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
Despite the launch of the Fall season in the US this week, it’s been a quiet one for TMINE, with just Netflix’s multi-country police interrogation show Criminal getting a Boxset Monday review.
Why so quiet? Well, I have been sad to discover that few have really been good enough so far to warrant a full review.
That means that after the jump, expect some brief rundowns on both Mondays and Tuesday’s new US shows: Bob ♥ Abishola (CBS), All Rise (CBS), Prodigal Son (Fox), Bluff City Law (NBC), Mixed-ish (ABC) and Emergence (ABC). None of them have been picked up UK networks yet, which suggests I’m not 100% wrong in my judgement of them.
However, that’s all four broadcast networks (that have viewers – sorry, CW) airing something new, and there are at least three keepers in there for now, one of which is really good. Which network produced the best ones? Find out after the jump – it might not be the one you’re expecting.
What’s coming this week
With Fall in progress, I doubt I’ll be able to fit in an Orange Thursday, unfortunately, although I do have Netflix’s Between Two Ferns: The Movie pencilled in, in case of miracles.
But I should be able to do brief reviews at least before next WHYBW of the following shows: Stumptown (ABC), The Unicorn (CBS), Perfect Harmony (NBC), Carol’s Second Act (CBS), Sunnyside (NBC) and Evil (CBS).
Boxset Monday? Well, fingers crossed, it’ll be Netflix’s The Politician. But we’ll see. Could be anything.
It’s the usual usuals after the jump: כפולים (False Flag), Flateyjargátan (The Flatey Enigma), Glitch, Mr Inbetween and Titans. Unfortunately, my Pennyworth catch-up schedule has been hit by all the new shows, so that’ll have to wait for a bit. But I will get there in the end. Promise.
All of that, after the jump.
Bob ♥ Abishola (US: CBS)
After having a heart attack, a middle-aged sock businessman (Mike & Molly‘s Billy Gardell) from Detroit unexpectedly falls for his cardiac nurse, a Nigerian immigrant (Folake Olowofoyeku), and sets his sights on getting her to give him a chance.
And that there’s the whole plot. You have Gardell’s family wondering why he’s so interested in her; ditto Olowofoyeku’s Nigerian clan. And it’s nice, despite being a Chuck Lorre show, so more in keeping with Dharma & Greg than Two and a Half Men say.
But most of the jokes stem from the general mid-tier nature of a sock business and its USPs than from the relationship. Not bad, but not great.
All Rise (US: CBS)
A look inside the chaotic, hopeful and sometimes absurd lives of judges, prosecutors and public defenders as they work with bailiffs, clerks and cops to get justice for the people of Los Angeles amidst a flawed legal process.
Among them is newly appointed Judge Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick), a highly regarded and impressive deputy district attorney who doesn’t intend to sit back on the bench in her new role, but instead leans in, immediately pushing the boundaries and challenging the expectations of what a judge can be.
And it’s rubbish. Just nonsense. I can’t remember when I knew for sure it was going to be rubbish. Probably when Missick went around another judge’s courtroom, shaming everyone for not allowing the female defendant to wear trousers, upon which one of the bailiffs in attendance decided to start shooting everyone because that was basically the thin end of the wedge, apparently.
Yes, that was it.
Otherwise, it was more nonsense designed to have people bickering, with Missick being allocated an assistant who she’d already had words with, or have soapy relationships with.
Prodigal Son (US: Fox)
The series centres on Malcolm Bright (Tom Payne), whose father, Dr Martin Whitley (Martin Sheen), is the infamous serial killer known as “The Surgeon”. Malcolm was the one responsible as a child for enabling the police to arrest his father, and has not (of his own volition) seen his father in 10 years.
Now a profiler, formerly with the FBI (until he was fired) and currently working with the New York City Police Department, Malcolm is forced to confront his father after a copycat serial killer uses Dr Whitley’s methods of killing, and now finds himself drawn back into constant contact with his father as he must both use Dr Whitley’s insights to help the police solve particularly horrible crimes and battle his own inner demons.
Sounds rubbish, but it’s actually not too bad, particularly since it’s not 100% serious. It’s more a sort of family comedy version of Manhunter, with Payne the over-the-top Will Graham to Sheen’s “I’m more Welsh than Hopkins – he’s from Port Talbot, I’m from Newport, so there” Lecter. Sheen has actually dialled back his performance from his recent The Good Fight turn, yet is still having a marvellous time of it all, while Payne gets to have night terrors and generally ham it up, too.
All that is bolted on to a somewhat normal cop ensemble show, with Lou Diamond Phillips as Payne’s surrogate cop father and an antagonistic bunch of fellow cops who are worried Payne might be too much like his dad.
It definitely has its moments, but it’s mostly the usual procedural/profiler nonsense. I might stick with it for the laughs.
Bluff City Law (US: NBC)
Set in Memphis, Tennessee, the series follows the lawyers of an elite Memphis law firm that specialises in the most controversial landmark civil rights cases, led by legendary lawyer Elijah Strait (Jimmy Smits) and his brilliant daughter, Sydney (Caitlin McGee), who returns to the firm after her mother’s death – and despite hating her dad.
Father-daughter issues does at least make a change from father-father issues, but this is the standard US “family, family, family” fare stapled to the usual tiresome tropes about brilliant lawyers, who are brilliant mainly because the writers can just engineer implausible things to happen. They’re honestly not that brilliant really.
Mixed-ish (US: ABC)
Spin-off from black-ish that sees Rainbow Johnson recount her experience growing up in a mixed-race family in the ’80s and the constant dilemmas she and the family members had to face over whether to assimilate or stay true to themselves.
Bow’s parents, Paul and Alicia, decide to move from a hippie commune to the suburbs to better provide for their family. As her parents struggle with the challenges of their new life, Bow and her siblings navigate a mainstream school in which they’re perceived as neither black nor white. The family’s experiences illuminate the challenges of finding one’s own identity when the rest of the world can’t decide where you belong.
I did give an almost audible sigh of relief watching this, as I usually do with Kenya Barris’s writing (cf Grown-ish, Shaft), just to be watching a comedy that not only was both funny and insightful, but also smartly written. It’s so nice not to have your intelligence insulted.
Within the first five minutes, we were already getting lines like “He met mom at Berkeley Law be he dropped out to protest the glass ceiling of classism” and “We’re definitely not going to let this idiot box contaminate us with the worst of America – CBS”. Where else do you get writing like that? CBS?
On top of that, the whole issue of the history of mixed-race marriage is just something that hasn’t been properly addressed on scripted TV shows, and to actually have not just a discussion of that, but also the viewpoint of mixed-race children of the time, how US culture represented and embraced/excluded mixed-race kids et al is almost thrilling – and that’s before you get on the fact it’s self-satirising.
But it’s not all just worthy race-sensitive material. Gary Cole’s great as the Reaganite, racist grandparent – father to Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who’s actually one of the show’s assets – who helps the hippy family adjust to mainstream US culture, and there’s also copious amounts of 1985s TV, movies and music referenced. I for one was unaware of Jean-Claude van Damme’s early appearance in Breakin’, although, to be honest, I wasn’t actually aware of Breakin’.
However, black-ish also had a great start but it wasn’t long before the show became such a generic sitcom when Barris wasn’t writing it that I lost patience with it. If the writing quality can be maintained, this one’s a sure-fire keeper, but I suspect it might go the way of both black-ish and grown-ish in the TMINE viewing queue.
Emergence (US: ABC)
A police chief (Allison Tolman) takes in a young child whom she finds near the site of a mysterious accident, but soon discovers that the girl has no memory of what has happened or who she is. The child’s mystery becomes more intense than expected when the chief starts investigating the history that led up to the accident and the questions of how and why it happened. A series of bizarre electronic disruptions, unexplained forces, and a strange cryptic symbol are also at play, all tied to the young girl.
Emergence is this year’s ‘mystery show’, last year’s being Manifest, and so far, it’s not too bad. Tolman is great, as you’d expect, but we’ve also got Owain Yeoman (The Mentalist) as an investigative journalist, and he’s a whole better as an actor when he’s allowed to deploy a UK accent, it turns out. On top of that, Clancy Brown’s Tolman’s dad and there’s Turk from Scrubs in there, too.
The plot’s a bit simplistic and sending in the baddies to pretend to be the kids’ parents, without at least faking a few photos of her to stick on their phones, is a bit stupid. But the mystery is interesting and even when we’re not directly addressing the mystery, the writing is strong enough to still engage. Government experiment? Aliens? Dunno, but it’s ordinary enough they can’t milk it too much for suspense and there’s all sorts of fun with magnets and water, as well. Plus the ending with the Stanley knife took the show to a very interesting new level.
Quite enjoyable, but I imagine my patience could be stretched in the long-term. I’ll stick with it for now.
Anyway – that means ABC is this year’s winner in the quality TV stakes. I think that’s the first Fall season that’s happened since TMINE started nearly a decade and a half ago. I wonder what’s going on.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Flateyjargátan (The Flatey Enigma) (Iceland: RÚV; UK: BBC Alba)
There’s a certain irony in a show having two characters called Snorri in it, but that’s what The Flatey Enigma is turning out to be. I actually had to start forward-winding through this episode to maintain my interest.
The central draw of the show, the enigma, has been addressed so little that it’s basically a scene per episode now, with the most the goodies have done is get their tracing paper out. Similarly, the murder investigation mainly involves a lot of shouting and people wondering why our heroine hasn’t been arrested.
As a result, the vast bulk of the action is dedicated to some quite unpleasant early 70s Icelandic domestic violence, as well as annoyance at the patriarchy in general. Fair enough, but I got the point midway through the previous episode, so this is just a bit repetitive and verging on the torture porn.
I suspect I’ll be winding through the final episode, if I manage even that much, since I’m not sure if I care if they solve the enigma or not any more.
The recommended list
כפולים (False Flag) (Israel: Channel 2; UK: Fox UK)
Lots of running around. Lots of action. Not really much more explanation of what’s going on, though, beyond a few hints the evil CIA are involved. Sean seems a bit rubbish again – really, for a ‘trained assassin’, he’s a bit crap at actually killing people.
But fun. And only one episode to go. I think.
Episode reviews: Initial
Glitch (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)
Glitch is back to equivocating about whether death is a good thing or not, with even Death not quite sure, apparently. So lots of running around and revelations, but without anything really advancing too much.
However, the continuing breaking down of the rules of nature is resulting in some nicely creepy moments.
Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase)
2×2 – Don’t Be A Dickhead
Hmm. They’re changing format, slightly, aren’t they? Now, there’s more of a plot spread over the season, I can see. The show’s question is: can a hitman used to meting out his own violent and even murderous form of justice as he feels fit integrate with society – and restrain himself against enemies who have the law to hide behind?
This episode gave us a juxtaposition of Ray’s tales of being bullied at school and how that led to his abilities with violence with the current bullying of his daughter, by a girl whose uncle is a policeman. How can he fix the issue? Will violence work and will he really beat up women and girls, or does he have other means? Or will he turn his daughter into someone just like him?
Very interesting. Some laughs were available, too.
Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)
2×3 – Ghosts
New Titans meet Old Titans as the ret-con applied last week starts to solidify and we accept this new tale of how there used to be a bunch of superheroes called the Titans who grew up and split up and now there’s a new bunch. The fights continue to impress, as does Doctor Light. I wonder if Jason Todd is going to end up in the same state as he did in the 80s?
Episode reviews: Initial