What have you been watching? Including Betty and Upload

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 quiet week for TV reviewing on TMINE this week, since I’ve basically been busy as f*ck. And not just recording a podcast. Sorry about that. And I had such plans, too!

But I have been watching TV, just not reviewing it, as you’ll soon see…

Next on TMINE

Coming up after the jump, I’ll be reviewing Betty (US: HBO; UK: Sky Comedy) and Upload (Amazon). I have every intention of doing another Covideodrome, too, seeing as I’ve rewatched Inception (2010) and watched Faster (2010) and Extraction (2020) this week. It’s just a question of when…

There’s more TV on the way this week, but as usual, 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. That and the fact it’s a Bank Holiday tomorrow.

On the streaming services, as mentioned last week, Amazon now has season 3 of Baron Noir (France: Canal+). However, since then, it’s dropped the price tag, so now it’s free to Amazon Prime members, so there’s a significantly greater chance I’m going to watch it now.

Meanwhile, Netflix has The Eddy coming on Friday, but that’s a jazz musical, so there’s no chance I’m watching that, and Valeria is probably a bit too girly for me.

On regular old cable in the US, I Know This Much is True (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic) is coming on Sunday, but that’s about it as all the US broadcasters have started postponing the shows they’ve already got in the can, to make sure they’ll actually have something new to air in autumn.

Baron Noir could well have his day this week…

The regulars

After the jump, as well as those two new shows, it’s the usual regulars: For Life, Mystery Road, One Lane Bridge and What We Do In The Shadows, as well as the season finale of Westworld. That said, I’ve not had the chance to watch much TV for the past two days, so I’ve not seen the absolute latest episodes of either For Life and What We Do In The Shadows, so I’m a bit behind.

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 15 years.

New shows

Betty

In the US: Fridays, 11pm, HBO
In the UK: Tuesdays, Sky Comedy. Starts June 9

Continuation of Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen (2018) in which a group of diverse young women navigate the predominantly male-oriented world of skateboarding in New York City.

Stars: Dede Lovelace, Moonbear, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, and Rachelle Vinberg

Old Man TMINE’s verdict

I have a confession to make and it’s this: I don’t care what hobbies young women have in their spare time. I don’t actually care what hobbies any young people have. But it’s especially true of young New York women who go skate boarding.

There’s nothing especially bad about Betty. In fact, it oozes ‘authentic quasi-documentary about a diverse niche sub-culture of the urban proletariat’, with a firm and dedicated belief that it’s telling an important story because a hard-to-reach group’s voice must be heard. I utterly believed what Betty was showing me was as realistic and authentic a depiction of life for that group as young women as it was humanly possible to make.

Fact is, though, I didn’t care. I didn’t want to watch a bunch of kids try to organise a skating get-together with other like-minded young women. In fact, I didn’t want to watch any of it. Because as a story, it was considerably lacking. There was no excitement, no compelling characters, just an assumption that you should want to watch it because it’s very important.

That’s not to say you’ll feel the same way, of course. So if you’re younger, skatier and/or more female than me, maybe give Betty a go. But for me, it was half an hour of my life I’m not getting back.

Old Man TMINE’s rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Upload

In the UK: Available on Amazon

In 2033, people can be “uploaded” into virtual reality hotels run by 6 tech firms. Cash-strapped Nora lives in Brooklyn and works customer service for the luxurious “Lakeview” digital afterlife. When LA party-boy/coder Nathan’s self-driving car crashes, his high-maintenance girlfriend uploads him permanently into Nora’s VR world. Upload is created by Greg Daniels (The Office)

Stars: Robbie Amell, Andy Allo, Zainab Johnson

TMINE verdict

Sometimes, the things a show thinks are its greatest assets aren’t, but the things a show thinks are just there to pad everything out are really its greatest assets. So it is with Upload.

Upload thinks that its greatest assets are its jokes about what life will be like in 2033 and what it would be like if heaven was like a game of Sims. Look at Robbie Amell in Heaven – he’s going to the toilet and no matter where he aims, his pee always hits the urinal! It never misses! Let’s spend a minute – no, two – watching as he aims from all over the room and gets it in every time.

There’s more like that. Such as Amell’s mini-bar in his Heavenly hotel room in which he can swipe left or right to change its stock. Because it’s all a simulation and we swipe left and right on phones, don’t we?

And there’s more like that. In fact, much of the first two episodes is a bunch of sight gags really designed to show off what a high digital FX budgets Amazons has given Upload.

However, underlying all of that are the show’s actual strengths. For one thing, it’s got a very good imagination. Upload does have good ideas dripping from every scene. Then there’s the show’s central romance between the now dead Amell and the customer service rep who keeps an eye on him (Allo). It’s actually quite charming.

But best of all is that underneath it all, as well as some serious, but not especially novel points about the dangers of corporations owning things, are a central murder-mystery. Amell’s been murdered and doesn’t realise it because memories are being deleted from his ‘mind’. Can he work out why he’s been murdered and by whom?

So oddly enough, despite the show’s obvious intended strengths as a comedy, I’m far more interested in watching it for its futuristic crime story and sci-fi twists.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

One Lane Bridge (New Zealand: TVNZ)

1×2-1×3

One Lane Bridge is continuing on oddly conventional grounds at the moment. The assets of the show’s main differentiator – a Maori detective with Second Sight – are spread pretty thinly over these two episodes and while he may see dead people, that’s all he’s doing… and then promptly denying he’s seen them.

As a result, One Lane Bridge is reverting back more to part-travel documentary (‘Look! Pretty mountains!), part examination of grief from bereavement, part conventional ‘big city cop and small town cop’ solve crimes together. That’s interesting, more so the third episode and it’s exploration of small town homophobia… but not as interesting as the first episode promised.

All the same, the cast, the landscape and the promise of more to come from the supernatural twist are enough to keep me watching – for now.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Recommended shows

For Life (US: ABC)

1×11 – Switzerland

Possibly the show’s most eventful episode so far, but also its least interesting, since it’s basically an excuse for a prison riot. The non-linear structure actually robbed the show of its greatest twist by showing it upfront, too. But the revelations in the story did at least set things up nicely for the penultimate episode.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

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

2×3 – Episode 3

So I nearly turned this episode off, not because it was intrinsically bad but because of the terrible archaeology. Is that seriously how the writers think archaeologists work? How do they think Sofia Helin is planning to prove anything about ‘deep time’ with a pick axe?

However, while the show is exhibiting an unfortunate desire to be more like Goldstone (2016) and losing a lot of its Mystery Road (2013) traits, it is proving more interesting with a fresh examination of inter-Aboriginal cultural tensions, as well as intergenerational tensions. Pedersen may be a man-mountain but he’s not the only one, so it’s interesting to see how he deals with (and is dealt with) by others like him.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict

Westworld (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

3×8 – Crisis Theory

One of those season finales in which lots of things happen, twists are revealed and the show builds up tension in the hope you’ll be back next season… but which end up leaving you cold because you just don’t care any more and none of it really makes much sense anyway.

Why anybody did any of what they did, let alone how, is a far greater mystery than any of the show’s actual ostensible mysteries. Season 3 has largely been a collection of episodes with people doing random things because they look cool, rather than because it all adds up to a coherent narrative. Even the slightest hints of logic have escaped the show. I mean it looks great, but that’s about it.

I honestly don’t know what points the show was really trying to make, but I’m done. Must-see TV? Westworld is now don’t see TV.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict

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

2×4 – The Curse

A slight dud of an episode in which the vampires have to learn about email. More promising was Guillermo’s adventures in vampire hunting, which had a nice Blair Witch aesthetic. It’s interesting, too, how rapidly Natasia Demetriou is becoming the star of the show, although her new doll is taking her worryingly close to Nina Conti territory.

TMINE Rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review