What have you been watching? Including The Endgame, Children Ruin Everything, Our Flag Means Death and Troppo

Fistful of Vengeance

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

Doing this every two weeks seems to be working out for me right now. I think I can pull this off. Famous last words.

I’ve watched some new TV shows. One from pretty much every country of the world! Well, three of the four usual English-speaking ones. Most of them were rubbish, unfortunately. But at least one was fun. We can talk about those after the jump: Troppo (Australia: ABC), Our Flag Means Death (US: HBO Max), Children Ruin Everything (Canada: CTV) and The Endgame (US: NBC).

But first…

…four shows I didn’t manage to get around to watching

The Dropout (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+) is a switch of the usual ‘drama based on real-life’ offering that we’ve getting of late. It’s a mini-series that sees Amanda Seyfried playing Elizabeth Holmes, and Hulu/Disney+ summarise it thusly: “Elizabeth Holmes, an optimistic and determined young woman, drops out of Stanford to found a promising new blood testing startup.”

Yeah, I know all about Elizabeth Holmes. I know the twist and a whole lot more. Don’t really need to watch that, but I hear Seyfried is very good.

The Porter (Canada: CBC) is something a bit more of a period piece, but is still a real-life story. “The series will depict the history of Black Canadian and African-American men who worked as Pullman porters in the period following World War I, leading to the 1925 creation of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters as the first Black-led labour union.”

Again, I hear it’s really good and it even numbers Alfre Woodard. But… I don’t care. Sorry, the history of the Canadian trade union movement is niche even for me.

Shining Vale (US: Starz; UK: Starzplay) isn’t real at all. It also didn’t hold my attention more than a minute, since it’s a horror comedy-drama about depression/demonic possession.

“A dysfunctional family moves from the city to a small town after Patricia “Pat” Phelps, a former “wild child” who became famous through writing raunchy female empowerment novels, is caught cheating on her husband. The house the family had moved into is a place where in the past, terrible atrocities have taken place. Nobody seems to suspect anything odd except for Pat who’s convinced she’s either depressed or possessed. Pat has been sober for 16 years, but begins to feel very unfulfilled in life – she still hasn’t written her second novel, she can’t remember the last time she had sex with her husband, and her teenage kids have grown up to the point they don’t want their mother in their lives. But soon, the demons haunting the family’s new home begin to appear much more real.”

It may star Greg Kinnear and Courtney Cox but no.

Lastly, there’s The Ipcress File (UK: ITV), the first UK drama I’ve been tempted to watch in a long time. In this case, I simply haven’t got round to watching it. But you know what, I think I will, since I not only love the Michael Caine movie, I’ve even read the book, so I’m interested to see what ITV have done with it.

The regulars

Superman & Lois (US: The CW; UK: BBC One/iPlayer) was great fun as usual, and of course the chance to reunite Supes and his brother was irresistible, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s fascinating that a show that was based on how compelling a performance one actor gave in a completely different TV show now has an equally compelling performance overshadowing it. I do also much admire the fact the show is ‘depatriarchying’ the entire Superman story, too.

Severance (AppleTV+) has continued to be fascinating and JustStark’s suggestion that it’s reminiscent of a Philip K Dick story was something I hadn’t noticed but is spot on the money. But the show alternates as well between interpretations, with allusions to the priesthood in the latest episode and there are also musical references to The Conversation (1974) as well. But the core considerations of whether work might actually be psychologically important to us – so what happens if we can’t – are also interesting. Really, really enjoying.

Bel-Air continues to be equally impressive and powerful. The characters are now evolving in fascinating ways and it’s fascinating to see Will ‘gentrifying’. One of the disadvantages of not watching UK TV any more is that I didn’t notice that this show’s Geoffrey is played by Jimmy Akingbola (In the Long Run, Kate & Koji, Holby City, Rev et al). And this Geoffrey is hardcore. Definitely a must-watch.

And back for a second season is Star Trek: Picard (US: Paramount+; UK: Amazon). That appears to have dumped the entire narrative it was setting up at the end of the first season in favour of yet more Borg stories. But we got Whoopi Goldberg back as Guinan and John de Lancie back as Q – that’s not a spoiler, as it’s in the trailer – all of which suggests better things are to come.

I should also point out that Wu Assassins (Netflix) mysteriously has a sequel movie, Fistful of Vengeance, set in Thailand and featuring all the Asian cast but almost no one else and is largely unrelated to the surprisingly good original in almost any way. The fights are poorly shot, even if the cast are good at them, making them pretty lacklustre, too. I quite enjoyed newcomer Francesca Corney, who was at least funny, but that was about it.

Join me after the jump for a brief rundown of the new shows.

The Endgame (US: NBC)

 “A criminal mastermind squares off against a principled FBI agent.”

Honestly, I thought this was going to be awful. And it is. It’s basically The Blacklist, except with Morena Baccarin pretending to be a ruthless genius Belarussian arms dealer aka “Snow White” who allows herself to be captured by the US authorities, only to play a sort of real-life chess match with them involving seven bank heists. What’s her game? Is she really entirely self-interested or is she out to expose corruption? Is it really just to avenge the death of her husband (The Americans’ Costa Ronin)? Only FBI agent Ryan Michelle Bathe understands Snow White well enough to potentially stop her plans. But has Snow White outplayed her and is Bathe really just a pawn, too.

It’s nonsense. Absolute nonsense. You can tell it’s nonsense because they got Justin Lin to direct the first episode and they decided about midway through episode two that Baccarin might actually be (as in real-life) Brazilian rather than Belarussian, since she couldn’t handle a Belarussian accent or dialogue for more than five lines without wobbling. Plus a bank robber who wears a crop top? Really?

But there’s a strange fascination to it. It’s fun. Trying to work out what the ‘magic trick’ to every single double bluff and triple bluff is going to be is amusing: is Person X going to be involved or are they a patsy? It’s almost like watching The Game or The One Game, in fact.

Daft as a brush, but I’ll be watching ep three eagerly. Unless it does a Blacklist and reveal that Baccarin is really Bathe’s mum. Or is she? For six episodes.

Children Ruin Everything (Canada: CTV)

“Astrid and James struggle to hold onto their identities while raising their two young children in the city.”

TMINE has been running long enough that it has encompassed the glorious circle of life for probably two generations of actors now. I can remember Meaghan Rath from when she was in the US/Canadian version of ‘bright sexy young things’ supernatural flat-share comedy drama Being Human, a mere 11 years ago, but here she is, now in mid-30s sitcom mom mode. Sigh.

Still, time may be relentless but some things are constant and unyielding: Canadian sitcoms (apart from Satisfaction) are always dreadful. And Children Ruin Everything is about as unfunny as they come. They being Canadian sitcoms. Also, we have the standard problem of watching every minute the couple are together and wondering: “What is she doing with him? What was she ever doing with him?” Him being Aaron Abrams. That’s quite distracting. I’m not saying the jokes would have been any funnier, but it would have helped.

Oh it also has Nazreen Contractor as Rath’s sister. I remember her in The Border. That was 14 years ago now. FFS.

Our Flag Means Death (US: HBO Max)

“Stede Bonnet, a pampered aristocrat, abandons his life of privilege to become a pirate in the early 18th century.”

This feels like a show that should be a lot funnier. It stars Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords, Jumanji). It’s directed by – and sometimes features – Taika Waititi. It’s got comedic talent from all over the UK: Joel Fry (Plebs), Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) and Samson Kayo (Sliced). It’s got Nat Faxon. He used to be bigger (Marriage, Happy HourBen and Kate). It’s got the likes of Rory Kinnear and Fred Armisen guest-starring.

But it’s a really dull, unfunny, broad bit of comedy. Darby is a would-be pirate who’s not got a violent bone in his body and just tries to be a good boss; his crew want to be ruthless pirates, but aren’t really that good at it and quite like being treated nicely, so threaten to mutiny a lot but don’t.

Nice pirates. That’s the joke. I actually just felt sorry for Darby’s character – there were some quite poignant moments for him. But the joke falls flat.

I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen better though, and this should be better.

Troppo (Australia: ABC)

Troppo is based on the best-selling novel Crimson Lake by Candice Fox. The series centres on disgraced ex-cop Ted Conkaffey, who is recruited by Amanda Pharrell, an eccentric private investigator with a criminal past. As they try to uncover the whereabouts of a missing Korean family man and tech pioneer, they discover a string of bizarre deaths. The mismatched duo is thrust into a fight for survival and sanity in the wilds of Far North Queensland.”

The immediate problem with this is it’s a crime drama. I was never really going to enjoy that, was I?

All the same, I did give it a try. The problem is the show’s first episode wanted to get by on shock value. Not shock at the guy who got ate by a very rubbery looking crocodile in the first 10 minutes. Just shock that:

  1. The heroine (Nicole Chamoun) has a shaved head and a tattoo! OMG everyone!
  2. The hero (Patrick Jane) is American and old and scraggy – he was The Punisher once!

But that’s all it’s got, other than the Queensland terrain, which was photographed very nicely. It’s just standard “odd couple PI” fare, with Jane being reluctantly persuaded to help Chamoun, in between looking after some geese that he took to the vet and got over-charged for.

I wanted to like it. A nice new Australian drama would have been fun.

But this isn’t it.

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.