What have you been watching this week (w/e April 23)

Well, I gave up on Ashes to Ashes this week – I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the third episode after the first two. I’ll probably tune in for the finale, just to find out how it ends, though. Still haven’t managed to watch Treme yet, which is a bit disgraceful, but where am I going to find the time?

  • Alexandria: Bettany Hughes’ latest documentary and the first in the Ancient Worlds series – finally caught up with using 4oD. Only an hour, and it felt more like an advert for the movie Agora at times – which worked, since I’ll probably go and see it now. Could have done with a whole lot more on the library of Alexandria, to be honest.
  • Cougar Town: Not desperately funny, but had its moments. Not many though.
  • The Daily Show: As funny as always, but feeling more superficial of late than it used to.
  • Heston’s Feasts…: Caught up with a couple of old eps of this. Always interesting to see Heston in action, but while his food knowledge is second to none, Lovely Wife tells me his knowledge of medieval and Tudor history leaves a lot to be desired. And did he really need to go to New York to learn about frog-cooking?
  • House: Ah, the good old “we wish we had history” American Renaissance Fair rears its head. The medical story wasn’t that great, but the return of Wilson’s first wife (Lost‘s Cynthia Watros) was the raison d’etre of the episode anyway, and that part worked nicely.
  • Lost: For once, the flash-sideways proved more intriguing than island activities and Sun and Jin‘s reunion was rushed to say the least. But what’s Desmond doing in the alternative univese – he’s definitely the most intriguing character right now.
  • Parenthood: Caught up with the last two episodes of this, which is shaping up nicely as a drama. Good to see Monica Potter now has someone to talk to, and all the women are starting to talk to each other independently of the men at last. Also good to see Bonnie Bedelia getting something to do. But after a brief flirtation with comedy at the start of the season, it’s started to return to drama and has also imported Friday Night Lights-style handheld camera work, which I don’t think suits the show.
  • Rome: Two episodes away from the end now. Definitely not as good as the first season, and the historical fudging is becoming decidedly off-putting (Augustus has just skipped his first two wives and headed straight over to the third).
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand: A good ending to a series that got better and more sophisticated after a very clumsy start. I’m surprised they killed so many of the regulars, but I enjoyed that – it’s the sign that story is leading over network politics, which has to be a good thing. On the not so plus side, Crixus‘s sudden change of heart seemed unlikely.
  • Stargate Universe: I slightly spoiled this one for myself by inadvertently reading the writer’s blog before watching it, but it was an interesting look at faith and how people will believe what they want in the absence of evidence and logic – yes, if aliens were powerful enough to build a solar system and lead you there, I’m sure they wouldn’t bother to leave a note telling you they’d done it. I’m not sure it fully mined the story’s potential, and the attempts by both factions to mend fences after last week’s civil war, even if it was over the month-long period of the story, seems a little forced. The relationship between TJ and Colonel Young feels like a bit of ret-con, mind
  • Supernatural: I really didn’t like this week’s –if you’re going to introduce other gods into the series, at least try to be a little respectful and treat them, you know, like gods. Still nice to see Lucifer, even if it did mean the death of Gabriel, but the ring MacGuffin at the end was decidedly clumsy, if it’s to be taken at face value.
  • 24: Slightly dull compared with last week’s.

But what did you watch?

As always, no spoilers unless you’re going to use the <spoiler> </spoiler> tags, please. If you’ve reviewed something on your blog, you can put a link to it here rather than repeat yourself (although too many links and you might get killed by the spam filter).

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What have you been watching this fortnight (w/e April 9)

The people – or person, at least – have spoken and “What…?” has moved back to Friday (at least for now – let me know if you preferred Mondays). That means two weeks of TV to hazily recall, if you can so that others with access to iPlayer, Hulu, iTunes, etc, can play catch up. Here’s what I watched

  • Ashes to Ashes: Since series two was apparently better than series one, I decided to give this another go. Rather than just being bad, this episode was merely dull. I didn’t care what was going on, I didn’t care about the characters, who all annoyed the hell out of me. Gene Hunt does at least seem to have recovered his Geneisms, but Alex Drake, rather than annoying me by being a combination of thick and up herself as per series one, annoyed me by being wetter than Kristen Stewart. I think I actually preferred series one Alex – at least she was interesting. Still, the tie-ins with Life on Mars will probably make me watch the rest of the series – or at least the finale.
  • Chuck: Lovely if slightly low-key way to end the season, although the order of additional episodes means that season four’s story arc has been brought forward i guess. Didn’t make a whole bucket load of sense but c’est la vie, and I did miss Captain Awesome. However, Paris? That was supposed to be Paris. Which exact hotel in Paris is taller than the Eiffel Tower and can look down on it, can I just ask? And why does it essentially look like LA but with an Eiffel Tower stuck in the middle of it?
  • Cougar Town: Stuff happened with Sheryl Crowe. The usual cliches about women needing a man to be multiple simultaneously impossible things were trotted out, to not much effect (or realism). But at least Christa Miller and Dan Byrd have been remembered and are starting to get to do some things again.
  • Jonathan Creek: Absolutely arse. Sheridan Smith’s character was suddenly thick. Of the two puzzles, the first was pointless and utterly, utterly implausible, while the second was both guessable and obscenely implausible. Paul McGann was good though, and it was a nice touch to make Jonathan’s explanations actually make things worse for the hapless victim.
  • Lost: Always love a Desmond episode and even last week’s Sun and Jin episode was tolerable. But by God we’re getting answers. Look at that would you.
  • Life Unexpected: So, last week’s episode was dreadful, lifted only by a bit of gumption at the end. But in order for a magic reset button to be pushed, a whole load of characters had to do backflips to get out of the natural progression of their characters the previous week. This week, it was nice to see that bloke from thirtysomething/Brimstone back on TV, but a shame that Alex Breckenridge wasn’t around. It’s just all over the place though so I’m sure next week, Lux will be bratty and irritating.
  • The Minoans: More4 have very secretly – and without a proper repeat during the week – been re-running a load of Bettany Hughes’ documentaries under the title “Bettany Hughes’ Ancient World”, so I missed her one on Alexandria (and 4oD is a pain in the arse). They’re mostly stuff she’s done before, rather than new stuff (I think this week’s was from 2008, since there’s a US DVD on the same subject), but she’s always worth watching, so tune in if you can – Wednesdays 9pm. It’s Helen of Troy next week, which is a fab one.
  • Parenthood: Not seen this week’s, but last week’s was reasonable enough, even if Peter Krause’s “I wish I had a real son” routine was irksome.
  • Rome: I’m on to series two now and I’m not enjoying it nearly as much. The absence of Ciaran Hinds’ Caesar is palpable, and the disappearance of the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern elements of the first series has robbed the show of some of its fun, just as it’s become very dark indeed. But I’m going to soldier on.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand: It’s really hard to know what to say about Spartacus on a weekly basis. Each episode moves the plot along, each episode usually has a lot of violence and nudity. The acting’s usually a bit iffy, apart from John Hannah who chews the scenery up, and the accents all over the place. I’m still not feeling much interest in any of the characters, but it’s enjoyable now, I’ll say that for it, you can see more or less where it’s going, and there have been some clever intrigues. Yes, I will keep watching.
  • Stargate Universe: It’s back! To no one’s great surprise, Rush is back, but it’s all been handled very well. The aliens that cropped up here were genuinely alien – CGI, weird-looking, not speaking English, etc – for which I’m duly grateful. And in a lot of ways, although the characterisation is a little sketchy still, I’m finding this more enjoyable than BSG. You really get a sense of just how fucked they are that you never really got in BSG. There’s a real risk of mutiny, the food’s lousy, they haven’t got enough power to do anything, nothing works and everywhere they go is inhospitable. Loving it.
  • Supernatural: In the middle of this week’s episode, but last week’s “heaven sent” episode did answer – as well as raise – a whole load of questions. I did like the implication that the brothers had died several times in the previous seasons, but the angels had saved them and sent them back down to Earth again without their knowing it. That does make sense.
  • 10 Things I Hate About You: Two episodes in, and it’s so far, so dull. Absolutely none of the verve of the original movie is in this, and we’re having to get by on the charisma of the various actors involved. Watchable, but not stimulating.
  • 30 Rock: Alec Baldwin, funny. That’s all I have to say.
  • 24: If you do decide to get this season on boxset, might I suggest skipping to episode 12 and watching from there, because it’s all been really good – rather than mind-numbingly dull – since then. A great three hours of TV over the last two weeks, thanks to the double-ep on Monday. Loved the downbeat ending with President Hassan getting killed on time delay this week and the fact that guy off The Unit survived. More than a few stupid moments, of course – who on Earth, driving that kind of sports car in Manhattan, is going to leave his keys in the ignition while he goes to get a newspaper? But what’s going to happen to Starbuck next week? And, indeed, who will her boss turn out to be, given we have another eight episodes or so left now?

But what did you watch? Anybody been watching Swedish Wallander on BBC4? I keep stacking these up to watch, but never get round to actually watching them.

As always, no spoilers unless you’re going to use the <spoiler> </spoiler> tags, please. If you’ve reviewed something on your blog, you can put a link to it here rather than repeat yourself (although too many links and you might get killed by the spam filter).

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What did you watch on TV last week (w/e March 7)

Here’s what I’ve been watching:

  • The Bible: A History I really only tuned into this to see Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens, but it became very apparent that Ann Widdecombe (sp?), who was trying to persuade us all that following the “10 commandments” was all we needed to have a happy life/society, couldn’t construct a coherent argument if her life depended on it, so it was all a bit of a waste of time. Realise I should probably have recorded the following week’s with my heroine Bettany Hughes talking about the women of the Bible instead.
  • Brian Sewell’s Grand Tour: My, what a load of self-congratulatory indulgence. Brian travels around Europe, following the route of those Brits who used to go on a “Grand Tour”. Basically, an excuse for him to go on holiday, since he really didn’t tell you anything useful. Worth it for his wonderful pronunciation of “peasant” though.
  • Burn Notice: That didn’t make a whole lick of sense, did it? Nice explosions, fun and good to see super-Michael can get hurt occasionally. But how did Simon’s super-plan make any sense whatsoever? Or the ending? Or anything else? So the season has basically meandered rather a lot, the Chris Vance plot being essentially worthless. But at least the end promises some possible formula changes next season.
  • Chuck: Good to see Chuck back, even if the budget cuts. As with all of Allison “producer whose name I can never remember”‘s scripts, this was one of the better eps, with more depth of characterisation for Sarah and Casey than we’ve come to expect. However, I’ve come to a disturbing conclusion: I really want to see more of Awesome and Ellie, rather than Sarah. What you going to do? It was also one of the most weapon-illiterate episodes of anything I’ve seen so far short of Torchwood. Someone needs to brush up on snipers before writing these things.
  • CSI: A 50-50 mix of good plot and bad plot. The whole country and western plot was relatively ignorable, offering nothing new, but the dead CIA operative explored new avenues for the show and gave us Will Patton again; it also hinted a new facets of MorpheusLaurence Fishburne and his dad that were pleasing.
  • Community: A welcome return to form with some great moments. More like that please.  
  • Cougar Town: Cougar Town is one of those shows that you watch, enjoy, but have absolutely no memory of afterwards. It’s TV bubblegum. But it’s fun.
  • HIccups: A new Canadian “comedy” show in which a woman who doesn’t fit in and ends up getting into fights visits a rather rubbish life coach. Failed to raise a single laugh in the first 10 minutes, despite everyone involved trying their absolute hardest to be wacky. Do not watch this show.
  • A Kick in the Head – Las Vegas: Alan Yentob’s history of Las Vegas was actually rather good at first, dealing with Native Americans, the Mob, the rise of “architainment” and all of Vegas’s peaks and troughs. Surprisingly, he managed to avoid being too sneery for a good portion of the show, and he was even able to embrace parts of Las Vegas as art. But the poor old Venetian took something of a hammering, and there was a general underlying hint that Yentob thought that Vegas was all “a bit much”. Informative, though, with some good interviews, including Penn and Teller.
  • Lost: Sayid’s back. Cool fights, nice crossovers in the flash-sideways, but what does it all mean? They killed the Japanese dude pretty quickly and in a surprising way. Why? Is Claire going to try to kill Kate (we can only hope)? I’m going to be needing some more answers soon.
  • Life Unexpected: They seem to stripping it down to its bare components now, removing almost all the characters they’ve introduced since the start of the season. Which is odd. It’s still proving enjoyable and the changes are making it a better show.
  • Modern Family: Possibly the second worst episode so far. Yet another one of those “men are stupid, women are great” eps that US sitcoms hurl in our directions every so often and make us want to hurl something back. Trouble is, it also means that the female characters end up unlikeable and less developed. What fears did the two women have to overcome this week? None. So they didn’t have to grow as people. Everybody else did, and their personalities were explored as a result.
  • QI: Isn’t it weird how less compelling QI is when you know something about the subject? I had the same experience when Stevie started talking about quantum mechanics a while back, and found myself saying, “Hang on. That’s not right.” This week, our Stevie tried his luck out on Laconic phrases – no Stephen, Laconic phrases did not originate during the Battle of Thermopylae and date back to at least the 8th century, and the one you’re talking about (“If.”) was actually given to Philip II of Macedon in the 4th century BC. Sigh. Illusion – broken.
  • Rome: A little late to the party here, I know, but this is clearly what Spartacus wants to be when it grows up so I thought I’d try the first episode to see what it’s like. Enjoying it a lot so far and if it holds up, I’ll buy the rest off iTunes – yes, I did get the whole first season out from Lovefilm, but I never watched it the whole year I had it. It’s got many of the same elements of Spartacus – Romans, fights, swearing, nudity, sex – except handled in an adult manner, thankfully.
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand: Ah yes, talking of Spartacus, I decided to play catch-up. I’ve still an episode to go, but it’s still oddly compelling in that car-crash sort of way. But my, does it want to show you everything. We even had a scene in which naked John Hannah is compelled by naked Lucy Lawless to start screwing a naked slavegirl up ‘the starfish’ (I use euphemisms – Spartacus does not), while two other naked slave girls continue to minister to her. And they’re all in a bath together. Then, later on, naked prostitutes turned up for an orgy with the naked gladiators and they all frolicked with one another in every imaginable combination, while covered in wine. It’s all still very comic book and entertaining in an odd sort of way, clearly borrowing more and more from 300 with every episode. But there’s a growing intelligence to it when it’s not trying to be big and clever. It’s coming to Bravo, BTW, UK viewers. I wonder if they’ll be able to get away without editing it.
  • 24: Dear 24. Please stop sucking. Thank you.

But what did you watch?

As always, no spoilers unless you’re going to use the <spoiler> </spoiler> tags, please. If you’ve reviewed something on your blog, you can put a link to it here rather than repeat yourself (although too many links and you might ge

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What have you been watching this week (w/e 5 May)?

Summer’s here. You can tell because there’s not much on. So now, your help is needed even more. Have you seen anything good on tele at all this week?

The Daily Show‘s back and hasn’t really done anything interesting this week. I did catch Bettany Hughes’ excellent The Spartans (best watched in conjunction with Paul Cartledge’s companion book) in mid-morning re-runs this week – no adverts in the whole thing, so either there’s some sort of educational quarantine zone in the mornings or C4 is in serious trouble.

I did turf out some DVDs and start watching early 70s “futurisitic drama” Moonbase 3 (available on DVD still), which is really rather good and does have a Welshman running the moon. Weird that he’s called David Calder, given David Calder was the star of the very similar 80s show Star Cops.

No big surprises over on The Apprentice, with James finally getting chucked out after delighting us ever more with his CV and expressions, Lorraine getting evicted for being a misery guts, and Deborah getting the boot for being a sociopath. That just leaves Kate versus Yasmine: my money’s on Yasmine, which means Kate will win, even though she’s a robot.

Oh, and what happened to beardy interrogator from previous years?

Still got Burn Notice and Royal Pains to watch, as well as three episodes of The Goode Family, though.

As always, no spoilers unless you’re going to use the <spoiler> </spoiler> tags, please? Ta!

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UK TV

Review: Myths 1×1

In the UK: Saturdays, 12.45pm, BBC2

Once the Beeb gets an idea into its head, it’s very hard to shift it. Case in point: ever since Canterbury Tales, it’s been impossible for the Beeb to dramatise any pre-17th Century piece of literature as anything other than a modernisation, with characters in equivalent 21st century roles rather than in the roles as written.

We’ve seen it have a go at Shakespeare, the Brothers Grim’s fairy tales* and now Ridley Scott’s production company is trying to introduce modern youth to classic Greek myths in handy five-minute nuggets. Suffice it to say, although Myths is fun, a little is lost in the translation…

Continue reading “Review: Myths 1×1”