What have you been watching? Including neXt

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

Niv Sultan in Tehran

Previously on TMINE

Sigh. I’ve been busy again this week, which is why WHYBW is a day late. But I did manage to find the time to watch and review the first four episodes of Tehran (Israel: Kan 11; UK: Apple TV+).

Disney+’s The Right Stuff

Next on TMINE

It’s Thursday, today, and it’s one or the other with WHYBW and Orange Thursday. WHYBW won, so Orange Thursday will be next Thursday. All it might be Covideodrome again by that point, given how many cinemas are closing for winter.

Whichever it is, the movies being reviewed will be: The Gentlemen (2019) and Zodiac (2007).

TV-wise, thankfully, there’s a few new shows coming our way in the next week. Covid comedy Connecting… hits NBC in the US tonight, while on Friday, we have Haunting of Hill House sequel The Haunting of Bly Manor coming to Netflix and space race drama The Right Stuff arriving on Disney+.

Hopefully, I’ll be reviewing at least one of those – and anything else that comes along.

John Noble in The Boys

What TMINE has been watching

The regulars list is now two shows, The Boys (Amazon) and the UK episodes of Criminal (Netflix). I’ll be talking about both of those after the jump. Also getting a gander will be the first episode of new US AI shocker neXt – not to be confused with NeXT.

Otherwise, the only TV I’ve been watching has been Married At First Sight (Australia), in which a bunch of unmarried Aussies, desperate for love, agree to marry sight-unseen someone picked for them by a panel of experts who reckon they’re a good match.

It’s constantly referred to as an ‘experiment’, and it certainly does feel like the sort of things a more benevolent, more romantic Dr Mengele might have cooked up on Valentine’s Day for his subjects – everyone clearly has a psychological problem of some sort and the panel of experts really just seems to want to know what happens when you marry off a woman who has alopecia to a fitness trainer with OCD. What could go wrong? What emotional damage might people suffer? No idea! Let’s find out!

It’s somewhat despicable TV that to be fair, does make the occasional good match and has the occasional moment that can renew your faith in humanity and your own sex… until the next scene when it inevitably whips them away like a magician faced with a runner and a bowl of fruit on a table.

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

John Slattery, Fernanda Andrade and Jason Butler Harner in neXt © 2019 Fox

neXt

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Shea Salazar, an FBI special agent, joins Paul LeBlanc, a former tech CEO, after the suspicious death of Dr Richard Weiss. Weiss leaves a recorded videotape addressed to LeBlanc that warns about a possible superintelligent AI.

While still at his former company, Paul worked on a programme to develop a human-level AI, then cancelled fearing it would cause a technological singularity. He believes an AI killed Weiss and fears the company may have reopened the programme.

Stars: John Slattery, Fernanda Andrade, Michael Mosley, Gerardo Celasco, Eve Harlow, Aaron Moten, Evan Whitten, Elizabeth Cappuccino and Jason Butler Harner

TMINE verdict

People have been getting worried about intelligent machines since at least the Mechanical Turk but arguably since Talos strutted his stuff all over Crete. The 50s, 60s and 70s brought those fears to the cinema, with the likes of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and Colossus in Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970).

Now we have neXt, another effort to make us all scared about AI, even though we have Siri and Alexa in our houses and phones already.

How smart are you? Do you know that if you make something 5% smarter and then you make it 5% smarter than that, you’ve actually made it more than 10% smarter than it was originally? Then you’re smarter than neXt, a show that not only doesn’t know that, it thinks quoting Elon Musk of all people makes you smart and thinks that if you connect a WiFi access point directly to a server rack in a top secret laboratory, you’ll instantly give that server fibre-level broadband Internet access.

It’s a stupid show that thinks it’s smart but doesn’t really realise how stupid it is. A bit like the Mechanical Turk.

That said, it’s a decent enough chiller designed to make us all feel afraid of everyday household objects, just like The Dead of Night (1945) tried to make us scared of ventriloquists’ dummies without really coming up with a scientifically plausible way for a dummy to achieve sentience by itself. A bit frightened of your Amazon Echo? Worried that the CCTV cameras really are watching you? Scared that your car’s electronics could try to attack you, even though they’re not connected to the Internet in any way? Then this is the show for you.

It’s also a great vehicle for John Slattery (Mad Men), who gets to be a complete dick to everyone and a funny one at that (“Sorry, I have Aspergers… It’s not true – I’m actually just a dick”). Less interesting is Fernanda Andrade’s dull “I’m a dogged FBI agent and a mom to boot” character, who’s merely there to give Slattery someone to explain things to, as well as the rest of her FBI taskforce, which includes supposedly top notch former White Nationalist Black Hat hackers (Michael Mosley) who are still too dumb to properly firewall and airgap or even nearline/offline back up their most important data.

I enjoyed it more as a bit of escapist nonsense than anything slightly plausible, but you might find its brain-thumpingly poor grasp of technology too off-putting to endure.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Recommended shows

The Boys (Amazon)

2×7 – Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

After what was admittedly a barnstorming ending to episode 6 that just about justified all the episodes that preceded it, episode 7 is more a repositioning of the narrative based on that ending, so the characters can go in new directions.

However, all the character work on Butcher (nice to know he was in the SAS, although I should point out that you can’t apply directly to join the SAS – you have to join another regiment first) is taking him away from the main plot too much. Still, it’s definitely improving now, even if it’s nowhere near as good as season one, and having John Noble around if but for just a few minutes is all worth it.

TMINE rating

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Criminal

2×2 – Alex

Rather a brave episode this, with Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) playing an arrogant businessman accused of raping one of his employees. Is he guilty? That’s almost not the point, since the show is more about the stigma of a rape accusation in the age of #MeToo and #IBelieveHer – can a man accused of rape ever be seen again as innocent?

Obviously, to even consider that question, the show has to posit that the woman accusing him might not be telling the truth, which is where the bravery comes in. But while ultimately it does leave a slightly nasty taste in the mouth for having done so and for having done it in the way it has, it does raise strong, valid points about the presumption of innocence and restitution, making it the best of both seasons of the UK episodes so far – and possibly of the entire series.

TMINE rating

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review