It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
It’s the last WHYBW for a fortnight, as TMINE is off on its Easter holidays next week. Naturally, a whole bunch of new shows have been timed to coincide with this, presumably as part of some super-villain’s masterplan to give me a stress-induced heart attack.
In the past week, I’ve reviewed (and even previewed):
On top of that, I’ll be looking at ABC (US)’s Splitting Up Together and Roseanne after the jump, too. But I’ve still got Trust (US: FX; UK: Sky Atlantic) and The Terror (US: AMC; UK: AMC Global) in the viewing queue, although there’s a little time before they air in the UK, so if I don’t manage to work my way through them in the next couple of days, I’ll do my best when I get back. Let’s see how it goes.
Counterpart and Will & Grace were on holiday this week, so after the jump, as well as Roseanne and Splitting Up Together, I’ll be looking at the usual regulars: Black Lightning, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, The Good Fight, Harow, Instinct, The Looming Tower, The Magicians, SEAL Team and Timeless, as well as the returning Silicon Valley.
Splitting Up Together (US: ABC)
An adaptation of Denmark’s Bedre skilt end aldrig by Suburgatory‘s Emily Kapnek that sees Jenna Fischer (The Office) and Oliver Hudson (Rules of Engagement, Nashville) playing a newly divorcing couple. For the sake of the kids, Fischer lives in the house, while Hudson lives in the garage – for a week, after which they swap. However, the process of the divorce makes them think again about their relationship anew and perhaps even start to fall back in love again.
I am a fan of Kapnek and this episode is often funny in a trademark smart Kapnek way, particularly when a young woman comes round to visit Hudson (that’s in the trailer below but with better timing in the episode). I like Fischer, too, and she’s a sympathetic and amusing presence. But Hudson’s interchangeable enough as an actor that for half the episode I thought he was Undateable‘s Chris D’Elia and the plot wasn’t exactly innovative. It also feels like there’s not a huge amount of thought gone into it – there’s a reasonably funny sight gag about centipedes (it’s also in the trailer), but after a couple more lines of dialogue, the centipedes just disappear for the rest of the scene. What happened to the poor little mini-beasts, hey?
A few sparks of life, but overall, I think it’s time to call it a day on this one.
Roseanne (US: ABC)
If Will & Grace was a perfect example of how to do a revival of an old sitcom well, Roseanne is the complete opposite – a joyless cash-in, despite managing to reunite much of the original cast. It sees Roseanne Barr and John Goodman still both alive (despite episodes to the contrary) although maybe not as well, and still living with not just Sara Gilbert but pretty much everyone else in their family, including their grandkids. Meanwhile, Roseanne and Laurie Metcalf are a-feuding because Roseanne voted Trump and Metcalf… didn’t.
There are attempts to someone make the show politically relevant, with Barr as the poster child of deplorables everywhere, but a combination of Roseanne’s atrophied acting and some really weak lines mean the show inadvertently has more to say HMOs – inadvertently, in the sense that it thinks that the drug sharing scheme that Goodman and Barr work is somehow sensible and a fact of life, rather than a horrific example of what happens when you don’t have a socialised healthcare scheme. When it does try to say something, it’s basically Roseanne screeching “Make America Great Again”.
All in all, despite the presence of Scrubs‘ Sarah Chalke in this episode, a real laughter wasteland. I won’t be back for more.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
3×16 – I, Ava
An unnecessary attempt to give time agent Ava a background that she really doesn’t need. Like virtually everything in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, it also doesn’t make the slightest lick of sense, but that’s not new, either. A ‘tragic’ death didn’t really add anything to proceedings either.
But attempts to explain various aspects of Islam to Rory were moderately amusing and Neal McDonough seems to having the time of his life in some pretty well done comedic scenes.
Harrow (Australia: ABC)
1×3 – Hic Sunt Dracones
It feels like it’s going to be a few more episodes before I really get the measure of Harrow. The latest episode was again, just different enough from the previous episodes that I’m not quite sure what the show is doing. On the one hand, a decent mystery involving a crocodile and a body part. On the other, quite comedic, with Harrow getting jealous of a handsome local investigator that his potential girlfriend might take a shine to (although it’s Ioan Gruffudd – are you blind woman!). It’s also moving away from its House/Forever foundations, with Harrow’s encyclopaedic knowledge of boats making everyone else think him a bit of a nerd, rather than branding him a genius.
It’s still all very watchable and likeable, though, and the serial element of the show is enough in the background now that it’s stopped overshadowing the episodic content – oddly, I actually prefer that. The forensics were sufficiently detailed to be intellectually exciting. Gruffudd’s relationship with Mirrah Foulkes is plausible and moving at a decent pace, rather than being teased out over a season.
Lots of plusses, all in all, but who knows what the next episode will bring?
Episode reviews: 1-2
Instinct (US: CBS; UK: Sky Living)
1×2 – Wild Game
Pretty much the same as the first episode, with our heroes investigating a ritual killing, Alan Cumming being charming (even if not written as such) and Naveen Andrews sitting in a chair. Somewhat bizarrely, the show also tries to reset the clock a bit, with Cumming having apparently decided not to help the police any more in between episodes, while Bojana Novakovic has decided she doesn’t want a partner, either. By the end of the episode, they’ve both changed their minds and we’re back to exactly where things were at the end of the first episode.
Episode reviews: 1
The Looming Tower (US: Hulu; UK: Amazon)
1×6 – Boys at War
The action moves on to the bombing of the USS Hood – amazing how much even quite recent history you can forget, isn’t it? – but for the most part, it’s unnecessary things involving Jeff Daniels losing his briefcase. A well directed and well written episode, but it all feels a bit like the show’s treading water now.
Episode reviews: 1-3
SEAL Team (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)
1×16 – Never Get Out of the Boat
Good shootouts. Otherwise, pretty predictable and the fact that the Big Bads are becoming like a set of Russian dolls is getting a bit annoying.
Timeless (US: NBC; UK: E4)
2×3 – Hollywoodland
Timeless appears to have a knack these days for tapping into other shows’ trends but without anyone really noticing. This week, it managed to hit two bang-on references. Just as Bombshell is in cinemas and only a few months after we had Hedy Lamarr show up (not especially auspiciously) in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, now we have Timeless‘s far superior version of the Hollywood actress and inventor, with Vikings‘ Alyssa Sutherland even bothering to try out Lamarr’s Austrian accent. At the same time, in the same week Black Lightning name-checked Langston Hughes, Timeless got one of its heroes to pretend to be the aforementioned jazz poet.
Plenty of fun old school Hollywood references, but obviously, the two big things in the episode were (spoiler) (spoiler alert) the bizarre non-sequitur resurrection of Wyatt’s dead wife at the end, just after Wyatt and Lucy slept together. What can they be planning to do there? And why was he there in the first place?
Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)
1×10 – Sins of the Father: The Book of Redemption
While the supernatural side of things is quite silly, this episode felt like it was an attempt to dampen down previous episodes’ silliness while also giving a surprisingly insightful look at poor black-American life. Also the first time I’ve seen a decent superhero show fight in which the sidekick’s useful and the two superheroes work together properly. Yes, even better than Adam West and Burt Ward in Batman.
The Good Fight (US: CBS All Access; UK: More4)
2×4 – Day 429
After ricin last week, an introduction to another hazard of modern lawyering – active shooter training. More interesting was the change in storytelling technique, as we get a look at first one case, then another case, both of which inform the other without our having realised it. Also notable for no fewer than three The Good Wife characters showing up, Mamie Gummer for the first time in The Good Fight.
The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: Channel 5)
3×11 – Twenty-Three
Despite involving an alternative timeline, quite a major episode that does some big things to the show’s dynamics, while also retaining the comedy. It also made me realise how much I’d missed ‘the Beast’, including his little theme tune.
Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
5×1 – Grow Fast or Die Slow
The return of the once needle-accurate skewering of tech companies isn’t quite as welcome as it was a few years ago, but it is still welcome since it still has a reasonable amount to say, it turns out. The departure of TJ Miller has, of course, shifted the show slightly, but he isn’t that missed, since he was the least subtle aspect of the show. Plenty of good gags, including a nice Facebook sight gag in the title sequence, mean it’s going to remain a mainstay of viewing in the near-term at least.