It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
It’s the last WHYBW of 2017, since TMINE is taking its traditional end-of-year break next week. But never fear – it’ll be back in January to play catch up with all the Christmas TV.
It’s been quiet-ish for new tele this past week, so for the most part, we’re going to be looking at the regulars, with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, Mr Robot and Travelers winding up their latest seasons and even series in one case. But I also watched the Christmas episode of Will and Grace, as well as the latest episodes of Happy! and Marvel’s Runaways, so I’ll be discussing all of those, too, after the jump.
I did try to watch episode two of Knightfall as well, but after 15 minutes of reasonably lifeless runarounds and the arrival of Pope Boniface, I found myself too bored to carry on with its bargain basement Vikings intrigues, so I’ve dropped that from the schedule.
All of which still left me a little time on my hands, so I went out! Out the house! Out out!
At the theatre, I saw The Twilight Zone and at the cinema, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Then I got bored of out, so although I’d already reviewed the pilot, making it ineligible for Boxset Monday, I watched the whole of the first season of Jean Claude Van Johnson at the weekend. All of that after the jump as well.
There’s an A-Z of every film ever reviewed on TMINE
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Sitting in the number two spot of the new Star Wars sequel trilogy, The Last Jedi naturally does The Empire Strikes Back Thing of breaking down the status quo, expanding the current mythos and putting our heroes in über-peril. So far, so expected.
But The Last Jedi actually does a good job of going even further, more radically than its predecessor by deconstructing the whole Star Wars universe, often from a feminist, sometimes a class, sometimes a Buddhist/Taoist, sometimes (oddly enough) a vegan perspective – after which it scrunches it into a ball and decides to do its own, more modern, more fluid thing instead.
All of which makes it sound a little better than it actually is. Visually a treat with some fine acting, invariably surprising moments and some epic space battles, it nevertheless is a little too cerebral, sometimes a little too silly and the light sabre fights, while often innovative, still come across as little more than people twatting one another with balloon animals, rather than skilled swordsmen and women (where’s Darth Maul when you need him?).
Nevertheless, probably my favourite of all the Star Wars movies, except maybe Rogue One.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Happy! (US: Syfy)
1×2 – What Smiles Are For
So sometimes, you need someone other than a show’s creator to take the ball and run with it. Episode one of Happy! was co-written by Grant Morrison and not that great, but episode 2 was Morrison-free, and a whole lot better for it. While the DNA was still the same, Christopher Meloni’s character worked better, Happy was actually likeable and cute rather than merely theoretically likeable and cute, and there was even a guest appearance by Jerry Springer.
My hopes have been raised.
Episode reviews: 1
Jean-Claude Van Johnson (Amazon)
Basically, just the first episode repeated. The first four episodes continue Jean-Claude’s undercover adventures, the last two return him to the state he was in at the beginning of episode one, ready for the final redeeming confrontation.
There are a few laugh-out loud moments, such as his driving in episode two and the arrival of (spoiler)his time-travelling future self in episode four, as well as the ultimate conclusion. JCVD’s acting talent turns out to greater than you might think, too, particularly when he speaks French or pretends to be his twin.
But most of the jokes are repeats of the ones from the pilot, as is the character development. As for the fights, while Jean-Claude still has the technique, his speed is down to almost Kung Fu: The Legend Continues levels and those of his co-stars aren’t that much better.
You’re essentially just watching quite a bad, quite slow, occasionally funny, self-satirising JCVD movie for three hours if you decide to watch it. Up to you.
Episode reviews: 1
Marvel’s Runaways (US: Hulu)
1×7 – Refraction
The first episode that’s really felt bad, with a tonal mismatch of teen silliness and comedy combined with some really quite dark moments, including the episode’s ending. Not unwatchable, but distinctly reminiscent of Gossip Girl season 2’s degeneration into daftness.
Episode reviews: 1-4
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (US: BBC America; UK: Netflix)
2×10 – Nice Jacket
What felt like a good place to end the season in preparation for the third season turned out to be the final episode of the series. Oh well.
Still, season two’s been a bit limp for most of its run. After a good start that felt like the fantasy flipside of the first season’s science-fiction plot, the season degenerated into little more than a run around the woods; Dirk constantly being depressed didn’t help. Indeed, it’s telling that the final episode had Elijah Wood confronting a character to ask what her point was and what her motivation was, since the show hadn’t really done anything on that score.
Still, the finale episode was a feelgood uptick in the season’s overall quality that made me feel more confident for a future third season. Which of course won’t happen now. Shame.
Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)
3×10 – shutdown -r
shutdown -r is of course the UNIX instruction to perform a reboot, which is basically what this season finale does to the whole show – while making it clear that simply switching the world off and on again doesn’t necessarily get rid of all the problems.
Obviously lots of revelations this season and the ‘single-take’ episode was an obvious standout, but it’s felt like far more of a chore and far less innovative than the previous two seasons, often falling back on 80s TV and film references to win over the audience, rather than doing anything amazing.
I’ll probably be back for the fourth season, which feels like it should be the last, even if it ultimately doesn’t turn out to be that way. But it’ll need to work to earn my attention next time around.
Travelers (Canada: Showcase; UK: Netflix)
2×11 – Simon – 2×12 – 001
A double-episode finale, which would serve as a series finale if necessary, that really shakes up the status quo in quite dramatic ways, does a nifty bad guy switcheroo, while also adding a little to the show’s mythos. Where they’ll go from here will be very interesting to see, assuming they don’t bottle it.
As a season, probably a bit too bound up with ‘the faction’ for most of its run and overall, it didn’t feel as innovative as the first season; it was also a bit more directionless without its singular risk to the world that needed to be prevented. But it definitely pulled it all together at the end, maintained the level of human interest and humour, and had more than its fair share of “so cool” moments along the way.
Comes to Netflix in the UK next week.
PS I wonder how much Simon was a nod to Perception?
Will and Grace (US: NBC; UK: Channel 5)
9×7 – A Gay Olde Christmas
Although guilty of committing various heinous crimes against Irish accents, rather an impressive and imaginative Christmas episode that reimagines everyone as denizens of 19th century New York. Everyone’s having a great time but Debra Messing gets to have the most laughs and does well with them.
Episode reviews: 1