What have you been watching? Including The Guest Book, SMILF and Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049

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

It’s been a quieter week than last week, so there haven’t been as many new shows to watch as before. Mario Van Peebles’s southern BuffySuperstition (US: Syfy; UK: Netflix), I’ve already reviewed and I’ve passed a third-episode verdict on Matt Nix’s ‘The X-Men universe without The X-Men’ show The Gifted (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK).

But that doesn’t mean this week’s WHYBW is going to be an empty affair. For starters, I forgot to review Blade Runner 2049 last week. Oops.

But there’s been one new show I haven’t yet covered, The Guest Book (US: TBS), which comes from the pen of Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl), and there’s a forthcoming show, SMILF (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic), that I’ll be previewing, too.

I’ll also be running through the latest episodes of the regulars: The Brave, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Great News, Marvel’s Inhumans, Mr Robot, My Myself and I, Professor T, SEAL Team, Star Trek: Discovery, Travelers, and Will & Grace. At least one of these is for the chop – can you guess which one?

Films

Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Stunningly beautiful sequel to the astonishing-but-plotless 80s version that expands out the universe we saw in the original. Ryan Gosling plays a replicant Blade Runner, sent to round up the few remaining disobedient replicants on Earth, a mission that changes as he discovers that at least one replicant might have had a child somehow.

For the most part, you only need to listen to Mark Kermode’s review of the movie to know what I think:

However, I would add to that a few things. Firstly, it’s a bit ‘male gaze’. You can think of good reasons for why that might be, but they’re not reasons director Denis Villeneuve really explores. Secondly, it has more plot than the original, but not quite enough to sustain its runtime, particularly in the third act. Thirdly, the ending’s a bit pointless and if there’s a deeper meaning to it other than “embrace your humanity”, it’s elusive. Lastly, Gosling’s playing blank and while blank is fine and appropriate in some ways, it does make it hard to really care about him.

But it’s still amazingly a sequel that feels like a genuine extension and continuation of the original movie. Watch it if you can.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCcx85zbxz4

TV shows

New shows

The Guest Book

The Guest Book (US: TBS)

A while ago, I postulated that America had now determined the correct format for modern-day anthology shows. Rather than be episodic, the season-long anthology, possibly with the same actors (if not characters) returning in subsequent shows, was proving a triumph for the likes of True Detective, American Crime and American Horror Story. We’ve also seen the likes of Law & Order: True Crime turning up on the scene as well, showing it’s a format with a future.

But other formats are available and serve to determine whether my hypothesis is true and that other formats no longer work or are sufficient to either draw interest or maintain it. Room 104 is a purely episodic anthology show set in the same motel room, with different guests each episode. I didn’t watch that, which proves my point, I think.

Now we have the rather similar The Guest Book, from Greg Garcia (My Name is Earl, Raising Hope). Garcia apparently goes around writing fake stories in holiday guest books and thought that might make a good TV series. The idea is that every week, a different guest star turns up and writes in the guest book about the wacky adventure they’ve had while on holiday.

Although the guest star is the main focus of each episode, for a sense of continuity, there’s a regular roster of staff and nearby townsfolk who are the constants between episodes. They include caretaker Charlie Robinson (Night Court), cop Kellie Martin (ER), local doctor Garret Dillahunt (Raising Hope, The Gifted, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Margo Martindale (The Americans, Sneaky Pete) as Martin’s mum. And in the season’s final episode, all the guest stars will get to show up at the same time (or something) as the townsfolk come to terms with everything that’s happened in the previous episodes.

That’s getting ahead of ourselves a bit, though. Episode 1 gave us school science teacher Danny Pudi (Community, Powerless) taking his demanding wife Lauren Lapkus (Clipped) on a romantic weekend getaway from their new child. Where the show lost me was about halfway through when Pudi decides to go to the local strip club – a regular feature of the show, apparently – and then gets blackmailed. It’s all done comedically, of course, although I don’t remember laughing much, if at all, and the jokes are pretty weak. But this, to me, didn’t feel like the warm Garcia style of programme I’d come to expect.

Later episodes will give us the likes of Stockard Channing, Mary Lynn Rajskub, David Zayas, Jaime Pressly, Michael Rapaport, Jenna Fischer and Shannon Woodward, but I won’t be sticking around for them, I’m afraid. Told you – season-long is the one true path now.

SMILF

SMILF (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic – probably)
Starts November 5

Frankie Shaw (Mr Robot) both writes and stars in this series based on a semi-autobiographical short film she directed a few years. As the show’s title hints (the ‘s’ standing for ‘single’ – you can work out the rest), it’s all about a smart, single twentysomething mother who’d quite like to do all the things every other smart, twentysomething woman would like to do, such as have a sex life and a career, but who finds it a lot harder as she has a kid. Her problems are compounded by living in Boston but wanting to be an actress, as well as her recovering ex (The Strain‘s Miguel Gomez) and his new Australian girlfriend (Home and Away‘s Samara Weaving) hanging around. Fortunately, she’s got help of a sorts – as well as hindrance – from her mother (Rosie O’Donnell – yes, that one).

Obviously, it all feels accurate and the fact Showtime has it paired with Shameless should tell you something about how it feels tonally. However, it’s a lot less funnier than Shameless, and is mostly a sad tale about someone losing out on life’s events. Thinks perk up at the end of the episode when (spoiler)Shaw gets an acting gig but even then the jokes are still: “How were you able to depict PTSD so well?”, “Well, my dad abused me until I was 12.” “Yeah, my sister was raped in college. She was really messed up after that.”

An interesting perspective, perhaps even important, but not really a journey I want to go on, I’m afraid.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

The Brave (US: NBC)

1×5 – Enhanced Protection

It’s back to skulking around, this time in Nigeria, as our heroes are assigned to protect a US ambassador. However, events develop in unexpected ways.

A surprisingly decent attempt to recreate Nigeria (note for US set designers: Nigeria mostly uses UK-style electrical sockets, not US-style ones) is undermined by the show’s departure from reality midway when it comes to shootouts, and a final act in which despite having a whole team of Nigerian special forces with them, as well as a full staff roster, they decide only two soldiers are needed to go after a missing girl in a mall. Also, do they all just hang out on the same base in Turkey between missions and does the DIA not have anyone else apart from them?

Episode reviews: 1, 3

The Flash (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)

4×2 – Mixed Signals

And I’m out. There’s a fine line between fun and just plain silly, and The Flash is heading straight into silly/stupid territory. On top of that, we’re at the traditional point in a TV show where the main characters are planning weddings and everyone’s acting in identical, cookie-cutter ways to every other show you’ve seen before.

It was a fun ride at first, but the third season really killed all the fun for me and I’m just not as invested in the characters any more. Oh well.

Episode reviewsFirst episodethird episode

Great News (US: NBC)

2×4 – Award Show

Gratifyingly, our losers are still losing, while being funny. That’s probably the most I can say about the show, which makes me think that weekly reviews are a bit pointless for it. I’ll pop back in if there are any changes, but don’t assume that I’m not watching it.

Episode reviews: First two episodes

Marvel’s Inhumans (US: ABC; UK: Sky1)

1×5 – Something Inhuman This Way Comes

And that was… all right. Not great. In fact, pretty terrible. But now the show has basically decided it’s for teenagers and that it’s going to be funny, it’s not as dreadful as it was. Bits with Karnak and Gorgon were even quite fun and everyone’s more or less together again at last, too.

On the flipside, this episode might as well have been subtitled “Vacation in Hawaii, you losers”, given the subtlety of the dialogue, but that’s not all that new.

Episode reviews: 1

SEAL Team

1×5 – Ghost of Christmas Future

Now SEAL Team is trying to do a The Brave by having a ‘skulking around’ episode, this time in Estonia. It probably shouldn’t have. It’s still smart at what it does, it was good to show that rehearsal is needed for operations and its recreation of Estonia was okay-ish (surprisingly large number of people speak English in Estonia, mind). But there are things that would have sparked major security incidents at airports if they’d really happened, at the very least. Still, the season arc with the burner phone turns out to be more interesting than it could have been, which was a definite plus, and the character work is… working.

Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)

1×6 – Lethe

Lots of flashbacks to Vulcan, name-dropping of Spock and Spock’s mum turns up, too. Some decent direction on top of that, as well. Then the Klingons turn up and it all gets a bit stupid and dull. Shame, as I’d been enjoying it up to that point.

Episode reviews: 1-2

Recommended shows

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)

3×2 – Freakshow

The ‘legends’ head off into the past to face PT Barnum (Billy Zane) and some bad CGI. Despite formerly and formally holding the title of the silliest CW superhero show, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow saw The Flash speed past it this week, whole it studiously maintained its firm fix on frothy but still-anchored daftness. I do wish that other than soapiness, there was a general dedication to advancing the storylines of each of the individual superheroes, but I’m confident enough in the direction of the show that I’ll be keeping it on the viewing list.

Only one superhero show a week, though? Can I manage?

Episode reviews: 1, 4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rG_aQk0ZKgs

Me, Myself and I (US: CBS)

1×5 – Family Tree

More relatives turn up in different time zones and the show’s still lovely. I do worry that the MC Hammer bit was cultural appropriation, though, and it’s not like our hero’s one black friend in just one time zone gets to do much, either – not a good look.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)

3×1 – eps3.1_undo.gz

And we step away from the particle accelerator. Thankfully. Something far closer to the tone of season 1, with Elliott satirising society as we know it in voiceover, as well as corporate behaviours, while simultaneously satirising the simplistic “capitalism is bad” dorm-room politics that it might initially have been accused of. Making Mr Robot and Elliot separate is an interesting twist to the season, too, and the therapist scene was excellent. Not sure that the FBI would have been that daft with the email, though, and that removal of Stephanie Corneliussen was a shock if not entirely welcome move.

Anyway, I will be sticking with this after all, since I now have trust in Esmail that if the show has become sci-fi, it’s going to hold off doing anything about it for quite some time yet.

Episode reviewsFirst episodethird episode

Professor T (Belgium: Eén; UK: More4)

1×10

This time, we get to see something of the Belgian justice system, which I hadn’t realised until now was based on the French system, so I got a touch of the Engrenages (Spiral) déjà vus. I’m not entirely sure that translating it into English worked, since I doubt there’s a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Belgium, so maybe the subtitlers might want to rethink that.

Nice that the show is hinting that our hero is coming out of his shell and overcoming his phobias, thanks to all the police work. Interesting also that it’s hinting that that’s throwing a spanner into the works of the calculating machine. Where will they go with it?

Episode reviews: 1-2

Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)

2×2 – Protocol 4

Funnily enough, I was rewatching the first episode of season 1 at the weekend as a bit of compare-and-contrast, and I noted to myself that last week’s episode had been a bit light on the character work that distinguished it so much from most other sci-fi.

Episode two more than makes up for it, taking everyone back to their individual storylines, while building on the changes from the first episode of this season. No real clues as to where the show is now going, beyond more paradoxes, and the ‘timeshare scheme’ is intriguing but cryptic, so I’m looking forward to seeing where the show now goes.

Episode reviews: First episodethird episode

Will & Grace (US: NBC)

9×4 – Grandpa Jack

Funnily enough (again), I was just wondering where Jack’s son had gone in between series, and now I have my answer. Again, a good mixture of proper laughs and Trump-era political anger, all tempered by the age of the participants. A consistent must-watch now.

Episode reviews: 1

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