Greg Davies in BBC One's The Cleaner
International TV

What have you been watching? Including The Cleaner

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

As I suspected last week American Rust, an adaptation of Philipp Meyer’s novel that Showtime described as “a compelling family drama and a timeless story told through the eyes of complicated and compromised chief of police Del Harris (Jeff Daniels) of a Pennsylvania Rust Belt town full of good people making bad choices” was about as fun as a hernia operation. Honestly, why do networks think:

  1. People want to watch miserable sh*t right now, after a year and a half of misery (at least a year and a half – apparently, in the Before Times, there were things to be miserable about other than Covid, too, but I struggle to remember those days so can’t confirm that)
  2. Miserable = quality TV while happy = lightweight TV?

It’s just such an odd couple of equations.

I also tried Australian Gangster (Australia: Seven). That’s billed as “Drug dealer, gangster, gym-junky, Lamborghini driver, husband, father, Australian Gangster is a four hour TV series about the life and death of a new breed of Sydney criminal. The kind that doesn’t care about playing it safe or keeping a low profile or even getting caught. Our main character is emblematic of the type of modern gangster that only really cares about looking good on Instagram, making a name for himself in a new, wannabe glamorous crime scene, while at the same time trying to manage the pressures of family life.”

I mean, it’s an obvious attempt to do a new Underbelly, just as a new Underbelly comes out, but want to guess how much fun it was? I mean it opens with a man being mildly threatening to a teacher because his kid has speech issues and so goes around biting everyone.

Do you know what that made me do? It made me watch some British TV.

The Cleaner (UK: BBC One)

“After CSI have done their stuff, the cleaner mops up the grisly remains. For Wicky, a bloodbath and the pub is all in a day’s work. Comedy written by and starring Greg Davies.”

And it’s odd. Mildly funny, but odd. Essentially, it’s a series of two-handers, with Davies turning up at a property to clean it after someone has died and then chatting with whomever he finds there for 30 minutes. So far we’ve had Helena Bonham-Carter, as a widow and suspected murderer who has returned to the scene of the crime; and David Mitchell, as a somewhat irate writer with writers’ block.

It’s somewhat reminiscent of Davies’ Taskmaster in some regards, with the dialogue usually being a battle of wits, before Davies just plays a meanness trump card to win. His character is little different from his standup persona, too, although there are fewer mentions of his mother.

But, I enjoyed it. Bonham-Carter was pleasingly dotty but also sympathetic as the woman who hated her model-making, unromantic husband but never got round to killing him. Mitchell was the “angry logic, you’re all imbeciles” persona we’ve come to expect, but also a figure of sympathy after a while.

It’s all a bit rough and loose, and your enjoyment is likely linked to how much you like Greg Davies. But it was definitely worth my time enough that I’d watch it again.

The regulars

On top of that, I now have two regulars to watch! It’s a true embarrassment of riches. They’re after the jump. But what have you been watching?

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Streaming TV

Review: Only Murders in the Building 1×1-1×3 (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+)

In the US: Available on Hulu
In the UK: Available on Disney+. New episodes Tuesdays

Fans of TMINE will know that TMINE is not a fan of… well, lots of things, because it’s getting old and crotchety (hence the need for some new, younger blood to add some positivity to things). But also because it has taste. However, specifically, reality shows aren’t getting so much as a sideways glance from TMINE and crime is all but dead to me, because it honestly always seem to be the same old show, time after time after time, and why would you want to watch that?

As a result, the phenomenon of the true crime podcast, which being audio-only has even less appeal than one of those CBS Reality shows such as Murderers and their Mothers, has pretty much passed me by. People listening at home to usually a complete amateur investigating a crime that took place in real life in the hope of solving it, where police have supposedly failed? What could possibly go wrong?

It’s actually almost fortunate then that I stumbled across Only Murders in the Building while skimming through Disney+, looking for something new to watch. I had no idea what it was about, but it had a nice graphic and… Wait, is that… Steve Martin? (reads cast list) Martin Short! Really? He’s still alive and acting?… Selena Gomez? Who’s she? Hang on, I think I’ve heard of her. (Another reason TMINE is in urgent need of new, younger blood…).

And it was co-created by Steve Martin? Okay, sign me up.

So I had zero expectations beyond the creator and the cast of what the show was going to be. And that at half an hour an episode (it’s the new 40 minutes, doncha know?) I could watch at least one without it taking a chunk out of my oh-so-packed day.

Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez in Only Murders in the Building

Only a murder in our building

Turns out, it’s about a bunch of people who live in an expensive New York apartment block and who like most people who live in expensive New York apartment block, never talk to one another and don’t know anything about one another. Then one day, there’s an alarm and they’re forced to evacuate the building and de camp elsewhere. There, lo and behold, our three heroes discover they’re all fans of the same true crime podcast.

They try to solve the featured crime together, as fans of true crime podcasts are apparently wont to do, but when they get back to the building, they discover there’s been a real crime committed. Together, they try to solve it and launch their own podcast in the process. The podcast’s hook? Only murders in the building will be investigated…

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