What have you been watching? Including Maniac, Happy Together and The Neighborhood

Maniac

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

The US networks are hurling new shows at us, hither and thither, yet the fall season isn’t truly underway yet, amazingly enough, with a couple of networks still to let loose their main offerings.

Still, elsewhere, I’ve reviewed A Million Little Things (US: ABC), Single Parents (US: ABC), The Cool Kids (US: CBS) and Murphy Brown (US: CBS), but there have been another couple of new CBS sitcoms this week, too, which I’ll be covering after the jump: The Neighborhood and Happy Together.

Netflix, of course, lives by its own rules and gives us new shows all the time. I’ve already passed a third-episode verdict on recent arrival The Good Cop and I’ll be looking at the first couple of episodes of Maniac after the jump, too. And, of course, it’s the Spring season in Australia, and I previewed Mr InBetween last week, with a third-episode verdict due on TMINE in the next few days (fingers crossed, tomorrow)

I’m sure there’ll be more shows to come this week and next, so keep your eyes glued to TMINE for all the latest reviews.

After the jump, on top of those new shows I mentioned, I’ll be casting my eye over the latest episodes of the regulars: Magnum P.I., Manifest, The Last Ship and You. One of them’s getting a promotion to the recommended list, but which one?

Found out in a tick.

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

New shows

Happy Together

Happy Together (US: CBS; UK: E4)

Based on an event in the life of none other than Harry Styles (who is exec producer of the show), Happy Together sees happily married accountant Damon Wayans Jr and shop designer Amber Stevens West in something of an unexciting rut. They still love each other, but they’re getting older and settling into a routine. Dancing, nights out, romance et al have been replaced by the familiarity of Netflix boxsets. Then one of Wayans’ clients, hugely famous pop star Felix Mallard, shows up on their doorstep after a very public break-up, and he wants to lay low. Could they put him up for a while? Before you know it, the couple are being shaken out of their routine and doing all the things that (clean-living) young, A-list stars get up to. Can they keep up and will they change him or vice versa?

I was expecting to be unimpressed by this, but actually the cast are all solid, charismatic, talented and likeable, with no weak links (Chris Parnell is also in there and is as good as always). The jokes aren’t entirely predictable and are relatively smart. There’s a good split in characterisation between Stevens West and Wayans Jr, with neither especially exciting or superior to the other, but also by no means total couch potatoes.

It’s not exceptional, though. The jokes hit, but are never uproarious. James Corden pops up on the tele, but even his monologue doesn’t raise the humour ceiling. It’s a solid, enjoyable watch, but not must-see viewing.

The Neighborhood

The Neighborhood (US: CBS)

Talking of shows I was expecting to hate, the second of CBS’s double bill of African-American sitcoms sees a Michigan couple (New Girl‘s Max Greenfield and 2 Broke Girls‘ Beth Behrs) move into an entirely black suburb of LA. There they come across Cedric the Entertainer and his family, who instantly spot the fact they’re white. Cue various jokes about ‘there goes the neighborhood’?

Actually, no. For a show that recast its two white leads following the pilot, it’s actually surprisingly decent and avoids the very obvious. Rather than a somewhat clumsy bit of “hey, don’t call me racist – you’re the real racist”, the show is more a sort of comedy of manners, as both black and white characters have to circumnavigate what can and can’t be said in modern American society, as well as different sub-cultures. Is Greenfield racist for being nice to a black man who’s a pain in the backside or is he simply being neighbourly? Is black straight-talking just rude with a white person? Can Greenfield turn down an invitation to a barbecue if he knows it’ll annoy Cedric if he turns up, but annoy Cedric’s wife (Tichina Arnold) if he doesn’t? With the opioid crisis in full tilt in the US, should white liberals look at addicts as victims – and will they be less forgiving when the black crack addict across the road breaks into their car?

There’s also some reasonably perceptive commentary about US society and whether black people can be racist, and while the characters skirt cliché and stereotype, there are plenty of nuances and depth. However, as with Happy Together, while it’s solid enough, there’s nothing so good in it that it’s a must-see. But I’m prepared to wait and see with both of them.

Maniac

Maniac (Netflix)

Based on a TV2 (Norway) show of the same nameManiac nevertheless owes far more to Legion, even if the first two episodes lack any superpowers. Coming from the auteurist lens of Cary Joji Fukunaga (The Alienist, True Detective), it’s set in a weird parallel 70s/80s universe that looks a lot like Legion‘s aesthetically and which has similar mixes of old, new and future technology, as well as big differences from our own – such as ad buddies whom corporations send to read ads to you, in return for which you get paid if you listen.

Jonah Hill (Pineapple Express, Get Him To the Greek) plays a rich heir who’s the family disappointment. He’s probably got paranoid schizophrenia, judging by both his paranoia and the fact he keeps seeing visions of his dead brother telling him to look for patterns in things so he can save the world. Meanwhile, Emma Stone (Easy A, La La Land) is a screwed up junkie with mental health and cash problems, who feels guilty about the death of her sister (Ozark‘s Julie Garner) in a car crash in which they were both involved. The two meet as subjects in the trial of a new medical treatment that involves taking three pills, after which – with the help of a supercomputer and some extreme trippiness – their brains will be rewritten and all their mental problems will be solved.

Episode one follows Hill on his journey through life to reach the medical facility, which includes frequently seeing Stone in posters and the like. His dead brother tells him that she’s his ‘contact’, something she seems to confirm at the end of the episode. Episode two then follows Stone’s similar journey to reach the same destination and then the beginning of their mutual journey on the drug trial. Is Hill really schizophrenic? Why was he initially accepted onto the trial and Stone not? Is Stone really his contact? What is the drug trial all about and could it work?

If I’d never watched Legion, I’d have been hugely impressed by Maniac‘s visual style and general ambience. But I have, so it does feel a bit of a copy-cat, rather than a unique, new visual force. All the same, it’s still hugely imaginative and it does at least have a pace to its plotting, which is something Legion can’t claim. It’s also far more of an 80s than a 70s homage, right down to the speak-and-spell voices of computers, which is different to Legion‘s focus. It’s also intriguing enough that I’m going to stick with the remaining eight episodes.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Magnum P.I. (US: CBS)

1×2 – From The Head Down

Impressively, Magnum P.I. continues to fit tonally with Magnum, P.I. by giving us an (initially) plain old PI show, with Magnum investigating the theft of a giant tuna fish from poor old Carl Weathers. Of course, things turn out different later on, but I liked the fact the show was trying to be obviously different to every other crime procedural on TV at the moment. This new Magnum also seems to be pushing a partnership between Higgins and Magnum, which does actually work in practice and would also make the show a rare male/female detective show, which again I like. Props to the show for flirting with giving its lead a Tom Selleck moustache for all of 10 seconds, too. However, the supporting cast continue to be a little lacking, unfortunately, and my point about Zachary Knighton looking utterly unconvincing as an ex-marine no matter what still holds, particularly since he also looks nothing like the stunt guy they’ve picked for him.

Despite myself, I think I actually like this new Magnum, though. Huh.

Episode reviews: Initial review

Manifest (US: NBC)

1×2 – Reentry

Well, the 4,400 have been trimmed down to about 20, which is a bit more manageable and the show is starting to have some intriguing parallels with The Whispers, which elevates it as well, particularly ‘the shadow man’. However, as predicted, plot-wise, it’s forced coincidences and crime-solving, with a somewhat tedious, soapy background for the most part. Not awful, I guess, and even the soapiness has moments, but I’d be hoping for something a bit stronger, if I were NBC.

Episode reviews: Initial review

Recommended shows

The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)

5×4 – The Tropic of Cancer

Yadda, yadda, Moby Dick, yadda, yadda. So far, so obvious. Who’s Ahab and who’s Moby Dick, though?

Once again, some decent ship-to-ship battles, even if done on the cheap using imagination and a radar screen, as well as a decent land battle – kudos on that forward roll into fireman’s lift, although I’d be surprised if a certain someone can walk properly ever again after that battle. Still, miracle healing isn’t new for The Last Ship. Although the episode also sees yet another long-standing cast member killed off. A high casualty rate this season, isn’t it?

Minus points for the bad tech, though. (spoiler alert) An entry card system that uses Bluetooth and that can execute arbitrary machine code? Hmm

Episode reviewsInitial reviewVerdict

You (US: Lifetime; UK: Netflix)

1×4 – The Captain

A promotion for the show after just a few weeks, following an episode that mixes up the format a little. Normally, everything is told from our ‘hero’s point of view, even the voiceover; this week we get a ‘he said, she said’ view on things, with the same events retold from both points of view. It does provide a welcome rounding out of our heroine, who’s not being getting quite the characterisation she needed, even if the episode as a whole was a little less murderous than I would have liked. The Dickens fair was as awful as I hoped, too.

Episode reviews: Initial review