What have you been watching? Including Girlboss, Doctor Who, The Magicians and Fortitude

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.

You can definitely tell we’re between seasons at the moment, can’t you? Some new shows have started up (such as Famous In Love) and there are a lot more on the way, but this week, there have been very few of the regulars to watch, just The AmericansDoctor Who and the season finale of The Magicians, all of which I’ll talk about after the jump, as well as the return last night of Silicon Valley.

The rest of the time, I’ve been playing catch-up on Fortitude, which I’ll also talk about in a minute, as well as watching Seven Types of Ambiguity. I’m four episodes into that now, so I’ll a do a full season review later in the week once I’ve watched the remaining two, along with National Geographic’s Genius.

I did, however, take a glance at one other new show over the weekend:

Girlboss (Netflix)
Based on Sophia Amoruso’s book of (almost) the same name (#GirlBoss), this is a ‘loose… real loose’ reimagining of Amoruso’s climb from rags to riches in which Britt Robertson (Life Unexpected, Under The Dome) is a girl so down-and-out that she sleeps with men so she has somewhere to stay for the night and gets repeatedly fired from jobs because she doesn’t want to work for anyone. But what does she want to do? She doesn’t know, until one day she discovers she has a gift for spotting expensive second-hand clothes being given away for next to nothing. Before you know it, she’s setting up her own eBay fashion business, which will go on to be worth millions.

I actually already knew about Amaruso already, because her book was the subject of some Greek translation I had to do once, Amoruso being Greek/Italian-American (“Sofia often stole from shops, which Americans call ‘shoplifting’, for which we don’t have a specific word”). Turning Amaruso into the daughter of a rich WASP (a minor reunion for Robertson as it’s Breaking Bad/Under The Dome‘s Dean Norris) robs the story of some potential variety, as does shifting the action from the early 90s to the mid-00s. However, it still manages to maintain the main highlights of Amaruso’s career and (loose) dedication to anarchism, and be a moderately interesting story about a young woman’s journey to try to discover what she wants to do with her life and then learn how to start and run an ultimatly hugely successful business.

But it’s not great. Enjoyable enough, a different sort of story for young women from the standard current ‘handsome prince’ tales (eg Famous In Love) and Robertson is still very watchable, but neither bad nor great in its telling, just a bit average.

Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending

Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
10×2 – Smile
Frank Cottrell-Boyce returns to the show again, but this time to do some science-fiction rather than fantasy. While there’s nothing that new in many of his ideas, having them actually mentioned on screen and be the bulk of the dialogue for a good half to three-quarters of the show is a pleasingly thoughtful change of pace from the RTD years. A couple of weird cameos (eg Ralph Little) and some odd bits of stupidity by the Doctor here and there, but also some very smart and funny moments. However, the star of the show was undoubtedly the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias in Valencia

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: Amazon/ITV)
5×7 – The Committee On Human Rights
As usual, more iteration than revolution, but I’m guessing if the show has a theme, it’s how people rely on certainties to live their lives and how the destruction of certainties can leave people rudderless and even change the direction of their lives completely. Lovely as always, though, and the hints at increasing discontent in the USSR are intriguing.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Fortitude (UK: Sky Atlantic; US: Amazon)
2×6-2×10
Huh. Well that was… odd. Okay, so that comes with the territory in Fortitude, and it wasn’t as odd as the first season, with few random genre jumps from episode to episode, and nothing bonkers coming straight out of left field with no warning. The continuing high body count of all the famous cast members was welcome, too, and the Rob Sheehan storyline was amusingly Inglorious Basterds in its subversion of expectations. But I’m not quite sure what the show was trying to say – I’m thinking something about how disturbing the ecosystem can have radically strange knock-on effects, but I wouldn’t like to swear to it. On top of that, the frequent changes in character made everything a tad arbitrary, the ‘evil corporation’ storyline was a bit obvious and unoriginal, and there was more than a hint of ham at times. I’m in two minds about whether I’d watch a season three, if there is one, but I’m inclined more to the yes than the no, since it is mesmerisingly original most of the time, no matter what else is said.
Reviews: First three episodes

The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: 5*)
2×13 – We Have Brought You Little Cakes
A brilliantly meta opening narrative that explains why JustStark is exactly right that season two has been like a novices’ D&D campaign, followed by an episode where everyone has to grow up and become tolerable human beings. On the whole, while not the ultimately stellar first season, season two has been very funny and entertaining, as well as suprising. Will definitely be back for season three.
Episode reviews: First episodethird episode

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
4×1 – Success Failure
One of the funniest and most accurate shows on TV returns not quite as funny or as accurate as before, but still full of laughs as the show pivots with its central concept while discussing pivotting. It feels, though, like it’s tying off the threads of a few plots to make the new set up run more smoothly.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode