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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
(Fox)
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.

Gravity
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?

What did you watch last week? Including Ambassadors, You, Me and Them, and The Tunnel

It’s “What did you watch last week?, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I watched last week 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.

Elsewhere, you can find my third-episode verdict on The Tomorrow People. Still in the viewing queue are last night’s Serangoon Road and Homeland and Saturday’s Atlantis, which given I haven’t watched last week’s episode either is probably telling me something. NBC’s Dracula I hope to be reviewing either today or tomorrow – certainly before Thursday when it airs on Sky Living.

But I’ve tried some new shows:

Ambassadors (BBC2)
David Mitchell and Robert Webb of Peep Show et al are a UK ambassador and a member of his staff, working together to further UK interests by covering up Mitchell’s cock-ups and framing the French as best they can. Unfortunately, if it weren’t for the fact that Mitchell and Webb were in it, you wouldn’t know it was a comedy, it’s that unfunny. Okay, to be fair a couple of laughs were emitted while watching it, but they may have been reflex actions.

You, Me and Them (Gold)
Seemingly a contradiction in terms, UK Gold – the home of old tele – is making its first new sitcom. From the makers of (terminally unfunny show) Outnumbered, it sees Anthony Head (Buffy et al) in a relationship with the 26-years-younger and impressively English now Eve Myles (Torchwood). They’re happy together, but everyone from Myles’ extended family to Head’s ex-wife and friends has an opinion on their somewhat icky relationship. Will the relationship weather this family-based storm?

Despite the impressive cast (Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Rawle and Susie Blake are in there, too, as Head’s ex-wife and Myles’ parents respectively), this suffers the same problem as Ambassadors in not being funny, although here, everyone is doing their hardest to convince you that actually it is. A few good lines here and there, but you do have to be the kind of person who thinks even the mention of sex or simple bad parenting is comedy gold to find this remotely entertaining. And isn’t it weird when Anthony Head uses his real accent?

Shows I’m watching but not necessarily recommending
Agents of Shield (ABC/Channel 4)
Ooh, secrets are revealed! But they’re not that secret or incriminating! And no one cares! And are we going to get anything except lots of Extremis this season?

The Blacklist (NBC/Sky Living)
After last week’s stonking Manhunter tribute, this week we got a tiny Prison Break tribute, with Robert Knepper playing a man who’s good at escaping from prison, although what a shame about his limp arm. I think the plan now is to have every actor who’s ever played a famous villain face off against Spader in a series of tribute episodes, while Spader archly hams away. It’ll be fun to watch if that’s what they do. And maybe next week we’ll get some answers about what’s up with Megan Boone’s hubby?

The Tunnel (Sky Atlantic/Canal+)
The story progresses, with prostitution the apparent political motive for the villain in this version of The Bridge. Things on the English side of the story are once again far more interesting than on the French side, with the Brtis served well by Ben Richards’ ear for blokey English dialogue (“If he messes with my bitches…”, “Hey Tupac, this is South Kent not LA.”) and Stephen Dillane giving an outstanding performance as the English plod. If only the same could be said for new arrival Keeley Hawes… First episode review.

Recommended shows
Arrow
 (The CW/Sky 1)
A veritable DC comics fest, with Tony Daniel’s Dollmaker arriving on the scene (you may have noticed a head nod in the name of the Dollmaker’s attorney), Black Canary getting her own non-super-powered scream and – oh my gods – the mention of none other than Ra’s Al Ghul himself. We may even have the beginnings of a Deathstroke origin story. But oh dear, everyone on the island’s been captured and locked up again! Tsk, tsk.

Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
The A-story was more interesting as a notion – Holmes isn’t getting cases so looks for them and one seemingly minor incident becomes a full blown, major investigation – than as a crime. The B-story, however, was more interesting from the point of view of character development. The show’s really starting to need a new Moriarty, although I really liked the old one…

Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
Ooh, a new character, as well as the return of Nathan Lane. Finally, something to change the formula. One question: are the women and girls who aren’t Gloria going to get some storylines soon?

Serangoon Road (ABC1/HBO Asia)
A really exciting episode, pitting our hero (and heroine) against the black market, MI6 and others. Now officially on the recommended list.

“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?