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
Look at that. It’s September. How did that happen, hey?
Cometh September, cometh the regular TMINE schedule and things are now officially back to normal. Almost. This week’s going to be slightly different in that it’s the slightly unscheduled “Week of Boxsets”, as I finally get round to reviewing all the Boxsets I watched over the summer break.
Today is WHYBW, of course, and the streams can’t cross, but tomorrow we’ll continue with season 3 of Canal+’s Le bureau des légendes (The Bureau), with season 4 concluding the “Week of Boxsets” on Friday.
And then on Monday, I’ll try to do another one. Because it’s Boxset Monday.
What will it be? It might be season 3 of GLOW, it might be season 2 of 4 Blocks, but it’s most likely to be the first season of Netflix’s forthcoming The Spy.
What’s coming this week
However, that does mean there probably won’t be an Orange Thursday this week, primarily because it’s Wednesday and I’ve not seen any movies this week, but also because I won’t have time tomorrow to write reviews of two movies and a complete season of French TV.
Sorry about that. But I am merely mortal.
I’ve also decided not to bother with Showtime’s forthcoming On Becoming a God in Central Florida, on the general grounds that if it’s not good enough for even YouTube, it’s probably not good enough to watch. Plus I watched a bit of it and came to the same conclusion independently.
But I have watched the first couple of episodes of Pennyworth (US: Epix; UK: StarzPlay), so we can talk about that after the jump.
With TMINE’s “if it starts in August, I’m not watching it rule” and so many shows in the US having now finished, in preparation for the Fall 2019-2020 season, there aren’t many regulars to talk about at the moment. Thank heavens there are other countries, hey?
So after the jump, let’s talk about the latest episodes of Israel’s False Flag and Australia’s Glitch. See you in a mo.
Pennyworth (US: Epix; UK: StarzPlay)
UK premiere date: Autumn 2019
There can’t be many TV shows, films or even books that are not just prequels but are prequels to prequels. So Pennyworth exists in somewhat rarefied airs, being a prequel to Gotham (more or less), which itself is a prequel to Batman (although which Batman is debatable).
Created by Bruno Heller (Touching Evil, Rome, The Mentalist, Gotham) and Danny Cannon (CSI, Gotham), Pennyworth tells the origin story of the redoubtable future butler to a billionaire called ‘Bruce Wayne’. Set in the 60s, just after Alfred Pennyworth has been discharged from what he says was the army’s catering corps – but was actually the SAS – it sees Pennyworth (Jack Bannon) trying to move from nightclub bouncer to establish his own security firm with some of his fellow service members.
Along the way he encounters the as-yet be-Bruced Thomas Wayne and helps him deal with some strange subversive patriots who are trying to bring down the government – for the sake of the country.
Purely at that level, it’s actually quite good. Bannon is doing possibly the best imitation of Michael Caine you’ve seen in a young actor – Caine having played Pennyworth in the Christopher Nolan Batman movie trilogy – and is personable, funny and plausible as an ex-soldier. He’s helped by a script that heavily emphasises the Caine connection, insisting that Bannon call himself Alfie and lurk around buses.
However, just as Gotham – and indeed the Batman comics – are set in a sort of weird parallel version of New York, so Pennyworth is set in an equally weird alternative reality London. Despite some really lovingly done period details, authentic to the 60s, Zeppelins hang in the air, there are televised public executions and people are pelted in the stocks.
This is no mere failure by Americans to fail to do their research. It’s all clearly done by design and I doubt there’s an American writer in the world who could have come up with “There’s a Happy Eater near Luton. You love a good fry-up.”
It’s also an amalgam of various aspects of the 60s. Apart from the Alfie acknowledgements, the main baddy (Jason Flemyng) has clearly escaped from old episodes of The Avengers. Meanwhile, his main henchwoman, Paloma Faith, has done likewise, but also talks like she’s just escaped from an Alan Bennett Talking Heads piece. Similarly, there are scenes involving Pennyworth and his posh actress girlfriend (Emma Corrin) that could have escaped from any 60s kitchen sink drama about class mobility and clashes.
Episode one is mainly to establish the show’s presence within the Batman universe, while episode two serves to establish it as its own thing, being a take on the Krays that in no way involves the Waynes et al.
By turns genuinely hilarious, clever, precise and authentic, Pennyworth is an unexpected treat, a new Avengers (but not a new New Avengers) that avoids all the genre mismatch pitfalls Gotham* fell into. I’m definitely going to continue catching up with it, particularly since future episodes have titles including Shirley Bassey, Cilla Black and Lady Penelope. See what I mean? They know what they’re doing.
* On impulse, I decided to watch the series finale of Gotham on Netflix a couple of days. I’m glad I hadn’t wasted five years of my life watching that lead up to that. I’d have been well hacked off.
The recommended list
כפולים (False Flag) (Israel: Channel 2; UK: Fox UK)
We are, as usual, in the section of the season where False Flag starts to get a bit silly. There’s silly running around, silly coincidences, silly plans and more. However, it all feels a lot less silly than season one, still, and the show maintains both pathos and thrills. It’s coming perilously close to actually providing some answers, although so far nothing that couldn’t have been guessed.
Particularly given its name.
Episode reviews: Initial
Glitch (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)
And it’s a Rodger Corser episode. A pretty good one at that, too, as he remembers why he’s thrice-lived and his purpose in life/death, even though it somewhat contradicts everything he’s done so far. Oops. His meeting up with someone who happens to look exactly the same as another character seemed a bit odd, too.
One thing I am enjoying is the show is trying to come up with scientific explanations for everything but utterly failing. I think deliberately, too. I think you’re supposed to think that for all the scientific explanations that are proffered, that ultimately we’re talking about something that defies explanation that doesn’t involve God or something else at some level, no matter what anyone (including Corser) claims.
That’s quite nice, even if the problem is that TV scientific explanations are always nonsense, so when they’re deliberately nonsense, it’s hard to tell the difference.