What have you been watching? Including Connecting… and The Right Stuff

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

Feast and famine, hey? One minute there’s nothing to watch, the next minute we’re drowning in shows. Yet again, though, I’ve failed to review anything and WHYBW is on Thursday again, but I have at least watched lots. We can talk about that in a mo…

CBC’s Trickster

Next on TMINE

Tomorrow will see the return of Covideodrome with The Gentlemen (2019). I’ll also be casting an eye over Trickster (Canada: CBC; UK: Syfy) and maybe even The Haunting of Bly Manor at some point in the next week. I might even play catch up and give Amazon’s Utopia remake a gander.

Meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery is back today in the US, although whether I’ll watch it is very much up to Lovely Wife, since I’m inclined not to. The new West Wing special is on tonight, while latest Marvel comics show Helstrom is coming to Hulu (US) tomorrow, but that seems to be about it. I’ll do my best to review the last of those at least – and anything else that shows up that I’ve missed.

What TMINE has been watching

The regulars list is looking quite healthy, even though The Boys has just given us its season finale. After the jump, reviews of that, Criminal (UK), neXt and Tehran, as well as new NBC (US) show Connecting… and Disney+’s The Right Stuff.

Meanwhile, I’ve also only just noticed that Warrior (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) has been back for two whole weeks, so I’ll be playing catch-up with that next week. Oops.

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

Connecting…

In the US: Thursday, 8/7c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Connecting… is an ensemble comedy about a group of friends trying to stay close (and sane) through video chats as they share the highs and lows of these extraordinary times.

Stars: Preacher Lawson, Keith Powell, Parvesh Cheena, Shakina Nayfack and Ely Henry

TMINE verdict

We’ve already seen what Australia and the UK can do in terms of quarantine comedy, and while the likes of Mythic Quest have dabbled with Covid episodes, we’ve not had a US comedy specifically about Covid. Until now.

And by Christ himself it is dreadful. I mean IMDb rating of 4.6 dreadful. You pretty much have to be the East Timor Genocide to get a rating that low.

About the only thing it’s got going for it is also its worst thing, because while Australia’s Retrograde doubled down on diversity casting as its raison d’être, it’s a rank amateur compared to Connecting… There are gay Indian men, transwomen, Latinas, men of colour et al, all of which is very admiral but… God they’re boring.

The whole thing is them on their Zoom call just talking about nothing about themselves and nothing. They are some of the dullest yet somehow massively self-centred human beings to walk the planet. Diversity of people should lead to a diversity of attractions, but somehow, it’s led to a homogeneity of mind-numbing tedium.

There’s not one joke the entire episode. Which given it’s all just them looking at us from our TV screen, with no plot or anything else, is a major oversight in a comedy. Some shows (eg Seinfeld, Nightingales) can make a virtue of characters stuck together talking about nothing; this is more reminiscent of Sartrian Hell.

Just unwatchable unless changing the background to your Zoom calls was the highlight of your lockdown.

TMINE rating

Rating: 0.5 out of 5.

The Right Stuff

Available on Disney+

The Right Stuff takes a gritty, anti-nostalgic look at what would become America’s first reality show as the obsessive original Mercury Seven astronauts and their families become instant celebrities in a competition that will either kill them or make them immortal.

The one-hour drama will follow the protagonists from the Mojave Desert to the edges of space, with future seasons carrying through to humankind’s greatest achievement: the moon landing.

Stars: Jake McDorman, Michael Trotter, Patrick J Adams, James Lafferty, Aaron Staton, Colin O’Donoghue and Micah Stock

TMINE verdict

There’s been something of a glut of shows and movies looking at the early days of space travel of late, with both the historically accurate First Man (2018) and the alternative reality For All Mankind considering the Moon landings and beyond. Now we have The Right Stuff, which looks a little earlier to the Mercury 7, but somehow still manages to intersect with both of those two offerings.

Based on both the movie and the book of the same, Disney+’s The Right Stuff looks at how the very first US astronauts were selected and became overnight media sensations. That’s all the first two episodes look at, at least, and it’s an interesting dichotomy.

Episode one is a really great piece of work that will have you maybe even teary eyed at the bravery of the men involved in the programme. The covert antics involved in getting the pilots together for the test programme are amusing and engrossing. But an initial scene in which the list of names for the programme is being drawn up plays out in a completely different way from the way you’d expect and highlights how dangerous the astronauts’ job will be. It’s not quite as seat of the pants as First Man, but it does the trick nicely.

Equally interesting is the portrayal of the rivalry between John Glen (Adams) and Alan Shepard (McDorman), which surprisingly borders on outright hatred. While Adams is particularly winning as Glen, if not the most convincing Marine pilot, McDorman is brilliant as naval aviator Shepard – and practically unrecognisable from his Limitless days, even facially, which is very odd since I think all he’s done is have a shave.

On the strength of that episode, I’d have happily stuck this on the recommended list. It’s a great and exciting drama, interestingly told, with lovely period detail. It’s even got the most Hans Zimmer soundtrack imaginable, with hints of both Inception (2010) chords and Interstellar (2014)’s organ music – except not by Hans Zimmer.

But the second episode is less interesting, being more of a soapy affair about the astronauts and their relationships, how their families react to their being placed in the programme, and how they deal with publicity, including the efforts of Life magazine to promote them.

If the show is going to be like the second episode instead of the first, I’m not so sure I want to watch it. But if it’s like the first, I’m sure I’ll have guzzled it all down by this time next week…

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Shows TMINE has been watching but doesn’t necessarily recommend

neXt (US: Fox)

1×2 – File #2

Weirdly, rather than going straight on into a dazzling story about the AI’s big plans for taking over the world and destroying the human race, we get a two-pronged piece of pedantry.

On the one hand, the show correctly understands that you can’t just run a human-level intelligence on any old hardware and it needs to find a new home now it’s been discovered. That leads us to same inane nonsense about the AI ‘faking its own death’.

On the other, said AI may be faking its own death but it’s still decided its biggest threat is an FBI agent so has decided to hijack her Amazon Echo knock-off to try to get her kid to do something stupid so she’ll be distracted.

It’s just daftness beyond measure, full of the standard cliches of techno crime thrillers (“Quick let’s trace his IP hardware address!”). But it’s still engrossing daftness that ultimately is a bog standard thriller about a clever criminal that just happens to be an AI. I’m kind of enjoying it.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Tehran (Israel: Kan 11; UK: Apple TV+)

1×5

Talking of bog standard thrillers, which is just sort of milling along, with our heroine being smuggled from place to place and bloke to bloke, in an effort to either complete her mission or get out of Tehran – it seems to vary from moment to moment. It’s all really a sort of travelogue/examination of young Iranian society, but it’s not a very exciting one and most of the novelty has dropped off.

The show’s fireworks – and interest – are really in the encounters between Shaun Toub and Navid Negahban, with some great moments stemming from that twist at the end of episode four I mentioned in my initial review. But alas, it looks like there’s not going to be much more of that, making this a show that’s likely to drop off my viewing list soon, unless the action starts to get a more exciting.

TMINE rating

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Recommended shows

The Boys (Amazon)

2×8 – What I know

A strong ending to a relatively weak season. Looking through Wikipedia, it’s clear that the show has at least massively improved the comics’ original storyline, even if it does ultimately end up doing some fridging and makes some mistakes of its own.

The ending to this ending also sets up a strong foundation for the third season and again, doesn’t take the show in the direction you might have expected. All the same, I didn’t enjoy the season even half as much as the first, since it didn’t seem really to know what to do with any of the characters except Homelander.

Here’s hoping for something stronger in season 3

TMINE rating

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review

Criminal

2×3 – Danielle

Sharon Horgan guests as the founder of an online movement dedicated to catching paedophiles. What’s she done wrong? You might be able to guess, but the show darts around and never quite picks the obvious direction for the plot.

The episode makes serious but nuanced points about vigilanteism and Horgan is strong in a very serious role. The ending is a little pat, but the episode does what it needs to do – and well.

TMINE rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Initial TMINE review