What did you watch this week (w/e February 3)?

(Belated again) time for "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), The Daily Show, House, Modern Family, Happy Endings, 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).

Not a huge amount of new stuff to talk about, but my review of the first episode of The Almight Johnsons will be going up tomorrow.

Here’s what I did watch:

  • 30 Rock: Funnier than most of the previous two seasons.
  • Shameless (US): Lacking some of the edge of the first season but still good.
  • Ringer: Back and as silly and mental as ever. Nice to see evil villainness Siobhan being given a human side at last.
  • Top Gear: Haven’t seen this week’s yet, but the opening episode was a return to form and actually funny.
  • Braquo: Finally got around to watching episodes two to four of this French show, which I reviewed before Christmas. Not as OTT as the first episode and very compelling, but the whole show makes you think "My God, French police are perhaps the most colossally stupid people on Earth." Braquo‘s lot make the ones in Engrenages look competent. Was Inspector Clouseau onto something? They alll seem to turn up without the slightest hint of a plan, do something mentally stupid and then realise afterwards that maybe they shouldn’t have done it. You know, like accidentally murdering the suspect. Or those drug dealers they were going to give the drugs, too. What’s even worse is the show’s continual suggestion that these cops are "the best of the best", cops should stick together no matter what and internal affairs officers are pure evil with bad haircuts.
  • Portlandia: Starting to edge away from ‘funny’ towards merely ‘clever’.

And in movies:

  • What’s your Number? An attempt at a clever, edgy rom-com, in which Anna Faris decides she’s slept with too many men already (20), so hunts down old boyfriends, hoping that one of the ones she’s already slept with will turn out to be the one and she’ll not have to sleep with yet another one. Largely dedicated to getting Chris Evans (The Fantasic Four, Captain America) to spending as little time as possible in clothes, the movie is utterly predictable and has only about three funny bits, but has cameos from Martin Freeman, Eliza Coupe (Scrubs, Happy Endings) and Zachary Quinto (Heroes, American Horror Story), and is quite pleasing, subversive and romantic in its own way. But you will be watching the clock a lot during 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?

Advertisements
Advertisements
US TV

What did you watch this week (w/e January 20)?

Time for "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), The Daily Show, Modern Family, Happy Endings, Portlandia, Royal Pains, Shameless (US), Southland, Suburgatory and 30 Rock. Do watch them.

Still in the viewing queue from last week are Eternal Law, The L.A. Complex and Arctic Air. I get the impression I won’t watch any of them. As predicted, I deleted Borgen from the viewing queue since I’m now four episodes behind. I’ve now got the second episodes of Are You There, Chelsea? and Shameless (US) to get through, too, as well as the first episode of Smash and the first episode of the new series of Mad Dogs.

But I did manage to watch the first episodes of a few new shows:

  • Rob: Rob Schneider (yes, Deuce Bigalow himself) plays an OCD guy who marries a woman virtually on impulse and gets to meet her extensive Mexican family, including her dad, played by the 1970s’ Rob Schneider, Cheech Marin. I was expecting to absolutely hate it, but it did display at least a few signs of intelligence and originality… for all of 10 minutes, after which the ridiculous farce and extensive Mexican stereotypes kicked in and I switched off. So better than Mike and Molly but not as good as 2 Broke Girls then.
  • The Finder: A spin-off from the tepid Bones, in which a man (and two sidekicks, including Michael Clarke Duncan) who can find things… finds things. Exciting, huh? Watched the first five minutes, during which our hero was shot at with an automatic while running down a narrow corridor, yet survived to tell the tale, and figured I’d pretty much got the measure of the show. An affable enough dramedy, but in no sense remarkable at all.
  • Stella: Sky 1’s new comedy-drama starring and written by Ruth Jones of Gavin & Stacey fame. Now, we were a little divided about this one, because I didn’t think it that great, while my lovely Welsh wife said it was almost exactly like being back home: even if it wasn’t necessarily funny all the time, it was always incredibly well observed. However, we stopped after 10 minutes of episode 2, since it just started to get a bit miserable and unenjoyable. It should also be pointed out this had the worst title sequence of any UK TV show since 1985.

A few thoughts on some of the regulars:

  • Portlandia: after the fabulous first BSG sketch from this episode, expectations were high for the follow-ups. The next wasn’t as good, and neither was the final sketch, but it saw a reunion of James Callis, Edward James Olmos and Ronald D Moore so was worth it all to see them watching Doctor Who together at the end. 
  • 30 Rock: Slowly decreasing in funniness, but a couple of good moments.
  • Royal Pains: back and starting to feel a little less like it’s treading water than it did over summer. Signs of plot progression? We can only hope.
  • Being Human (US): the first episode is doing a repeat of series 1, by starting the same way the UK series did. But this time, lessons appear to have been learnt. While a little darker and less engrossing than it was towards the end of series 1, the episode picked up after the first 15 minutes or so to give us a better version of the original. Sally’s plotline was fun without the comedy overkill of Annie’s, and Nora is essentially a pleasant but still sparky version Nina, which means she’s actually watchable (ditto Josh v George and Tovey’s over-acting). We also had some great vampire moments and fights courtesy of Sam Witwer’s Aidan. On the whole, I’m looking forward to this series much more than I am to series 4 of the UK original.
  • Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville – dreadful, illogical and obvious; The Reichenbach Fall – much better, although dragged in the middle. Looking forward to the next series!
  • Suburgatory: Sweet, and an interesting ending.
  • Southland: As usual, cast changes aplenty. We have Lucy Liu making a surprisingly good street cop; Arija Bareikis seems to have disappeared, as has every detective who isn’t Regina King (or her new partner). It basically feels like a slight retooling to focus on the best bits of the show – the beat cop side – away from the detectives. A little bit bitty as an episode, but with a cracking firefight and some great moments. Welcome back Southland!

And in movies:

  • Paradox: An odd little movie that you can find on SyFy now and then. Based on a comic book, it stars Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, himself) as a detective who lives in a world much like our own but that uses magic the way we use science. Winston Churchill helped to defeat the Germans in World War 2 using the power of Excalibur and is still alive; wizards run the government and coroners bring people back from the dead to answer questions about their murders. Except there’s crossover between the two worlds and Sorbo has to learn how to deal with science and technology. Let down by the gimmicky addition of comic book artwork in between scenes, it’s quite fun, although never going to win any awards.

"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?

Advertisements
US TV

What did you watch this week (w/e December 23)?

The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff

Time for "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.

Last one of these before Christmas and the New Year, so get your recommendations in now, since there are people out there with time on their hands and awkward conversations to avoid and some decent TV might be a lifesaver.

  • American Horror Story: End of the season and it’s all change. Overall, a very silly show that was never really scary, just gory when it chose to be. Right, who’s going to give Alex Breckenridge a job?
  • The Bleak Old Shop of Stuff: Essentially, Radio 4’s Bleak Expectations transposed to the small screen as a single-camera comedy and with a very famous cast (Mitchell and Webb, Stephen Fry, Katherine Parkinson). The trouble is it doesn’t work as well. The same verbal jokes are there but they flutter by quickly without an audience to laugh at them and give time for gaps in the dialogue. There’s CGI for some of the more outlandish fantasies (none of them as outlandish as radio can conjure up though) and the whole thing feels like 300 thanks to the copious amounts of green screen, but none of that was actually funny, and was again largely about verbal puns. And at an hour, the run-time of the story was far too long. All the same, it raised at least the regulation amount of laughs, which is more than you can say about Life’s Too Short and Rev these days.
  • Dexter: An episode marginally better in quality than the previous ones, but largely because of the ending, which should have been how the previous season ending. Overall, a very disappointing season that together with last season’s finale burnt up most of the goodwill and excitement surrounding the show. Fingers crossed next year will be better and at least there’s something interesting for the show to address.
  • Homeland: By turns, exactly what I expected, yet also surprising. Given the plot mechanics needed for a second season, it was obvious what was going to happen, but I was hoping for (spoiler) Brody to trigger the bomb. But beyond that, there were enough twists that I didn’t see coming and enough overall intelligent writing to satisfy me. However, the finale, together with a few of the preceding episodes, also showed the programme’s roots in 24, with many of the same tropes, just approached differently and slightly more realistically.
  • Life’s Too Short: Finally caught some of this. Pretty much exactly like every other Ricky Gervais-scripted show, particularly Extras, but without the laughs.
  • Misfits: Better than series two, with some real standout episodes, but another season that didn’t really go anywhere with the characters, even though they developed slightly. Season four really needs to start heading in a different direction and start fleshing everything out more.
  • Rev: The Christmas episode and just miserable.
  • Shameless: Yes, I’ve seen the first episode of the second season, and beyond a slightly worrying trend towards making Fiona more of a ‘winner’, this is still excellent stuff and Emmy Rossum is great. They’ve also recast Jane Levy’s part, since she’s off starring in Suburgatory now.

And in movies:

  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows: Not as good as the first Robert Downey Jr movie. Stephen Fry is oddly unsuited to the role of Mycroft, it turns out and the replacement of Rachel McAdams with Noomi Rapace from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo robs the movie of a vital element as well. But Kelly Reilly’s back, Jared Harris makes a fabulous Moriarty, the script is actually quite good, Jude Law is better than in the first movie and the ‘fight scene’ between Moriarty and Holmes is memorable, as is the coda at the end. Silly, but enjoyable and smarter than many a blockbuster, even if this is less detective story than action adventure movie.

"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?

Advertisements
US TV

What did you watch this week (w/e December 16)?

Dustin Hoffman and Michael Mann

Time for “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.

The A-Team: Misfits, Modern Family, Happy Endings, and Homeland.

The B-Team: Dexter and Rev.

Yes, we’re back on Fridays, mainly because everyone seems to be sticking the good stuff on TV on Sundays and I don’t watch things live, but also because Mondays can be a bit tricky for me whereas Fridays are a lot easier.

Anyway, a few thoughts on what I’ve been watching:

  • Luck: So this should be TV gold. Michael Mann and David Milch behind the camera; Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Farina, Nick Nolte et al in front; and it’s all set in the high stakes world of horse racing and gambling. Yet was it incredibly dull? Yes. Could barely sit through it. It probably didn’t help that everyone mumbled their lines so I couldn’t make out what most of the cast were saying. This was just the pilot: the series itself starts in January on HBO, but I won’t be tuning in. Ratings were pretty poor, too, so don’t expect it to last more than a season.
  • American Horror Story: Yes, still watching. It’s largely been crud and I’ve forward wound through lots of it. This week’s episode, written by Tim Minear, however, was about half-tolerable (the second half, to be precise).
  • I Hate My Teenage Daughter: Episode two was actually more palatable than episode 1 but also more boring. Standard sitcom set-up, you can understand why some people might like it, but ultimately so bereft of redeeming qualities, such as laughs, the whole thing is so bad, I had to give up after about five minutes.
  • Dexter: The show’s stupidest season limps towards its conclusion. Even more implausible than last year’s season finale in terms of plotting and character, on top of that, we have (spoiler alert) Debs fancying Dexter. Ew! I think I’m going to tap out after the end of the season, unless someone tells me there’s a great big pick up in quality next season. Bye, Dexter, it was nice knowing you.
  • Homeland: Thank Apollo and the Muses themselves for Homeland, TV drama’s almost sole redeeming show at the moment. Excellent work by Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin this week. It should be fascinating to see where they go with it on Sunday and the next season.
  • Misfits: A fun episode that’s best not thought about too hard.
  • Rev: Sometimes I wonder why I’ve developed this Pavlovian conditioned reflex towards British TV of late. I just can’t face watching it, even if it could be really good (Dark Mirror, Downton Abbey, etc). I’m starting to think it’s shows like Rev that are part of the problem. I really liked the first series of Rev. It was refreshing and fun. The first episodes were the best and there were some hints of cringe comedy towards the end, but it was a really good show. Come the second series and it’s become cringe comedy, miserable and like having a tooth pulled. You get lured in and then you get crushed. That’s the real reason we only have six episodes per series in the UK: we’re almost fundamentally incapable, it seems, of writing more than about six good episodes of something. Grr.

And in movies:

  • Universal Soldier: Regeneration: Now, I know what you’re thinking. What on earth possessed me, particularly since the first movie wasn’t really the greatest, to watch its third (or is it the fourth) sequel? Well, it was there. But guess what: despite being toplined by Andrei ‘The Pitbull’ Arlovski, Universal Soldier: Regeneration is actually better than all the other Universal Soldier movies put together, as well as the likes of Terminator 3. It’s smarter, more thoughtful, has better action scenes and is shot in the style of The Bourne Supremacy. Very weird. The second half loses it a little, with all the set-up essentially dropped in favour of fights, and Dolph Lundgren’s appearance is basically a cameo but actually a reasonable low-budget action movie.

And in books

  • The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: I finally finished reading it. It’s okay. Not great. Just okay. Lacks a lot of the humour of a proper Kermode rant, so it’s just him throwing out facts and saying things are rubbish.
  • Bad Science: Ben Goldacre’s take-down of media reporting, nutritionists, et al. Overly technical in style at times, it’s not so much “bad science” as “bad medicine” but it should be compulsory reading for anyone who’s ever read a food story in the paper and believed it. I’m up to the chapter on Gillian McKeith – that should be 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?

Advertisements
US TV

What did you watch last week (w/e October 28)?

Batman Year One

Time for “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.

My recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: Dexter, Modern Family, Happy Endings, Homeland, Suburgatory and Community.

Things you might enjoy but that I’m not necessarily recommending: Being Erica, House, Chuck and Ringer.

In the backlog: Friday’s Boss, Sunday’s Walking Dead, Braquo and Dexter, and last night’s House. I’ll be reviewing Grimm later today.

A few thoughts on the regulars:

  • Dexter: most seasons of Dexter don’t really get interesting until episode seven, which is probably why I’m feeling very bored watching it at the moment, despite the presence of Edward James Olmos in a show set in Miami. I’m hoping it’ll kick off soon.
  • Chuck: boring. Sorry, I’m still not sure why this show is still limping on. It’s vaguely amusing, has a couple of fun pop culture references each episodes, but I’m struggling to work out why I’m still watching it, beyond “because it’s on its final season and you’ve been watching it for four years”. Except there’s talk of possibly another season after this, so messed up are NBC’s ratings at the moment.
  • Happy Endings: has entered the “season 2 of Friends” paradigm in which the characters get a little broader and a little more stereotypical, while the plots get sillier. But it was good to have an episode in which Alex got to shine – imagine that: a show in which Elisha Cuthbert is actually good.
  • Homeland: after nothing but brilliance since the first episode, this week’s was the first episode that felt a little disappointing, just because it didn’t feel like anything had actually been achieved by the narrative that wasn’t obvious and predictable. It’s still the best drama on TV though.
  • American Horror Story: a simple formula – no Alex Breckenridge, no watch. She wasn’t in it this week so I didn’t feel compelled to watch it, which should tell you something about the show.
  • Community: loved Abed’s Halloween story – you can tell Dan Harmon is almost as Asperger’s as Abed is – and it’s great to see the show on form again.
  • Suburgatory: still great, so clearly I’m going to have to revise my rule from “only great when Emily Kapnek writes it” to “only great when women write it”
  • The Walking Dead: more engrossing and scary than previous episodes, but has a treading water feel to it.
  • Strike Back: Project Dawn: the final episode managed to ditch its trademark female nudity in favour of ludicrous plot revelations. If you were expecting an explosive conclusion, you’d have been surprised, since there were few set pieces. On the whole, a largely ridiculous season in terms of plot and very misogynistic, but absolutely far and away the best action show on British TV: no other show, not even Spooks, comes close to being able to shootouts, car chases, et al as well Strike Back.
  • Once Upon A Time: Largely the same as the first episode except more boring. A few nuggets of interesting ideas in there, but the show still has the big problem that the baddies are the only interesting characters in the whole thing and most of the show is dedicated to them and explaining their motivations. Also, when your idea of an action sequence is chopping down a tree, you really need to up the ante on the excitement levels.

And in the movies section was Batman: Year One (available on DVD/Blu-Ray from Amazon as well as from the iTunes Store), which was based on Frank Miller’s legendary graphic novel (parts of which were used for Batman Begins), this was a surprisingly faithful adaptation, not just in terms of plot and text, but also in terms of art. Some of the darker edges were removed – the insanity of “Yes, father, I will become a bat” got expunged – as well as some of Miller’s more misogynistic tendencies – the Bruce Wayne/Selina Kyle fight is a draw in this rather than an easy knockout for Bruce. The animation was also a little cheap at times, at least with things like moving cars, which looked very CGI. But really good, if a little inconclusive (for obvious reasons) and a surprising but effective choice of vocal cast (Ben McKenzie from Southland as Bruce Wayne, Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad as Jim Gordon, Katee Sackhoff from BSG as Sarah Essen and Eliza Dushku from Dollhouse as Selina Kyle).

It came with a Catwoman short movie that’s not only exploitative but boring and with Dushkua clearly as bored as we are, so best ignore that. Makes you wonder, though, given the quality of the main feature, why the cocked up so badly with the Wonder Woman animated movie they did a few years ago, which managed to mangle not just the characters and WW’s origin, but also managed to make WW a largely unpowered, unlikeable misandrist. If they can be this faithful to essentially a non-canon 20-year old graphic novel, why not do a better job with Perez’s WW origin series?

“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?