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
Yep, Thursday again. Thought I’d have a proper day off yesterday. Schedule therefore screwed, even if I am now somewhat refreshed.
This week, even though I didn’t manage to Orange Thursday after all, I did at least get around to reviewing season two of Netflix’s Plan cœur (The Hookup Plan) for Boxset Monday. Otherwise, that was it – work was a bit mad, plus it turned out that Amazon’s release of The Feed was US only. Duh.
But fingers crossed, it’ll be easier next week.
What’s coming this week
Barring miracles, there won’t be an Orange Thursday today, but there will be next week, you’ll be happy to hear. I really will be covering The Fear of God, as well as The Philadelphia Experiment (no, not that one). Or maybe something else. But that’s the baseline.
It being Thanksgiving in the US today, and with Christmas just round the corner, it’s going to be a bit quiet TV-wise for the next few days, though, but Apple has just released the first three episodes of Servant, so that’ll be this week’s Boxset Monday. Fingers crossed.
After the jump, we’ll be talking about the latest episodes of the regulars: Dollface, Evil, The Mandalorian, Mr Robot, Silicon Valley, Stumptown, Titans, Treadstone and Watchmen, as well as the season finale of Mr InBetween and two episodes of For All Mankind, seeing as Apple put a new one out today, a day early.
However, one of those is now just so bad, I can’t be bothered to watch it any more. Can you guess which?
On top of that, we’ll also be discussing the first episode of Spectrum’s revival of Mad About You. The new Will & Grace it is not.
See you in a mo.
Mad About You (US: Spectrum)
Set two years before the original run’s flash-forward series finale, Mad About You shows us what’s happened to Paul (Paul Reiser) and Jamie (Helen Hunt) in the 20 years since, just as their daughter is about to head off to college.
Here in the UK, Mad About You was never quite the must-watch it was in the US, where it chalked up a 176-episode run. In fact, it was barely even a watch.
For example, how many UK denizens know – or even realised at the time – that the first season Friends episode The One With Two Parts – Part 1 was actually a crossover episode with Mad About You or that it was designed to give the then-struggling Friends a ratings boost, not the other way round? How many know that Lisa Kudrow’s second Friends character, Ursula – twin sister of Phoebe – was originally a Mad About You supporting character?
To drill down further and slightly callously, how many have even heard about Mad About You, let alone recall much about it? Hell, I watched a good couple of seasons of it and my memories of it are pretty hazy. I wonder what the case is in the US?
Because just as every previous ageing generation has demanded remakes of shows they remember from their younger years, so today’s middle-aged viewers are looking to see what’s happened to the characters they loved in the 90s and 00s. And in the US, as well as the return of Roseanne, Magnum PI, Murphy Brown and Will & Grace in various forms of late, that now equates to cable network Sinclair deciding to offer a limited series revival of Mad About You.
However, even by the stern standards of revivals, you have to be a fan to want to watch this Mad About You. You have to be excited by just those very words. Because despite being a multi-camera sitcom shot on just two sets, this Mad About You is depressing.
To be fair, it was always a bit that way, despite being about a modern couple’s romance. As well as having us our loving duo contemplating affairs with the likes of Alan Ruck, it ends with a flash-forward 20 years… to when the two are divorced.
Here, though, we’re only 18 years in the future and the two are still together, even if most of their pals aren’t, the exact parameters of which couples having survived being determined by which actors wanted to show up for the revival. However, things are starting to look shaky for Jaimie and Paul as their daughter is about to head off to college – albeit a mere five blocks away at NYU.
Mad about age
The episode is mainly about how miserable Paul and Jamie are. They’re old, everything hurts, sex is a distant memory, botox is a very real but unmentioned presence and their daughter’s leaving. Highlights of the episode are Jamie smashing up her daughter’s now empty bed, Paul crying at a poem he’s written about ‘birds flying empty nests’, the duo discussing how they’re no longer the people they used to be when they were young, and Jamie explaining to Paul how she’s now lost the ‘love of her life’ and is devoid of purpose.
There’s no joy – or even jokes – to be found with these two, not even when Richard Kind turns up with his new wife, that reconciliation with Fran apparently not having taken (sorry, Fran fans). The banter is just sniping and the chemistry just isn’t there.
To be fair, there is at least a little joy to be had from Paul’s now mature – in all senses – brother Ira (John Pankow), who’s in a relationship with “an Italian woman who’s the same age as him” (ie actually looks about 30 – that’s US TV for you). There’s also some amusement to be had at the idea that he was always actually really smart but was just pretending not to be because “other people would have found it off-putting”.
But this is like a stealth attempt to introduce a US basic cable audience to French existential angst and Heideggerian concepts of the authentic mode of existence. It’s just misery, interspersed with attempts to be funny by joking about older people needing to pee more often.
I doubt even those who can remember Mad About You fondly will want to remember it this way.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
1×3 – Chapter 3: The Sin
A definite improvement on the first two episodes, with our ‘hero’ discovering he has a conscience and we learn what evil Werner Herzog wants to do with baby Yoda, who continues to be cute possibly because they’re using the same CGI techniques as they did for the Porgs in The Last Jedi.
Most of my initial criticisms still hold, though, as we still don’t have a hero whose face we can see – although a flashback to his youth helped to personalise him – the fight scenes still aren’t any good and we don’t yet have any real supporting cast. But I admired the detailed build up of the world we’re now in and with Jon Favreau still writing the episodes, this week felt like a bit of a pleasing homage to Iron Man.
I’ll stick with it.
Episode reviews: Initial
Stumptown (US: ABC)
1×7 – November Surprise
Another proper PI mission, with our heroine having once again to decide whether to do the right thing and be poor or do the wrong thing and get paid. A little bit samey in the plot department then, but it was at least enlivened by the arrival of Eliza Coupe as a political operative of note.
Treadstone (US: USA; UK: Amazon)
1×6 – The Hades Awakening
And I’m done. It’s just nonsense now. Stupid, increasingly badly choreographed nonsense. There were so many plotlines to begin with anyway, but everything is still moving at glacial speed, with no real explanation or resolutions yet forthcoming beyond a whole bunch of clichés you could have predicted from the outset (and probably did). I honestly don’t care about anyone any more, either.
Done and dusted.
The recommended list
Dollface (US: Hulu)
1×4 – Fun Friend – 1×5 – Beauty Queen
A quick promotion to the recommended list for Dollface, which is now proving properly funny. These two episodes go some way to addressing the flaws in the show’s previous episodes, such as the near indistinguishability of the two main friends (although obviously not of Alone Together‘s Esther Povitsky), although we’re now expected to believe that Kat Dennings is dull.
Impressively, we’re also getting a veritable cavalcade of famous guest stars, from Wayne’s World‘s Tia Carrere and Timeless‘s Goran Višnjić through to Criminal Minds‘ Matthew Gray Gubler. And the magical realism is still holding up and proving funny, too.
Definitely one to try if/when you have a chance.
Episode reviews: Initial
Evil (US: CBS)
1×8 – 2 Fathers
Patrick Brammall’s efforts to take over the world continued this week in Evil, playing our heroine’s newly returned from mountaineering husband. Didn’t see that coming. Well played, Brammall. Well played.
Brammall’s domination to one side, an ‘interesting’ episode, with hallucinogenic trips, one of which was really, really disturbing; ghosts; one character’s father turning up; weird 70s-style hippies; and more demonic folklore. The overall ambiguity and scepticism of the show vanishes a little more, perhaps because Aasif Mandvi was split off from the main crowd, though, making it feel a little less deliberately silly, a little more accidentally silly than normal.
Episode reviews: Initial
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
1×6 – Home Again – 1×7 – Hi, Bob
Some nice bits of alternative reality – President Robert Kennedy pardoning Nixon over Watergate after passing the Equal Rights Amendment? Intriguing. We also get the return of Werner Von Braun and Hi, Bob gave us some really tense moments, trapped as we are on the Moon with a crazy person (or is he?) and some possibly aggressive Soviets. Plus Joel Kinnaman has really found his mojo and starting to relax into his role.
I was going to comment on Home Again being set in 1974, five years after the first episode, yet everyone looking exactly the same, right down to the hairstyles and fashions. Then weirdly, up pops Hi, Bob and everyone (bar Nate Corddry) has suddenly noticed it’s the mid-70s and started wearing fashions and hairstyles to match. What happened there?
Lastly, as we’re talking alternative reality, if we’re now up to Apollos 23-25, would The Six Million Dollar Man really still be a thing or would they have changed it? I mean “one of the final Apollo astronauts who never got his chance to go back to the Moon decides to become a test pilot instead and then gets horribly injured, requiring the replacement of some of his bodily parts with cybernetics”? Doesn’t really fit with a continuing space programme, does it?
Episode reviews: Verdict
Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase)
2×11 – There Rust, and Let Me Die
I did wonder if we were going into the season finale with the same plot as the previous season. And we did – the characters even pointed it out. It just only took five minutes. After that, a completely different story gets told. Kudos on some interesting subversion of storytelling norms there, particularly as it’s a far more personal, far more moving story that the show ends with. Enjoyable’s probably not the right word, but certainly powerful.
All in all, an odd season. Some very, very strong episodes, but all of the set-up at the start of the season never went anywhere and served mainly as a series of vignettes to make you wonder what Ray’s limits might be. At the same time, that subversion of storytelling norms was clear here, too – how often does real-life have narrative arcs, particularly with immediate pay-offs?
Looking back at the season, you get a slight disconcerted feeling, like there’s violence and death behind every door if you just open it a little further – but you don’t and you just sense its presence instead. Indeed, I wonder how much the show’s title is less a reference to our man Ray being someone who is in between you and someone who wants you dead, and more something profound – he’s in between life and death, an intermediary of sorts.
I wouldn’t say the second season was as powerful as the first, since a few of the middle episodes felt a little like water was being trod. But collectively, a very strong season all the same.
Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)
4×8 – 408 Request Timeout
Possibly the most human episode of Mr Robot‘s entire run, with some real emotional moments from both Rami Malek and Christian Slater. Glad to see that the Mamie Gummer storyline didn’t go in quite the expected direction, either.
But… where is it all going? Am I really going to look back and care about the entire series’ storyline at the end of this, or just marvel at its smartness in the first couple of seasons?
Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
6×5 – Tethics
Quite sharp and to the point and I’m enjoying the fact that they’re really using Amanda Crew’s character a lot more this season. That said, could Richard really be this useless at corporate strategy still? Or at least not listen to anyone else?
Titans (US: DC Universe; UK: Netflix)
2×12 – Faux-Hawk
Firstly, does everyone know Bruce Wayne is Batman? Because this is getting silly. I mean now he has an “underground” (almost literally) costumier in San Francisco. Have they been watching Daredevil and taking notes?
That said, does anyone actually have a secret identity in this show? Everyone seems to know that Dick Grayson used to be Robin. Hawk’s not exactly got a secret identity now, either. Even Deathstroke’s daughter knows Jason Todd is Robin and hangs out with Bruce Wayne.
Secondly, I slightly retract my apology last week. The “Deathstroke in an armchair” was a bit silly after all, now we have a full explanation for it.
Thirdly, what are they doing with poor Garth? And Conner?
Some good points to the episode, though, particularly Donna Troy.
Episode reviews: Initial
Watchmen (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×6 – This Extraordinary Being
Quite a fascinating origin story for Hooded Justice that uses copious retconning of the comics to get away with it, but it’s good enough that we don’t really care that much. I enjoyed the idea in particular that maybe a bunch of people wearing superhero outfits to fight crime are not necessarily any more moral or liberal and enlightened than anyone else. Or that a seemingly nice, morally upstanding mentor to a black woman could nevertheless be an outright racist in other ways.
I also enjoyed the use of Moloch-tech and the suggestion that it’s a real thing in the Watchmen universe.
Still – another flashback episode about another comics character. We maybe need to start working on some forward momentum to the narrative again.
Episode review: Initial