What have you been watching? Including Street Legal and Jann

Street Legal

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

Toshiro Mifune in Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro

Toshiro Mifune in Akira Kurosawa’s Sanjuro

This week’s reviews

After deciding to not bother reviewing ABC (Australia)’s The Heights on the general grounds the series description included the word ‘soapy’, this week I turned my attention to reviewing:

Meanwhile, for this week’s Orange Wednesday film reviews, I reviewed Peppermint (2018) and Sanjuro (1962).

Jann

New shows

After last week’s flurry of new shows in the US, Canada decided to get in on the act this week. I’ll be turning my attention to last night’s new CBC show Diggstown in the next few days, but after the jump, I’ll be looking at the revival of CBC’s Street Legal, as well as CTV’s preview of forthcoming ‘grumpy old singer’ comedy Jann.

Secret City returned for a second season in Australia on Monday as well and as that’s now all on Netflix in the UK, I might give that a watch over the weekend. However, from Friday, there’s a bit of competition on Netflix from Ricky Gervais’ new show After Life and Starz in the US will be premiering Now Apocalypse on Sunday. There’s bound to be other stuff, too, but let’s see how I fare with that little lot, too.

The Magicians

The regulars

After the jump, we’ll be talking about: Corporate, Doom Patrol, The Magicians, Magnum P.I., Ófærð (Trapped), The Orville, The Passage and Star Trek: Discovery, as well as the second episodes of The Enemy Within and Whiskey Cavalier. I’ll be dropping one of them from the regulars queue, but which?

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

Street Legal

Street Legal (Canada: CBC)

Seeing as about the only Canadian TV shows that the UK acquired in the 80s and early 90s were The Littlest Hobo and Due SouthStreet Legal will have passed most TMINE readers by. However, up until Heartland surpassed its record a few years ago, for a while, it was Canada’s longest running TV drama, airing between 1987 to 1994.

Having tried to clue up on via Wikipedia and YouTube, I’m not entirely sure why. While it did at least avoid trying to be one of those ‘North American’ productions that avoided revealing it was actually Canadian, it was also pretty terrible from what I’ve seen of it. Justifiably nicknamed TO Law, because of its obvious similarities to LA Law, the show about Toronto lawyers featured writing that was largely dreadful and acting that was somehow worse. And let’s not get started on the (many) title sequences.

Yet, nostalgia for crap TV seems to work the same on both sides of the Atlantic, because CBC has revived Street Legal for a six-episode ninth season. This sees the original run’s character Olivia Novak (Cynthia Dale) return as a rich high flyer in a big Toronto law firm. However, although she doesn’t realise it, the whole firm’s about collapse around her ears.

Meanwhile, an upstart firm of young lawyers (Cara Ricketts, Steve Lund, Yvonne Chapman) is busily trying to take out a class action law suit against Big Pharma because of the opioid crisis. That interferes with Dale’s own lawsuit so soon she’s trying to take over their case. Except ultimately, as you might guess, she ends up joining the firm so they can handle the case together.

Watching this new series is at least instructive in that it shows how Canadian TV has changed in the past 30 years. The cast is far more diverse, the production values are much better, the season has a serial, more edgy storyline, and the actors can… act. Unfortunately, the writing’s no better, with toe-curlingly poor dialogue and a pretentious narration that’s practically screaming “Take us seriously! This is not the Street Legal you remember! This is Important Television!”

On top of that, you have Dale’s completely inability to act. She’s truly awful and were it not for the need to tie the show into the previous run, I imagine the new producers would have been happy not to have included her, particularly given the numerous cartwheels the plotting has to go through to get her into the rest of the narrative. That said, the plotting has very little going for it, with so many moments that raise the viewer’s eyebrow in disbelief, you’ll feel like you’ve had a botched face lift by the end of the episode.

Some things are best left forgotten in the past.

Jann

Jann (Canada: CTV)

Talking of things forgotten in the past, here’s Jann. I have literally no idea who Jann Arden is in real-life, beyond the fact she’s a Canadian ballad writer. Here, she’s joining the likes of grumpy old men Paul Reiser, Donny Deutsch, Jack Dee, Larry David et al in starring in a TV show in which she plays a fictionalised version of herself who’s all washed up career-wise and family-wise and is looking for a comeback. Unfortunately, her current manager sucks, she’s still hung up over her ex-girlfriend, her family (including Travelers’ Patrick Gilmore) are all irked by her and she’s having to rent her house out to other famous Canadian people I’ve not heard of and whose cameo appearances therefore mean nothing to me.

Jann is not funny, but I do at least give Jann herself a doff of my metaphorical cap for her willingness to, for example, roll around on her back in a field with barbed wire stuck to her crotch. There’s also a moderately interesting thing going on with her new, somewhat direct, millennial manager (Elena Juatco). But that’s about it. Even compared to Cavendish, this was too bound up in Canadian culture (of presumably 20-30 years ago) for me to have a chance of enjoying it.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Doom Patrol (US: DC Universe)

1×3 – Puppet Patrol

Sadly, bereft of Alan Tudyk’s Deadpool-esque presence, this was a far less interesting affair than previous episodes, with our heroes relying on their own innate charms to woo the audience over. Unfortunately, for the most part, they don’t have that much going for them.

That said, it was still all delightfully weird. Brendan Fraser’s character and his tendency to greet every new bit of weirdness with “The fuck?”, as well as a nice bit of ultraviolence against the Paraguayan Hitler Youth, was a distinct highlight. And, of course, we do have the arrival of the first supervillain with perhaps too many superpowers for his own good, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man.

Episode reviews: Initial review

The Enemy Within (US: NBC)

1×2 – Black Bear

Now we have the set-up out of the way, we’re into the series proper of The Enemy Within. And it turns out that it’s a moderately good spy show at times, with a little in common with Whiskey Cavalier, with Morris Chestnut the boy scout of the equally boy scouty FBI, Jennifer Carpenter the more morally ambiguous representative of the equally morally ambiguous CIA, both of whom use very different approaches to tracking down terrorists.

There’s also a hint of Numb3rs educational remit. Every time they explain a new bit of tradecraft to the audience, there’s a nice on-screen graphic to explain it all. However, in common with the first episode, it honestly doesn’t really know what it’s talking about – the terrorists have set up their own “untraceable wireless mesh network” to communicate with. I mean what? And there are just so many plot twists that make no sense, the show sits somewhere between The Blacklist and Blindspot at times.

I imagine that later episodes will be more of the same, which won’t be the worst thing in the world. But as of yet, there’s no real USP that makes me think it’ll be worth any more than if I just watched old Limitless re-runs on Netflix for Jennifer Carpenter. I’ll stick with it for one more episode, at least, though.

Episode reviews: Initial review

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

2×9 – Identity – Part 2

Obviously there was going to be a big reset button after last week’s episode, but it wasn’t obvious how much of a reset there would be. And although the fact (spoiler) Isaac effectively gets off scot-free for aiding in all manner of crimes, we do at least have a brand new enemy and gained a new ally – effectively, we’ve gone from Star Trek to season four of ST:TNG in a single bound – and you know who has had a similar change in positioning to that of his ST:TNG equivalent.

Reasonably brave and also good to see that single-celled organisms can be heroes, too, and not just there for yucks and to give Norm Macdonald something to do these days.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

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

1×8 – You Are Not That Girl Anymore

And we’re up to episode eight, with just a double-length finale episode to go, and the vampires still haven’t taken over the Earth. They have, in fact, moved into the room next to their previous room. By season 5, they might be as far as the woods at this rate. Yawn.

Still, there was one very nice revelation midway through the episode that I hadn’t seen coming because (presumably) I can’t count.

Episode reviews: Initial review

Whiskey Cavalier (US: ABC)

1×2 – The Czech List

A far less interesting affair than the first episode, thanks in part to the fact that the whole show instantly collapsed into a standard ensemble procedural format without any intervening stages. Nevertheless, still pretty amusing, with our hero having to learn how to not be a sensitive soul in order than he can seduce a widow, thus putting his new CIA partner into the role of the Cyrano of the piece. A good fight scene in the middle and plenty of filming in Prague – yes, entirely on the Charles Bridge, why do you ask? – can’t cover up the fact that they were never in Austria and near any German speakers when they were filming that part. We also got to see more of Vir Das’s character this time, but unfortunately that wasn’t much beyond “I’m the alpha stud of this story”. And “I’ll hack into the RFID chip of the car and then I’ll be able to take complete control of it”? Really?

Still, Scott Foley’s character is amusing and the show now has quite a nifty new title sequence. And at least for its European globe trotting, it is actually trotting around Europe, with the UK on the schedule at some point soon.

Episode reviews: Initial review

Recommended shows

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

2×8 – The Tragedy

More cynical than funny this episode, with everyone try to out-virtue signal each other in response to ‘a tragedy’. Not a huge number of laughs, but certainly pointed and as usual, gets both technology and social media in a way the likes of The Enemy Within and Whiskey Cavalier can only dream of.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

The Magicians (US: Syfy; UK: Syfy)

4×7 – The Side Effect

An episode that tries to go for meta-trickiness and discuss narrative and characters’ position within narrative, but which falls a little on its face by suggesting that we should all be interested in the supporting characters… and then giving us some pretty dull stories for the supporting characters that make us realise why they’re only supporting characters, not the protagonists. Maybe it’s like those episodes of Doctor Who where the leads needed a week off? But it did give us some slight scariness on the other side of the mirror, in a way that vaguely reminded me of the terrors of when the Beast originally showed up.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

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

1×17 – Black is the Widow

It’s been a week for honeytraps, in combination with Whiskey Cavalier, with our hero here going on dates with women to try to work out which one might have killed a rich old man. There are twists and the ending is actually slightly moving, but it’s really about the now traditional insertion of new potential partners for each of the two members of a “will they, won’t they?” relationship. It’s funny how easy it is to spot someone who’s going to be a recurring character, since they easily outshine the other guest actors and you wonder why they’re being given greater latitude to stand out. Gosh, I wonder if that’s so we notice them, too, and can see why they’re going to stick around.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Ófærð (Trapped) (Iceland: RÚV; UK: BBC Four)

2×3-2×4

So I’ve tried really hard to get into this season of Trapped, but to be honest, without the winter setting and everyone actually being trapped, as well as the lack of the family b-plot from the first season, it’s hard to see why I’d watch any more of this. Four episodes in and it’s like a duller version of the second season of Bron/Broen (The Bridge), with politicians being kidnapped and forced to give messages to the world. True, the show does have something to say about ethnic nationalism, but it doesn’t really have anything active to say, rather than a passive “kidnapping is bad”, which almost suggests they think that “the Hammer of Thor” group has a point. There’s also no real mystery – who’s a member of Hammer of Thor? They are. Case closed.

So I think I’m out. If you’re hardcore Scandi Noir fan, maybe you’re loving this, but at two hours per week, this is a big investment of time for very little return.

That said, I gave up midway through season one, too, and then came back to watch the rest of it, so maybe the same will happen here.

Episode reviews: Initial review

Star Trek: Discovery (US: CBS All Access; UK: Netflix)

2×7 – Light and Shadows

Huh. So have they basically revealed that Spock has Vulcan Asperger’s? And implied that in the future, the Federation still operates a traditional North American pathological medical model, rather than a more European social model? And that Vulcans don’t think it’s logical to help people – I mean do they not have doctors, for example? Someone seems to have confused ‘logical’ and ’emotionless’ with ‘inconsiderate’ and ‘cruel’.

That aside, if we could amputate everything to do with Section 31 from the episode (and indeed the season), this was actually not half bad, with some timey wimey fun to be had. Nevertheless, I was more excited by the destination of Talos IV revealed in the final moments than by anything that happened this episode – and it’s fair to say that the trailer for next week’s episode reveals a really good updating of the Talosians from The Cage is on the way.

If it’s not too late, can we cancel that Section 31 spin-off and just have a spin-off with Captain Pike’s Enterprise instead?

Episode reviews: Initial review

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