What did you watch this week? Including Cult, Zero Hour, Mr and Mrs Murder, The Blue Rose, Arrow and Being Human (US)

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

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV).
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Engrenages/Spiral (BBC4/Netflix)
  • Top Gear (BBC2/BBC America)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which. If I got the channels wrong, let me know and I’ll fix them

Still in the queue: plenty. As well as two episodes of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Archer and Community, last night’s Banshee and Spartacus, and all the remaining episodes of House of Cards, two new shows launched this week in the US and the UK – CBS’s Golden Boy and ITV’s Lightfields – that I haven’t had time to watch. I think that means a little bit of rationalisation of my viewing is needed so I’m pruning out the following regulars and shows that were on trial:

  • The Blue Rose: Still hasn’t hit its stride after four episodes, which is just way too long a time to be on trial. Let me know if it finds its mojo.
  • Cult: A pretty tiresome second episode. The show might be easier to watch if the show-within-a-show weren’t so dreadful, but the show’s own storyline is so fundamentally silly, that I’ve yet to find much to make me want to watch any more. There was an interesting twist at one point, where the hero begins to question the motives of the heroine, but that didn’t go very far. Intriguingly, the episode was written by Steven Rea, who is, of course, the show’s creator in-series. I wonder if it’s hard to write a show in which you’re a character. Or is someone using a pseudonym?
  • Go On: Nice cast, doing relatively good work with a heart, but never side-splitting.
  • Mr and Mrs Murder: An Australian show about married crime scene cleaners who also solve crimes. From the outset, clearly not taking itself seriously, but the characters don’t quite work, they’re more irritating than funny, and I don’t really see those two together.
  • Zero Hour: Robbed off the most ridiculous qualities of the first episode, the second episode was merely stupid and insipid. Switched off after only a few minutes.

Doctor Blake is still on trial, since although it’s very good, I’m not a big fan of mystery shows per se.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars:

  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1): Geoff Johns is back on writing duties. Shudders. He’s certainly a big fan of stories with father issues, isn’t he? And of terrible dialogue? We also got a canary reference and Alex Kingston turned up with an American accent as Laurel’s mum. John Barrowman had a good stab at acting this week, someone else knows Arrow’s secret identity, Kelly Hu and another Arrow villain made a (somewhat ludicrous) return and we all got to laugh at Arrow’s ‘perfect’ Chinese accent.
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): A rather nice chase scene in the style of Reservoir Dogs and Point Break, a sex scene that was actually romantic rather than mechanical, and a nice touch with the Amish villain feeling nostalgic for the good old days.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Josh’s family turned up at last. However, everyone’s brains left. Why exactly would anyone believe that Aidan would deliberately drink blood that was poisonous to him? It’s essentially a false conflict set up to create a dramatic choice, which is a bit tedious. I want to see where the Sally storyline is going, but why didn’t anyone suspect something like this would happen once her soul was on the line?
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): Loving the flashbacks. And they handled the Travis romance reasonably well, too.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Another episode that was less mystery, more ‘Why would someone do this?’ Not very interesting.
  • Go On (NBC): Bradley Whitford turned up and was good; Piper Perabo was as good as always; the Mary Poppins storyline was good. But I didn’t laugh. Hence it being dropped from my regular viewing.
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky1): Elizabeth Banks was back, although it wasn’t until right at the end that she got to really strut her stuff.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): A chance to look inside foster homes and how much like prisons they are. And Fiona got angry. This should be fun.
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Cooper has a new partner, who’s great. Major Dad turned out to be Cooper’s old training officer as well, which was great, too. The shoot out was great. Why isn’t anyone watching this?
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): Some good things – decimation (yes, that really did happen) and Caesar among the rebels, making you feel sorry for the Romans for a change. Hope last night’s episode was as good.
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Paul Ben Victor (The Wire, The Invisible Man) showed up but didn’t get to do much in an episode that was again dull procedural wrapped in the far more interesting series arc. And Mia finds out – where will it all end up? However, it winds up, please let’s not have so many procedurals along the way.

“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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Thursdays “Archer’s 5th season, Sinbad cancelled and Anthony LaPaglia’s Boomerang” news

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  • Chris Cooper to play Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man 2

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Australian and New Zealand TV

Review: The Blue Rose 1×1-1×2 (TV3)

In New Zealand: Mondays, 8.30pm, TV3

New Zealand is a small country – okay, it’s quite big, but in turns of population, it’s quite small – but it does still have a surprisingly large effect on world media. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were filmed there, mainly thanks to New Zealand film director Peter Jackson. The Oscar-winning Whale Rider launched the US career of actor Cliff Curtis (Trauma and Missing). A multitude of shows from the late 90s, including Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, introduced the likes of Lucy Lawless and Karl Urban to the world, and Spartacus is doing so with a new generation of actors all over again, with that show’s Manu Bennett leading the charge into the US.

However, New Zealand does have its own home-grown film and TV industry, and in modern times, three of the biggest forces in New Zealand TV have been broadcaster TV3, and James Griffin and Rachel Lang of South Pacific Pictures, the originators of the long-lasting Shortland Street. This combo first gave us the comedy crime series Outrageous Fortune (remade in the US as Scoundrels), which nurtured the career of many a New Zealand actor, including Anthony Starr, currently doing sterling work as the star of Cinemax’s Banshee.

Then came The Almighty Johnsons, which delved more into fantasy, with a tale of reincarnated Norse gods living in New Zealand. That’s currently filming its third season and a US remake is currently being piloted by SyFy. 

But it’s all systems go at South Pacific because now we have another Lang and Griffin project (actually, so far, it’s most Lang) – The Blue Rose, a comedy crime drama that reunites two of Outrageous Fortune‘s female stars, Antonia Prebble and Siobhan Marshall, in a tale of vigilantism and office temp work. When office temp Jane (Prebble) discovers that Rose, the PA she is replacing, died under mysterious circumstances, she joins forces with Rose’s best friend Linda (Marshall) to get justice for Rose. Along the way, they find others who need their help – victims of fraud, theft and injustice – and soon Jane, Linda and a team of unlikely co-workers are taking on the corporate bullies, fighting for justice and using their unique powers for good. They’re not afraid to break the law in order to stand up for the little people, and every step takes them a little closer to uncovering what really happened to Rose.

It’s an odd combination of office politics and murder mystery with a very odd couple at its heart, but it just about works. Here’s a trailer:

Continue reading “Review: The Blue Rose 1×1-1×2 (TV3)”

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The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 2

Third-episode verdict: The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)

In Australia: Fridays, 8.30pm, ABC1

In the UK: Will air on ITV. No air date yet

In the rest of the world: Not yet acquired

Time to pass a judgemental eye over the first three episodes of ABC1’s Doctor Blake Mysteries, in which former Neighbours stalwart Craig McClachlan proves that’s he’s actually now a pretty good actor, while healing the sick and solving murders in a small town in Victoria, Australia, c1959. 

The first episode was pretty good, giving us all the elements of the show, including an intriguing and strong lead character, a decent supporting cast, a proper mystery that needed to be solved and some fine period details. Dr Blake was perhaps implausibly liberal, always on the right side of impending historic arguments, and the show really hammered that point home, but that was a minor niggle really.

Episode two was even an improvement, building up all the characters, giving us police beatings in a Life On Mars “things were different back then” style. The background to Blake and his days in military intelligence and Singapore was well handled (a call-out to McClachlan’s Heroes II?), and the final scenes with the Anzacs were actually very moving. We also got a little on the history of Luminol, which was a clever CSI touch that CSI has never brought up.

Which takes up nicely to episode three, which while otherwise excellent, was slightly undermined by a snigger-worthy murder weapon – an Asian pit viper – that our doctor was able to handle perhaps a little too easily and with perhaps a little too silly a directorial choice to indicate he was thinking about snakes.

Nevertheless, we once again had some good period details, ranging from the use of Australian pounds and the ubiquity of the vacuum salesman (the vacuum being an expensive household purchase) to attitudes towards homosexuality at the time. Again, Blake turns out to be on the right liberal side of the argument, but at least the show comes up with an explanation this time. We also again had a moving ending to the piece, this time between Blake and his housekeeper, which is becoming a touching love story of sorts.

As a piece, the show is a mix of the conventional murder mystery and historical commentary. As a murder mystery, it’s surprisingly good, being complex without being complicated, the eventual solution potentially guessable and Blake coming to his own conclusions without mysterious hunches at the last moment. It certainly beats the BBC’s Father Brown

Not being Australian, I can’t really say just how attentive to period detail the show is, and unlike Mad Men, say, it certainly has that knowing hindsight that enables everyone to come out likable and with modern day-compatible prejudices. But it still feels like the 1950s, from the cars and people’s attitudes to the stories themselves.

All in all, if you do like a historic murder mystery, then this is up there with the top of the current worldwide crop, including The Murdoch Mysteries, Whitechapel and Endeavour. One to seek out.