What did you watch this week? Including The Newsroom, Suits, The World’s End and Continuum

Slightly later than usual, it’s “What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched thislast week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

First up, the usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever.

Summer has arrived though and started to fill up my viewing queue with new shows. I’m continuing to watch Under the Dome, but it’s getting close to being edged out of the viewing pile, what with it been the standard Stephen King fare. But it has its moments, so I’m sticking with it. The Bridge (US) is proving slightly inferior to the original, despite following largely on the same path, except the Aspie detective in this one is clearly more of a hindrance than an asset at this stage, and a lot less an unapologetic force of nature than Saga Norin was.

However, I’m on holiday in a week’s time, so with all the new stuff I’ve had to drop Being Mary Jane from the viewing queue and my plans to keep watching Crossing Lines have been dropped because there are now much better shows to fill my time with. I’ve also abandoned Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, on the general grounds that it’s Jane Campion and the trailer makes it looks dreadful.

Kerry Packer… is still in the queue though, since I might just about get around to watching it at some point, and Orange is the New Black, Netflix’s new comedy-drama from Weeds‘ creator set in a women’s prison, will be available forever so I’m not rushing into it. I’ve also got last night’s Newsroom and Ray Donovan to work my through as well, although the latter might not last long if the queue fills up any more.

I did have a little time to try out some new shows though:

Room 9
The Africa Channel’s Torchwood-esque (it’s even got a Captain Harkness in it) import from South Africa. That turned out to be cock, though, with poor acting and over the top humour  – not so much X-Files as Miracles, with lots of ghosts and the like to investigate, and the production standards of 1980s Canadian syndicated TV to make it all seem realistic.

Count Arthur Strong
BBC2’s adaptation of the Radio 4 comedy about an old music hall comedian turned out to be paralysingly unfunny, despite Rory Kinnear doing his best.

But here’s what I thought of this week’s recommended shows:

The Almighty Johnsons (TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Another ‘re-orienter’, with various new directions set up for characters, although good to see a certain regular character returning. Stronger on laughs than previous eps, weaker on plot drive. Also seemed to be a lot less for the female characters to do. They need to start plotting a course for a stronger story arc soon, too.

Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
The budget that the producers had been saving up at the start of the season is now being spent well, with two episodes of strong sci-fi fun in a row, some surprise returning characters and the series arcs now tying together nicely. It still has a little something missing – the tight plotting of the first season – but it’s about an episode or two away from having that and more again.

The Newsroom (HBO/Sky Atlantic)
The return of Aaron Sorkin’s somewhat chaotic attempt to do the fun and import of The West Wing, except in a newsroom. Far less preachy than last year, more interested in talking about how journalists get stories than about how they should be covering them, it’s certainly a step in the right direction. There’s also far less outright sexism: everyone’s about the relationships still, but the women are now allowed to be interested in work, too, and not be hopelessly incompetent at it. Having said that, Olivia Munn’s character is now being called ‘Money Skirt’. Still not quite the quality it should be, but not hitting anywhere near as many of the bum notes as it was hitting last season.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
A great big kick in the gonads for any shippers out there and contained some of the worst ‘Tourette’s’ acting ever committed to video. However, a decent enough procedural.

Satisfaction (CTV)
A good, funny episode, dealing with the problem facing any young couple that settles down: the loss of cool.

Suits (USA/Dave)
The return of the best lawyer show on TV. Dramatically, it’s still doing very interesting things, and the Machiavellian manipulations are still excellent. But, as well as the slightly suspect English stereotypes, the show is playing up the comedy angle more and more, which is in danger of destabilising the show. Definitely still recommended, though.

And in movies:

The World’s End
The third of the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright trilogy that started with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Pegg is a high school rebel who never grew up and wants to get the old gang back together for a 12-pub crawl in Newford Haven, despite their being in their late 30s now and all deeply in hate with him. Except problematically, most of the inhabitants of Newford Haven have been replaced by alien robots.

It has quite a lot going for it and will make you laugh a lot, since it is essentially the closest you’re going to get to a Spaced movie. The ending really isn’t what you’re expecting and there’s an element to the storytelling that doesn’t appear in the trailer that will make you think you imagined it the first time you saw and will then turn out to be awesomely cool when you realise it’s going to be repeated throughout the movie.

But it does have one colossal problem: the massive lack of decent female roles in the movie. Where Jessica Stephenson/Hynes should be, instead, we have nothing but men as far as the eye can see – Rosamund Pike, the main female character in the movie, gets minimal lines or things to do and like most of the (largely dialogue-less) women who feature in the story, she’s there as an object of male desire rather than as a character in her own right. To a certain extent, it’s justifiable in the sense that it’s about boys who’ve never really grown up, but it’s still a big problem with the movie.

Flawed but fun.

“What did you watch this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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What did you watch this week? Including Camp, Ray Donovan, Perception, Under The Dome, The Almighty Johnsons and Continuum

It’s “What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, although I haven’t had time to add Satisfaction to the mix, yet. I’ll hold off adding The Bridge (US) to the mix as well, since although the original was recommended and this sticks pretty close to the original’s plot, there’s always a chance it’ll go off target.

Still in my viewing queue: Being Mary Jane, which I never did get around to watching this week; Room 9, The Africa Channel’s Torchwood-esque (it’s even got a Captain Harkness in it) import from South Africa; Count Arthur Strong, BBC2’s adaptation of the Radio 4 comedy about an old music hall comedian; and Orange is the New Black, Netflix’s new comedy-drama from Weeds‘ creator, set in a women’s prison.

I did manage to try NBC’s Camp, a comedy-drama starring Rachel Griffiths that’s set in a summer camp for teenagers:

While there were a few laughs to be had, although not many, in the first 10 minutes or so, as well as a certain fascination in trying to see if Rachel Griffiths’ Australian accent would slip out in conversations with fellow Aussies (the whole show was filmed in Australia), by about the 15 minute mark it became obvious that a large portion of screen time was going to be filled with teenagers in bikini and that it was therefore utterly inappropriate for me to be watching it. So I switched off.

Here’s what I thought of this week’s regulars:

The Almighty Johnsons (TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Quite a dramatic episode in some regards since we saw the (probable) departure of a long-running and integral character. It was quite an artful way to write them out, given how important they are, and handled very impressively. That said, with no strong series A-plot, outside of this manoeuvring, we were left with various couples trying to establish or maintain relationships. This major plot development now out of the way, this does leave the show’s ducks lined up for next week to forge forward, fingers crossed. Some fine acting by Keisha Castle-Hughes, incidentally.

Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
After playing around with a bunch of other plots for a few weeks, Continuum returned to its main plot: Theseus, Alec, Liber8 and how much of the future is pre-determined. Interestingly, this episode saw Keira become more of a baddie, more in keeping with the evil future cop she should be in some senses, which was a fun twist in what was actually quite a dark and in some ways uncomfortable episode. More, please.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
A slightly inferior episode, with a very dodgy plot hammered onto a somewhat interesting psychological ‘trick’, familiar to anyone who’s ever seen videos like this. The eventual reveal is ridiculous, but no much more so than in any other procedural.

Ray Donovan (Showtime/Sky Atlantic)
A marked improvement over the first episode, thanks to the slower pace and fewer elements being thrown in the maelstrom of the plot. Donovan’s ‘fixing’, however, has stopped being clever and has instead turned into simple gangsterism, making that less interesting, although his treatment of the trans prostitute was a sympathetic character note. There was also more comedy, making it a slightly easier viewing experience. But it’s still not pleasant or that enjoyable.

Under the Dome (CBS/Channel 5)
More of the same. I’m really just watching for Rachelle Lefevre’s hair now.

“What did you watch this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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What did you watch this week? Including Crossing Lines, Perception, Satisfaction, Under The Dome and Much Ado About Nothing

It’s “What did you watch this week?, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

Normally, at this point, I’d list my usual recommendations. But what with international viewing schedules, etc, that’s started to get awkward. Instead, as I revealed on Tuesday, I’ve put together a “TMINE recommends” page, featuring links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended. I’ll improve it in all sorts of ways over time, since it’s a bit rough and ready at the moment, but it should mean that you’ll be able to find some good TV viewing if you need to.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been watching this week. Still in my viewing queue, though, is Being Mary Jane, BET’s new comedy-drama with Gabrielle Union, about “one black woman who is not representative of all black women” and her struggles with life and love. I’m not in a big rush to review this since the series itself doesn’t start until January 2014. But after a slightly shaky, very ordinary first five minutes, it started to improve post titles, so I’ll probably have a review up on (checks work schedule) Thursday next week.

The Almighty Johnsons (TV3/SyFy UK/Space)
Yes, it’s the return of New Zealand’s best drama show, with Norse gods (weakly) reincarnated in the bodies of ordinary mortals, all hoping that they’ll return to full strength once Odin and Frigg get married. It feels like the show’s trying to right itself after a somewhat erratic second season, with more of a focus on relationships. Some great individual dramatic and comedic moments, but no sign yet of a strong season-long narrative drive to push the plot. UK viewers will be relieved to hear season three has been acquired by SyFy UK, for broadcast soon.

Crossing Lines (NBC/TF1)
The first episode, of course, was a tiresome mixture of dramatic cliché and serial killer topes from cop shows, all set against a European backdrop. Episode two was a vastly chattier affair, less cliched but incredibly boring to watch. There doesn’t appear to be a good reason at all for Donald Sutherland to be in this, but they keep trying to find things for him to do, and the poor old German character may be the best of the actors not performing in their native languages, but he’s got almost nothing to do in terms of character development, sadly. It’s also becoming readily apparent that the writers have no real understanding of the difference between Northern Ireland and Eire, with yet another Irish character popping but having a Northern Irish accent. Some vague hints at a season arc involving a shady Russian, though, so maybe it’ll get better in the next few episodes.

Graceland (USA)
Too boring and not unique enough for me to keep watching, so it’s been dropped from my viewing schedule.

Perception (TNT/Watch)
A slightly stronger episode this week than last week’s, with our hero and heroine investigating a woman who thinks her husband has been abducted by aliens – it’s all because of a rare brain syndrome of course. The season arc stuff was quite well handled, alternately funny and moving, but the procedural side of things once again easily the worst aspect of the show, which would be great as a simple “weird condition of the week” psychological House.

Satisfaction (CTV)
A funny second episode that went a little way towards rectifying the problems that the first episode had with Leah Renee’s character. It could do with steering away from the supporting characters, though, since they’re bordering on the offensive (particularly the one with a cleft palate). Fake TV show The Horse Doctor was inspired though.

Under the Dome (CBS/Channel 5)
Exactly the same as any other Stephen King story set in a small town in Maine, and this week, of course, the casualties began to mount up. Absolutely unremarkable but reasonably diverting.

And in movies:

Much Ado About Nothing
Leagues better than the self-congratulatory Kenneth Branagh version, this sees virtually everyone who’s been in a Joss Whedon-directed TV show or film all together in one place for the first time outside of the convention circuit to do a modern-day but linguistically intact retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy – all shot in black and white in what’s probably Whedon’s house during his lunch breaks. Fine performances from everyone, particularly Nathan Fillion and Amy Acker, and excellent direction from Whedon, too, who manages to make a Shakespeare comedy genuinely funny. Still, it always weird to hear Alexis Denisof with an American accent.

“What did you watch this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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Friday’s “The RSC’s Wolf Hall, Sky to acquire less US drama and casting on Legacy” news

Film casting

Theatre

  • Ben Miles, Lucy Briers and Nathaniel Parker to star in the RSC’s Wolf Hall

UK TV

US TV

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What did you watch this week? Including The Fall, Harry, Hannibal, The Rum Diary and Don’t Trust The B—-

It’s “What did you watch this week?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations, which are somewhat dwindling now ‘summer’ has arrived:

  • Continuum (Showcase/SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • Don’t Trust The B—- (ABC)
  • The Fall (BBC2/Netflix)
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

I tried a few new shows this week. I’ll save my thoughts on NBC’s Save Me for a full review, but here’s what I thought of the others:

The Fall (BBC2/Netflix)
Gillian Anderson in what is essentially Prime Suspect 20 years on – writer Allan Cubitt also wrote Prime Suspect 2 – and, for my money, almost as good. Anderson plays a Met police detective superintendent who goes to Belfast to audit an investigation into a murder. However, she quickly realises that she’s chasing a serial killer (Jamie Dornan). Rather than this being a whodunnit, we know from the beginning of Dornan’s culpability – instead, this a dual character piece that examines the equally cool, equally focused killer and cop. The investigation, which also touches on the different and highly political nature of policing in Northern Ireland (the police are all armed and the police station is more like a fort), is handled as realistically and as sensitively as can be, but there are disturbing scenes, despite the overall lack of any blood or violence.

Anderson is great as the cop, who unlike Helen Mirren’s Jane Tennison, doesn’t need to convince anyone of her abilities and is happy to have casual sex with whomever she pleases without apology, rather than agonise over relationships; Dornan’s equally good as the killer, who blends right in and even has a young daughter to care after. The writing’s first rate, although there are a few slaps-forehead moments and obviously, it’s yet another serial killer show. There’s also lots of good roles for both men and women. Weirdly, Archie Punjab from The Good Wife shows up as a motorcycle-riding pathologist.

Definitely one to watch – it’s going on the recommended list. American readers – this has been acquired by Netflix and shoot be available from the 28th of this month, but you can watch the first episode below.

Harry (TV3)
A six-part New Zealand series about a widowered cop with a teenage daughter and who’s doing his best to hunt down some violent robbers in a poor community. He has to work against the higher-ups, who are more concerned by headlines that the communities they police and against the demands of his job in raising his daughter. So far, so ordinary, you might think, and largely it is, despite the presence of Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) as Harry’s boss, complete with his normal NZ/Australian accent. What’s more interesting is that Harry is co-written by the star, Oscar Kightley, a Maori actor, and the show is bilingual and set largely in the Maori community. It’s got more in common with UK police shows than with US shows, although there are interesting differences, but beyond the cultural issues and twists, there’s not much here that you won’t have seen before.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I’m still trying:

  • Arrested Development (Netflix): In preparation for the fourth Netflix-exclusive season, I’m trying once again to get into the original series. I’m up to about episode 13 and there have been a couple of episodes where I’ve ‘got’ what everyone loves about the show, but it’s not as funny as it should be.
  • Don’t Trust The B—- (ABC): The final batch of episodes are now available to stream from the ABC web site. Such a disappointment that the show was cancelled, since there’s some real dark originality in these episodes.
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living): Superbly featuring a cameo by Lance Henriksen (Millennium), this week’s episode minimised the normal body horror slightly in favour of one of its other themes: the horror of madness, with Will becoming increasingly unhinged and worried for his own sanity. However, the most disturbing revelations are another character’s and left until last. I’m still deeply impressed by the show, and if NBC cancel it, they deserve everything they’re going to get. I’ve also just realised that Caroline Dhavernas (Dr Bloom) was the star of Bryan Fuller’s Wonderfalls, which shows you just what a loyal guy he is.

And in movies:

The Rum Diary
Directed by Bruce Robinson (Withnail and I), based on a novel by Hunter S Thompson, starring Johnny Depp, Amber Heard and Aaron Eckhart, it should all be great, huh? The novel certainly has an interesting story: Thompson wrote it in the 60s but it was never published until Depp found it lying around and persuaded Thompson to unleash it on the world. To be honest, it’s not a great novel: set on Puerto Rico, it lacks voice, although you get some of the hints of Thompson’s future themes (substance abuse, misogyny), and is really a mood piece about a journalist finding his way on the island.

The film, however, takes all of that and runs with it. Sharing little of the plot or dialogue, and losing a lot of the characters, it’s essentially a prequel to Thompson’s line, reconstructing the whole story so that it’s about how a journalist finds his voice in fighting against rich interests. With minor elements of the novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and even Withnail and I, it’s a whole lot better than the book, too, ditching the misogyny and aimlessness in favour of a much stronger narrative drive, although it still shares some unwelcome elements, including a rape scene (mercifully different from the book’s deeply unpleasant version). Johnny Depp returns to form as Paul Kemp, while Heard is clearly a little out of her depth at this stage in her career. There are some funny moments, but it’s not a movie to go out of your way to see, and doesn’t come close to the best of any of those involved.

“What did you watch this week?” is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid – and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I’ve watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you’ve seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?