What have you been watching? Including The Secrets She Keeps and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

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

Look at that. I reviewed some tele. It’s almost like this is a TV blog or something. This week, I’ve let you know all about One Lane Bridge (New Zealand: TVNZ1) and Defending Jacob (Apple TV+). But that’s not all I’ve watched…

Rashida Jones and Kenya Barris in Netflix’s #blackAF

Next on TMINE

Coming up after the jump, I’ll be reviewing The Secrets She Keeps (Australia: Ten; UK: BBC Four) and Penny Dreadful: City of Angels (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic). But there’s more TV on the way this week – as usual, though, Covid-19 rules apply to the following new shows: I have every intention of watching all of them, but might not be able to, for one reason or another.

In the US, HBO will be giving us skating show Betty but that’s about it. However, on the streaming services, Netflix will be offering us Summertime, Almost Happy, Hollywood, and Into The Night, while Apple TV+ gives us its first UK show, Trying. Meanwhile, Amazon has Upload for us.

I’ve also just noticed that Amazon now has season 3 of Baron Noir (France: Canal+). I’d love to watch that but you can only rent or buy it, and I’m cheap. You might not be, though.

I’m going to try at least one of those, I reckon. Maybe more. How about you?

The regulars

After the jump, it’s the usual regulars: For Life, Mystery Road, What We Do In The Shadows and Westworld. See you in a mo!

What TMINE watched this week

TMINE recommends has all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended and TV Reviews A-Z lists every TV show ever reviewed in the past 13 years.

New shows

Jessica De Gouw and Laura Carmichael in The Secrets She Keeps

The Secrets She Keeps

In Australia: Wednesdays, Ten
In the UK: Acquired by BBC Four

Two women from vastly different backgrounds, who accidentally meet in a supermarket, have explosive secrets that could destroy everything they hold dear.

Stars: Laura Carmichael, Jessica De Gouw, Michael Dorman, Ryan Corr, Michael Sheasby, Cariba Heine

TMINE verdict

When you call a show The Secrets She Keeps and then spend your entire first episode dealing with two different women’s pregnancies, you can pretty much guess what that secret might be. So there’s no real surprise to be had from the revelation at the end of the first episode of this adaptation from the bestseller of the same name – particularly if you’ve only recently finished watching The Stranger.

But given that degree of latitude needed from the audience, you’d assume that the producers of The Secrets She Keeps would do their best to keep us interested. Unfortunately not. The show thinks that its title should be enough to keep you watching.

Perfect mummy blogger Jessica De Gouw spends most of the first episode constantly whining about her sports reporter husband (For All Mankind‘s Michael Dorman) not being able to afford their stupidly huge, perfect house, despite her earning less than AUS$600 a month. About 50% of her dialogue is either that or her complaining that he doesn’t want to have sex with her while she’s pregnant. You honestly wonder, given how dull she is, why he’d want to normally, anyway.

Meanwhile, supermarket shelf-stacker and would-be stalker Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey) spends her time either droning on about why she’s English in an Australian TV series, emotionally blackmailing her former boyfriend or complaining that her boss wasn’t man enough to shoot a would-be robber who had a knife.

Most of the first episode, you’re wondering exactly why you should be bothering with this show. The characters are nothing but annoying and are almost misogynistic stereotypes. I barely made it to the end of the episode. Avoid.

TMINE rating

Natalie Dormer in Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

Penny Dreadful: City of Angels

In the US: Sundays, 10pm ET/PT, Showtime
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic. Starts July 1

Set nearly 50 years after Penny Dreadful, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels takes place in 1938 Los Angeles, a time and place “deeply infused with Mexican-American folklore and social tension”. The characters are connected in conflict to the deity, Santa Muerte, while others are allied with the Devil.

Detective Tiago Vega is tasked with a gruesome murder case and soon becomes embroiled in LA’s history; from the building of the city’s first freeways and its deep traditions of Mexican-American folklore, to the dangerous espionage actions of the Third Reich and the rise of radio evangelism. Tiago and his family struggle with powerful forces that threaten to tear them apart.

Stars: Natalie Dormer, Daniel Zovatto, Kerry Bishé, Adriana Barraza, Jessica Garza, Michael Gladis, Johnathan Nieves, Rory Kinnear, Nathan Lane

TMINE verdict

If Penny Dreadful was John Logan’s attempts to make a TV show in the style of Victorian pulp fiction, Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is an attempt to do the same with US detective pulp fiction of the 1930s and marrying it with Mexican folklore and the Book of Job.

And the trouble with pulp fiction is it’s pulpy. That kind of worked when dealing with classics of pulp literature, such as Dracula and Frankenstein. Not here.

The first episode of City of Angels is not without merits, thanks to a sterling cast. Rory Kinnear and Nathan Lane are known quantities, of course, with Kinnear compelling (if badly accented) as a German Nazi living in the US, at a time when that wasn’t necessarily considered a bad thing, Lane a bit hammier as an old school police detective, but still charismatic.

Dormer might be more of a revelation to some, but here she jaunts from role to role, switching from femme fatale to almost unrecognisable wallplant from scene to scene.

There’s also a loving attention to period detail, the largely unheralded history of the time and Mexican culture.

The show’s trouble is that Penny Dreadful: City of Angels is almost exactly what you expect. Dormer is the devil, trying to show God (aka Santa Muerte) how rubbish humans are, so setting them at one another through temptation and deceit. That goes how you’d expect it to go. It’s not going to surprise you like Angel did.

Meanwhile, Daniel Zovatto’s young Mexican-American detective has little to do but deal with overt racism and “balancing the conflicting demands of two different worlds”. Seen that before. Seeing it right now in One Lane Bridge (done better). Will see it again, I’m sure.

It’s beautiful to watch, beautiful to listen to – beyond the woeful German accents. Why can no one who is supposed to be German pronounce German names correctly (cf Stateless)? – but ultimately served by an underpowered plot, more concerned with imitating the literature of the time than giving us something worth watching now.

TMINE rating

⭐⭐

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Recommended shows

For Life (US: ABC)

1×10 – Character and Fitness

Flashback episodes are normally irrelevant and slow things down, but as For Life has done one before, this felt more normal and a solid piece of background for the show that reveals how its implausibilities (prisoner becomes lawyer) could be plausible (it is based on a true story, after all). We get a vision of life in prison pre-Indira Varma under Aquarius‘ Chance Kelly, and learn how our hero gained the trust of both her and other prisoners.

We also get to see Timothy Busfield’s progression from sozzled state senator to freewheeling champion of the underdog. I’m sad to report Timothy Busfield cannot play drunk. He should ask Michael Caine how to do it.

TMINE rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Initial TMINE review

Mystery Road (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC Four)

2×2 – Episode 2

A slightly less sparkly affair than the previous episode, one that again is beginning to owe a lot more to Goldstone than to Mystery Road, but a very decent piece of detective investigation nevertheless – although the delights of insider/outsider boundaries aren’t really getting much of an outing this season.

Sadly, the archaeology is simply turning out to be bad, not a clue to anything, and everything involving Pedersen’s daughter needs to go away quickly. But a very enjoyable hour’s worth of TV despite all of that.

TMINE rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Initial TMINE verdict

Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

3×7 – Passed Pawn

Big fights. Pretty people. Pretty situations. Things happened. Good to watch. No idea why anyone’s doing anything any more. Neither are the writers.

TMINE rating

⭐⭐⭐

Initial TMINE verdict

What We Do In The Shadows (US: FX; UK: BBC Two)

2×2 – Ghosts – 2×3 – Brain Scramblies

A really strong double bill that adds ghosts to the show’s supernatural mix, giving us the fun suggestion that if vampires are dead, wouldn’t their souls still be around as ghosts? That enables the cast to interact with their past selves, show how they’ve changed and for ‎Natasia Demetriou and Kayvan Novak to channel some of their personal cultural heritage. Matt Berry just does Matt Berry things, of course, but it gives Demetriou a chance to show off her abilities – and gives Jake McDorman an excuse to come back.

Brain Scramblies is more of a one-trick pony, with the vampires going to their neighbours’ ‘superb owl’ party and discovering they’re just expected to watch sport on TV. However, that does give the show the chance to really show off its foundations in horror, with lots of supernatural nastiness given an outing.

TMINE Rating

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Initial TMINE review

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