What have you been watching? Including Saving Mr Banks, Lucifer, Doctor Who and The Flash

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.

Easter’s over, we’re entering May and while Captain Squarejaw might be depressed about the whole thing, TV networks around the world are waking up, filled will the joys of spring, and starting to send us a whole batch of new shows to enjoy.

Elsewhere, I’ve already reviewed the whole of Seven Types of Ambiguity (Australia: ABC), as well as the first episodes of Great News (US: NBC) and Genius (US/UK: National Geographic). Later in the week (I’m guessing Thursday), I’ll be casting my eye over the first few eps of The Handmaid’s Tale (US: Hulu) and American Gods (US: Starz; UK: Amazon), but there’ll probably be a few other shows I haven’t noticed yet that I’ll try to review as well (eg Dear White People). 

After the jump, though, I’ll be reviewing the usual regulars: The Americans, Doctor Who and Silicon Valley. Joining that list are the returning The Flash as well as the long-absent Lucifer. Hoorah! I’m assuming that’s what I heard you all saying just now, anyway.

I also watched a movie over the weekend.

Saving Mr Banks (2013)
Dual biopic about the making of Mary Poppins, in which a reluctant ‘PL Travers’ (Emma Thompson) is convinced to give Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) the rights to adapt her famed book. Coming over to Hollywood, she then has to deal with the fact the movie will be a partially animated musical that’s less than identical to the book and characters as she envisioned them, with the likes of Bradley Whitford and Jason Schwartzman having to show her just how supercalifragilisticexpialidocious it’ll all be if she just lets them to their thang.

Meanwhile, a second parallel plot flashes back to Travers’ upbringing in Australia with her delightful but chronically alcoholic dad (Colin Farrell), suicidally depressed mum (The Affair‘s Ruth Wilson) and suspiciously Poppins-like aunt (Rachel Griffiths), so that we can see what meaning Poppins might have had to Travers and how it made her so precious about her creation.

Obviously, you have to know Mary Poppins quite well to get the most out of everything, with Amadeus-like scenes depicting prototyping of characters and songs that require you to know what the final result should be like in order to see the difference. There are some very weird accents in the Australian portion of things, while Hanks’ performance is less than sparkling. The ending is also a bit of a fudge, since Travers still hated Mary Poppins when it came out.

Yet, the film, despite playing around with time, place and people, still gives us a Disney who isn’t whitewashed and Thompson’s Travers is marvellously acerbic (Travers insisted on having everything recorded, so much of the dialogue is what she actually said, not just conjecture). The recreations are also quite lovely, while Travers’ childhood is heartbreaking. If you have an interest in classic movie production, Saving Mr Banks is far more interesting than the average documentary and is full of laughs and pathos.

Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending

Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
10×3 – Thin Ice
A relatively average “who are the true monsters, hey?” story that follows on thematically from last week’s colonialisation-inspired episode to increasingly suggest that our Stevie is going to use his last season as a peace treaty to the UK Tumblr crowd. Nevertheless, a piece that had a lot to say, that continued once again to subvert the standard “new companion” tropes while also playing up to them, and to make the Capaldi Doctor bearable and actually quite likeable at last. Enjoyable, if only to see Nathan Barley finally get his comeuppance, at least.

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky 1)
3×19 – The Once and Future Flash
Despite being YA variation of the show’s constant take on It’s A Wonderful Life (“imagine a timeline where Barry can only run twice the speed of life”), the show managed to reprieve itself from finally being consigned to my delete list with some good fun, some heart and a promise of some final revelations. But it’s still on thin ice and the show really needs to start changing the formula if it’s to earn my trust enough for me to return for its fourth season.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Lucifer (US: Fox; UK: Amazon) 
2×14 – Candy Morningstar
An inauspicious return for Lucifer as our demonic hero returns with new wife (Impastor‘s Lindsay Gort) in tow. What could be going on? Does it really matter, provided he gets to investigate one crime and sing one song per episode? A minor development towards the end puts a twist in things, but it’s all a bit yawntastic.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

The recommended list

The Americans (US: FX; UK: Amazon/ITV)
5×8 – Immersion
Nice to see Margo Martindale back in the thick of it, as well as the callbacks to the very first episode of the show. But this actually felt like the very first episode to sense the show’s impending end next season, as our heroes try to work out what they might do if they weren’t spies. Some good comedy moments this episode, too, thanks to Phil’s latest target, which is a little bit unexpected in TV’s saddest show, but not unwelcome.
Reviews: First episodethird episode

Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
4×2 – Terms of Service
Most of the laughs don’t come until the end in this one, although the problems Pied Piper’s new CEO encounters thanks to not ticking all those boxes on the T&Cs are marvellous and will make you realise why those darn things are so long. But some really good individual moments throughout the episode.
When’s it airing near me?
Reviews: First episodethird episode