What have you been watching? Including Total Control

Total Control

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

Nancy Drew
The CW (US)’s Nancy Drew

This week’s reviews

I miss my iPad. The screen broke a couple of weeks ago and although I had it repaired, they didn’t repair it properly, so I had to take it back again.

That means I’ve been confined to watching TV on my iPhone and not ‘co-browsing’ any more. Couple that with the “one connector so you can listen or charge but not both” syndrome and the crap battery life now available on my now old iPhone 7 and you can see my lack of iPad has been seriously cramping TMINE’s style – and review schedule.

However, over the past week, I’ve managed to review Nancy Drew (US: The CW) and season one of Raising Dion (Netflix), which ain’t bad. But as always, it’s the francophone TV that suffers in these things and I didn’t manage to watch either season two of Plan Cœur (The Hookup Plan) or any of that Beau Séjour on Walter Presents.

Oh well. Cometh the weekend, cometh the iPad, so hopefully I’ll be able to start watching more again.

HBO’s Watchmen

What’s coming this week

I’ve not watched any movies this week at all – thanks, broken iPad – but that does give me room to review Jason Bourne spin-off Treadstone (US: USA; UK: Amazon) tomorrow.

Competition for Boxset Monday/Tuesday is frenetic, however. Released today on YouTube is season two of Impulse, which I hope to watch, and coming on Friday are Paul Rudd comedy Living With Yourself (Netflix) and romance anthology Modern Love (Amazon). I suspect I’ll go with Living With Yourself, as it’s only 8×25 minutes, but let’s be surprised next week, hey? I might even watch The Hookup Plan or Beau Séjour.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, we’re finally be getting HBO’s Watchmen sequel series, so I’ll definitely be chatting about that on either Monday or Tuesday.

Conner and Krypto
Conner and Krypto in DC Universe (US)’s Titans

The regulars

I’d like to have watched Engrenages (Spiral), but no iPad, two episodes? I got 10 minutes in and decided it was up to the usual quality, but never had the chance to get any further. I never even got to see Audrey Fleurot, bar the ‘Précédemment dans Engrenages‘ at the beginning. Shame!

Cometh the iPad, cometh more Spiral.

That meant I had to stick to the new, stable, regulars list for now. After the jump, I’ll be talking about Batwoman, Evil, Magnum PI, Mr InBetween, Mr Robot, Pennyworth, Stumptown and Titans.

Lots of US TV, huh? But as always, the rest of the world has television we can watch. In Australia, a show called Total Control has just started. Dull name, hey?

But as we learned with Doctor Doctor – aka The Heart Guy – Australians do like to rename their shows for international audiences. So while Australian readers and I can chat about Total Control after the jump, by the time it hits UK screens, you’ll find we may have been talking about the far more excitingly titled Black B****.

See you in a mo.

TV shows

New shows

Total Control (Black B****) (Australia: ABC)


Rachel Anderson (Rachel Griffiths) is the embattled but cunning Prime Minister of Australia. Alex (Deborah Mailman) is a charismatic, indigenous up-and-coming politician who finds herself the centre of media attention following a shocking event. Rachel wants to use Alex to boost her popularity and further her own agenda. Alex is wise to the Prime Minister’s betrayal and sets out for revenge that may break the whole political establishment

TMINE verdict

So this is actually a surprisingly good political drama that tackles racism, diversity and tokenism head on. It’s well acted, as you might expect of both Griffiths and Mailman, and often subtly written, refusing to provide instant answers and often relying on the expressions of its leads and the framing of shots to point things out.

It’s also not afraid to make its lead a black b****. She’s full of ideals, yet ultimately decides to take the job of senator after she watches the kids next door setting fire to a tree so decides she wants out from her impoverished small Queensland town. She has lots to say about racism but sometimes says it to the wrong people – people who are trying in their own way to help her. She has cause, but she doesn’t know how to politick.

All of which makes for good drama and with the continuing efforts by ACT to get plenty of local filming, it looks as good as Secret City. Plus there’s a good supporting cast. Sure, the Australian acting community is now quite small, given that 75% of them are in Neighbours or have legged it to the US, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders acting community smaller still, meaning that the usual ABC suspects dominate – Mailman, of course, but also Rob Collins (Glitch, Cleverman, The Wrong Girl) and Aaron Pedersen (Mystery Road). But there’s new blood, too (Shantae Barnes Cowan) and there’s a reason Mailman, Collins and Pedersen get cast so often – they’re really good.

There’s a certain cognitive dissonance about the show: Mailman suspects Griffiths wants a diversity hire, Griffiths tells her she’s at least partly a diversity hire and then once Mailman become senator, it’s revealed – guess what – that’s exactly what she is. And that miffs her… why? But it still sort of works, so I can get over that particular speed bump.

Definitely one I’ll be sticking with.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Batwoman (US: The CW)

1×2 – The Rabbit Hole

While it wouldn’t describe it as greatly improved, episode two of Batwoman does at least tone down the Batman obsession to focus its attention more on the duality of its heroine and villainess. Paradoxically, the Alice in Wonderland references continue to deliver originality and unpredictability. And the supporting cast, particularly Dougray Scott, get to flex some acting chops, too.

However, Batwoman herself still has all the charisma of a burnished pewter chalice, as well as a Melbourne accent that just can’t be hid. We’re also now down to the final five stuntmen and women in Canada who haven’t already been hired by the other Arrowverse shows, meaning action scenes still lack excitement.

It’s improving. But it’s beginning to look like there’s a fundamental upper limit to just how much improvement the format can take, unless something radical happens.

Episode review: Initial

Evil (US: CBS)

1×3 – 3 Stars

No less a writer than Rockne S O’Bannon takes us the reins for this episode, which is a moderately amusing tale of demonic possession that guest stars none other than Brimstone‘s devil John Glover.

As usual, the technological and scientific explanations for everything don’t quite add up, but it’s always within the parameters of TV science error, so it’s a bit hard to tell if that’s deliberate or not. Equally, the hints at alternative explanations all have Biblical references – is our heroine being tested like Job or tempted like Jesus?

Plenty of fun and plenty to think about, too.

Episode reviews: Initial

Stumptown (US: ABC)

1×3 – Rip City Dicks

There I was, back during my initial review, pointing out there haven’t been any real PI shows since Terriers and who should put up this week but Terriers star Dernal Logue as… a PI! I wonder if that’s a coincidence.

This week’s episode continues the show’s enviable adherence to not leaping straight to a format, with our heroine trying her best to get the training hours she needs as a PI from Logue. But what dubious tricks will he teach her, can she trust him and will she be tempted to the dark side?

All in all, very enjoyable (particularly the opening scene), with ethical, moral and emotional dilemmas aplenty to deal with. Interesting to see Jake Johnson sidelined into an irrelevant plot already – had he that little chemistry with Cobie Smulders? And I seem to remember that there’s a special needs brother around somewhere, too. I wonder if they’ve run out of things for him to do already.

Episode reviews: Initial

The recommended list

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

2×3 – Knight Lasts Forever

Every so often an action show decides to have its own Die Hard episode and surprisingly, despite the initial set-up, this wasn’t it. You think it’s going to be the episode where Magnum gets to show off his Navy SEAL training to beat up the bad guys who’ve taken over his house and abducted his friends. It isn’t. It’s the episode that shows again that Higgins is a bad ass.

Which is nice. I’ve very pro-Higgins. It’s just we already know she is. Whereas Magnum tends to play second fiddle these days. Despite the show being called Magnum P.I., not Higgins P.I.

Another minus: that’s really not how the Battle of Hastings went down and someone on the writing team really doesn’t understand the nature of the Normans, the then-English and much of 11th century European history. You’d have thought Higgins would, though.

But at least we seem to have settle the faux “is she going to leave?” conundrum, and we have the beginnings of a potential new season arc – or even a new Big Bad lurking behind the scenes.

Episode reviews: Initial, Verdict

Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase)

2×5 – Can’t Save You

Somewhere along the line, the show seems to have forgotten it’s about a hitman. That’s fine, since the story does at least provide plenty of drama and humour. But it does mean that the show’s losing its edge a little.

That said, it did address the “elephant in the room” this week – our hitman hero is dating someone, so is he ever going to get violent with her? Or someone close to her? He’s pleasing enough that you want them to stay together, but at the same time, he’s a hitman.

An intriguing dramatic quandary, certainly.

Episode reviews: Initial, Verdict

Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)

4×2 – Payment required

As usual, a visual tour de force, but this episode really emphasised Rami Malek’s versatility, as we see him as the new Robot-Elliot hybrid. The plot does at least seem to be becoming properly linear at last, as we head towards the conclusion. But that said, this episode revives an old question season two question – (spoiler alert) are Mr Robot and Elliot the only personalities or is there another one and if so who? – that could set everything spinning off in very different directions, too.

BTW, did you know Mamie Gummer is Meryl Streep’s daughter? I didn’t until this week. I thought she looked oddly familiar, and not just from The Newsroom.

Her plots were fun, too.

Episode reviews: Initial, Verdict

Pennyworth (US: Epix; UK: StarzPlay)

1×8 – Sandie Shaw

A little bit better than the preceding week’s clunker, with exec producer Danny Cannon taking the reins to give us an amusing alternative universe Queen (is it Elizabeth or Margaret?) amongst other innovations. It’s still not hitting the amusing highs of the opening episodes. But it’s still doing so smart things, even with Paloma Faith, and the Mexican stand-off at the end worked quite nicely.

Episode reviews: Initial

Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)

2×6 – Conner

Following episode four‘s decision to stall the present day action in order to do a flashback episode, episode six does more or less the same thing. Here, though, it’s so we can meet the final missing Justice League sidekick: Superboy.

As a whole, it’s a well executed affair that draws on the existing Superboy/Superman mythos while making it its own, giving us different versions of Lex Luthor (and Lionel) than we’re used to. But we also get the likes of Mercy Graves and Krypto the superdog, which is pretty new for live action DC fare.

Top marks for the action scenes – that’s how to make Superman-style superheroics super-exciting. But also top marks for making us care and interested in a whole new bunch of tangential characters.

A little clunky in places, mind, but let’s not complain too much.

Episode reviews: Initial


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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