What have you been watching? Including Doctor Who and Black Lightning

Jodie Whittaker's new Doctor Who costume
Jodie Whittaker's new Doctor Who costume

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week, assuming Disqus’s anti-Linux bias doesn’t stop you in your tracks

Marvellous. After having becoming a bit shallow over the past few weeks, TMINE’s viewing queue has begun to fill up again. And that’s before The CW unleashes all its new shows this week, ABC (Australia) unveils spy show Pine Gap on Sunday, and Netflix jumps up, shouts “Boo!” and releases both season 3 of Marvel’s Daredevil and its remake of The Haunting of Hill House on Friday.

Crikey. I’ve not even started season 3 of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle yet and that’s been out since Friday.

This past week, however, I have passed third-episode verdicts on Magnum P.I. (US: CBS), Manifest (US: NBC) and Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase), and I’ve watched a good few other shows, too, about which we can talk after the jump. This week, of course, saw the return of Doctor Who with a new showrunner and a new Doctor. But Black Lightning and SEAL Team also returned, so we can discuss them, too. I made a bit more headway with Maniac, as well, and I’ve kept my eyes glued to a big bunch of the new US shows, too: A Million Little Things, God Friended Me, Happy Together and The Neighborhood. Plus, of course, there are the stalwart regulars: The Last Ship and You.

Will and Grace is back, too, but what with My Kitchen Rules (South Africa), Masterchef Australia and The Great British Bake-Off, we’ve not had a chance to watch it in The Big Room. Maybe next week.

TV shows

TMINE recommends has all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended and TV Reviews A-Z lists every TV show ever reviewed here

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)

2×1 – The Book Of Consequences – Chapter One: Rise Of The Green Light Babies

Now outfitted with episode titles so long they require their own separate title sequence, it’s the return of Black Lightning, the most socially relevant superhero show of our times, now that Marvel’s Luke Cage has gone a bit weird and anti-Jamaican. As the first half of the episode title suggests, this is indeed an episode that’s all about consequences, with all manner of fallout from the supposed happy ending of the first season. In fact, it’s all a bit of a downer, as we see jobs lost, relationships broken up, people killed, friendships ruined and neighbourhoods brought down. On top of all the black kids getting killed, obviously.

It is at least very engaging though, and while the first girl fight of the episode was a little bit limp and silly, we did get a brave stab at Black Lightning‘s own version of the famous Marvel’s Daredevil hall scene.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Doctor Who (UK: BBC One)

11×1 – The Woman Who Fell To Earth

So… new lady Doctor and Chris “Torchwood and Camelot” as showrunner. What to make of that combo?

Well, to be honest, it wasn’t half bad. It was certainly a breath of fresh air to have something that felt like a combination of Russell T Davies’ first season working class, populist sci-fi and an episode of The Bridge, rather than yet another Steven Moffat timey wimey High Brain continuity fest. Okay, so as it was Chris Chibnall, it was a rip-off of Predator as well, but a straight plot with a bit of gratuitous horror to really scare the little ones, some decent companions and a really good performance by Jodie Whittaker meant this was at least a goodish start to the show, with foundations for the season that are Chibnall-proof. We even got the Doctor making things and doing science – haven’t seen that in a while – although making the Doctor likeable is an odd choice. Isn’t he/she/ze supposed to be a git?

On the negative side, despite the overall feel, it was very much less than the sum of its parts. The dialogue was about as ‘tab A, slot B’ as you could get, bar a couple of brief jokes. The direction was pretty static, as though they’d had to pay for fewer cameras to compensate for having a night shoot, meaning everything was a bit dull. The long runtime didn’t help, either, and fridging a decent (black female) character in the first episode was probably a bad note to start a season with.

But generally, at the end of it, Lovely Wife and I both felt we’d enjoyed it and we’re looking forward to the next episode. Which won’t be written by Chris Chibnall, who might turn out to be both one of the worst writers Doctor Who has ever had yet also one of its best showrunner/producers. Let’s wait and see.

God Friended Me (US: CBS)

1×2 – The Good Samaritan

Slightly less impressive and delightful than the first episode, as we face the usual ‘brain reset’ that means our main character is suddenly unconvinced that the impossible things the writers threw at him last episode can have anything to do with God. A couple of relationships get rewound a bit, too, and they probably shouldn’t have benched Violett Beane for most of the episode. Having a clichéd ‘autistic’ kid – savant ability arriving in 3… 2… 1… now! – really didn’t help the episode plot, either. But fairly enjoyable and generally nice TV with people helping one another. Just a little frustrating that the writers don’t want to really explore the boundaries of the set-up they’ve created.

Episode review: Initial

Happy Together (US: CBS; UK: E4)

1×2 – Scrubbing

Rock star moves in but turns out to only have a shoebox of stuff, and our happy couple feel guilted by his minimalism so decide to ‘scrub’ the house of excess items. Cue emotional moments, revelations, etc. But it’s all nicely done – all the leads have great chemistry and charisma, the dialogue is pretty decent, there were some good observations and there was one genuinely laugh out loud joke perfectly delivered by Amber Stevens West. Felix Mallard should also be praised for managing to play his rock star character so innocently, when it would be so easy to mine it for dirt.

Episode review: Initial

Maniac (Netflix)

1×3 – 1×5

Huh. That didn’t go in the direction I was expecting. After a really good couple of plot-driven opening episodes, episodes three to five are basically Bedazzled, with Jonah Hill and Emma Stone being plonked down into different weird scenarios (white trash couple trying to give a lemur to someone without getting shot by the police; 1920s formerly married jewel thieves trying to rob a house independently of each other) to work out their individual emotional issues. It could have worked, but compared to the shiny jewel that is the outside parallel universe created for them, these are both mundane and boring situations that had me clock-watching the whole time. We still get glimpses of the outside world, from time to time, which do liven things up, but I’m not looking forward to another five episodes of the same, if Dudley Moore and Peter Cook aren’t in them. I might give the rest of it a miss.

Episode review: Initial

A Million Little Things (US: ABC)

1×2 – Band of Dads

More playing of the heart strings and this time it works, without leaving the viewer feeling like they’ve been blackmailed into shedding tears (cough, cough, This is Us, cough, cough). The mystery develops, of course, although not too many answers this episode, either.

Creator DJ Nash apparently is pleased that he can do a drama with comedy, since doing comedy is a lot harder and people are so judgy. Since he’s been responsible for some of the most truly terrible – or at least unsuccessful – comedies of the past decade (Accidentally on Purpose, ‘Til Death, Hank, Traffic Light, Bent, Up All Night, Guys with Kids, Growing Up Fisher, Truth Be Told), I’m pleased, too, since this is by no means a funny show, but when the somewhat light comedy does arrive, it does actually work in context and does raise a smile or two. Dude – you should have been doing dramedy this whole time!

Episode review: Initial

The Neighborhood (US: CBS)

1×2 – Welcome to the Repipe

Just as with the first episode, a balance between pretty ordinary sitcom with pretty ordinary characters (neighbours who don’t get along with each other, but at least some of them are trying) and surprisingly acute observations about society, black and white culture (wash cloths and wigs being this week’s notes for readers). But rather than black v white the whole time, we are getting a different clash, too: liberal v conservative, mollycoddling v strict parenting, self-sufficiency v collective responsibility. It’s still a multi-camera sitcom and the laughs aren’t huge, but it’s a surprisingly decent and intelligent bit of viewing still, particularly for a Friday night CBS sitcom.

Episode review: Initial

SEAL Team (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)

2×1 – Fracture

A new showrunner this season seems to have brought a slight change in direction for the show, with a slight steering away from scrupulous accuracy in favour of something a bit more exciting but less accurate. But there isn’t really anything dramatically new here, with the same characters doing the same sorts of things as they were last season, without making me really want to spend much more time with them. Still, a Wednesday night slot means there’s nothing much clashing with it, so it might still manage to wangle its way into the 2018-2019 viewing queue, at least for now.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Recommended shows

The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)

5×5 – Warriors

A full-on World War 2 re-enactment society piece, with our heroes even going to stereotypical southern belles’ fundraising drives for ‘the war effort’. The flashback-storytelling was a bit confusing and it’s a bit clumsy as a way to ‘make history come alive’. But it did show the tragedy of war and the sacrifices soldiers make, and was still very exciting, even if the land battles are really quite bad and under-researched compared to the naval efforts.

Episode reviewsInitial reviewVerdict

You (US: Lifetime; UK: Netflix)

1×5 – Living with the Enemy

After last week’s holiday, a return to the format and tone of the first episode, with Penn Badgley now stalking his beloved’s supposed best friend, who’s a bit of a b*tch, in order to protect his one true love. Oh the secrets he discovers! As usual, it’s very smart about what you can learn through social media (and rifling through someone’s purse), as well as class and male-female relationships, while still being bitingly funny and more than a bit frightening.

Episode reviews: Initial review