It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
Be careful what you wish for! Last week, I hoped for new TV to watch. Then it arrived en masse and I suddenly didn’t have the time to write about it all. Gah! That means I’m going to have to do it all now. Oh well.
Elsewhere, at least, I’ve reviewed both the first episode of LA to Vegas (US: Fox) and the whole of season two of The Crown (Netflix), as well as previewed Counterpart (US: Starz). But as you recall from last week’s rundown of forthcoming reviews, there was a whole lot more due. I haven’t yet managed to find a way to watch Stan’s reboot of old Russell Crowe movie Romper Stomper (I can remember Mariella Frostrup getting the horn over Crowe while reviewing it on Video View, it’s so old) without forking out money and I’m saving up Britannia (UK: Sky Atlantic) for next week’s Boxset Monday, but otherwise we’re pretty much there with the lot of them.
Sadly, no Happy! last week, but after the jump, I’ll be looking at the usual regulars: Engrenages (Spiral), Great News and Marvel’s Runaways. A bunch of old regulars are back, too, so I’ll also be having words to say about The Brave, Cardinal, Falling Water, SEAL Team, Star Trek: Discovery, The X-Files and Will & Grace. And on top of that, I’ll be reviewing new shows Along Together, Grown-ish and 9-1-1, as well casting a brief glance at fellow new arrivals Craith and The Chi.
See you in a mo!
Alone Together (US: Freeform)
Starts today, 8.30/7.30c
Two millennial friends (Esther Povitsky, Benji Aflalo) living in LA realise that they’re not exactly 10s in the scheme of things, particularly not for LA, so do their best to help each other date, knowing they’ll probably die alone anyway. Meanwhile, although the idea makes both nauseous, everyone else thinks they’re perfect for each.
As long-time readers will know, normally, I have a very firm rule about friends making TV shows about their friendships that star them as thinly veiled versions of themselves and their friendships – ‘don’t’. But for the first time in practically forever, I actually found this one very funny. Maybe it’s because they spend the entire time insulting each other in really quite wonderful ways, while still obviously liking one another, that it worked for me. The LA specifics also gave the show a verisimilitude I liked.
There was an edginess to some of the comedy that was surprising, too – Povitsky wants to prove that Aflalo’s date is an escort so signs up to the same escort service so she can see her profile; however, she’s strapped for cash and starts accepting dates through the service from ‘older gentlemen’ with a thing for teenage girls, so starts dressing up appropriately. Yikes. But very funny, especially when Aflalo sees her: “You look like the Jewish version of Annie the musical.” “That’s crazy, because that’s literally what you look like.”
Definitely worth tuning in for a second episode at least.
Grown-ish (US: Freeform)
Spin off from ABC’s black-ish that takes a leaf out of The Cosby Show‘s book to see eldest daughter Yara Shahidi head off to college, discover herself and make new, diverse friends.
The first episode didn’t have the same level of smart, precise writing that distinguished black-ish, but it was close, simultaneously also providing a knowing modern-day version of The Breakfast Club. Another black-ish character turns up as the late-night professor of ‘digital marketing’, but who’d rather teach them all about drones and try to sell them puppies. He was funny, too.
For a while, I was hopeful it was going to be a version of Dear White People I could actually understand and enjoy.
Then along rolled episode two and I gave up hope. It was basically about all the different drugs you could take at college for different occasions, including what to take to help you study, how to deal with side-effects and more.
I’m too old. Not just for that, just in general. Oh well.
9-1-1 (US: Fox)
Procedurals are the meat and two veg of episodic television and with NBC, ABC and CBS all home to happy families of franchises, Fox clearly wants in – but isn’t prepared to put in the groundwork to build up its stable. 9-1-1 is a bit of a desperate attempt to go for broke in one show, giving us all the emergency services at once.
Peter Krause (The Lost Room, Dirty Sexy Money) heads up the fire service as a former addict who’s turned his back on bad ways to have the privilege of helping people. Meanwhile, Angela Bassett is the partnerless beat cop who always ends up working with Krause’s crew for some reason, even though she has crimes of her own to investigate, not just fires.
But if you thought the third emergency service was the ambulance service, think again. Apparently, that’s part of the fire service or something, because we never actually make it into the hospital. Instead, we also get Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights, Nashville, American Horror Story) as… a 911 operator, who always seems to be dispatching both Bassett and Krause to their destinations.
It’s all a bit of a disaster, to be honest. Pretty much everything is nonsense procedurally; characters are clichés at best, annoying at worst. The situations are ridiculous (spoiler: firefighters cutting open a wall to get to a pipe because they can hear the crying of a trapped prematurely born baby who’s been flushed down the toiler). Britton’s involvement is bizarre, particularly when she’s actually getting involved in the plots towards the end.
The actors try their best, but this is DOA as far as I’m concerned.
New shows I tried to watch but turned off
The Chi (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic probably)
Sundays, 10pm ET/PT
Gritty ensemble, coming of age drama set in South Chicago about different groups of friends and their lives. There was some shooting and some theft of trainers, but I turned off after five minutes I was so bored, because I had zero interest in the friends, their lives or, TBH, Chicago. Will probably win awards for its next 55 minutes though.
Craith (UK: S4C)
Attempt to do another Y Gwyll (Hinterland) by having dark bad things happen out in the pretty Welsh countryside. Here, a girl appears to commit suicide, but it seems she’s probably been kept captive somewhere for some time before the event, and the police have to investigate.
Generally, very nice to look at, although it did seem like they were reusing sets and locations from Bang. Probably a better procedural than Y Gwyll, too. But someone in the writers’ room and/or subtitles department appeared to have bought a book of poetry and a thesaurus, because the dialogue was dreadfully pretentious, with people standing around practically writing odes to the twilight. Then the self-harming student started cutting her arms with razor blades, so I switched off.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
The Brave (US: NBC)
1×10 – Desperate Measures
The usual mix of gritty and silly, as our heroes have to rescue one of their own, following the events of the pre-Christmas episode. On the one hand, plenty of real world nice touches, such as things actually going wrong, some places genuinely being impenetrable and so on. On the other, interrogation rooms that are pure white? There’s only one place in Tehran with sheep? And would the trial have happened so quickly? Duh. Still, good to see that nice man from Iron Man getting work still, even if it is as a stereotypical bad guy.
Falling Water (US: USA; UK: Amazon)
2×1 – The Shadowman
It’s back. I’m not sure why, given how dreadful the first season was, but maybe the money from sales to Amazon has enabled it to survive.
Clearly sensing the show had problems, though, there’s been a bit of a reboot, largely for the better. Six months on from the end of season one, all the bad guys have been rounded up and things are moving on. Our heroes actually talk to one another and there’s action, too, the lack of which was a big problem for season one. It’s like everything is being swept under the carpet, ready for a better show to start.
Unfortunately, the show’s sole redeeming grace in season one – it’s freaky dream imagery – has been replaced with more workmanlike efforts this time round. Swings and roundabouts, hey? Still, on balance, it’s enough to make me want to watch the second episode.
Great News (US: NBC)
2×10 – Catfight
Greg’s girlfriend (Jayma Mays) shows up at work for his birthday, inspiring all manner of rivalry between her, Katie and her mum. Lots of lovely scenes between Katie and Greg involving peanuts and ringbinders, and containing the best karaoke gag on TV so far.
Episode reviews: First two episodes
Marvel’s Runaways (US: Hulu)
Another slow one, full of people picking stupid fights with one another, that fortunately picked up at the end. Fingers crossed for the finale!
SEAL Team (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)
1×10 – Pattern of Life
Slightly dodgy one in which a member of the team accidentally shoots a teenage girl but they can’t take her to the hospital until they find out a phone used to organise terrorism and determine who its owner is. It’s no huge surprise that (spoiler) the girl was the baddie and deserved it , removing a tricky moral problem badly, but the show does manage to make its case in other ways.
Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)
1×10 – Despite Yourself
To absolutely no old school fan’s surprise, the Discovery accidentally ended up in the well-known mirror universe, prompting a massive search for Easter eggs by viewers. It’s not quite the mirror universe as we know it, mind, just as the Discovery universe isn’t quite the Star Trek universe but a modernised version compatible with today’s production and societal values – this time round, it’s clear the mirror universe is basically one with the alt-right in charge.
Discovery is also doing a good job with character humour. Lovely accent work by Hello to Jason Isaacs and some great fun with the gabby crewwoman. Not sure where they’re going with the PTSD thing, but it seems silly if they’re suggesting (spoiler) he’s really Klingon.
Episode reviews: 1-2
The X-Files (US: Fox; UK: Channel 5)
11×1 – My Struggle III
While there were whole seasons of The X-Files I never watched because it had got silly, I don’t think I’ve ever turned off an episode while I was watching it – until now. Just dreadful, horribly written rubbish that made no sense, had numerous pretentious voiceovers and contradicted everything we’d seen before. Again. Man, Chris Carter really can’t right – or direct, it turns out.
In future, I’ll be sticking only to mythology and Carter-free episodes, I think.
Cardinal (Canada: CTV; UK: BBC Four)
2×1 – Red
The return of one of TMINE’s Top Shows of 2017 is still as well acted and beautiful to look at as before, but it leaves me a bit confused. Isn’t his wife supposed to be in a home for the slightly confused? Why is she being allowed to go off by herself after what she did? How come Lady Partner is being told she’s in love with Cardinal? When did that happen?
What did I miss?
That aside, an interesting start to the series with a woman found who’s lost her memory because she’s been shot in the head and suffered brain damage. More uniquely, she can’t really form new memories and has suffered personality changes, become pliant and suggestible. She doesn’t even know what’s happened to her. So how can Cardinal and co solve the crime? It should be fun to find out.
Engrenages (Spiral) (France: Canal+; UK: BBC Four)
Engrenages has never exactly been on the cutting edge of feminism, but here it falls for the classic “let’s have a strong female lead raped for no good reason” plot trap. Aargh. That’s on top of all the “are you sure you shouldn’t be with the baby?” misery thrown at Laure every five minutes. I don’t think Laure/Gilou is a good pairing, either, despite the groundwork the show has put in over the years.
But the Roban storyline is top work, as is his investigation of the bug-eyed judge’s private life, and I have some confidence that the writers could be taking everything in a good direction, despite all the warning signs. Please don’t say Engrenages has jumped the shark. Please.
One of my regular French translation notes: marvellous to see that Roban is so old school that he calls Marianne, the woman he was on the point of proposing to, vous.
Will & Grace (US: NBC)
9×8 – Friends and Lovers
Megan Mullally’s real-life (and Parks and Rec) husband Nick Offerman turns up as a far more liberal character than Ron Swanson, here dating both Will and Grace separately before suggesting that it becomes a more communal affair. Will they take him up on his offer?
Much hilarity, particularly when Mullally and Offerman meet up, but mainly due to some lovely ‘we’re getting too old for this’ scenes that rang very true. I am too old. In general.
Episode reviews: 1