What did you watch this week? Including Arrow, 30 Rock, Banshee, Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe and Elementary

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: Archer, Arrow, Banshee, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, Cougar Town, Elementary, Go On, Modern Family, Mr Selfridge, Shameless, Spartacus, Suits, Top Gear and Vegas. These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

Don’t forget, UK readers – season 4 of Spiral aka Engrenages will start tomorrow on BBC4 at 9pm. Two episodes, of course. Anyone want episode-by-episode reviews?

I tried to watch Derek, Ricky Gervais’s new ‘comedy’, but after five minutes of offensive, unwatchable, poorly acted cobblers, we switched off. New Yes Prime Minister got given its notice after two episodes, because despite attempts to update it for modern politics, it still feels like an 80s show with 80s characters, yet at the same time isn’t faithful enough to them to work.

Still in the viewing queue: this week’s episode of The Doctor Blake Mysteries as well as most of House of Cards and The Carrie Diaries, which I suspect might never get watched. But that’s about it. Except for Community, which finally returned last night. Normally I’d just recommend it straight off, but without Dan Harmon as show runner, I’m going to watch the ep then decide, since the signs have not been good.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • 30 Rock: A pretty poor finale, redeemed by about 15 minutes of quality material. But then, that’s pretty much what the first episode was like, so that’s probably appropriate, and it did have some fun things to say about women, work and childcare at the same time. Goodbye Liz Lemon – you were great while you were here.
  • The Americans: A really good second episode that had all the good qualities of the first, but with added spy evilness on the part of the KGB/our heroes, as well as guest impersonations of Casper Weinberger and British defence secretary John Nott. The end part really makes you sympathise with the Soviets. Plus we finally have some actual Russians, speaking Russians, which contrasts well with ‘the Americans’ themselves.  
  • Arrow: On the plus side of Arrow, something I haven’t mentioned is that the producers have absolutely no reverence for the comics: they’ll use what they want and change what doesn’t fit. Case in point: the arrival of (spoiler)Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, this week. Now they’ve cast Spartacus‘s Manu Bennett in the role, simply because he’s so cool, and they’ve simply made his character Australian and a member of the Australian SIS as a result. Marvellous.
  • Banshee: Unlike Arrow, Banshee wants everyone to be American. So even though they’ve got a New Zealander in the lead role (he was one of the Wests in Outrageous Fortune) and a Dane as the villain, they’re still making them pretend to be Americans. Last week’s episode was a characteristic mix of the ludicrous and the great, so I encourage you all to give it a try.
  • Being Human (US): They’re starting to hint at an Aidan and Sally relationship, as per the original, I notice, which is intriguing. I’m also curious about what’s happened to Josh’s family, given he has no reason not to see them any more.
  • Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe: Basically, just like all his other Wipes but with less to say, a weird attempt at a collaborative movie review feature and a more inspired “reading out of comments from the Internet”. Not his best, but still watchable.
  • Cougar Town: Ooh! The writers remembered that everyone is supposed to have a job.
  • Elementary: An odd choice for the post-Superbowl episode, with very little to commend it, but last night’s featuring not just John Hannah in full Scottish mode but also an ex member of The Unit was a big improvement. It was also one of the first episodes that felt like a proper Holmes story, too, with a few references here and there to the originals. It also raised the intriguing suggestion that the reason that Holmes doesn’t feel like Holmes is because he needs drugs and now he’s sober, he’s not the man he used to be as a result. Could be a good narrative direction they’re going to go in there.
  • Spartacus: Julius Caesar has arrived! Otherwise, a largely unremarkable episode.
  • Suits: Two fabulous episodes made even more fabulous by Wendell Pierce (Bunk from The Wire) and the return of (spoiler alert)Daniel Hardman. Gives House of Cards a run for its money in terms of manipulations.
  • Vegas: A bit more for Carrie Anne Moss to do this week, but her character is so lifeless, that’s still not much. But a good episode and I wasn’t expecting many of the twists the show turned up this week, either.

“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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Australian and New Zealand TV

Review: The Doctor Blake Mysteries 1×1 (ABC1/ITV)

The Doctor Blake Mysteries

In Australia: Fridays, 8.30pm, ABC1
In the UK: Will air on ITV
In the rest of the world: Not yet acquired

If you’re from the UK and of a certain age – your 30s or 40s – you’ll remember Craig McClachlan: he was Henry on Australian soap opera Neighbours, back when anyone who was anyone watched it.

So popular was he in the role, that he was enticed over to the UK to star in BBC1’s Bugs, a fun bit of escapism masterminded by The Avengers‘ Brian Clemens that was thoroughly enjoyable until a bunch of people who’d written some Doctor Who New Adventures novels decided they wanted to make it proper sci-fi and robbed it of any or all enjoyable qualities in its second series.

One thing that McClachlan didn’t really demonstrate in either of those two shows was the ability to act. In fact, he was largely only notable for his haircut and huge pectoral muscles, and that was about it.

Craig McClachlan in Neighbours

So colour me surprised by The Doctor Blake Mysteries, a new Australian crime series set in small Victoria town in 1959 and which stars McClachlan as the eponymous Doctor Blake. Because not only is the show itself really rather decent, but McClachlan – as well as not taking off his top once – seems to have matured into “one of Australia’s favourite and most versatile actors” during the past 20 or so years.

Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading “Review: The Doctor Blake Mysteries 1×1 (ABC1/ITV)”

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What did you watch this week? Including The Following, Spartacus, Mr Selfridge, Being Human (US) and Arrow

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: 30 Rock, Archer, Arrow, Being Human (US), The Daily Show, Don’t Trust The B—– in Apartment 23, Cougar Town, Elementary, Go On, Last Resort, Modern Family, Mr Selfridge, Shameless, Spartacus and Suits. These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

Being added to the list this week after rather a long time hovering close to the qualifying bar is Vegas – it’s not an absolute must-recommend but it’s about as good as network TV is probably ever going to be able to do with a period gangster show set in Las Vegas and it did have a cracker of an episode this week that managed to mix comedy with the nasty to great effect.

I’m also sticking Banshee on, even if it’s going to be a bit too ultraviolent for a lot of people and doesn’t exactly aim for verisimilitude a lot of the time. Spartacus is back and so is Top Gear: strange how the three presenters are great when they’re together, merely bearable when there’s two of them, and unbearable when it’s just one of them.

Some new shows started this week, none of which I had a chance to watch: The Americans, which has started on FX and has been acquired by ITV, which looks good but at two hours, was just a little bit too much for me to have caught in time; last night’s Do No Harm, which is a modern Jeckyll and Hyde story on NBC; BBC2’s Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe and Channel 4’s Derek with Ricky Gervais. I’ll review them all (or the first two at least) when I’ve had a chance to watch them, probably on Tuesday. Oh yes, and Netflix has the whole of the new House of Cards for us to watch, too.

Also in the viewing queue: this week’s episodes of Suits, 30 Rock and Yes Prime Minister. But that’s it.

Now, some thoughts on the regulars.

  • Archer: Timothy Olyphant from Justified is gay for Archer. As fun as always, with a great ending that used silence to maximum effect.
  • Arrow: I appreciate that the producers would probably rather be making ‘Batman: The Early Years’, but did they have to take an existing Green Arrow villain (Count Vertigo) and basically turn him into the Joker, even getting the actor to do an impression of Heath Ledger? Good ep though. The flashbacks could do with advancing the story a bit faster, now, and when are they going to make the IT/general purpose science girl a regular?
  • Being Human (US): Curious how they’re shifting the show’s power dynamics to make it more female-centric. Where once it was all about Aidan and Josh with Sally a bit of an after-thought (a bit like the original then), it’s now all about Aidan, Nora and Sally instead. Everything’s in flux though, so let’s see if they can stabilise with the new dynamic.
  • Bob Servant Independent: Tried watching it, but despite Brian Cox’s best efforts it’s the usual “small man in a small town trying to be big” stick that huge chunks of bad British comedy are based on. So I gave up.
  • The Carrie Diaries: Got about 10 minutes into episode two before we completely lost the ability to concentrate. We’ll try again but I suspect this is a definite dud.
  • The Following: Well, what an amazing turnround. After a deeply nasty first ep that was empty and full of misogyny, it’s like the producers have sat down, asked “What’s wrong with this show?” and done as much as they could to fix it. So they’ve amped up the characterisation, dropped a lot of the sadism, dropped the rubbish female character and added a couple of good and interesting female characters, added in some Scream meta-ness, and focused a lot more on character relationships. Don’t watch episode one, if I were you, but start watching from episode two instead. Assuming you fancy watching a show about Edgar Allen Poe-inspired serial killers, that is.
  • Go On: A good Lauren episode and a good expansion of the set up with some more incidental characters. But it really needs to get funnier if it’s too avoid cancellation, as well as drop a few of the more rubbish characters that are hogging up the screen time.
  • Mr Selfridge: The first downright poor episode of the show, more soap opera than drama, and with some terrible acting in some quarters. But still enjoyable and had a few interesting historical notes about ‘the rational dressing’ movement.
  • Spartacus: Usually, it takes the show two or three episodes before it settles down and stops being all about the swearing, sex and violence, and gets on with the plot. This season, they’ve leapt straight in with plot and characterisation. Yes, it’s still a blood-bath and there was an orgy or two – it is still Spartacus – but some clever plotting and writing and actually not much by way of ornate swearing for a change. Also featured Ty from The Almighty Johnsons in a bit part, which was odd.
  • Suits: A decent Louis episode but not as clever as in previous weeks.
  • Yes, Prime Minister: Episode two was a marked improvement on episode one, but watching re-runs of the original, it’s clear just how inferior the new version is, both in terms of writing and performance, and it’s actually a little offensive at times. All the same, it does have some insight and good qualities, so if you’ve nothing better to watch, try it.

“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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Dick Heads

Dick Heads: The entire cast of the Hobbit

The cast of the Hobbit

He may be playing a dwarf in The Hobbit, but you can probably tell that wasn’t typecasting for Richard Armitage, given how tall he is in comparison to the rest of the cast. See how many you recognise in this slightly blurry cast photo: I’ve spotted Sylvester McCoy, Andy Serkis, him off The Almighty Johnsons, him out of Being Human and Peter Jackson. Can’t see Sir Ian, Christopher Lee, Martin Freeman, Cate Blanchett, him off The Matrix or Liv Tyler (is she even in this one?), but maybe they’re hiding behind that plane.

Don’t forget to write a haiku if this inspires you in some way.

Got a picture of Richard Armitage’s head, preferably wearing a hat? Then leave a link to it below and if it’s judged suitable, it will appear in the “Dick Heads” gallery.