What have you been watching? Including Snowpiercer and Stargirl

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

While TMINE has been very good for copying and pasting YouTube embed codes into hastily written up pieces about viral videos this week, in terms of reviews, it’s been a bit of a bust. In fact, WHYBW is on a Friday this week, that’s how slack things have got.

But don’t worry, I have reviews aplenty after the jump.

Kermode and Mayo’s Home Entertainment Service (UK: BBC Four)

What TMINE is currently watching…

I’m still four episodes into season 3 of Baron Noir (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon), so no Boxset Monday for that. I’ve also got not further with Upload (Amazon), Tales from The Loop (Amazon), The Crown (Netflix) and a few other shows I’ve started. Sorry again.

I also didn’t start watching I Know This Much is True (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic), The Great (US: Hulu; UK: StarzPlay), Inhuman Resources (Dérapages) (France: France 2; UK: Netflix), White Lines (Netflix) or Blood & Water (Netflix). And I probably won’t now. Sigh.

But COVID. That seems to be a good excuse for everything.

I did try to watch Kermode and Mayo’s Home Entertainment Service (UK: BBC Four), but it was shortly after the point where Mark Kermode explained (as usual) that up until recently he’d not really watched much TV… ever and just after they presented the show’s highlights, which were basically a bunch of BBC Three shows and some movies in which I had no interest that I realised…

…I love Wittertainment, but as much as I love their film knowledge and reviews, I can easily go without their views on TV and hearing them might even make me think less of them.

Barkskin (US: NatGeo; UK: Disney+?)

Next on TMINE

There’s more TV on the way this week. Season two of Homecoming (Amazon) is now available, but I’m not bothering with that – you can if you want to. Barkskins (US: NatGeo; UK: Disney+?), an eight-part adaptation of Annie Proulx’s novel about a conflict between French and English settlers in a small 1690s settlement in forested territory that is now Quebec, starts on Sunday. Again, you can watch that if you want to.

But that’s your lot. Honestly, it’s a good job it’s a Bank Holiday this weekend, because now I have an excuse not to review either of those.

Snowpiercer (US: TNT; UK: Netflix)

After the jump…

After the jump are the usual regulars: Mystery Road, One Lane Bridge, What We Do In The Shadows and the season finale of For Life. I’ll also be looking at new shows Snowpiercer (US: TNT; UK: Netflix) and Stargirl (US: DC Universe).

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

Snowpiercer

In the US: Sundays, 9pm, TNT
In the UK: Mondays, Netflix. Starts May 25

Snowpiercer follows the passengers of the Snowpiercer, a gigantic, perpetually moving train that circles the globe carrying the remnants of humanity seven years after the world becomes a frozen wasteland. Snowpiercer questions class warfare, social injustice, and the politics of survival.

Stars: Daveed Diggs, Jennifer Connelly, Mickey Sumner, Annalise Basso, Sasha Frolova, Alison Wright, Benjamin Haigh, Roberto Urbina, Katie McGuinness, Susan Park, Lena Hall, Sheila Vand, Sam Otto, Iddo Goldberg, and Jaylin Fletcher

TMINE verdict

I have to admit that for all the love for Bong Joon-ho at the moment thanks to Parasite (2019), I’m not a big fan of his – certainly not of Snowpiercer (2014), his adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, which is a clunky, episodic affair that tries to tackle capitalism and class warfare in possibly the least suitable, most implausible metaphor conceivable.

So I wasn’t really expecting much of this adaptation, particularly after it endured three years of development at TNT, numerous production issues and delays arising from creative differences between the series’ producers and the network, a decision to switch the show from TNT for TBS, and then another decision to switch it back.

And my expectations… were met. It’s all right, but while it does at least solve some of the problems of the movie, it introduces new ones of its own.

To extend the show’s run-time beyond two hours, we now have a central murder-mystery. One of the rich people at the front of the train has been killed and train boss Jennifer Connelly wants to know whodunnit, for the sake of peace on the train. So from the poor, rear of the train, she conscripts in Chris Evans replacement Daveed Diggs, who used to be a homicide detective.

That does at least smooth out the episodic nature of the movie, where progression from carriage to carriage introduced a different story and genre each time. It also allows the show a little more subtlety in terms of class analysis, since Diggs comes and goes between front and rear to solve the crime, opening his loyalty up to question by the working class and commenting on the nature of social mobility. It also asks if we were starving if we’d all be one bowl of soup and a bread roll away from giving up on our ethics and loyalties.

Trouble is that that normalises the show, whereas the film could just about get away with grotesques and exaggeration, by virtue of being so obviously an allegory. Here, we have to deal with something closer to our normal that resultingly looks spectacularly daft.

Diggs is also no Evans and the show’s height of smartness is a final moment reveal that you would have seen coming as readily as if they’d scrawled “Remington Steele!” on every wall.

There’s also a weird casting thing going on, with half the cast British or Irish, the other half American, with one token person who’s neither (who karks it before the halfway point). Universally, they’re not great either, although the Brits are trying a little too hard to pretend it’s all Shakespeare, rather than a TNT show.

Still, I can’t remember having seen Iddo Goldberg in anything since Bye, Bye Harry (2006) so that was a blast from the past at least, and Connelly’s always worth watching and is practically carrying the show by herself, so it wasn’t without some merits at least.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Stargirl

In the US: Mondays, DC Universe
In the UK: Not yet acquired

One decade after the Justice Society of America died in a battle with their sworn enemies, high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore discovers the powerful Cosmic Staff. Upon learning that her stepfather used to be the sidekick to Starman, she becomes the inspiration for a whole new generation of superheroes.

Stars: Brec Bassinger, Yvette Monreal, Anjelika Washington, Cameron Gellman, Trae Romano, Jake Austin Walker, Meg DeLacy, Neil Jackson, Christopher James Baker, Amy Smart and Luke Wilson

TMINE verdict

Although airing on DC Comics’s new streaming service in the US, this is a Greg Berlanti show and so has roughly the same sort of feel as the Arrowverse shows on The CW. That said, it also plays a lot younger.

If it were to have a parental warning rating, “scenes of mild peril” would be as far as it goes, in contrast to the horror, violence and swearing of the likes of fellow DC Universe shows Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol. The flipside of that is this is clearly a show aimed at teenagers and has a far more joyful streak to it than similar superhero shows.

For the most part, this is a fish-out-of-water show, in which our teenage heroine moves to the middle of nowhere (Nebraska) from California, and has to go through all the usual accompanying social horrors: making new friends, avoiding cliques and bitchy girls, learning that the High School doesn’t have a gymnastics team, only a cheerleading squad, and so on. There’s also all the usual tensions involved with having a step-dad.

Interspersed throughout are glimpses of the 1950s-esque Justice Society of America in action and again, scenes of mild peril are where it’s at. But it’s not really until Stargirl gets her sentient Star Staff and starts unwillingly fighting crime, bullies and supervillains that the show lifts off.

Here there’s a more interesting look at a teenage girl discovering that actually, her parents were young once, too, and may have had interesting pasts after all. Most of this stems not from the always excellent Amy Smart but from the surprisingly big name of Luke Wilson (other almost as big names, such as Joel McHale, Lou Ferrigno Jr and Henry Thomas are scheduled to make regular appearances as the now defunct JSA), who’s perfectly suited to playing a former sidekick.

Despite the fact that some parents might also have been supervillains, this isn’t a retread of Marvel’s Runaways, as this is a far more innocent affair. Indeed, Wilson’s main contribution to crime fighting was to look after everyone’s costumes and “stay in the car”, something brilliantly twisted by the reveal at the end that (spoiler alert) his car is a Transformer .

Future episodes look set to bring in new, younger superheroes from our heroine’s growing entourage of nerds and misfit friends, too. All of which adds up to something that’s fun for all the family, at least, but I can’t say I’m going to find it a must-watch, as it’s clearly aimed at a younger audience than me.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

One Lane Bridge (New Zealand: TVNZ)

1×5 – Acceptance

The episode is called Acceptance and you’d think that meant it was (finally) about our hero accepting his gift. It is, but not until the end of the episode with a somewhat odd (spoiler alert) lizard-eating scene that basically amounts to him touching the titular bridge in the hope that he’ll get visions.

Otherwise, it’s business as usual, although at least the idea there’s a murder that needs to be solved has come off the back burner. I can see this is really going to turn out to be a three part story extended to six parts, without a corresponding amount of relevant plot added to fill it out. So here’s hoping the final episode will make it all worth the effort.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Recommended shows

For Life (US: ABC)

1×13 – Fathers

And rather a good ending to the season that I didn’t quite predict. Our hero (spoiler alert) succeeds in getting a retrial , and brilliantly the show then allows the forces of justice to show what they could do if they wanted to, posing our hero with a moral choice between selflessness and selfishness, despite his innocence.

One wonders where the show is going now. Is Indira Varma out permanently, for example? Will he end up where he started? Will For Life even get renewed – it’s currently ‘on the bubble’?

Whatever the case, at the very least, the show has been a surprisingly good mid-season replacement. Not quite an American Crime, but more endurable at the very least and certainly much high quality than you’d have expected. All in all, an excellent first season and I hope there’s more to come.

TMINE rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

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

2×5 – To Live With The Living

Probably the best episode of the season so far, as we ratchet up the tension High Noon style by several 1000%, have a face off between our good guy and the (now revealed) bad guy, and Callan Mulvey starts to go full Underbelly. There’s also the exploration of Aboriginal cultural rules and its possible conflicts with/reinterpretation by ‘white fellas’ rules. Plus the archaeology was almost good for a change.

It’s also worth appreciating Aaron Pedersen’s performance even more than usual, as he goes full testosterone while simultaneously going full sensitivity. Plus when you compare even his accent with how he normally delivers lines in other shows, you really appreciate what a transformation he’s undergoing.

Moderately less pleasing are the usual problems with the wife, which echo standard writing for all wives in all such cowboy-esque dramas. It’s a pretty thankless job Tasma Walton has…

TMINE rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict

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

2×6 – On the Run

Almost a standalone episode from the rest of the series, in which Matt Berry’s previously unknown vampire arch-enemy Mark Hamill (yes, him off Star Wars) turns up to exact revenge for a previous slight, forcing Berry to go on the run and adapt a new persona in a new city, Jackie Daytona.

It’s basically an attempt to do an entirely Matt Berry episode and so good was it at capturing Berry’s idiosyncrasies, obsessions and sense of humour, I’d almost assumed it was written by him (it was actually Atlanta‘s Stefani Robinson, whom I must believe has watched every episode of both The IT Crowd and Toast of London).

Lots of vampire fun, lots of Berry’s unique style of over-acting and Mark Hamill hamming it up for all he’s worth? Brilliant.

TMINE Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review