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.
Look at that – Autumn’s here. How did that happen?
Anyway, just as leaves will fall and everyone in the US is now morally obliged to stop wearing white, so TMINE returns to its usual blogging service come Autumn. More or less. Give it a week or so, anyway.
However, although I’m braced and ready for duty, the TV networks are biding their time, deploying some sophisticated form of Sicilian Defence with their schedules, which means there’s not been a lot new for me to review since the previous WHYBW?, other than the somewhat awful Four In The Morning (Canada: CBC) and a whole bunch of Amazon pilots. A few old favourites have returned, though, which means that after the jump, as well as The Last Ship and Mr Robot, I’ll be casting an eye over the first new episodes of the third seasons of Halt and Catch Fire and You’re The Worst, as well as the start of season two of Narcos.
I did manage to look over a couple of new shows, fresh off the presses, though.
En Immersion (Deep) (France: Arte; UK: Netflix)
Stylised French crime drama from Philippe Haïm (Braquo) in which Patrick Ridremont (Dead Man Talking) plays an unambitious cop and single father living in Paris. When he starts to suffer hallucinations, he discovers he is suffering from an incurable fatal neurological disease. With nothing left to lose, Ridremont joins a team of undercover narcotics agents led by Emmanuelle Meyssignac (The Avignon Prophecy), working to bring down Olivier Chantreau (Spiral) and his designer drugs.
As you can probably guess from the fact it was made for France’s arty Arte, En Immerson is more about how the story is told than what the story is, with the series shot in black and white and Haïm at times replacing dialogue with music. Visually, it’s lovely, but unfortunately, it’s also completely uncompelling, not exactly innovative in terms of plotting, and its Braquo-esque ultraviolence is as hard to palate.
The Collection (Amazon)
Set in France just after the Second World War, The Collection sees Richard Coyle (Coupling, Crossbones, Covert Affairs) playing the owner of a fashion house that is going to give France a makeover and once more associate it with fun, haute couture and femininity. Trouble is that the talented one who can design clothes is his f*ck-up brother Tom Riley (Da Vinci’s Demons). How can the ruthless Coyle get little bro with the programme, while preventing the deep, dark, possibly wartime-collaborating family secret from seeing the light of day? Well, it ain’t going to be pretty…
Echoing the latter day production arrangements of Ripper Street, it’s an odd little thing, this, with a whole host of American actors playing moustache-twirling Americans (including Mr Robot/The Newsroom‘s Mamie Gummer), a whole host of Britain’s finest (including James Cosmo, Sarah Parish and Frances De La Tour) playing the French and a soupçon of French actors in teeny tiny unnoticable parts playing god-knows-what, with virtually every exterior shot of post-war Paris apparently shot on the same repeatedly redressed backlot in Grimsby. Coyle is as well cast as when he was a pirate or KGB assassin, and everything has the authenticity of a Hong Kong market knock off.
There’s too little fashion to please fashionistas, too little charm or romance to please the period drama-lovers, too little action to please thriller-lovers and too little attention to detail to please historians. The Collection‘s not awful and is competently made, but there’s no USP, nothing it does that you won’t have seen done better elsewhere, no reason for its existence other than to keep another BBC Worldwide co-production agreement going. Try it if you like, but I doubt it’ll be your size.
But hey guys! This is ‘What have you been watching?’! Note the emphasis on you. Over the weeks and years, some of you have rather benevolently been letting the rest of us know about the good stuff we’ve been missing that I haven’t been picking up on. Just in case you were worried it’s all been falling on deaf ears, you can breathe more easily: in my quest to fill the empty gaps in my viewing schedule, I also looked through your recommendations to find some new shows to try. Here’s what I found.
Neviditelní (The Invisibles) (Czech Republic: CT1; UK: All4)
One of JustStark’s recommendations, this quirky little fantasy drama based very loosely on 1970s movie How to Drown Dr Mrácek is centred on the ‘Nixies’, a bunch of water-breathing people living amongst us – or at least in Prague – but doing their best not to be found out. Then one of their own, albeit someone who doesn’t know he’s a Nixie, goes and publicly commits suicide by drowning. When he promptly fails to die to everyone’s surprise, including his own, a crisis is provoked in the Nixie community.
I haven’t got very far into it yet and the early episodes are less concerned with dynamic storytelling and more with setting up this quaint community, its politics and its rules, from its attempts to attain power through ownership of the water and sewage system through to its attitudes to bleach and its love of fermented frogs. But it’s pleasingly off the wall and amusing, and it’s significantly better once the fallout of the suicide starts, so I’ll stick with it.
No English-language trailers available on YouTube, but you can find out more over on All4, and here’s a Czech one:
Gomorra (Gomorrah) (Italy: Sky Atlantic; UK: Sky Atlantic)
One of GYAD’s recommendations, Gommora is based on the book of the same name by Roberto Saviano. Again, one I’ve not got very far into yet – there are two seasons so far, so give me time – it’s so far been a reasonably and impressively violent but smart look at the Naples mafia, wars between gangs and mafia operations at the street level. It certainly looks fantastic and the differences between UK and Italian societies, such as the greater availability of guns through official channels, take the show in unexpected directions, too. I’m not 100% in love with it yet, but I’ve been seeing it get a lot of love on Twitter, where it’s been described as almost poetic at times and comparisons have been made to The Wire, and what I’ve seen so far has been good enough to make me want to watch more, so I’ll be sticking with it as well.
The recommended list
Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC; UK: Amazon)
3×1-Valley of the Heart’s Delight – 3×3-Flipping the Switch
The departure of showrunner Jonathan Lisco at the end of last season seems to mean that after a couple of seasons chugging along nicely but not really getting to the point very quickly, Halt and Catch Fire is going to stop being an AMC show and start being a proper drama. That means it’s a little bit less quirky, but a lot more enjoyable.
In the hands of the show’s creators, Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C Rogers, it’s also decided that any attempt to fit with IT history is doomed to dullness, so has decided instead to transport the concerns of today to the 1980s. Lee Pace, now doing a sort of Steve Jobs/Larry Ellison hybrid impersonation, is not only running a full-on anti-virus company, a year before the first virus was even discovered, he’s worrying about whether to give away his software, which is probably about a decade too early for that particular sales tactic. This creative decision does at least manage to make the show a bit more relevant and a bit less pre-determined in its outcomes than earlier seasons, even if it’ll make the average Silicon Valley observer’s eyes roll.
Also welcome is the arrival of Annabeth Gish as a San Francisco VC and a boosting of the role of Toby Huss’s character. However, the show does feel a little bit less focused on emotions and relationships than it was before, taking a little of its heart away. All the same, as I’ve said with previous seasons, let’s see where they go with this, as it could be somewhere very interesting.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episode; third episode
The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)
3×11 – Legacy
After a big built up, we finally get this season’s nifty sea battle but it’s not quite as thrilling as in previous years; there’s also the most ludicrous bit of plotting imaginable involving Adam Baldwin’s character that beggars belief. But that latter problem aside, which TBH is pretty standard for The Last Ship, as decently exciting an episode as usual, with the welcome return of an old character.
+ 3×12 – Resistance
Worryingly resembling an episode of Walker Texas Ranger at times, Resistance had a few high points of excitement but the loss of naval focus, as before, is taking away the show’s unique qualities. It’s also retreading a lot of old ground, with the James‘s quest a combination of season 1’s cliffhanger and some of the more important parts of season 2. Fingers crossed for a good finale at least.
Reviews: First episode Third episode
The return of the dramatisation of the hunt for famed drugs lord Pablo Escabar is already as tense and exciting as the first excellent season. Great acting, thrills that come directly from reality and top writing mean it’s once again a must-see. I’ll try to binge-watch the rest of it this week.
Review: First season
Mr Robot (US: USA Network; UK: Amazon)
2×8-succ3ss0r.p12 – 2×9-init_5.fve
After the revelations of episode seven, episode eight gives us an entirely Elliott-free episode in which the other characters get to flourish, while episode nine gives us a brilliant recap of the season, showing us what’s really been happening so far, while simultaneously doing the thing that Mr Robot does so brilliantly – explore the nature of the unreliable narrator.
Reviews: First episode; third episode
You’re The Worst (US: FXX; UK: 5*)
3×1 – Try Real Hard
The return of TV’s best romantic comedy manages to do its usual trick of someone taking some of the worst narcissists around and someone making their actions heart-warming and touching – and simultaneously witty. Standout moments are Gretchen’s Spanish scene and Jimmy’s reaction to it, as well as that final scene with Lindsay and Paul.
Review: First episode