What have you been watching? Including Life and Beth and Night Sky

Night Sky
Amazon's Night Sky

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

Like pretty much everyone in the UK, TMINE is about to pop off on its holidays to take advantage of next week’s double bank holiday – thanks, Queenie! – so time for a quick update on current TV viewing.

A lot of shows are in a holding pattern for us. Superman & Lois (US: The CW; UK: BBC One) is still on holiday. Bel-Air (Peacock) is still just there, waiting for us to watch the rest of it. Star Trek: Picard (US: Paramount+; UK: Amazon Prime) is still waiting for me to apologise for calling it bobbins. And The Essex Serpent (Apple TV+) is still there, waiting for me to do the ironing.

Whether I’ll get round to any of those, given that Obi Wan (Disney+) and the final season of Stranger Things (Netflix) were both released today, I can’t say.

We have watched a couple more episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+), which continues to be really good. Okay, so episode three wasn’t that great, perhaps because ‘genetically engineered people’ have been made so dull by the bobbins show. Enough of that, please.

But its killer move now, though, is to make the Gorn the big bad of the series.

You remember the Gorn, don’t you?

Well they’re back and they’re properly scary. Even though we haven’t seen them yet.

So lots of adventure, lots of excitement, lots of proper Spock. It’s Star Trek, guys!

I have watched a couple of episodes of new shows, as well. More on Life and Beth (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+) and Night Sky (Amazon Prime) after the jump.

Life and Beth (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+)

After a sudden incident, Beth, a seemingly successful woman with a long term relationship and steady career, starts having flashbacks to her teen self and learns how she became who she is and who she wants to become.

This is, apparently, Amy Schumer’s passion project. The trouble with passion projects is often only the person behind them is passionate about them – or at least forgets to show others why they’re passionate about them.

So it is with Life and Beth, of which we managed to watch the first episode. If you’re expecting something hilarious from Schumer, think again, as it’s pretty hard going. We meet Beth, we learn about her life in a moderately unsuccessful business and moderately unsuccessful relationships with her boyfriend (Kevin Kane) and her mother (Laura Benanti). And then something happens.

That’s episode one.

No compromises. No “here’s why you should watch this show”. Just 25 minutes of existential angst, peppered with the occasional half-joke.

Now, if you’ve read the plot summary above, you’ll notice that we should be getting flashbacks to her teenage years… in later episodes. Just not the first one. And the thing is, the first episode is so uninspiring, I’m not sure I want to tune in for episode two, even though I confidently and firmly expect it to get better from that point onwards. That, after all, is the hook and presumably where Schumer’s passions lie.

Schumer is actually really good, doing a real acting job, not just gurning away the whole time. It’s a bravely unflattering performance, too. I just wish she hadn’t chosen to hide the show’s merits – if there are some – in every episode I haven’t yet watched.

Life’s short. TV is ubiquitous. Let’s stop burying the ledes.

Oh and I’ve just watched this trailer and can see Phil Wang is in the show. Again, don’t hide these things: people need to know them.

Night Sky (Amazon Prime)

Irene and Franklin York have kept secret a chamber that leads to a deserted planet, but the arrival of an enigmatic young man upends their quiet existence.

Night Sky follows neatly on from Amazon’s previous latest new show, Outer Range, being yet another sci-fi show that’s actually a vehicle for both old actors and slow-moving, non-existent plots.

The first episode is actually surprisingly good, starring as it does JK Simmons and Sissy Spacek. But it’s not really good because of the sci-fi element; rather, it’s because it’s a moving piece about growing old with the person you love, until finally old age catches you up and you realise you might have to say goodbye to them.

I nearly cried several times, I will firmly admit it. That’s middle age for you.

But the show’s lure is that our lovely couple, stuck out in the back of middle America, have a secret: they like to visit another planet using a portal in their garden shed, an uninhabited planet only they know about. Cue lots of metaphors about how little old people in the US might have had a youthful past in which they got to have adventures that no one but they now know about.

All well and good. Great work not burying the lede. Amy Schumer could learn something from you.

The trouble is that episode two sounds the death knell on the show’s enjoyability by then going off on a completely different tangent involving a family in Argentina that guards another portal to the same planet. Before you’re halfway through the episode, you can feel your heart sinking as the show ‘mythos builds’, having duped you into thinking this was going to be something poetic, not George RR Martin-esque.

So I stopped watching. I’ve now cheated and read synopses for the later episodes, and I’m glad I did, because there’s Latin-speaking cults and who knows what else to come in the rest of the season. But, more importantly, there are NO ANSWERS. Just more questions.

Yep, you can join the cult watching the cult on the TV and fervently hope there’ll be an interesting revelation… eventually.

It’s a shame, since I’d really liked to have watched more of Simmons and Spacek, as well as the flashbacks to their youth that the show opened with. I just don’t want to watch Argentinian cult members wondering if there’s more to life than being in part of a cult.

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.