What have you been watching? Including Marco Polo, Secret City, 19-2, The Last Ship and Preacher

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. 

With the fourth of July weekend in the US last week, things have been a little quieter than normal, but not completely quiet. There have been a few new shows to review and I’ve already cast a glance over Dead Of Summer (US: Freeform), The Kettering Incident (Australia: Foxtel Showcase) and Roadies (US: Showcase; UK: Amazon Prime), as well as passed a third-episode verdict on American Gothic (US: CBS; UK: Amazon Prime). Last night in Australia, Barracuda (Australia: ABC) started, and I’ll be reviewing that by the end of the week, I hope. There’s also a couple of new acquistions of Netflix that should be getting my attention this week, too.

Nevertheless, the regulars have been looking a bit thin on the ground, which means that after the jump, I’ll only be looking at 19-2, The Last Ship, Preacher and the final episode of Secret City. Oh yes – I managed to watch the first three episodes of the new season of Marco Polo. I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to hear about them, too

Shows I’m watching but not recommending

Marco Polo (Netflix)
2×1-2×3
So it’s back. Excited? Of course not. Although it’s not as pointless as Bloodlinethe first season of Marco Polo was pretty much what you’d expect of a rejected Starz show: stupid scripts with stupid sex scenes with all the historicity of a Renaissance Fair. To be fair, there were a couple of standout performances and characters, but none of them were Lorenzo Richelmy’s titular hero.

Since the first season, though, the show seems to have had a rethink and decided to become more ‘Netflixy’ – out with the sex scenes, in with political intrigue, making the whole thing seem like House of Cards meets The Water Margin. It’s certainly nowhere near as stupid and we’ve had at least one decent kung fu fight so far and no nudity that I noticed, three episodes in. But it seems a lot less tighter, a lot bittier than the previous season, and it’s not as much fun either. It didn’t help that even with the aid of the seemingly hour-long recap of season one at the beginning of the first episode, I still couldn’t remember who everyone was and what their motivations were.

Problematically, too, we have two main camps in the acting school: the Asian-American actors who are universally awful, with Rick Yune (Die Another Day, Olympus Has Fallen) quite stonkingly bad to almost John Wayne levels in his delivery; and the Asian-everywhere-else actors, particularly the Asian-Brits, who all seem to be going for it like it’s Shakespeare. But we do have new arrival Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Strike Back, Tomorrow Never Dies) as an assassin, who no doubt will be up against Hundred Eyes by the end of the season. I’ll probably stick with it, but it’s still not a priority.
Review: First season

Preacher (US: AMC; UK: Amazon Prime)
1×7 – He Gone
A slightly harder, nastier affair than before, with absolute power now corrupting absolutely. I can’t say I enjoyed it much as an episode, but it was at least different from normal and sets things up for the next few episodes. Who had one season until the road trip in our sweepstake?
Review: First three episodes

The recommended list

19-2 (Canada: Bravo; UK: Amazon Prime) 
3×3 – Chicken
This season, the show seems to be venturing more into Southland territory, marrying a slightly tedious season-long arc about Nick’s cousin, with far more interesting episodic stories where terrible things suddenly happen when you’re least expecting them. It’s giving us a very raw, very emotional, very dark show that’s the antithesis of pretty much every other Canadian TV show you’ll ever have seen. It could do with being a bit tighter, a bit more interconnected in other areas, but it’s still a must-see.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)
3×5 – Minefield
Well, the episode title gives away what the episode was about, so no need to spoiler-cloak that rather welcome return to naval warfare this episode. Not as exciting as the submarine warfare of season two and with some moments of oddness where the audience is led to expect one thing but something else happens that probably needed to be helpfully explained earlier for it to work dramatically. But a rather good shot to the old adrenal glands.
Reviews: First episode Third episode

Secret City (Australia: Foxtel Showcase)
1×6 – The Light on the Hill
A surprisingly downbeat ending to Australia’s answer to State of Play, albeit one that leaves open the chances of a sequel. All the mysteries get answered, motivations revealed, but I suspect I’ll have to rewatch it to see if it really manages to hold together, given its complexity. On the whole, a bit disappointing, given how good the start was, with one too many conspiracy theories to maintain credibility, but it still managed to have a lot to say about modern politics, computer espionage, the ‘free’ press and more. Definitely the best Australian drama this year.
Review: First two episodes




  • Mark Carroll

    I'm still doubtful I'd actually enjoy “19-2”.

    We have a visitor for another couple of weeks which rather adjusts the interesting viewing. “Preacher” and “Mr Robot” will have to wait.

    We did look at the first couple of “The Living and the Dead”. It seemed almost fun except somewhat cliched and unlikely and, most damningly, just too silly. I think there might be an arc involving the dead son but honestly I'm already past caring. I suspect that “Marco Polo”'s going to challenge it for historical credibility.

    We watched “Starter for Ten” again. It's pretty much exactly what it seems on the tin. It's pleasant enough, well-cast, even plausible, but just doesn't feel like a story that's quite that worth telling, nor are there characters I like enough getting enough screen time. I can't say I was much engaged even the first time around.

    We watched “Falling Down” again too. People liked it and it held their attention. I think it's a very good movie. It's funny and dark and just plausible enough to be thought-provoking instead of jarring.

  • I don't think you're supposed to enjoy 19-2, but it is good.

    Re: The Living and the Dead. I did consider watching that, but then I remembered it was on the Beeb and decided not to as it would probably be rubbish. Seems to be saving me a lot of time at the moment, that rule…

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