It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this
Christmas didn’t bring us that much new tele, did it? A few one-offs on the Beeb, but nothing scripted that really appealed – at least, not to me. But things will be kicking off again soon, at least. I’ve already reviewed Netflix’s Dark this week and gave you a hint at what other shows are yet to come, but just last night we got the start of Fox (US)’s LA to Vegas and tonight we’ll have 9-1-1 from the same network, too, so add those to the list as well.
But it does mean that despite covering a fortnight’s worth of tele, the first WHYBW of 2018 is going to be a relatively brief affair – at least from me, but I’m sure you’ve all caught something I’ve missed. After the jump, we’ll look at NBC (US)’s splurge of three episodes of Great News, the latest episodes of Happy! and Marvel’s Runaways, the Christmas-regeneration episode of Doctor Who and the welcome return to UK screens of France’s best TV show – Engrenages (Spiral). But that’s your lot. Roll on 2018 and fresh meat!
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Doctor Who (UK: BBC One)
Twice Upon A Time
It’s the end of an era. Peter Capaldi is going. Steven Moffat is going. Pearl Mackie is going. And Dr Who will never be a man again. That’s the law.
Yep, it was regeneration time and while a whole bunch of Tumblr bloggers were waiting purely for the arrival of Jodie Whittaker at the end (“Ah, brilliant”), there was actually a story before it in which Dr Who number 14±13 met Dr Who number 1±0 and the two of them teamed up to defeat… the good guys? Really? Ah, mixed signals. Fair enough. They also brought Mark Gatiss along for the ride, although fortunately he didn’t get to do much except be an obvious nod to crusty old fans who were filling in their continuity bingo cards.
And it was all right. Obviously made for about £100 and with Dr 1 less the Hartnell incarnation, more the incarnation of the Black and White Minstrel Show, it was still quite a pleasant watch, with some lovely continuity touches such as the recreation of the original TARDIS interior (“You still call it the ship!”). It was also probably quite a dull one for anyone not well versed in 26 years of ‘classic’ stories and Target novelisations.
Nevertheless, like all those Tumblr tumblers and despite the advent of Chris “Cyberwoman” Chibnall, I felt more excited for Who in those final few post-regeneration moments than I have in a long while, so roll on the new regime.
Great News (US: NBC)
2×7 – A Christmas Carol Wendelson – 2×9 – Love is Dead
Great News was about the only original scripted programme of any kind that aired on network TV over the Christmas period in the US and in what looks suspiciously like an attempt to burn off all its episodes pre-cancellation, no fewer than three episodes graced viewers’ screens. The usual hit-to-miss ratio of jokes applied, with a good smattering of the hysterical mixing side-by-side with misfires. A Christmas Carol Wendelson, with its obvious Dickens basis, was probably the best as it sought to dismantle the horrors of Christmas time, but none was a dud. Still worth watching! While they’re still making it, of course.
Episode reviews: First two episodes
Happy! (US: Syfy)
1×4 – Year of the Horse
The uni-donkey is safe! Woo hoo! He’s just so cute. Is it odd that this is the show I now look forward to most every week, purely to see Happy? I think it is.
Putting that to one side, a nice blend of plot advancement and addition of the very weird, including an insect furry gang boss, as well as the revelation that everything is interconnected. All very Dirk Gently, hey?
Marvel’s Runaways (US: Hulu)
1×8 – Tsunami
A slightly tedious episode, despite the bundles of revelation. The producers sure are eking it all out as much as they can, aren’t they? Plus the ending was all a tad Zoolander, wasn’t it? He does know that breaking a monitor won’t wipe a hard drive and he probably has cloud backup anyway, right?
Episode reviews: 1-4
Engrenages (Spiral) (France: Canal+; UK: BBC Four)
And it’s back after an absence of nearly three years – Engrenages, the show that introduced the world to the idea that French TV could be good. Indeed, although everyone thinks it was Denmark’s Forbrydelsen (The Killing) that began the foreign TV craze in the UK 10 years ago, Engrenages was there first in 2005 and it’s still something of which BBC Four is a co-producer, not just a buyer.
Still, six seasons and 13 years later, Engrenages is starting to feel a little old and tired. Even the characters are feeling it, too, with Judge Roban starting to go a bit doolally tap, and everyone else noticing that their lives are a bit rubbish and empty. The show’s producers are doing what they can to stay up to date with changes in French law designed to prevent the antics of the Braquo lads – indeed, the focus of this season seems to be police corruption, with our heroes investigating the gruesome murder of a police officer who was part of a unit being investigated by the French complaints board. Factually, it’s all well handled, giving an insight into how the local police are regarded in France and the pack mentality that arises as a result, although it seems that the one constant throughout the years for Engrenages apart from its gruesome deaths is that the BAME characters with more than seven lines of dialogue will turn out to be criminals. Time will tell on that one.
But it’s all a bit forced, with old characters drafted in through coincidence and tortured plot mechanics as well, and the fact that everyone is still doing more or less the exact job they were doing a decade ago is getting increasingly implausible. Indeed, Audrey Fleurot’s Karlsson, who at least moved on to pastures new last season, is getting dragged back to her old job by the pleasingly cameoing ghost of Grégory Fitoussi.
As always, though, Engrenages is all about the characters, and season 6 still knows how to give us what we want here. Karlsson gets to have lots of legal fun, while everyone’s rallying round Laure and her new baby, for which she feels less than prepared. Meanwhile, Tin Tin’s getting divorced and Gilou’s got a potentially dodgy girlfriend to deal with.
It’s good to see everyone back, the production values are even higher than ever, but it’s a shame that Canal+ isn’t taking the opportunity to give us either new blood to root for or new story options by moving the characters to new positions.