It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
With The CW’s new roster of shows almost out the way – there’s another Vampire Diaries spin-off, Legacies, due to start tomorrow, but that’s it for this year, as far as I know – it’s been a relatively quiet week this week. I ran through the first episodes of Charmed (US: The CW; UK: E4), Camping (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic), The Rookie (US: ABC; UK: Sky Witness) and The Kids Are Alright (US: ABC) all in one go, and the latest season of Marvel’s Daredevil was this week’s Boxset Monday. But that’s comparatively few shows, I’m sure you’ll agree. I reckon NBC is sitting on some, waiting to unleash them when we least expect them.
Next week’s Boxset Monday is going to be Riverdale spin-off Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (Netflix), assuming that I manage to find the time at the weekend. But until then, I think I’m more or less bang up to date, unless Canada’s been secretly making new shows without telling me.
After the jump then, we can run through the regulars: Black Lightning, Doctor Who, Happy Together, The Last Ship, Magnum P.I., Mr InBetween, Pine Gap, Titans and You. I’ve also nearly got to the end of The Haunting of Hill House (oh, my nerves!). And just starting its fourth season this week is the world’s funniest and deliberately stupidest superhero show: DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Oh the unicorn carnage.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix)
2×3 – The Book Of Consequences – Chapter Three: Master Lowry
While this season’s subtitle makes it clear what the show’s ostensible plot is, I do wonder what the actual direction of the show is. There’s no real coherence to what’s going on in the same way there was in the first season; instead, it’s just about mopping up the various messes of the first season and/or atoning for the mistakes made. There’s no real forward motion, no proper development of characters, just moping around and being miserable, with none of the real fun or relationships that the first season had, either. Albino Tobias’s constant deployment of white stereotypes of black people is still an interesting twist, but I nearly switched off halfway through and decided to call it a day. Fortunately for it, as with last week’s episode, this week’s had a much stronger second half. I’ll give a chance, but only one more.
Doctor Who (UK: BBC One)
11×3 – Rosa
The first episode that wasn’t wholly the responsibly of Chris Chibnall, so naturally it was a whole lot better than its predecessors. A sort of cross between Back to the Future, Quantum Leap and Timeless, we get to watch the Doctor and pals try to ensure that Jack the Ripper from Time After Time doesn’t change time and so preserve racism in the future, which is apparently all stopped by Rosa Parks’ sitting down on a bus. Interesting usual confusion of US history with global history, there (I’d have quite liked a British show to have tackled Paul Stephenson, say, rather than going for the low-hanging fruit as usual). All the same, it would be churlish to come down too hard on a kids show and one that was actually quite brave for picking this particular topic at all (although, again, tackling Stephenson would have meant looking at British racism, whereas the episode’s US locale gave it a certain remove that prevented the UK audience from having to look too hard at themselves, despite a few notably decent lines from our regulars).
Decent performances from the regulars and some good non-racism-specific lines for a change, too, but a little bit forced at points towards the end and the “look here’s an asteroid you’ve never heard of named after her” was a bit of letdown as an epitaph when a space-time machine could have taken them to “Planet Rosa Parks” in the year 50,000. Enjoyable enough, though, and it seems to have annoyed the right sorts of people, so that’s a plus. Plus that is probably the first time the Back to the Future “make sure history goes to plan” plot has been used in Who. And it’s quite a neat trick to have to make our heroes conspire with the racists and do nothing, in order to ensure the right thing happens.
I do hope the new Doctor gets a few more definable personality traits soon, though. She’s a bit Peter Davison at the moment: some decent lines, nice, gets to run around a lot, some fun quirks. But “agreeable” isn’t really depth of character or archetypal, is it?
Happy Together (US: CBS; UK: E4)
1×4 – About Your Parents
Oh dear. Where did this come from? It appears to have wandered in from some other sitcom. Rather than the previous moderately innovative and different sitcom, we had a traditional sitcom in which the bloke cocks-up and spends all his time trying to prevent his wife and family knowing that he’s cocked up. How disappointing.
To be fair, there was a fair degree of nuance to it, lifting it above that highly generic format, with our hero demonstrating that this is one small glitch in an otherwise decent plan. Our happy couple acted well, too. But it should have been better than this by far. One more like this next week and I’m gone.
The Haunting of Hill House (Netflix)
It is genuinely exhausting watching this show. Each episode is such an adrenaline spike of tension that you come out of it, even when not that much has actually happened, feeling like you’ve just been running for an hour. The show’s also proving to be something of a cornucopia of horror direction techniques. There are, of course, the cribs from the original movie, but episode five lifted from Blair Witch 2 while still innovating in how its demonstrated its ultimate, unexpectedly early revelations. Episode six, meanwhile, makes some of the “long takes” from the likes of True Detective and Marvel’s Daredevil look like a Michael Bay movie, forcing the viewer to watch everyone and everything, all the time, since things pop up without any signposting in the rear of scenes then disappear without anyone drawing attention to them.
The show’s greatest weakness is that whenever it stops hinting and starts showing, what it shows is laughable (the ghosts look like they’ve escaped from Lost Hearts, which might even be a deliberate reference, given how much sampling of other horror dramas is on display). Nevertheless, unless the final two episodes are completely duff, this is going straight onto the TMINE 2018 Top x Shows.
Episode reviews: Verdict
Magnum P.I. (US: CBS)
1×5 – Sudden Death
The first moderately Higgins-free episode of the series and one with a whole lot of TC, too – possibly not the best idea, judging by his acting. All the same, a return to the private detective procedural format, thankfully, and it does seem to be taking that side of it more seriously than the original show did, judging by this Magnum’s scrupulousness when it comes to preserving his PI licence. Plenty of fun moments, too, and having Cyndi Lauper no less as a crooked attorney was a genius move. But the less Higgins, the worse the show is. It’s also a little sad that Elisabeth Rohm is now down to small cameo roles in shows like this. She deserves better.
Pine Gap (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)
1×2 – Episode 2
After last week’s really interesting new take on spy shows, we’re in far less revolutionary territory as the Pine Gap staff do a 24 and spend all their time trying to work out who the mole is, while complaining that their relationships are going to pot because they’re stuck in Alice Springs. Perhaps more interesting is the tension between the Aussies and the Americans, allies who are still happy to use each other and spy on one another, but when most of the dialogue is about reprogramming ‘VGA video cards’ in order to hack RFID tags, you can’t help but wonder if the show’s headed in the wrong direction.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)
1×2 – Hawk and Dove
Something of a disappointment after such a fine first episode, with the action confined to Dick Grayson and new arrivals Hawk and Dove, played by former Smallville Aquaman Alan Ritchson and Friday Night Lights‘ Minka Kelly respectively in possibly the worst superhero costumes yet set to video. No Starfire, no Beast Boy, just Dick and Raven, although we did get to hear Alfred and see that Dick has Donna Troy in his rolodex.
Unlike the first episode’s successful mash-up of genres, here we get the embarrassing Hawk and Dove meeting up with reality, which doesn’t end well, as well as crap villains The Nuclear Family, which gives us the brainwarping feeling of reality and unreality co-existing that didn’t work in Gotham and doesn’t work here.
However, what the episode does hugely well after its shaky start is to examine something not often examined by superhero stories: the passing of time and ageing. Hawk and Dove are nearing the end of their career, they’re slowing down and their relationship is having difficulties. This is a game for younger people and they’re not young any more – the chance to have a life after vigilantism is diminishing rapidly, along with their health, thanks to increasing number of damaged organs and limbs. Meanwhile, the younger Robin’s hardcore combat tactics win the day, but suggest he’s becoming inured to violence to the extent where he’s becoming sadistic and is maybe no longer even a good guy. And because Hawk and Dove haven’t seen him in three years, what he’s now become is a surprise, rather than something to which they’ve become accustomed…
Episode reviews: Initial review
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (US: The CW; UK: Sky1)
4×1 – The Virgin Gary
And the stupid’s back! Woo hoo! And it’s brought John Constantine along for the ride this season. Double woo hoo! I’m not sure I approve of the show’s efforts to try to make him a team player, but it feels like he’s rubbing off on everyone else.
Otherwise, more or the same as before, with the usual glorious daftness and meta-references (“What will this do to our ratings?”), this season being a magical and demonic one rather than a sci-fi one. Our heroes are as inept – and as knowingly inept as always – with much of the action revolving around how they don’t want everyone to know they’ve actually supremely cocked up, now everyone thinks they’re heroes. But how will we save Woodstock from that terrifying unicorn? The Legends fine a suitable way, of course…
Best cameo possible: Back to the Future‘s Thomas F Wilson (aka Biff) turns out to be one of the heroes’ dads…
The Last Ship (US: TNT; UK: Sky1)
5×7 – Somos La Sangre
It’s all out war! Well, 15 extras attacking a wall! All the same, lots of excitement in the infantry stakes, even if the whole thing war looks like it could be ended if someone just happened to have a single Apache helicopter up their sleeve (oh for an Airwolf, hey?). Meanwhile, security gets even laxer and the goodies even more easily deluded back in the US. Thank heavens Admiral Far-Stare will lead the goodies to victory in the field. A slight glimpse at some thrilling naval warfare, this episode, too, even if it amounted to little more than some stock footage and some computer graphics on a screen. I quite enjoy well used computer graphics on a screen, mind.
Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase)
1×5 – Hard Worker
The first of an apparent two-parter (although the show’s pretty serial), with our hero getting kidnapped by an equally fearsome crim (Hyde & Seek‘s Matt Nable). It’s actually the funniest episode so far, thanks to Nable and Ryan’s discussions about whether Quentin is a gay name. Nevertheless, the usual quiet, smiling menace is hiding under the surface, and the episode has an implicit contemplation of the code between men of violence and their acknowledgement of their own limits – they can do a lot, but they aren’t supermen and they’re not going to easily outclass one another – as well as the limits of violence itself. Do you kill a cop snitch, even if knows nothing, since it’ll only invite the cops to come down hard on you?
You (US: Lifetime; UK: Netflix)
1×7 – Everythingship
Well, that turned quickly. I wasn’t expecting the show to effectively move onto the next phase of the stalker manual: you’ve got the girl but now you get to know her more, can she survive the pedestal you’ve put her on or will her inevitable human failings turn you against her. It’s really quite a subtle examination of the issue, helped as well by almost unrecognisable special guest star John Stamos doing a surprisingly unshowy performance as a therapist. Kudos the show’s producers for not stringing things out more.
Episode reviews: Initial review