What have you been watching? Including Little Fires Everywhere

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

Previously on TMINE

So, here’s something interesting about being confined to quarters/being quarantined/being in prison/surviving coronavirus – you end up watching less TV than before. I was actually expecting to watch more, but without my morning commute, I’m actually watching less.

Plus the general ennui and existential angst of it all means I’ve gone to my happy place for the ironing: yep, I’m rewatching Iron Fist. It’s really good. I’ll probably have a lot to say about it next week. New things. Different things. Honest.

All of which meant that the only new show I reviewed this past week was Motherland: Fort Salem and I still haven’t got to the end of season 3 of Babylon Berlin (I’m up to episode eight now). Sorry about that.

The Banker

Next on TMINE

To be honest, I’m actually going to be pretty busy this week and next – my bank account will be happy at least – so I’m not sure how much reviewing I’ll be able to do. However, my eye has been caught by Netflix’s Freud, which is a handy eight episodes long, so that might become a Boxset Monday, although The Guardian reckons it’s ridiculous so maybe not.

Council of Dads (US: NBC) should be getting a review either tomorrow or Monday, though. German/US show Unorthdox comes to Netflix tomorrow, but that doesn’t really appeal. Season three of Ozark is arriving on Friday, as is comic-adaptation Vagrant Queen on Syfy (US), and they appeal a bit more.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s Orange Thursday is down to one movie again (sigh, I miss going to the movies so much): Apple TV+’s The Banker (2020).

Westworld

The regulars

It’s the usual regulars after the jump: Devs, For Life, Star Trek: Picard, Stateless, Transplant, and War of the Worlds. I’ll also be talking about the latest two episodes of Westworld, which I forgot I’d watched last week, as well as episode three of Amazing Stories, which I gave another try.

I decided, however, not to give The Plot Against America another try – I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this, but it feels like a worthy-fest with less impact than even 11.22.63.

I also watched a bit of an episode of Avenue 5 out of the corner of one eye – it was the episode with John Finnemore in it and you know what? It was all right. I might watch season two at this rate.

What TMINE watched this week

New shows

Little Fires Everywhere

In the US: Wednesdays, Hulu
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Little Fires Everywhere follows the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and an enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. Based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller, the story explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger in believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Stars: Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington

TMINE verdict

Another one of those shows where you really like the cast and really want the show to be good, but which is ultimately so painfully annoying and right on that it’s almost unwatchable.

Witherspoon essentially plays a grown-up version of her character from Election, constantly trying to be the centre of things and do the right thing, but always getting on other people’s nerves. Washington is an ‘artist’ – code for pretentious.

When Witherspoon looks for a tenant for a neighbouring house in her gated community, Washington looks around but can’t afford it. But Witherspoon notices that Washington is the same person she saw sleeping in a car the night before and takes pity on her, allowing her to move in.

The ‘action’ is then an orchestrated sequence of class and race faux pas, in which Witherspoon is endlessly patronising without realising it, Washington is endlessly irked and ungrateful for Witherspoon’s largesse. The island of sanity is the two mothers’ teenage children, who try to get on with one another and succeed since they don’t really understand the class divide between their two families.

The whole thing starts with Witherspoon’s house burning down, probably at the hands of her other, self-harming, even more annoying daughter, but maybe as the result of Washington’s actions. I can’t help but wish everyone had been in it when it went up.

TMINE rating

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Amazing Stories

1×3 – Dynoman and the Volt

I thought I’d tune in to this because as well as being about comics, it’s also the last role of the late Robert Forster (Heroes, Jackie Brown). Here he’s the crotchy old grandpa who’s a bit annoyed by his grandson’s comic books obsession, but who livens up a little bit when he gets superpowers from a magic ring he ordered when he was just a kid.

It’s the kind of story that you probably would have suspected Amazing Stories would be doing, with its tiresome three generations of men and their dad obsessions. It’s got no real understanding of comics either, with a comic from the 50s having the same style of artwork on its cover as something from the 2000s.

All the same, the ending isn’t probably what you expected and it all becomes about the nature of growing old – and accepting that you’re growing old.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Devs

1×4 – Episode 4

So the slow seems to be slowly morphing away from ‘we’ve built a really interesting sci-fi device – let’s discuss the implications’ into ‘a tech company has built a really interesting sci-fi device – let’s discuss how tech companies have too much power’.

The MacGuffin in question now seems pretty clear, with Nick Offerman nevertheless annoyed that his miracle isn’t quite the miracle he wants. Yes, tech companies have so much power, they want to bend the rules of the universe to their will, because they believe that’s the way the universe should be.

I did enjoy the backfiring of our heroine’s clever strategy last week, though.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Star Trek: Picard (US: CBS All Access; UK: Amazon)

1×9 – Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Yay, more Brent Spiner. Less yay – the plot revelations. I really hope there’s more to it than this, because I was hoping for something a lot, lot more. Still, everything clipped along nicely, and there was action, adventure and comedy, and I liked the orchids, so while it wasn’t great, it was at least not an hour wasted.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Stateless (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)

1×4 – Run Sofie Run

The cult’s back. Oh dear. Yvonne Strahovski’s German accent is getting worse. Oh dear.

But the show does at least have some real gusto now and it’s quite fun to see Jai Courtney hardening the f*ck up.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Stumptown (US: ABC; UK: Alibi)

1×17 – The Dex Files

A nice set of flashbacks that prove that Cobie Smulders is immortal, judging by her ability to still play a college girl. More fleshing out of the back story, too, giving us a nifty conspiracy theory and a nice bait and switch.

But everything else is so dull. I really should have given up on this show about 10 episodes ago.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

War of the Worlds (UK: Fox)

1×4 – Episode 4

So, possibly the worst time ever for a show about the end of the world and civilisation as we know it to be airing. Not exactly light relief is it?

Of course, now we have the evil aliens (spoiler alert) stealing babies , not just murdering everyone they see – and it’s all probably for fun, too! How very Predator. I quite like that, mind.

Meanwhile, the human drama has gone very French indeed, with random French heroine having a confrontation with her brother about the fact (spoiler alert) he raped her and her son is his son, too . I’m not keen on that.

Even Gabriel Byrne’s forthcoming bioweapon is going to be light relief after this.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Recommended shows

For Life (US: ABC)

1×6 – Burner

Series producer/creator Curtis “50 Cent” Armstrong turns up looking a bit chunkier than he used to, back in the day, but to his credit, he’s very good as the dangerous criminal sent in to give the warden trouble.

Meanwhile, we get to explore even more unheard of niches of the US criminal justice system and legal code. It’s all very impressive and well researched. I’m enjoying this one a lot.

TMINE rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Transplant (Canada: CTV)

1×4 – Saleh

In which our hero has to provide remote assistance to a paramedic in Syria using Facetime. I’m really impressed by the quality of the 4G in Syria, because that’s better than I get here. Probably not on 3, then, are they?

Meanwhile, we get a sort of resolution to the ‘missing documentation’ storyline. Hopefully that’ll stop the ‘he’s such a rulebreaker’ storylines that the show has focused on for these initial episodes, which are just starting to wear thin.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

3×1 – Parce Domine – 3×2 – The Winter Line

A very shiny return for a previous must-watch show that lost that status with a protracted and largely pointless second season. It’s make or break for Westworld now, so it’s putting its best foot forward. We have multiple plot lines, fun within fun simulations, the arrival of new baddies (Vincent Cassel, Wu Assassins‘ marvellous Tommy Flanagan and an AI that’s escaped from Person of Interest) and a new goodie (Breaking Bad‘s Aaron Paul).

It’s definitely all a step-up, with the action zooming along now, rather than constantly wandering in circles, and the show’s cracking depiction of the future is cracking. I’m also glad they didn’t just do a straight adaptation of Futureworld/Beyond Westworld and did something a bit different.

I do have to wonder though if anyone wasn’t an android in the first two seasons of the show. Seriously, they need to stop making that a revelation. And that Game of Thrones ‘cameo’ was rubbish.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict