What have you been watching? Including Professor T, Lethal Weapon and כפולים (False Flag)

Professor T

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. TMINE recommends has all the reviews of all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended, but for a complete list of TMINE’s reviews of (good, bad and insipid) TV shows and movies, there’s the definitive TV Reviews A-Z and Film Reviews A-Z. But it’s what you have you been watching? I bet it’s better than what I’ve been watching.

I’ve been both lazy and hard-working this past week. On the one hand, despite knowing every year that the US is going to start launching all its new shows around now, I’ve not actually bothered looking at the schedules. I just assumed it would all be chocka by now, so I cleared the decks accordingly.

Except it’s not been chocka at all, so I’ve ended up watching a whole load of extra TV in the gaps I’ve left. That means that this week, as well as previews of new US shows The Good Doctor (US: ABC; UK: Sky Living) and The Mayor (US: ABC), I watched all the first season of Tin Star (UK: Sky Atlantic) and all the second season of Glitch (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix) for TMINE’s newly inaugurated ‘Boxset Monday’.

Impressive, huh? What will I do next Monday, hey? Probably nothing as I’m going to be busy on Monday, so take Glitch as a downpayment.

On top of all those shows, I’ve been trying to watch an awful lot of other new shows and movies – to somewhat limited success, I have to admit.

The rubbish

I tried to watch the second episode of Dear Murderer (New Zealand: TVNZ), but my hopes of a nice spy trial episode were dashed once it became apparent that the trial was going to be thinly spread across the entire season, with our ‘hero’ instead mostly losing lots of cases using the same attempt to inject reasonable doubt into proceedings every time. So I gave up on that.

I also tried to watch Netflix’s pastiche of true crime documentaries, American Vandal. That lasted about 10 minutes before I realised it was basically about a US high school kid accused of spray-painting penises on people’s cars. So I gave up on that.

I also tried to give The Edge of the Bush (Australia: ABC) a whirl. That’s a short-form character comedy in which a small cast play a large number of very stupid, related people: “What happened on The Edge of the Bush? Something so powerful it will bring the Watts family calisthenics dynasty to its knees.” I got through about five minutes of that before I decided the jokes were so bad, I couldn’t even.

For reasons unclear to me, Netflix, Amazon and iTunes have simultaneously decided to carry a movie that was actually a recent failed attempt to resurrect ‘The Saint’ as a TV series. Since it was free on Netflix, I decided to give The Saint a whirl, but it only took me about 10 minutes and a very bad humorous fight scene before I understood why it had failed and gave up. Even though Eliza Dushku and Ian Ogilvy are in it.

Lots of failures then. But I did have greater success elsewhere. Although I didn’t quite have time to watch the second episode of Bang today as I’d planned, there were of course the usual regulars: Get Krack!n, Halt and Catch Fire and The Last Ship as well as the series finale of כפולים (False Flag). I also watched the first episode of returning regular Lethal Weapon and the second episode of The Orville.

But since I still had a moment or two spare over the weekend, I tried the first two episodes of Belgium’s Professor T. And together with my lovely wife, I also gave two movies a try: The Lobster and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. All that after the jump.

Films

The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015)

Honest to God, we’ve tried watching this four times now. Four times. But despite the first two movies being real crackers, and the third marginally less exciting, but still worthwhile, this third sequel, which rounds off the whole Hunger Games saga is almost unwatchable. We were literally breaking it down into chunks of 10-20 minutes, and watching it a chunk a night to be able to finally make it to the end.

I’m not entirely sure why, though. On the face of it, it’s not that much different from previous efforts. Maybe it’s the disaffected nature of Katness in the final part, as she has to deal with being a propaganda tool for a rebellion that’s not that much different from the regime it’s trying to overthrow at times.

But this feels like about an hour and a half of movie padded out beyond all reasonable tolerance. One for completists only.

The Lobster

The Lobster (2016)

Giorgos Lanthimos’s first big English-language movie after Κυνόδοντας (Dogtooth) is another absurdist masterpiece satirising society and human relationships. It envisages a world where people who aren’t in couples have to stay in a hotel until they fall in love. If they don’t fall in love within a set number of days, they get turned into an animal of their own choosing. However, they extend their stay by helping in the daily hunt of singletons who try to escape the system by living alone in the forest.

Then the recently dumped Colin Farrell comes to the hotel, where he fails to find true love and risks becoming a lobster. Until finally he meets Rachel Weisz.

Most of the absurdity comes through the simple act of having the entire cast either saying the subtext of a human relationship out loud or getting them to talk like children trying to make friends with one another, showing how arbitrary interactions are and how saying what you actually want – or what you think the other person wants to know – means you’re never going to get it. But there’s plenty of just downright bonkers moments, as well as (unfortunately) a lot of violence against animals that really upset my poor little vegan heart.

A great cast that also includes Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ben Whishaw, John C Reilly and Léa Seydoux means this is definitely worth watching if you don’t mind your comedy being downright odd.

New shows

Professor T

Professor T (Belgium: Eén; UK: More4)

On the one hand, Professor T is your basic crime drama. It sees Ella Leyers playing a police detective who comes up a rape case that reminds her of one that took place 10 years ago involving one of her friends. Unable to solve it, she returns to university to ask one of her old professors – the brilliant eponymous Professor Jasper Teerlink (Koen De Bouw) – to help. He agrees and by the end of the first episode/start of the second, he’s agreeing to become a police advisor to help her with future investigations as well.

So far, so ordinary. Neither the first nor the second episode had much by way of great plotting; the crime wasn’t a huge puzzle; Professor T’s wisdom wasn’t so huge that anyone with a passing acquaintanceship with the genre wouldn’t have already heard it on a half-dozen other crime shows.

What really makes Professor T work is the character, De Bouw’s acting and the general tone of the show. Professor T is Hercules Poirot to the max, a vain misanthrope who hates other people and thinks we’re all “herd animals”. He’s so obsessed with personal hygiene that he wears rubber gloves, has a constant stream of antibacterial gel at his command and insists everyone stands at least 5m away from him at all times. His furniture is all covered in sheets and he prefers to sit on the roof of his university to get away from it all those pesky people.

He’s also a great manipulator and very imaginative, with many scenes simply being him imagining song and dance numbers or lipsyncing to a song.

And unlike Sherlock Holmes, there are clear reasons for his misanthropy (possibly his failed relationship with the chief of police) and he can be quite nice about people – just not to their faces.

It’s that combination of charm and eccentricity that means that the show’s already been remade by both France and Germany. I really enjoyed simply the tone of the first two episodes, so I’m probably going to play catch up with the remaining episodes that have already aired on More4 (cursed August).

More4 have been their usually twatty selves and not bothered posting any trailers on YouTube, so here are some Dutch (or maybe Flemish) ones, but with Spanish subtitles. I don’t speak much Spanish, but I could read them anyway, so fingers crossed you can, too. I’ve also posted a Facebook clip – it’s not that great but it does give you a flavour of the show and in English, too.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Get Krack!n (ABC: Australia)

1×3

Although the first episodes of this comedy were indisputably one of the most hilarious things Australia has ever produced, episode three made a slight misstep in being both too dark (it can be very dark at times. Very) and too focused on a single idea (Katy Perry is coming onto the show. Which, of course, she’s not) rather than the marvellous variety of jokes that made the first couple of episodes genuinely laugh-a-minute. But still full of properly funny moments so absolutely not a wash out.

Reviews: 1-2

Lethal Weapon (US: Fox; UK: ITV2)

2×1 – El Gringo Loco

It’s not really back yet, but I saw a preview, so I thought I’d talk about it now while the memories were still fresh. So it’s basically the same. There are no huge reboots, no cast changes that I noticed (although the kids looked slightly shinier but maybe they’re just getting paid for). There’s a vague hint that Riggs might now be a little bit death-wishy and ready to move on. But that’s about it.

Otherwise, more of the same, but even less plausible, although Riggs was significantly more of a lethal weapon than more, with considerably more baddies actually getting shot and killed, which is certainly welcome. More Lethal Weapon, less Lethal Weapon 4, please.

Reviews: 1, 3

The Orville (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)

1×2 – Command Performance

So I know I said last week that The Orville is less a pastiche, more cheap, recast version of Star Trek, but this week’s episode was genuinely Star Trek. There’s a new title sequence which is more or less Star Trek: Voyager‘s; the plot was more or less identical to that of Star Trek‘s marvellous pilot episode The Menagerie. It’s the same show, but with a bit more swearing, a bit more bickering and a few more office jokes. That’s the only difference.

That said, it’s also quite a dull version of Star Trek. I nearly didn’t make it to the end of the episode, it was so poor, despite being The Menagerie again, which would have been a shame since the final couple of scenes were the best ones. They weren’t great, but they were still the best ones.

Seth McFarlane says the show is deliberately supposed to switch genre and be unpredictable, but so far it’s been two bland versions of Star Trek with the only true innovation being replicators capable of making cannabis brownies, so unless next week’s is a completely different genre, I’m out. Oh, and Adrianne Palicki had better get something to do next week, too – that’s a deal-breaker.

Reviews: 1

Recommended shows

כפולים (False Flag) (Israel: Channel 2; UK: Fox UK)

1×8

Okay, so that just about held together. It needed the final scene and the final final scene to make it all work, but at the end of that, I think the narrative logic worked, although maybe there were one too many “But what if they’d done that instead of this? Wouldn’t that have all gone pear-shaped?” questions lingering in my mind.

That said, all in all, a top, smart spy thriller that nevertheless managed to keep the little people in focus for most of its run, which is impressive. I’d still definitely recommend anyone looking to watch a good modern TV spy thriller to watch this (along with The Bureau, of course).

The show aired in Israel in 2015 and the ending leaves everything potentially open to a second season. Indeed, the writers were already working on it in 2015. But nothing yet. Fingers crossed!

PS False Flag was definitely a mistranslation

Reviews: 1

Halt and Catch Fire (US: AMC; UK: Amazon)

4×5 – Nowhere Man

In which Joe realises that directories are not as good as algorithms when it comes to indexing the web. Ah, if only he knew what we knew, hey? But that’s the point.

Anyway, not so much an episode about events – although there were a few of those – more an episode about how you can’t escape the past, no matter how time moves on. Really then a whole bunch of people sitting around having things revealed at them and then either reverting to bad past behaviour and occasionally having heart attacks.

I’ve said it before, but Halt and Catch Fire is not just the best show about the difficulty of success in business, but also the best show about ageing since maybe Our Friends in the North.

ReviewsFirst episodethird episode

The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)

4×6 – Tempest

YOU THERE. YES YOU, STUPID. DID YOU NOT SPOT THAT THIS WAS A SEASON BASED AROUND THE ODYSSEY? GOD DAMN IT. WE TRIED NOT TO BE TOO SUBTLE. RIGHT, WE ARE GOING TO HAVE TO MAKE IT SO MUCH CLEARER.

Hence, the producers thought that after weeks of hints, it was still a good idea this episode to actually have a character reading The Odyssey and explaining just how similar their own adventures were to those told in The Odyssey. Really just astonishing balls on these people.

This week, of course, was essentially Scylla and Charybdis, with just a hint of the Battle of Trafalgar thrown in for good luck. Lots of lovely naval action and even a bit of shooting, too, which was brilliant and what we’re all here for really, anyway. Wolf’s looking a bit lost for things to do, mind, and am I wrong or are there now three captains on the bridge?

Reviews13




  • Mark Carroll

    Sorry to hear that the last Hunger Games was so unbearable. I didn’t find it remarkably so, though I also came away without planning to ever watch it again. The twist toward the end, even I saw coming.

    “False Flag”‘s definitely on my list, for someday.

    “Rick and Morty”‘s coming along about as usual, still varied, still enough brutal/funny lines, requires actual attention because of brief glimpses of incidental visual humor. Caught up with release now.

    I’m halfway through season two of “The Bureau” and liking it though wondering what might happen longer-term given the firing. I’m hoping for more clever manipulation.

    We finished “Ozark” which I did like, and my wife was engaged, but that it’s one of the best things I’ve seen lately says more about the other things, I think. Jason Bateman generally did a good job. It’s amazing that idiot daughter didn’t already get them all killed. I had doubts about the flashback episode at first but ended up liking it. Ideas for how to launder are interesting.

    • The Bureau: it goes… somewhere different

      Glad you enjoyed Ozark!

    • JustStark

      I didn’t find it remarkably so, though I also came away without
      planning to ever watch it again. The twist toward the end, even I saw
      coming.

      I watched it a little while ago, while wanting some mindless sci-fi action, and it’s a really badly-done twist: the rebels are bombing the city. a bomb drops on the city. obviously conclusion: the rebels dropped the bomb. but no: that’s supposed to be the twist! The audience is supposed to think that the bomb was dropped by the President, despite the fact that there has been no hint before then that the President is bombing his own city at all! With the result that they have to spend scenes of leaden dialogue afterwards retroactively explaining why what looked like it wasn’t a twist in fact was a twist because it was… exactly what it looked like the first time!.

      Sometimes you feel very sorry for actors having to deliver such rubbish. but then, they were probably being paid shedloads to do it, so sympathy is clearly limited.

      • Was that the twist? I thought the twist was Katness shooting the new President rather than Snow. I saw both coming anyway, so I’m not sure it matters, but I didn’t think the first was supposed to be a fake out to surprise us.

        • JustStark

          That was hardly a twist, it was the obvious payoff from the Donald Sutherland scene.

          Hang on — were there actually any twists at all? I’m beginning to think maybe there weren’t.

          (Perhaps this is what you get when you’re making a film assuming that 99% of your audience have read the book so many times that they are basically going to be quoting along with the actors, so nothing is going to surprise them and there’s no point even pretending you’re holding any information back)

  • JustStark

    The fact is, W1A is back. Exactly. And it’s brilliant. Brilliant. Yes exactly yes. So that’s all good then.

    I found The Lobster to be very much a movie of two halves: the first is transcendently brilliant, the second okay but nothing special. the first half has Olivia Coleman in it, the second doesn’t. Of course it’s possible this may be a coincidence.

    I wasn’t keen on the last episode of False Flag. I was all set to say that as a series it was pretty good but with too much shilly-shallying about in the middle, and then they ruined it all by doing that thing I hate where the audience is led to think that the characters are doomed… only for something odd to happen… only for it then to be revealed that due to something the audience totally arbitrarily weren’t shown, they were in fact never in danger at all! I hate that kind of ‘false jeopardy’, it makes me feel cheated as an audience. And it’s just so lazy, as well. Anyone could write that kind of thing. Yuk..

    As to the title: I agree False Flag didn’t work except perhaps as misdirection but was ‘Doubled’ any better?

    And I’m really not sure I want to watch a sequel all about those idiots’ globe-trotting adventures on behalf of Mossad…

    Also back is American Horror Story so I watched the first couple of episodes. Having now seen a couple of these I feel reasonably confident it will start off good and creepy, and fall apart spectacularly towards the end. Was quite impressed that just as I was thinking, ‘Oh, so we’re going to get another one of those scenes, this is getting a bit samey’ it went off in a completely different direction (yet still one that was set up earlier on).

    One of the great things about The Last Ship is its obsession with detail. Entire episodes are devoted to things that in a faster-moving series would be dealt with in a scene or less, like going through a minefield, or dealing with a single gun emplacement, or finding a separated member of the landing party. Which is not to say it’s lacking in incident: just that it deals with all the minor obstacles and details which are the reality of trying to get stuff done, both in the military and in normal life. I wouldn’t want every TV programme to be like that but I’m glad one is.

    Still going through third series of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; just watched ‘Kimmy Is a Feminist!’. I think this may well be the best series of it yet.

    I’ve started watching The OA. Now, everything I’ve previously seen with Britt Marling in it has been disappointing, and I’m not here using that as a polite way of saying ‘bad’ but literally, each has promised something interested but ultimately been unable to follow-up on that promise, leading to disappointment. The least disappointing was The Sound of Her Voice, though, and this seemed superficially similar (in that she’s a cult leader / prophetess in both).

    Hm. Now got to episode three and it really doesn’t help that mostly what I can think is that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt did it more realistically (did they have to cast Jason Issacs who bears more than a passing resemblance to John Hamm, just to underscore the point?). We shall see.

    And I watched Children of the Stones. Philip Sandifer thought it was great. As so often, he is wrong. It’s pants.

    • False Flag: yes, the shootout was a bit annoying and leads to all kinds of questions (spoiler: why can’t the Russian come and interview them in Israel? Why does Emma have to appear to be dead while the others can simply return to their lives, to potentially be abducted by the Russians/anyone else? How much petrol did that plane have that it could just fly off again? If it was a spur of the moment change, why did Vadim have an entire clip of blanks? But it just about works, given that it is spur of the moment so not well thought through and now Sean’s going to kill them all.

      I think Doubled possibly works better at least on the level that someone else was obviously in the videos, whereas False Flag is misleading because it wasn’t a False Flag operation.

      The OA: you’re not up to ‘that scene’ yet, by the sounds of it. All bets are off after that scene. Until the end.

      I like Children of the Stones, up until Iain Cutherbertson goes super-hairy. It also used to be more fun watching it on VHS in the 80s/90s because they edited out the title sequence and end credit from all the episodes, so it was one long movie, but forgot to remove the episode recaps so you basically got five scenes repeated in the middle for no reason.

      But Sandifer is typically wrong about everything it’s true. Although he raised a mountain of cash on some Kickstarter recently, again for no well explained reason.

      • JustStark

        I can see how Children of the Stones would have worked if you were in the target audience at the right time, and watching week-by-week with no way to review. My equivalent would be Century Falls, which I think I rewatched a few years ago and decided it stands up better than Children of the Stones, but not much better.

        Maybe ‘Double False Flag’ would have been the correct title, as it’s a sort of the operational equivalent of a double agent, in that it’s really an off-the-books Mossad operation disguised as someone else running a false flag operation so they can keep it from the Prime Minister!

        Oh, yes, and the ending not making sense: Whatshername is going to Moscow! Clearly as soon as she touches down the FSB are going to grab her and brutally interrogate her, thus blowing the whole thing and making the whole rescue pointless. They’ll probably kill her afterwards too.

        Plus why do Mossad have a fake ambulance crew on standby in Russia? Oh, I give up.

        If there is a sequel it better be about how they are the most inept spies ever and are only being used to deliberately muck things up in order to distract attention from the real operations.

        • I really loved Century Falls at the time, but by the end, still didn’t really have a clue as to what was really going on. I suspect Rusty didn’t either, and it would be the same if I rewatched it now.

          False Flag: yes, Asia’s idea seemed a bit odd. Also how did Emma know what to do? And why did she have to wait until a blank was fired before falling over? How did she even know it would be a blank? How long would she wait there for?

          I got lost as to who old bloke behind it all was. Was he definitely Mossad (investigator bloke’s ex-boss?) or someone investigator bloke just knew in Shin Bet? Mossad makes sense, but I thought he was Shin Bet. I was probably wrong though. At the very least, I think it was supposed to be an off the books operation that was being kept from the head of Mossad as well, so perhaps by bloke within Mossad. But if Mossad, why so many Mossad people meeting with the PM? Isn’t one enough? Oh well

          • JustStark

            Oh, I didn’t think it was a blank: I thought the idea was that the sniper was good enough to make sure that her had a survivable wound (I thought I saw blood spray when she was shot — and gosh weren’t they generous with the blood splatter in that scene, compared to similar US programmes?) Which is just as ludicrous, but in a different way.

            And I may be wrong but my interpretation was that old bloke had been kicked out of Mossad for being too much of a maverick but he was still running off-the-book operations using Mossad personnel (Vadim) and resources (the recap was careful to repeat the bit about how Mossad clone passports, implying that’s what happened). So his ops are effectively Mossad ones, but are not sanctioned by anyone higher up, and kept from the PM. Which, you know… he got lucky this time, because just how forgiving do you think an Israeli PM is going to be once one of his little frolics does get messed up in a way that he can’t keep a lid on?

          • JustStark

            Though now I come to think of it, there was that blue clip…

          • I think it was supposed to be a blank because he swaps the clip over to shoot Emma – a blue clip – and then switches back to a black clip to shoot everyone else again.

            As for old bloke he had an office in a big building. So I thought he must be working for someone Shin Betish

          • JustStark

            Yep, I just remembered the blue clip while you were typing. Good point. Though to quote Futurama: ‘That just raises further questions!’

            I thought the point was the old bloke was officially working for Shin Bet (hence his office), and running his suicidally stupid freelance operations in his spare time — certainly he wasn’t doing them under anyone else’s instructions.

          • Of course, one might quibble if using blue paint under sodium lighting was a good way to distinguish it from black at night time, but hey ho.

            Your suggestion re old bloke makes ‘sense’ but not sense, if you see what I mean. I suspect that’s the best we’ll get

  • JustStark

    Oh, yeah, and: the first episode of Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams: ‘The Hood Maker’. Hm. Not terribly impressed. Very stylish and with actors giving it their all, but writing-wise, not really up to snuff. Faced with telepath-blocking hoods, they concentrate on finding the materials they are made out of, but make no progress until a government official goes mad and takes a telepath hostage… and upon being caught to get himself out of trouble, tells them that a shipment of that material was sent to a lab… which was working on blocking telepathy. Now I don’t know but when looking for the makers of telepath-blocking hoods I would probably have started with all the telepath-blocking labs in the city, but what do I know, maybe that’s why I’m not a TV detective?

    And that’s not even to start on the way the twist makes no sense given how the characters have been acting up to that point: a good twist is supposed to make you go, ‘Ah, suddenly it all makes sense!’ Not ‘Wait, but he… and then he… and why… then how does that work… but that just raises further questions!’

    I haven’t read the short story on which it’s apparently based, and maybe all these problems are present in it (Dick was not known for his faultless plotting) but still, not an encouraging start.

    • PKED was in my queue. Hmm. Maybe it won’t be mch longer