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
Ironically, with Christmas just around the corner, we’re starting to track back on course with the TMINE schedule. Sure, Orange Thursday happened yesterday, but it still happened and it was quality stuff: Jumanji: The Next Level (2019) and The Philadelphia Experiment (2012). The reviews, that is – The Philadelphia Experiment was dreadful.
Otherwise, that’s been it, because I’ve been saving everything up to review today. So after the jump, you can find out what I thought about Fox (US)’s remake of Australia’s The Moodys, Hulu (US)’s David Lynch meets vengeance noir Reprisal and Showtime (US)’s moderately hopeful, gentle, genteel, lesbian/trans rom-com Work in Progress.
And it’s that time again! Yes, The CW’s Arrowverse shows are crossing over this week, with the cast all jumping over to each other’s shows. But with Arrow ending this season, they’ve upped the ante on last year’s Elseworlds crossover exponentially, to give us guest appearances from superhero shows and movies both current and past. And we’re going to talk about the first three of the five episodes after the jump. The other two are next year – I’m not just slacking off.
What’s coming this week
I didn’t manage to get to either Netflix’s V Wars or Apple TV+’s Truth Be Told, but even though I’m away again this weekend (cue Slade: it’s Christmas!), I hope to take in a few episodes of one or the other.
However, that’s about it for new TV shows this week, so I might have to ferret out something from the back catalogue to talk about.
On the other hand, there might not be time as next week will see the return of the yearly end-of-year TMINE tradition: I’ll be unveiling 2019’s TMINE’s Top N TV programmes, where N is a positive integer that you can have hours of fun guessing in advance. What’s in your Top N this year?
And thanks to Orange Thursday, I might even do a Top N films. Don’t hold me to that, though.
After the jump, we’ll also be talking about the latest episodes of the regulars: Evil, For All Mankind, The Mandalorian, Mr Robot, Servant, Silicon Valley, Stumptown and Watchmen, as well as the season and indeed series finale of Silicon Valley.
I’ve just lost patience with one of them. Can you guess which?
See you in a mo.
The Moodys (US: Fox)
The Moodys is an American comedy miniseries based on the Australian show The Moodys. It stars Denis Leary and Elizabeth Perkins as a cantankerous married couple who reunite with their three adult children in Chicago for the Christmas season.
Normally, US Christmas TV is a terrible affair, particularly anything involving family. However, The Moodys is actually pretty good. It helps that this isn’t an especially happy family, but also that they don’t hate one another. Even though it’s a working class family, the show doesn’t make them low-class. There’s cleverness and there’s pathos, such as Leary’s diagnosis of cancer, and everyone is multiple layers of imperfect. And you can almost smell the crushed ambitions and desperate hopes among all the general hijinks.
But what counts is that it’s funny. Had it not aired as another event series over three nights, I’d have watched more. Now I have to decide whether to play catch-up.
Reprisal (US: Hulu)
This revenge tale follows a relentless femme fatale who — after being left for dead — leads a vengeful campaign against a bombastic gang of gearheads.
Reprisal wants to be something. It wants to be a revenge noir in the style of 50s movies. It also wants to have something of the weird and perverse about it, in the style of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet or Lost Highway.
It is none of these things. What it largely consists of is Abigail Spencer (Timeless) being beaten up a lot while alternating hairstyles, interspersed with very long, very dull, very unrealistic scenes that the director tries to jazz up with long tracking shots. Ron Perlman turns up and does the Ron Perlman thing he did in Sons of Anarchy, just a bit more slowly.
I like Spencer but I was bored – and sometimes very confused by this – with its fluctuating timelines as we hop around to try to work out whether doormat Spencer with blonde hair became drag-racing Spencer or vice versa, why she’s acting out a revenge scenario involving a catering business if she is, why she seems to have zero common sense in any time zone and more.
Best left alone, I reckon.
Work in Progress (US: Showtime)
At 45-years-old, Abby begins to re-evaluate her life and perspective after her misfortune and despair lead her to a transformative relationship.
Abby McEnany writes and stars in this, which initially seems to be quite a sad piece in which a suicidally depressed person talks her own therapist to death. However, it’s actually a more human piece, about the redemptive power of unexpected love, with McEnany meeting and dating a transman (Theo Germaine) half her age, after initially thinking Germaine is actually a gay woman.
A lot of the jokes are at McEnany’s expense and involve lesbian and trans culture – but not the usual kind you see on TV. While it’s not hilarious, the comedy does a good job of exploring the past 40 years of attitudes towards gay women and trans culture, not just those of society in general but also within those communities.
I’m not sure I’d class it as a comedy, so much as a ‘wry examination of life from a unique perspective’. It’s different enough that I’m tempted to watch more; it’s not funny enough that that’s a slam dunk decision.
Let’s see what happens next week.
Enter the Arrowverse!
Crisis on Infinite Earths – Supergirl/Batwoman/The Flash
Last year, I complained that the Arrowverse Elseworlds crossover was a bit of a limp affair that failed to take advantage of all the possibilities that multiple different timelines and sources offered it, instead preferring to have everyone dress up in each other’s costumes.
I doubt the producers took it to heart, and probably were simply dialling everything back so they could do a proper crossover this year, but it’s been a bit of a doozy. Not in terms of plotting, since it’s all a bit tedious, with various universes getting crushed before the anti-matter wave of the Anti-Monitor, resulting in the Monitor recruiting all manner of heroes to find the ‘seven paragons’ and… snore, I’m bored already. Even explaining it’s all based on mega-continuity reconciler Crisis on Infinite Earths won’t excite me.
I’m certainly not excited by the sub-plot in which (spoiler alert) Arrow gets killed, resulting in his daughter from the future spending the rest of the episodes trying to resurrect him. Or the hugely snore-worthy soap plots inherent to each of the main shows that made me give up on them in the first place.
Then there’s the catch-up I’ve got to play. Why’s that guy who was the Reverse Flash in season one and various other parallel universe versions in other seasons now Pariah? What’s Elongated Man doing here? Why’s Caitlin full Killer Frost? Why has Vibe given up his powers? Why’s Lyla now Harbinger? How long has Jon Cryer been playing Lex Luthor for?
All these questions and more will not be answered or even revealed to be questions for the casual viewers. Just accept it and move on.
Crossover to the max
Because the real reason for watching all of this, other than to see everyone in each other’s shows, is to see the vast number of cameos from other shows, movies and even cartoon series.
We’ve so far taken in the 1960s Batman series, early 00s Birds of Prey, the 1990s Batman movies, animated show Batman Beyond, Smallville, the 1990s Flash TV series, Superman Returns (2006), the Kingdom Come comic strip, Netflix’s Lucifer, NBC’s Constantine and DCU’s Titans. Even Black Lightning has been allowed to join in with this year’s crossover. And that’s just the ones I’ve both noticed and remembered. I’m sure there are far, far more and possibly more to come next year. In fact, I’ve just remembered Wil Wheaton shows up for no good reason at one point.
Now admittedly, virtually all of it has been cameos. Burt Ward and Robert Wuhl both get a line. Tom Welling and Eric Durance – confusingly, also playing Supergirl’s mum now – have maybe a five minute scene together. The Lucifer/Constantine meet-up lasts all of two minutes. Ashley Scott does some jumping around.
But virtually all of these little cameos are rewarding in their own ways and some of them actually last surprisingly long, with the voice of Batman for 20 years Kevin Conroy getting maybe 10 minutes in Batwoman to really push the plot of that show forward.
Somewhat thankfully, there are also few references to each show’s continuity. Sure, you have to appreciate where all the characters are up to and Supergirl features mostly Supergirl‘s cast and The Flash features mostly The Flash‘s cast.
But largely, the shows operate purely as part of one story. Even the customary title sequences have been replaced with a special Crisis sequence instead. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow cast are as important in each episode as the main show’s cast is. This is one big cast that’s spread across several shows.
Highlights for me – oh yes, I’ve just remembered that Wentworth Miller’s back – are Brandon Routh’s perfect Clark Kent, Tom Welling’s reprisal of his Clark Kent, Batwoman and Supergirl’s friendship, everything involving John Constantine, and oddly enough, Ruby Rose’s Batwoman.
When I gave up on Batwoman, I noted that Rose was definitely improving and relaxing into the role. Here, she’s really doing well. The few references back to Alice were enough to prevent me tuning into Batwoman again, but it now feels like Rose was a good hire whose been let down by bad scripting.
Crisis is still complete nonsense and the fact that there’s no Wonder Woman in any of it – not so much as a reference, in fact – despite the presence of Lynda Carter in the regular Supergirl cast is vastly disappointing to me. If you’re not a superhero fan, you’ll find nothing of interest here at all, either. And if you’re a lapsed Flash/Supergirl/Arrow/Batwoman/Black Lightning viewer (as I am), there’s nothing here to make you start want to rewatch.
But I am loving what is easily the best and biggest superhero TV show crossover in history. And there’s always Wonder Woman 1984 to look forward to.
Oh yes, there was a Jonah Hex and the Spectre. I’m sure I’ll remember others.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
The Mandalorian (Disney+)
1×5 – Chapter 5: The Gunslinger
A reasonable enough episode that deploys another Western trope – the rookie learning from the seasoned veteran – that takes the action to Tattooine. The fight scenes somehow seemed marginally better this week and the recreation of the Mos Eisley cantina was boss. Baby Yoda was as delightful as ever, too.
But it’s still not a show that makes me excited. It’s always just short of not just ‘excellent’ but ‘really good’.
Episode reviews: Initial
Servant (Apple TV+)
1×4 – Bear
Not content with the numerous horror tropes appropriated in previous episodes, this week we’ve gone with “Oh no, there’s a stalker!” And it’s dull. I wasn’t frightened one bit.
So I’m giving up, even though – perhaps even because – I have no idea what’s going on and why I should care. And because I feel a bit queazy after all the cooking scenes – this week, let’s disembowel a lobster. I’ll miss Trevor Gureckis’ soundtrack, which reminds me of Brian Reitzell’s Hannibal work. But that’s about it.
Episode reviews: Verdict
Stumptown (US: ABC)
1×9 – Dex Education
The fallout from the end of last week’s episode isn’t quite as interesting as it promised. Plus why was Dex worried she’d had sex with someone when she was still fully dressed when she woke up? I mean there are possibilities but…
All the same, quite a fun main plot, being the investigation of a private school at the behest of Dex’s own High School nemesis.
The recommended list
Evil (US: CBS)
1×9 – Exorcism Part 2
It’s interesting to see how they fluctuate between clinching proof of evil and demons in one episode, only for the next episode to rebuff it and offer alternative explanations – and vice versa. This one worked quite nicely, too, as a continuation of its examination in incel culture as a true evil in the world. Funny conclusion, too: it seems extreme evil can suffer accidents, too.
Episode reviews: Initial
For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
1×8 – Rupture
How you respond to this episode probably depends upon whether you’re watching it because you like the Astronaut Wives’ Club aspect of the show or The Right Stuff aspect of it. This felt a lot more in the former’s court than the latter’s, although the conflict with the Russians on the Moon was engrossing. Lots of fine acting in the other strand, but it was still all a bit predictable and while it’s a bit hard to accuse an alternative reality show of anachronisms, there was a lot of language and and ideas that were not of the 70s.
Episode reviews: Verdict
Mr Robot (US: USA; UK: Amazon)
4×10 – 410 Gone
A bit of time to regroup this week and to write out more characters, in preparation for the final episodes. Lots of emotional moments and top acting, but really nothing to get worked up about.
Silicon Valley (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
6×7 – Exit Event
And an appropriate ending for the show, with our heroes having to fail in order to save the world no less, from a Sneakers-style device that they’ve accidentally invented. But if they try really hard at failing will they fail?
The double-length format was interesting; the framing device worked well, as we learnt everyone’s inevitable fate through a documentary filmed 10 years afterwards. But as has been the case for the past few seasons, the hilarity was mild and the lack of TJ Miller was only made more obvious by the frequent references to his character.
All in all, a decent enough and smart ending to what had become a decent enough show that had lost most of its satirical edge. I’m sure it’ll be fairly well remembered, just not universally and not necessarily with more than mostly affection.
Watchmen (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×8 – A God Walked Into A Bar
And we get to the Big Blue Guy at last. It was a fair effort to recreate Alan Moore’s take on the character and there was some decently intricate plotting, too. I think the ending doesn’t make any sense, but you can’t have everything I guess.
Also, if you’re going to make allusions to Greek myth – and create your own version of ambrosia, for example – it’s probably best not to keep mentioning Greek myth.
Episode review: Initial