What have you been watching? Including Backstrom, Young Drunk Punk, 19-2, Spiral and Galavant

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.

Lots of new shows to deal with this past week, including 12 Monkeys. Unfortunately, it’s my busy time of the month, so I won’t be able to deal with them at length and there’s a few third-episode verdicts I’m going to have skip, too. Fortunately, though, all the new shows don’t really warrant full reviews…

Backstrom (US: Fox)
Despite having been canned by CBS straight after its pilot, this adaptation of Leif GW Persson’s Bäckström books has been resurrected over at Fox and once again demonstrates that the US really shouldn’t be adapting Nordic Noir. It stars Rainn Wilson from The Office as the eponymous Backstrom, a Portland police detective who’s best thought of as Gregory House MD but without the talent, the charm or the looks, bungling his way from crime scene to crime scene being lazy and offensive and being proved right because the script demands it, rather than because of any insight. So the producers think it very funny that Backstrom have the nearest – and indeed only – black person around arrested because he’s black so probably was involved in the crime. My, how comically racist! Except the black person is involved in the crime – how actually racist!

There’s some decent supporting characters, including an MMA-beat cop (Page Kennedy); a New Age medical examiner (Kristoffer Polaha from Ringer, Valentine, Life Unexpected), whom everyone reacts to like he’s English, even though he doesn’t even have an accent; an investigator whom everyone reacts to like she’s French, because she is (Beatrice Rosen); and Dennis Haysbert (The Unit, 24) as Backstrom’s boss. But this is as lazy as Backstrom himself, trying to fake being intelligent and gimmicky by having Backstrom ‘empathise’ (saying out loud, “I am character x, I feel y, therefore I would have done z”) and come up with insight such as “Anyone who says ‘Absolutely not’ is absolutely lying”, rather than actually being intelligent or having insight.

Weirdly, between moving from CBS to Fox, there’s been some recasting and a lot of the funnier and smarter stuff has been removed, making it worse not better than it was before.

Young Drunk Punk (Canada: City TV)
After last year’s slew of 80s nostalgia shows in the US, time for some 80s nostalgia from Canada, with Young Drunk Punk, in which two teenage nerd punk-wannabes search for their destinies after leaving high school. Despite being written by and starring Bruce McCulloch (Kids In The Hall) this is very much like the previous half dozen Canadian comedies that have come by in having a total laugh count of zero.

After the jump, 19-2, Arrow, Banshee, Constantine, Cougar Town, Elementary, The Flash, Galavant, Gotham, The Ground Floor, Hindsight, Man Seeking Woman, Marvel’s Agent Carter, State of Affairs, Spiral (Engrenages) and Togetherness. One of them’s on the verge of getting recommended, one of them’s going to be dropped, and one of them is on the borderline. But which ones? You’ll find out after the jump.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Backstrom, Young Drunk Punk, 19-2, Spiral and Galavant”

US TV

Review: 12 Monkeys 1×1-1×2 (US/UK: Syfy)


In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, Syfy
In the UK: Acquired by Syfy UK. Begins 9pm, 27 February 

For quite some time now, Syfy has been coasting. Gone are the halcyon days when Battlestar Galactica was the toast of the town. Indeed, with a schedule intermittently packed with wrestling, reality shows and knowingly bad B-movies, it was possible to surmise that Syfy had changed its name from the Scifi channel not just for trademarking purposes but so it could avoid having to show sci-fi, with what little it did airbeing anaemic-to-poor knock-offs (Alphas) or imports (Continuum, Being Human, Bitten). 

However, for the past couple of years, Syfy has been trying to raise its game in original programming. Sometimes, the quality’s been awful (Dominion, Z Nation), sometimes it’s been okay (Defiance, Helix), but so far, nothing’s been great.

12 Monkeys doesn’t quite change that track record, but given what’s gone before it, it’s surprisingly good. The film, 12 Monkeys, was a Terry Gilliam classic, itself based on the Chris Marker’s 1962 ‘photo-roman’ La Jetée, in which a time traveller from the future comes back to the modern day to prevent armageddon. However, time paradoxes mean that the story has more than a twist or two.

Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, as well as being a movie rather than a series of photos, adds many plots and sub-plots to Marker’s story, portraying a virus-devastated future from which Bruce Willis returns to find out the source of the virus and prevent the future from happening. Along the way, he meets a doctor (Madeleine Stowe), with whom he falls in love and convinces he’s from the future, and a psychiatric institute inmate (Brad Pitt), who is the head of ‘the Army of the 12 Monkeys’, the likely cause of the virus. And again, as with La Jetée, there are plenty of timey-wimey twists.

This new TV version moves things on slightly and straightens out some of the twists. Our new hero is Aaron Stanford – best known as Pyro in X-Men 2 but also doing serviceable secret agent turns in both Nikita and Traveler – and he’s come from 2043 to find out the source of a viral outbreak that’s set to happen in 2017. Why him? Because in the future, the few remaining survivors of the virus find not only a time machine that can ‘splinter’ someone back in time but also a message from a CDC doctor, Amanda Schull (Louis’ helper in Suits), saying that he is the one who must help stop the virus from getting out. Will he convince her of what’s going to happen? Will he be able to find who’s really behind the viral outbreak? And how many time paradoxes will he encounter along the way

Here’s a trailer.

Continue reading “Review: 12 Monkeys 1×1-1×2 (US/UK: Syfy)”

News: Being Human (US) cancelled, Matthew Perry’s Odd Couple gets a pilot and a new companion + more

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What have you been watching? Including The Musketeers, House of Fools, Monsters University and Enlisted

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.

The January TV deluge has begun in earnest now, with many new shows as well as returning old shows, and although I’m doing my best, I’ve still got a few things sitting in my viewing queue as a result (being a day late with this hasn’t helped…): Sunday’s Looking, True Detective and Mr Selfridge, and last night’s Being Human and Intelligence. I’ve also got to try to preview Black Sails at some point.

I’ve given a few new shows a go, though:

Still Open All Hours (BBC1)
A Christmas special – already commissioned for a new series – which sees David Jason reprise his role of Granville, now the owner of Arkwright’s old corner shop, and with a probable son in tow. Most of the old cast are still there, surprisingly all having aged better than Jason, and the characters still the same, but the jokes are now a bit old and not especially funny.

House of Fools (BBC2)
Vic and Bob return triumphantly to their surreal comedy, pastiching so much that you never know what they’re even pastiching half the time, whether it’s themselves, 70s sitcoms or anything else. Very funny a lot of the time, but the jokes about women (and Sandi Toksvig) left a nasty taste that detracted from the fun and by about 20 minutes in, it had become very wearing. Matt Berry wasn’t exactly stretched much as an actor, either.

The Three Musketeers (BBC1)
Originally planned as a family filler to sit in between seasons of Doctor Who, this has now been promoted to Sunday primetime and sees Dumas’ classic taken and then passed through the BBC1 generic family action washing machine to give us something bland, inauthentic, unfaithful and without any really discernable characteristics, beyond crappy dialogue (cf Merlin, Atlantis, Hunted et al). Nice to see Santiago Cabrera (Heroes) getting work and Peter Capaldi is delightfully evil, without going over the top, but everyone else is as remarkable as battleship grey. Fun enough with some relatively decent action sequences, but could be so much better.

Shows that I’ve been watching but not really recommending:

Almost Human (Fox)
A generic episode that felt strangely out of order in the series run. Tracking bullets was the somewhat silly sci-fi idea of the week.

Agents of SHIELD (ABC/Channel 4)
More of the story arc, more of the Skye story. Still don’t care. I’m wondering if this has passed the point where it can make us care about its characters?  

Enlisted (Fox)
A toxically unfunny 10 minutes followed by a much better second half, with some obvious changes in military accuracy. Lacked a lot of the clever dialogue from the first episode, but had a good range of character moments. 

The Tomorrow People (The CW/E4)
One format change (a swap in leader) that was interesting, but the idea that mole TP could still be a mole after all this time is now terrifyingly implausible. Liz Hurley showed up (not literally) to not much effect as the voice of the bad guys’ computer.

And in the recommended list:

Archer (FX/Channel 5)
A massive series reboot and some delightfully nasty humour, but a final five minutes that were a bit flat. Still, let’s see where it all goes next week.

Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
Probably the most Batman-esque episode so far. Largely, though, aimed at nudging characters in particular directions, rather than anything radical. And is it just me or are the martial arts fights just not as good or even frequent this season. But more Oliver-Felicity, please, and can we get Black Canary off the island, as soon as possible, too?

Banshee (Cinemax)
A bit soft porn in places and officially moving from ‘heightened reality’ to ‘very silly’, but a couple of good fight scenes and good use of humour. Not entirely sure niece Amish is plausible as a human being…

Being Human (US) (SyFy)
As usual, most of the cliffhanger plot threads were easily resolved in the first episode, and some new ones thrown in our direction instead. Some of these are moderately interesting and the idea of the inverted werewolf (a wolf except during the full moon, when humanity returns) was novel to me at least, but I think, as with Shameless (US), I’m going to be abandonning this, since I can’t see anything in the new threads that interest me, unless last night’s episode was a doozy. The downplaying of evil female vampire in favour of a new male nemesis also seemed unnecessary.

The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)
A surprisingly fluid show that keeps on changing format as soon as you think you’ve got it nailed down. Last week’s was marginally better than this week’s, with Spader getting to be downright evil and vengeful rather than merely arch, but everything involved Megan Boone and her hubby needed to be destroyed in fire ASAP.

The Bridge (BBC4)
A little annoyed that most of the past few weeks has been red herrings, but some great moments, particularly for the main characters. If you aren’t watching, you absolutely should be.

Community (NBC/some random UK channel)
For a character that largely wasn’t in the show much of late and whose actor didn’t half annoy the EP, Pearce has cast a very big shadow over the first set of episodes. Essentially another ‘bottle episode’, last week’s was still hilarious and weird, and enlivened even more by Walter Goggins (Justified) as Pearce’s lawyer. A definite return to form for the show, and also a clever way to write out another character.

Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
Back but everything’s pretty much the shame, apart from that new romance. The ‘international penny can’ thing worked well, as did ‘the evil twin’, though. The arrival of Matt Perry for the Monica/Chandler reunion lifted the second episode considerably, too, although it did show how much better as a comic actor he is than Josh Hopkins.

Ground Floor (TBS)
And promoted to the recommended list, thanks to a really good, game-changing episode, that as well as a couple of innovative storytelling points (including a Shining reference), we got some seriously good and moving acting from Briga Heelan.

Intelligence (CBS)
A very silly episode involving digestible explosives and the return of Sawyer from Lost‘s dead wife from Homeland. Just an obvious attempt to ditch the romance-inhibiting backstory the pilot lumbered the show with or will she be back? I wonder…

Shameless (Showtime/More 4)
In the interests of sanity and because this is now effectively a reboot, all the old stories having ended last season, I’ve decided to drop Shameless, since I can’t see the value in continuing it – at least in the direction it’s currently going. These are all new plot strands that don’t really add anything to what’s gone before, and in some cases, are only likely to diminish it. I might/probably will turn out to be wrong, but c’est la vie. It’s been four seasons. I’m still recommending it though, so let me know if I should start watching again.

And in movies:

Monsters University
A prequel to Monsters Inc, in which we learn how Mike and Sully got their jobs at Monsters Inc by following them during their college days. Unfortunately, not a patch on the original in terms of imagination, even if the animation has improved considerably, and despite the likes of Nathan Fillion and Helen Mirren lending their voices this time round, it’s not until about halfway through that it starts to garner anything more than a titter. Somewhat disappointing, but not a total washout.

“What have you been watching?” 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?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Sandman?, three Channel 4 sitcom pilots and former Wonder Woman to fight vampires

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