What have you been watching? Including Imaginary Mary and Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

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.

The last WHYBW for some time now, since I’m off on vacation for a week from Wednesday and then there’s the double Bank Holiday weekend that is Easter directly after that. Maybe I’ll try to squeeze it in on the 13th or 18th, although I’d actually have to watch TV while on holiday to manage the former, which just ain’t happening; maybe it’ll even be the 24th. But WHYBW will be back, I promise.

The airwaves have been a little quieter of late, but I’ve somehow not managed to watch any of Shots Fired, which means I doubt I’ll ever get round to playing catch-up. Midnight Sun I’m going to try to binge-watch somehow, since it got better after last week’s ep-and-a-half review. If I find the time, I might play catch up on Fortitude, too, and I really will try to watch You Are Wanted.

Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed Nobodies (US: TV Land), which means that after the jump I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of The Americans, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, The Good Fight, Imposters and The Magicians, as well as the season finale of Legion. But I have watched one other new TV show and a movie, too.

Imaginary Mary (US: ABC)
I love Jenna Elfman. I really do. Okay, the scientologist thing is off-putting, she’s really fun, really charismatic and really watchable. So why is it that everything she’s been in since Dharma and Greg and Keeping The Faith has been just heinous? Growing Up Fisher, 1600 Penn, Accidentally On Purpose – she was great, they weren’t. And neither is Imaginary Mary.

The show is basically what happens if you have one idea and precisely one idea only. Here, the idea is that sports PR woman Jenna Elfman’s childhood best friend comes back to help her in her adult life, when she finally starts having to deal with kids, a grown-up relationship et al. But that’s where the ideas run out.

The work of three men, it feels like the closest they’ve come to ever meeting a woman is to read a book on Greek myths to learn that Artemis is a perpetually adolescent goddess so they could name Elfman’s PR firm “Artemis PR” – that’s the level of subtlety we’re dealing with here. Elfman’s character has apparently never even met a child, let alone spent time with one, but then again, the writers don’t seem to have met any children either, since they’re all the sorts of moppets that can be assembled from tropes in other TV shows.

I mean, do you think, even for a second, that the teenage son of Elfman’s new boyfriend would ask her for advice on how to be popular with other teenagers, a mere five minutes after meeting her, while simultaneously confiding to her that he has a folder on his laptop that contains… “pictures of boobs”? Would that ever happen?

It’s also unclear exactly what the idea is behind Imaginary Mary, who just reappears unprompted after disappearing from her life when Elfman was 18 and started having sex. Yes, that’s right 18. And now she’s back, and after a brief double-take from Elfman, everything carries on as before. Elfman doesn’t go to a doctor or a psychiatrist now she’s started hearing and seeing things, even though ‘Mary’ carries on talking and appearing in full view of her wherever she is, making it impossible for her to do other things (do the writers even know how an imaginary friend works?).

And what does Mary do? Not much. She’s just there, being a bit furry and wacky. No real commentary, nothing daring, no real attempt to expose Elfman’s subconscious or animus. just “Look, I’m back”.

Bar Elfman, it’s almost unwatchably bad. Steer very, very clear.

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2016)
Dull entry to the Harry Potter universe set in the US in the 1920s that misses pretty much all the opportunities to do something more grown up and interesting in favour of more of the same but with some cute magical animals. It unlikeably stars mumbling Eddie Redmayne as an animal-helping wizard who travels to the US to be nice to some different animals, where he gets caught up in the current anti-animal prohibition and has to deal with ‘no-mags’ (aka Muggles) who want to get rid of wizards.

Yet despite the opportunities for fun and variety, as well as some scary-level magic, it’s really unfathomably dull. Redmayne’s wizard is just plain annoying and unheroic. The other characters don’t have a tenth of the qualities of Hermione and co that might make you want to spend time with them. All it really has going for it are those fantastic beasts, which are great fun.


Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow
2×16 – Doomworld
A marvellously silly inversion of the world as we know it that also doesn’t take the obvious way out at the end. I’m perilously close to moving this onto the recommended list, which is a very odd feeling indeed.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3×18 – Abra Kadabra
More of the usual, with Barry learning a very important new lesson that was the complete opposite of the very important new lesson that he learnt two episodes ago. I think I’m probably going to be giving up on the show in the next couple of episodes, if not now, certainly by the end of the season, though, unless something truly amazing happens.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Imposters (US: Bravo; UK: Virgin)
1×8 – In The Game
The conned and the conners have to pool their resources to deal with their new enemy, but even that doesn’t work out as expected. Or does it? Very nice the way this is proving so slippery and untrustworthy.
Reviews: First two episodesthird episode

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: Amazon/ITV)
5×4 – What’s The Matter With Kansas?
More a continuation of the themes of the previous episode, rather than anything new. I do have to wonder – just as our heroes do this episode – exactly how they have the time to do everything they’re supposed to be doing. I’d be knackered if I were them.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Good Fight (US: CBS All Access; UK: More4)
1×7 – Not So Grand Jury
As usual, a hugely fun mix of comedy and actual legal trickery, used to put Matthew Perry in his place. I do wonder if his revenge might be due soon.
Reviews: First episodefourth episode

Legion (US: FX; UK: Fox UK)
1×8 – Chapter 8
A rather excellent conclusion to a rather excellent first season of this genre-redefining superhero show. It’s certainly hard to watch the generic The Flash now that we’ve had Legion. Excellent writing, excellent direction and the brain-warping timelessness of the design all make this a must-see, and a clever way to externalise the enemy in preparation for season two. Probably one too many episodes this season than were necessary, though. Did you stick around for the post-credits scene?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: 5*)
2×10 – The Girl Who Told Time
Really needs a bit more oomph to drive the plot now, rather than aimless listlessness, but the usual meta-fun, including a reference to The Prestige, and some scenes of genuine pathos.
Episode 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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