US TV

Review: Hindsight 1×1 (US: VH1)

Hindsight

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, VH1

There is a stereotype that Canadians are basically the same as Americans – except smarter. Unfair? Untrue? Maybe. Yet, if we were to judge how Americans and Canadians approached almost exactly the same idea, it would be hard not to think that perhaps there’s truth to the stereotype.

A few years ago, Canada’s CBC gave us the mind-bending Being Erica, in which over-achieving Erica Strange MA is stuck in a dead end job, her personal life a mess, when a mysterious proverb-quoting stranger gives her the opportunity to do over key moments in her life with the benefit of hindsight, so she can fix her problems and grow as a person.

It was a lovely, jaunty, smart little show with a lot to say for itself and quite rightly, countries all over the world acquired it. Even the US. Many countries even tried to make their own versions of it, few actually getting anywhere with it. Even the US.

But now we have VH1 – yes, the TV music channel for oldies – entirely by coincidence and in no way doing anything that would require it to pay a licence fee to anyone, giving us what is essentially a remake of Being Erica called Hindsight. Except it’s a lot stupider.

Becca (Laura Ramsey) is a 40-something secretary about to embark on her second marriage to Andy (Nick Clifford), a nice but definitely dull guy she doesn’t really love, when she bumps into a Buddhist-proverb quoting stranger. Wouldn’t you know it, she’s waking up the next day back in 1995, on the eve of her first wedding to the hot but bad Australian Sean (Craig Horner from Legend of the Seeker). How did she get there? Who was the proverb-quoting stranger? Should she tell best friend Lolly what’s happened and why they’re no longer talking in the future? Should she still marry Sean or should she go off with Andy? Will the benefit of hindsight help?

These are the questions that Hindsight poses. You’ll notice that questions about the existential nature of reality, the self and one’s career do not feature in that list.

Here’s a trailer.

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Canadian TV

Review: Continuum (Showcase) 1×1

Continuum

In Canada: Sundays, 9pm ET/PT, Showcase

Canada seems to have had a thing for time travel for late. Maybe it’s pining for a previous government or something, but following semi-hot on the heels of Being Erica, we have Continuum on Showcase – Canada’s last best hope for original programming thanks to all the government cutbacks.

Continuum is doubly a show about time travel since you feel like you’re going back in time when you watch it – it’s essentially a remake of Time Trax, starring everyone who co-starred but didn’t star in that series you used to watch: Rachel Nichols from Alias, Victor Webster from Mutant X, Lexa Doig from Andromeda, Roger R Cross from 24, and probably everyone who’s been in any episode of Stargate ever (but not starred in it).

Here we have Nichols as a cop in a dystopia 65 years in our future in which the corporations have bailed out the failed governments and imposed their own not-always benign laws. When a bunch of incarcerated terrorists (or are they just rebels?) somehow manage to escape to 2012, Nichols gets accidentally dragged back with them and she has to round them up again before they can take over the world, prevent the future and kill lots of people in the process.

So far, so Time Trax. The big difference between Continuum and Time Trax, however, is that despite being a little mired in the police procedural genre, Continuum is actually pretty good, with some interesting attempts at world building, a couple of twists on the whole time travel thing, and some really halfway decent bits of futurology.

Plus it’s got Rachel Nichols in a catsuit. That’ll work.

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Tuesday’s “Garrow’s Law, Being Erica cancelled, Bunheads ordered, and Sendhil Ramamurthy goes to The Office” news

British TV

Canadian TV

US TV

TMINE

What did you watch last week (w/e November 11)?

Misfits - series 3

Time for “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.

My recommendations for maximum viewing pleasure this week: Dexter, Modern Family, Happy Endings, Homeland, Suburgatory and Community.

Things you might enjoy but that I’m not necessarily recommending: Being Erica, Boss, Burn Notice, House, Chuck, Ringer and The Walking Dead.

So, I’ve decided to give up on two regular shows this week:

  • The Walking Dead, despite an excellent revelation a couple of weeks ago, has just been boring me silly. I’m not a big horror fan, anyway, so the zombies haven’t really grabbed me, but neither have the characters this season. It feels like they’ve been stuck on the same problem for five weeks (or whatever it is now), putting off the day when they have to progress the plot
  • Burn Notice: Now, I’ve been with this since the beginning, five seasons ago, and although it’s usually worth watching just for a fight scene or two, again, the lack of progress has become a problem. Now, to a certain extent, Burn Notice has always been superb at having the same underlying formula (Michael and co help out some innocent people, using their improbable spy training) while changing the exact mechanism by which this formula is allowed to continue (the Burn Notice, Tricia Helfer, Robert Winston, etc). I’m just bored of it now. It didn’t help that this week’s was so poorly acted and written that I actually had to turn it off after 15 minutes. So I’m going to be big and brave and strong and see if I can cut the cord this week.

A few thoughts on what else I’ve seen:

  • Dexter: interesting reveal last week – haven’t seen what they intend to do with it this week. But like I said, the series only ever kicks off around episode six or seven and this year that theory seems to be holding true, too.
  • Misfits: I think I’m actually liking Series 3 better than Series 1. Okay, no Nathan, but he was an unrelenting twat who really needed to be beaten regularly and Rudy does seem to have greater humility. This season seems to be balancing plot and characterisation well – better than season 2 certainly and I think better than season 1, as well. This week’s guest super-power was a bit daft, though, but the episode was fine overall.
  • Ringer: I’m not saying that there was a massive loophole at the start of last week’s episode, but how exactly did the guy who’s been held captive for a week know the ins and outs of SMG’s social life?
  • American Horror Story: Tedious and obvious. Turns out the only reason to watch this really is Alex Breckenridge.
  • House: good to see the rest of the old cast back, but this really is a show going through the motions now. Nice to see Jamie Bamber back on US TV though.

And in the movies section:

  • Justice League: The New Frontier – An adaptation of the graphic novel series set in the 1950s, with Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and co having to deal with a big nasty, as well as McCarthyism. It’s faithful to the book while streamlining it, but it manages to include all the iconic moments (including one of Wonder Woman’s most famous iconic moments) as well as adding a few. Not really for anyone who isn’t a fan, but it’s worth watching if you are and there are some great choices for the voice cast: Jeremy Sisto as Batman, Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman, David Boreanaz as Hal Jordan, etc.

And this week, in books (yes, a new addition!):

  • Absolutely, by Christopher Hitchens – a collection of Hitchens’ essays from magazines such as Slate, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, etc, on a range of eclectic themes, including the Middle East (of course), authors ranging from Somerset Maugham to PG Wodehouse, whether women as a whole are as funny as men and more. It’s all written with Hitchens’ incredible wit and wisdom. Recommended (although you might end up skipping a few essays).
  • The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex – film critic Mark Kermode’s latest book, this is a bit hit and miss. If you listen to his Friday show with Simon Mayo on Radio 5 Live, there’s not much that’s new and what there is is largely facts and figures that you really didn’t want to know. It’s also a little bit ADHD, heading off in all kinds of directions, rather than staying on target. But it’s proving a good read so far.

“What did you watch last 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?

French TV

Review: Braquo 1×1

Braquo

In the UK: Sundays, 10pm, FX UK
In France: Canal+. First broadcast 2009

Once upon a time – i.e. five or six years ago – FX was the place to go to if you wanted to watch the best, most niche US TV shows. The Wire was on FX years before DVD and BBC2 showings made it nearly a household name, while Dexter and numerous other top-quality shows aired only on FX or aired on it first.

Then along came Sky Atlantic and screwed all that up. Have a look at the roster now and yes, there’s The Walking Dead, True Blood and American Horror Story, but that’s three horror shows, only one of which is any good and everything else is just re-runs. And let’s not start on the fact The Defenders is on there. That’s just embarrassing.

So FX came up with a cunning idea: let’s see what countries other than the US have to offer. So it started with Canadian TV. Along came The Border, which wasn’t half bad, The Listener, which was, and ReGenesis and The Booth At The End, which I admit I’ve never seen but which I also admit I don’t feel inspired to watch, either.

But hunting for good quality Canadian TV can be tricky. For every, The Border, jPod, Being Erica or Endgame, there’s a The Line, Men With Brooms, InSecurity, Good Dog or XIII waiting to make you regret your TV-watching decision. FX can’t exactly pack its schedules to the rafters with Canadian TV, particularly since E4’s started nicking Canadian shows as well.

So FX has cunningly decided, just as BBC4 is cutting back on its acquisition budgets and focusing on Scandinavian shows, to capitalise on one of that channel’s other innovations and look close to home for its shows. To France, in fact.

So not only has it been showing the two-part movie Mesrine, starring Vincent Cassel as the eponymous gangster, it’s also acquired Spiral/Engrenages‘s sibling show at Canal+ Braquo, a dark policier about a cop with broad definitions of legality and what he’s allowed to do.

The question is – has FX found the new The Killing or is it about to discover what those of us who have watched French TV for some time now have found: that French TV drama, by and large, sucks?

Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading “Review: Braquo 1×1”