It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
The Winter Olympics continues to have its chilling effect on TV programming, with an almost glacial release of new shows and plenty of old shows frozen in their tracks. Elsewhere, I’ve reviewed Stargate Origins (Stargate Command) and Here and Now (US: HBO). But that’s been the lot, more or less, in the past week. That does mean, though, that I’ve been able to christen a new movie feature on TMINE this week, Movie Monday, to take in film reviews, which means WHYBW can now focus on tele.
Black Lightning‘s on holiday this week, so that just leaves us with the remaining usual regulars: Corporate, Counterpart, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, High Maintenance and The Magicians, as well as the season finale of Baron Noir. Two of them are getting a promotion – can you guess which ones?
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
3×11 – Here I Go Again
The show’s obligatory Groundhog Day episode finally arrived and it was quintessential Legends of Tomorrow. As well as being a bottle episode, there were meta-references aplenty (“Have you done the bit where you get to let loose without consequences?” “Yes, I did the whole montage scene”) as our cockup-tastic gang mess things up and are silly at all turns. Simultaneously, though, a much-needed character development episode, with everyone getting a moment to shine in the sun.
Baron Noir (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon)
I have to admit the time jumps in Baron Noir confused me a little. One episode, it’s November and our hero is confronting his daughter as she tries to change her name and hide from him; a couple of episodes later, without notice, it’s months later and she’s suggesting proudly he should be president. Since the subtitles are managing to stay competent, I’m not blaming them for a change, but it’s certainly making following the emotional arc of characters harder.
That said, still glorious French philosophising about politics and political strategies, the purpose of the Left, the Centre and the Right, the role of social media in politics. And a conclusion to episode eight (and the second season) that looks like the show will finally be heading in the direction it promised from the outset.
Overall, a cracking season that was better than the first season, but one that left a little too many plot threads hanging for the recently announced third season. Plus a shame about the subtitling of episodes three and four.
Episode reviews: Season 1
Corporate (US: Comedy Central)
1×6 – Casual Friday
Thankfully, last week’s clunker was just a blip, with Casual Friday returning to previous episodes’ former darkly cynical glory. What’s A-plot and what’s B-plot is hard to tell, as they’re so closely bound up. Lance Reddick is busily trying to get the head of some Christian mega-churches to pay to feature his company logo on Bibles, pews and the like (“We all know there’s no God, but there’s a lot of money to be made from him”).
Meanwhile, our heroes are trying to quell a major crisis: Casual Friday has led to people wearing unconventional clothing and even… no shirts. Oh the horror!
The slow, disastrous, timestamped escalation of Casual Friday as though the Apocalypse is coming is a joy to behold (“I know it’s sexist to tell you, a woman, what’s sexist and what you can wear. But I’m not being sexist: you’re a woman and you can’t not wear a shirt.”), as are the attempts to avoid a-plot seeing b-plot (and vice versa). Do watch this if you can.
Counterpart (US: Starz)
1×5 – Shaking the Tree
A well-earned promotion for Starz’s modern day, metaphysical, Cold War spy thriller. This week: would someone else do a better job with our own lives? Or simply a different one? The show offers a more nuanced hint than the first episode, with Nice JK Simmons proving to be a much better husband and father than his counterpart, while his counterpart proves to be better a spotting things that were right in front of gullible Nice JK’s nose. Plenty of poignant moments, too, as we explore the Olvia Williams-JK Simmons relationships further and we also get to learn (properly) about what’s happened to change the two universes so radically.
It was only a matter of time, of course, but the first major Babylon Berlin actor to pop up in Counterpart is Liv Lisa Fries. She gets to wear a silly hat in this, too.
High Maintenance (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
2×3 – Namaste, 2×4 – Derech, 2×5 – Scromple
Namaste gives us an interesting, almost High Rise episode in which the social divide in a block of flats with subsidised housing is explored. It’s fascinating for us Londoners to hear that subsidised housing both exists in New York and you can get a pretty decent one-bedroom flat with a bathroom for $800 a month. Can we have that here, please?
Meanwhile Derech is the first sequel episode of the series, revisiting a character (maybe two?) of the first season, while also venturing into the world of lapsed orthodox Judaism. Scromple also suggests that there’s a general move this season to a more connected style of storytelling, with ‘the man’s’ ex-wife returning, as well as a greater emphasis on the downside of constant drug use. It’s all painfully well observed, but is it quite as joyful as the first season? I don’t think so. We could do with more of that.
The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: Channel 5)
3×6 – Do You Like Teeth?
Quentin braves the suicide key and Margo braves statutory rape. Plus here there be dragons. The fairies are shaping up to be nicely evil (even more so than before) and there are some good lines, but I do wish events (and the quest) would move a little faster.