It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
A few new shows have bubbled up since the previous WHYBW that I’ve reviewed elsewhere:
I’ll be reviewing The Alienist (US: TNT; UK: Netflix) at some point very soon, as well as anything else that shows up, so that means that after the jump, I’ll be dealing with the usual regulars: Alone Together, The Brave, Burden of Truth, Cardinal, Engrenages (Spiral), Great News, Happy!, The Magicians, SEAL Team, Star Trek: Discovery and Will & Grace. Most of these are on their way out as we reach mid-season, but one of them will receive a promotion and one of them will get dropped. Can you guess which?
Oh, and there’s been another episode of both Black Lightning and The Resident. That was speedy, hey?
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Alone Together (US: Freeform)
1×2 – Road Trip
After a surprisingly good first episode, episode two was a surprisingly bad affair, filled with millennial snippiness rather than endearing put downs. The two stars are doing their best to be spoiled and hateful, but they really achieved it in this episode, in which they were dicks to each other and their friends.
Not without wit, but the wrong kind. I’ll see how episode three pans out, but I might have to revise my previous rule to: “Friends should never write and star in more than one episode of a TV show.”
Episode reviews: 1
Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)
1×2 – Lawanda: The Book of Hope
A surprisingly dull, talky second episode in which Black Lightning barely features at all, while everyone muses about the whether he should come out of retirement or not. It’s all very conventional superhero stuff that Daredevil did a whole lot better and with considerably less cringe-worthy dialogue. The writing for the gangs is so stereotypical, so 70s blaxploitation it seems hard to believe it’s anything other than a deliberate homage to Shaft, too.
It’s going to be a whole lot better as a show when it stops angsty and starts punching, since when Black Lightning does appear it’s about 1000% better. It just needs to do it quickly.
Episode reviews: 1
The Brave (US: NBC)
1×12 – Close to Home: Part 1
James Tupper – Anne Heche’s ex, as of just after this episode – turns up as Anne Heche’s in-story ex in a somewhat tried and tested “bad spy plays mind games with the regular cast” script that works far better when it just Heche and Tupper doing flashbacks. The McGuffin of a hacker who can sabotage submerged submarines from afar is nonsense, of course (you try getting a good internet connection at the bottom of the sea).
Burden of Truth (Canada: CBC)
1×2 – The Ties That Bind
Well the mystery of what caused everyone’s illnesses got solved pretty quickly thanks to Kreuk’s epidemiologist-lawyer. You think I’m joking when I say that, but the woman sure does know her biology. A little bit less judgey than the previous episode and the dialogue’s a bit better, but the kids are no less stupid than they were before.
Episode reviews: 1
Great News (US: NBC)
2×12 – The Fast Track
A scattershot of plot developments, with Chuck’s attempts to return to doing actual journalism after years of anchoring turning out to be the episode’s highlight. Come on NBC – renew it!
Episode reviews: 1-2
The Resident (US: Fox)
1×2 – Independence Day
As seems to be traditional these days, episode 2 of the ‘dickish doctors do dangerously dickish things’ show has had a bit of a retooling. Everyone’s less dickish, we’ve had the arrival of CSI: NY‘s Melina Kanakaredes as a new, only slightly dickish cancer doctor, the writers have suddenly remembered that nurses actually do things in hospitals, giving Emily VanCamp something to do (although they still don’t know exactly what it is they do, just that it’s something not as good as doctoring, apparently), and the fact that Bruce Greenwood is going around killing people is less of a concern. It’s also far less cynical, with a rousing speech from our resident at the end not getting the “ah, get over yourself” response it would have got in the previous episode, but a “well done, big guy” response instead.
That said, it’s still not all milk and cookies. The episode revolves around competing demands for a donor heart, with rich old powerful white guy and bright young black teacher both in need, making Greenwood and Matt Czuchry play transactional blackmail cover-ups with each other to get what they want for their patients. Kanakaredes is possibly manipulating clinical trials for her own gain and VanCamp apparently became a nurse because you get to do doctoring and spend time with patients but without the stress, not because she’s got some innate calling or love of care.
Better but more ordinary overall, but it does make you wonder if every single doctor in the place is going to get arrested at some point.
Episode reviews: 1
SEAL Team (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)
1×12 – The Upside Down
Action, tension and the return of the first-person shooter, night-vision style direction of earlier episodes in an otherwise ordinary episode. The show’s also becoming a little less plausible as we go on, with various computing terms being bandied around nonsensically.
Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)
1×12 – Vaulting Ambitions
As we head towards the finale, more twists and turns are being spooled out, often more rapidly than they should be for the plot to make sense. Quite a good reveal this episode, but the story as a whole is sabotaged by the fact that (spoiler alert) (spoiler alert) Empress Michelle Yeoh of the racist, fear-driven parallel earth is a big softie and Burnham is willing to give her top Federation secrets that could enable her to travel to their universe and start a war. But reasonably exciting nevertheless.
Episode reviews: 1-2
Cardinal (Canada: CTV; UK: BBC Four)
2×3 – Terri
I nearly gave up on this after 10 minutes, but I managed to get to the end by basically accepting this season as a decent, intelligent if not especially extraordinary procedural. However, I’m not into procedurals, so I think I’m going to give up on this.
Engrenages (Spiral) (France: Canal+; UK: BBC Four)
I keep forgetting that Engrenages actually translates better as ‘cogs’ than ‘spiral’, since everything is wheels within wheels. Two episodes that vindicate the effort put into earlier efforts, while still confirming that Laure’s outfit of cops are the least competent ones in France. Karlsson went a bit dark, too, didn’t she?
Happy! (US: Syfy)
1×6 – The Scrapyard of Childish Things
And a promotion for Happy!, at last. I did watch back the first episode to see if I’d misjudged it, but no, it’s clearly a show that’s evolved over time, so I’m promoting the show as it is now, rather than when it started, back with Nick Sax was a dick and Happy was a little too knowing and irritating, rather than sweet and caring.
This episode was basically the Toy Story 3 of the series, potentially making grown men and women cry. While it somewhat repeated the events of the previous episode, giving us once again a Happy/Nick split, it worked better as it allowed both characters to come into their own and learn from one another, oddly enough. We also got the usual barmy dialogue, with the likes of “The Sax family crest is two lions carrying the banner ‘Death before intimacy'”.
Kudos to Chris Meloni, BTW, for his vocal work with Mr Toad, too.
The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: Channel 5)
3×2 – Heroes and Morons
The quest continues on both worlds. I’m not sure much more needs to be said than that, but there is some epic nerding out going on.
Will & Grace (US: NBC; UK: Channel 5)
9×10 – The Wedding
Another episode that felt a bit more old school than previous episodes, perhaps in part thanks to the return of Bobby Cannavale as Will’s ex. Is it my imagination or is Cannavale having a bit of a renaissance and actually becoming bearable? First Mr Robot, now this – it’s very odd.
Episode reviews: 9×1