It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
And we’re back in the room. Yes, TMINE’s back for 2019 and WHYBW is back on Wednesdays again. All is right in the world, non?
This week’s reviews
Obviously, TMINE’s been back for a few days now and I’ve done not one but two full boxsets this week:
How impressive is that? Feel free to peruse their wisdom at your leisure.
Both Canada and the US have started firing up their mid-season shows and offering previews of some forthcoming ones as well. As a result, between now and next WHYBW, I should be serving up reviews of:
- Coroner (Canada: CBC; UK: Universal) – Serinda Swan and Roger Cross in a crime procedural adaptation of MR Hall’s novels
- Cavendish (Canada: CBC) – comedy about two brothers who return to look after their ailing father, The Actor Kevin Eldon
- Project Blue Book (US: History) – Aidan Gillen and Michael Malarkey investigate UFO sightings in the 50s. Not related to this show at all.
- Deadly Class (US: Syfy) – adaptation of the graphic novel that sees Benedict Wong teach kids how to kill in the 80s
- Black Monday (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic – probably) – Don Cheadle in a scathing satire of Wall Street in the 80s
And anything else that pops up, such as ABC (US)’s Schooled, which starts tonight (although that’s a spin-off from The Goldbergs so maybe not). Sex Education is on Netflix from Friday, so I might boxset it.
That’s a pretty full schedule, though, and as Deadly Class and Black Monday don’t air in the US for a couple of weeks, I might postpone them until nearer the time.
After the jump, it’ll be just the usual regulars, as well as what I watched over Christmas: three full episodes of Counterpart, the remaining four episodes of Plan Cœur (The Hookup Plan), the penultimate episode of Happy Together and the season finale of Titans, as well as 2018’s A Ghost Story For Christmas. See you in a mo…
A Ghost Story For Christmas (UK: BBC4)
The Dead Room
A Ghost Story For Christmas might have been part of every Christmas TV line-up in the 70s, but these days, we rely on the vagaries of both the BBC and Mark Gatiss to provide us with new entries to the canon. Following on from Gatiss’s adaptation for BBC2 of MR James’ classic The Tractate Middoth a few years ago, this year’s BBC4 Gatiss original shifts into modern times to see Simon Callow playing an ageing voiceover artist for spooky talking books who begins to think his studio is being haunted. But by whom and why?
The story itself is pretty good, although the conversation between Callow and producer Anjli Monhindra (The Sarah Jane Adventures) about what makes a good ghost story at the beginning felt both a little too clever and like it was trying to pre-empt criticism, by first setting out the structure of the ghost story that was to follow and then suggesting that only a pompous old twat like Callow would object to any innovations in supernatural storytelling. It’s a little too funny for its own good at that point, but it does quickly become reasonably spooky, and socially relevant, although given Gatiss’ predilection for certain tropes, you won’t be too surprised what the relevancy is when it’s revealed.
However, the direction, also by Gatiss, is a little less accomplished. True, he’s working to a small budget, with just three actors in just two sets, but his efforts to inject excitement by whirling the camera around felt more like dream sequences and only served to distract from any building of tension. However, the final image was at least powerful enough to linger in the memory, so kudos there.
On the whole, though, half an hour well spent and probably a better entry than Stigma, for example.
Counterpart (US: Starz; UK: StarzPlay)
2×3 – Something Borrowed – 2×4 – Point of Departure – 2×5 – Shadow Puppets
I think it’s fair to say that season two of Counterpart hasn’t felt as good as season one. That hasn’t been helped by a “one okay, one good” episode policy for sure, but I’m not sure of the wisdom of sticking the show’s best asset – JK Simmons – in two rooms largely away from the action. Equally, it’s a bit on the nose to have James Cromwell turn up with a dodgy German accent and spend several episodes interviewing Simmons to see why he’s different from other Simmons. True, the cast have kept the show going with some top acting, but it’s all a been a bit “why am I watching this again?”
All of that said, I think Shadow Puppets is the turning point of the season, where finally everything takes off and we get to see the larger picture. There’s action aplenty, revelations aplenty, loads of fine acting from everyone concerned. So stick it out, guys, if you were planning on giving up, as I think it’ll be worth it.Episode reviews: Initial, Verdict
Happy Together (US: CBS; UK: E4)
1×12 – Vows
Slightly more sitcomy episode, in which the love birds have their first ever argument, sparked by young pop star’s discovery of their wedding vows. Thankfully, the show’s a bit more egalitarian in its divvying up of the stupid, with both man and wife making classic cock-ups and outnerding one another, all without the usual CBS bitterness. Chris Parnell finally got to do something, too. But it didn’t quite have the incisiveness you normally expect of it.
Plan Coeur (The Hookup Plan) (Netflix)
A slightly disappointing back-half of the first season that suffers from Netflix’s usual “one season as a pilot” problem. The first couple of episodes manage to be as funny as the first three, but midway, everyone starts getting a bit sad for various reasons, and after that, it never really manages to find the happy again. Its conclusion is at least unexpected, but it’s also trying so hard to remain open-ended that it never really gives the romantic part of the set-up time to resolve itself in the final couple of episodes.
Still, a very worthy effort from France, with some very enjoyable writing, characters and actors, that feels like a breath of fresh air compared to the usual French crime dramas we get. If there is a second season, I’ll certainly tune in for it.
Episode reviews: Verdict
1×11 – Dick Grayson
Slightly disappointing conclusion to an otherwise excellent first season, since it’s basically just an evil It’s A Wonderful Life, in which Dick Grayson gets to see how Batman might turn out without him – and it ain’t pretty. The episode is so GrimDark that it’s almost unwatchable and the fact it’s just Dick and the Darkness, without the relief of Donna and co, means it’s a soulless affair at that.
That said, it does a really good job of showing how terrifying Batman must be to the bad guys and is nearly up there with Batman Begins for “real worlding” the Caped Crusader and his sidekick. It also positions everything very nicely for season 2 and leaves the viewer wanting to see what happens next, so mission accomplished, I guess. The whole show is available this Friday on Netflix in the UK, BTW, so tune in if you can.