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
I had a holiday. So it’s been a while, basically, since TMINE has reviewed anything.
I did watch some TV but not a huge amount, and what I did watch, I watched a little while ago, so I’m a little hazy about it. But I’ll do my best to recap, ready for September and the Autumn schedules.
Next on TMINE
…it’s worth noting that the US networks have basically pushed all new scripted shows to January 2021. Because of You Know What. So that means there won’t necessarily be a lot of new TV for the next few months. Or this week. But we’ll see what I can see.
In the schedules, at least, is Woke (US: Hulu) and The Duchess (Netflix), but I’ll probably give the latter a miss since I’m not the biggest fan of Katherine Ryan. So Woke it is.
What TMINE has been watching
Long-time, observant readers will note that I didn’t apply my usual ‘Can I be arsed to catch up with this when I get back?’ rule to the Regulars list before I went. That’s because, with viewing fare scant, there was a big chance that even shows I couldn’t be bothered with I might still stick with. Conversely, holidays being what they are, there was also the possibility that I might not have stuck with shows I actually really liked.
So rather than second-guess myself, I decided to use empirical science to determine what I could actually be bothered catching up with and/or starting retrospectively.
The good news (for fans of those shows) is that I stuck it to the end of Baron Noir, Condor, Corporate, Doom Patrol, and Stargirl. I’ll discuss all of them after the jump.
The bad news (for fans of those shows) is that I really couldn’t be bothered watching any more of Das Boot, Dark or The Twilight Zone. I won’t be discussing them after the jump, but I watched a couple more episodes of Brave New World before giving up, so I will talk about that after the jump, as well.
In terms of new and returning shows, The Boys was back on Amazon on Friday with three new episodes, so I watched them. Young Wallander also showed up last week on Netflix, so I gave that a whirl, too. Earlier in August, The Umbrella Academy came back for season two, and I watched all of that. My thoughts on all of those after the jump as well.
I gave the second season of The New Legends of Monkey a go, but that was feeling a little too young for me this time round, so I never made it to the end of the first episode, although at least Monkey got his cloud powers back. But I might give that another go at some point.
That made me want to watch old episodes of The Water Margin, so I caught of couple of those, which were actually really good. You remember that, don’t you? I might watch more of them at some point…
And in an unrelated development, Lovely Wife saw that Cobra Kai (seasons one and two) had come to Netflix, so we watched them in the space of about three days. She loved it for more or less the same reasons I did when I made it one of my top shows of 2018 and it really does hold up well on a second viewing, too. So if you’ve not watched it, I recommend you do.
What TMINE watched this week
Available on Netflix
Young Wallander is a young, edgy, and modern series that sees Henning Mankell’s iconic detective Kurt Wallander investigate his gripping first case. The story focuses on the formative experiences – professional and personal – faced by Kurt as a recently graduated police officer in his early 20s.
So the title makes it obvious that this is supposed to be a prequel to the Kurt Wallander stories that so many people have grown to love. But oddly, it isn’t. Yet at the same time, it’s also a prequel to all of the many Wallanders there have been.
For starters, it has a Swedish lead (Adam Pålsson), so it might be construed as a prequel to the Rolf Lassgård or Krister Henriksson series. But the rest of the cast are British or Australian and the dialogue is in English, so it’s more like a prequel to the Kenneth Branagh series. Yet, it’s also set in modern Sweden, making it a prequel to nothing at all, and filmed in Vilnius, so not even Swedish.
Nevertheless, taking it at face value, it is a Wallander show since it’s pretty miserable stuff with a political dimension (immigration, this time). We start off with beat cop Wallander living on a sink estate. His girlfriend dumps him when he wants to take things to the next level. Then a kid gets killed on his estate when someone puts a hand grenade in his mouth and explodes it.
Things don’t get much better when Wallander starts trying to be nice and help the black kid fitted up for the murder, since he ends up being promoted to detective – which means his best pal doesn’t get the job he was supposed to be getting any more. Awks.
Wallander doesn’t want the job – and no one apart from his new boss (Richard Dillane) wants him to have it either, meaning he doesn’t get on well with new colleague Leanne Best.
And that’s just episode one of six. It’s not fun viewing, but then none of the Wallanders were. I’m not sure exactly what the point of it all is, other to have a new Wallander show without the need to spend money on period details. It’s not awful and it’s beautifully made, but it’s definitely not my cup of tea.
Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Brave New World (US: Peacock; UK: Sky One)
1×3 – Everybody Happy Now! – 1×4 – Swallow
Our heroic savage makes it back to New London and it turns out that maybe he’s not as savage as all that. The fact it takes two episodes for this to happen probably tells you enough about the show’s pacing and why I gave up on it. There’s also the usual switch and bait with some of the higher profile casting, meaning one of the big names is out before the end of the third episode.
It looks nice, but it seems to have run out of things to say at this point. And I still don’t care about any of the characters. So bye bye Brave New World.
Stargirl (US: DC Universe; UK: Amazon)
1×11 – Shining Knight, 1×12 – 1×13 – Stars & STRIPE Parts 1-2
A decent enough conclusion to the story, with a nice twist about the bad guys using their devilish mind control technology… to bring about peace on Earth, and kindness and liberal tolerance to all people (Goodies to each other: “Are we on the wrong side?”).
The final episode does, of course, end on several twists, since of course (spoiler alert) Joel McHale was going to have to come back at some point.
All in all, a bright and breezy bit of fun superheroics that probably played a bit too young for me at some points, but was still surprisingly good.
Baron Noir (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon)
A pretty powerful way to end the season (and possibly the show), with an equally powerful warning against populism. It remained very truthful to the end, with everything chiming just right. All in all, one of France’s finest ever TV shows.
The Boys (Amazon)
Lockdown and production schedules being what they are/were, it’s no real surprise that Amazon has adopted an episodic, Friday release schedule for the release of one of its few good shows, The Boys.
Season two carries on from season one with our ‘heroes’ on the run, but the show doesn’t let up in its format changes in its first three episodes, with new characters and big changes to the show’s set-up. It’s all a bit less funny, a bit more bleak, as everyone turns against one another, more ‘super terrorists’ turn up and new superheroes arrive – not least Aya Cash’s (You’re The Worst) ‘Stormfront’ (there’s a clue in that name), as a PR-literate, young rival to Antony Starr’s increasingly terrifying Homelander: he’s channelling full Banshee mode this season.
But it’s still really good stuff, with some top set-pieces (Stormfront’s estate fight, but also something involving The Deep that’s still traumatising me) and some great gags at established DC superheroes’ expense – the critique of Arrow is especially funny. And Cash and Starr are brilliant.
Condor (US: Audience; UK: Sky One)
2×9 – The Greatest Hazard – 2×10 – Not Necessarily to Lose
A fine conclusion to a show that had a pretty ropey first season, even if the final episode wraps things up a little too neatly. Although the second season seems at first to be a separate affair from the first, thematically the two mirror one another, being all about the slow dissolving of ethics and honour among the good guys in spying as the real world erodes their moral compass.
Not the best spy show ever, but definitely worth a watch if you want a good popcorn spy show that’s also got a brain.
Corporate (US/UK: Comedy Central)
3×2 – Black Dog – 3×3 – The Importance of Talking Shit by Oscar Wilde – 3×4 – Good Job – 3×5 – Fuck You Money – 3×6 – The Wind of God
A very strong stream of final episodes – the sixth doesn’t quite feel like a series finale, perhaps because more were intended but You Know What stopped them, but it just about works as well – for Comedy Central’s funniest, most scathing show ever. There’s some real gold in terms of laughs here, although maybe not quite up to season one’s standards of corporate satire, and it’s also a little sillier than before. But it does also have one of the best ever, non-preachy episodes of anything about depression. All in all, a show to be treasured and kept in your collection.
Doom Patrol (US: HBO Max; UK: StarzPlay)
2×6 – Space Patrol – 2×7 – Dumb Patrol – 2×8 – Dad Patrol – 2×9 – Wax Patrol
Not quite as fun as the previous season, but some very good individual episodes. The season finale answers precisely zero questions, which given the show hasn’t yet been renewed for a third season, is a bit frustrating. But on its own merits, still a season worth watching, particularly for Cliff’s swearing and Timothy Dalton’s oddly tortured performance.
Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
Oddly, a better but less interesting second outing for “Watchmen but with a family” as they go back in time to the 60s, get split up, yet somehow still end up managing to cause an apocalypse that they then have to un-cause.
The positives are that the plot feels fresh and original, unlike season one’s. The characters are also more likeable, with Ellen Page’s getting a complete reboot and the others off doing more interesting things than squabbling, taking drugs and living on the Moon. There’s also the top addition of Ritu Arya (Humans) to stir up the mix and the soundtrack is as strong as always.
The negatives are that everything’s a little duller and less quirky. The family are all a bit nicer to one another, a bit less out there. Although we’re obviously talking about time travel, apocalypses and superheroes, this is very much “families love one another deep down”, regression to the US mean stuff. Talking chimps are few and far between and the Swedish bad guys conjure up Dude Where’s My Car more than anything too scary.
The production values are also a little down, Page’s character turns expectedly/unexpectedly gay very quickly and 5’s future self in no sense has the same quirks or even accent as his younger/older self.
But I watched it all in the space of about three days, which should indicate that it was a lot of fun and a good watch at least.