What have you been watching? Including The Letdown and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

The Letdown

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

 

As mentioned yesterday, thanks to my having to deal with the antics of some customer service reps at Three (“Sure we can add that number to the new phone on your business account” – no, not my phone, that phone. Please don’t change my number) and Amazon (“Sorry, we’ve lost your order. It’s gone missing in transit.”), I didn’t have time to do “What have you been watching?” yesterday. But never fear, here it is.

Although I managed to review both of YouTube Red’s new shows, Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television* and Lifeline, Boxset Monday took a bit of a back seat this week, since I was away at the weekend and BBC America decided it would be a chuffing good idea to air three episodes of the new season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Agency (about which more later). Still, I’m now about halfway through season 2 of Stranger Things (Netflix), so Boxset Monday should be back on… Monday.

I had actually planned a replacement Boxset in case I didn’t manage to watch all of Stranger Things, but I only managed to watch two of the six episodes of 4 Blocks (Germany: TNT Serie; UK: Amazon), since it’s impossible to watch it on a commute (or even a weekend train journey next to a devout Muslim woman and her four-year-old daughter), given the number of scenes set in a strip club and/or porn cinema. Still, that’s in the pipeline, too.

Coming up in the next few days, a review of S.W.A.T. (US: CBS) and a preview of Berlin Babylon (Germany: Sky Deutschland; UK: Sky Atlantic). And maybe some other stuff.

But after the jump, I’ll be running through those new episodes of Dirk Gently, as well as 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. On top of that, I also watched the first episode of new Australian ‘comedy’ The Letdown. All of that after the jump.

TV shows

New shows

The Letdown

The Letdown (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)

Like Ronny Chieng: International Student, The Letdown is a graduate of ABC’s 2016 Comedy Showroom initiative and managed to get some international funding – this time from Netflix, rather than Comedy Central – to take it to series.

So what’s the letdown of the title? Good question, since it’s got a double meaning. On the one hand, it’s the joys of parenthood, as new mum Alison Bell discovers it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She’s also got a work-obsessed husband, a self-obsessed mother and fancy-free best friend all providing zero support, which doesn’t help.

The other letdown is Bell herself, who somehow fails at every turn to meet the exacting demands society and other mothers place on her. Can she avoid being judgemental in the new mothers group? Can she avoid being judged in the new mothers group? Is she breastfeeding? Well, she tried but… Oh that’s such a shame.

The show has cracking word of mouth, but maybe you have to have been a mother in Australia at some point, since I found it predictable and bereft of new ideas. All the observations were things I’d seen elsewhere, with no especially new insights to be found.

Not one that’s going to get a second viewing out of me. Here’s a clip and you can watch the full episode as well. The observant will spot the ubiquitous Patrick Brammell playing the drug dealer in the first scene.

 

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

The Brave (US: NBC)

1×6 – The Seville Defection

Perilously close to being promoted to the recommended list, The Brave is doing very nicely as a spy show that just happens to have people with lots of guns in it. Here, we have a quick trip to Spain (they might even have shot parts of it in Spain – you never know) to determine whether a Russian defector is really trying to defect or whether it’s a trap; the b-plot back in Washington sees our analysts trying to work out if an NSA contractor is really a Russian spy as the defector claims.

The show nicely manages to mix tension and above average smarts with low-profile sneaking around and a bit of tradecraft. Characterisation is dished out at a few minutes per episode but is building up over time. It’s a little bit throwaway and escapist popcorn-fare compared to SEAL Team, but still more enjoyable. It’ll be getting its promotion if next week’s episode is good.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Great News (US: NBC)

2×5 – Night of the Living Screen

The first of this year’s Halloween episodes, as our heroine tries to pretend for the benefit of a smug married schoolfriend in New Jersey that she’s leading the real Sex and the City Manhattan lifestyle. Unfortunately, that involves following Nicole Ritchie’s character around to all her parties and nearly bankrupting herself along the way. Cue the occasional trip to sell blood… and then buy it back again once it’s all run out.

Lots of fun gags, visual and written, that could have been ripped straight out of 30 Rock – you could easily imagine Alec Baldwin telling Tina Fey about the secret taxi service for rich people that arrives instantly – but with the Great News spin on the whole thing. Another one I’ll probably be promoting next week.

Episode reviews: First two episodes

Marvel’s Inhumans (US: ABC; UK: Sky1)

1×6 – The Gentleman’s Name is Gorgon

Back to being virtually unwatchable again, although the Gorgon-Karnak interactions were quite likeable. Nice to see the Royal Family having its own ‘Are we the baddies moment?’, too. But nothing that could really be described as good in the whole episode. Thankfully, there are only two left to go!

Episode reviews: 1

SEAL Team

1×6 – Collapse

A moderately daft episode in which our heroes are helping to protect the evacuation of the American embassy in South Sudan when the locals turn angry. A bit dodgy politically, some clumsy attempts at racial commentary and efforts to create a believable South Sudan don’t work out that well. A few daft scenes, too. But nice to see some incompetent Americans around, and the training scenes and the sky-diving more than made up for the episode’s deficits elsewhere.

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

1×7 – Magic to Make the Sanest Man Go Mad

It’s the now-traditional Groundhog Day episode of every sci-fi TV show. Hooray! It’s also the return of Harry Mudd in Discovery‘s first real standalone and comedic episode as well as (spoiler)(spoiler alert) Stella!!!!!. Rainn Wilson is proving both a far more menacing Mudd than the original series version and far more appealing than he’s been in anything I’ve ever seen him in before, which is impressive, too. There was even an honest to goodness party on modern Trek that didn’t involve classical music recitals. Will wonders never cease? All round enjoyable, even if not greatly innovative.

Episode reviews: 1-2

Recommended shows

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

3×3 – Zari – 3×4 – Phone Home

And we get a new addition to the team roster, just as an old member prepares to leave. All the same, while the Stranger Things/ET cash-in of episode four was also a welcome piece of amusement, the show is starting to feel like it’s going through the motions, rather than trying to do something new as it did in season 2. It’s also perhaps doing a Flash and becoming too silly, without there being any real import to things any more.

Minor note for all TV producers: there’s no point having a plot about whether someone’s a secret traitor if you’re going to have the explanation in the ‘previously on’ section at the start of the episode

Episode reviews: 1, 4

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix)

2×1 – Space Rabbit – 2×2 – Fans of Wet Circles – 2×3 – Two Broken Fingers

While not a reboot, a decided jump in storytelling as we leap from the realm of science-fiction and into magic, all with Max Landis’ distinctly odd take on things. We have a fantasy kingdom where people fight with giant scissors. We have Elijah Wood off in Montana encountering Tyler Labine’s small-town sheriff who actually believes everything he says. We have Alan Tudyk as a nasty government agent, trying to apprehend all the ‘specials’. And we have a secretary with a magic wand trying to evade the sharp-suited, sharp-moustached John Hannah, who also has a magic wand. 

As per last season, it starts off making no sense (well, maybe a bit more than last time) but continues to add information so it starts to become more coherent. It’s a little bit sad that there’s a certain degree of separation of the characters in these initial episodes, but the show manages to make this a minor concern.

Not quite as excellent as season 1 so far, but close.

PS It’s only so long before Roger Cross appears on a show filmed in Canada. Now is that time.

Episode reviewsFirst episodethird episode

Me, Myself and I (US: CBS)

1×6 – New Job

Unfortunately, given that CBS has just changed its timeslot, the show doesn’t look like it’s long for this world. So let’s enjoy these final episodes while we can. This week, we finally remembered that our hero’s best friend might be alive in the future, too. We also saw the arrival of Tim Matheson as a roofer, which was nice. Lots of feelgood moments overall, but not quite having the emotional resonance of previous episodes.

Episode reviews: 1, 3

Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)

3×3 – Eps3_2_Legacy.so

We seem to be moving away from the questioning of reality this season, and this episode gives us a flashback to show us what Tyrrell’s been up to for the past season. Yes, he is real. It also explains quite a lot of the plot of the past few seasons, which is nice. Most interesting, though, in that it showed us more of what Elliott’s like when he’s Mr Robot.

Episode reviewsFirst episodethird episode

Professor T (Belgium: Eén; UK: More4)

1×11 – The Legacy

My theory that we’re watching the psychological rehabilitation of Professor T seems to be correct, judging by the story this week, as is my theory that he’s losing his edge as he becomes more normal. All the same, nothing too exciting, beyond the usual character fun.

Episode reviews: 1-2

Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)

2×3 – Jacob

Back to the plot started in the first episode of the season (and the first season) as our team learns who’s been abducting travelers. Otherwise, more character development. Strongly plotted but the season itself is beginning to feel like a diversion away from the plot of the first season. Could do with some Cool Moments.

Episode reviews: First episodethird episode

Will & Grace (US: NBC)

9×5 – How To Succeed In Business Without Really Crying

The first episode that’s felt like fan fiction, with Will deciding to (spoiler)(spoiler alert) join Grace’s business. Reasonably funny, but largely generic. Nice Jeff Sessions joke, though.

Episode reviews: 1

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