It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
September’s just around the corner and TMINE will be resuming normal(ish) service on Monday with the return of the Daily News – although there have been all kinds of exciting developments over August, such as the return of Patrick Stewart to the role of Jean-Luc Picard, which you could have heard about via TMINE’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, if you’d been so inclined. I mean are there other news sources? I don’t think so.
As I mentioned last week, although it’s been very quiet for new TV in both July and August (RIP the summer season), the schedules are about to kick in again. The US networks have already started putting out big clips from their new shows, including Manifest:
Meanwhile, today, Netflix released season two of Ozark and Amazon gave us the return of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan in the imaginatively titled Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, except now he’s played by that bloke from the US version of The Office. I doubt I’ll be able to boxset either of them over the weekend, but I’ll give it a whirl, although it might be next Monday before I can get through one/both of them.
I did promise last week, though, to try to boxset my way through at least one of various new releases last week: Netflix’s Ghoul, The Innocents and Karppi (Deadwind). After all, what were the chances of there being three duffs? Well… We can talk about that after jump.
Also after the jump, I’ll be chatting about the latest episode of Shooter, as well as the rest of the first season of Au service de la France (A Very Secret Service).
I’ll just mention in passing before we pass into that nether-realm that TVNZ has just released the first few episodes of an experimental non-linear show called Alibi. The innovation? You can watch the episodes in any order.
The way we view drama shows is about to change as a new non-linear TVNZ OnDemand series Alibi is about to arrive.
The show will call into question all your preconceived ideas as viewers navigate their way through six suspects’ witness statements given to a detective over the death of a young schoolgirl in Awatahi.
Just like a choose your own ending book, viewers get six episodes to watch and you draw your own conclusions.
The list of suspects includes a gang member, teacher, the local handyman and perhaps the creepiest of all – Father Sebastien, the leader of the local cult.
Who was playing the role of the murderer was even kept from the actors during production.
The final episode will be released on 13 September and that will reveal whodunnit. I imagine you have to watch that one last.
I’ll try to sneak that one in if I can, as I imagine it’ll end up on either Netflix or Amazon at some point. Plus it’s got Joel Tobeck (Xena, Westlife, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Ash vs Evil Dead). I like him.
Three-part Indian horror story set in the “near future”. Yes, warning klaxons rightfully sounded there for you all, I suspect, since we’re in b-movie territory, as terrorist incidents crop up all over India, along with sectarian violence, forcing the government to set up a police state. Radhika Apte (Sacred Games) plays an ‘advanced interrogator’ who’s sent to a top-secret underground prison to interrogate the ringleader, except it seems he might be possessed by a ghoul and capable of all manner of spooky stuff, just by whispering in people’s ears.
The first episode is pretty dull, slightly enlivened by Apte’s Muslim character’s clashes with her fellow Hindus. It’s only in the second episode that the spookiness creeps in, usually with faces appearing on monitor screens in between electronic static. Unfortunately, it’s all pretty by the book stuff, with combinations of jumps and gore, rather than anything too smart, and I was too bored to even start the third and final episode.
While the story does reference US-style, post-9/11 interrogation techniques, such as the constant use of music to wear down suspects through tiredness, not only has that all been done before, it does make me wonder quite a bit about India’s police force, on the back of Sacred Games‘ insistence that a proper cop needs to know how to beat up a suspect.
The Innocents (Netflix)
Tedious teen sci-fi drama, in which a mardy teenage girl has special powers that enable her to look like other people – although not in mirrors – prompting scientist Guy Pearce to want to work out how she does it. That’s as much as I could work out, since I tried very hard to watch this but after two attempts at the first episode, I still hadn’t got any further than about 10 minutes in. It was just so miserable and prosaic, with every miserable and “it’s so unfair”, even if the body swapping was quite well handled. It also had that quality of supposedly being set in the north of England, yet being filled with lots of Scandinavian actors and people living in Scandinavian-looking houses in Scandinavian-looking countryside. Plus Pearce tries to be English, too.
I think there’s supposed to be a ‘teen runaway romance’ element to it, too, which if I’d ever got to that point would probably have automatically disqualified it from my viewing queue. You might like it more than me if you’re half my age, though.
Karppi (Deadwind) (Finland: Yle TV2; UK: Netflix)
Sofia Karppi (Pihla Viitala) returns to work as a homicide detective in the Helsinki police after the death of her husband. She’s assigned a rookie detective as her partner and their first case involves a seemingly routine disappearance, in which women’s clothes are found at a construction site.
To be fair, this was actually by far the best of the shows I tried this week. While the set-up is obviously a bit derivative, the Finnish setting is different and there’s actually a fair bit of humour, such as when her new partner forces the miserable Viitala to have a proper meal at his favourite Italian restaurant. The writing’s quite good, too, with Karppi being a pretty decent detective who makes proper deductions from observations, rather than simply googling everything, and the plot frequently throwing up unexpected twists. The direction also often has an unrealistic, dreamy quality that lifts it above the usual.
But it’s a crime procedural, so not really my cup of tea. I might watch more than the first episode, which is all I got up to, but probably not. Still, if you are going to watch one of these three new shows this week, this is the one to give a try.
Au service de la France (A Very Secret Service) (France: Arte; UK: Netflix)
Well that was really very enjoyable. After the first episodes, which are effectively standalone pieces, the show then begins to acquire something of an arc, with our hero (Hugo Becker) romancing the girl who runs the local tailor’s shop (Mathilde Warnier), which brings up all kinds of problems; meanwhile, there’s a mole in the service!
I frequently laughed out loud at this, thanks to its running gags about Becker’s suits, the bureaucracy (one episode is dedicated to the spies going on strike since the service is planning to withdraw the payment for monthly travel between its headquarters in Paris and those of the Vichy government – yes, in 1960), the racism and sexism of the time (when it turns out that the best agent in the service is actually the glamorous Joséphine de La Baume, her boss is considered mad for wanting to promote her), and when the Americans turn up and speak some very bad French, as well as baffle the spies by suggesting they can blackmail JFK by revealing his infidelity (“He sleeps with lots of women” “Yes, but what is this weakness you mentioned that you are going to use against him?”).
But it’s also surprisingly dark at times, with plenty of murders and eyeballs being removed. The references to the Second World War (then only 20 years away) are poignant as well, making it a reasonably decent spy show, too. Since it was originally made for Arte, not Netflix, it’s also got a great visual style, not just for period detail, with occasionally innovative direction, references to Hitchcock and Truffaut (the back projection is delightful), as well as some lovely period detail.
A cert for France’s entry into this year’s TMINE Top X shows. I’ll hope to have watched season two by then as well.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Shooter (US: USA; UK: Netflix)
3×11 – Family Fire
A good final 20 minutes after the first half proved a bit repetitive and banal. Mrs Hero proved quite smart, which was good for a change, and there was a pretty decent shoot-out, and the ending added an interesting wrinkle to a show that still has two episodes left to go this season. Nevertheless, I am hoping that one day, some ex-member of a US special forces outfit might last more than a minute up in a hand-to-hand fight with a slightly small former marine sniper, but I doubt it’ll happen.