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What have you been watching? Including Strange Empire, Coverband, Electra, The Flash and Doctor Who

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently 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 – they’ll even email you a weekly schedule.

You may have noticed I was playing epic catch-up on Saturday, in contravention of my normal rule of weekend blogging. So on top of Friday’s all out efforts and a couple of extra ones today, I’ve reviewed the following new shows, some of which have already been acquired for Blighty’s viewing pleasure:

Yay, me. No back log now. Time to have regular weekends again. Phew.

In fact, so ahead of myself am I that I’ll point out that ages ago, I reviewed NBC’s Constantine, which starts on Friday. Okay, it’s changed a bit since the pilot but you’ll get the general point.

But I’ve not stopped there. Oh no. Because I’ve also watched a New Zealand and a Canadian show just for luck. Okay, I was a bit behind on all of them, so I’ve only seen the first episode of each, but honestly, that felt like enough.

Strange Empire (Canada: CBC)
Set in the 1860s on the Alberta-Montana border, this sees three women (Cara Gee, Tattiawna Jones and Melissa Farman from Lost) band together for survival after virtually all the men in their town are murdered and those remaining behind battle for power. Very nicely made and already being described as the saviour of CBC, it’s historically interesting but about as tedious as any other western, and none of the characters really grabbed me.

Coverband (New Zealand: TV One)
A one-hit wonder band reunite back in New Zealand years after they were famous. Unfortunately, the female lead singer was the one who was a success, leaving the terminally unsexy rest of the band to make it by themselves, something at which they fail miserably. Now having to deal with the pressures of normal lives and forced to do cover versions of other bands’ records, they suck completely until they stagecrashed by Laughton Kora, who shows them what rock charisma and singing really are, so they hire him. Kind of.

It’s an amiable and accurate enough show, based on cast member Johnny Barker’s own experiences as an Auckland cover band musician, and were there enough time in the world, I’d probably tune in for a few more episodes. But the show’s not so inspiring that I’ll throw something else aside for it and I’ve already seen The Wedding Band crash and burn, so I don’t think I need to see that happen again.

Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t want to produce any globally available videos of its own shows, apparently, so here’s a picture of the cast to tide you over.

Coverband

That’s it for new new shows, but after the jump, I’ll be running through: Arrow, black-ish, The Blacklist, Doctor Who, The Flash, Forever, Gotham, Homeland, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, Plebs, Scorpion, Selfie and The Walking Dead.

But hey! Before you go, I should mention I went to the theatre, too!

Electra (Old Vic)
Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra, a new translation of Sophocles’ original text by Greek tragedy stalwart Frank McGuinness, music by PJ Harvey – what could go wrong? Well, not much actually, beyond a certain staticness to the direction, a slightly weak performance by Jack Lowden as Orestes and a very strange performance by Tyrone Huggins as Aegisthus. Other than that, a fine piece of work, surprisingly faithfully staged (although that’s not quite how Greek people prayed), with an outstanding performance by Thomas and a surprisingly funny text by McGuinness – in part to cover up for casting slightly older than originally written, but also to hide the unlikelihood of Electra not recognising Orestes. Liz White (Life on Mars) gives the best performance I’ve ever seen from her as Chrysothemis, Electra’s sister.  

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The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 4

Third-episode verdict: Rake (US) (Fox)

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: The Universal Channel.

Time to cast our eyes over the first three episodes of Rake, Fox’s lacklustre attempt to remake Australia’s popular show about a rogue lawyer who’s gone off the rails a bit (Richard Roxburgh as the eponymous Rake) by diluting it down to the point of non-existence and casting Greg Kinnear as the not-eponymous Keegan Deane. 

This is what it should look like:

This is what it actually looks like:

As a show, it just sort of exists. It’s not especially fun. It’s got almost nothing interesting to say about the legal system. Rake’s Deane’s flaws, including gambling addiction, aren’t really terrible and no one really does anything to him (goodies or baddies) as a result of the thefts, deceptions, etc, he commits, so they just seem like harmless quirks. Greg Kinnear is woefully miscast as Deane, not having the charm or ability to portray the darkness of character needed for the role.

So all it is is 40 minutes or so of Kinnear running around being mildly annoying to people, mildly unreliable and mildly incompetent as a lawyer. Despite the occasional guest actress (Alex Breckenridge in episode two) or guest star (Tony Hawks in episode thee) doing their best to enliven proceedings, they’re always better than the show itself and nothing about any regular aspect of the show makes you want to watch it, unless you’re desperate for a screen saver on your TV and can’t be bothered to stump up for one of those fireplace DVDs.

Avoid.

Barrometer rating: 4
Rob’s prediction: Will be cancelled before the end of the season