US TV

What did you watch last week? Including The Almighty Johnsons, Dirk Gently, Shameless, The Mechanic and The Thin Man

Tom Cruise running in Cougar Town

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

First, the usual recommendations: The Almighty Johnsons, Archer, Being Human (US), BeTipul, Community, Cougar Town, The Daily Show, Happy Endings, House, Modern Family, Portlandia, Ringer, Shameless (US), Southland, Spartacus, Suburgatory, 30 Rock and Top Gear. Assuming they’re on where you live, of course.

The observant will have noticed that I’ve promoted The Almighty Johnsons to the A-list there. I’ve caught up to those lovely New Zealanders now and I’d have to say that the first season is really good and really takes over from about episode eight onwards; the second season is a lot darker though, has some holes in the cast that the show really feels, as well as some changes to the set-up and general approach to the show – away from gods v goddesses to gods v (spoiler) Loki – that make it weaker. But it’s still a good show and the signs are that subsequent episodes will repair some of the damage. But what’s with Anders’ beard and all the rubbish new haircuts for everyone?

Now, some thoughts on the regulars:

  • Being Human (US): a slightly obvious twist last week that was still a good change for the show. Much better than the UK version now
  • Community: As close to normal as Community gets, and fabulous.
  • Cougar Town: Not just the Scrubs crossover to end all crossovers but we got ‘Tom Cruise-running’ as well. Excellent work all round.
  • Dirk Gently: Different in tone from the first episode, with Matt James (Doctor WhoThe Impossible Planet) on scripting duties. Less a holistic mystery than an actual mystery, it was easy to guess the very sci-fi explanation for what had happened, but that didn’t actually matter. It was even surprisingly touching. One complaint: St Cedds (good), not filming in Cambridge (bad).
  • Happy Endings: A bottle episode, but a well-handled bottle episode, particularly the body swap at the end. Yes, you read that right.
  • Kung Fu: Second season now. The fighting’s getting better. The scripts aren’t getting faster, though, even with ninja.
  • Modern Family: Meh. So so.
  • Ringer: What? I mean seriously, what? Those flashbacks to Siobhan and Andrew made literally no sense within the context of the first two episodes of the show. But it’s Ringer, so what was I expecting?
  • Shameless: Heart-rending two episodes in which to see dreams crushed by other people. One that Ayn Rand-ists should watch.
  • She-Wolves: England’s Early Queens: Didn’t actually watch this one, but my lovely wife did and she reports that it’s quite good in and of itself, but if you know anything about the period before Elizabeth, it’s very basic and you won’t learn much.
  • Southland: Wow. What an episode. This week’s the finale. This should be traumatic.
  • Spartacus: Really very awesome (haven’t watched Friday’s yet), thanks to an influx of Germans, although the constant use of rape as a way to elevate the danger levels is getting very tired. I’m now almost used to Liam McIntyre as Spartacus, even though he’s still not up there with Andy Whitfield.
  • Suburgatory: a bit more drama than comedy, but good to see Robin Givens still getting work.
  • 30 Rock: The return of Dennis! Yey! And “You Soloed me” – a classic line.

And in movies:

  • The Thin Man: a classic Dashiell Hammett story, while the plot is typical 1920s/30s intricate murder-mystery, it’s absolutely worth watching for possibly the first depiction of a modern marriage in a film:

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Despite the presence of Terry Gilliam behind the camera and Johnny Depp in front, absolutely not a patch on the book and curiously uninvolving.

  • The Mechanic: Jason Statham takes on the Charles Bronson role in this unspectacular remake of the 70s movie about a professional hitman who takes on an assistant. A few good set pieces, but lacking the humour of the average Statham film, as well as the characteristic fight scenes, this is basically a movie by the numbers but with a few elements that take it above the normal. Reasonable enough, but don’t expect to see anything new.

How about you?

“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

Mini-review: Danger 5 (SBS1) 1×1

Danger 5

In Australia: Mondays, 9.30pm, SBS1. Available on the SBS web site (Australians only)

So imagine a world where the Second World War is happening in the 1960s, Hitler is still alive and five secret agents from around the world have ganged up to try to stop the Nazis.

What do you mean, “Why?” Because I tell you to, that’s why.

Actually, that’s a very good question that maybe we should ask the creators of Australian show Danger 5, who seem to have taken some peyote while watching Thunderbirds, The Prisoner, The Champions, Inglourious Basterds, the Godzilla movies and huge amounts of those bizarre 1960s eurospy movies that Tanner writes about. They’ve come up with a very precise pastiche/homage that tries to walk the line between affectionate and mental, except the peyote is so strong the line actually looks like a blancmange being ridden by Anne of Cleves.

So we have Hitler sending out zeppelins to steal the Eiffel Tower in scenes that remind you of Derek Meddings’ efforts on a bad day; someone with an eagle’s head dressed like Patrick MacGoohan in The Prisoner; deliberately bad dubbing; seductive, smoking, talking robot dogs; bad accents; Champions-like telepathy; exploitation cinema bondage scenes; and more – but for no apparent reason other than it looks cool and people who love the 60s will go “Oh yes, that’s from X”. There’s no plot coherence and no real jokes.

It looks fantastic. A lot of work has obviously gone into it. But it’ll leaving you wondering what the whole thing is supposed to accomplish and why you should be watching it. Even more than Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, in fact.

Here’s a trailer in case you missed it the first time I showed you and the Internet-only pilot episode so you can see for yourself.

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US TV

What did you watch last week? Including Being Human (US), House, Portlandia and The Almighty Johnsons

Elisha Cuthbert on Happy Endings

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

First, the usual recommendations: Archer, Being Human (US), Cougar Town, The Daily Show, House, Happy Endings, Modern Family, Portlandia, Ringer, Shameless (US), Southland, Spartacus, Suburgatory, 30 Rock and Top Gear.

  • The Almighty Johnsons: Seems to be finding its feet and the goddesses are starting to get a look in. Still not exceptional but a fun hour or so.
  • America’s Next Top Model: Strange to see all the Brits from Britain’s Next Top Model coming over to compete – and being nice to each other.
  • Archer: Yet to have a duff episode this season, although the return of Barry the cyborg isn’t especially welcome.
  • Being Human (US): Have been so uninterested in the UK version that I’ve dropped that altogether, particularly since the US one seems to be doing such a good job with its second season. Although the Sally stuff feels lightweight, the vampire and werewolf intrigue is infinitely superior to the UK storylines and we seem to have skipped the thankless fundamentalist scientist storyline as well. Which is a bonus
  • Braquo: Finally finished the whole of the first season. It continued in its usual vein of a bunch of cops doing some massively stupid things for no good reason other than to cover up the last load of massively stupid things it did. But when it did ultraviolence it was very good and the surprising ending just about justified the whole show.
  • Happy Endings: A surprising Colin Hanks cameo. What is more surprising though is just how good a comic actress Elisha Cuthbert is. Good to see her getting to be funny after all these years of… not being funny.
  • House: Billy Connolly!
  • Portlandia: Johnny Marr on a bike!
  • Ringer: The craziness continues and Ioan is a bad seed!
  • Southland: Slightly disappointing conclusion to last week’s cliffhanger, but a great episode all the same.
  • Suburgatory: Possibly the funniest dream sequence ever

“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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UK TV

FFS, TV companies – learn to spell!

So I’m watching an episode of The Almighty Johnsons on SyFy last week, when what pops up at the end:

The Almighty Johnsons Epsiode

Do you want a sneak peek of next week’s ‘epsiode’ (sic)? No, me neither.

Anyway, I assume that’s a one-off. But I’m watching Kung Fu on CBS Action not half an hour later and what do I see?

Kung Fu Episdoe

Yes, there’s going to be a new ‘episdode’ (sic) tonight.

Episode: it’s not a hard word to spell. It’s the kind of word that you’d think TV networks would have to be able to spell correctly on frequent occasions, it being quite vital to their business. So why can’t they spell it correctly?

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US TV

What did you watch this week (w/e February 24)?

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

First, the usual recommendations: Archer, Being Human (US), Cougar Town, The Daily Show, House,  Happy Endings, Modern Family, Portlandia, Ringer, Royal Pains, Shameless (US), Southland, Spartacus, Suburgatory and 30 Rock. Do watch them (if you can and they happen to be on TV this week). The Almighty Johnsons is still in my view pile and there are a couple of other things that I’m going to be reviewing in the next day or so, including Those Who Kill (aka Den Som Dræber) and Justice League: Doom

  • Caerdydd: Slowly catching up on this about a year (or two) since we recorded it. Not as good as the previous series, but still great fun.
  • Modern Family: Very sweet
  • Ringer: Nice guest cameo by Misha Collins from Supernatural, and thankfully the whole thing was as ludicruous as always.
  • Royal Pains: Ah, the never-ending slow progress of the plot. And for a finale episode, incredibly badly written – bad dialogue, obviously plotting and no real draw for the next series and that might work in a lazy summer show, but in winter, you need to be a whole lot sharper.
  • 30 Rock: Great cameos by Jim Carrey and Andie MacDowell. But very strange.
  • Southland: I could see the cliffhanger coming a mile off, but still great work. Whoever does the trailers for TNT needs to be shot, since they give away the resolution to the cliffhanger.
  • Spartacus: Back on track now, with a very well paced and plotted episode, although the crunch moment (ho, ho) was an obvious twist. Good to see the return of Gannicus, too. Pondering Spartacus, it amazes me that it’s so popular. Although there’s the obvious, nudity, swearing and massive violence, complete with bloody entrails, we’re talking about a historical story, set in a foreign country, with no Americans (obviously) in the cast, people talking in pseudo-Shakespearian language, gay men front and centre, full frontal male nudity and the whole thing largely filmed and staged like theatre. It breaks all the rules, but yet people love it. Isn’t cable great?

And in movies:

  • Real Steel: Rocky with robots and Hugh Jackman. Surprisingly fun and not awful, although Evangeline Lilly is very much lost in a somewhat tedious "deadbeat father and son work out their differences by building and training a boxing robot" story that has no room for women unless they’re dead or wearing Gucci cocktail dress with cut-outs. But some great robot boxing, including a final homage to Ali’s rope-a-dope trick against Foreman. Wonder if they’ll turn ‘Zeus’ into a lean, mean fat-reducing machine.

"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?