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
TMINE has had a little bit more time to watch things this week – and more importantly, to write about them. Interested in Steve Carrell’s new show, Space Force (Netflix)? Then not only can you read TMINE’s third-episode verdict from earlier in the week, I’ve watched a few more episodes since then – I’ll tell you about them after the jump.
Covideodrome made a reappearance, too, taking in the Very Important Movie Just Mercy (2019).
Next on TMINE
Usual lockdown rules, even though lockdown is easing: I’m going to try to watch all of these but there’s a fair chance I may end up watching none because Life.
As far as I can see, though, there’s not much on. Certainly not much new. Season 2 of Das Boot (Germany: Sky; UK: Sky Atlantic) starts on Monday. Italian drama Curon (Netflix) starts on Wednesday, but that doesn’t look any more appealing than Saudi Arabian drama Whispers (Netflix), which starts the same day.
Unless I start looking at some of the shows sitting in my backlog, next week is going to see more than a couple of visits to Covideodrome on TMINE…
After the jump…
After the jump, as well as the aforementioned Love Life and Space Force, there’s the infinitesimally small list of regulars: Star Girl and What We Do In The Shadows. Joining them will be new Australian Cold War dramedy Operation Buffalo. All of those in a mo.
What TMINE watched this week
In the US: Wednesdays, HBO Max
In the UK: Not yet acquired (but probably Sky)
An anthology series that follows a different person each season from their first romance until their last romance, season one of Love Life stars Anna Kendrick as Darby Carter, who embarks on a journey from first to lasting love, which includes the people she meets along the way.
Any film or TV show – or even advert – can go a long way purely by relying on the charms of Anna Kendrick. She’s a very watchable actress and even the Twilight movies were considerably more enjoyable for her presence.
Unfortunately, Love Life‘s almost only asset is Kendrick. A semi-faux nature documentary that has Lesley Manville narrating it as though she is describing the lifecycle of a Tiger Moth, Love Life is as the name suggest about people’s love lives, love, life, the love of life and more. Which would be fine if it actually had anything new to say for itself that’s not been said countless times before.
Each episode moves Kendrick on from a new love of her life, from first serious love in the first episode to her final love in the final episode, taking in the likes of Scoot McNairy along the way. Since that obviously takes a long time, we get Kendrick in a variety of wigs and each episode ostentatiously drops chronological and anachronistic references (“I’m going to be on Barack Obama’s travel bus!”, “If Mitt Romney becomes president, we’ll all be dead!”) to reinforce this fact.
Since each episode is quite brief, however, we only get a whistlestop tour of each relationship, with Kendrick’s various beaux hastily sketched out, from the reasons why she falls in love with them to the reasons why they break up. Sometimes this is illustrative of Kendrick’s time of life – first love Jin Ha breaks up with her because he’s just starting on his career and needs to take a job opening elsewhere – sometimes, it’s just a learning experience: McNairy is obviously much older than her so doesn’t enjoy hanging out with her friends and their 20something BS, she has nothing in common with him or his family, and he can’t stay out late like she can.
This might all be new and exciting life revelations if you’re young, but if you’re 30+, you might as well be getting a set of Sweet Valley High books thrown in your face.
Even Kendrick’s friends are cookie-cutter besties, who get no real development, and giving us a bunch of characters who work for Gawker or are museum guides/photographers/whatevers doesn’t really help to make them relatable.
So although there’s a certain charm to the show, bereft of wisdom, enjoyable characters and even novelty, all Love Life serves up is the very watchable Kendrick. I bailed after episode two – I’ll be surprised if you make it that far.
In Australia: Sundays, 8.30pm, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired
Inspired by true events of British nuclear bomb tests in the 1950s at remote Maralinga, in outback South Australia, Operation Buffalo sees Major Leo Carmichael, an Australian Army Engineer and WWII hero, having to keep the base functioning smoothly. Testing the most dangerous weapon in the world is no easy task for a commanding officer who is not fit for purpose, with new meteorologist Dr Eva Lloyd-George, who starts asking questions, and the federal government and press watching his every move.
On the land at Maralinga, which is deemed by officials as “uninhabited”, Leo is faced with the arrival of a family of Aboriginal Australians who are curious about the giant clouds that explode occasionally.
Stars: Ewen Leslie, Jessica De Gouw, James Cromwell, Tony Martin, Ryan Johnson, Sibylla Budd, Frances Djulibing, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Shaka Cook, Benedict Wall
The first episode of Operation Buffalo isn’t quite what you think it’s going to be. Created by Peter “No, not that Peter Duncan” Duncan (Rake), it’s initially a Cold War-set Catch-22 that laughs at military ‘intelligence’, British imperial attitudes and nuclear testing.
It’s considerably Rakish, with Ewen Leslie a literate, but largely incompetent commander of an army camp, tasked with setting up a bomb test platform. Simultaneously, he’s trying to find a missing prostitute, and all the other prostitutes on base won’t leave unless he finds her – which given the number of high-up British dignitaries arriving for the test (including, for some reason, James Cromwell), is a potential source of huge embarrassment.
That’s most of the first episode, with the show taking potshots at attitudes to Aboriginal peoples, who don’t really count in terms of being evacuated from the test site, and posh Brits – as well as British politics of the period, with references to Suez and Russian spies. It’s not especially subtle here, and the “high ups” are as much pastiches as anything from Catch-22.
And had it stayed like that, I’d have said you could have given this one a miss.
But the end of the episode does mix everything up a bit, changing the show into more of a murder-mystery with feminist overtones through a rather good fake-out on what looked like becoming a significant plot development. It’s that combination of blunt satire and a harder edge that will probably make me watch at least the second episode.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Space Force (Netflix)
Space Force continues much as it did before in its next four episodes, with Carrell that super-stupid/super-nuanced combination that didn’t quite work in the previous episodes. The plots are that odd blend of satire and family comedy, too. And we’re eight episodes in and I think Lisa Kudrow has been around for a grand total of 15 minutes.
But we’re starting to see how good John Malkovich is at comedy, too, and there have been some fun swipes at Elizabeth Holmes, for example. The development of supporting characters, particularly Jimmy O Yang (Silicon Valley)’s scientist, is also improving the show, too. Episode eight, Conjugal Visit, was suitably and surprisingly moving.
All the same, this isn’t really a comedy that’s powering along, so despite a winning cast and some decent satire, it’s proving more of a “peripheral vision watch”, rather than a must-see.
Stargirl (US: DC Universe)
1×3 – Icicle
As with previous episodes, this is clearly a show pitched at two audiences. There’s the younger tween/teen audience, who are expected to root for Stargirl and her High School concerns, as well as her friends. It’s all broad-brush, cheery stuff, where nothing too terrible happens.
Then there’s the older audience, who this week are nicely served by the arrival of chief bad guy Icicle (British actor Neil Jackson). Here, things play out at a pleasingly complicated level, with Jackson’s bad guy being a well motivated character who thinks he’s the good guy in the same way Thanos does.
But it’s also about something rare in superherodom: growing old. Black Lightning has touched on this, having a middle-aged superhero, but Stargirl takes things on a notch, being about what happens when you become to old to be a superhero/supervillain and you try to settle down to start a family – or you simply die because your luck ran out or you got too slow. It’s a show in which all the superheroes are mainly dead and the baton (or staff) is being passed on to the next generation in their absence.
As such, you see all the compromises and difficult choices good and evil alike make. So even though Stargirl is probably a bit too bright and cheery for its own good, there’s enough of a smart, dark undercurrent to make it a keeper for now.
What We Do In The Shadows (US: FX; UK: BBC Two)
2×9 – Witches
A funnier episode than previous weeks, as our vampires are abducted by the titular witches for, erm, reasons I won’t go into. There’s a good combination of horror and comedy in this one, with the witches’ house echoing The Avengers‘ The House That Jack Built and Guillermo’s efforts to start a new business pretty amusing.