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What did you watch last week? Including Playhouse Presents, Tales of Television Centre, Iron Man: Extremis and Prisoners of War

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 I’ve missed them.

The usual recommendations from the first-run shows are (oh gods, summer has arrived): The Apprentice, Cougar Town, The Daily Show, Mad Men, and Prisoners of War. Hunt them down.

Still in my review backlog: Continuum, which I hope to do tomorrow.

But here’s a few thoughts on the regulars:

  • The Almighty Johnsons – essentially the same finale as last year (a case of mistaken goddess identity) but some fun and interesting wrinkles in the set-up. And yes, someone was actually smited. About time, too. No news on whether there’s a third season, yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed
  • Awake – Now that I know that he didn’t wake up and it was all a dream, I’m a lot happier with the ending, which while satisfying in a lot of ways, did have a somewhat confusing final five minutes. It’s a shame they didn’t get a second season, since the last few episodes showed that the creators realised that procedurals weren’t the way forward and they were going to do more interesting things. Too late, though. Fingers crossed for that Jason Isaacs Emmy though.
  • Prisoners of War – Our Carrie has arrived – and he’s a bald, middle aged bloke. Having watched Homeland, it’s not hard to guess where the show will be going next in terms of what transpired while they were in captivity and whether the third POW is really dead or not, but nothing’s guaranteed.
  • House – a somewhat insubstantial ending redeemed only by the number of cameos they managed to sneak in and the fact they went again for the Sherlock Holmes reference with a faked death. But the show’s been firing half-cocked for several seasons now, so a non-world changing finale was pretty much guaranteed. A shame – I wish it had been cancelled about three seasons ago now.
  • Playhouse Presents – Better in theory than practice, with Gina McKee’s Byker Grove nurse episode a couple of weeks ago ultimately a mood piece rather than having any real plot, although it was a tense, well-directed and well-acted affair. I’ve yet to see last week’s one by Matthew Holness in which Dougie Henshall is a lone sniper in a post-apocalyptic rabies wasteland, but that description alone makes me want to watch it badly.
  • Don’t Trust the B—- – A fun cameo by Dean Cain and a surprisingly whacky incorporation of David Krumholtz as a manga artist means this will be on the recommended list for sure when it comes back in the Fall. Debuted well on E4, too, I hear.
  • Modern Family – it’s the end of the season, so there must be plot movement for a change. But a funny episode, too. Consistently okay to good this season, but never as hilarious as it was in the beginning.
  • Tales of Television Centre – a chance for a load of old actors and production staff to reminisce about the 1970s and 1980s, particularly those on Doctor Who. It’s been a long time since I watched a documentary about TV where I learnt a lot, but this was one. Good fun and informative, too.

And in movies:

  • Spider-woman and Iron Man: Extremis: Marvel has been plonking a few of its “motion comics” onto Netflix so I thought I’d try some. Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD reminded me of why I don’t read Marvel much – very silly plots about shadow secret organisations coupled with 1950s-style space operas just isn’t my cup of tea – so I dropped that after 15 patient minutes. The artwork’s actually very good and the actress they got to voice Spider-Woman worked well. It was just a rubbish story…

  • …whereas Iron Man: Extremis was a slightly different story. This featured a storyline by the marvellous Warren Ellis (remind me: when is Global Frequency airing again? Hee hee) and featuring the artwork of Adi Granov, whose version of the Iron Man outfit ended up being the one used in the movies. Here the original comic was animated to feel like a ‘Max Payne’ interstitial, but being a ‘Marvel Knights’ production – essentially Marvel’s version of DC’s Vertigo adult label, but taking adult to mean extremely violent (cf Punisher: War Zone) – it was all about the gross out and nastiness factor.
    Extremis is (spoiler alert) rumoured to be the basis for Iron Man 3, but although some of it was used for Iron Man, I’ll be very surprised if any of this gets through, because as well as the ultra-violence, it’s such a nerdy, hard SF, body-horror concept that I can’t see it playing well in Peoria, as the saying goes. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting 1h15 that stays true to the comics, including a guest visit by John Pilger… sorry Pillinger. Have a watch if you can find it.

John Pilger in Iron Man: Extremis

“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?

“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 last week? Including Prisoners of War, The Bridge and Mission: Impossible 4

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 I’ve missed them.

The usual recommendations from the first-run shows are: The Almighty Johnsons, The Apprentice, Awake, The Bridge, Community, Cougar Town, The Daily Show, Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23, House, Mad Men, Modern Family, Prisoners of War, Suburgatory and 30 Rock. Hunt them down.

So after last week’s not-too-shocking dumping of Touch, it’s time to reveal that I’m dropping Veep and (drum roll) Mad Men. Veep just feels too weak compared to The Thick Of It, which it resembles more and more with every passing week, whereas despite the huge quality of Mad Men, it doesn’t feel like a show that’s really going anywhere any more. There’s no story arc – it’s just some ad people doing their jobs and realising that maybe they’re getting too old for this sh*t.

Now here’s a few thoughts on the regulars:

  • Missing – Thank God that’s over. Despite its decent beginning, it quickly became intensely stupid and so obsessed with ‘family’ (all American TV is fundamentally about family – discuss) that I rapidly lost patience with him. The finale had precisely no surprises, beyond the ridiculous attempt to set up a second season right at the end. What a waste of time.
  • The Almighty Johnsons – pretty weak for the first half of the episode, although it was good to see Mike and Michele’s relationship evolving into something nicer. But the second half was full of yet more revelations and the surprise return of Loki. redeeming everything for the season finale. Wonder what’s going to happen with Ty now?
  • Awake – They knew their number was up by this point, didn’t they? At least the conspiracy turned out not to be too stupid. But will the final episode this week reveal what’s been going on?
  • Community – A lovely way to end the season and Digital Estate Planning was an absolute work of genius.
  • The Bridge – Slightly disappointing as a conclusion, with a few absurdities to swallow, the fact that everything came down to Rohde and the revelation of just how many red (pickled) herrings there have been along the way, in particular Stefan and his sister, and everything to do with the ‘truth terrorism’. A bit of bad green screen work at the end as well. But some gutsy moves, high-quality, intelligent writing all round and Sofia Helin’s standout performance as Saga Norén made it probably the best show of the year so far for me.
  • 30 Rock – okay as a season finale, but really just an obvious set-up to write out Elizabeth Banks, given her movie schedule being what it is. I wonder if that Tyler Perry reference will get them into trouble?
  • Happy Endings – mysteriously, we in the UK have been show this episode, Kickball 2: The Kickening, despite it not having aired on US TV. I don’t know why it didn’t air in the US or whether it will, but I suspect it’s because it wasn’t very good.
  • Suburgatory – the return of showrunner Emily Kapnek to writing duty was as welcome as always, giving us satire, humour and pathos in equal measure. A slightly odd way to end the season, given that it leaves Tessa looking a bit evil, but a good first run all the same. I wonder if Alicia Silverstone will be a regular next season?
  • Prisoners of War – has now completely diverged from Homeland, beyond the ‘tapping code’ (you know what I mean). Episode two is essentially an interrogation episode. Really very good – go watch it.

And in movies:

  • The Good Shepherd: Robert de Niro directed this story about the creation of the CIA by the likes of William Hurt and Matt Damon. Features a mysteriously unageing cast including Angelina Jolie, Alec Baldwin and Pushing Daisies‘ Lee Pace, it’s a relatively solid spy story that’s still pretty unremarkable, all the same.

  • Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol: Despite being directed by Brad Bird, this still felt like the JJ Abrams film that preceded it. Possibly the most escapist one of the lot so far, it lacked the vital wow factor of previous efforts (it may have been great in IMAX, mind), but was more humorous, largely thanks to Simon Pegg, and the addition of Jeremy Renner as the franchise’s possible Tom Cruise replacement worked well. Michael Nyqvist was absolutely wasted, though.

  • Land of the Pharaohs: A Howard Hawks movie from the 1950s with Joan Collins that tells the story (or a story) of the creation of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. A bit of tatt I accidentally recorded thinking it was something else, it’s nothing extraordinary in terms of script, which is quite dreadful to be honest, but has some amazing scenes all the same.

“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?

“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?

What did you watch last week? Including Common Law, Touch, Playhouse Presents and Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

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 I’ve missed them.

The usual recommendations from the first-run shows are: The Almighty Johnsons, The Apprentice, Awake, The Bridge, Community, Cougar Town, The Daily Show, House, Mad Men, Modern Family, Prisoners of War and 30 Rock. Hunt them down.

Being promoted to the recommendations list this week are Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23 – which while not the best show ever made, is sufficiently, consistently amusing, evil and full of James Van Der Beek that I’m ready to add to the list – and Prisoners of War, which I’ve just reviewed,  

It was a weekend of catch-ups and random viewings last week, so I actually managed to watch a few movies and try a few random new shows.

  • Common Law: USA Network’s trailer for this buddy-buddy cop show made it look awful. Guess what? It was awful. I couldn’t watch more than 10 minutes of this derivative, unfunny cobblers before I had to switch off. Not even Sonya Walger could save it.
  • Playhouse Presents: Sky Arts’ series of one-off plays, this one starring Olivia Williams, Martin Shaw, Lucy Punch and Rhashan Stone from Strike Back: Project Dawn (he also wrote it). A nice idea – woman who stands up to rioters beats a Boris Johnson-alike to become Mayor of London – but there was apparently nothing new to say here, judging by the inconclusive script, Williams’ Northern accent was rubbish, Shaw and Punch hammed it up, and Stone gave himself all the best lines. But you’ve got to love that Sky Arts (or someone) is doing plays.

Still playing catch-up with Sunday’s viewing though, with Veep and Mad Men still to watch.

It’s also finally time to dump Touch, which looks like it might be going somewhere but is being so boring about it, has the terrible Mohinder-esque voiceovers at the beginning and end, and is just so incredibly insulting about how it thinks special needs children are treated that blood boils whenever it broaches the subject. They’ve also introduced Kabbalah to the equation, which means they need beating.

Now here’s a few thoughts on the regulars:

  • Missing – thankfully, they’ve written out the rubbish Italian guy in favour of a better English character (although, naturally, they had to make her a Lady). Sean Bean also got to do a decent fight scene. Otherwise, it’s just plodding along really, with supposedly shock moments arriving with inevitability rather than, erm, shock.
  • Cougar Town – so they didn’t bite the bullet on Lori/Travis, but a decent episode nevertheless and funny, too.
  • Awake – A shame it’s been cancelled because that was an absolutely fabulous episode and Jason Isaacs should be nominated for an Emmy at least for his performance. Loving the suggestion now that he is genuinely off his rocker.
  • Community – Is there a word for a meta episode that’s meta about its metaness? Still not exactly funny, but had some superb twists and turns of plot.
  • The Bridge – now this is how to be a surprising show. Can’t wait for the last two episodes!
  • House – was that Peter Robocop Weller as the surgeon? Notable only as a way to move Chase’s storyline along, really.

And in movies:

  • Avatar: Yes, I know I slightly missed the boat on that one, but I thought I’d give it a try. Probably looks incredible on the big screen and might even be good in 3D, but that’s really its only saving grace. The plot is such a mish-mash of Dances With Wolves, The Word For World is Forest and Dragonriders of Pern that any originality got lost somewhere on the way to Pandora; the characters are either almost non-existent or cliches, despite all of Cameron’s attempts to inject them with personalities; the acting’s terrible, particularly Sam “Could I be any more Australian?” Worthington’s; and the whole thing goes on forever, never-ending, never stopping, never willing to give the audience release from its terrible tedium.

  • Firefox: The Clint Eastwood movie, not the browser. A really dull first half that does at least show how terrible life in the Soviet Union was, but a really cracking second-half ruined only by not having the technology to do proper aircraft effects in those days, it still is flawed, partly because of Eastwood’s direction choices: if you’re going to have thought-controlled weaponry, make it look very fast, not like you have to press two buttons and then say everything in very slow Russian to make it work. But the strange thing is that in retrospect, it just looks like a bigger budget first pilot that got recast and turned into Airwolf. Basically the same plots. The music sounds the same in places. I’m surprised there weren’t lawsuits. I mean look at the names, for heaven’s sake! It’s even got blueprints in the trailer!

  • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths: The Justice League travel to an alternate universe where Lex Luthor is the only superhero left alive to fight the terrible tyranny of Ultraman, Superwoman and Owlman, as well as cohorts like Johnny Quick. It’s something of a curiosity since it doesn’t involve the usual voiceover artists, instead favouring mostly famous actors like William Baldwin, James Woods and Chris Noth (Vanessa Martin does Wonder Woman’s voice for a change – she also does Black Widow’s voice in the Marvel Avengers series). It also tries to do a bit of aetiology (such as “This is how Wonder Woman got her invisible plane”), since it was also intended to link the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited TV series. Although the obvious thing would be for DC to show how the parallel Earth’s superheroes illustrate something about the normal Earth’s, only Owlman really works as both a parallel and a character in his own right; Ultraman is really a thug and Superwoman isn’t even Wonder Woman’s mirror, there being another Wonder Woman-esque character for her to beat. So not one of the best efforts, although there are some surprisingly well drawn fight sequences, with Wonder Woman getting a very nifty martial arts fight at one point, and we don’t have to endure much Green Lantern for a change, thankfully.

“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?

“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?

What did you watch last week? Including Veep, Avengers Assemble, The Bridge and The Almighty Johnsons

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 I’ve missed them.

The usual recommendations from the first-run shows are: The Almighty Johnsons, The Apprentice, Awake, BeTipul, The Bridge, Community, Cougar Town, The Daily Show, House, Mad Men, Modern Family, and 30 Rock. Hunt them down.

I’ve still got last night’s Mad Men to get through as well as episode four of The Bridge.

First, though, a look at some shows I’ve tried this week:

  • Girls: I really tried to watch the second episode of this but it just bored me silly. It’s clearly intelligently written but it doesn’t feel like it’s saying anything new that anyone remotely clued up wouldn’t know already – or that’s actually worth saying. It’s also not as clever as it thinks it is. My recommendation: don’t watch.
  • NYC 22: Episode two was so massively conventional, stupid and uninteresting, I gave up on it. My recommendation: don’t watch.
  • Divine Women: Bettany Hughes on how women have been cut out of religion over the years. Characteristically, I got bored during episodes one and two when it moved away from Ancient Greece, but I actually found her (and Edith Hall’s) arguments about Gaia, Gaia-worship being supplanted by Zeus-worship somewhat unsupported by facts and dangerously close to goddess mythology, which, of course, has been largely discredited.
  • Veep – I really want to love this and I do like some of the characters, particularly Anna Chlumsky’s (yes, her from My Girl). Yet, it’s just a bit luke-warm compared to The Thick of It, without any of the real bite. It really needs a Macolm and quickly. How quickly? Well, five minutes into episode one, lovely wife said “No”, by which she meant she bored and wanted to watch something else. And I do sympathise with her on that score. Anyway, I’m watching episode two right now and still not loving it unfortunately.

And a few thoughts on the regulars:

  • The Almighty Johnsons – Playing catch-up here, so I watched three weeks in one go. Very much back to season 1 form, happy to see the back of Loki, and good to see the goddesses getting a chance to have plots that focus on them. And it’s so good to have Anders back again. And the last episode was so packed of revelations, it makes you think that maybe they’ve been planning this all along. Recommended.
  • Awake – Tedious, unfortunately – far too focused on the police cases.
  • Community – A spot-on spoof of Law & Order with a very surprising ending.
  • Cougar Town – Some actual plot and character developments, but still not riotous stuff.
  • House – Dark, but frustrating, particularly with the open-ended “maybe it was all a ghost” bit, which kind of goes against the whole point of the show. And again, a surprising ending.
  • Missing – I’m almost ready to give up on this, since it has some of the worst cg of the decade and is full of cloying parent stuff. You know, you’d think that with Ashley Judd on board, her entire character wouldn’t essentially revolve around being a mother and might have some other facets, but apparently not.
  • 30 Rock – I pity anyone who doesn’t have an encyclopaedic knowledge not just of NBC history but also Saturday Night Live, since that would have made no sense to anyone otherwise. But great to finally see Donald Glover’s impression of Tracy Morgan, as well as cameos from Jon Hamm and Jimmy Fallon (who of course couldn’t keep a straight face). And when Fred Armisen turned up, it took me a few moments to realise this wasn’t a Portlandia crossover episode.
  • The Bridge – Episode three is more a study in Asperger’s than anything else, but I’m still loving it.
  • Touch – Less heart-warming that normal and the whole thing could do with some revelations of interest now. No, old offices do not count.

And in movies

  • Avengers Assemble: Awesome. Not not just awesome – Thorsome. Seen it twice already and probably seeing it a third time this week. Joss Whedon has miraculously managed to create an ensemble superhero movie from four separate franchises and given every character decent amounts to do and say, while also giving other characters – Black Widow most noticeably – plenty of screentime and characterisation. Funny, intelligent yet fun and full of wonderful moments. My only caveat about the whole thing – apart from the slightly rubbish CGI when Loki’s ‘flying’ – is that while it’s great collectively, it’s a different beast from each of those preceding franchises, lacking the energy, vitality (and horniness) of Iron Man; the romance, beauty and joy of Thor; or the innocence and nostalgia of Captain America. But it finally gets Hulk right and you really want them to go back and CGI Mark Ruffalo over Eric Bana and Ed Norton in the previous movies, since he’s pretty much perfect.

“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?

What did you watch last week? Including Magic City, Best Friends Forever, Tower Heist and Arrested Development

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 e’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations from the first-run shows: The Almighty Johnsons, The Apprentice, Awake, Being Human (US), BeTipul, Community, The Daily Show, Happy Endings, Mad Men, Ringer, Shameless (US) and 30 Rock. Hunt them down.

You’ll notice that after last week’s episode and this week’s mindbender, Awake has now been promoted to the A-Team – go and watch it.

So first a few shows I’ve tried over the past week but didn’t have the time to review separately:

  • Arrested Development: Miracle of miracles, Netflix actually has something to watch (even if its new releases section hasn’t changed in two months) so I thought I’d catch up with my list of shows that everyone loves that I’ve never found the time to watch (next up: The Sopranos). I’m now up to episode eight of AD and I’m not laughing much, but it’s promising at least. When does it get good? I’ll probably keep watching for Portia De Rossi for a while at least – she’s a lot hotter than I remember.
  • Best Friends Forever: NBC’s latest attempt to do a female-oriented comedy show does at least not insult your intelligence unlike Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea? It has a quirky line in dialogue and the central characters are fun and idiosyncratic. But it’s another of those shows that seem to have been written by women who have never met any men before, only seen them on TV, and which assumes that women want to watch shows in which other women want to talk about waxing, relationships, divorces, etc, and nothing else. Not funny enough to keep watching unfortunately.
  • Magic City: Not even a knock-off of Mad Men, this is a terrible Starz knock-off of The Playboy Club of all things. Basic set-up: mobster hotel boss in 1950s Miami. And that’s it. No other distinguishable characters and although it looks fantastic, it’s only real appeals are lots of nudity, that Ukranian woman who was in the second Daniel Craig Bond movie (I think it’s her anyway) and Christian Cooke from ITV’s Demons, putting on his Sontaran Stragem accent. Utterly forgettable.
  • The Syndicate: Well, I did try to watch some more of it, but the only scenes I could get through were the ones with Joanna Page that didn’t involve any stereotypical, overacting northerners. So not much of it.

And a few thoughts on the regulars:

  • The Almighty Johnsons – A really, really good episode, with some actual swordfighting in it. The goddesses got to do something for a change, although they’re still being treated badly by gods and scriptwriters alike, and Loki got to do more than just posture.
  • Being Human (US) – I haven’t finished yesterday’s episode yet, which has been really good so far. But last week’s was a bit wishy washy although the writing out of a certain character was unexpected and well handled.
  • Community – A decent pastiche of civil war documentaries, and the Britta photography was fabulous, as was the reference to The Cape , but not as funny as last week’s.
  • Happy Endings – Overall, a disappointing second season, lacking the bite of the first. Disappointing was the increasing flamboyance of Max, the gay character, who had been refreshing unstereotypical last season. Plenty of fun to be had, though, although the finale had a little bit of a forced cliffhanger.
  • Mad Men – More interesting than the first episode, Betty getting some intriguing nuances, likewise Don.
  • Missing – a big improvement: the fights were decent, Sean Bean, John Carradine and Gina McKee were back. The predictions I made in my first review are coming true, it seems, which means that it’s all a double-bluff, since my predictions can never be true.
  • Ringer – Even Ioan is finding it hard to keep a straight face at times, but it’s still gripping me.
  • Shameless – which I should have written about last week, but didn’t. All in all, an odd season that consisted mainly of writing out characters and returning everything to the status quo after going in several directions for the first half of the season. But the journey was still very much worth taking.
  • 30 Rock – better than the previous episode.
  • Touch – it seems like all the guest characters might actually start getting linked together, which hints at a greater story arc that should make the show that much more interesting to watch. But I showed my wife the episodes and as predicted, blood nearly came out of her ears whenever they showed a supposed health or social worker interacting with special needs boy.
  • Two and a Half Men – Sophie Winkleman’s still in it and is making it watchable, but otherwise a horrible, horrible show.

And in movies:

  • Tower Heist: Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy – with associated extras – get their own back on the 1%. Has its moments, but directed by Brett Ratner so as entirely average as you’d expect.

“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?