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What have you been watching? Including Britannia and Black Lightning

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week

The Winter Olympics is over! Isn’t it? I think it is. I have to admit I’ve not been paying it any attention.

But it seems to be over, judging by the fact we’re starting to get some new shows again in the US. I’ve already reviewed CBS’s Living Biblically this week and at some point in the next few days, I’ll also be casting a critical eye of Good Girls and The Looming Tower. I’m skipping that Biggie and Tupac thing (Ed: Unsolved), on the general grounds it’s a mini-series, a biopic and an anthology, which is a fatal triple combination.

I might give Heathers a go, if I can be arsed, but I’ve not seen the original and other reviews haven’t been kind. I might give Canada’s Crawford and Little Dog a whirl, too, assuming I can find both a way to watch them and the time.

But that’s all for the next week to reveal. Until then, after the jump, I’ll be looking at the current regulars: Black Lightning, Corporate, Counterpart, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, High Maintenance and The Magicians. And since I had a little time to spare, I finally caught up with the final four episodes of Britannia.

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Denis Leary

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Living Biblically

Review: Living Biblically 1×1 (US: CBS)

In the US: Mondays, 9:30/8:30c, CBS

The Bible is full of guidance on how to live your life. However, it was written a long time ago, so while certain bits of advice are timeless (eg “Love thy neighbour”), some of the more specific parts, particularly from the more detailed sections at the beginning, don’t really work as well in modern society and may even not have made much sense in the first place.

For example, there’s plenty about what to eat and drink that would have prevented outbreaks of food poisoning in a hot Middle Eastern country that didn’t have refrigerators, for example, but bacon’s a pretty safe food stuff in most countries now. Meanwhile, rules about how women should be treated when they’re menstruating really don’t cut the mustard any more (Leviticus 15: “Whenever a woman has her menstrual period, she will be ceremonially unclean for seven days. Anyone who touches her during that time will be unclean until evening… On the eighth day she must bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons and present them to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle”) .

Anyone who decides to stick to the word of the Bible (and all the words at that) is going to have their work cut out for them and probably get some strange looks, too. Indeed, such a source of comedy (and education to some extent) is this idea, it’s already been a best-selling book called The Year of Living Biblically, which has now been turned into a US sitcom, Living Biblically.

Strange rules

This sees tepid Catholic Jay R Ferguson playing a newspaper film critic whose best friend has died really. Then atheist/agnostic wife (Lindsey Kraft) reveals that she’s pregnant and Ferguson starts to search for more meaning to his life.

So he turns to his Catholicism and the Bible for inspiration in his time of need, deciding to live as closely as possible to the Good Book’s teaching, in order to be the best father possible – something that his new priest (Cougar Town‘s Ian Gomez) and his Rabbi friend David Krumholtz (Numb3rs) both find to lie somewhere between commendable and borderline insane.

Episode one of the show sets up all the characters, including Ferguson’s very un-newspaper-like workplace, while putting Ferguson through the mildest of challenges – to not wear fabrics of more than one material (Leviticus 19:19: “Keep my decrees. Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material”).

Slightly more interestingly, the show also challenges him to stone an adulterer (Deuteronomy 22:22: “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die”), which is a least a little brave, since he does actually go through with it.

However, it does indicate that maybe the focus is going to be completely on the Old Testament (otherwise, John 8:11: “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”…When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”), since that offers the most opportunities for laughs, although not for depth or any real guidance.

Living Biblically

Simple sitcom

However, that’s really the show’s only source of laughs, since everything concocted to provide a framework for this quasi-biblical scholarship is pretty limp. It’s actually relatively amiable stuff for a single-camera CBS sitcom and ultimately this is still a show about someone trying to be nice to other people. But of laughs, there were but a few – certainly nowhere near enough to feed 5,000, let alone 15 million viewers.

Indeed, amiable is the best that can be said about the show. The cast are okay, but not hugely charismatic. The moral dilemmas are minimal and trite. Jokes are formulaic.

Still, if you want a little biblical education that’s largely set in a bar, you could do worse.


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Thor: Ragnarok
Film reviews

Movie Monday: Thor – Ragnarok (2017)

Once in a while on Monday, TMINE will review the select few movies it’s had time to watch when it’s not been watching TV. The film reviews A-Z lists every film ever reviewed here

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a varied one. It has the James Bond-style adventures of an African King in Black Panther, the West Coast techno-adventures of Iron Man, the outer space comedy of Guardians of the Galaxy and the magical, reality-warping drama of Doctor Strange. Even within individual franchises, there’s diversity. Captain America was a Rocketeer-styled World War 2 period drama, for example, while Captain America 2 was more of a gritty Parallax View piece of spying.

So you never know what you’re going to get with any given Marvel movie. Thor began as a romance, in which geeky scientist Natalie Portman discovers that the buff bloke she met on a New Mexico road is really Thor, the Norse god of Thunder, exiled from Asgard and looking for redemption, if only his mischievous brother Loki will let him return home.

Thor 2: Dark World was a little bit funnier, but a little bit more of the same, as Thor helps protect the Earth from some Dark Elves who are after Portman. No one really liked it, particularly since there’s literally no way to get the Northern Line from Charing Cross to Greenwich, certainly not in the middle of a battle.

Thor: Ragnarok

Now we have Thor: Ragnarok. Fans of Norse myth will of course know that Ragnarok is the prophesied end of the gods, when giant wolves, serpents and the like come to kill the gods, so expectations were naturally for something a bit sombre, particularly since the Marvel franchises come in packs of at most three movies (eg Iron Man, Captain America) so this was also set to be the last of the Thor movies. Then, of course, there’s Cate Blanchett playing Hella, the Norse goddess of Death. Again, a move that didn’t suggest laughs a minute.

Certainly, watching Thor: Ragnarok, there is an underlying sadness to proceedings, when favourite character after favourite character from previous movies meets a quick and untimely death. But in the hands of director Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark, What We Do in the Shadows), it’s fair to say that Thor: Ragnarok is also the funniest Marvel movie to date. Seriously, it makes Guardians of the Galaxy look like a Ken Loach movie at times.

That’s despite Thor losing his mighty hammer Mjölnir, splitting up from Portman and landing up on a planet where he has to fight to the death for Jeff Goldblum against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

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