What have you been watching? Including Retrograde

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

Wednesday again. That’s almost approaching consistency. Can’t have that.

Equally consistently, no new reviews of anything over the past week. But then there’s not been much TV worth watching. And I decided to have a couple of days off. Because I needed them.

Next on TMINE

At some point, even though I’m taking Friday and Monday off, too, I’m going to try to review both Aladdin (2019) and Greyhound (2020) for Covideodrome. Or maybe even Orange Thursday.

TV-wise, we do have some promising things coming up. Brave New World (US: Peacock; UK: Sky Atlantic) has just started, as has Sextortion (New Zealand: TNVZ On Demand). United We Fall (US: ABC) starts tonight, after only a year of waiting, while Arthurian deconstruction Cursed starts on Netflix on Friday.

I might watch any or all of those. Review them? Who knows?

What TMINE has been watching

Dark required more attention of me than I was prepared to give this week, so I’ve not got any further. Less demanding was Stranger Things, which remains true to the original meaning of the word ‘nostalgia’, being an almost physically painful, beautiful journey home to the 80s. I think I could watch it and never get tired of it.

Coupling also proves to be as clever as always, as we went through some of its numerous highlights (The Girl with Two Breasts, The Cupboard of Patrick’s Love, The Man with Two Legs, Remember This and The Freckle, the Key, and the Couple Who Weren’t, to name but a few). The plotting is genuinely superb; the sexual politics less so. But the average sitcom would kill itself for just one of Coupling‘s jokes, so let’s squint passed that.

I’ve also been watching Tron (1982) and Tron Legacy (2010), so I tuned into a weird documentary, Photo Tronology, that must have come out at the same time as the latter movie, in which director Steven Lisberger and his son Carl look through a bunch of photos from the Disney archives that were taken when the first film was being made. It’s not bad, but you have to be a real Tron fan to enjoy a couple of people looking at photos for 17 minutes.

I did watch one new TV show: Retrograde (Australia: ABC), which is one of the first TV comedies to emerge from the Coronavirus lockdown. I’ll tell you about that after the jump.

That’s on top of the latest episodes of the usual regulars: Condor, Das Boot, Doom Patrol, Stargirl and The Twilight Zone. 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

Retrograde

In Australia: Wednesdays, 9.30pm, ABC

Retrograde revolves around a group of 30something friends as they drown their sorrows at a virtual bar in the time of COVID-19. The show centres on Gemma, whose new job in Korea is cancelled at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, and is forced to move in with her dull boyfriend Rob and his daughter. Her friends create the online bar to “commiserate and workshop their questionable life choices”.

Stars: Pallavi Sharda, Ilai Swindells, Maria Angelico, Esther Hannaford and Nick Boshier, with a guest appearance from Ronny Chieng.

TMINE verdict

Sartre said Hell was other people and Red Dwarf said Sartre said Hell was being trapped for all eternity with your friends. I will add to that and say Hell is being trapped in lockdown watching the friends depicted in Retrograde trapped in lockdown.

Comedies are supposed to be funny and Retrograde is just actively unfunny and lacking in jokes, it’s actually horribly depressing. Remember just how terrible lockdown was when it started? Remember all the things you said about how it was just a minor thing, wouldn’t last, etc, etc? Well now, you can relive all those moments as Retrograde recreates the cancellation of your dreams, holidays, jobs, relationships, etc, etc from those heady early days.

On top of that, the characters are just hateful. Full marks to ABC’s ‘Drama, Comedy and Indigenous’ department for diversity in the cast and characters, which include Asians, lesbians, gay men, Indians and Aboriginal people – the show even includes a list of precisely which Aboriginal grounds it was shot on in the end credits, which is miraculously long for a show shot in rooms during lockdown.

But why make them all so relentlessly irritating, miserable, duplicitous, self-centred, shallow and just downright stupid? It’s like they asked Rod Liddle to create a promotional video for multicultural society.

The show does have some good points: Pallavi Sharda (Pulse) is a strong lead and guest star Ronny Chieng brings some actual laughter to proceedings. It’s also interesting how well the show has recreated the lexicon of Zoom.

But if we’re going to be watching lockdown comedies during lockdown, shows need to be cheerier than this “you’re fired, homeless and forced to live with the boyfriend you were going to dump” show.

TMINE rating

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending

Stargirl (US: DC Universe; UK: Amazon)

1×8 – Shiv (Part Two)

As usual, everything involving the teenagers is a bit trite and simple, although not quite as much as last week’s episode. However, the adult side of things is surprisingly dark, and actually, to be fair, the young supervillains are a somewhat different prospect from their heroic counterparts, with more depth and more fascinating qualities.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict

The Twilight Zone (US: CBS All Access; UK: Syfy)

2×3 – Try, Try

Effectively, a pretty decent feminist Groundhog Day, from the point of view of Andie MacDowell’s character, but if the man wooing her had actually been an Incel, rather than Bill Murray. The plotting itself is pretty smoothly done and charming, as are the cast (including Topher Grace), but the metaphor is rammed home in a manner that makes you feel like a golf ball on the wrong end of a 3 Wood.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict

Recommended shows

Condor (US: Audience; UK: Sky One)

2×6 – An Offer of Enrollment

So a promotion, as promised last week, for a show that’s actually proving now to be quite an interesting espionage drama. There’s twists and turns, tradecraft and more. This week’s episode had some decent flashbacks, too, as we learned why our mole became the mole he is today (it involved a slightly dodgy version of Athens where people speak bad Greek, apparently). Our hero does some investigating, although falls for a very obvious trick.

It’s all quite meat and potato stuff, but for what it is, it’s good meat and potatoes.

TMINE rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict

Das Boot (Germany: Sky Deutschland; UK: Sky Atlantic)

2×3 – Episode 3

Effectively, the show has just become The Hunt For Red October. Does that mean that there’s only about two stories involving submarines: they come after us and we go after them?

Nevertheless, thrilling stuff, although the French side of things is now starting to feel redundant. I’m also quite enjoying what the show has to say about US attitudes to the Nazis and Germans at the time, and they’re not pulling any punches with the IRA, are they?

TMINE rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict

Doom Patrol (US: HBO Max; UK: StarzPlay)

2×3Pain Patrol

Doom Patrol seems to have this habit of creating its own version of existing characters. Here, we hit what was either the Corinthian from The Sandman or the show’s own version of Hellraiser. Anyway, it was a lot more horrific than normal, which I didn’t enjoy, but well executed horror, so I can’t really knock it on those grounds – it is what it is.

There were also some character developments for most of the cast, which indicate the show might be doing something different soon. It’s just a question of how different that is from the first season, which I did enjoy – will I enjoy what they’re going to do next?

TMINE rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE verdict