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.
Redesigning and migrating TMINE took up quite a bit of my time this week, so I didn’t cast my net as wide as I’d hoped in watching new TV. All the same, you’ll be excited to hear that I’ve managed to give two other new shows at try, as well as a movie, and I’ll be reviewing The Mist (US: Spike) in the next couple of days, too.
After the jump, a look at the latest episodes of Doctor Who, Ronny Chieng: International Student and Twin Peaks, as well as the season finale of Silicon Valley. One of those could offer some of the finest visuals TV has ever seen.
Slightly weird half-hour comedy based on the genuinely real 80s phenomenon of GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling), which has already been the subject of movies and TV shows but here sees aspiring but really rather terrible actress Alison Brie (Community) almost as the point of doing porn to make ends meet before her agent gives her one last potential gig – a new cable TV sports show in which she would be a wrestler. Together with several other oddball women, she auditions to take part, but it’s not until she ends up in a catfight with best friend Betty Gilpin (Masters of Sex, Nurse Jackie) that she gets her chance to appear in the ring.
I got through the first episode without laughing much, except at the over-the-top attempts at 80s LA fashions, which all seemed to be takes on Jane Fonda aerobics videos. But it was amiable enough and silly enough that I’ll at least try episode two.
Riviera (UK: Sky Atlantic)
Glossy French-set, French-filmed thriller in which Julia Stiles (the Jason Bourne movies, Dexter) is apparently happily married to super-rich Anthony LaPaglia (Murder One, Without A Trace) when his yacht gets blown up off the coast of Monaco. The result is… revelations! Maybe LaPaglia got his money through dodgy means. Maybe he was having an affair and slept with ‘party girls’.
All the episodes have been released but I’ve only managed the first, rather insipid one so far. Stiles is fine, but spends most of her time having passive aggressive sit-downs with LaPaglia’s ex-wife Lena Olin or one of Olin’s kids (Misfits‘ Iwan Rheon and Les témoins (Witnesses)’ Roxane Duran). Attempts to inject excitement into all the iciness come from having Amr Waked (Lucy, Engrenages (Spiral), Marco Polo) run around a bit or by promising some excitement soon but never actually producing anything.
Basically, the usual glossy Sky fare with a good cast list (and Neil Jordan in the writing credits) but only two big names who actually stick around for the main action.
The X-Men meet gritty reality and the cowboy genre, as we flashforward to 2029. Most of the world’s mutants are dead, with Wolverine and Professor X the only big names left alive thanks to a highly successful stamping out campaign. Even so, Wolverine’s dying from adamantine poisoning and Professor X has dementia over which he’s losing control, causing all manner of problems for anyone and any towns that happen to be in his vicinity. Into the mix comes a woman with a girl who has Wolverine-like abilities, asking our hero to protect her from evil Richard E Grant and the cybernetic Reavers.
It’s basically Shane with superheroes, but a clever piece of work that is sparing with the action but nevertheless has an awful lot of bloody stabbing. It pokes fun at its predecessors as being (literally) comic book fun, divorced from the real world in which people suffer and die, but manages to still enjoy the trappings of the superhero genre.
It’s all a bit bleak though and beyond a couple of cool scenes, nothing to really unique.
Shows I’ve been watching but not recommending
Ronny Chieng – International Student (Australia: ABC)
1×3 – Clash! Ronny vs Instructions! Obey?
Not quite as funny as the previous two episodes, with Ronny Chieng’s attempts at student rebellion (fettered by his student visa) far less interesting than previous Ronny-centric plots, beyond one or two good laughs. Instead, it was the b-plot involving American international student Patch May getting to grips with Asian drinks (genuinely enlightening) and culture that turned out to be hilarious, mostly thanks to a spot-on pastiche of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Perilously close to being promoted to the recommended list.
Review: First two episodes
The recommended list
Doctor Who (UK: BBC; US: BBC America)
10×11 – World Enough and Time
Well, we all knew that Stevie Moffat was a Doctor Who fan and we all knew that he’s leaving the programme soon, but who knew he would dedicate his final few episodes to achieving all his fannish dreams. We’ve had him give us ‘The Two Masters’, The Genesis of the Cybermen, the reintroduction of the Mondasian Cybermen, and established ‘the Doctor’s real name is Doctor Who’, all in an episode that also quoted extensively from the old 80s Target novelisations. Nicely done, Stevie.
Metaness to one side, though, a little bit slow in the middle and I’m not quite sure why Mondasian space hospitals look like they’re from the 1950s beyond the obvious horror allusions, but a really good episode and full kudos to both John Simm and the make-up department for managing to pull the wool over my eyes – I had almost no idea it was him in that disguise until almost minutes before the big reveal, despite knowing he was in the episode!
Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
4×10 – Server Error
An okay place way to end the least impressive season of the show so far, although an entertaining way to get rid of TJ Miller to say the least. I’m not convinced Richard would have gone so semi-bad ass so quickly and the other characters’ storylines almost disappeared in the final two episodes, but reasonably funny all the same. Will I be tuning in for season 5? Maybe, but while there have been some decent head nods to actual Silicon Valley practice, this is rapidly becoming a ‘three blokes at work’ sitcom, rather than anything that has much smart to say. A good sitcom, true, but nothing unique.
Reviews: First episode; third episode
Twin Peaks (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)
Wow. Just wow. Almost certainly the most interesting hour of TV you’ll have watched all year, if not ever, and probably Lynch’s most visually exciting and arresting piece of work since Eraserhead, to which it had more than a few similarities. Totally mesmerising, nightmarish, astonishing and spellbinding, plus a guest musical spot by Nine Inch Nails and an homage to 2001. Who cares if it had almost nothing to do with Twin Peaks? Just watch it. Really. Just watch it. You’ll never forget it. Ever.
Reviews: First two episodes