It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week
New Year, new shows. Hoorah! Life is good, even if the TV isn’t always quite so good. But I’ve tried almost everything out there, just to see if the lockdown has been incubating some good shows, ready finally to emerge onto our screens.
First, some regulars. Last week, we were down to The Book of Boba Fett, since we’ve pushed the pause button on Cobra Kai. This week’s BBF I actually liked more than the previous week, perhaps because there was less backstory and fan service than the previous week. The Wookie fight was fun and gosh, Danny Trejo showed up! Not so sure about the new gang’s Quadrophenia vibe, but it made for some amusing visuals at least.
More promising and more welcome was the return of Superman & Lois (US: The CW), the first season of which is now on BBC One and the iPlayer in the UK. We’ve moved a bit further along and we’re starting to look at some more interesting, more adult themes than we usually get from the CW’s superhero shows.
Sure, we still have the two sons and their dull romances; we also now have their ‘sister from another universe’ to deal with. But underlying all of that, we have Superman having to deal with the stresses on his marriage of both his sons and Lois’ issues, something prompting him to drink lots of wine with Lana Lang. We also have a more interesting relationship with the US government, with Supes being asked to swear his allegiance to America and being forced to decide if that’s something he’d like to do. By the end of it, if you’re not wanting Superman to be your dad, there’s something wrong with you – or you just have a very nice dad, already.
Usual quibble, though: for a show that’s a spin-off from Supergirl, which used to mention Superman more or less every episode nevertheless, how is that not only does she never get mentioned, there’s not even the implication that she exists? People act like Supes is the only Kryptonian in town. Nothing weird happened in the series finale of Supergirl, did it?
Thoroughly enjoyable and really, the effects on this are just superb for a TV show.
New shows after the jump: join me there to hear if Peacemaker (US: HBO Max), The Kings of Napa (US: OWN), Pivoting (US: Fox) and Naomi (US: The CW) are any good.
Peacemaker (US: HBO Max)
A man fights for peace at any cost, no matter how many people he has to kill to get it.
Rob says: ‘Juvenile silliness at its best’
I’ve not watched either of the Suicide Squad movies on the general grounds I had no interest in them and nothing any of the reviews said made me change my mind on that. But here we have a spin-off, written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) and starring wrestler John Cena as one of the aforementioned Suicide Squad that’s been getting very good reviews, so I figured I’d give it a try.
I think the moment I knew this might be for me was in an opening scene where Cena tells someone that Aquaman definitely pays someone at an aquarium to let him in to have sex with sturgeons. And then I knew it was for me with the opening titles.
I honestly just can’t stop watching them.
The show is not quite as funny as those opening moments would suggest, with some odd pacing in the middle of the first episode that made me think I’d jumped to hasty conclusions. But every so often it would then chuck out some awesomely stupid or silly bit of Gunn-ness that would have me in stitches.
Where it works best is actually as a satire of right-wing, overly patriotic Americans, largely personified in the form of Peacemaker’s racist conservative dad (Robert Patrick), with Cena as a sort of gentler, better intentioned but still bonkers version. He’s a man who drives around in a Thunderbird painted with an American flag and whose sidekick is ‘Eagly’ – an actual bald eagle. I say ‘actual’, but honestly, it’s astonishing what the show’s producers have managed to get that eagle to do, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was animatronic or CGI (but also astonished if it was).
The rest of the supporting cast is pretty good, too, and Gunn does a fine line in undermining the usual conventions of genre TV (cf NCIS, CSI), by giving the crack squad a terrible office that leaks and that has a grand piano in it for no good reason, and making everyone nasty to one another.
As of yet, it’s not clear what the actual plot is, although there’s a very odd naked fight sequence at the end of the episode that hints at something demonic. HBO Max has already put out the next two episodes, so I reckon it’ll be clearer from those, so I’ll be watching them ASAP.
Pivoting (US: Fox)
Set in Long Island, N.Y., three women — and close-knit childhood friends — cope with the death of the fourth member of their group. When faced with the reality that life is short, these women pivot, and alter their current paths, by way of a series of impulsive, ill-advised and self-indulgent decisions. These pivots strengthen their bond and prove it’s never too late to screw up one’s life in the pursuit of happiness. “Pivoting” takes a real look at three intelligent, empowered and seemingly enlightened women who decide to hit the reset button. For all three of these women, the untimely and heartbreaking death of their friend was the wake-up call they didn’t know they needed, but it might just be the thing that helps them live their best lives.
Rob says: ‘No better than the male equivalents’
I really wanted to like this. Look at the cast! Eliza Coupe, Maggie Q, Ginnifer Goodwin: all really good actresses.
But this feels like the female equivalent of drek shows such as We Are Men, with a whole bunch of really privileged 40-something women deciding to have very small mid-life crises following their friend’s death and do not desperately amusing things as a result.
Maggie Q hates being a doctor, so decides… to work in a grocery store! Must be nice to be able to afford that. Eliza Coupe (God, she’s a 40something now. That makes me feel old. Wasn’t Scrubs, the young upstart doctors show, only on about four years ago or something? How can this be? Oh. Scrubs started in 2001. Gah) is a TV producer of a morning show who doesn’t want to be that involved with her kids so avoids them… and decides now she will do more with them. Goodwin just seems to want to be thin because she doesn’t have a great sex life.
I mean… if that was just the foundation for some great character comedy and previously unspoken insights into women’s internal lives and desires (cf Fleabag), you could tolerate all of that. But there’s nothing. A few nice gags in the beginning, but once it settles down, nothing.
Honestly, again, maybe it’s an age thing, but this was just all things I’d seen done before and better or even just as insipidly elsewhere.
The Kings of Napa (US: OWN)
The Kings’ wine business has brought the family success and acclaim, but following the patriarch’s sudden exit from the company, his three children must grapple for the reins to the kingdom: to their own power, wealth and legacy.
Rob says: ‘Succession but as a soap opera’
Read the plot. It’s Succession, isn’t it, just with wine instead of media? I’m sure it has aspirations of being King Lear or even Empire, too. Unfortunately, what it is a soap opera with high production values.
The establishing dialogue clunks along in second gear from a standing start, prompting loud complaints from its engine (“This woman is a member of one of the most important wine-producing families in the area” – naturalistic, huh?), with each of the young members of the family trying to start their own businesses or trying to push the business in different directions – ooh, dessert wine because everyone loves desserts after the pandemic. Sure. And sure, maybe you could be a bespoke clothing manufacturer as well. Oh, someone’s already suggested that.
After the inevitable heart attack, the rest of the episode is a combination of power positioning and “did you sleep with my husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/son/daughter/grandfather/fourth cousin twice removed?” accusations that bored the actors before the lines even left their mouths.
Hated the characters, hated the writing. Even the knowledge of the wine industry was a bit dodgy. Nope.
Naomi (US: The CW)
Naomi, a cool, confident, comic book-loving teenager pursues her hidden destiny. When a supernatural event shakes her small hometown of Port Oswego, Naomi sets out to uncover its origins, with a little help from her fiercely loyal best friend Annabelle. She also has the support of her adoptive, doting parents, veteran military officer Greg and linguist Jennifer. After an encounter with Zumbado, the mysterious owner of a used car lot, leaves her shaken, Naomi turns to tattoo shop owner Dee, who becomes her reluctant mentor. While unraveling the mystery of herself, Naomi also navigates her high school friendships with both military kids and local townies, including ex-boyfriend and high school jock Nathan; Annabelle’s longtime, loyal boyfriend Jacob; proud “townie” Anthony; and fellow comic book enthusiast Lourdes. As Naomi journeys to the heights of the multiverse in search of answers, what she discovers challenges her beliefs about heroes.
Rob says: ‘You’ve really got to want to watch this’
The opening narration of Naomi, in which our young heroine says “Every superhero has an origin story – this is mine”, is your only real clue as to what in the name of Holy Hell is going on in this show. Even by the end of the first episode, you’re not especially wiser, because the show isn’t in a hurry to explain either what kind of superheroine she is or why you should watch it. It’s hoping that what you see will convince you to bear with it; I think it’s just about managed to make me do that, but it’s only by the narrowest of margins.
In fact, if you read that plot synopsis above, you’ll know more than most viewers will, and the bit about ‘journeys to the heights of the multiverse’ is probably the thing that’s swung it for me. For the most part, this is Awesome Perfect Teen Girl discovers mysteries in her home town involving a whole bunch of men/Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing – beware, little girl – who all apparently know a secret about her that’s been kept from her by her adoptive parents all her life, until now. She wears glasses even though her vision is better without them; she can do weird telekinetic things. It’s not until one of the men (spoiler alert) sprouts mighty metal wings from his back that you start to think “Hmm, maybe there’s something new here after all?”
I tell a lie. Despite being on The CW, it’s not (so far? At all?) connected with the Arrowverse shows, despite featuring Superman – who in this universe everyone believes to be some sort of con job, a practical joke set up to extract money from people through elaborate stunts – with our Naomi running the world’s third largest Superman fan site. That whole storyline was moderately intriguing and I do want to know where they run with that, particularly given the multiverse involvements.
All the same, this was a little bit too Mary Sue for my liking and it’s skating on thin ice in terms of whether I’ll watch any more eps. Tune in next week to find out if I stuck with it…
Here’s a trailer that features the thing I spoiler tagged above, so watch it at your own risk.