US TV

What have you been watching? Including Boba Fett and Cobra Kai

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

I’ve not actually been watching much TV this week, I’m afraid. New shows have arrived but, honestly, I didn’t fancy them. Apart from maybe Pivoting (US: Fox), but that was only on last night, so I’ve not had time to watch it.

I did watch the latest episodes of The Book of Bobba Fett and Cobra Kai. The former (episode two) shows us there’s going to be a dual narrative in these episodes, with us seeing how Boba Fett got to be bad ass on Tatooine, learning to do his thing and respect the ways of the Tuskan raiders (yes, I’ve probably spelt half of those words wrongly. Sorry Star Wars fans), in the past while the present day narrative sees him trying to establish his new criminal empire and take over from Jabba the Hut as the new ‘daimyo’. It was fine. Quite fun to watch, but nothing too special, mainly because two stories seem to have only half the impact.

Meanwhile, it was more of the same in Cobra Kai as we’re only up to about episode six or seven. Lovely Wife isn’t enjoying this season at all, after loving the previous seasons, so has told me I can watch the rest of it by myself ‘if I want’. But I don’t really want, so I might hold off until she’s ready. I see her point: there’s a lot more nastiness and bullying in this season compared to the previous seasons, which makes it a bit less fun to watch. But we’ll see.

That’s it, though. So here’s what I could have watched if I’d wanted to and why I didn’t bother.

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International TV

What have you been watching? Including Squid Game, Cobra Kai, Hawkeye, The Mezzotint and The Book of Boba Fett

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

Hello, everyone, and welcome to 2022 – 2021 again but done right, we can all hope. How was your Christmas break? Hope you managed to get one and didn’t get the dreaded lurgy (or one of the other minor lurgies that were doing the rounds).

You’ll be glad to hear – since you’re here – that TMINE actually had the chance to watch some new TV shows over Christmas. Some of them were even good.

There was only one regular still on the TMINE viewing list: Hawkeye (Disney+). The final episode of that was fun, but somewhat lightweight. Its highlight was a tear-jerking confrontation between (spoiler alert) Yelena Belova (Black Widow’s grieving sister) and Hawkeye. However, the script didn’t exactly let both barrels blast on that, and it didn’t feel like we were getting Jeremy Renner, the Oscar-nominated actor, so much as Jeremy Renner, the bit-part player from an episode of Angel, so the emotion largely came from (spoiler alert) Florence Pugh and all the good work that other entries in the MCU had already done.

What also should have been a highlight of the episode – the return of (spoiler alert) Vincent D’Onofrio reprising his Netflix Defenders role of Wilson Fisk – largely got ruined through poor characterisation, right down to that atrocious shirt. I’m wondering if he’s a parallel universe version, rather than the one we’ve seen elsewhere. But maybe it’s down to a problem that’s intrinsic to both comic book crossovers and the MCU that stems from one of their supposed strengths: the ability to have different tones and genres in different shows and movies. If you stick something from a grittier genre into something more comedic and family oriented, something’s got to change, and more often than not, it’s the grittier thing. That can work, but here, it largely undid more or less all the good work that Daredevil et al in terms of characterisation and plausibility – despite some excellent acting from the star in question.

Overall, though, while not ultimately as good on average as WandaVision, it had almost as many highs, was more consistent and more fun, and was still a lovely Christmas treat for us all to unwrap. Plus it did give us this brilliant double-act.

After the jump, though, let’s talk about those new shows. Squid Game (Netflix) technically isn’t a new show, since it’s been around for a while – to the extent that we actually tried it a few weeks ago but gave up. However, we felt we should give it a second chance, given how popular it is, and we made it all the way through to the end.

Properly new were BBC Four’s latest Ghost Story for Christmas, The Mezzotint, and Disney+’s latest entry in the Star Wars firmament, The Book of Boba Fett. And although we’ve only got halfway through it, let’s talk a bit about season four of Cobra Kai (Netflix) as well. See you in a mo!

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Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including Hawkeye, Hot Zone: Anthrax, Titans and Lost in Space

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

I’ve been goaded. Well, prodded really. There were some actual movie reviews last week, so I guess I’d better do some TV reviews. Apparently, that’s what TMINE’s supposed to be for. Tarnation.

Fortunately, I’ve been watching a decent amount of TV, so I won’t simply be doing shadow puppets for you and pretending that it’s a review for this last WHYBW of 2021.

First up, the return of two regulars, and then after the jump, we can talk about two new shows: Hawkeye (Disney+) and Hot Zone: Anthrax (Disney+)

Lost in Space (season 3) (Netflix)

Lost in Space (Netflix) is back for its third and final season… and I’m confused. Every season more or less is a build up to showing us how the Space Family Robinson got ‘lost in space’ with the evil Doctor Smith (Parker Posey). It then ends with them… ‘lost in space’. And then with the next season, it resets and we have to watch them get lost in space all over again.

Season two ended especially well in that regard. They’re on the spaceship, they’re there with the robot and evil Dr Smith, they don’t know where they are but they are in the middle of space, nowhere near anyone else or a planet that looks a lot like Canada.

Good build-up. Surely they’re not going to reset again are they?

Well, hot damn. Guess what? Season three starts with them all stuck on yet another planet that looks like Canada with all the other kids. Again. What the hell? Even if we hadn’t already had a show that’s almost exactly the same as that (The 100), why are we doing it for the third season in a row for Lost in Space?

I managed to watch about two episodes before I just gave up. I’ve now seen this story twice – I don’t need to see it for a third time. And can’t the whole family actually be in the same place together for so much as an entire episode?

Titans (US: HBO Max; UK: Netflix)

You probably won’t remember this – why would you? – but I made it through the first four episodes of season three of Titans back in September, then gave up as it was so horrid and all the characters I cared about got killed off.

Well, it’s comics, so guess what? One of them came back from the dead, it turned out, something I discovered this weekend, so I figured that as this was now on Netflix in the UK, I’d give it a rewatch from the point from when said character returns.

So… episodes nine through 13 of Titans are bad. Not outright terrible, but pretty close. It’s all meaningless, inconsequential namechecking of comic characters but none of the characters act like either themselves or even slightly coherently thought-out human beings (or aliens). The acting seems to have got a lot worse, too, and the fights don’t have that grittiness to them that they used to. What it does have is trite teen romances and outright sadism.

I would say that if I was looking for positives, seeing (spoiler alert) the Amazons, as well as Donna Troy and Raven again was great, as they were by far the most interesting characters and interpretations of DC lore. But it’s all just so comic-strippy, so lacking in any real depth, and actually downright silly at times that it just felt like I was losing IQ points watching it.

Plus how high-stake are your perils when at least half the cast have died and come back?

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US TV

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.

US TV

What have you been watching? Including La Brea

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

Surprisingly, last week’s huge flurry of new shows seems to have been the extent of the Fall season in North America. I assumed it would be bigger and longer than… a week. Maybe there’ll be more this month, but that would involve me looking to find out. Sounds like work, doesn’t it?

I prefer to just bump into new shows these days. Did you know IMDb TV is going to be a thing? I’d heard a bit about it and knew there was a new Judge Judy show on it, but that’s about it, so figured it was just reality TV.

But now I’ve just stumbled onto the fact that apparently, they’ve rebooted Leverage with the entire original cast and Noah Wyle but not Timothy Hutton (for very, very obvious reasons). And here’s a trailer for Leverage: Redemption, which is going to start in just a few weeks. Isn’t that some good stumbling?

I also stumbled across Fires, which is ABC (Australia)’s retelling of last year’s wildfires in Australia. Remember when that was going to be the thing of 2020?

Anyway, that’s just started but is verboten in this house, on the grounds it’s about something real and miserable.

That meant the only new show I have to share with you is this piece of rubbish.

© NBC

La Brea (US: NBC)

A massive sinkhole mysteriously opens up in Los Angeles, separating part of a family in an unexplainable primeval world, alongside a disparate group of strangers.

Rob says: ‘Lost meets The Lost World = Twice as Lost’

It’s pretty obvious right from the outset of La Brea that this is going to be an awful TV show. All the standard tools for character compression get thrown out like balls from a tennis practice machine, with us clear within the first minute of a random car journey to school that the three characters have moved house, are a family, one has lost her leg somehow, have left the father somewhere else for ‘reasons’, the mum (Natalie Zea) is feeling guilty of being a ‘helicopter mom’ and more. Not for a moment is it natural dialogue.

By minute two, a massive sinkhole has opened up and we’re having car chases on pavements in reverse, people running out the way, buildings falling and more.

Never for one second are you expected to be bored or to have to use your brain. Don’t worry – you won’t need it.

Before you know it, half our family are in a grassy wonderland that looks a bit Canadian that’s apparently under LA somehow, the other half are stuck up above and think the first lot are dead. But fear not, they’ve just fallen down some kind of portal into a primeval dimension, filled with CGI wolves, sabretooth tigers and sort of vultures.

Meanwhile, Air Force dad (Eoin Macken from Nightflyers) turns out to have been diagnosed with schizophrenia but – oh wow, isn’t this handy and coincidental – has actually been having visions of what’s happening in this parallel world and can now see that his wife and all these other helpfully diverse people (surgeon/Navy SEALs, psychologist with guns, heroin smugglers) are all still alive! And must be saved! Please believe him!

One of the characters references Lost. I presume that’s as a sort of preemption to prevent people from accusing it of being Lost. “We’re not going to point out the similarities if we actually are just doing Lost are we?”

It is Lost. Sorry. That little ruse didn’t work for Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct; it won’t work here either.

But it’s also The Lost World. That’s a really hard one to portmanteau with Lost, isn’t it? Shall we just say it’s twice as Lost?

Clearly, it’s The Lost World. Maybe even Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Or more likely that thing with Doug McLure.

Anyway, it’s terrible. Everyone’s stupid. There wasn’t even one moment of plausibility in the whole thing, even before the sinkhole opened up. The effects are poor. The set-up is dumb. Even Natalie Zea can’t save this one.

And, of course, it’s an NBC show with a central ‘secret’ that will be eked out across multiple seasons and then cancelled before there’s any real resolution, unless Netflix saves it (cf Manifest). And this one is going to get cancelled very quickly. That means there are even fewer reasons to watch it.

The regulars

Otherwise, it was just the regulars. So, first up, I’m not going to be reviewing What We Do In The Shadows any more. For starters, I’m getting a bit bored of it, so I’m not sure there’s much point. It’s a bit funny every week, but that’s about it. There’ll probably be one awesome episode this season, which seems to be the tradition, but one awesome episode isn’t really enough to sustain reviews.

It’s also a comedy and as with Modern Family, which I did watch until the final episode but stopped reviewing at about season 4, there’s only so much you can say about an episodic comedy anyway before there stops being a point. So I’m going to keep watching What We Do In the Shadow but not review it.

Only Murders in the Building gave us more of Selena Gomez’s character, but as usual, Martin Short steals the show with his podcast antics.

The Cleaner was a more interesting affair, since it was basically Greg Davies (old bloke) meeting some young guy who’s obsessed with both social media and the 80s and Davies educating him about what the 80s was really like. But the two also came to a sort of interesting rapprochement that I quite enjoyed, so it wasn’t just an old guy going ‘Tsk, tsk! The kids today, hey?’

But what did you watch?