What did you watch last week? Including Breathless, Once Upon A Time in Wonderland and Witches of East End

It’s “What did you watch last week?, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I watched last 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, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. And if you want to know when any of these shows are on in your area, there’s Locate TV.

As usual, a bevy of reviews up last week, including:

I gave up on Ironside, midway through the second episode, on the grounds that it was rubbish and derivative, and spent all its time trying to prove what a man Ironside was. Sean Saves The World was only marginally funny and relied completely on Sean’s boss for those funny moments, so that’s being abandoned, too. Super Fun Night wasn’t even that funny and was actually kind of sad instead, so that’s being consigned to the “not interested” heap, too.

I tried the first episodes of a few other shows, none of which were good enough to continue being watched:

Breathless (ITV)
Jack Davenport is a 1960s surgeon/hottie in an ensemble piece that looks like a bad carbon copy of Call The Midwife, The Hour and Mad Men, without any of the interesting qualities of any of them.

Once Upon A Time In Wonderland (ABC)
Even duller spin-off from Once Upon A Time, this time focused on the grown-up Alice and her efforts to find her genie boyfriend Silas, aided by the Knave of Hearts (Michael Socha from Being Human) and the White Rabbit (John Lithgow). Almost completely impenetrable to anyone who hasn’t watched however many seasons it is of Once Upon A Time, and best described as having ‘scenes of mild peril, romance and humour, but nothing more’.

Witches of East End (Lifetime/Lifetime UK)
Julia Ormond is a witch. She has lots of witch daughters who are all grown up but don’t know they’re witches. There’s a bit of shagging, a bit of voodoo, but this is really one for fans of the book series this is based upon and for people who really loved Charmed when they were teenagers and have been hoping for something less complicated and interesting ever since. The only tolerable and enjoyable part of it was Madchen Amick.

Still in the viewing queue are last night’s Homeland and Serangoon Road. The third episode of Atlantis is about 15 minutes too long, 10 times too unfaithful to myth and about 7 times too dull to be enjoyable, but I’m bearing with it for now.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Strike Back (Cinemax/Sky 1)
Something of a return to form in terms of action scenes, with some hugely impressive shoot-outs. Good ending, too, even if you could probably see it coming a mile off.

Recommended shows
Arrow
(The CW/Sky 1)
The usual second season partial reboot we’ve come to expect from US shows, with people changing jobs, doing odd things, changing relationships, redecorating, etc, purely because there’s been a gap of a few months. Nevertheless, a really excellent first episode, the introduction by the looks of it of Black Canary and some decent stunt scenes. The flashbacks to the island are a bit unnecessary, though, now, even if does give us lots of Manu Bennett.

Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
After a decidedly regular and uninspired episode, a genuinely moving ending featuring a guest vocal appearance by Natalie Dormer as Jamie Moriarty which only made me want more.

Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
Funny and a determined improvement on the previous few weeks.

“What did you watch last 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: Serangoon Road 1×1-1×3 (ABC Australia/HBO Asia)

Serangoon Road

In Australia: Sundays, 8.30pm, ABC1
In Asia: Sundays, 9pm, HBO Asia

Australia’s been having something of a renaissance when it comes to quality TV of late, particularly in the realm of the period crime drama. We’ve already seen one rather fine effort this year: ABC1’s The Doctor Blake Mysteries, in which Craig McClachlan investigates crime in a small Victoria town in the 1950s. That’s been bought by the BBC and has already been renewed for a second season.

Now, in a co-production with HBO Asia (that network’s first ever original drama series), ABC1 are giving us Serangoon Road, a surprisingly enjoyable and intelligent private detective show. Set in Singapore in 1964, it stars Don Hany (East West 101) as Sam Callaghan, a former Australian soldier who helped the British during the Malay uprising of the 1950s and now helps Joan Chen (Twin Peaks), who has inherited her late husband’s detective business. Callaghan has to deal not only with the local criminals, including the Red Tiger gang, he has to cope with the sometimes helpful Americans (largely Michael Dorman of The Secret Life of Us), the usually unhelpful British and the occasional Australian ex-pat – in particular, Claire Simpson (Maeve Dermody), whose businessman husband is always absent…

Filmed in Malaysia and with an obviously large budget and a cast of huge Australian and Singaporean stars, it would be tempting to think Serangoon Road would be nothing but a beautiful-looking, historical bore. Instead, it’s a vibrant, exciting, multi-lingual show that brings to mind the likes of Bring Em Back Alive and Tales of the Gold Monkey, except thankfully with more intelligence.

Continue reading “Review: Serangoon Road 1×1-1×3 (ABC Australia/HBO Asia)”

What did you watch last week? Including Isabel, Mysteries of Lisbon, Agents of SHIELD and Atlantis

It’s “What did you watch last week?, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I watched last 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, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. 

With the US fall season upon us, naturally there’s a lot of new shows for me to review. Last week’s bonanza includes:

I also started watching the second episodes of several shows. Unfortunately for them, they were less than engrossing or funny, so I also stopped watching the second episodes of Trophy Wife and Back In The Game.

The first episode of Betrayal – ABC’s tale of rich professionals feeling unsatisfied with their lives so cheating on/murdering their partners – was just dreadful so not even worth a review. Hello Ladies, in which Stephen Merchant chats up lots of American women badly, was very well written but was distilled essence of Merchant’s brand of cringe comedy so I just found it unpleasantly unwatchable. 

Still in the viewing queue are: the third episode of the rather good Serangoon Road and Witches of East End, both of which I should be reviewing in full tomorrow. 

Other shows I tried
Mysteries of Lisbon (Sky Arts)
Acclaimed Portugese period drama, involving a school, a locked-up noblewoman and a lot of people describing things in flashback and then other people saying how interesting that was and then describing some other things in flashback. Very melodramatic in the truest sense of the world, so more for those with greater patience than I have.

Isabel (Sky Arts)
Game of Thrones but in Spanish and based on the real-life Queen Isabel I of Castile, one of the most important women in Spanish history. A lot more fun than I was expecting, although the subtitlers seem to get a bit confused by gender (“Isabel and Alfonso are his brothers” and when discussing a chess game, “If the queen is so important, why can she only move one square at a time?”, being some of the most amusing). Definitely one to try.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Agents of SHIELD (ABC/Channel 4)
Not even a cameo by Samuel L Jackson could enliven this extremely dull affair, which lacked Joss Whedon’s gift for dialogue and was basically an episode of Torchwood. In fact, worryingly, this is now almost exactly Torchwood and I’m not sure the world is ready for another one. Channel’s 4 re-editing of the episode to shift Jackson’s cameo to before the end credits was enjoyable hilarious, though. First episode review.

Atlantis (BBC1/BBC America)
Even more like Merlin than the first episode, right down to some distinctly British forest scenes. Even more liberties taken with myth. Jemima Rooper’s turned up, but even she – and some surprisingly good fight scenes – can’t lift this into the level of decently good. First episode review.

The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)
A good second episode for NBC’s most promising new drama. A bit of back-pedalling from the pilot and some fun duplicity from Spader’s character. Megan Boone’s character could do with some more personality, but enjoyable disposable tatt. First episode review

The Bridge (US)
Essentially, an episode designed not to wrap up ends but to ensure the series gets a second season. Not much that was good about the episode, though, and to be honest, it’s a minor echo of the original, so I’ll probably drop out for season two. Looking forward to seeing how Sky and Canal+ handle things when The Tunnel starts this month.

Strike Back (Cinemax/Sky 1)
Lots of soft-corn porn, some involving Stuart Sullivan shagging a Russian woman, the rest involving Philip Winchester running around naked in a medical experimentation unit, which I’m pretty sure happened two seasons ago, too. Some fun fire fights, although baddies can’t appear to shoot straight, but overall, this is turning into a distinctly less impressive season, buoyed up only by constant deaths.

Recommended shows
Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
Back to the regular routine for Elementary, which was a somewhat mundane tale, enlivened only by having its entire plot ripped off from Sneakers and making mathematical problem P vs NP the centre of the action.

Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
A decent enough set of three episodes to start the season with, the gay marriage episode being particularly good. But it’s basically business as usual here, without much innovation.

And in movies….

Agent Carter
Not technically a movie, being a bonus 15-movie Marvel One-Shot on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray, but an enjoyable enough period romp with Haley Atwell reprising her role from Captain America, Carter now a spy for the US in post-war America. Unfortunately, her boss (Bradley Whitford) thinks that women shouldn’t be doing men’s work, now the men are back from war, so Carter has to prove her worth. 

I really do hope this becomes a TV series, as rumours are suggesting, since it shows more promise than both episodes of Agents of Shield and has as many fun cameos (keep watching until after the titles…).

“What did you watch last 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?

What did you watch last week? Including The Almighty Johnsons, Elementary, Sleepy Hollow, The Bridge (US) and Strike Back

It’s “What did you watch last week?, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I watched last 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, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. Since I was a bit more on the ball last week than the week before, I’ve reviewed elsewhere the following new shows:

Still in the viewing queue, though: Isabel on Sky Arts and Mysteries of Lisbon, which is on on-demand at the moment but starts tomorrow, also on Sky Arts; as well as ABC’s Betrayal, which began last night, and HBO Asia’s first original TV series Serangoon Road.

I should point out that the final episode of The IT Crowd was great, a fitting conclusion to the series, and that we probably own a copy of Textile Merchant – Norfolk Expansion pack somewhere.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
The Bridge (US)
For what was basically the first original episode of the show, with absolutely nothing to draw on from the Danish-Swedish version, a surprisingly good bit of work that ties up all the loose ends involving secondary characters who largely got overlooked by that show. Fascinated to see how they end it, since the original’s conclusion was the most disappointing aspect of it and this could pip the US version ahead. Also of note is that Sonya Cross has essentially become a more plausible aspie, going from teenage aspie to adult aspie in her behaviour in the space of 12 episodes, which is equally fascinating to behold.

The Bridge TV Schedule

Sleepy Hollow (Fox/Universal Channel)
After a very promising first episode, Sleepy Hollow rapidly degenerated into a dull, mythology-bound, sillier X-Files with a hint of Buffy thrown in. A couple of digs at the British, of course, but a few jokes about modern-day technology didn’t lift the show much up beyond the average Grimm episode.

Sleepy Hollow TV Schedule

Strike Back (Cinemax/Sky 1)
Strike Back team go into Russian prison. Cue implausible fights, bad acting and more. Nevertheless, surprising in some aspects, including tolerance towards a transvestite prisoner.

Recommended shows
Elementary
(CBS/Sky Living)
The return of the other modern-day Sherlock Holmes series, this one set in New York. Except this episode went all the way to London. I was braced for some eye-rolling but actually, it was a very good TV England, with few Americanisms in the piece beyond the occasional weird bit of dialogue that hasn’t been said in England for 50 years (“Up to snuff”). Everything looked nice, and we had Rhys Ifans as a very different Mycroft Holmes from the ones we’ve seen before, and Sean Pertwee nicely hammy as a similarly different Inspector Lestrade. There were some great references, some subtle (Langdale Pike, The Norwood Builder), some not so subtle (221b), to the original stories. It was also one of the few Elementary episodes that actually felt like a modern day Holmes story, with a problem that seemed unsolvable and which was eventually solved with staggering insight but Holmes. A great start to the season and I’m looking forward to the rest of it now.

Elementary TV Schedule

The Almighty Johnsons
Wow. Superb ending to the season and perhaps even the series. If that’s it, it’ll be a great way to go out, even if not quite every story arc was resolved. Probably the best season of the show overall. Watch it if you haven’t been watching it already.

The Almighty Johnsons TV Schedule

“What did you watch last 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?

UK TV

Review: Atlantis 1×1 (BBC1/BBC America)

BBC1's Atlantis

In the UK: Saturdays, 8.25pm, BBC1. Available on the iPlayer
In the US: Saturdays, BBC America. Starts November 23
In Canada: Space. Starts October 12

Ever since Plato first mentioned it (and perhaps even before that), people have been fascinated by the story of Atlantis, a fabulous city that eventually sunk beneath the waves at the behest of Poseidon. Depending on who you talk to (and leaving aside some of the more exciting and loonier of theories), it was either a morality tale that Plato entirely fabricated or a memory of a genuine place, possibly even the Minoan colony on Santorini, which was destroyed c1600BC. Finding, locating and exploring it have been dreams of men and women ever since.

Equally, TV has been fascinated by both Atlantis (witness BBC1’s recent drama-documentary Atlantis, Stargate: Atlantis, Aquaman, The Man From Atlantis et al) and Greek myth (I ran down a big list of them a while back, if you’re interested), so it seemed natural that sooner or later there would be a show that united the two*: in this case, Atlantis from the producers of Merlin and the creator of, surprisingly enough, Misfits.  

However, as we discovered with Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans et al, there is something of a temptation as soon as the setting is ‘BC’ and Greek myth and/or history is involved to take 2,000 years of history and countless cultures from across the Mediterranean and squish them all into one big lump.

So brace yourself purists, because here we find a (seemingly) modern day guy called Jason (possibly of the Argonauts) sent back in time to Atlantis, a city that looks very craggy and North African and almost everyone dresses like they’re in a Sinbad movie (or even Prince of Persia or Sky1’s Sinbad). There he meets Pythagoras (sixth century Greek philosopher and mathematician from the island of Samos) and Hercules (Roman name for the Greek hero Herakles, who in myth lived around the 14th and 13th century BC and pretty much everywhere in Greece except Atlantis).

Surprisingly, Atlantis is ruled by King Minos (13th or 16th century BC ruler of the island of Crete) and he has to preside over a tribute of Atlantean victims (originally, victims demanded in tribute from Athens by Minos in return for continued peace) to a half-man, half-bull creature called the Minotaur, who was a man cursed by the gods for some reason (actually, the son of Minos’ wife Pasiphaë, who had a passion for bulls, after Minos decided to keep the bull Poseidon had given to him especially to sacrifice). Guess who’s going to have to kill it? I’ll give you a clue – it’s not Theseus, future king of Athens.

Sigh.

Nevertheless, for all that messing around with myth, Atlantis is a relatively fun but flawed piece of Saturday night family entertainment that’ll probably keep me watching for a while, at least. Here’s a trailer – minor spoilers ahoy after the jump:

Continue reading “Review: Atlantis 1×1 (BBC1/BBC America)”