It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
This week’s reviews
It’s not been super, super busy this week for reviews, since although there have been quite a few new shows that I’ve been watching, not many have been worth full-on reviews. But elsewhere, I’ve covered:
And for Orange Wednesday‘s film reviews, I turned my attention to: Triple Frontier (2019), Hotel Artemis (2018) and Special Correspondents (2016).
Last week, I listed a whole bunch of new shows that arrived on the scene and after the jump, I’ll be dealing with a whole bunch of them: Shrill (US: Hulu), Shadow (Netflix), The Order (Netflix) and The Village (US: NBC).
There are others on the way, but given how lukewarm the first episode was, I doubt I’ll be tuning in for the rest of Hanna (Amazon). And seeing as I didn’t watch all 160 episodes or whatever of Pretty Little Liars, I doubt I’ll be turning my attention to Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. I have a pretty strong feeling that next week’s Boxset Monday is going to be season two of The OA, but let’s wait to see what else turns up. Me and schedules, hey?
Magnum P.I. took another holiday this week – these lazy Hawaii-based detectives, hey? – as did The Orville – these lazy, barely concealed Star Trek knock-offs, hey? – so that means that after the jump, we’ll be talking about the latest episodes of Doom Patrol, Il Miracolo, The Magicians, Star Trek: Discovery and Whiskey Cavalier. Also returning is The Good Fight, but I’ve only managed to watch one episode of that this week – episode two next week.
Shrill (US: Hulu)
Based on Lindy West’s Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, Shrill sees Saturday Night Live‘s Aidy Bryant playing a struggling journalist who also struggles with her weight, a terrible boyfriend, every relationship she has and more. However, when she ends up pregnant by terrible boyfriend because she doesn’t want to deprive him of his favourite thing – having sex without a condom – she decides enough is enough. With the help of her best friend (the increasingly ubiquitous Lolly Adefope), she decides to assert herself and find her self-worth.
Shrill is basically a show about poor self-esteem and if you’ve seen any show about poor self-esteem, particularly ones involving overweight women, you’ve a fair idea about more or less 100% of Shrill‘s content. Most of it is predictable and not especially eye-opening, provided you’ve ever had a sense of empathy in your life.
That said, though, there are surprises, such as when Bryant (spoiler alert) has an abortion . It can be eye-opening: $50 for the morning-after pill in the US – and it doesn’t even work for women over a certain weight!
It’s also a lot warmer than Dietland, say – or at the very least doesn’t cold open on self-harm with razorblades, which is a definite plus. Bryant’s good, and Adefope’s fun – she even gets to be properly British, messing up a joke because she’s got the wrong cultural references (“Call 999… 911!”). It also doesn’t instantly turn Bryant from mouse into lion. I might watch more. But I might not.
PS If you’ve been wondering whatever happened to Home Alone/Groundhog Day‘s Daniel Stern, he’s in this, playing Bryant’s dad
TMINE doesn’t review much South African TV, but when it does, it’s usually a superhero show for some reason. Is it me or is it South Africa? Whatever the explanation, Shadow is more Batman than Jongo‘s more mystical affair. It sees the well-buff Pallance Dladla playing a former cop who decides to enact vigilante justice against the bad guys of Johannesburg.
I only watched the first episode, in which Dladla helps a young woman who’s being blackmailed by a loan shark who forces his clients to pose for nude pictures in case they fail to pay up – and who uses them even if they do. However, I get the impression this has very few serial elements and Dladla basically helps a different victim each episode.
Shadow’s one super power is that he can’t feel pain, having been struck by lightning as a kid. He’s not super strong or super fast, although he is quite nifty at martial arts. He can’t even heal quickly. He just can’t feel pain. Remember Painkiller Jane? That – and I’m still not sure it’s a very helpful superpower.
I was expecting Shadow to be a bit dumb, but actually it’s fine. Nothing extraordinary in terms of writing, but it pairs Shadow – yes, that’s actually the character’s name, Shadrach “Shadow” Khumalo, not just his superhero name – with another cop (Khathu Ramabulana) who helps paint the bigger picture that Shadow’s fists tend to overlook or can’t tackle. There’s a nice sense of humour and there’s also an interesting relationship between Dladla and his wheelchair-bound sister, Tumie Ngumla. It’s also bilingual, with characters switching between English and various native languages at points.
That said, there are some issues that don’t work quite so well outside South Africa, with more than a hint of homophobia at one point and let’s not get started on the guy who likes to dance in Ngumla’s underwear. I’m not sure it’s worth watching more than an episode or two, but it’s culturally interesting to watch at least.
The Order (Netflix)
Jake Manley’s dad (or maybe both his parents) is dead, killed by a secret society at the illustrious Belgrave University. Under the tutelage of grandpa Matt Frewer (Max Headroom), he works all his life to be eligible to attend Belgrave and to infiltrate The Hermetic Order of the Blue Rose to get his revenge. But when he gets there, he discovers the order in more than just a regular university society: it teaches black magic.
So I wasn’t expecting much from The Order, particularly since it was created by Ghost Wars writer Dennis Heaton. The set-up sounds bad and dopey, for sure. And it’s not brilliant. But I was pleasantly surprised because there’s a definite tongue-in-cheek element to proceedings. While the werewolves and black magic are par for the course, it frequently sends up both itself and American universities (“This way are men’s toilets, here are the women’s and here are the non-binary toilets”… “This is the only university in the US founded by a pirate!”).
When Manley tells Frewer he’s discovered the Order practises real black magic that actually works, Frewer is unsurprised (“It makes sense”). There are some pretty accurately written rivalries that seem more like real-life rivalries than the constant talk-fests that permeate the genre and one particularly amusing scene sees one arch-rival face up to Manley and try to kill him and Manley warn him to look out ; when he does, he runs to Manley who accidentally hits him in the head with a shovel: “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry… No wait. Screw you. You were trying to kill me!”
That said, there’s not really enough in there to make me want to watch more, and it’s not really my demographic or genre, but at least it wasn’t a waste of my time.
The Village (US: NBC)
Mawkish drama set in a Brooklyn apartment block called ‘The Village’, but just like This Is Us, The Village has an obvious double-meaning and intends to emotionally blackmail you into watching. We’re introduced to various seemingly unrelated characters who do their own thing for a while then lo! What’s that? They’re interconnected with one of the other groups somehow? How heart-warming and important!
There’s lots of that, with people turning out to be other characters’ dads or mums. It’s all supposed to be very uplifting and sometimes that works – I did have a little tear in my eye when loner vet moves into the building and thinks no one will understand what he’s going through… but is greeted by three old-time veterans. But largely, it’s an emotional manipulation engine with far fewer of the surprises and the multiple timelines that This Is Us throws up to make you care about everyone. These are generic people in specific situations and it’s the situations that are supposed to jerk your tears.
But it won’t make you come back for more.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Doom Patrol (US: DC Universe)
1×5 – Paw Patrol
If not Deadpool, Doom Patrol does at least have ambitions of being the oddest superhero show of them all. Not always the funniest, but certainly the oddest. This week, the budget could stretch to bringing back both Timothy Dalton and Alan Tudyk (who naturally points out “I’ve not been in the last two episodes”), allowing Mr Nobody to narrate the world back to safety and away from the apocalypse by organising a time-travelling staring contest cult.
Honestly, watching it doesn’t feel quite as fun as the episode summaries or these trailers would indicate, but there’s always more than enough wild imagination, jokes and self-mockery to make everything great viewing. I think I will promote the show next week if the appropriately titled Doom Patrol Patrol is as good as I hope it is.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Il Miracolo (The Miracle) (Italy/UK: Sky Atlantic)
Kind of a mixed bag these two. On the other hand, they do balance out some of the problems of the first two episodes. The First Lady gets fleshed out and gets something to do, it turns out there’s a reason for the Bad Priest’s behaviour and there’s a reason for why the confrontative parishioner is so trusting of the Bad Priest.
But at the same time, we’re not that much further along with the plot and we’re halfway through the season. No more miracles have been revealed, other than advances in genetic science that apparently allow us to visualise someone’s face purely from blood DNA. The Prime Minister more or less just sits there the whole time, glowering, and whatever’s going on with the kids and the Polish nanny is mystifying.
I’m going to keep watching but it’s not proving 100% rewarding, I will admit
Episode reviews: Initial review
Whiskey Cavalier (US: ABC)
1×4 – Mrs & Mr Trowbridge
Not a David Hemingson script this week, so not quite as funny as previous efforts, but a decent affair, with our hero and heroine’s relationship dialling up a notch. Pleasingly, there’s more focus on Lauren Cohan’s character this week, as well as Ana Ortiz’s, giving them both a few more lines than they’re normally given.
It’s still not top spy action, but there’s usually enough stunts, jokes and relationship fun to make the whole thing a good hour’s viewing.
Episode reviews: Initial review
The Good Fight (US: CBS All Access; UK: More4)
3×1 – The One About the Recent Troubles
Now we’re into season 3, we’re moving away from having every episode given a day number (days since DT was elected president) and into every episode being named… after an episode of Friends? Probably not, but for this season opener, we did move into #MeToo territory, even if DT himself was still on everyone’s minds, as our plucky heroes have to decide if they’re plucky enough to reveal that their founder and great Civil Rights leader basically went around raping all his secretaries. Again, probably not.
Reasonably enjoyable, sometimes poignant, but not as funny or as sharp as usual, I thought. I hope it picks up in later episodes. Michael Sheen’s on the way, for one thing.
The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)
4×9 – The Serpent
Plenty of excitement and intrigue, with Alice getting lots to do for a change. Also a chance for Olivia Taylor Dudley to show off her versatility in what’s been an increasingly one-note part for her. Some good laughs to be had, but it’s all feeling a tad pedestrian and lacking in imagination compared to previous seasons, too. Plus there’s just not enough magic.
Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)
2×9 – Project Daedalus
Oh no! A character is dead! How we’ll miss you, person whose name I never learnt and never really paid any attention to.
Apart from that, more Section 31 tedium, more uncharacteristic behaviour from Spock, but otherwise, the first episode this season that felt like it had really got its groove back.
Interestingly, I’ve just watched Star Trek‘s The Cage for the first time all the way through – I’d watched The Menagerie version but not the pilot episode – and so I’d not quite clocked how perfect Ansom Mount’s performance is in terms of being based on the final few minutes of Jeffrey Hunter’s performance in that episode. I’d been thinking Mount had been quite balanced and friendly, compared to the somewhat sulky Hunter, but I’d never seen those final scenes, where Pike is back to normal after his episode-long languor, and Mount nails it.
Episode reviews: Initial review