What have you been watching? Including Woke and The Boys

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Tom Hardy in Venom (2018)

Previously on TMINE

It’s been a quiet week for new tele this week, thanks to the decimated US TV production schedule. But I did offer up reviews of Tenet (2020) and Venom (2018) for the returning Orange Thursday.

Next on TMINE

I managed to watch the first two episodes of Woke (US: Hulu), so I’ll be talking about them after the jump. HBO (US) mini-series We Are Who We Are starts tonight, but it’s a mini-series so I might skip it.

Coming later this week, I’m going to be watching the second season of Criminal (Netflix), so might well give that a review – at the moment, it looks like either season two is only going to be UK episodes or it’s just the four UK episodes arriving on Wednesday, with the German, French and Spanish episodes arriving at later dates.

I’m also hoping to finally get the chance to watch season 5 of Le Bureau des Légendes (The Bureau), which will be arriving on Sundance Now on Thursday.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest (175) prequel Ratched is hitting Netflix on Friday, and I’m sure to give that a try (Sharon Stone’s in it!). But that seems to be about it.

Meanwhile, Orange Thursday will feature Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) and The Old Guard (2020).

What TMINE has been watching

The regulars list is down to a mere one show, The Boys (Amazon), the latest episode of which we’ll be discussing after the jump. But the shortness of that list has obviously given me some time to fill/waste TV-wise.

I began by continuing last year’s project: The Strange Report. For those who don’t know, The Strange Report is an ITC show from the 1960s – cf Department S, The Champions, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – that sits between those more fantastic shows and the later, luxurious escapist likes of The Persuaders! and The Protectors.

What makes it so fascinating is it’s clearly trying to be both an ITC show and a serious, modern, Swinging 60s show. There’s the standard core cast of former Scotland Yard detective Adam Strange (Anthony Quayle) and his young associates – token American Kaz Garas (Wonder Woman) and hip artist/model Anneke Wills (Doctor Who) – who solve crimes using a combination of standard police techniques and, more intriguingly, forensics, with Garas constantly in a lab, staring down a microscope.

The plots are also a cut above the standard of the time, with early episodes seeing cult leaders being investigated, but the leaders turning out to be quite nice after all, and Chinese party officials being abducted – to be ‘re-educated’ by former prisoners who had been through the same thing themselves, resulting in some really surprisingly high-brow debates about the nature of Marxism.

It’s not had the benefits of frequent rebroadcasters and constant video releases that its telefantasy brethren have had, but the more I watch, the more it shapes up to be one of my favourite shows of the time.

However, watching The Old Guard for Orange Thursday made me want to watch some old episodes of Highlander, which is currently available for free on Amazon, albeit in a cropped for 16:9 format that leaves a little to be desired.

That’s a show that holds up less over time, although it does have many plus points, most of them Adrian Paul and the genuinely good fights, both with swords and martial arts.

The show’s biggest issue is that it was a co-production filmed in Canada for half a season, France for another half, and was filled with supporting cast members from both nations who struggled to act in English, even the English-speaking Canadians, so usually ended up with all manner of Brits being flown in to save the day. Plus it was often hokey as f***.

But there are plenty of good episodes, at least. For my first season delve, I started off not with the one with Peter Howitt (Bread) as the evil immortal mime driven mad by absinthe or even the one where Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet) is an ex-member of the SAS (which is apparently part of the RAF in Highlander-world) who believes he’s on a holy mission from God.

Instead, I went with the ‘Die Hard in a courthouse‘ episode, which turns out to be not as good as I remember at all, and more a demonstration of the amazing power of a sharp stick to take you unawares.

Much better and funnier is the sixth season episode I went to next. For those who don’t remember the sixth season, that’s when Adrian Paul really wanted to leave the show, couldn’t/got paid a lot of money not to, but wasn’t around as much, so the producers used a lot of the episodes as backdoor pilots to a spin-off show about a female immortal. Those included the likes of Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), although Highlander: The Raven eventually (boringly) went with long-time fan favourite Amanda as its lead.

However, I was always very disappointed that Alice Evans never got the job, thanks to her performance in Patient Number 7. So I rewatched that. It was quite fun – she gets to be a musketeer and everything – plus her stuntwoman was really good, too. Shame, hey?

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

Woke

In the US: Season one available on Hulu
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Keef is an African-American cartoonist on the verge of mainstream success when an unexpected event changes his life; with a fresh outlook on the world, Keef must navigate the new voices and ideas that confront and challenge him.

Stars: Lamorne Morris, Blake Anderson, Rose McIver, T Murph, Lara Goldie and Sasheer Zamata

TMINE verdict

Woke is an odd mix of potential and missed opportunities. The plot summary above doesn’t really convey the show’s political nature – and arguably does exactly what the show accuses mainstream America of doing, in removing the show’s intrinsic blackness.

Based on a comic of the same name, it sees Morris playing a politically apathetic, African-American cartoonist responsible for the entirely self-explanatory ‘Toast and Butter’ comic strip. He’s about to land a whole bunch of lucrative sponsorship deals and while the occasional guy on a bus saying, ‘Oh I’m a huge fan. I didn’t realise you were… so tall’, may irk, he’s not going to let that ruin his career.

But when he’s one day mistaken for a mugger and arrested, only to be released without apology when the police realise they have the wrong black man, suddenly he’s Woke – both metaphorically and literally, with all manner of objects, including his own cartoons, talking to him about black oppression.

To the show’s credit, Woke does avoid whole bunches of obvious avenues and targets, and is actually quite scathing once it gets going. Any efforts to spell out the obvious for white viewers are quickly avoided, thanks in part to Morris’ pal (T Murph) pointing out that while Morris might think this is all revelatory to him, everyone else Black in America already knew it – so he best not belabour any points.

It also doesn’t make the voices that emerge from the likes of drinks and pens be some epic sources of Black Truth, either. Despite the likes of Keith David, JB Smoove and Cedric the Entertainer providing the voices, many verge on outright conspiracy theorists, rather than eye-openers.

Unfortunately, that means that the first couple of episodes at least end up not saying that much, other than what they’re not saying, and what they do say isn’t especially funny, just pointed. Indeed, some of the funniest moments come not from the show’s political subtext but from Morris’ efforts to restabilise his career after a particularly Network-esque rant at the end of the first episode, and exposing his own diversity blindspots (“You as an… Asian woman? I’m assuming you’re an Asian something?”).

But it’s promising enough that I’m going to stick with it for at least another episode, just to see if the show is able to grab its idea with both hands and run with it, rather than dancing round it like a maypole the whole time.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Recommended shows

The Boys (Amazon)

2×4

Episode four of The Boys carries on the show’s increasingly dark plotlines and continues to let Antony Starr off his leash to do all manner of terrible things in only the way Starr can do. Aya Cash continues to be impressive and we have a returning guest cast from the first season to really up the icky factor, too.

But it’s a lot less fun and a lot less pointed than the first season, which means the violence, for example, is becoming to seem gratuitous, rather than intrinsic to the show’s plotting and toanl requirements.

TMINE rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review