International TV

What have you been watching? Including Little Fires Everywhere

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Previously on TMINE

So, here’s something interesting about being confined to quarters/being quarantined/being in prison/surviving coronavirus – you end up watching less TV than before. I was actually expecting to watch more, but without my morning commute, I’m actually watching less.

Plus the general ennui and existential angst of it all means I’ve gone to my happy place for the ironing: yep, I’m rewatching Iron Fist. It’s really good. I’ll probably have a lot to say about it next week. New things. Different things. Honest.

All of which meant that the only new show I reviewed this past week was Motherland: Fort Salem and I still haven’t got to the end of season 3 of Babylon Berlin (I’m up to episode eight now). Sorry about that.

The Banker

Next on TMINE

To be honest, I’m actually going to be pretty busy this week and next – my bank account will be happy at least – so I’m not sure how much reviewing I’ll be able to do. However, my eye has been caught by Netflix’s Freud, which is a handy eight episodes long, so that might become a Boxset Monday, although The Guardian reckons it’s ridiculous so maybe not.

Council of Dads (US: NBC) should be getting a review either tomorrow or Monday, though. German/US show Unorthdox comes to Netflix tomorrow, but that doesn’t really appeal. Season three of Ozark is arriving on Friday, as is comic-adaptation Vagrant Queen on Syfy (US), and they appeal a bit more.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s Orange Thursday is down to one movie again (sigh, I miss going to the movies so much): Apple TV+’s The Banker (2020).


The regulars

It’s the usual regulars after the jump: Devs, For Life, Star Trek: Picard, Stateless, Transplant, and War of the Worlds. I’ll also be talking about the latest two episodes of Westworld, which I forgot I’d watched last week, as well as episode three of Amazing Stories, which I gave another try.

I decided, however, not to give The Plot Against America another try – I’m prepared to be proven wrong on this, but it feels like a worthy-fest with less impact than even 11.22.63.

I also watched a bit of an episode of Avenue 5 out of the corner of one eye – it was the episode with John Finnemore in it and you know what? It was all right. I might watch season two at this rate.

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International TV

What have you been watching? Including The Plot Against America

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Previously on TMINE

So, erm, yes. There’s this virus thing and we’re all being quarantined. How about that for fun? Still, rather than giving me more TV viewing time, it just gave me more work, which meant that things have been a bit quieter than planned on TMINE this past week.

In fact, there have been no TV reviews this week at all. I have been watching season 3 of Babylon Berlin but I’m only up to episode 8 of 12, so I’ll hold off reviewing that until next week. Although, to be honest, I’m not sure I can muster a whole Boxset Monday review for it, so that’ll probably sneak in with WHYBW next Wednesday.

Orange Thursday did manage to take in both Radioactive (2020) and Joker (2019). But given that that naughty virus, which has already cancelled all the scheduled BFI and BAFTA events, has now closed down all the cinemas, that’ll be the last for reviews and previews of current movies for a while.

Little Fires Everywhere

Next on TMINE

Although pretty much every TV show you can name, UK or overseas, has now shut down production, we do at least have a few new shows that have already been completed coming our way, some of which I hope to watch. What else am I going to do? Go out?

After the jump, though, I’ll take in the latest bit of work from The Wire‘s Ed Burns and David Simon – an adaptation of Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America, which sees what happens in a parallel universe America when Charles Lindbergh defeats FDR in the presidential election of 1940.

Coming later this week (hopefully) are reviews of Hulu (US)’s Little Fires Everywhere and Freeform (US)’s Motherland: Fort Salem, both of which start today. I’m less likely to watch Julian Fellowes’ dramatisation of the history of football, The English Game (Netflix), teen knight drama The Letter For the King (Netflix) or period fashion biopic Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker (Netflix), but they’re on the table at least. I might be able to add Council of Dads (US: NBC) to next week’s WHYBW, as it’s airing on Tuesday, but we’ll wait and see on that.

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s Orange Thursday will head into the exciting world of TV movies. No, not TV Movies – TV movies. First up will be Netflix’s Spenser Confidential (2020), which is a very loose remake of 80s TV show Spenser For Hire (US: ABC) (or at least the original source material).

And then we’re going to head even further back in TV time to the 60s for The Man From UNCLE‘s The Helicopter Spies (1968). Spoiler for the second of those – there aren’t that many helicopters in it.

Devs © Miya Mizuno/FX

The regulars

Stumptown took another holiday again, which means I’ll only be reviewing the following regulars after the jump: Devs, For Life, Star Trek: Picard, Stateless, Transplant, and War of the Worlds. At least one of them’s getting a promotion to the recommended list – isn’t that exciting?

I did try to watch the second episode of Amazing Stories (Apple TV+), but “It’s A Wonderful Life with an aspiring urban female 400m runner” really put me off after about 15 minutes, so that’s not going to be a regular, just something I dip into occasionally, I suspect.

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Review: Devs 1×1-1×2 (US: Hulu; UK: BBC Two)

In the US: Thursdays, Hulu
In the UK: Acquired by BBC

Most TV dramas are written by people without much knowledge of science and technology. The resulting mistakes annoy people who do have knowledge of science and technology. But as Mr Robot demonstrated, there is a market for TV dramas written by people who do understand science and technology. And as the title suggests, Devs is such a show – Devs is short for developers, as any IT fool knows.

However, Devs also demonstrates that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, both for audiences and for writers. Even the title is a trap for those who know about technology. Does Devs actually stand for developers or is that what the show wants you to think? Because one of the many mysteries that Devs builds up in its first two episodes is the mystery of what devs actually stands for – even the show’s collection of emotionless IT staff aren’t sure.


From the brain of Alex Garland

What Devs definitely is is the first TV show both written and directed by Alex Garland (Ex Machina, Sunshine, 28 Days Later), meaning it’s very ‘hard SF’. It’s also one of the first “FX on Hulu” shows released so far, meaning it’s a bit more niche and a bit darker than the standard Hulu fare.

It sees Sonoya Mizuno and Karl Glusman playing a happy couple of super-brained developers working for bearded Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) and his ultra high-tech San Francisco tech company. They’re the kind of people who argue over breakfast about the right mathematical functions to use for encryption protocols to avoid being vulnerable to cracking by quantum computers – which given that they live and work in a near future when quantum computers are both viable and useful isn’t quite as theoretical a worry as it might at first seem.

When AI researcher Glusman demonstrates to Offerman a neural model of a nematode that accurately predicts its behaviour for 10 seconds, he’s rapidly promoted to Offerman’s Devs division – a division so secret no one actually knows what it does and so advanced that it works in an area inside a Faraday cage that’s vacuum sealed away from the rest of the universe.

But that same day, Glusman disappears and Mizuno is tenacious enough to start investigating what’s happened to him, even after she’s seen CCTV footage of him setting fire to himself and burning to death. Soon she finds a mysterious app on his phone that really isn’t the Sudoku game it claims to be…

What is Devs? What happened to Sergei? What is the app really? What is Offerman planning to do? Why does he have a giant statue of his dead daughter looming over his house?

And does knowing too much about physics turn a rather good show that knows quite a bit about physics into something more annoying?

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