It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
Okay, so maybe Thursdays still isn’t a good idea for WHYBW, given that What We Do In The Shadows and The Twilight Zone air on Wednesday night in the US. That’s an hour and a half of TV to watch on the same day as I have to write TMINE’s most intensive weekly feature. Hard. I’ve basically spent half a day doing this.
So, what say we to moving WHYBW to Wednesday next week and moving Orange Wednesdays to Thursdays? At the very least, it’ll stop EE from suing me from trademark infringement.
Yes? Good. Glad we could all agree on that.
This week’s reviews
Despite TMINE having covered the US upfronts season for 11 years now, they always seem to come up as a surprise to me. I don’t why that should be, given they’re at more or less the same time every year, but they do.
Anyway, their arrival means that despite wild promises last week to review lots of the new TV shows that have appeared on TV screens around the world since then, I’ve been doing upfronts coverage instead, giving hot takes on all the new shows NBC, ABC, Freeform, Fox and CBS are planning to give us over the next year; the last of the bunch, The CW, will see its newbies will getting the TMINE treatment tomorrow, so stay tuned for that.
All I’ve managed to review, as a result, is Australia’s Mr Black. Sigh.
Don’t worry, though, because I have done the background reading at least, so after the jump, I’ll be looking at the most TV – I surely will – with:
- The Spanish Princess (US: Starz; UK: StarzPlay)
- The Society (Netflix)
- Sliced (UK: Dave)
- LA’s Finest (US: Spectrum)
Meanwhile, Orange Wednesday was similarly deficient, only giving us The Death of Stalin (2017) this week. It’ll be the normal movie count for Orange Thursday next week, though: Snowpiercer (2013) and Glass (2019). Now you know what they are, you can watch them, too, and we can discuss them like we’re in a book club or something.
What’s coming this week
The 410 (Canada: CBC Gem) will probably get a look over tomorrow, given it’s only 3x30m episodes, but I think Educators (New Zealand: TVNZ OnDemand) might miss out, unless What/If (Netflix) turns out to be spectacularly dreadful.
I’m also going to be watching State of the Union (US: SundanceTV; UK: BBC Two), which is only 10×10-minute episodes, so normally too short-form for TMINE to consider. But given it’s by Nick Hornby, stars Chris O’Dowd and Rosamund Pike, and has been picked up by BBC Two already, that basically puts it on my radar. Also, there seems to be an increasing amount of TV made for US networks by British people in Britain (cf Killing Eve, the forthcoming The Rook), which is an interesting trend that TMINE should investigate, don’t you think?
On top of that, we’ve got Hulu (US)’s adaptation of Catch-22 coming up, as well as Netflix’s What/If. CBS (US)’s Blood and Treasure starts next Tuesday, too, but it probably won’t be until Thursday or Friday that I’ll review it.
And lest we forget the rest of the world, Five Bedrooms (Australia: Ten) started yesterday so I’ll be reviewing that as well.
As usual, I’ll be talking about the latest episodes of Doom Patrol, Game of Thrones, The Twilight Zone, Warrior, and What We Do In the Shadows after the jump. But Harrow (Australia: ABC; UK: Alibi) has returned for its second season, so I’ll be catching up with that. Mr Black (Australia: Ten)’s second episode has also aired, so I’ll be watching that closely. And since Lucifer is now a Netflix production, I thought I’d see if its fourth season was in any way different from those that preceded it on Fox (US) – judging from its first episode, at least.
See you in a mo.
The Spanish Princess (US: Starz; UK: StarzPlay)
Adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s book about Catherine of Aragon that sees her leaving her home in Spain to marry the future king of England and become its queen. Who is that king? Arthur! No, really. That’s Arthur, son of Henry VII, a nice, sensitive bookish guy who’s not great with the ladies.
Unfortunately for her, he’s not going to be long for this world, and his sporty brother, Henry, will become king instead, despite never expecting to assume the throne so being magnificently ill equipped for the position. On top of that, Henry is somewhat taken with Catherine and aspires to make her his. And we all know how that ended, don’t we?
However, that’s all in the future and the first episode is content merely to detail Catherine’s departure from Spain, her arrival in England, her meeting her future groom(s) for the first time, and the eve of her wedding to Arthur.
The Spanish detail at the beginning is very nice, and there’s actual shooting in Spain in the Alhambra, where Catherine grew up (we’ve been there – it’s lovely). We also get to meet her mum, the marvellous fighty Queen Isabella, whose life was, of course, detailed in Spnaish TV epic Isabel.
After that, things get looser with the history, with events jumbled up and fabricated, and Henry VII turning out to be Elliot Cowan (The Fixer, Lost in Austen), who is a tad more courtly and English than the Welsh-lineaged, French-raised, uncouth warrior-king Harri Tudur of history. The show also seems a lot more interested in Catherine’s Moorish servants and soldiers, their customs, and how they’re treated in London, than in Catherine’s already historically exciting plot.
It was all a bit too daft and ahistorical for us, so one episode was enough. But if you like your period drama frothy and full of obvious, socially relevant commentary, The Spanish Princess might be a nice starting point for further study, at least.
The Society (Netflix)
Rich Americans in the town of West Ham spend all their time complaining about the smell lingering over the place. So strong is the whiff that one night, they bus all the kids out of town while works are done. Except the kids are bussed back into town the same night and find all the adults are gone. More so, while the utilities all still work, there’s no internet service anywhere, they can’t contact anyone who isn’t in the town and all the exits from town have been blocked.
It’s not long before the kids realise they’ve actually been moved to a near-identical version of their homes, perhaps one in an alternative dimension, judging by the fact that coins almost always seem to come down heads when flipped and a total solar eclipse takes place a decade before it’s supposed to.
With no sign of the adults coming back, the kids have to decide how to run society by themselves. Will they party all day or will they work hard and create rules? Needless to say, soon deaths are starting to occur…
So I watched two whole episodes of this and found it very much something that worked very well on one level, quite dully on another. The main level is the central mystery of what’s actually happened to them. Episode 2 is very good at working through just about every possible sci-fi explanation and saying “No, it’s not that.” Still, I’m not so sure the human side of the show’s idea works, since episode 1 hints the adults almost certainly know something’s going to happen to the kids and the idea that none of them would say, “Not to my children!” or at least mention something seems unlikely.
However, I’m still guessing, based on one line in episode 2, that the whole thing is something I’ve not seen done before: (possible spoiler alert) (spoiler alert) a modern version of the ‘Pied Piper of Hamlin’ from the kids’ point of view . Which would just about make it work, I reckon. And be very cool.
Unfortunately, just as much time is dedicated to the soapy teen relationships and rich v poor, cool kids v outsiders rivalries that are compulsory in US high school situations. That’s all a lot duller, although the constant threat of violent rape seems to hang over every interaction between boys and girls in a way that makes me greatly worried for US teenagers.
I’m probably going to soldier through the rest of the episodes this week, to see if my theory is right. But having to deal with those factors, as well as the usual mental gymnastics required to pretend actors in their mid-20s are plausible teenagers, means it’s not going to be a binge viewing, I expect.
Sliced (UK: Dave)
Gosh. Look at that. Me watching a UK TV show. Will wonders never cease?
This one sees Theo Barklem-Biggs and co-writer Samson Kayo playing two friends and fellow pizza delivery drivers in south London, who just want to make some money, move out of their family homes and meet some women.
You’ll note that I wrote south London. Let’s be clear here, Royal Television Society, Peckham is in south London, not southeast London. Peckham may want to be southeast London, but it’s not. All right?
Anyway, I’m from southeast London, but it’s clear that times have changed, as have accents and slang, as even I struggled a bit (Lovely Wife assures me that all the kids she works with now talk exactly like they do on Sliced, so it’s clear it’s me with the problem, not the show. I probably need to get out more. What do you think? No, don’t answer that).
Anyway, again, heaven help anyone not from the area who watched it, but assuming they did manage to process everything, they would have had a reasonably enjoyable time.
The first episode does have an overall plot relating to Kayo’s mum deciding to charge him rent and his needing to raise some money ASAP. However, for the most part, it’s a series of vignettes, as Kayo visits different pizza customers (including a suicidal Phil Daniels) and has to deal with a certain amount of odd
south London Peckham behaviour. There are definitely some laughs to be had, too, from Kayo’s and Barklem-Biggs equally poor attempts to deal with women. I also enjoyed the haggling in the pawn shop.
Probably not a classic, but funny enough that I’ll probably watch more.
LA’s Finest (US: Spectrum)
Spin-off from Bad Boys II that sees Gabrielle Union reprising her character, now relocated to LA where she’s one of LA’s top detectives. She’s partnered with mum Jessica Alba and together the two have to solve crimes in a way that’s not 100% dissimilar to the way Will Smith and Martin Lawrence did in Bad Boys II. Except they’re girls, obviously.
As a show, this has had a bit of a chequered history, having started off originally as a pilot for NBC in 2017, before that network passed it over. Now, it’s the inaugural show for Spectrum cable’s new video on demand service.
What can I say that’s positive about a show so bad I turned it off halfway through? It’s got a decent cast for sure, with Union particularly good lead. Alba, despite her years of training for Dark Angel, seems a little bit uneasy with a gun for some reason, but still seems pretty good with the martial arts. Then there’s Ernie Hudson as Union’s dad and Ryan McPartlin (Chuck‘s Captain Awesome) as Alba’s husband.
It’s also not directed by Michael Bay, which is definitely a positive since it doesn’t make you think you’ve accidentally logged onto the dark web to watch some highly unpleasant and illegal porn. And Union drives a nice bike.
But the script is dire. Everything’s so forced, particularly the bants between Union and Alba, Union, Alba and the other detectives, any police officers and criminals, or indeed just human beings in general. The stunts are weak enough that I’ve largely forgotten them already. The plot reminds you of LA Heat, rather than Heat.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Harrow (Australia: ABC; UK: Alibi)
2×1 – Abo Imo Pectore
Ioan Gruffudd returns as the
English “I’m Welsh, actually” medical examiner living in Australia and using his empathy and brain to help the actual detectives solve crimes, even though no one wants him to.
Between seasons, we’ve naturally had some changes. Love interest Mirrah Foulkes seems to have disappeared – where, I know not – to be replaced by rival trainee medical examiner Jolene Anderson. And with season one’s plot concluded, we now have a new plot (and matching title sequence): who tried to kill Harrow at the end of the finale?
This episode reintroduces everyone, moves the action on a bit, moves the characters in different directions and gives us the usual forensic, episodic conundrum to solve: why did a new mum decide to start trying to stab someone who took her drink at a local shop?
Despite having a lot to play with there, the episode was actually better at juggling all those elements than in the series opener. It feels more confident and less rough around the edges as a show, and the character interactions are warmer. I am, however, less impressed with the new season plotline, which is a bit dafter, less meaningful and less daring than its predecessor.
I’m hoping that the show manages to retain its new confidence and maintain that edginess it had in the first season in later episodes. Let’s see…
4×1 – Everything’s Okay
So I gave up Lucifer, if not ages go, certainly after just two episodes of the third season, back when it was on Fox in US. Others did, too, judging by the fact it got cancelled. However, Netflix did one of its occasional rescue jobs and picked up for a fourth season. And now here it is. Again.
Given the change in scene, I decided to see if the show itself was any different, since I did actually enjoy the cast and the characters (although not Lauren German’s joyless lead). Plus I did like Inbar Lavi in both The Last Ship and Imposters, and here’s she joined as Eve – yes, that one. Yes, an Israeli actress playing the biblical Eve in a US show. That’s got to be worth a punt, at least.
Awkwardly, while Netflix has the rights to the first three seasons in the US, here in the UK they belong to Amazon, so you’ll just have to rely on Tom Ellis’ recap to explain everything that’s happened before. In my case, I didn’t have much catching up to do it seems, and the ‘previously on…’ was enough to get me to the point where I understood what was going.
Unfortunately, everything’s still exactly the same. The formula is exactly the same. Plus Lavi’s not in the first episode. Instead, we just had Lucifer trying to deal with the fact that German’s basically decided to ignore the fact he’s the literal Devil Incarnate, so they can just solve cases together. Like they did in every episode before that.
The first episode does suggest there’s more going on with German; there was also a surprisingly lovely moment, spiritually speaking, involving DB Woodside and Kevin Alejandro. But I’ve also looked ahead for spoilers and to be honest, none of the developments suggest that the amount of viewing involved in watching the rest of the season is going to be worth it.
It’s on Netflix. It’ll be there until the end of time. I might watch it at some point. But I’m not in a rush.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Mr Black (Australia: Ten)
After watching episode one, I did wonder exactly where the show was going to go with its rivalries between the alpha father and the beta boyfriend. Everyone gets nicer? A comedy of manners? Turns out that pure evil was the way forward.
Episode 2 sees the arrival of Mrs Black (Nadine Garner) on the scene and she proves a powerful catalyst in getting Beta to start doing some quite bad things, which Mr Black ends up having to top. Which he does. The show actually goes to the area I didn’t think it would – an actual physical fight between the two, rather than a simple contest of insults.
More interesting, sure, but a little less funny.
Daughter/girlfriend gets more to do, too, although she’s oddly omniscient when she needs to be, oddly stupid when the script demands it,. But everything’s holding up well, anyway, particularly the discussions of ‘culture’.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Warrior (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky1)
1×6 – Chewed Up, Spit Out, And Stepped On
The first bad episode so far, since it’s basically all about the Irish and a bunch of interchangeable bearded men all boxing each other. Snore.
Some interest to be had with the Chinese and their negotiations, mind.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Doom Patrol (US: DC Universe)
1×13 – Flex Patrol
My review of this episode (and indeed the season) was already delivered within the episode itself by Mr Nobody, so I won’t repeat what he said. But nice to see the marvellously hokey Flex Mentallo on board and everything ready for the final two episodes.
Episode reviews: Initial review
Game of Thrones (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
8×5 – The Bells
Gosh. Dany read the battleplan I set out last week. That’s nice. I wonder if she’ll ‘like’ TMINE on Facebook as thanks?
Otherwise, a controversial episode that already has fans petitioning for the entire season to be remade in a way they find acceptable. <eye roll emoji>
Personally, I agree with others who suggest this was all the logical conclusion to various people’s storylines and the show’s main argument about the nature of power – if it’s a ‘game’ of thrones, what does that say about the people who play it, even if they seem nice and pretty at first? It also looked great and really rammed home how terrible war is, particularly for the ordinary person.
That said, there were a few pointless character threads and too many people seemed oddly indestructible at convenient times. But as a wrap-up, this is all going in the right direction and better still, makes me laugh at everyone who called their kids Khaleesi. Jumped the gun there, didn’t you?
Episode reviews: Season one
The Twilight Zone (US: CBS All Access)
1×8 – Point of Origin
I’m not 100% sure this was an actual Twilight Zone episode, so much a simple anti-anti-immigration rant with the slight reminder that everyone in the US is an immigrant (other than the native Americans, of course). Ginnifer Goodwin and James Frain did well, but the lack of subtlety or real twist worked against a semi-decent idea. As did that ice cream at the end. And I love ice cream, so it truly hurts me to say that.
Episode reviews: Initial review
What We Do In The Shadows (US: FX; UK: BBC Two)
1×8 – Citizenship
The first poor episode so far, with Lady Vampire having to look after a new vampire, and Phone Jacker trying to get his US citizenship. Nothing especially wrong with it, beyond minimal things to do for Matt Berry, but it just wasn’t especially funny.
Turns out I could pass a US citizenship exam pretty easily, though, so that’s one thing.
Episode reviews: Initial review