What have you been watching? Including The Shrink Next Door and Mayor of Kingstown

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

My, there’s some rubbish on at the moment, isn’t there? That’s even with Disney+ day kicking in last week to give us a whole range of new shows on ‘Star’ (TV-wise: Dopesick but that’s it, to be fair).

To be fair (again), there are some returning old shows out now, such as Total Control. I just can’t muster up the enthusiasm to watch them. Honestly, if I’m not feeling excited at the thought of a show coming back, what’s the point in watching it?

Still, I’ve done my best to find something – anything – worth watching. Here’s what I’ve found, but what have you been watching?

The Shrink Next Door (Apple TV+)

How a seemingly normal dynamic between a charming psychiatrist and a longtime patient morphs into an exploitative relationship filled with manipulation, power grabs, and dysfunction.

Rob says: ‘Just stop it, Apple TV+. Just stop it’

Long-time readers are possibly aware I’ve completely given up watching UK TV. Every time I decide to give it a second/239th chance, I either start watching something that’s immediately, obviously total awful – or I get caught up in it, watch three or four episodes, and then discover the final episode is obviously total awful and has made watching the rest of it completely pointless.

I’m almost at that stage with Apple TV+.

Honestly, I’ve tried a lot of the TV shows and so far, there have only been two that have been worth it: For All Mankind and Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet. And the second seasons of those were both decidedly underwhelming.

I barely made it to the end of episode one of this four-parter. It’s possible it’s because I was lured into watching it, thinking that with Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell starring, Kathryn Hahn co-starring, it was going to be funny.

It’s not. It’s horrid. This is comedy actors trying to do dark and edgy in the style of Foxcatcher (2014).

Argh!

Credit where it’s due: there are, as with all Apple TV+ series, some amazing production values and cast. It looks fabulous, particularly on a 4K TV screen with an Apple TV, which is probably half the point of making it.

But did I enjoy even one minute of it? No.

The first episode can basically be summed up as follows. It’s 2010. Therapist Paul Rudd is hosting a party for his friends. Will Ferrell (obviously Will Ferrell, even though they’re trying to hide his face) then smashes it all up after everyone’s gone to bed. Possibly because he wasn’t invited.

We then flash back to the 80s when Ferrell is getting over a divorce and has just taken over his uncle’s drapery business. He’s having panic attacks so it’s up to his sister (Hahn) to help him run the business and his life. She suggests seeing a family friend: Rudd. This is probably a bad idea, given Rudd’s approach to therapy.

Were there laughs? No. Was it just something that made you feel sorry for all the characters, while admiring yet another recreation of the 80s? Yes.

Ferrell and Rudd do pull some funny faces and try to deliver their lines comedically. Often, they shouldn’t be doing this. But they do. That still doesn’t make you smile. It does make you feel sorry for both of them, as actors and their characters.

Even at 30 minutes an episode and four episodes – so short not just for a mini-series but for a movie – this felt too long and a waste of time. Maybe it’s just because it’s another of those “based on a podcast” shows that I disliked it. Maybe it’s the entire genre I dislike. I don’t know.

Lovely Wife and I both tried to watch it. After five minutes, Lovely Wife gave up on it, saying that it was too much like a dark indie movie for her taste. I agreed with her, but watched the rest of the episode later. It was still too much like a dark indie movie for my taste, too.

But I’m really struggling to work out who would like it, since it’s quite poor by the standards of dark indie movies. You’re welcome to try working out who would like it, if you want.

Here’s a trailer. While you’re watching, imagine it doesn’t have the comedic, quirky soundtrack, more something akin to a funereal hymn. That’s what the show is actually like.

Mayor of Kingstown (US: Paramount+)

A crime drama about an important contemporary issue, America’s prison system, “Mayor of Kingstown” follows the McLusky family in Kingstown, Mich., where the business of incarceration is the only thriving industry. The family of power brokers between police, criminals, inmates, prison guards and politicians tackle themes of systemic racism, corruption and inequality. The crime thriller series provides a stark look at their attempt to bring order and justice to a town that has neither. The cast includes Jeremy Renner, Dianne Wiest, Kyle Chandler and Derek Webster.

Rob says: ‘Ignore what I just said. This was good’

I’ve just been talking about how I dislike dark and gritty, etc. Honestly, what’s the point? But Mayor of Kingstown is actually pretty good and even enjoyable.

The plot summary above is more or less all you need to know, but it has an authenticity to it and an attention to small town details that reminded me of Brotherhood. You won’t learn a lot about life in prison that you didn’t already know from it. But far more interesting is the show’s depiction of the borderline/completely illegal economy, power-broking and interchange between politics and the prison system in this particular small town.

I was expecting to hate it for all the usual reasons, including Jeremy Renner (who appears to be developing a big TV career now). But Renner was good, the rest of the cast were good, the writing was good, the cinematography was good. It’s a good show.

The female roles are rubbish, even Dianne Wiest’s, but that’s what we’ve come to expect from dark moody, gritty crime shows, particularly those written by Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone).

I should warn you that you should watch the title sequence and credits carefully, as it’ll be fairly obvious to you that anyone who isn’t in those titles and gets an ‘and’ in the credits is either going to be in it very little or get written out quickly (no, no clues). The first scene even tells you exactly who’s going to get written out, so pay attention – and don’t get attached to anyone who isn’t Jeremy Renner. I only say this because people have complained.

Another show that’s good enough that I might watch episode two.

Author

  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.