In the US: Mondays, 9pm, TBS. Starts January 25th In the UK: Not yet acquired
It’s been a while since we’ve had a good US cop spoof. Back in the 80s, there were Police Squad and Sledge Hammer to make us laugh with pastiches of the then-conventions of the genre, as well as some plain old silliness.
Since then, it’s been a desert, I tell you. A desert. But now from the brains of Steve and Nancy Carell comes Police Squad again. A little different, but still basically Police Squad.
Angie Tribeca stars Rashida Jones as the eponymous Tribeca, a lonewolf detective who works alone. Then along comes partner number 237 (Mr Ali Larter aka Hayes MacArthur from Perfect Couplesand Really) and finally there’s someone who might be able to accommodate her uniquely tough working methods.
And that’s basically the plot. There’s a tough gruff police captain (Jere Burns from Dear John USAandHelp Me Help You). There’s all manner of guest suspects (Lisa Kudrow and Gary Cole). But that’s about it.
But that’s not what the show’s really about it. It’s about a series of scenes containing sight gags, stunts, jokes and whatever else it fancies, all of which are intended to make you laugh in more or less the same way Sledge Hammer and Police Squad did. Sometimes that’s by undermining conventions, such as continuing conversations that would normally be ended by a scene cut or left implicit; sometimes it’s by verbal jokes, such as having every line begin “with all due respect”; sometimes it’s by visual fun, such as having the suspect jog off while an obvious stunt double does gymnastics to pursue him unnecessarily dramatically; and sometimes it’s just by doing something odd, like having MacArthur plummet to his death and then pop back unharmed in the next episode.
All of this description kills the comedy, of course, so I’m going to stop with it now. I so am. Watch the trailer instead.
The show takes about 10 minutes for the first episode to transcend sixth form-review style comedy and to become actually funny, but after that it’s frequently laugh out loud funny, so I’m definitely going to stick with it.
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.
Brace yourself – a new wave of TV shows is about to hit us, because we’re about to hit the mid, mid US season, and Amazon and Netflix are busy hitting us with new pilots and new shows even as I type. So consider this a lull.
Elsewhere this week, I’ve reviewed the first episode of Ash vs Evil Dead(US: Starz) and passed a third-episode verdict on The Beautiful Lie (Australia: ABC), which means that after the jump, I’m going to be talking about the season finale of Arrow, Blindspot, Doctor Who, The Flash, Grandfathered, The Last Kingdom, Limitless, The Player, Supergirland You’re The Worst, as well as the season finales of 800 Words and Y Gwyll. I also final caught up with the final few episodes of Strike Back.
But that’s not all I watched this week. I’ve also watched two new shows: Dim Ond Y Gwir and Legends. What do you mean Legends isn’t new? Well, that’s strangely debatable…
Dim Ond Y Gwir (UK: S4C – available on iPlayer) Flush with the success of detective show Y Gwyll/Hinterland, S4C has decided to branch out into another genre: the courtdroom drama. Dim Ond Y Gwir (Only the Truth)is a half-hour weekly affair that follows ‘law court workers as they go about their daily lives’. In the first episode, this amounts to watching various ancillary workers man the metal detectors, while someone in the cafe bakes a cake. Meanwhile, up in the courts themselves, we have barrister Rebecca Trehearn dealing with one case when it turns out that the opposite barrister is her ex-boyfriend! Oh noes.
Filmed in Caernarfon where it’s actually not that uncommon for cases to be heard in Welsh, this is a pretty poor affair, with the supposed sexy ex more the kind of guy who sidles up to women when they’re drunk in bars, almost no legal accuracy in the proceedings whatsoever, and the case hinging on whether Trehearn will bother defending her client if she thinks he’s guilty or not (big reveal at the end that has no legal bearing!). The acting is also pretty dreadful, too, and the budget’s probably about £3.50. Sorry, S4C – this one ain’t going to go global.
Legends (US: TNT; UK: Sky1) So, as we all remember, but are possibly wondering if we imagined it all, Legends was a very sub-par piece of US TV in which Sean Bean was the US’s best undercover FBI agent, a human chameleon able to become whomever he wanted while his NCIS-style buddies back at home base helped him to overcome computer problems and the like, as he assumed a new identity every week. Unfortunately, Bean’s personality might itself be a ‘legend’ and he’s forgotten who he really is. Oh noes.
The big reveal at the end of the first season (look away for year-old spoilers) is that yes, Bean was really MI6 and that he’d lost his memory in an accident. The big problem is that he’s then framed for murdering a top FBI director. Oops.
‘TNT – Bang’? Not really.
But in between seasons, the show changed showrunner and new boy Ken Biller (Perception) decided not just to change direction but perform a ‘hard reset’ of the entire show. Severely hard. Out of the show are everyone except Bean and Rosewood‘s Morris Chestnut (for a few episodes at least) – even Ali Larter, those cads. The entire show has also moved to Europe and now covers several timelines – Bean’s upbringing at a rather nasty Northern public school in the 70s, undercover work in Prague in 2001 and two modern day storylines involving Bean’s attempts to rediscover his old life in London and a new FBI agent’s attempts to find him through the Prague connection.
And it’s just the weirdest thing. An almost entirely new show that feels like a British spy show, feels even like it’s been written by a Brit (bar the swearing), but shot US-style. It’s basically Homeland meets The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. I’m still reeling from the changes, they’re so profound. It’s now a really good spy show, although the plot about the radicalisation of young London Muslims is a bit trite, and Bean’s character seems to have forgotten the whole ‘best undercover agent ever’ thing, judging by how much he’s cocking up.
All the same, despite the absence of our Ali (sob), even if you gave up on Legends the first time, give it a go this time round, since you might as well be watching a new show.
Movies Would you believe it, I actually had some time to watch a couple of oldish movies, too.
Sherlock Holmes and The Secret Code (aka Dressed to Kill) (1946) (Amazon Instant Video) One of the great things about growing up in the 80s was that BBC Two regularly used to show all the old Basil Rathbone movies at 6pm of an evening. Which was great. Seeing as Amazon Instant Video has quite a few of them to view for free, I thought I’d give Dressed To Kill a go. It’s basically Conan’s Doyle The Six Napoleons/Blue Carbuncle but with a set of music boxes that a set of villains are trying to get for some nefarious reason. The chief villain is basically Irene Adler except not: an actress who outwits Holmes and Watson, even reading A Scandal in Bohemia and his monograph on cigarette ash to find out Holmes’ methods of operation and turning them against him.
There’s not much detection, most of it being Rathbone just making lucky guesses, but it’s fun and a lot smarter than you’d have thought for something pretty much cranked out post-War in a job lot.
Pacific Rim (2013) (Amazon Instant Video) One of those movies where you look at who the writer/director is and go, “Really? I mean really?” Basically, Transformers meets the Godzilla movies but with the monster and biological horror that we do actually all associate with Guillermo Del Toro, it sees a bunch of giant monsters emerging from the sea to destroy the world’s cities, but the world at a loss to respond until they think of sticking people in giant robots to punch them to death.
There’s far more action than there was in the most recent Godzilla, it’s got some interesting ideas and it’s got Idris Elba as the leader of the plucky robot pilots, but it’s very silly and to be honest, I’d rather have watched old episodes of Star Fleet instead, as they have more charm.
It’s probably almost impossible for the kids of today to appreciate just how exciting Heroes was when it first started, all the way back in 2006, when this blog was still quite young itself and had none of those twinges in its knee.
How fabulous it was to have an intelligent TV show that took superheroes seriously. How we thrilled at its weekly cliffhangers. How we marvelled at its pacing, its interesting characters, its interlinked serial narrative. How exciting was that! Each episode we’d wait to see which characters would turn up, what secret powers would be revealed and how it would all tie in with what we’d already seen.
The BBC acquired it very quickly, created its own tie-in TV series of documentaries, promised to simulcast it with the US and more, we were that desperate for Heroes content. As was the rest of the world. The cast went on world tours, where they met people thrilled by the new show. I even ended up reviewing every single episode of the show and starting Random Acts of Ali Larter.
And, of course, we were all waiting to see what would happen in the season finale, when Peter and Sylar finally came face to face with the full range of superpowers they’d each spent a season acquiring and learning to use, while all those disparate characters were going to join in to help out. How awesome was that going to be, hey? It was going to be Marvel’s The Avengers only five years earlier, that’s how awesome it was going to be.
Except that’s pretty much the exact moment when the series went to shit. As the finale aired around the world, time zone after time zone went at the exact same time-shifted time: “Was that it?” Whatever it was we were imagining was precisely 6×10^23 times more exciting than seeing Peter twat Sylar with a parking meter and fly off.
Who was responsible for the disaster is subject to conjecture. There were whispers that the super-duper finale, full of the best fight ever, had had to be cut because two of the cast members (cough, cough, Milo Ventimiglia, Hayden Panettiere, cough, cough) had held the show to ransom and refused to film the finale unless they got epic pay rises, resulting in a corresponding special effects budget cut.
That wouldn’t have explained season two, though. Or most of season three.
More likely, as show creator and former Crossing Jordan creator and showrunner Tim Kring testified, was that he’d never read a comic and didn’t know how to do cool stuff. He thought origin stories were the best things about superheroes and it was those network bosses and the stupid old general public who were cramping his style by forcing him to have the same characters come back for the subsequent seasons.
Letting show and comics killer Jeph Loeb have anything to do with the show may have been the problem, too.
Anyway, that killed it. Interest in Heroes died and even the resurgence of quality in ‘Volumes’ Four and Five weren’t enough to bring the audience back.
So with many people regarding the show as one of the most promising then subsequently disappointing TV programmes in US history, it’s something of a surprise to see NBC bring it back for an event mini-series – if a 13-part series can truly be described as mini-, rather than “a standard length to quite-long-by-modern-standards single season’.
Both a continuation and a new beginning for the show, Heroes Reborn brings back everyone from the original series who doesn’t have a functioning career right now – Jack Coleman, Greg Grunberg, Jimmy Jean-Louis – manages to lure in Sendhil Ramamurthy and Masi Oka for a couple of quick cameos during their lunchbreaks, and then makes Tim Kring’s wish come true by allowing him to create a whole new set of new characters, who are much cheaper and far less interesting than the original series’.
Then, taking everything Kring failed to learn from his next epic failures, Digand Touch, it serves up a lukewarm, slow-moving version of the original series that just occasionally tries to be heartwarming but is just plain old nauseating instead.
And there’s not even any Ali Larter in it? What’s the point of Heroes, without Ali Larter, I ask you?
All the same, despite how not good it is, thankfully, it’s still not as bad as Volume 3.