What have you been watching? Including Atlanta, Narcos, The Last Ship and Mr Robot

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. 

I’ve been a bit slack over the past week. Work’s been a bit crazy and season two of Narcos has been taking up a lot of my time. Never fear, though, as over the next few days, I should – fingers crossed – be reviewing a whole batch of new US shows, including Quarry, Better Things and Speechless. I might even pass a third-episode verdict on Four In The Morning, if I have the time.

After the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of the regulars, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot and You’re The Worst, as well as the whole second season of Narcos and the season finale of The Last Ship. But before that, one show I had been planning to do a full review of last week but didn’t get round to because it turned out not to be worth it was…

Atlanta (US: FX; UK: Fox UK – starts November)
Written by Donald Glover (Community, The Martian), Atlanta also stars Glover as the Princeton-drop out cousin of an Atlanta rapper (Brian Tyree Henry) who’s just about to hit the big time. Glover has to use his big brain, as well as his connections, to get in on the deal as well as help Henry deal with the problems of the music biz, race, sex and more.

I’ve seen various articles talking about how Glover has ‘redefined comedy’ with Atlanta and it’s fair to say that he’s redefined in that Atlanta is as much a drama as a comedy and there aren’t many jokes. Of the jokes that Glover does give us, most of which he gives to himself and concern being the smartest guy in the room, with no one on his level to talk to (“Do you know where the word management comes from?” “Yes, it’s from the Latin word manus, meaning hand” “Oh… Management really means…”). Otherwise, while it does offer an insider’s view of life for the poorer members of society in Atlanta, it doesn’t offer that much that’s new – apparently, people will treat you differently if you’re famous, for example. How insightful.

I wanted to like this, since Glover’s great, and I had had high hopes for it, given Glover started out writing for 30 Rock, but my 100% dislike of all shows about the American music industry (eg Power, Empire, Vinyl, Nashville) continues to have a 100% strike rate thanks to Atlanta.

The recommended list

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC; UK: Amazon)
3×4 – Rules of Honorable Play
Possibly the best show on TV about the difficulty of managing creative people. Lots of nice moments and it’s good to see that Joe isn’t being painted as the source of all evil but as a relatively sympathetic guy. Still, as soon as the words ‘packet switching’ and ‘military contracts’ turned up, you could see where the season would be going (spoiler alert: ARPANET) – I do hope the show doesn’t invent the commercial Internet half a decade early…
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)
3×13 – Don’t Look Back
Could convincingly have served as a series finale, not just a season finale, were it not for the show having been renewed for another two seasonsDon’t Look Back gives us some decent naval exchanges and on-land firefights, including some deaths, as well as rounding off pretty much every plot thread in a decent enough manner. What it also showed was that TNT needs to stop trying to do the show on the cheap, given the dodginess of some of the effects and the descent into Walker Texas Ranger territory at times this season. Overall, despite the lack of naval action, a generally large amount of silliness, and almost no attempts to deal with the personal or characterisation, a good season on a par with previous efforts.
Reviews: First episode Third episode

Narcos (Netflix)
Season 2
A season of two halves, one high octane and filled with explosions and bombings, resulting in thrills aplenty, followed by a second half that’s a sad contemplation of how even the worst people in the world needn’t be all bad and can end up old, fat, lonely and dead. The second half also sets out the show’s stall for the next two, post-Escobar seasons. Marvellous acting all round and the use of real-life footage only shows that some of the bonkers things depicted were just like that in reality (particularly Escobar’s mum), but the reduced critique of the drugs war made it overall less interesting than the first season (even if the commentary on George Bush Sr was eye-opening). A must-see.
Review: First season

Mr Robot (US: USA Network; UK: Amazon)
A great hacking scene, some top direction, more allusions to That Thing That Seems Highly Likely About The Swedish Guy – it’s just one superlative after another with this show. Quite fun to see how it’s playing reality as an adjunct to the sort of online playing with facts and reality that you see, to demonstrate how online fantasies about revolutions and destroying capitalism are willful distortions that will in truth cause great pain to many of ‘the little people’, while never truly hurting the rich and powerful.
ReviewsFirst episodethird episode

You’re The Worst (US: FXX; UK: 5*)
3×2 – Fix Me, Dummy
While I’m not sure Jimmy’s choice of subject matter for his novel quite suits him, particularly judging by what his first one was like, the book pitch feedback was entertaining. Everthing involving Gretchen and Edgar was gold, too, but  I could have done without the Lindsay and Paul scenes at lunch time, though.
Review: First episode


  • Rob Buckley

    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.

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