What have you been watching? Including Schooled and Fam

Fam on CBS
(L-R): Tone Bell as Nick and Nina Dobrev as Clem in Fam. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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

It only took about a week before WHYBW missed its scheduled slot, but given how much new stuff has recently arrived and how much old stuff has returned to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, please forgive me. Still, I was wondering what I was going to do on Thursdays…

The Passage
THE PASSAGE: L-R: Saniyya Sidney and Mak-Paul Gosselaar in THE PASSAGE on FOX. ©2018 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Dietl/FOX

This week’s reviews

To be frank, I’ve done a crap-load of reviews and previews since last time, too.

Please peruse them at your leisure, whether you intend to watch the shows or not.

Schooled
ABC’s Schooled

New shows

Coming up in the next week, I’ll be reviewing The CW’s Roswell reboot, Roswell, New Mexico. Season two of The Punisher will be hitting Netflix this Friday, so I’ll undoubtedly be watching that. And if anything else pops up I’ll review that, too, if I can.

After the jump, though, despite my already extensive viewing schedule, there’ll be reviews of two other new shows I managed to catch: Schooled (US: ABC) and Fam (US: CBS). Gosh, mid-season replacements that are also sitcoms. Cos they’re always funny, hey?

I’ll also be talking about series five of Cuckoo (UK: BBC Three), which I know isn’t a new show and it’s not even a show new to me, but I think it’s probably the first time I’ll have talked about it on the blog.

The Orville

The regulars

Although Counterpart decided to take a break this Sunday, a whole bunch of other shows decided to return this week. That means that after the jump, there’ll be the season (and probably series) finale of the one remaining regular, Happy Together, as well as new episodes of returning regulars Magnum P.I.Corporate and True Detective. Joining them will be the second episodes of both Cavendish and Project Blue Book.

And for reasons that will become clear, I’ll also be talking about every episode of The Orville that’s aired since I gave up on it after its third episode.

See you in a mo…

TV shows

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

New shows

CBS's Fam
(L-R): Nina Dobrev as Clem and Tone Bell as Nick in Fam. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2018 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Fam (US: CBS)

Tone Bell (Whitney) proposes to Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) and she says yes! However, he’s a nice middle class literature professor who loves his equally middle class parents and she hates her philandering homicide cop dad (Midnight Caller‘s Gary Cole) so much that she’s told everyone he’s dead; she’s also estranged from her 16-year-old half-sister (Nashville‘s Odessa Adlon) who’s dropped out of high school without Cole even noticing. But then Adlon returns and decides to move in with the happy couple and Cole figures he might as well see what’s going on when Dobrev tells him she’s getting married.

It’s not dreadful, I give you that much. Adlon is surprisingly good as the screwed-up street kid with a druggie boyfriend, while Cole is intriguingly narcissistic and unconcerned by anything except policing. The script isn’t exactly Mom dark but it has a reasonable number of laughs and does take the story and dialogue in surprising directions.

The problem is the blandness of the central leads. Bell has an unforgiving role with little to work with, to be fair, but Dobrev’s claims to be channelling Jennifer Aniston in Friends should be taken with a pinch of salt, since she never really does much with some potentially challenging material.

I doubt I’ll watch more of it, but if I were looking for a very slightly edgy sitcom that made me laugh occasionally, Fam would certainly fit the bill.

Bryan Callen as Coach Mellor, AJ Michalka as Lainey Lewis, Brett Dier as Charlie Brown, and Tim Meadows as Principal Glascott in Schooled. (ABC/Craig Sjodin)

Schooled (US: ABC)

Spin-off from The Goldbergs that edges the action forward to the 90s but little else as Lainey returns to her own High School to become a music teacher and discovers that it’s different – if not hugely different – to be on the other side of desk.

We’ve seen this sort of scenario before of course in shows that didn’t want to lose their setting but had to give in to the ravages of time (cf Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but Schooled has little to say that any other show set in a High School hasn’t said already. Maybe it’s the decade being blander than the 80s, but the show has little to say about the 90s, beyond a couple of words on the fashions and Michael Jordan being quite popular.

Meadows is fine, although he’s been better in virtually every other show I’ve seen him in (Son of ZornNo Activity) – sadly, he had to pass on being in Happy Together once Schooled was picked up to series, having been in both pilots. Callen’s funnier, although to be fair he does get the best lines. Otherwise, it’s a show that coasts by on the hope that you really liked AJ Michalka in The Goldbergs and her mere presence in this show will be enough to keep you watching.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Cavendish (Canada: CBC)

1×2 – The Annes

Slightly less funny than the first episode, as the show tries to work out its new set-up. The brotherly bickering also don’t work quite as well. However, things become laugh out loud funny as soon as the Cult of Anne of Green Gables turns up.

Episode reviews: Initial review

Cuckoo (UK: BBC Three)

Series 5

Lovely wife is quite the Greg Davies fan, thanks in part to Taskmaster, but she’s also been enjoying Cuckoo these past few years thanks to the presence of Taylor Lautner in the cast as of series 2. I, for my part, have been watching it occasionally out the corner of my eye.

This time round, though, I watched a bit harder since I knew that Andie MacDowell was replacing Lautner as the token American in the cast, here playing Davies’ previously unsuspected half-sister, who’s in town to buy his dead body from him so she can live forever. Nice.

And I quite enjoyed it. It’s still low-wattage BBC comedy, largely of embarrassment, frequently of Greg Davies accidentally getting naked in front of people, but it was quite fun to see MacDowell being allowed to let loose as much as she liked and to have as Southern an accent as she wanted after the ignominy of Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. Davies’ character’s ambition to being a local Liberal Democrat MP was moderately entertaining, too.

I wouldn’t have watched were it not for lovely wife and I still probably won’t watch it for any other reason. But it was uplifting just to see MacDowell finally get a chance to express herself.

The Orville (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)

1×4 -If the Stars Should Appear  – 2×3 – Home

Talking of lovely wife, she’s mad at me. Oh so mad. Skimming through the EPG the other day, she casually asked, “What’s The Orville?” “Oh, it’s basically Star Trek but done by the guy behind Family Guy.” Lovely wife loves Star Trek. Lovely wife loves Seth MacFarlane. She was so mad that I had kept it from her. She’s still so mad that I had kept it from her.

My excuse is I thought she would think The Orville sacrilegious, a blasphemy against the Holy Trek. Apparently not, because in just the past week, we watched all 13 episodes that have aired so far and now wants to watch more.

Of course, the exercise has given me a chance to partially revisit that old feature of the blog, The Random Carusometer, which stopped being usable once Peak TV really hit in earnest. Does The Orville get better? Yes, it does. However, over the first season it progressively becomes less funny with fewer and fewer jokes and increasingly more like Star Trek to the point where you honestly wonder if the ‘satire’ defence against copyright infringement suits would actually work any longer.

But bar a couple of decent episodes (1×6 – Krill‘s moral quandry and 1×7 – Majority Rule‘s take on the tyranny of social media), and some surprising guest stars (Liam Neeson, Charlize Theron, Rob Lowe), it’s not until the 10th episode – yes, the 10th – that it does actually become more than simply just a Star Trek retread/piece of fan fic and becomes a fairly decent sci-fi series with a few new ideas that weren’t simply rip-offs from old Trek episodes.

After that, the episodes do become consistently and increasingly good. 1×10 (Firestorm) is actually quite a decent and even frightening haunted house story, while 1×11 (New Dimensions) serves as a way to both expand one character’s story and do some NerdFilla™ on ST:TNG (“How Geordi moved from being the navigator to chief engineer of the Enterprise“), all to an explicit take on Flatland. Rapping up the first season, 1×12 (Mad Idolatory) is a reasonably entertaining and surprising anti-religion text, as a minor incident involving the crew in a planet’s bronze age leads to millennia of death and misery thanks to a religion dedicated to Adrianne Palicki.

Things become a little bit more interesting still in season two, with 2×2 (Primal Urges) being the first to really push the envelope and do what Trek would never do – dedicate an episode to Internet porn addiction – gay and BDSM porn addiction at that. Lastly, 2×3 (Home), which sees both Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager) and John Billingsley (Star Trek: Enterprise) guest starring, pushes the nastiness envelope, too, and gives us another ST:TNG fan fic, this time on Skin of Evil, much to the audience’s surprise.

All in all, were it not still so blisteringly close to ST:TNG, I might still be watching it of my own volition. I also wish there were a few more jokes. But thanks to lovely wife, it’s back on the viewing list anyway. Gods bless her.

PS Anyone else as excited as I am to see Anson Mount’s Christopher Pike on Star Trek: Discovery tonight/tomorrow? I’m practically giddy

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Project Blue Book (US: History)

1×2 – The Flatwoods Monster

Thoroughly tedious episode for the most part that fails in any way to provide tension or excitement, despite supposedly having a notoriously scary alien to deal with. I enjoyed the debunking of the mystery, but the addition of the Russians to an already dismal conspiracy theory makes everything even stupider than it was before – something the return of the Men in Hats also amplified. I’m probably going to give up on this before next week, but I might give it one last whirl.

Episode reviews: Initial review

Recommended shows

Corporate (US: Comedy Central; UK: Comedy Central)

2×1 – The One Who’s There

Comedy Central’s first truly funny scripted show returns in nihilistic, misanthropic form, as the curious phenomenon of the ‘office proximity crush’ gets explored in caustic detail, while network news gets skewered, too. It’s almost too biting for its own good, since despite the numerous laughs to be had, it does leave you wishing for a course of SSRIs afterwards, but its rapid return is certainly welcome.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Happy Together (US: CBS; UK: E4)

1×13 – Backstage P(Asses)

Probably the final ever episode of Happy Together, given the ratings, it nevertheless leaves you wanting more from what’s probably been CBS’s best new sitcom in years. Lots to say about whether couples who’ve been together a long time start to become dull, or whether it’s simply age kicking in. After that, a potentially big format mix-up… that we’ll almost certainly never seen the resolution of. Shame! Still, I hope the leads all get new shows since they do deserve them.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Magnum P.I. (US: CBS; UK: Sky1)

1×11 – Nowhere To Hide

Sightly disappointing return for Magnum P.I., as it slips into the trap I was initially pleased it had avoided – making the cases too important. Here we have defecting Russians and suitcase nuclear weapons to deal with, which makes it all a bit silly. Still, Higgins got some good stuff to do, both in terms of backstory and character development.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

True Detective

3×1 – The Great War and Modern Memory

(Note, I’ve only watched episode one, although two have aired already – I’ll talk about the second and third episodes next week).

After a somewhat disastrous second season, capped off by the casting of Vince Vaughn as a gangster, the third season returns to the same territory as season one. It’s a similar set-up, with Mahershala Ali investigating a crime in 1980 that gets reopened 10 years later and about which he’s subsequently interviewed for a TV show in the present day. Just as Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson spent lots of time chatting about the universe in season 1, so Ali spends a lot of time chatting with partner Stephen Dorff. And there’s a child abduction and murder to investigate, with potentially similar features to the season 1 storyline involving the Yellow King.

It’s certainly back up there with season 1 for quality, thanks to Ali’s performance, the writing and the direction, which makes me think season 2 is a salutary warning against rushing people into producing something too soon.

However, it’s not an identikit run. Although it ties into the blazingly modern “the 80s were crap” theme (cf Deadly Class and Black Monday), there’s a positivity about it, with Ali meeting his future wife and biographer (Carmen Ejogo) in the 1980 storyline, which slaps around the misanthropic, lonely initial season 1 dialogue Ali is given. The addition of the third timeline, with its televisual twist courtesy of Sarah Gadon (The Border, 11.23.63), is also new. And you’ve got the current man of the 80s himself, Scoot McNairy (Halt and Catch Fire, Narcos: Mexico), too, who’s pitched against Mamie Gummer (Mr Robot, The Newsroom), with Ray Fisher (Justice League) and Josh Hopkins (Cougar Town) in minor roles, too.

All of which means the mix of old and new makes this a welcome return for True Detective.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict