What have you been watching? Including Doubt, Patriot, Training Day and Billions

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching.

Real-world demands got the better of me last week, so I thought I’d do WHYBW nice and early this week, just in case the world explodes or something – at least you’ll have something to read as we all float off into the aether.

Elsewhere, I reviewed a bunch of new shows, though: Newton’s Law (Australia: ABC), Imposters (US: Bravo), Bellevue (Canada: CBC) and The Good Fight (US: CBS All Access). I’ve also passed third-episode verdicts on: Riverdale (US: The CW; UK: Netflix), Powerless (US: NBC), APB (US: Fox), Imposters (US: Bravo) and Legion (US: FX; UK: Fox UK).

That means that after the jump, I’ll be discussing two weeks of the regulars: 24: LegacyCardinalDC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Fortitude, The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, The Magicians, Man Seeking Woman and Powerless. I’ll also be looking at the season finales of Son of Zorn and Timeless, as well as the return of Billions. For a bit of excitement, you can guess which one of these I’ll be dropping from the viewing schedule.

But I have tried three new shows as well that didn’t warrant full reviews.

Doubt (US: CBS)
Katherine Heigl is the brilliant, impulsive but quirky and flawed lawyer at a New York ’boutique’ legal firm full of brilliant, impulsive, quirky and flawed lawyers. Trouble is, she’s falling for the rich guy she’s defending but he might be guilty…

Despite an awesome cast (Heigl, Laverne Cox, Dulé Hill, Elliott Gould, Dreama Walker, Ben Lawson, Cassidy Freeman) and obviously being intended to be slightly comedic, Doubt is so bad as to be unwatchable. It’s insulting stupid, as clumsy as a drunk rhino in its writing and has dialogue designed to shatter bowels. I had a feeling that this was never going to go the distance and hey, would you look at that – it’s been cancelled after only two episodes, a record for the 2016-2017 season. 

Patriot (Amazon)
Spy comedy-thriller in the style of Wes Anderson, in which intelligence officer Michael Dorman must assume a perilous ‘non-official cover’ as a mid-level employee at a Midwestern industrial piping firm, in order to prevent Iran from going nuclear. The trouble is, as his spy dad Terry O’Quinn points out, Dorman sings folk music to ease his stress, but he’s becoming increasingly truthful with his lyrics…

All of which is funny enough and you get it all explained to you in the first ten minutes of the first episode. After that, though, the High Concept runs out and you’re left stuck with a show about a process engineer who sings songs about killing Egyptian physicists in order to preserve US interests overseas. Some nice ideas, but not really enough to support an entire episode, let alone an entire season.

Training Day (US: CBS)
Adaptation of the Denzel Washington movie in which a young rookie cop is partnered with an older, wiser cop to learn the ropes. The twist is that younger cop (Justin Cornwell) has been sent to spy on the older cop (Bill Paxton), who’s suspected of not just bending the rules but of being liable to break them quite severely.

The show sets itself up as a sort of American Braquo to question what exactly makes a good cop. Are idealism and the rule of law the best and only way to fight criminals? Or is the real-world too messy and must a cop break the rules in order to best serve his higher purpose? And even if he does, if he works well with the community and gets results, shouldn’t we look the other way?

However, whatever side of the argument you support, Training Day isn’t going to answer its questions definitively because it bears as much resemblance to reality as chocolate-flavoured beachball. People are diving out of windows clutching babies to avoid explosions, automatic gunfire can’t penetrate wooden door frames, lone police officers can get into heavily armed drug dealers’ houses with a single shotgun and without killing anyone. It’s just nonsense.

As a show, it’s so daft and pointless, I actually saw the first episode three weeks ago and completely forgot I’d seen it. Unfortunately, it is now Bill Paxton’s swansong, so I thought I should at least mention it. 

Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending

24: Legacy (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)
1×3 – 2.00pm-3.00pm – 1×4 – 3.00pm-4.00pm
The usual idiocy and racism to the max, including a distasteful use of real-life footage from a terrorist atrocity that the producers have already had to apologise for. But so exciting!
Review: First episode

Billions (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×1 – Risk Management – 2×2 – Dead Cat Bounce
Despite delivering a cracker of an opening episode, by the end of the first season of Billions, it was pretty clear the show hadn’t actually worked out its raison d’être, other than to give Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti the chance to chew the scenery at each other as a billionaire hedge fund manager facing investigation by a tenancious district attorney. As a show, it had ambitions to be an alpha male playground, but it never really got as far as showing that having insane amounts of money has both pros and cons.

For season two, it looks like the producers have sat down, had a think and decided to do something a bit subtler. Now Lewis is coming after Giamatti who is taking on another hedge fund manager in response, thus neatly side-stepping the big problem of how the show can continue if ever Lewis or Giamatti wins. In addition, the show seems to want to dial down the hyper-masculinity of the first season, not only giving us some interesting plays involving Maggie Siff’s character but also introducing a trans intern (Asia Kate Dillon). Against that backdrop, David Costabile’s beta looks increasingly fragile. It also seems to have thought of some useful things to say about fund management in general.

However, while the show’s more interesting and less in your face than it was, as of yet, the elusive prize of actually knowing what it’s about still seems to elude it. But I have more confidence that it might have an idea, now.
Reviews: First episode; third episode

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
2×12 – Camelot/3000
A trip to King Arthur’s court proves as historically accurate as the previous War of Independence episode, but gives us a nifty twist on the Lancelot/Guinevere tale. 
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3×13 – Attack on Gorilla City (1)
The show finally seems to be remembering to have fun again, and it also seems like its entire budget might have been spent on creating Earth 2’s surprisingly credible version of Gorilla City. Nice little dig at Injustice: Gods Among Us as well.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Great Indoors (US: CBS; UK: ITV2)
1×13 – Dtr – 1×14 – Friends Like These
And I think it’s time to call it a day on The Great Indoors. While the thought of a sitcom about journalism with both Joel McHale and Stephen Fry does seem tantalising, Fry is in it so rarely, he’s more or less a guest star, and the references to journalism are now so few and far between that it’s clear the producers’ two days of research have run out, leaving us a show in which a middle-aged man tries to understand millennials and vice versa. The arrival of Maggie Lawson (Psych, Back In The GameAngel From Hell) as an age-appropriate girlfriend for McHale almost kept me going for another few episodes, but the lack of jokes was the final nail in the show’s coffin for me.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Lethal Weapon (US: Fox; UK: ITV)
1×15 – As Good As It Getz – 1×16 – Unnecessary Roughness
Leo Getz finally turns up in the form of Reno 911/The Odd Couple‘s Thomas Lennon and he’s not at all like his movie equivalent, being an ambulance-chasing lawyer rather than an accountant. But despite Lennon and the evolving relationship between Riggs and DEA agent Hilarie Burton, the show’s starting to feel quite generic and samey now, without much hint of Riggs’ lethal qualities, only his trailer-trash qualities.
Review: First episodethird episode

Powerless (US: NBC)
1×4 – Emily Dates A Henchman
Another general uptick in quality from the second episode, the episode actually featured Batman (kind of) and my namesake Robert Buckley, here playing one of the Riddler’s henchmen whom Selena Gomez ends up dating. The show does now seem to be wanting to explore its little corner of the DC Universe and all the general implications of the DCU, while growing a little bolder in its mocking of more major comic book characters. It also featured some jokes, which made a nice change. All in all, probably the first episode that’s actually worked.  
Reviews: First episode; third episode

Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)
1×15 – Public Enemy No 1 – 1×16 – The Red Scare
A surprisingly good ending to the season and to a show that started off very limply but finally found its way. Public Enemy No 1 also had a lovely fake out that took the episode in an unexpected direction and there was a clever rehabilitation for another character in The Red Scare. Unfortunately, Timeless wanted to have its cake and eat it, so gave us an utterly stupid lead-in to a potential second season. Doh!
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

Cardinal (Canada: CTV; UK: BBC Four)
1×4 – Woody – 1×5 – Keith
It turns out that being based on a book, Cardinal is also plotted like a book, with that result that it’s only now showing its true colours. Thankfully, after a considerably icky fourth episode, the fifth episode kicks into investigative high gear and we actually have our cops doing some proper police work (although one can argue it’s rather handy that their two cases dovetailed together so nicely).

However, the highlight of the episodes has to be an incredibly tense pursuit of a suspect through a darkened school. Director Podz takes a leaf out of his own book (cf 19-2) to do a long single-shot following the cops and it’s both terrifying and immersive.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Fortitude (UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×4 – 2×5
Things are now starting to get properly season 1 again, with Misfits‘ Robert Sheehan turning up as a naked shaman assassin and more body parts being dismembered, all while everyone’s rising from the dead. I’m not sure what the big reveal is going to be (I hear episode 9 is the one to hold out for, but prepare to be traumatised), but the show’s definitely heading in the right bonkers direction now.
Reviews: First three episodes

The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: 5*)
2×4 – The Flying Forest – 2×5 – Cheat Day
The Magicians seems to be trying to plot its new course, but with no ‘Big Bad’ as of yet, it all feels a bit unfocused, with the various characters all off doing their own things. While it’s an interesting commentary on magical franchises and their lack of attention to what happens in the aftermath of the storylines, it does emphasise the need for an actual plot. Still, brave of the producers to include an abortion sub-plot.
Episode reviews: 123456-78910-1112-13

Man Seeking Woman (US: FXX)
3×7 – Bagel – 3×8 – Dolphin
Increasingly, the female-centric episodes are proving the best in Man Seeking Woman, and Liz’s storyline in Dolphin showed how weak the first season’s foray into ‘woman seeking man’ was. Not the best couple of episodes the show has produced, yet still very funny and with more to say that most episodes.
Review: First episode

Son of Zorn (US: Fox)
1×13 – All Hail Son of Zorn
A slightly messy conclusion to the season, with all the characters involved in their own plotlines; nevertheless, it all managed to hang together. All in all, a consistently funny first season, with often truly hilarious moments. My only criticism was that Cheryl Hines often had very little to do, except take part in other people’s plots. Fingers crossed for a secon season.
Reviews: First episodethird episode