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
Week four of Spring 2020 was a little quieter than the previous one, but we had three new shows launch. You can read the TMINE reviews of Outmatched (US: Fox) and Star Trek: Picard (US: CBS All Access; UK: Amazon) elsewhere, but we can talk about Awkwafina is Nora from Queens (US: Comedy Central) after the jump.
Meanwhile, in the film world, Orange Thursday took in Knives Out (2019) and Angel Has Fallen (2019).
What’s coming next
Starting in the next week are Onisciente (Omniscient) (Netflix), The Stranger (Netflix), Luna Nera (Black Moon) (Netflix) and Ragnarok (Netflix). Yep, while others sleep, Netflix triumphs. I’ll pick one of those to watch over the next week and hopefully, it’ll be your Boxset Monday, but more likely your Boxset Tuesday.
Tomorrow’s Orange Thursday will be reviewing The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020) and X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019). One of those is significantly better than the other.
The regulars list is smaller even than normal this week, since both Evil and Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for the Bone Collector took a break and Lovely Wife has decided she’d quite like to watch Avenue 5, so we’ll be watching episode 2 tonight.
Anyway, that just leaves 9-1-1: Lone Star, Stumptown and The Outsider. Still, it is What have you been watching? so now’s your chance to recommend some shows. Even Doctor Who. I hear there was a surprise guest ((spoiler alert) Captain Jack) and a massive development ((spoiler alert) another Doctor Who/alternative Doctor Who). Still not bothering with it.
In case you’ve been wondering what TMINE has been doing with itself, given such a lack of viewing options, the answer is simple: I’ve been rewatching the entire first season of Marvel’s Daredevil. It’s been an interesting experience, since clearly I was in a grumpy mood when I reviewed the first few episodes and still quite grumpy when I didn’t include it in my Top 9 (would have been 10 with Daredevil) shows of 2015.
Because it’s brilliant. Really sublime stuff – possibly my favourite season of all the Marvel shows, even more so than the first season of Iron Fist. It verges on the out and out sadistic at times, sure – you can tell showrunner Steven S DeKnight had just come off Spartacus – but despite having already watched it, I zoomed through all 13 episodes in about three days flat. Even the underwhelming costume reveal at the end was fine and Stick and the Hand didn’t irk me so much this time round.
The scripts explorations of the characters are almost lyrical at times, plus I really enjoyed some of its side-themes more, such as its study of the (diminishing) importance of journalism. There’s some real detective work/journalism going on in the investigation. And even when you know what’s coming, there are still some genuinely surprising choices by the writers, such as Melvyn’s reaction to losing a fight. Of which there are many, all so beautifully choreographed and directed – even Wu Assassins couldn’t quite match it.
Plus there’s the general tone of the whole season, with some actually thought-provoking discussions of good and evil, morality, vigilantism, killing, rich and poor, Catholicism and more. Properly adult stuff it is.
Lastly, having watched all the other seasons and Netflix Marvel shows since, it’s really surprising to see how much everything fits together and was set up from the beginning. Yep, all that building-buying for the Japanese had a point and Madame Gao really did have to travel further than China to go back to her homeland.
So, if you’ve already watched Daredevil, give it another go, as it might surprise you. If you’ve not, you should definitely try it – provided you’ve got a strong stomach.
What TMINE watched this week
Awkwafina is Nora From Queens
In the US: Wednesdays, 10:30/9:30c, Comedy Central
Awkwafina stars as Nora Lin in this scripted series based on her real-life beginnings in Queens, NY. Raised alongside her cousin by her dad and grandma, Nora leans on her family as she navigates young adulthood in outer borough New York City.
One of the more surprising things about Jumanji 2 was just how good Awkwafina was as both an actress and as a Danny DeVito impersonator. Which makes Awkwafina is Nora From Queens a bit of a double blow, because not only is it only okay, it turns out that Awkwafina either always impersonates Danny DeVito in her performances (or at least she’s chosen to in this show) or that’s how she is normally.
The show is at least a refreshing change from the normal Asian-American TV shows we get (yes, even Fresh Off The Boat), since there’s no Tiger Mum, no look at ‘the immigrant experience’. Instead, the first episode is slacker Awkwafina deciding its time to move out from living with her grandmother and dad (the far more impressive BD Wong, from Mr Robot) to get her own place. And proper job.
Most of the jokes are about how bad Nora is at her various job choices, be it Uber driver or Webcam Girl, and how much of a generally scuzzy slacker stoner she is – she ends up living in her car but as she likes to sleep with her pants off… well, you can guess the rest.
Which probably fits the Comedy Central demographic very well, but left me not especially provoked to laughter. Because I’m old now.
Still – judge for yourself, if you like, as you can watch the entire pilot episode on YouTube. Or you can take me at my word. Would I lie to you?
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
9-1-1: Lone Star (US: Fox)
1×3 – Texas Proud
9-1-1: Lone Star is kind of a show you have to roll with, as it shifts genre with alacrity even within an episode, and also is full of actually quite novel things you don’t normally see on TV.
One minute you’re learning of the dangers of corn hoppers and how much corn weighs per cubic yard. The next, you’re with Rob Lowe as he receives cancer treatment. The next, two gay men are having a heart to heart after a bar fight. The next, there’s a medical emergency at a steak-eating competition. The next, you’re seeing that Mean Girls go to Mosques, too, and learning the social niceties of wearing the hijab. The next, Liv Tyler is trying to solve the mystery of her disappearing sister.
And that’s just in the first 15 minutes.
All of which makes 9-1-1: Lone Star not the show you’re expecting and a good deal more interesting than you expected, too, as well as a bit educational. But it also makes it a slippery beast. Enjoying the relentless action? Oh hang on, we’re off into the politics of Instagram for Muslim Women now. Loved Rob Lowe’s heart to heart with the old cancer patient? Oh, we’ve moved on to the touchy subject of nepotism in the fire brigade.
So will people actually be able to love the show for specific things or the entire melange? And will they end up watching more through force of habit, rather than because they love it?
Dunno. But I’ll be watching next week’s episode I think, even though this week’s wasn’t quite as funny as last week’s.
The Outsider (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×4 – Que Viene El Coco
The Outsider is currently feeling a bit ‘bait and switch’. After the bravura first two episodes featuring Ben Mendelsohn and Jason Bateman, with Bateman doing some virtuoso direction, subsequent episodes have almost entirely been about Cynthia Erivo’s character, with direction by lesser hands.
It’s not entirely the show’s fault – Erivo is playing a character who also appears in King’s Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers and End of Watch and actually appears in Mr Mercedes, where she’s played by Justine Lupe. And it feels like a mistake. The show is in essence a methodical piece of investigative work of the abnormal colliding with the normal and Erivo’s Lupe is simply too abnormal – she’s the abnormal investigating the abnormal, whereas Mendelsohn’s the epitome of normal.
That said, I warmed to her a lot more this episode than I did the previous episode and I’m pleased that we’re finally getting a good idea of what ‘the baddie’ is and what it does. The soundtrack continues to disconcert and the direction isn’t as bad as all that.
However, I do wish the writers had had more latitude with the source material and had been able to rationalise the story. Still, I’ve not read the book, so maybe the division of the investigation between the two characters is important and comes together better at the end.
Stumptown (US: ABC)
1×12 – Dirty Dexy Money
A moderately amusing episode in which Cheryl Hines turns up as the owner of a stripbar who needs Dex to investigate her (male) strippers. Dex’s visit to (spoiler alert) a veterans support group was probably the highlight of the episode, though.
Still, it’s informative to note that the show has basically split off Cobie Smulders from all the other characters in the show, which shows how little chemistry there is between her and the main characters. Not that they’ve had enough time together to really build anything up.