Kelly Reilly in Sky Atlantic's Britannia
BAFTA events

What TV’s on at BAFTA in January 2018? Including Requiem and Britannia

Every couple of weeks, TMINE flags up what new TV events BAFTA is holding around the UK

We’ve already done January, but BAFTA is being its usual helpful self and not telling me about things until they have already sold out (Meet the Controllers – thanks, BAFTA!). So I’ve had a look and it turns out that they had some secret Welsh events they hadn’t told me about as well. Better still, they’re not sold out.

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Counterpart
US TV

Preview: Counterpart (US: Starz)

In the US: Sundays, Starz. Starts January 21

Science-fiction and espionage seem at first glance to be a perfect combination. Think of how many successful spy shows and movies over the years have also been science-fiction greats: Total Recall, The Champions, Alias, Airwolf and more. Indeed, there’s even a name for the genre: spy-fi.

Look a little harder, though, and you’ll notice that the greater the emphasis on the science-fiction, the worse the show is. The more SF a James Bond movie contains, the worse it gets (invisible cars, anyone?). That’s because – to generalise broadly – the spy genre is fundamentally about people, whereas science-fiction is more about ideas. Those spy-fi classics? They were the ones that remembered to concentrate on both the people and the ideas.

Counterpart

Now we have Counterpart, a show that does its best to give us both big ideas and little people, while also invoking the magic blessing for any spy show: a Berlin location and obvious Cold War parallels. JK Simmons (Law & Order, Whiplash, The Closer, Oz) plays a very little person at a UN spy agency based in Berlin. For 29 years, he’s worked uncomplainingly in the ‘Interface’ department, where he goes up every morning in the same suit to read out sentences to another man from ‘the Other Side’ in a small room, before returning to his desk. His requests for promotion go unheard and he can’t even get an interview.

Meanwhile, his wife Olivia Williams (Dollhouse) is in hospital after being run over six weeks previously, and her brother Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica, Perception) is trying to get her returned to the UK and her ‘true family’. Simmons is passively nice and unable to say or do much in response to all these injustices.

Then one day, he’s dragged by boss Harry Lloyd (Robin Hood, Game of Thrones) to meet chief of security Ulrich Thomsen (Banshee). A top spy from the Other Side wants to defect. The Cold War that’s been going on is thawing and assassin Sara Serraiocco has come over to start killing people on this side – including Simmons’ wife.

Thing is, the Other Side is a parallel universe with which Simmons’ universe has been in contact with for decades but which has diverged over time, and the would-be defector is… JK Simmons.

Now the two Simmons, spy and Mitty, must work together to stop the assassin and whatever’s caused this thaw in the Cold War, while simultaneously looking at each other to see how their lives turned out so differently.

Regrets, I’ve had a few

Although similarities with Fringe are obvious, this is far more a well worn story of male wish fulfilment: the little man, over the hill, wishing for a more exciting life than he ever had, suddenly getting a chance to lead that life. It was the substance of many of the early Man from UNCLE episodes and it’s the essence of Total Recall.

Here, the difference is that firstly, Simmons is a much better, more plausible little man/spy than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Secondly, while there is action and excitement to be had, the show works far better as an examination of roads not taken, what choices you can make in your life that will take it in completely different directions and how much of who you are as a person is caused by external rather than internal factors. Great efforts are made against the overly-stylised sci-fi background to make Simmons and all the other characters seem like real people, albeit with variable success. It’s certainly helped by the supporting cast, with a range of Brits giving great, understated performances, particularly Lloyd, but Thomsen is as good as always and there are also some fine German actors in minor roles, too. More good actors are on the way, too, with the near ubiquitous Richard Schiff and Stephen Rea set to do a turn soon, too.

It works less well as a spy show than you might hope, though, and that’s because of the sci-fi throwing everything out of whack. The Interface department looks cool, for example, but seems ludicrous – why are they doing this? What possible reason could they have for it? Whatever it is, it’ll be nonsense when revealed, I bet you. There’s also far less of Berlin to be seen than you might hope and while the show avoids the tourism of Berlin Station, there’s the obligatory ‘exotic’ club scene.

All the same, Counterpart offers more or less the best of both genres. It’s not exactly Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; neither is it Blade Runner. But as a moderately entertaining piece of metaphysical musing – with guns, parallel universes and a surprisingly kick-ass JK Simmons – Counterpart has a lot to offer.

Watchmen
News

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; Walter Presents acquires Mama’s Angel; + more

Internet TV

International TV

  • Sean Penn joins Channel 4/Hulu (US)’s The First

UK TV

New UK TV shows

US TV

US TV show casting

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TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including Odysseus, כפולים, and Halt and Catch Fire

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. TMINE recommends has all the reviews of all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended, but for a complete list of TMINE’s reviews of (good, bad and insipid) TV shows and movies, there’s the definitive TV Reviews A-Z and Film Reviews A-Z. But it’s what you have you been watching? So tell us! Ah go on. Go on, go on, go on

Here we are at the third of my post-August WHYBW catch-ups. If you recall, the first was to catch up with all the boxsets I’d been watching; the second was to catch up with all the movies; and this third one will deal with new shows and episodes of all the regular shows I’ve been watching over August.

However, as you may have noticed, as always things haven’t quite gone according to plan. Already, I’ve slipped in a review of the complete third season of Narcos. But on top of that, I’ve gone and watched some more movies, too. Whoops. You’ll see which ones in a tick.

I’ve also not seen as many new shows as I’d wanted to. My usual “if it starts in August, I ain’t watching it” rule means that 21 Thunder, Gone, Get Shorty and The Sinner, to name but a few, aren’t even getting a plot summary out of me – let that be a lesson to you, broadcasters! – but as well as a couple of Amazon boxset shows that need my attention – The Last Tycoon and Comrade Detective –  I’ve still to watch some new shows that just about slipped in under the wire.

That means Get Krack!N (Australia: ABC) will probably be getting reviewed on Thursday, seeing as episode two goes out on Wednesday. I’m also in two minds as to whether to review The Deuce (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic). On the plus side, it’s from David Simon (The WireTreme) and stars James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal; on the minus side, it’s about the rise of the porn industry in New York in the 1970s, so might be a bit too risqué for my blood. Still, it doesn’t officially premiere until 10 September, so I’ve still plenty of time to preview it.

All of that cunningly means that after the jump, I’ll be reviewing:

  • Movies: Just Friends (2005) and Doctor Strange (1978)
  • New (ish) showsOdysseus (France: Arte; UK: TV5)
  • Regular shows: כפולים (False Flag), Game of Thrones, Shooter and Twin Peaks
  • Returning shows: Halt and Catch Fire and The Last Ship

Yep, I gave up on Will – as did TNT, to be fairSee you in a mo…

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Odysseus, כפולים, and Halt and Catch Fire”

Jason Bateman and Laura Linney in Netflix's Osark
TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including Ozark, Somewhere Between, Sing, and Beauty and the Beast

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching. TMINE recommends has all the reviews of all the TV shows TMINE has ever recommended, but for a complete list of TMINE’s reviews of (good, bad and insipid) TV shows and movies, there’s the definitive TV Reviews A-Z and Film Reviews A-Z. But it’s what you have you been watching? So tell us! Ah go on. Go on, go on, go on

August is nearly here, which means TMINE is about to take it’s traditional month off from talking about TV in order to lounge around by a pool and try to read a book without falling asleep for a change. Naturally, of course, all the new shows are starting up now so there’s no slouching to be done just yet, though.

I’ll be reviewing both Midnight, Texas (US: NBC; UK: Syfy) and Pulse (Australia: ABC) over the next couple of days, but after the jump, I’ll be looking at the first episodes of Somewhere Between (US: NBC) and Ozark (Netflix). I’ve also caught a couple of movies out the corner of one eye, so I’ll be reviewing Sing (2017) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), too.

But as it is the last WHYBW before the August vacations, as usual it’ll be a little special and I’ll be applying my standard “Can I really be shagged to catch up with it when I get back?” test to the current list of shows, including Game of Thrones, Salvation, Snowfall, Will and Twin Peaks, as well as the returning Shooter. Can you guess which ones I can really be shagged to catch up with when I get back? Ah go on.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Ozark, Somewhere Between, Sing, and Beauty and the Beast”