What have you been watching? Including Goliath, Finding Dory, Chance and Frequency

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. There’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. 

Thanks to the Thanksgiving holidays in the US last week, lots of programmes were taking a slight breather and few new ones decided to stick their heads above the parapets. That means it’s been a quiet week for TMINE, with only Search Party (US: TBS) to deal with in the ‘new’ category and the regulars reduced to just Chance, DIrk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, The Flash, The Great Indoors, Lucifer, People of Earth, Supergirl, Timeless and Travelers – I’ll be dealing with them after the jump.

On the plus side, though, that did mean I could not only play catch-up with an Internet TV box-setted into our laps a little while ago, I could also watch a couple of movies.

Goliath (Amazon)
‘A legal thriller by David E Kelley! Whoopdy doo,’ I thought. Like most people, I immediately think of the likes of Ally McBeal, Boston Legal and Harry’s Law when I hear Kelley’s name; unlike most people, I also think of his reasonably poor efforts with Wonder Woman, the dismal The Crazy Ones and the putrid Wedding Bells

However, Kelley hasn’t always been king of fluffy backlash legal dramas. Back in the day, he created The Practice, a supposed antidote to the cutesy view of legal work perpetrated by LA Law; on said show, the story editor was one Jonathan Shapiro, a former Rhodes Scholar and professor of law.

Together, they’re responsible for Goliath, a legal drama that stars Billy Bob Thornton as a former top lawyer who’s fallen on hard times. Then Nina Arianda (Hannibal) turns up needing Thornton’s help with a case involving the supposed suicide of an engineer who worked for a major arms manufacturer. Before you know it, Thornton’s David is taking on the Goliath that is his old legal firm, which includes ex-best friend William Hurt, ex-wife Maria Bello (Prime Suspect) and newby lawyer Olivia Thirby (Dredd 3D), and the might of the US defence industry.

Mostly, this is a show that owes a lot more to Shapiro than Kelley tonally, being about legal clevery dickery and shady big name clients in the same way that Suits was when it started. Shapiro’s legal knowledge really shines here and Goliath goes through all manner of things you’ve probably never seen in a legal drama before (“complex cases”, using the rules of contempt to get evidence admitted, etc). It’s also quite dark, with bodies being found in car boots, witnesses being run over, police abuse and more.

But Kelley’s name isn’t on the sign simply to drum up trade. There’s a definite air of Kelleyisms to Goliath around the edges, ranging from some actual jokes through the daft names the lawyers at Hurt’s firm call each other (“The Mole”, “The Mouse”), Hurt’s facial scarring and his use of a clicker to communicate when he wants to be annoying, Thornton almost representing the forces of the un-PC against the PC tyranny of the Goliath-like enemy (Thirby has a stammer and uses the American Disability Discrimination Act to counter Thornton’s tricks; Bello is gay and has a girlfriend who also works at her law firm), to some distinctly dodgy attitudes towards women and some ethical issues to be considered, such as revenge porn and whether lawyers should break privilege to report wrongdoing by their clients. Arianda’s practice even feels a lot like the one in Harry’s Law.

Goliath is still a lot better than I was expecting, probably being the second-best original Amazon drama after The Man In The High Castle that I’ve seen. It’s also a lot tenser – I’m six episodes through the eight episode run and each episode has managed to ratchet up the claustrophobia as Thornton’s got closer to the truth and increasing danger. I’ll probably watch the final two episodes tomorrow, in fact.

But it’s still got enough Kelley daftness, is slow-moving enough and fails to make you care enough for the characters that I can’t really recommend it. If you like John Grisham-style legal dramas, though, this is certainly worth a look-in.

Frequency (200)
Since the TV adaptation is currently airing on The CW/Netflix and I’d never seen the original, I thought I’d give it a whirl just to compare and contrast, especially since it’s currently free on Amazon Prime. At its heart, like the TV series, Frequency is about a father and his grown-up child cop managing to communicate by radio over several decades and using information about the future to change the past – again, to prevent the father’s imminent death and to subsequently stop the change in history that is the mother being murdered by a nurse-hating serial killer.

Starring a whole bunch of people now famous from other TV shows (Jim Caviezel, Shawn Doyle, Elizabeth Mitchell, Andre Braugher, Noah Emmerich), it’s pretty much the same as the first season of Frequency so far, but with a few interesting changes, such as the dad (Dennis Quaid here) being a fireman not a cop and there being a 30-year time difference, not a 20-year difference. It’s a lovely idea and the film has an emotional depth that a lot of sci-fi movies lack, but I think I actually prefer the TV version, since the longer running time gives that a chance to explore a whole bunch of issues that the movie has to leave to montage moments at best, and the gender-swap to a daughter evens out the original’s not inconsiderable sidelining of women. 

Still, given it was set in 1999 (nearly 20 years ago now, guys), it’s almost like watching time travel anyway, with its reference to Yahoo! as a good stock option.

Finding Dory (2016)
The tear-jerking Pixar delight, Finding Nemo, saw a widower father searching the world for his partially disabled son, following the latter’s kidnapping. The twist? They were fish.

Here, in this sequel, their mentally challenged best friend Dory (Ellen Degeneres) comes to the fore as she remembers she had a family back in the day and despite her inability to form short-term memories, goes looking for her mother and father, Nemo and co in tow.

For about the first 10 minutes, this feels like a retread of the original but after that, Finding Dory sets its own path, introducing all-new characters and species that live in or near the marine park that Dory thinks her parents might be living in. It’s a lovely piece of work again, with some top moments of comedy and joy, but it never quite hits the emotional highs (or lows) of the original and the final act starts to descend into the silly. Admittedly, it is a movie about talking fish so silly is relative, I guess.

Something both parents and kids can enjoy, but not quite an absolute classic. 

Chance (US: Hulu)
1×7 – Unlocking Your Hidden Powers
Finally, some revelations. Okay, they aren’t quite revelations, since the show’s been hinting them at quite strongly, but they nevertheless indicate this isn’t going to be letdown I was worried about. The show’s nevertheless going in a slightly different direction than I was expecting, appearing to be both Vertigo and Breaking Bad at the same time. Intriguing.
Review: First three episodes

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix)
1×6 – Fix Everything
Like Chance, an episode with numerous revelations that weren’t really, since they’re pretty much what the show had been hinting at in all the preceding episodes. So more of a consolidation of information to make sure we’re all on the same page, before we head off into the concluding episodes. 
Review: First episodethird episode

The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
1×5 – No Bad Ideas
Stephen Fry was missing again this week, sadly, but still a decently funny episode in which the attitudes of the millennials are sympathetically explored, as are their characters. As with last week, I have to point out that we’re now five episodes into the show and we’re still not in default CBS ‘point and sneer mode’. How did that happen? Equally interesting, the show also had a decent look at different types of journalism, exploring the differences between simple clickbait and features articles. This is oddly well researched.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon) 
2×9 – Homewrecker
Lucifer‘s producers seem to have worked out that having a mystery of the week to solve is only interesting if it ties into the overall series plot, with Lucifer’s mum this episode apparently trying to get his club shut down by murdering his landlord. Or has she? All nicely done, with Rachael Harris’s therapist scenes working at last and even Lauren German starting to become interesting. Took ’em a while, but I think the producers have finally worked out a good set-up for the show. 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

People of Earth (US: TBS)
1×5 – Unexplained
Aliens funny, everything else not funny. As always. But some good moments when it was funny, particularly the brain wiping.
Reviews: First three episodes

Supergirl (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
2×7 – The Darkest Place
The usual predictable superhero nonsense, executed with the usual predictable charm and lack of sophistication. Enjoyable, though, particularly thanks to one cameo in particular (spoiler alert: Dean Cain was back) but probably liable for the chop unless it can really find its mojo soon.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)
1×7 – Stranded
A Rufus-centric episode for a change, with our heroes not having a huge plot to deal with this week as they’re marooned in time, so able to actually have a chat; home base gets to have a chance to do something, too. A nice chance to expand the characters, but not compulsory viewing.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3×7 – Killer Frost
And the season’s big bad’s helper is finally revealed and it turns out to be… the person everyone was expecting it to be. Gosh. Still, lots of fun with Killer Frost. 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)
1×6 – Helios 685
Genuinely top piece of television, with the previous five episodes coming together for our heroes’ actual mission. It’s all very cleverly done, with lots of information about what’s going on, and the final act contains a properly clever twist that you won’t see coming but is massively obvious in retrospect. Just great.
Reviews: First episodethird 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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