It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week/month
I’m calling it – summer season is dead. It has ceased to be. It is an ex-season.
Before TMINE went away on its holidays, I pointed out how quiet July had been worldwide, but while I was away, the number of new shows has been small. Very small. Castle Rock (US: Hulu) and Dead Lucky (Australia: ABC) were released and Netflix gave us Insatiable, but that was basically it.
Sure, there have been returning shows, but new shows haven’t had a look-in and a lot of shows that used to air over July and August have postponed their returns until the end of the month or September. That even includes the final season of The Lost Ship, which was filmed a year ago, so production concerns clearly weren’t stopping it from being aired in its usual slot.
I’m guessing that ratings haven’t held up for any TV shows. Probably because everyone’s been on holiday. Or maybe it’s because of my fearsome “if it starts in August, I won’t review it rule.” That’s probably it, isn’t it? Still, it does make my life easier.
Thankfully, new shows have already started coming online. Netflix has this very day given us Ghoul, The Innocents and Deadwind, while Amazon has woken up again and is giving us Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan next week. I’ll try to watch some, if not all of them, and give you at least one Boxset next week. After that, I’ll be struggling to catch up with the release schedule, with new Iron Fist coming, The Last Ship back, and season two of Ozark due on 31st.
In the meantime, I’ve been continuing with the usual viewing queue, although that’s now down to just Shooter, given Condor and Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger finished their runs while I was on holiday. All of them I’ll discuss after the jump.
I also scoured around for new shows to watch, as well. Of the shows I mentioned last time, I could never quite bring myself to watch the rest of Jongo but I made a brave stab at the properly subtitled second season of You Are Wanted. I also managed to catch the movie version of Stargate: Origins, and started a new French show: Au service de la France (A Very Secret Service). But we can talk about all of those after the jump.
Au service de la France (A Very Secret Service) (France: Arte; UK: Netflix)
Normally, French comedies are eminently missable (cf Dix pour cent) and spy comedies as a genre are just as a missable (cf Killing Eve for my last rundown of the genre’s failings). So I wasn’t expecting much from Au service de la France, despite the marvellous spy credentials of Le bureau des légendes (The Bureau).
However, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the three episodes I’ve watched so far, which have been a sort of Mad Men meets W1A set in the world of spying. It sees Hugo Becker (Baron Noir) playing a naïve idealistic Frenchman recruited to the French secret service, after which he’s instantly submerged in the bureaucracy of an organisation that’s got certain old-school ideas, as well as almost Kafka-esque rules of its own (“Why did you pick up the phone next to you?” “It was ringing so I picked it up.” “I do not understand your logic.” After which, Becker is suddenly placed in charge of a diplomatic incident because he was the one who picked up the phone… and you never pick up the phone).
The first episode is more witty than funny, although there’s a touch of the Monty Python at times, too, such as when Becker goes from door to door looking for his office, only to discover all manner of things happening behind closed doors. But later episodes amuse through the building up of regular gags. Pretty much every episode involves yet another (always unnamed) African colony of France wanting independence and everyone except Becker being astonishingly, ludicrously racist about Africans, the show satirising French attitudes of the time marvellously (“Without French doctors, how will you survive?” “We have doctors of our own”; “Torture doesn’t work! Except in Algeria, of course.” “Of course”). Germans turn up speaking perfect French, except no one but Becker can understand them apparently (“What is this gibberish?” “He said he works for the West German Secret Service.” “You speak German?”). Old Germans are tested for Naziness with subtle multiple-choice questions (“How long was the Third Reich supposed to last? One month, one year or 1,000 years?”). There’s also a nice line in sight gags sending up the French public sector’s notorious tardiness, with the same group of people constantly waiting in reception to be seen each episode.
Becker’s appealing, the rest of the cast amusing, and the script subtler and sparkier than you might expect. The period chic is also beautifully realised. You’ll probably have to have semi-decent French (and sometimes German) to understand certain nuances (such as why everyone laughs at how certain words are pronounced by Africans), but what you miss if you don’t won’t affect your viewing. I’m going to stick with it for the remaining episodes and maybe even season two, which has just been added to Netflix.
Dead Lucky (Australia: SBS)
Rachel Griffiths plays a tough cop who doesn’t play by the rules who wants to avenge the death of her partner. Yawn, hey? And yep, I barely made it to the end of the first episode of this, particularly as it’s so sad to see an actress of Griffiths’ talent running through tedious cop clichés such as those and the likes of “not taking the psychiatric sessions seriously after a traumatic incident”.
But as it’s SBS, don’t be surprised that there’s a cultural/diversity aspect to the show. Indeed, where it’s actually interesting is when you get a look at Australian attitudes to immigrants and how the system works, such as with the corner shop owner who employs students for more than the 20 hours a week they’re allowed on their visas because they can’t afford to live otherwise – and whose wife then threatens to get them deported as a result. However, this is all handled so badly, with racists just hammy caricatures who are easily satirised (“Your parents were immigrants”), any political points tended to get squelched out of existence.
All in all, not a good use of my time – or Griffiths’.
Stargate: Origins (2018) (Stargate Command)
Not much to add about the movie that I didn’t already say in my review of the first three episodes. However, it does get a bit worse after the first three episodes and basically becomes a little sillier and more or less retreads the plot of the original movie. Fight scenes are a bit fan video-ish and Germans mysteriously spend half their time talking to each other in English, even switching mid-conversation for no good reasons. The final “get out” as to why Catherine remembers none of this later on is very much a cop-out, too, but probably the best they could do in the circumstances.
Still, not bad overall, enjoyable enough and a lot better than you might have expected. £13.99 good? Nah.
You Are Wanted (season two) (Amazon)
Amazon’s first German-language original had a disappointing start, so I didn’t have high expectations going in this time, despite the presence of Michael Landes in the cast. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it beyond the fourth episode, as it really just wasn’t very good at all.
The first season had a certain pretence at saying something – that in the age of a connected society, with everything digital, so much can be found out about us that our lives can be destroyed by anyone with technical expertise, to the extent that we can be made to do terrible things to avoid being blackmailed. Season two doesn’t even that, instead becoming a simple hunt for a laptop containing the ‘Burning Man’ program that enables everything to be hacked. There are Germans, Chinese and Americans all chasing after it, but not very well, and our hero spends all his time just running around a lot and shouting. Meanwhile, we have the unsupportive wife continuing to be a dick towards him because that’s what the script requires.
Landes gives the show a certain oomph, but the show’s silliness undermines what little assets it does have, particularly with one character who was literally blown up last season returning this season in the hope that he can get a microchip embedded in his spine.
You may notice that I did my notes while on holiday and they’re a little sketchier than normal…
Condor (US: Audience)
1×6 – No Such Thing
Surprise deaths. Everyone feeling sad.
1×7 – Within a Dark Wood
Aptly named because our hero basically just hangs around in a wood while everyone else does things. But it’ll be fun to see how the big change to the original narrative pans out.
1×8 – A Question of Compromise, 1×9 – Death is the Harvest, 1×10 – Mistrust Blossoms
I watched these in one go so they kind of blurred into one another. Generally, though, surprising twists, with lots of cast deaths (no clues), but the final episode was a bit disappointing, despite the venture to Florence, since everything gets solved rather too quickly, despite the rather interesting set-up – even if the good guys know about what’s going to happen, should they stop it as it’ll make things just as bad in the era of ‘Fake News’. A good riff on the movie’s ending, too, and a really impressive and timely recreation of the Hajj, with a nuanced portrayal of muslims, to boot. However, it feels like the show never really soared beyond the source material and where it wasn’t that good, it was more because of it was adapting than its own problems.
Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger (US: Freeform: UK: Amazon)
1×8 – Ghost Stories
Cloak gets his cloak. Everyone gets to be supernatural. Someone gets literally fridged.
1×9 – Back Breaker
Actually using Campbell’s the ‘Hero’s journey’ in story to explain why the heroes are doing the stupid things they’re doing is a bit near the knuckle, I think, but strong stuff all the same.
1×10 – Colony Collapse
Widespread murder. Stark and Rand get a shout out. New powers are revealed. There’s a nice twist on cloak’s cloak. It all gets a bit Ringu at the end, too. Overall, a low-key but decent, adult and decidedly different piece of Marvel superhero fun that used its settings to good effect.
Reviews: Initial review
Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix)
3×5 – A Call To Arms
More flying around. Efficient fights. Phillippe got better? I keep forgetting to mention that it’s nice to see David Andrews in this, having talked about Pulaski so much recently.
3×7 – Swing Vote
Less exciting. Less about the characters. Generic. Managing to keep the right side of silly, though
3×8 – The Red Badge
The conspiracy theory us being handled about as well as a conspiracy theory can be handled.
3×9 – Alpha Dog
No marine martial arts, surprisingly, despite the obvious opportunity. Attempts to tie the old source material into the alt right is interesting. A little sad to see the usual ‘unsupportive wife’ trope. But getting some interservice rivalry back again was nice (“You could be navy, the way you do press-ups”).
3×10 – Orientation Day
The usual problem of “now they’ve captured the good guys in the middle of nowhere where they won’t be missed, why don’t the bad guys just kill them?” I am finding this season to be distinctly lacklustre now and I suspect that unless it improves, I’ll be skipping season four.