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.
Dirk Gently: Different in tone from the first episode, with Matt James (Doctor Who – The 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?
In the UK: Monday-Friday, 9.30pm, Sky Arts 1/Sky Arts 1 HD. Repeated Saturdays & Sundays In Israel: First aired 2005
In Treatment was a show I really loved. Clever, engrossing, theatrical, it was fantastic TV. Terribly scheduled, mind. Half an hour, five nights a week? That’s not happening for me or for most people – as the ratings bore out.
For those who missed it (why? It was brilliant… Oh yes, now I remember…), it saw therapist Gabriel Byrne see a different patient each day, Monday to Thursday, before seeing his own therapist on Friday, where he’d discuss his feelings about his patients. Then the next week, you’d see the next session with each patient. Over the weeks, you saw his own family, occasionally the patients interacting and more.
But it was based on an award-winning Israeli show, BeTipul, that first aired in 2005. Now Sky Arts 1 is cleverly showing the original five nights a week. And it’s very weird to watch.
As with the the US remake of The Killing, it feels almost frame-by-frame identical, just in a different language. It’s not quite identical, for obvious reasons, but the dialogue is almost identical, as is the theme tune (which is slightly more upbeat in the Israeli version), and Assi Dayan (Re’uven) looks an awful lot like Gabriel Byrne.
But there are instructive differences. Unlike the very theatrical In Treatment which was largely shot in a studio, BeTipul is naturalistic and shot in a real apartment. Casting also affects things. The Laura-equivalent, Na’ama (Ayelet Zurer), is older than Melissa George, is less vulnerable and (sorry) less attractive. Their relationship, as a result, is different and speaks more to the therapist’s difficulties with his wife than Laura/Paul’s relationship did in In Treatment, which is correspondingly more about opportunity and desire than emotions.
There are also interesting cultural differences in terms of therapy:
All the same, despite the differences, it feels somewhat futile watching BeTipul having watched In Treatment. BeTipul is different rather than superior, but the differences aren’t big enough that having watched In Treatment, you don’t feel like you’re watching an odd re-run as you do so. It’s a case of watch one or the other – but not both.
Here’s a trailer with a crappy voiceover or you can watch some of the first episode on the Sky Arts web site:
Netflix in the US is a massive force. Kind of like Lovefilm, it has a TV and film DVD rental service as well as an online streaming service, but it makes so much money, it can now afford to make its own programmes, including a remake of House of Cards with Kevin Spacey.
Now it’s come to the UK. Available on your laptop, your Apple TV, your iPad, your iPhone, your PlayStation, your Wii and probably your cooker as well, Netflix is simple to use, integrates well with social networks, and delivers a true multi-platform experience, all for £5.99 a month.
It’s just a shame there’s bugger all to watch on it.