It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
Gosh. Isn’t a quiet? I can’t remember when a July was this quiet for TV worldwide. I wonder what’s up?
There have been a least a few new shows for me to review in the past week. Elsewhere, I cast my eye over the first episode of What We Do In the Shadows spin-off Wellington Paranormal as well as the whole of Netflix’s first Indian original, Sacred Games.
But given the sparsity of viewing options, I had a look over Amazon to see what I could try to play catch up with. First stop was the second season of You Are Wanted. All was looking good for about a minute before I discovered that despite being an Amazon Original and despite the first season having been available with its original German dialogue, season two is only available dubbed in the UK.
FFS. No, thank you, Amazon.
Or so I thought until 10 seconds ago. Turns out that you have to specifically seek out the separate “English subtitled” version, rather than the normal version in order to get the German dialogue. Seriously, Amazon, could you not just have two audio tracks on your video?
I’ll probably watch the proper German one on holiday then.
While I was busily and inaccurately cursing Amazon, though, I did find something else to try, so after the jump, following on from TMINE’s first ever Indian show, I’ll be talking about the first African TV show TMINE’s tackled in rather a long time: Jongo. And on top of that, I finally got round to watching the rest of Cobra Kai.
However, that’s about it. I hope they’re not saving all the new shows for August when TMINE is on its holidays.
Upon which subject, this is going to be the last WHYBW for a good while, since TMINE’s holidays start next week! No reviews, no news, no slightly niche TV observations from next Monday for at least four weeks, I’m afraid. However, I’ll be back from mid-August, so although the Daily News probably won’t be back until September (on the general grounds there usually isn’t much news since everyone’s on holiday) and it’ll take me some time to play catch-up (although, thanks EU!), blogging could resume at any time from that point onwards. So stay tuned. At least from mid-August.
Normally at this point pre-holidays, I’d play my usual July game of “Can I be bothered catching up with this show when I get back?” However, all the usuals are now on the recommended list, so you can probably guess that I will definitely be catching up with Condor, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger and Shooter when I get back. Oh well, so much for that fun. Maybe next year.
Anyway, I’ll be telling you about their latest episodes after the jump, too, so see you in a mo.
Jongo (South Africa: e.tv; UK: Amazon)
It’s been six years since I last looked at an African TV show – more specifically, a South African sci-fi show – and I’m not saying Room 9 put me off watching its like ever again, but it didn’t exactly inspire me enough to watch even its second episode. But while Room 9 required me to hunt out The Africa Channel on the Sky box, Amazon was throwing Jongo in my face, more or less, so I decided to give it a go.
And it’s not awful. It sees dancer Pacou Mutombo playing – in a big leap here – a dancer. One day he learns his father has been murdered and soon he’s investigating what happens, only to discover a mysterious blue crystal that gives him super-powers. That might even have been why his father was killed. However, little does he know the crystal is not only very important to the entire history of the human race, it’s one of a set of four, each with its own powers, and some quite bad men may already have at least one of the others.
On the negative side, it’s terribly acted by just about everyone, although Mutombo can at least dance. It’s also got the same level of budget as Glaswegian superhero movie Night is Day.
But on the plus side, there was nothing totally cringeworthy about the dialogue, there is at least an interesting idea at its core, and there’s even some location filming at UNESCO world heritage site the Cradle of Humankind (that might be a plot clue).
So I might well give the rest of it go. It’s only 8×30 mins episodes, so that’s basically a plane flight, isn’t it?
Cobra Kai (YouTube Premium)
What a cracker. As we saw with Impulse, YouTube is finally getting its act together and producing some very good TV shows. I wasn’t expecting Cobra Kai to be one of those shows, based on the quality of its predecessors and its trailer, which seemed to suggest that it was going to trash the memory of The Karate Kid. But the first two episodes were really good and now it turns out that the rest of the season is great, too.
Following on from those initial two episodes, we get to see our ‘hero’ establishing his new dojo and building up a business, all while still being a dick. His star pupil becomes a surrogate son to him, which is ironic because (spoiler alert) his actual son ends up working for Danny La Russo and becoming his karate pupil.
The season overall is like a mature, moderately more realistic and nuanced reworking of The Karate Kid from the point of view of the Cobra Kai. It shows why downtrodden kids might embrace the bad while still thinking they’re good, because at least they don’t get mistreated any more but the mean kids. It also shows how history can repeat itself, sometimes deliberately, sometimes because past events end up funnelling us into certain types of behaviour. Good can become bad, bad can become good, but everyone still has shades of grey. But you’ve got to have a code or else you’ll go astray.
It’s also properly funny at times, such as one scene in about episode seven or eight that ends up with breakfast. I won’t say more, but it’s how they get to breakfast that makes it work.
While the coordination of the karate fights is a little clumsy and the karate seems to almost become capoeira at times, Cobra Kai also manages to not only rework the movie’s plot and homage it, but to honour its karate philosophy. There’s also a lovely tribute episode to Pat Morita and while Elisabeth Shue doesn’t make a reappearance, other actors from the movie do and are very welcome, and Shue’s character is actually well referenced by the plot. Plus Ed Asner cameos as Lawrence Sr.
I have to say, I was really impressed by the whole season. It’s a genuinely good bit of television, as well as something that respects its source material while not repeating it or sticking slavishly to it. The set-up for the second season (already commissioned) is really good, and I’m also hoping for fine things from the LaRusso daughter next season, too, given her display towards the end.
The good news is that you can watch this properly on subscription or as part of a free trial, since YouTube Red is now available in the UK, but retitled as YouTube Premium. But I’ll tell you more about that later in the week. Probably.
Reviews: Initial review
Condor (US: Audience)
1×5 – From Innocence
A promotion this week for Condor, mainly because I was watching it and realising that although it was obviously completely preposterous, I was prepared to suspend my disbelief, which not many shows can do. Despite a lack of philosophy this week, the episode also managed to stay strong, finally rehabilitating its hero/heroine relationship sufficiently for the viewer to forgive its earlier missteps, while also revealing that no, it’s not mere serendipity that it’s got two Israeli actors in prominent positions in the cast – there is indeed a point to it all.
Meanwhile, Brendan Fraser thinks he’s in a comedy. It’s a marvellous counterpose to the rest of the show, which takes itself otherwise very seriously.
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger (US: Freeform: UK: Amazon)
1×7 – Lotus Eaters
The first episode to really bring our hero and heroine together to use their powers to solve a situation and one that worked pretty well at that. The episode title is an obvious – if somewhat odd – reference to The Odyssey, of course, but it’s even more oblique than The Last Ship‘s references were last year, if not as explicit, thankfully. The young actors are growing on me, too, even if their acting talents aren’t.
Reviews: Initial review
Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix)
3×4 – The Importance of Service
Slightly disappointing, in that it’s the first episode I can think of since the show started that didn’t feel like it was written by someone who was either Southern or was aiming at the usual audience. (“It’s people like you who give the South a bad name” – sure, Southerners talk like that, right?). I’m also finding the b-team’s exploits slightly trying and I don’t believe in Bob Lee Swagger being unknown enough now that he can go undercover anywhere.
That said, strong in the action department at least.