or as daring as it thinks it is and saddled with a conventional revenge plot that all the storytelling tricks in the world can’t cover up, Deadpool has a lot going for it, particularly its potty mouth, and meta jibes at Ryan Reynolds and the X-men. You’ll laugh at about half the jokes and there are scenes that will stick with you for days afterwards. But its own critiques (“It’s almost like the studio couldn’t afford more famous stars”) reveal the film’s biggest problem – it’s subversive enough that the studio wants to keep it safely confined in a box away from the rest of the franchise, unable to play with the big boys. Also, Gina Carano is wasted in a small role, which makes me sad. 

But you can’t really knock a superhero movie that has its lead masturbating with a toy unicorn, now can you?

Spider-Man 3 (2007) (iTunes)
Somehow I missed/couldn’t be bothered to watch the third of the previous (but one) Spider-Man movie franchises, but with another on the way, I figured I’d watch all the old ones (not including the Nicholas Hammond 70s TV show) just to see how they compare. Here we get Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man finding (yet again) it’s hard achieving a work-life-superhero balance, and despite wanting to marry girlfriend Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), ends up neglecting her. Then, he discovers that the man (Thomas Haden Church) who really killed Uncle Ben has escaped from prison and acquired the power to turn into and shape sand. And best friend James Franco has discovered Peter Parker is Spider-Man and wants to get revenge for the supposed murder of his father (aka The Green Goblin). Just as Peter’s at his lowest ebb, he attracts the attention of an alien symbiote who turns his costume – as well as his soul – black…

Weirdly, despite its rep, I found this to be the best of the lot – Spider-Man 1 & 2 do not bear up well, despite my having found them reasonably good at the time, and The Amazing Spider-Man is astonishingly dreary and uncompelling. While the ‘Venom’ subtext is a little clunky and the character itself a bit rubbish, the story actually takes novel turns, with forgiveness and doing good lorded over violence and darkness (take note, DC Comics). 

Utterly meaningless if you haven’t seen the first two movies, mind.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

12 Monkeys (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
2×6 – Immortal – 2×7 – Meltdown
So I think I’m pretty much done with this, despite a slight upturn in these two episodes. The first episode gives us a serial killer ‘Primary’, killing others to prevent paradoxes, but hoping to attract the attention of those in the future; the second is more of a bottle episode, with the ‘Witness’ using a ‘mental tether’ to brainwash a traveller into causing the splinter machine to emit unfocused temporal radiation. That sentence should show you the programme’s biggest problem – beardy weirdy sci-fi, disappearing up its own bottom, Ouroboros-like, more interested in big ideas than people. It’s hard to care about whether our heroes can save time itself from being destroyed (it’s such a stupid idea by the bad guy(s) – let’s destroy time to prevent people from dying!) when you don’t care about them.

So I’m going to remember season 1 as a fine extrapolation of the movie and give up on season two.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First two episodes

Arrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×23 – Schism
A perfunctory finale that retreads all previous finales, offering the usual plot points with significantly diminished returns. It caps a generally hugely disappointing season that felt tired, bereft of ideas and saddled with too many other tasks, such as launching DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Flashbacks were pointless and even when one of the main characters died, it was hard to care. Probably its one redeeming feature was the episode featuring John Constantine. 

I’ll probably be back next season, simply for the crossovers, at least. But the show will have to do a lot to convince me it’s worth my investment of time after such an insipid season.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: ITV Encore)
4×11 – Dinner for Seven – 4×12 – A Roy Rogers in Franconia
While Keri Russell needs to brush up on her jiu jitsu, a couple of top episodes with the tension ratcheting up as the FBI gets closer, top spying techniques deployed and everyone feels sadder and sadder.
Review: First episodethird episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×23 – The Race of His Life
A reasonably decent finale with some clever plot tricks, but one which still feels a little flat after a generally miserable season. Nice to see they’ve found a way to make the 1990s show reasonably canon, too, but does the ending mean that we can be expecting Flashpoint next season? Oh god no.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
6×6 – Blood of my Blood – 6×7 – The Broken Man
A little bit of a filler episode that didn’t do anything unexpected, followed by an episode that did a whole bunch of unexpected things, as well as an expected thing that was still surprising. I can’t say more than that – spoilers, you know?
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodefirst seasonsecond and third seasons

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
3×6 – Bachmanity Insanity – 3×7 – To Build A Better Beta
You wouldn’t have thought two episodes about tabs versus spaces when coding, and beta testing could be so funny, would you? I suspect to many people they weren’t. Indeed, the season’s been a little aimless since the departure of Stephen Tobolowsky. That said, there’s some good character comedy going on, although TJ Miller’s character is becoming increasingly redundant by the minute.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Tunnel (Tunnel) (UK: Sky Atlantic; France: Canal+)
A strange ending to a strange season, with the show suddenly becoming more interested in spies, MI5 and MI6 than cops and mysteries (in much the same way as Between The Lines did). Overall, despite some fine work improving the French focus of the show and some good first episodes, as well as a neat, last-minute tie-in to the first season, this second season lacked focus and didn’t really have much to add or say for itself. Bit of a shame, really, although the final 10 minutes will probably stick with you if you decide to watch it.
Reviews: First episode


  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.