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
With the double bank holiday weekend of Easter just passed, it’s not 100% surprising that TMINE didn’t manage to review anything at all since the previous WHYBW. But I did at least watch a whole bunch of tele, which I’ll talk about in a mo, and hopefully, I’ll be doing better this week…
Next on TMINE
I’m still no further along than episode 8 of the latest season of Babylon Berlin (Germany: Sky; UK: Sky Atlantic) and I never managed to find a way to view The Secrets She Keeps (Australia: Ten; UK: BBC Four). But they appear to be the only logjams in the TMINE viewing queue, since I’ve made great progress elsewhere. Yep, my quarantine-induced lack of focus, time and inclination to watch things appears to be dying down as I adjust to the new normal.
After the jump, I’ll be talking about a whole bunch of new shows: Home Before Dark (Apple TV+), Brews Brothers (Netflix) and Run (US: HBO; UK: Sky Comedy). Tomorrow, I plan to review an actual movie in a temporary replacement for Orange Thursday called Covideodrome: Sliding Doors (1998). Yes, I’ve been sitting on that name for a while.
Meanwhile, coming up over the next week are new shows Mrs America (US: Hulu; UK: BBC Two) and #blackAF (Netflix), with season two of Mystery Road (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC Four) arriving on Sunday. I will try to watch and even review as much of them as possible, as well as anything else I’ve overlooked – including The Baker and the Beauty (US: ABC).
I haven’t had time to watch For Life yet, but other than that, it’s the usual regulars after the jump: Devs, Transplant, War of the Worlds and Westworld. Joining them, however, is newbie Tales From The Loop and we have the return of Bloom as well. See you in a mo.
What TMINE watched this week
In the US: Sundays, 10.30pm, HBO
In the UK: Wednesdays, 9pm, Sky Comedy. Starts tonight
Ruby Richardson walks away from her ordinary life in the suburbs to revisit her past with her college boyfriend, Billy Johnson. The two made a pact 17 years earlier: if either one of them texted the word “RUN” and the other replied with the same, they would drop everything and meet in Grand Central Station and travel across America together.
Stars: Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson
Run has received a lot of interest since it’s one of the first shows to emerge from Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who guest stars in the show as well) since post-Fleabag and Killing Eve exploded into the zeitgeist (and the awards ceremonies).
Certainly, it touches on some interesting female-centric themes and subverts expectations – although not all of them. Wever (Nurse Jackie, Godless) is a convincingly normal woman, rather than the supermodel/high-powered DA type that modern TV shows give us (does no one remember Scarecrow and Mrs King?). Gleeson is equally convincing as a shabby but charismatic and handsome motivational speaker – the kind of man a housewife might ditch everything for after a couple of decades of normal life. They have good bants and you can well believe in them as people and former lovers.
Where it works slightly less well is as a thriller. There’s not much by way of thrills in the first episode. There are hints that Gleeson is running away from something and he needs Wever for something more than company, but the first episode (written by Vicky Jones, not PWB), never does more than hint. Effectively, the couple are running away from life and existentialism, rather than a genuine threat.
Which is probably why, as a show, it’s on Sky Comedy, rather than HBO, which is currently touting it as a thriller. Sensible move, Sky.
The show and the cast are engaging enough that I’ll watch episode two at least, plus there is a real novelty in a US show being set aboard a train, rather than a plane. But if there is PWB lightning in this show’s bottle, it’s being kept well and truly stoppered at the moment.
In the UK: Available on Netflix
Brewery owner Wilhelm Rodman gets a visit from his polar-opposite brother, Adam, but the unpleasant reunion is cut short by a bigger crisis.
Stars: Alan Aisenberg, Mike Castle, Carmen Flood and Marques Ray
Beer is a drink I’ve never really understood. Why would anyone voluntarily drink it? It tastes like piss. So on the one hand, that probably predisposes me to hate Brews Brothers, a comedy show about the worst drink in the world (beer) and the worst people in the world (beer snobs); on the other, the fact that the first episode ends with the two brothers finally hitting the big time with a beer literally made from piss possibly should make me like its dedication to truth.
Brews Brothers is to its credit, a reasonably imaginative, well researched piece about brewing and beer, with a surprising amount of German content. It’s also a unique look at the LA craft beer scene.
However, it tries way too hard to be It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and I don’t think a single one of its jokes actually landed on target. It tries to be rapier sharp and to skewer hipsters. It has mobile food vans with their own toilets run by couples wearing backless chaps instead.
Some of the supporting cast were amusing, but this was a woefully unfunny affair I won’t be watching any more of.
Home Before Dark
In the UK: Available on Apple TV+
A mystery inspired by the reporting of a real nine-year-old journalist. A girl moves to a lakeside town where her father once lived; while there, she unearths a cold case that everyone, including her father, tried to bury.
Stars: Brooklynn Prince, Jim Sturgess, Kylie Rogers, Kylie Rogers, Abby Miller, Joelle Carter
We’ve already had one recent reboot of Nancy Drew but it’s fair to say Home Before Dark is a much better version of Nancy Drew than Nancy Drew is, even if its lead is only nine years old. More pleasingly, it’s based on a real-life story and features someone who wants to be a journalist – and who’s seen All the President’s Men 39 times.
However, this is very much Apple, white middle class, family-fare, with a plucky girl and her plucky friends discovering secrets that the adults want to hide. It could easily have been something on Nickelodeon or Disney+ at times and there’s no real air of menace of threat at any point, despite the fact a suspected murder takes place.
The menace that does come is more appropriate to a younger audience and here the show doesn’t really pull any punches. This is all about a girl fighting against the boxes society wants to put her in, whether it’s because she’s a child, a girl or doing something inconvenient. She learns the harshness of online publishing and the ‘below the fold’ comments, as well as the harshness of social exclusion. She also learns that adults don’t always practise what they preach – even her own journalist father (Sturgess) – but that shouldn’t stop you doing it anyway.
Surprisingly, it’s often a little inspiring as a result.
I’m only one episode in and there’s little so far to suggest something remarkable is going to emerge in later episodes. However, it is at the very least a tween-friendly, inspiring piece of TV that’s also a reasonably engaging paean to the importance of journalism and finding the truth
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Bloom (Australia: Stan; UK: My5)
2×1 – Blip
Season one of Bloom was an intriguing show, in which survivors of a terrible disaster discover that the strange flowers that grow where their friends and family died are the key to eternal youth. Unfortunately, it’s only a temporary key, one that grows in limited quantities, so the show became a hymn to growing old and acceptance of ageing, as well as an examination of what lengths people would go to for just a few more years of youth – and the dangers of the unknown and the supernatural.
The story was very much closed, with a definite conclusion, but given its popularity worldwide, maybe it’s unsurprising that the show is back for a second season that changes all the rules and brings in a large new cast of people. Following in the wake of Glitch‘s second season, it adds in scientists who want to discover the supernatural’s secrets, while changing the show’s core central idea – that the effect of the plant is temporary.
Now we have Jackie Weaver not only fully compos mentis in flashback but permanently Phoebe Tonkin in the present, trying to convince husband Bryan Brown that he too needs to be young again – something Brown heavily resists. Meanwhile, there’s a new junkie/boxing vicar in town, a woman shagging her ex-husband who’s now a 16-year-old and Madge from Neighbours (Anne Charleston) is also getting in on the rejuvenation act as Amanda from Neighbours (Bella Heathcote).
All the pathos has gone, replaced by a mixture of voyeurism and black humour that sometimes verges on farce. None of the qualities I enjoyed about the show, including its messages, remain. It’s only six episodes long, but I’m not specially inclined to watch more of it. I still might, but don’t hold your breath.
Devs (US: Hulu; UK: BBC Two)
1×7 – Episode 7
A long and rather daft episode in which everyone decides determinism is a thing and decides to do what fate dictates, simply because Alex Garland says so. There is one good twist (spoiler alert) the homeless guy is a Russian agent , but that’s it. I do hope the final episode is going to do something good…
Tales from the Loop (Amazon)
1×2 – Transpose
As with the first episode, a combination of beautiful imagery, magic and pathos, being an examination of friendships, jealousy and rivalry in which two teenagers swap bodies. For a while, the grass seems greener, but parental pressure, societal expectations and a whole lot more starts to creep in.
The episode in no way ends how you expects it to at first and there are images that linger long afterwards, as you might expect from a show based on paintings. However, there are enough elements from the first episode to make me suspect the show might be only 50% anthology, the other 50% being recurring elements.
I’m going to keep dipping into this because although the show never quite grabs me by both lapels and makes me want to watch more of the story, it does present enough novelty and enough Nordic introspection that watching the imagery and listening to the poignant soundtrack is probably going to be more than enough to keep bringing me back.
War of the Worlds (France: Canal+; UK: Fox)
1×7 – Episode 7
Seven episodes in, six episodes since war broke out, and we’ve learnt more or less nothing about what’s going on and our heroes that couldn’t have been condensed into a single episode. I know that the show is trying to do a European, zombie-free version of The Walking Dead but having nothing happen for an entire season is to be too inspired.
Plus we now have the kids deciding maybe the aliens have a point. And psychic powers. Meanwhile, everything French is becoming more French.
Transplant (Canada: CTV)
1×7 – Far From Home
In which everyone white and liberal gets to show how much they hate racism – but don’t know how to deal with it. Which is interesting, I guess, but a far cry from where the show started.
Also interesting – but not especially relevant – was the procrastination in the B Plot: how do you put off a revelation that could have solved the whole thing in one minute? You show that there’s more to Chinese than simply Mandarin and Cantonese.
Otherwise, a pretty generic medical procedural episode that makes me think I’ve cursed yet another young promising show by putting it on the recommended list too soon.
Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)
3×5 – Genre
So if Westworld was initially a show about the dangers of AI, I think it is now evolving into a sort of serial Black Mirror showing the dangers of advancements in all technology and information gathering, including AI but also weaponry, data gathering and analytics.
Unfortunately, while it depicts those issues that it’s conjured up well and beautifully, it also shows many of the same problems of Devs – the writers don’t really understand either quantum mechanics or chaos theory. Is it possible to construct a system that will exactly model and predict the stock markets, let alone all people in the world? Not at all. It’s literally impossible. So don’t worry about it.
That issue to one side, the show is at least still moving along at quite a pace, Vincent Cassel is great, and the end of this episode is potentially a game changer. However, the whole ‘genre’ drug was such a stretched piece of metaness, I did want to slap the film school-educated face of whomever came up with it.