It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching this week
Gosh, it’s been a busy old week, hasn’t it? Elsewhere, I’ve posted third- and fourth-episode verdicts on The Resident (US: Fox; UK: Universal Channel), Corporate (US: Comedy Central) and Burden of Truth (Canada: CBC), and that’s on top of reviewing the first episode of The Alienist(US: TNT; UK: Netflix).
Some time in the next few days I’ll be taking a gander at Let’s Get Physical (US: Pop), and passing a third-episode verdict on Black Lightning (US: The CW; UK: Netflix). I’m also knuckling down to try to watch all of Netflix’s Altered Carbon in time for a Boxset Monday. Let’s see how that goes.
But today, it’s time to look at the regulars. SEAL Team and Will & Grace are on a break right now, but Engrenages (Spiral), Happy!, The Magicians and Star Trek: Discovery will all be getting my considered opinions, as will The Brave and Great News season finales (which will probably be their series finales, to be honest).
On top of that, Counterpart has now started in earnest, there’s a new episode of The Alienist and Amazon’s started dishing out two episodes of season two of Baron Noir at time (although I’ve not had time to watch today’s two new episodes, just the first two). And although it didn’t quite merit a full Boxset Monday treatment, I did watch all of season two of Babylon Berlin this week.
In the US: Monday, 9/8c, TNT
In the UK: Available on Netflix starting April 19
Although ‘TNT – bang!’ may have had some success as a diversification strategy for the US network, giving us the likes of The Last Ship, TNT’s new slogan has largely only resulted in bold experiments such as Willthat promptly flopped. The network may be looking to expand its range of interests, but it seems its viewers still want crime shows and plenty of them – and nothing but crime shows.
To its credit, though, TNT is still trying to push the envelope with its original output. In the past couple of years, we’ve had Animal Kingdom, Clawsand Good Behavior, all of which have tried to change the usual procedural crime formula even if they’ve not been very good, and now we have the somewhat better The Alienist.
Adapted from the first of Caleb Carr’s best-selling series of book by Cary Fukunaga (True Detective) and Hossein Amini (Drive), the show is a sort of Ripper Street meets Mindhunter set in 19th century New York. It stars Daniel Brühl (Captain America: Civil War, Good Bye Lenin!) as Dr Laszlo Kreizler, an ‘alienist’ as the then parlance described those who tried to treat the mentally ill. When a mutilated boy’s body is found dressed up as a girl on the city’s new bridge, Kreizler senses a mind at work similar to one of his former patients’ and seeks to involve himself in the investigation. Helping him are his former Harvard classmate turned newspaper illustrator Luke Evans (The Hobbit, Dracula Untold) and the police force’s lone woman, Dakota Fanning (Twilight). Hindering him – at least at the moment – is the new police commissioner Theodore Roosevelt (yes, that one).
All of which sounds very promising, doesn’t it? Great cast, great looking, lots of lovely period detail, particularly in the speech and there’s a pleasing variety to the characters. It’s all a bit ‘temporal tourism’ in the style of Babylon Berlin, as we learn for example that police officers used to summon help by banging their truncheons against metal girders, but it does it very well and with a considerable amount of debauchery.
Trouble is, when I say it’s Ripper Street meets Mindhunter, that’s it. We’re done. Say no more, as it doesn’t yet do much more than relocate attempts to think like serial killers back 100 years, while pointing out that women, ethnic minorities, the mentally ill and the physically ill really didn’t have a great time of things back in the 19th century. Corsets? Apparently they were a bit tight. How do you like that insight?
It’s hugely more gory than previous shows, mind you, and the frequent visits to naked prostitutes are another obvious differentiator. But in terms of plotting, we’re basically Gotham By GaslightingManhunter.
All the same, there’s that kind of quality both in front of and behind the camera. There’s also the fact the books have done as well as they have. All of which means I’m prepared to stick it out for a few more episodes to see if there is more to the show than its first episode would suggest.
So far, not much has been done with Roosevelt, so I’m curious to see where that goes, and Brühl’s slightly bonkers speech at the end of the episode suggests that we’re not going to get modern psychology transported back into the 19th century, but something far more of its time instead.
But for such an obviously expensive, notably different looking show, TNT hasn’t exactly puts its better foot forward with its initial outing.
Right now, German TV is experiencing something of an international upsurge in reputation. Whether it’s Dark on Netflix, You Are Wanted and 4 Blocks on Amazon, Babylon Berlin on Sky Atlantic, or Deutschland 83 on Channel 4, suddenly to the outside world Germany appears to have a TV industry. How did that happen?
Of course, it hasn’t appeared out of nowhere. Even here in the UK, which hasn’t exactly been a great importer of continental European TV until relatively recently, we had the likes of Heimat, Gambit, The Black Forest Clinic, and Heidi in the 80s, for example. But that just grazes the surface.
So after the jump, let’s have a look at some of the highlights (and lowlights) of what we’ve been missing out on…
German TV is on something of a roll at the moment, thanks to the likes of Deutschland 83 and Babylon Berlin. With Amazon also already having aired its first German-language original, You Are Wanted, it’s no surprise that Netflix would want to get in on the act, too; it’s also unsurprising that being Netflix, Dark is substantially better than Amazon’s efforts.
What is surprising is that whether deliberately or not, Dark is probably the most German TV show imaginable.
Set in the small rural town of Winden (none of the real ones) in 2019, it opens with the suicide of a respected and loved father, who leaves a letter that must not be opened until a few months after his death.
Not that this is the first tragedy to strike the town. A child has already gone missing that year and just a few days short of the date on the letter, a third child disappears and a mutilated body is soon found. Except it’s a child who disappeared in 1986 and it’s as if not a day has passed for him. What’s going on?
So far, so not especially German, for sure, but by the end of the first season, this Groundhog Day meets Back to the Future 2 meets Saw has gone through a gamut of German concerns and interests, from myth and the power of the woods and nature, through atomic energy and acid rain, to Nietzsche’s nihilism and Goethe’s fatalism, all with just a hint of 80s nostalgia (not Ostalgie, though). It also tries to address that perennial German-related time travel morality question: if you could travel back in time to kill Hitler when he was just a child, would you? And if you did, would it change anything or would Time somehow still conspire to find a way for history to continue on the same course?
Yes, Dark is indeed dark. So, are you going to like it? Well, that’s another matter. A full review of the entire first season after this lovely trailer – some minor spoilers ahoy.
TMINE’s about to take its traditional Christmas and New Year break. Normal business will resume on January 2nd with the Daily News et al.
But as usual, I’ll leave you with a specific question to keep you occupied in my absence: what were your favourite new shows of the year? Let everyone know your choices and the reasons below or on your own blog – or even on the shiny new TMINE Facebook page.