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
It’s been a quieter week this week, with nary a Boxset to be seen. However, TMINE did review the first two episodes of Devs (US: Hulu; UK: BBC Two). Meanwhile, Orange Thursday didn’t quite fulfil its usual mandate, only managing to take in the one movie: Dark Waters (2019).
Next on TMINE
In terms of new shows, after realising that Temple (US: Spectrum) was actually Temple (UK: Sky One) and removing it from the list, I managed to take in Dave (US: FXX) and Amazing Stories (Apple TV+), both of which I’ll be talking about after the jump.
Coming some time in the week will be a review of The Plot Against America (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic), I hope, but that’s about it for new TV, so I might find a boxset somewhere to review as well. I suspect it’ll be season three of Babylon Berlin (Germany: Sky; UK: Sky Atlantic), given I’ve now watched the first four episodes.
Meanwhile, tomorrow’s Orange Thursday will be back to its usual double-barrelled glory with a preview of Radioactive (2020) and a review of Joker (2019).
The regulars list is starting to swell again. After the jump, I’ll be letting you know what I thought of the latest episodes: For Life, Star Trek: Picard, Stateless, Stumptown, Transplant, and War of the Worlds, as well as the series finale of The Outsider.
What TMINE watched this week
In the UK: Available on Apple TV+
In this anthology series, filmmakers, directors and writers tell stories firing viewers’ imaginations and transporting them to worlds of wonder.
As I almost always say when reviewing episodic anthology shows, there’s not much point in reviewing anthology shows. The most you can do is gauge tone, competence, etc, since the stories, characters and cast will be different every week.
So let’s gauge tone, competence, etc.
Amazing Stories, of course, was a mid-80s anthology show, the longer title of which was Steven Spielberg Presents Amazing Stories. Not exactly a ratings hit, it nevertheless is fondly remembered at least. Spielberg isn’t attached to this version and to be honest, judging by the first episode, maybe that ain’t a bad thing.
The Cellar isn’t amazing but it is very good and at least it doesn’t have the edgeless quality you’d expect of something by Spielberg (and Amblin sci-fi shows in general). The episode sees a millennial man tired of having too much choice being hurled back in time by the weird effects a freak thunderstorm has on the cellar at a property he’s renovating. Back in 1919, he comes across a woman who would rather be free of the restrictions of her own time.
The ending isn’t what you expect, since rather than being a redo of Somewhere in Time (1980), it’s more a redo of something else (spoilers). That gives it a slightly more bitter flavour than a Spielberg piece, yet still retains that essential “amazing” quality. It’s also surprisingly moving and nearly brought a tear to my eye at one point.
Obviously, I can’t recommend Amazing Stories based purely on the episode, but in and of itself, The Cellar is a very decent hour’s TV that’s worth watching in and of itself – and makes me at least curious about the next episode, since it hints this might be a show that’s worth watching.
In the US: Wednesdays, FXX
In the UK: Acquired by BBC through FX partnership deal
Loosely based on David Burd’s real life, Dave centres on a suburban neurotic man in his late-20s who has convinced himself that he’s destined to be one of the best rappers of all time.
Stars: David Burd
I’d never heard of David Burd – aka Lil Dicky – who apparently came to fame on YouTube as a satirical white rapper. Even if I had, I don’t think I would have found this better or even funny.
The show’s comedy is essentially one of social and cultural observation. It’s very good at acknowledging and making explicit the hypermasculine rules of rap. However, rather than send them up, Burd essentially mocks himself by failing to live up to them.
And despite the accuracy of his observations, it’s not really very funny watching him do so, particularly since his character at least is very stupid. He talks a lot about how small and ugly his penis is. He overshares his not especially exciting sex life and his girlfriend’s medical concerns. He gives a rapper he’s never met his life savings to promote his songs and unsurprisingly has problems getting the rapper to live up to his end of the deal.
It’s not even slightly funny, just a bit cringe-worthy and embarrassing to watch.
I did like the fact it does provide a diversity of black characters – not everyone’s a rapper and hypermasculine. But that’s the best I can say about a very inadequate show.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
For Life (US: ABC)
1×4 – Marie
A flashback episode enables us to see how our hero ended up in jail, as well as to see everything from his wife’s perspective for a change. While the lack of real procedural element was a minus point, the fact we also got to see just why everyone on the prosecution side is so convinced of his guilt also gave the bad guys some much-needed depth.
A little bit too soapy for me, but still very credible.
The Outsider (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
1×10 – Must/Can’t
And so it ends. Actually not that bad an ending, one that does at least fulfil some of the promise of the initial episodes. But overall, after an excellent start, The Outsider rapidly became a highly languorous affair that stretched out its plot for far too long and concentrated on the wrong characters. To a certain extent, that’s a problem with the source material, but while it was a decent enough adaptation, I think you probably needed to be a Steven King fan to have truly enjoyed it.
Good moments, interesting characters and some very good directors, particularly Jason Bateman, but just not enough story in the end.
Star Trek: Picard (US: CBS All Access; UK: Amazon)
1×7 – Nepenthe
The first properly enjoyable episode so far, with Riker and Troi popping up and Picard finally starting to feel like Picard. But yet again, we have to see fan favourites either put through the ringer or killed for no very good reason.
Stateless (Australia: ABC; UK: Netflix)
1×2 – Incognita
A much more solid effort that sees how events pan out in the refugee camp. Everything’s a lot smoother now we’re not having to deal with Yvonne Strahovski’s dance cult and the arrival of Asher Keddie on the scenes firms up the other side of the refugee/’guards’ equation to present both perspectives and show the systemic pressures that cause the issues, rather than attributing blame to any one side.
The show’s downside, however, is Strahovski’s efforts at a German accent. I’m not sure anyone would buy it, particularly not any actual German speakers. But that’s a minor niggle in a far improved show.
Stumptown (US: ABC)
1×16 – All Quiet on the Dextern Front
A bit more impact in this episode, mainly because of the flashbacks to Afghanistan and Dex’s time as a military interrogator. The revelations at the end do at least promise more interesting things to come. But if I weren’t so far advanced in this now, I’d be giving up right now – and still might.
Transplant (Canada: CTV)
1×2 – Tell Me Who You Are
Another very credible episode that sees our refugee doctor working in the hospital and discovering that while there are lots of things he’s good at that maybe the Canadians aren’t, there are lots of things he isn’t good at, such as safeguarding and sticking to the rules.
The supporting characters aren’t really that well developed yet, but at least John Hannah got more to do than lie in bed with a head wound this episode.
War of the Worlds (UK: Fox)
1×2 – Episode 2
This version of War of the Worlds seems to want to be a European The Walking Dead at the moment, with everyone ferreting around for survival following the mass culling by aliens of most of the population. Not much to do with the book there, and the fact there’s some kind of ambulatory robot going around killing off survivors wasn’t in my edition either. But a creepy affair that actually had a good firefight scene, which was a surprise.
Everyone seems to have leapt into murdering everyone else very quickly, haven’t they? It’s going to be a bit embarrassing if people start waking up.