What have you been watching? Including Magnum PI

Magnum PI

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

Godfather of Harlem
Giancarlo Esposito and Forest Whitaker in Epix’s Godfather of Harlem

This week’s reviews

Fall season is now well under way in the US and over the past week and a bit, I’ve been doing some pretty extensive coverage. However, since this is Peak TV™, this year, I’ve finally had to let my standards slip and only do full reviews for shows that actually look like I could watch them.

That means that since the previous WHYBW, I’ve managed to do proper reviews of Stumptown and Evil, as well as semi-reviews of The Unicorn, Carol’s Second Act, Perfect Harmony and Sunnyside.

Incidentally, I did try to watch Epix (US)’s period gangster drama Godfather of Harlem, as it stars Forest Whitaker, Giancarlo Esposito and Vincent D’Onofrio. However, it was after about 10 minutes of watching Whitaker get out of 1960s jail and return to Harlem that I realised that while the back projection was amusingly Hitchcockian, I was actually bored rigid.

Why? Oh yes. I remember. I hate gangster dramas and I actively dislike Forest Whitaker. Sorry, dude, but that performance was fine in Ghost Dog, but you can’t keep doing it.

Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman
Ruby Rose as Kate Kane/Batwoman © Jack Rowand/The CW

What’s coming this week

We’re about to enter phase two of Fall 2019, so the regular US broadcast networks are hurling a couple of new shows in our direction this week: Almost Family (Fox) and Batwoman (The CW). Netflix has Raising Dion coming our way on Friday and I’m going to try to play catch up with Hotel Beau Séjour on Walter Presents. We also have some returning regulars to look forward to, including the final season of Mr Robot.

All during one of my busiest work periods of the year. Oh well – I’ll do my best. But PeakTV™, hey?

Michael Sheen in Fox's Prodigal Son
Michael Sheen in Fox’s Prodigal Son

The regulars

Fortunately for my viewing schedule, a whole bunch of regulars are coming to an end, which means that after the jump, we’ll be talking about the season/series finales of כפולים (False Flag), Flateyjargátan (The Flatey Enigma) and Glitch.

However, week two of the Fall season means we have new shows in the viewing queue. In the past week, I’ve separated the potential wheat from the obvious chaff and confined my second-episode viewing to Emergence, Mixed-ish and Prodigal Son – will they last another week?

I’ll also be chatting about the latest episodes of Mr Inbetween and Titans, as well as the return of Magnum P.I. Meanwhile, my catch-up of Pennyworth continues with Cilla Black.

Surprise, surprise! Indeed, can guess which show is getting promoted to the regulars list?

TV shows

TMINE recommends has all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended and TV Reviews A-Z lists every TV show ever reviewed in the past 13 years.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Emergence (US: ABC)

1×2 – Camera Wheelbarrow Tiger Pillow

ABC’s answer to Stranger Things continues to be very slightly surprising. It has most of the same things as its Netflix’s source material, as well as its pilot episode, with cop Allison Tolman continuing to amusingly look after a girl with strange powers while government evil types continue to do unpleasant and violent things around her. There’s also that quality of “Hey, we’re just small town people – want can we do against big government? Well, there’s this…” All of which is more enjoyable than you might expect.

However, Emergence occasionally adds a twist to that somewhat standard format. Are the government types really after the girl or something she had? Is the girl really as innocent as she seems?

There’s also some nifty fun going on with electricity and magnets, which actually makes the show’s McGuffin mystery intriguing and something you do want to find out the solution to.

But despite all that, it’s a distinctly underpowered show. The action is pretty lacking, the mystery is a little too nebulous at the moment to really engross. Tolman’s performance – and the magnets – are probably enough to keep me watching next week, but I’m not feeling wedded to the show yet.

Episode reviews: Initial

Flateyjargátan (The Flatey Enigma) (Iceland: RÚV; UK: BBC Alba)

1×4

A distinct improvement over the previous two episodes, in that I didn’t have to forward wind through anything. They actually solved the mystery in a reasonable way and their discovery didn’t mysteriously disappear, get washed out to see or anything.

However, the solution to the murder was ridiculous. If (spoiler alert) old bloke thought he’d shot a seal when he’d actually shot the Danish professor , how come he didn’t (spoiler alert) go to collect the seal and discover his mistake ? They don’t do that up there for no reason, you know. It was also no so much solved as blurted out, making it a very unsatisfactory crime drama.

All in all, about two episodes too long, with far too much over-acting by the police detective. Not so much a murder-mystery as a very crude and obvious exploration of domestic violence in remote communities in the 70s. It’s points about the patriarchy and discrimination weren’t exactly subtly made either. But some nice touches about social pressure and how communities can work.

Just short enough that the good things probably outweighed the bad things. But only just.

Episode reviews: Initial

Mixed-ish (US: ABC)

1×2 – The Warrior

Coming from the black-ish stable, this was an important episode to see which would it would go: standard sitcom or perceptive comedy. Thankfully, it seems to have gone for the latter. Once again, the show maintains both its creative skills (I’m particularly like the on-screen VHS pause function to allow for voiceovers, as well as the ‘dream sequences’) and its critical functions, allowing it to both wallow in its nostalgia as a 1980s mixed-race The Golden Years and still be critical of a decade that was still sexist, racist, homophobic et al.

The show clearly remembers – rather than has read it in book, Deadly Class – what the 80s was actually like, giving it some real bite, particularly in its discussions of affirmative action, stay-at-home fathers, Ronald Reagan et al. Yet it can still evoke dewy tears of happiness, with a simple ‘nerd meal’.

Funny, warm and political, Mixed-ish could well be this year’s first ‘keeper’.

Episode reviews: Initial

Prodigal Son (US: Fox)

1×2 – Annihilator

More larks and hijinks with the serial killer’s son turned profiler. The format hasn’t so much changed between episodes as evolved, with the big question now (apparently) being: how much of what Michael Sheen did was imagined by his son and how much really did happen and Sheen tried to do Jedi mind-tricks on him? Now, our hero consults Sheen not so much to solve crimes, but to find out what his dad did to him.

To be honest, I’m not sure that’s any more interesting than the original format. Still, everyone seems to be having an awful lot of fun, with snake poisonings and the like. Plus I’ve just noticed that our hero’s sister is the actress who quit The Orville last season, so I might stick around for another episode. But it’s not looking promising at the moment.

Episode reviews: Initial

The recommended list

כפולים (False Flag) (Israel: Channel 2; UK: Fox UK)

2×10

So a bit of a disappointing ending to this season. I said the same thing about the first season, but this was distinctly rushed, ‘Sean’ was distinctly out of character, stupid and easily defeated, everything got wrapped up in a tag-on scene, plenty of plotlines didn’t get resolved, and I’m 100% sure none of it made any sense: the motivations didn’t make sense, the actions didn’t make sense and the dialogue didn’t make sense. Plus the Big Bad turned out to be Them again. You know: Them. Sigh.

It was all very exciting, for sure, just more than a bit silly and unsatisfying. Oh well. I’d probably watch a third season, assuming it’s about the main Mossad guy, but I’ll keep my expectations dialled down if I do.

Episode reviews: Initial

Glitch (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)

3×6

Talking of rushed conclusions where everyone acted out of character, here’s Glitch, which you probably all watched on Netflix last week before Australia got a chance to watch it live. How ironic.

On the plus side, some interesting choices in terms of how to conclude the show and have everyone do something that’s the opposite of what they’ve been trying to do for three seasons. Argue with them a bit about the balance of nature of then blow a whistle wasn’t my call at all, but oddly, it did work, particularly with the end coda, which really should have had the ‘Circle of Life‘ playing in the background.

On the negative side, it did mean that pretty much every new plot thread raised in the past two seasons, including all the interesting religious ideas, got dropped unceremoniously, leaving you wondering why they’d bothered raising them in the first place. Plus why have the two new ‘risen’ this season? What did they really add?

Plus making so many of ‘the risen’ into ‘reapers’ meant that everyone’s motivations went out of whack, removing any real emotional depth and resolution to their stories.

All in all, a show that touched greatness at times, had a really good first season, and had some great ideas, too. But also a show that didn’t know what to do with its ideas and how to resolve most of its storylines. Still, at least it had a proper ending.

Episode reviews: Initial; Season 2

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

2×1 – Payback for Beginners

For a terrible moment, it looked like we were going to get the same Justin Lin, Fast and Furious nonsense we’d endured in the pilot episode for this season opener. We almost did, but we managed to avoid it for the most part, thankfully.

Thankfully, we also had a ‘previously on’ to refresh our memories, which was much-needed (oh yes, Magnum has a girlfriend now), particularly as the show took the opportunity to do a traditional 80s “second season reconfiguration” of the format. It’s a shame we didn’t go straight into ‘Higgins and Magnum Investigations’, but I’m sure they’re just playing with us.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase)

2×3 – I Came From Your Balls

I’m not entirely sure this delayed gratification is working for me. While the idea of some standalone comedy, an evil vignette and a season arc in each episode worked in season one, here the pay-off is proving too distant. What’s going to happen as a result of all the mini-plots that the show is dropping into each episode? When will we know? I could do with some pre-finale satisfaction on that score.

Nevertheless, I have faith that there will pay-off and I will like it when it comes.

Episode reviews: Initial review, Verdict

Pennyworth (US: Epix; UK: StarzPlay)

1×6 – Cilla Black

Maybe not quite as fun as previous episodes, but a promotional all the same to the recommended list for this Batman prequel that has almost nothing to do with Batman (thankfully).

This episode we switch into the “secret devil worshippers” genre, but a lot to enjoy all the same. The Avengers connections get really hammered home in this episode, with references to both The Hellfire Club and The House That Jack Built. But it’s also a pretty good tribute to The Devil Rides Out, too.

And let’s not forget Felicity Kendal as a Hannibal Lecter-like psychic witch called Baroness Orczy. Props to any show for even thinking of that.

Episode reviews: Initial

Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)

2×4 – Aqualad

Ah a flashback episode. There’s fun. This week, we get to see what the original Titans were like, which had all sorts of implausible revelations. We also get to meet Aqualad, whose fate was pretty much sealed from the moment the script decided to implement every standard cliché of the “last dangerous mission” genre.

All this focus on the original Titans is not only slowing the plot down, it’s also taking time away from the new Titans and the current-day plot. Really, you were with the season one Titans, so let’s not bother adding a new set.

I’m also curious to know when Deathstroke became so important. When his mask showed up in the first episode of Arrow, I had no idea who he was and had to read up about him to find out about his character. Since then, he’s been in Justice League (2017) and now he’s the main Big Bad of this season. How did this happen?

Also, if you’re going to tease up Superboy in episode one, we’d better have Superboy by episode five or I’m going to be cross.

Episode reviews: Initial

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