What have you been watching? Including American Gods, Master of None, Lucifer and The Americans

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.

That flood of new shows I was expected? Hasn’t shown up. Hmmm. Wonder why. Anyway, we’re still on a Tuesday because Sunday is still quite full, plus Upfronts week coverage took a bit of work to put together yesterday.

That means it’s time to look at the regulars, including the latest episodes of American Gods, The Americans, Doctor Who, The Flash, Great News, The Handmaid’s Tale, Lucifer and Silicon Valley. Netflix also released season two of Master of None on Friday and I’ve watched… an episode of it. So I can talk about that, at least, after the jump. See you in a mo. 

Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending

American Gods (US: Starz; UK: Amazon)
1×3 – Head Full of Snow
Verdict postponed until next week on this one, since it felt like the first properly Gaiman-esque rather than Fuller-esque episode of the show so far. Plenty to enjoy, some lovely flights of fantasy and the introduction of a god and a djinn for no especial reason was a nice touch. Plus Shadow seems to have acquired a personality. Let’s see how it shapes up next week.
Reviews: First episode

Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
10×5 – Oxygen
Not bad. The political commentary at the end was a bit agitprop and none of it was as frightening as it wanted to be. But generally, a decent enough bit of sci-fi horror.

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3×21 – Cause and Effect
Silly nonsense, but fun as Barry got to enjoy himself for a change. 
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Great News (US: NBC)
1×05 – Snowmageddon Of The Century – 1×06 – Serial Arsonist 
Reviews: First two episodes

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon) 
2×16 – God Johnson
A surprisingly delightful and even moving episode, in which Psych‘s Timothy Omundson turns up as God and Lucifer gets to chat with his dad. No spoilers, of course, but that might not be exactly how it turns out. In retrospect, it’s now clear that the season’s been padded out with extra episodes to fill Fox’s order count, which means we’re only now getting to the good stuff. Sigh.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Master of None (Netflix)
More genteel comedy as Aziz Ansari, still in Italy learning how to cook, muddles his way through his own version of The Bicycle Thief that’s mostly in Italian. Not what we were expecting, I’m sure, but likable enough stuff – more so if you’re a fan of Italian culture.
Reviews: First six episodes; rest of the first season

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: Amazon/ITV)
5×10 – Darkroom
Less resurrection of past storylines this time, although Margot Martingdale’s fierce presence reminds us of how things were in season one. I liked what they did what Page this episode, too, but when’s the hammer going to drop and all revealed, since there’s only so much teasing we can all take?
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The Handmaid’s Tale (US: Hulu; UK: AmazonChannel 4)
1×5 – Faithful
It’s really hard to review something you’re watching through your fingers. Horrifying viewing, that once again juxtaposes pre- and post-dystopian worlds to show neither to be perfect as far as its denizens are concerned, but how the messy, pre-dystopia had more colour, more variety and more joy.

By the way, it’s coming to Channel 4 now, not Amazon. We were misled.
Reviews: Episodes 1-3

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
4×4 – Teambuilding Exercises
The new company gets legs. However, it’s clear the show’s now run out of acutely observant things to say about Silicon Valley culture and now just wants to have fun with its nerds. Which is no bad thing, of course, but it does mean the comedy’s all a bit broader now.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

  • Mark Carroll

    I liked the first lot of “Master of None” enough, but not enough to yet feel like watching the another season. I hope it does well though, it was at least different and decent.

    “Doctor Who” was okay, yes, though the blindness seemed not much of a problem and a bit random. Nice that it was a local problem again though, not of cosmic significance.

    Sticking with “The Bureau” for now, not very far in yet, but it’s quite good. “The Americans” was good, though, I liked that, looking forward to the next, curious where it’s going.

    Finished season two of “The West Wing”. Staying generally with likable cast and nicely varied episodes. I suspect that there won’t be much else to report about it though.

    I watched Eurovision as usual. Nothing particularly stood out for me. The new scoring system continues to work reasonably though I have no idea what the juries liked about their choices. There were some boring generic songs, some strange ones, nothing I particularly need to ever hear again. Perhaps I was too sober.

    A good surprise was “Doctor Strange”. I have no particular opinions on the racial background and it otherwise had its cliches but as a film it was among the better modern mainstream ones I’ve seen for some time. It was largely fun and hung together without annoying distractions.

    • Doctor Strange has a nicely different ending from the usual MCU films. Agreed re: Master of None, too. I’ll probably drip-feed watch it over the next few weeks

  • JustStark

    So in the cinema as soon as I saw the trailer for Mindhorn starring ex-freelance scientist Julian Barratt I knew I had to watch it, and it didn’t disappoint. Perhaps it wastes a little bit of its potential in that it doesn’t fully explore the ludicrous premise of the show-with-a-film, but that’s nitpicking, and at less than 90 minutes it flies by and it’s hard to wish it any longer in case it got soggy in the middle. Great, very British, stuff. And I’m sure that’s Montserrat Lombard in the music video.

    By the way, don’t worry that the trailer seems to have all the best jokes: it does, but only for the first act, after which it goes off in completely new directions.

    On TV, well, of course there was Doctor Who. Gosh, it’s like it’s 2007 again, with the third Davies-era episode in a week. In fact this one was a specific Davies episode, 42 (so not one of the less-awful ones), right down to the student-level ‘political’ ‘message’. None of it made any sense, of course.

    Got to the final episode of this series of The Magicians, which begins with the bit where the GM realises that the players are too incompetent to ever find out for themselves what his NPC was up to in the background, without which nothing makes sense, so he breaks the fourth wall to just damn well explain it and prove that he did have a plot all this time and he wasn’t just making it up on the fly. And then it progresses to the bit where the single player who’s still taking it seriously (who is of course the one whose PC is Curtains McEmo) does the thing he’s been leading them towards to solve the plot, and then the GM goes, ‘Ha ha! Fooled you! You’ve just made everything worse!’.

    I think I will be watching next series for more sarky ignoring the plot, more desperate attempts by the GM to keep some sort of order, more utter randomness, and especially, especially, more The One Show-level tonal whiplash as it cuts directly from traumatised victims being bullied into letting their rapists go, to broad farce with comedy goat-horns.

    Not much else, actually, it’s been a bit of a busy week / weekend. Still on the fence about whether to go see Alien: Covenant. The reviews are not universally negative, which is better than Prometheus, though as my friend said, that’s not actually a high bar.

    • JustStark

      Oh, forgot one other thing: finished Big Little Lies. A mixed bag: some intense drama, but then some really stupid melodrama as well. It’s nice to be reminded every so often than Nicole Kidman is very good at acting. Everybody turns out to be who they are really obviously telegraphed as being by about halfway through, which is good, because if any of them had actually been played as twists they would have had the real Inspector Hound balking at how implausibly coincidental they were.

    • Tempted to see Mindhorn, but I get the feeling I’ll end up nitpicking it (“Well, tonally, that’s more 70s than 80s, and that’s clearly Nightman they’re doing, not The Six Million Dollar Man” – you get the gist)

      • JustStark

        The only thing that didn’t quite ring true to me was Steve Coogan’s character. Everything else looked like a plausible cheapy British TV show from the era of C.A.T.S Eyes or Bergerac [technically that doesn’t quite mesh with the date given for the show, which is 1989 rather than the early-’80s it feels like, but I think that was a necessary change for the age of Tovey’s character].

        But then I’m not as much of an expert…

  • Craig Grannell

    I’m really enjoying this run of Who. Capaldi is on a high and the new companion works well. The scripts are so far simple and effective.

    As for Lucifer, I’ll run out this series and then I’m done. I was willing to give it a chance in it being so different from the source material, but it has none of the spark. There’s no consistency and the relationships make no sense. Worse, Lucifer himself is just awful – like a gurning cross between Dale Winton and David Gahan. I quite like what they did with Mazikeen but that’s about it.

    • In retrospect, I think this week’s Lucifer was the best so far. But there’s a certain element of too little, too late to it, all the same. So much wheel-spinning and the criminal investigations are just a waste of time

      • Craig Grannell

        I actually can’t even remember what happened in the last episode. That’s how little impact the show has on me now. I recall he got fake married, and then, I dunno, something else happened with him banging on about ‘dad’. It’s all just so… crap compared to the really clever stuff done by Mike Carey.

        But what really gets me is how the relationships just don’t work. Decker has no reason to even like Lucifer, let alone fall for him. Their relationship is in many cases pretty close to an abusive one; the only way of squaring the circle is if she basically hates herself and wants to be involved with a massive shit.

        Note also that I can deal with ‘it’s nothing like the original’. It’s just this is nothing like the original and I also feel like I’m wasting my time in watching it.

        • Ah, that’s not the latest ep. God Johnson’s the latest. Give that a whirl if you can bear it. Different from the comic, of course, but nice in its own way

          • Craig Grannell

            Sure. I’ll see out the series anyway – my wife likes it. But I think if she wants to continue, she’ll be watching on her own after this one. I just can’t really take any more. I think Lucifer kills it for me. Quite why Ellis went for this weirdly camp, boring portrayal, I’ve no idea. (Well, at least he claims it was down to him.)

            Funny, though, how little we watch on Amazon. We both really liked High Castle, but that’s about it. (I want to carry on with Mr. Robot. Mrs G isn’t keen. Preacher got the boot after about half an episode, so I’ll have to watch that on my tod.) Oh, The Expanse was good. Although I recall we watched that on Netflix.

          • Amazon’s great for French-language TV (Baron Noir, The Bureau) and has a few good US acquisitions, but that’s about it. Even its best originals haven’t really done much for me. But I get it through Prime for free, so I can’t complain

        • bob

          I think it’s the sour and humourless Decker that is the main issue- take her out, and it’s not a terrible show. Unfortunately, she’s in so much of it… And not being a terrible show is still faint praise. Somehow I end up watching it each week just because it’s easy to digest.

          • Craig Grannell

            I don’t mind Decker. My problem is her relationship with Lucifer makes no sense at any level. He’s not that great in the policing and is a massive arsehole elsewhere. The relationship borders on the abusive. (His whole ‘I’ve never lied to you’ might work without the bullshit and gaslighting.) It’s like someone watched early Castle (before the co-lead became a caricature) and Elementary without understanding the basics of how those shows worked.

          • Decker is a big flaw in the show, but she’s overcomeable. The police procedural aspect of the show is its biggest problem, I find. The cases are so lame, everyone needs to be an idiot, including Lucifer, for them to work and they’re just not interesting

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