Secret City: Under The Eagle
Australian and New Zealand TV

Boxset Tuesday: Secret City (season two) (Australia: Foxtel; UK: Netflix)

In Australia: Mondays, 9pm, Foxtel
In the UK: Available on Netflix

Secret City was one of TMINE’s top shows of 2016. A marvellous return to the genre of ‘dogged journalist investigates political cover-up at the highest level’, it was every bit Australia’s answer to State of Play and deservedly earned worldwide success through Netflix distribution.

Starring Anna Torv as political journalist par excellence Harriet Dunkley, it also had a lot to say about Australia’s political positioning with respect to both Asia and the US, something that proved to be very timely.

The first season was reasonably self-contained, with a downbeat ending that could have left the show “one then done”. However, that Netflix success means that Secret City is back for a second season.

But when is a second season not a second season? When it has almost nothing in common with the first season.

Continue reading “Boxset Tuesday: Secret City (season two) (Australia: Foxtel; UK: Netflix)”

Bad Mothers
Australian and New Zealand TV

Review: Bad Mothers 1×1 (Australia: Nine)

In Australia: Mondays, 9pm, Nine
In the UK: Not yet acquired

“I’m mad as Hell and not going to take this anymore” may be Network‘s best known line, but it could also be a motto for the #MeToo movement. TV companies around the world naturally want to take advantage of this female anger at the nature of modern society, either (optimistically) because they too feel the rage or (cynically) they want to cash in on the ratings.

Bad Mothers – which is no way related to or as funny as the movie of the same name – airs on the usually female-friendly Nine network in Australia and is co-created by Rachel Lang (Outrageous Fortune, Hyde & Seek, Westside, The Blue Rose, The Almighty Johnsons), so you’d hope the former optimistic answer was the root cause of the show. But if it is rage at societal expectations of mothers to be perfect and self-sacrificing, it’s quite an unfocused rage, one largely directed at other women for some reason.

The show sees Tess Haubrich (Wolf Creek, Pine Gap) playing regular mum Sarah, who’s starting to suspect that husband Daniel MacPherson (Strike Back) is having an affair with his personal trainer Shalom Brune-Franklin (Our Girl, Doctor, Doctor). However, when she turns up at the gym, she spots he’s actually having an affair with her best friend Melissa George (In Treatment, Hunted, Heart Beat). She takes solace with fellow mums at the school her children attend. Cue lots of drinking, setting fire to MacPherson’s clothes, vandalism of George’s car and abduction of dogs.

However, things take a turn when George is found murdered and first Haubrich then MacPherson becomes the police’s prime suspect. Can this group of mums solve the crime and find out who really killed George? And how much red wine will then need to drink together to do it?

Melissa George in Bad Mothers
Melissa George in Bad Mothers

Bad feminism

There is a lot of hate going on round here, but surprisingly little for men. As soon as things get a bit tricky between the married couple because of MacPherson’s having an affair, jokes pop up to deflect the conflict and to turn the problem back onto Haubrich. Gaslighting, maybe, but the show’s real bile always seems reserved for other women.

George, admittedly, isn’t the most popular of actresses in Australia following her un-Aussie rant, but the show and she do go out of their way to make her as unlikable and as anti-female solidarity as possible – a mother more interested in herself than others, who’ll have an affair with her best friend’s husband, who’s rich, spoilt and has a stupid little dog, who never has time for anyone else and who seems permanently medicated/drunk. I mean, obviously, she’s got to be as murder-worthy as possible for as many people as possible, but the show does take the path of least resistance to get there.

There’s also the constant exchange of bitchy lines about physique between Brune-Franklin and Haubrich, and Brune-Franklin’s delight in other women’s misfortune. On top of that, there’s the other women in the group of five (Hyde & Seek‘s Mandy McElhinney and Wolf Creek‘s Jessica Tovey) who are very keen to start metaphorically stabbing away at other women as soon as possible (and vice versa). There’s also the constant one-upwomanship in the mothering. Of course, they may all club together and learn the power of female emancipation and friendship by the end, but that’s not the message yet – or from the trailer for the rest of the series.

All of which makes Bad Mothers less of a #MeToo than it probably hopes, more a Mothers Behaving Badly meets The Bletchley Circle. A little bit of quite tame rebellion, a little bit of solidarity, but mostly women a bit miffed and trying to solve a crime, all to be resolved with a return to something just a little bit better than the status quo was.

Don Hany in Bad Mothers
Don Hany in Bad Mothers

Bad opening

As of yet, we don’t have a real taste for how good the murder-solving aspect of the show is going to be, though. We’ve also lost the show’s best and most famous actress (Gilbert) and haven’t yet deployed the show’s best actor and most famous actor (Don Hany of East West 101/Serangoon Road fame), making this initial episode decidedly inauspicious and alienating.

Things might perk up and become more coherent in later episodes, but as of yet, there’s nothing really to recommend about Bad Mothers. It’s not that funny, it’s not especially taboo-breaking, it doesn’t have much of a message, it doesn’t have any great characters and it doesn’t really advance #MeToo in any way.

Dare I even say it’s… bad?

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

Doctor Who

Film casting


French TV


New UK TV shows

  • Sky adapting: Diabolik with Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia


New US TV shows

New US TV show casting

What have you been watching? Including Y Gwyll, Serangoon Road, The Tunnel, Almost Human and Homeland

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.

It was a bit of a slow week for tele, last week, given that America was having its Thanksgiving holiday. Apparently, American’s don’t watch TV but eat instead. How bizarre and fundamentally un-British.

So I’ve caught up with some of the shows that were in my viewing queue, although I’ve still half the series finale of Seragoon Road to watch. I’ve also started Legacy, Paul Milne’s adaptation of Alan Judd’s spy novel. So far, so good, but Andrew Scott (Moriarty in Sherlock) as a Czech diplomat is singularly unconvincing.

Shows I’m watching but not recommending
Almost Human
On the one hand, it’s nice to have a black male character who isn’t a stereotype of über-masculinity. On the other, he’s both a robot and quite dull, beyond the sci-fi things he does. Some good moments in the episode though and a good guest cast, too. But this needs to have a bit more in the human relationships department before it’s can do more than engage our brains a bit. Is Minka Kelly even in the show any more?

Agents of Shield (ABC/Channel 4)
More a ghost story than anything else, it tried to give some substance to Ming-Na Wen’s character, but failed, making us hate the rest of the cast a little more instead. Fitz and Simmons are just about the only characters working so far, but largely they’re there for laughs and not to have any proper background, beyond being expelled from Hogwarts or something.

Recommended shows
The Blacklist
(NBC/Sky Living)
A two-parter and a very surprising one, with shock deaths thanks to the arrival of Red’s former partner in crime and apparent fellow understudy at a ‘cod Shakespearean dialogue for beginners’ workshop. Interesting the show also expand itself from merely organising tributes to particular actors and famous villains they’ve played to homaging entire movies, and given it’s an action show, no surprise that it should follow the aptly titled and ever-popular Buckley’s ‘Action Shows Die Hard Rule’, which states that any long-running action show will eventually do an episode that’s essentially Die Hard. They even had Megan Boone running around without any shoes on.

Homeland (Showtime/Channel 4)
In many ways a little magnificent, now they’ve got over the tricky problem of how to make Brodie a goodie. This week’s episode was more a look at modern special forces operations than spying (although it’s all one big melange these days, isn’t it?), but tensely handled and Shaun Toub is as magnificent as ever. Carrie’s still too much of a basket case for comfort though.

Serangoon Road (ABC1/HBO Asia)
A good balance of the personal and the action, and there was the now-obligatory episode for an Australian drama (there will only ever be one episode in said drama, though) that featured an aboriginal character. Good fight scenes, thrills and spills: why hasn’t any channel in the US or UK picked it up? Oh, the finale features Russell Wong, who was so good in The CW’s Black Sash, even if the show wasn’t, which is another good reason for watching it.

The Tunnel/Tunnel (Sky Atlantic/Canal+)
The action has now moved to France, and weirdly as soon as the show did that, it began to feel like an episode of Engrenages, right down to the music, tone, settings and Caroline Proust – except for the fact the police are moderately competent and well behaved in this show. Nice joke about Dillane’s misuse of ‘embrasse moi’ (he meant hug, he said kiss).

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (S4C/BBC Wales/BBC4)
Perhaps a little melodramatic, the finale was still beautifully shot, gripping and chock full of cliffhangers and dangling plot threads, so I’m looking forward to the second series, which has now been commissioned. I’m surprised by how little of any of the characters’ personal lives got invoked by the stories, but we’ll see where they take it next year. Or the year after. Whenever, basically. Try to watch it in Welsh on S4C, if you can, by the way.

“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?

What have you been watching? Including Y Gwyll, Ground Floor, Thor 2, Gravity and Homeland

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.

Sorry for the long delay in posting this but holiday and the resulting workload meant I didn’t have time to do it properly. Obviously, it might be a bit tricky for y’all to remember what you’ve been watching in the past three weeks, but if you let everyone know, I’m sure they’ll be grateful.

Elsewhere, you can find my review of the first episode of Ground Floor (more on that in a bit), my fourth-episode verdict on The Tunnel/Tunnel and my mini-review of the first episode of Dracula. The latter proved so bad that I couldn’t even countenance the idea of watching any more episodes, although I hear it might have picked up with episode four on Friday – although, given it’s only six episodes long, that might be leaving it a tad late. Also abandoned on the general grounds of life being too short is Atlantis – and the more I read recaps of the episodes as they air, the happier I am I’ve done that.

Still in the viewing queue are last night’s Serangoon Road, Almost Human and Homeland, as well as last week’s increasingly tedious Agents of SHIELD – let’s hope this week’s Thor 2 crossover is going to give it a boost.

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Agents of Shield (ABC/Channel 4)
FitzSimmons get some characterisation, another call back to The Avengers and Coulson gets trauma counselling. And I just don’t care. Much. When will the TV curse of Jeph Loeb be lifted?

The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)
We’ve now had ‘evil Wilson’ (House’s Robert Sean Leonard) doing evil doctor things, thus proving my theory about the casting decisions going on. Last week’s episode, however, excitingly dumped a big bunch of story on us, revealing (just about conclusively) that James Spader is indeed (spoiler alert) Megan Boone’s real father and her hubbie probably is more than he seems. Quite impressive for a show that’s not even cracked 10 episodes yet. Throwaway above-average fun so worth watching if you have an idle hour.

Ground Floor (TBS)
Episode two was marginally better than the first. Some additional maintenance workers showed up; Skylar Astin mysteriously turned into JD from Scrubs; there have clearly been some wardrobe decisions with respect to Briga Heelan, who’s getting some more practical outfits appropriate for a support worker; and it’s also making some good points re: class. However, it does feel a lot like an Ayn Rand diatribe at times, with the blue collar guys essentially ‘where they belong’ because they’re slackers who don’t work all day and are a bit dumb, whereas the guys on the top floor are hard-working bastards who get up before 5am every morning and leave work at midnight. Rather than, say, the blue collar workers having to hold down two jobs to make ends meet and the rich guys essentially having got lucky and blowing their ‘because it’s Monday’ bonus on cocaine, champagne and lap dancers when they’re ‘working’ with clients.

The Tomorrow People (The CW/E4)
About a gadzillion times more interesting and better than the original, but really starting to feel like a never ending series of episodes where people run around and get chased down corridors a lot, with baddies introduced then killed a couple of weeks later. Still, they’re up the diversity count, they’ve finally given some back story and character to the Asian guy, and there has been some plot advancement so at least they’re heading in the right general direction, albeit slowly.

Recommended shows
Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
Some terrible acting and borderline racism in the ‘black hoodlums’ episode, but the Black Canary storyline has seen the show firing on all cylinders, there’s been some fun stuff between Felicity and Oliver, and the fight scenes have been as good as always. You can see how they’re starting to set up the arrival of The Flash in the background of the stories, too, and seeing Amanda Waller from ARGUS turn up (albeit the nu52, slimmed down version) was a fun shout out to DC fans. Strange how little screen time Laurel’s getting though. I wonder what’s up there?

Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
Two references to The Adventure of the Silver Blaze in two weeks, including one story outright based on the original was interesting, as was a guest appearance by Olivia D’Abo from The Wonder Years, who turns out to be English-American. Well I never. The show’s also finding its feet with respect to the characters, although the Gerard backstory episode was a little perfunctory on that score. Some fun Englishisms coming in (‘bell end’ and ‘gits’, I’ve noticed) and of course we’ve had the joy of Mycroft showing up to create a New York Diogenes (club). The end of last week’s episode made me wonder if (spoiler alert)Mycroft is working for the British government, as per the books, and we might still learn that he’s as good at deduction as Sherlock, but has been hiding it.

Homeland (Showtime/Channel 4)
Has been treading a dangerously thin line these past few weeks, retreading first season storylines that made me wonder why I’m bothering watching the show. But it’s gradually metamorphosed in the past two weeks into a musing on the nature of modern day spying: is there a point to it, is human intelligence really still better than machine-gathered intelligence, does spying do more harm than good? Indeed, Carrie and her bipolar problems are starting to look like relics from another series, as Saul and F Murray Abraham give us a better series altogether back at Langley. Also, Carrie and her pregnancy: is that really the fate of every woman in these stories if they dare to have sex – accidental pregnancy? It’s punishment for pointless drama. Nice Romeo and Juliet reference, a couple of weeks ago, mind.

Serangoon Road (ABC1/HBO Asia)
Developments aplenty here, with MI6 being trotted out as the evil spiders in the web, and the chief Chinese baddie getting some nuances. Last week’s ending showing us that love may be one thing, but follow your heart and things tend to go pear-shaped, was a nicely cynical spin on the piece.

The Tunnel (Sky Atlantic/Canal+)
It’s surprising how much I’d forgotten of the original series, now I watch this. The US adaptation, I now belatedly realise, didn’t even touch the surface of the mental illness politics of the ‘Truth Terrorist’, whereas The Tunnel has resurrected it. Highlight of last week’s episode: Caroline Proust from Engrenages/Spiral turning up in an odd wig. I wonder if she’ll get to speak English this week?

Y Gwyll/Hinterland (S4C)
Now being shown on S4C in Welsh with English subtitles. After the pretty good first story, the second was something of a stonker that landed the show straight on the recommended list, despite being a seemingly dull story about farming boundary disputes. Some excellent direction made one chase scene particularly tense. Dave the Coach from Gavin and Stacey did a good turn as a solicitor, too. Last week’s was less impressive, being far less of a crime investigation than the second story, and more a case of Mathias getting all emotional and harassing a guy who lives in the woods. This week’s is the last story, I think, so catch it while you can before it airs in English on the BBC.

And in movies:

Thor 2
The Dark Elves (particularly Christopher Eccleston, clearly in it for the money) want to end the universe so give Asgard a kicking after they find out Natalie Portman has a secret weapon up her sleeves, so Thor has to release Loki and get him to help stop the Elves. But can Loki be trusted?
Directed by Alan Taylor, who’s directed six episodes of Game of Thrones, this was a far more matter of fact sequel than the original, which saw everyone more iconically: Thor gets to wander around in a cape and hang around in retro Norse taverns with Heimdal; Sif gets a nice furry dress suit; and more. Just about all the characters from the original get good service; mothers and women, particularly Frigga, are given far more significance than the father-obsessed first movie; and there’s a surprising amount of comedy even in the final fight scene. We also got to see more of Odin’s ravens, which was nice. Traumatically for me, the University of Greenwich gets a severe kicking at the end – even the Painted Room – which had me far more upset than the ending of The Avengers which levelled New York. And as I’m sure just about everyone from London said when they watched, it’s not three stops from Charing Cross to Greenwich on the Underground – you either need to get a train from Charing Cross overground, or get the jubilee line to North Greenwich and then get a bus or go to Canary Wharf and then get the DLR. Hope that helps, Thor.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts fixing the Hubble Telescope when fragments of a satellite destroy their spaceship, forcing them to find some other way to get back to Earth. Slightly perfunctory characterisation and a plot more suited to a theme park ride, but that’s not what this movie is: it’s the 2001: A Space Odyssey or Superman of its age, a visual treat that finally gives us a 3D movie that’s not only more than just a series of ViewMaster slides and things being thrown out the screen at us but which is genuine 3D and absolutely pointless to watch in anything except 3D. Absolutely staggering in IMAX 3D, a brilliant soundtrack and although you can quibble with the science, it’s based enough in fact that the terror comes from knowing just how difficult and dangerous everything is in space.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
Brother and sister Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteton – yes, there’s over a decade’s age difference between them) grow up and make it their mission in life to kill witches, including chief witch Famke Janssen. A film that makes no sense and is colossally stupid, but knows it, given Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are the producers. However, that knowing comedy just isn’t enough to make this a decent film, although it’s still about 1,000 times better than the similar Van Helsing.

“What did you watch last week?” 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?