What did you watch this fortnight? Including Trance, Rogue, Bates Motel, Endeavour and Southland

It’s “What did you watch this weekfortnight?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this weekfortnight that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • Doctor Who (BBC1/BBC America)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Endeavour (ITV1)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Plebs (ITV2)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which. Continuum returns in Canada tonight, so I’d suggest tuning in for that, too.

Still in the viewing queue: Friday night’s Las Vegas and last night’s Doctor Who (review tomorrow when I’ve seen it), as well as Netflix’s new release, Hemlock Grove. But I’ve tried a few new shows in the past couple of weeks:

Arne Dahl (BBC4)
Basically – as Stu_N put it – The Professionals with pilchards. Dreadful.

Rogue (DirecTV)
Thandie Newton is a very implausible, undercover cop whose son gets killed and she blames herself. Despite the decent cast, which includes Martin Csokas from Falcón and Ian Hart, an incredibly forgettable, derivative show.

I also watched the Easter Jonathan Creek special, which despite a whole lot of merits (the cast, the changes in format), was absolute ridiculous and bore no resemblance to reality. Plus how do you cast both Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer in a show and not have them meet?

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I’m still trying:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): The usual problem that when show runner Joe Weisberg isn’t involved in the scripting, the episode just isn’t as authentic-feeling as the other episodes. The developments between the two Russians feel a little padded out, and I’m not sure they would have been quite so merciful this week, given their need to preserve their identities.
  • Bates Motel (A&E/Universal): Quite tedious now, and in no sense really related to Psycho, beyond names and presumably the eventual conclusion. Despite those blips of interest in the first three episodes, the show’s settled on a very dull formula now, with only Vera Farmiga’s character offering any real reason to watch.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Another show that finished, leaving a lot of hanging storyline threads. The revelations haven’t been as impressive or as interesting as you might have hoped, and as I said last night, it does feel like the whole of this season could have been covered in just an episode or two.
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): A somewhat uninteresting way to end the season, but also slightly deeper than normal. The writers didn’t take the show anywhere especially new, but having Tippi Hedren show up for the finale was worth watching it for anyway.
  • Endeavour (ITV1): Inspector Morse, back in its natural period – the 1950s. Nowhere near as impressive as its pilot episode, boiling down to an ability to solve crossword puzzles rather than make deductions, but Anton Lessing was perfect as the new superintendent.
  • Plebs (ITV2): More ahistorical than normal, with the arrival of bananas and a Thracian with a Russian accent (Anna Skellern from Big Finish’s Sapphire and Steel range), but still good fun, surprisingly historical in other ways and Bryan Murphy (George from George and Mildred) showed up as an old soldier.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): A good and surprisingly optimistic finale that felt almost like a series finale. Where does the show go next?
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Two episodes to finish off the season and perhaps the series. The first was a very hard and traumatic episode that unfortunately crossed the Southland line – despite being based on a real-life incident, didn’t feel like a Southland episode because it stopped being able the everyday life of cops. Thankfully, the final episode was more of a return to normal. It finished off a number of plot threads and left several hanging, in a way both satisfying a season-finale and a series-finale. And, of course, for one character, a shocking but entirely plausible end (?). If it is the series finale, that would be a shame for probably the best and most realistic cop show since The Wire.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): And so it ends. Probably the most surprising bit of quality TV, given its graphic novel violence, sex and swearing (and Starz network home), Spartacus has continued to make Roman history interesting and Machiavellian fun. The finale was just about as good as it ever could be, given Spartacus has to disappear or die, the revolution has to fail, and Caesar and Crassus have to go on to rule Rome. Perhaps a little too anti-Roman, but it was still as intriguing as ever.
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Michael Chiklis’s direction somehow made the usual sets look cheap and like a backlot, but the show is clearly struggling now to expand its format. I’m hoping that Carrie-Anne Moss gets a promotion now, since she’s had so precious little to do. Nevertheless, the show does look like it’s limping towards cancellation.

And in movies:

Trance
Danny Boyle directing, Joe Ahearne writing, Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy and Vince Cassel starring in a semi-Inception-like story about an art dealer who steals a painting with the help of a gang, but when he gets hit on the head, forgets where he hid the painting. So Cassel takes McAvoy to see hypnotherapist Dawson in an effort to recover its location, and she takes McAvoy (and the audience) through several levels of reality. While it does interesting things in terms of flipping notions of who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist in the narrative, has some shocking full-frontal nudity and violence, and says some interesting things about gender in thriller narrative, if you pay attention, you’ll have guessed most of the story’s secrets and revelations ages before the end.

“What did you watch this weekfortnight?” 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 this week? Including How To Live Life With Your Parents…, Corleone, The Raid and The Americans

It’s “What did you watch this week?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Doctor Who (BBC1/BBC America)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Plebs (ITV2)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

I’m adding to the recommended list both Plebs (ITV2) and Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living) (hopefully, I’m not being too quick off the mark there).

Still in the viewing queue: Jonathan Creek, last night’s Orphan Black, Arne Dahl and Rogue. I’ll be reviewing last night’s Doctor Who on Monday, when I’ve woken up. But I’ve tried a few new shows this week:

How To Live With Your Parents For The Rest of Your Life (ABC)
In which Sarah Chalke (Scrubs, Mad Love) is once again wasted, this time in an incredibly bland sitcom with an almost zero joke count. The story, for what it’s worth, is that Chalke splits up from her no-hope, but good-hearted husband and takes her kid with her to live with her parents. Six months later, she’s still there. Everyone, including Elizabeth Perkins as Chalke’s mother, tries really, really hard to make this work, but i’s just utterly bland.

Corleone (Sky Arts)
2007 Italian crime drama aka Il Capo dei Capi based on the life of real-life gangster Salvatore Riina, aka Totò u Curtu, growing up in post-war Sicily. Surprisingly well made for Italian TV, it is, nevertheless, completely unremarkable and lacking in interest for anyone who doesn’t know about said gangster. Trailer over here, for those who want one.

I’ve also been watching a few things on Netflix, just to mix things up a bit:

Black Books
Yes, I never watched Black Books. Treat me like the leper I am. The first episode wasn’t bad and it surprised me to see Martin Freeman in it as a doctor, doing the exact same Martin Freeman routine he’s apparently been doing for the last 12 years now. Still feels like a slightly less funny cousin to Spaced, Hippies and The IT Crowd. But I’ll keep watching when I have time.

House of Cards (remake)
I finally got to the end of it. Yes, it ends on a cliffhanger. Yes, that cliffhanger is not the same as the BBC original’s cliffhanger. Yes, nothing much at all is resolved. But it’s still magnificent.

Spiral (season 1)
Yes, I know I’ve watched it already, but I thought I’d give season one a re-watch, since I’m now horrified to discover it was filmed in 2005 (although I think it took BBC4 a couple of years to pick it up). It’s remarkable to see what’d different and what’s changed. The directorial style, with the CGI zoom and crash zooms with sound effects are just weird; the swearing was considerably less than it is now; it’s filmed in Summer, so everything looks sunny for a change; Laure’s happy; Karlsson’s still learning how to be evil from the drunk struck-off solicitor; Clement’s still a magistrate; Romanians are the ethnic enemies; Pierre and Laure are shagging like very French bunnies. It’s all just so fascinating to watch and fun to see how the Spiral formula is still being worked on.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I’m still trying:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): Just keeps getting better every week, blurring the boundaries between who’s good and who’s bad in the cold war between the KGB and the FBI. The separation was unexpected, as was the final killing, and while the show obviously amps up the intrigue beyond what the KGB would have allowed their sleeper agents to do, it’s all done in as unshowy a manner as possible. A regular must-see.
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1): Despite the presence of Count Vertigo, this episode surprisingly didn’t suck and was actually quite good. Nice to see that they’re making the Chinese woman Oliver’s flashback mentor, rather than Deathstroke.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Another US TV season ends with an overly sentimental wedding. Quelle surprise. But despite some good jokes in this final episode, it’s largely been a bit of waste of a season, offering no real plot advancement, with everything that happened in the first few episodes effectively reset by the end of the season. There have been a few changes and clearly a whole lot of things are being set up for next season that might pay off. But unlike the British original, it’ll probably still be worth watching. UPDATE: Duh! Obviously, it wasn’t the season finale. Silly me…
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV): A decent 10 episodes of intelligent TV period crime drama. It became a little formulaic towards the end, with less of the period commentary than before, but the story arc about Blake’s family was very well handled and moving, and the ending only promises good things for the future.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Surprisingly close to a genuine Sherlock Holmes mystery, although Jill Flint was badly unused. The addition of Doyle’s Hudson to the roster of characters was very welcome, changing the Watson/Holmes dynamic in useful ways, and well handled, too, given the changes made by the producers. The story was also a good way to capitalise on New York’s recent weather ‘issues’.
  • It’s Kevin (BBC2): Cameos from Stewart Lee, Peter Serafinowicz, Matt Berry and more show how respected Kevin Eldon is. Definitely getting better but a little bit of an acquired taste. The Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber sketch was marvellous though.
  • Parks and Recreation (NBC/BBC4): Six episodes into the second season and I’ve finally see a funny episode that didn’t entirely depend on Ron Swanson for the jokes. And that’s after an episode that didn’t have Ron in it at all, and so was virtually unwatchable.
  • Plebs (ITV2): While largely The InBetweeners in Roman times, it’s surprisingly clever and this week’s “role reversal” episode where the hero and his slave swapped jobs for day and the two cousins who shag were interesting marriages of laddish humour with Roman cultural differences. If you watch one ITV2 show, this is the one to watch.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): Surprisingly, not the final episode of the season, despite the apparent resolution of so many plot threads, including an unexpected act of kindness by Frank. What they do tonight should be the last thing we expect then.
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): More or more like a series of vignettes, rather than an actual drama, with our characters almost aware that their television time is drawing to an end and looking for personal closure. A great couple of cameso this week for long-time fans of the show, which I’m hoping will lead to more by the end of the season.
  • Strike Back (Sky 1/Cinemax): I’m finally catching up with this, which has been sitting on my Apple TV for months now. Funny to see Tim Piggott-Smith running around with a sub-machine gun, Charles Dance being an arms dealer, and
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): We’re on the home straight of the season, the traditional time for the show to really dig into the politics and intrigue. An almost nostalgic episode, where the gladiators return to the ‘arena’, various characters get the vengeance they want and deserve, and with the arrival of the third member of Caesar/Crassus triumvirate, Pompey (if not yet in person), it’s starting to feel more and more like a prequel to Rome as well as decent ending for one of the most surprising shows on cable TV in years.
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Finally realised that the FBI guy is Shawn Doyle (with US accent and black hair) from Endgame. An odd little procedural about an under-age prostitute, with a somewhat surprising, feminist conclusion that once again shows what a standout Sarah Jones is. That, and the addition of a new title sequence, suggests the producers have been having a slight rethink in the show’s extended absence. Needs a little more umph, but still a good drama and a cut above the standard CBS procedural.

And in movies:

No Country For Old Men
An excellent movie with a great cast. Josh Brolin finds some money, Javier Bardem chases him with a bad haircut, Sheriff Tommy Lee Jones wanders around cluelessly. It’s quite a scary movie, in some senses, where the moral of the story is that even if you are a Vietnam vet and a hunter, there’s always someone deadlier than you out there, and beyond that is God/Fate who can kick that person to the kerb, too. It’s ending defies analysis, too, although it’s efforts to defy the standard Hollywood traditions of how plots must be resolved, particularly violent plots, is welcome.

The Raid
An elite Indonesian SWAT team have to take in a crime lord who lives at the top of a building. To get to him, they have to shoot, punch, stab, kick and beat everyone they come across along the way, in what is largely a demonstration of the Indonesian martial art of pencak silat, starring some of the art’s greatest living practitioners. Not exactly the most plot-driven or character-rich movie out there, but a cracking action film, incredibly shot on a ridiculously low budget, that’ll be too violent for a lot of people. Came out at the same time as Dredd 3D, to which it bears such a similarity that it largely (unfairly) killed that movie’s box office.

Bad Boys 2
Dreadful, even by Michael Bay standards. Shame, because Bad Boys was actually quite good.

“What did you watch this 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 this fortnight? Including It’s Kevin, Plebs, GI Joe: Retaliation, Parks and Recreation, and Arrow

It’s “What did you watch this week fortnight?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week fortnight that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

A combination of pluses and minuses in terms of time means that although I’ve nearly watched all of House of Cards, there’s still a lot left in my viewing queue, including the latest episodes of The Bates Motel, Modern Family, Archer, Cougar Town and Southland. I’m sure they’ll survive without me for a bit, and the Easter weekend should give me a chance to catch up. All the same, I have had the chance to try out a couple of new shows:

It’s Kevin
Kevin Eldon’s been one of the stalwarts of British comedy for the last 20 years or so – his Big Train appearances, especially his George Martin impressions, were all great, as were his appearances on shows like Fist of Fun. So I had high hopes for this, his first leading comedy role. And it’s all right. The second episode was considerably funnier than the first, but largely it’s the kind of show that’s intellectually interesting and raises the occasional smile, but nothing laugh out loud funny.

Plebs
I had firm expectations of disliking this, ITV2’s Roman era answer to The InBetweeners. And it certainly fits The InBetweeners mould, with three lads – two mates, one sensitive, one all mouth (but no trousers – literally) and their slave – moving to Rome from the country where they get office jobs (apart from the slave) and try to pull girls, with minimal success. But despite my expectations, it is actually surprisingly funny. Although essentially it’s an ahistoric transposition Up, Pompeii/Flintstones-style of modern society onto an ancient society, the show manages to maintain some degree of in-story excuse for it – that the lads are from outside Rome (hence plebs or plebeians) and the girls are from Britain, so are culturally backward – and have the actual Romans sex-happy, nudity-happy, etc, in a more accurate way (although bouncers at clubs, women without male Romans to be in charge of them, an emphasis on scrolls rather than wax tabular, and a Venus sculpture without arms because, you know, the Venus de Milo doesn’t have arms, are just some of the minor infractions that still take place for comedic purposes). Those minor niggles aside, it’s still funny, if a little conventional, the CGI to make it seem like Roman times is pretty good, and you have the likes of Doon Mackichan, Adrian Scarborough and Joel Fry to make the funny happen, so it’s a cautious semi-recommendation from me. Just don’t think of it as being “as good as revision” as some viewers have suggested.

Parks and Recreation
Yes, I have actually watched episodes of this before, but seeing as there’s a movement that seems to think P&R is funny, I thought, since BBC4 was showing them all from the beginning, that I’d give it yet another try. So far, I’ve seen all of season 1 and although it does get better towards the end of the season and I actually began to laugh at other moments and characters, for the first few episodes at least, the basic flowchart was: Is Ron Swanson on? No – not funny; Yes – funny. It was literally that simple. I’m told it gets better in the second season. I hope so.

Watch this trailer and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): One of those shows where if the show runner’s name is on the writing credits, it’s really good, but suffers when it’s not. Fortunately, last week’s saw our Joe return to writing duties, and we had a lovely cold piece about how spies can’t trust one another, even if they’re married.
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1): So now we have Alex Kingston (River Song from Doctor Who) in scenes with Paul Blackthorne (also British), both pretending to be Americans, not 100% successfully. And there’s John Barrowman, too. So weird. Anyway, two episodes, one utter rubbish, one pretty good – as usual, it’s Huntress (about a million miles from her comic book persona) who’s to blame, since she’s Geoff Johns’ baby and Johns appears to be a quality curse when it comes to Arrow. Felicity should also get a panic button, I reckon. But last night’s was a lot better, and the Batman Begins-inspired plot that they’ve been hinting at (potential spoiler: Merlin/Barrowman having gone off to the land of the League of Assassins/Shadows to learn how to be the Dark Archer) looks like it’s coming to fruition. Odd to see the lengths they’re going to to keep Arrow’s Chinese mentor out of the flashbacks’ main narrative, but they’re definitely going for the long game now. And is it my imagination or are they hinting that Felicity has the hots for Oliver?
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Two episodes, one funny, one less funny. The first gave us Sam Witwer’s attempt at an English accent. Or maybe it was Irish. It also showed us that essentially the whole season has been a diversion, with everything likely to return to the status quo that was the beginning of the season, after experimenting with changing more or less everyone’s set-up (spoiler: Aidan being the only vampire, more or less, before they all start coming back again; Sally being alive, then a zombie, then a ghost again, probably; Josh not being a werewolf then becoming a werewolf again). But at least Deanna Russo is getting work after the horror that was the Knight Rider remake.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV): A story that was suspiciously about Asperger’s without actually being about Asperger’s, which was interesting. Also a fun look at what Australian TV was like at the time, with an appropriately fun ending where (spoiler alert: they all decided to play Pontoon instead of watching any more). Not necessarily the most plausible plot line, though.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): A couple of funny episodes, with William H Macey really make Frank his own now. Plus Bradley Whitford playing gay (or is he gay?)!
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): After seasons of women being raped to provide plot motivation, Spartacus finally moves into male rape with the rape of (spoiler alert: Caesar) no less. And quite an important couple of deaths, too, although given everyone knows that Spartacus’s slave revolt failed, it wasn’t hugely surprising. Good to see them breaking up the important deaths, though, rather than offing everyone in one go, so that everyone gets their time in the sun.

And in movies:

GI Joe: Retaliation 3D
A surprising movie. Or should I say movies?

While ostensibly a sequel to 2009’s GI Joe, with a few of that movie’s cast members returning (Channing Tatum, Ray Park, Byung-hun Lee, Jonathan Pryce, Arnold Vosloo, some of whom are more or less just cameos, but I won’t spoil it for you by saying who), largely it’s a reboot, designed to get rid of some of the deadwood (Christopher Eccleston, that’s you, but so are most of the original Joes), and introduce a new cast to the franchise led by The Rock, almost-Wonder Woman Adrianne Palicki, possibly Bruce Willis as well (he’s in it, anyway) and… some other guy (DJ Corona from Detroit 1-8-7 and Windfall. Yes, him. Remember him? No, me neither.)

But it’s a weird movie(s) that beyond a few elements is very little like the original. Essentially, it consists of one movie that’s a proper war movie, with people behaving like proper soldiers, with firefights and Apache gunships, and that features The Rock, Palicki and Corona. Then there’s another spy movie, where they’re sneaking into places in disguise, that features the same bunch, as well as Ray Stevenson (Rome, Dexter, The Punisher: War Zone) with a dodgy southern accent. Then there’s a third movie that’s basically Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with ninjas and its own, more or less separate cast (Park, Lee, Elodie Yung). And then it all finishes off by becoming Megaforce.

But despite having that core base layer of stupid, largely derived from its source Saturday morning cartoon to which it pays homage on more than one occasion, it does have some surprising touches. Cobra Commander’s plot to take over the world is impressively not stupid, involves actual science and hasn’t been done before. Some of the action sequences are well shot and choreographed. Palicki is over-sexualised, including a couple of quite voyeuristic points when she’s taking off her clothes, and her ability to attract any man, no matter what, is implausible, but largely she’s treated as an equal of the other Joes, she’s given some background story and a lot of the time, she gets to wander around in jeans, not being sexy (Michael Bay this is not). And since there’s the addition of Jinx to the core roster, there are actually two kick ass women, rather than just the usual token one. The motivations for the villainous Lee are also even more nuanced than you’d suspect.

It’s still epically stupid most of the time, the fast action makes the 3D malfunction, and it still somehow feels like a 1980s action TV show that’s been given a phenomenal budget, but it’s a damn sight better than the original.

“What did you watch this 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 this fortnight? Including Banshee, The Americans, Mr Selfridge, Hitchcock and Silver Linings Playbook

It’s “What did you watch this week fortnight?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week fortnight that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Engrenages/Spiral (BBC4/Netflix)
  • Top Gear (BBC2/BBC America)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which.

Surprising, despite my time away, I’ve actually managed to get my viewing queue down to more or less nothing: last night’s Shameless (US) and This Is Kevin. I’ve even found time to watch some more House of Cards, which I note is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray. Buy it, it’s really good. 

Admittedly, to get back on track, I’ve had to drop Red Widow (ABC), Lightfields (ITV) and Broadchurch (ITV) from the viewing queue before I’d even started watching them, and Shetland (BBC) didn’t even get a look-in, but such is life.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars (fingers crossed, reviews of the final four episodes of Spiral – bloody BBC4 – tomorrow):

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): The first of the two episodes since last entry was actually the first rubbish one so far: it was entirely obvious what the twist was and the counter-trap laid by the FBI was clumsy. The second was much better, showing us for the first time what Matthew Rhys’ character gave up and that no spy can truly be trusted to tell the truth. The Russian dubbing was a bit poor, though.  
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): A strong finish to the season with the typical violence we’ve come to expect and virtually all the loose plot threads brought together at the end. Add on some creepy Amish incest and Banshee season two (coming 2014) looks like it’ll be worth watching. Not quite sure why that video didn’t go viral, though.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Zombies are so hot right now. But I think it’s a misstep. Plus that vaccine was remarkably easy to come by.
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): Good to see the Travis/Lori relationship being developed. And the Alanis Morisette episode was a nice callback to the cast’s previous work and the Cox/Springsteen episode.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV): Two eps, the second of which was a little bit blah, beyond the continuing development of Blake’s moving relationship with his housekeeper. The first was a more intriguing piece dealing with the death penalty and featured some early forensic science. I like how Blake isn’t afraid to proclaim himself a scientist, a period statement if ever there was one.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Features a The Wire reunion. Otherwise, same old, same old.
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS): A slightly limp ending to the season, with Jeremy Piven not proving up to the challenge of delivering lines in anything less than a Barnum style and far too much time spent over the season on soap opera intrigues. All the same, the play at the end was a welcome bit of acid to the normal proceedings and David Calder, whom I almost didn’t recognise, was fantastic as the King. Will I watch if Gregory Fitoussi isn’t back next year, though? I think not.  
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): Fiona’s speech last week was a powerful moment, whereas this week’s episode is far more comedic (in a good way). 
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Odd how unlikable Sherman has become. That’s good character development for you. Mind you, my mother in law has given up watching it now because it’s making her sad to see what’s happening to all the characters she liked.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1):Tying into history well and good to see Romans who aren’t complete idiots for a change, particularly Caesar. Not long to go now, but we all know where it’s heading, so it should be an interesting few episodes. Hopefully, not more ‘rape as a character point’, though, please?

And in movies, which I saw a few of on a teeny tiny screen in the back of a chair:

  • Lincoln: Essentially two and half hours of historical talking that’s less exciting than an episode of The West Wing. A brilliant performance from Daniel Day Lewis and eye-opening in terms of the legal manoeuvers that Lincoln and others used to indulge in back then, but not as involving as it should be.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Good central performances from everyone (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles and even Chris Rock), with Cooper and Lawrence two mentally damaged people who offer to help each other on the road to recovery. But it’s an unempathising, predictable movie with the standard message that crazy is more interesting than normal and that leaves you cold beyond the normal romcom parameters. Plus Cooper and Lawrence is a little bit too May to December to avoid a certain amount of queasiness.
  • Hitchcock: Surprisingly jaunty for a movie about the true story of the making of a movie based on a real-life serial killer and in which the director has a peep hole into his leading ladies’ dressing rooms. Anthony Hopkins is surprisingly light as Hitch compared to Toby Jones in The Girl, Scarlett Johansson is aces but perhaps a little too self-possessed as Janet Leigh while Helen Mirren is great as Hitchcock’s real-life partner in crime Alma, who was as much responsible for the success and quality of his movies as her husband was. Nice touch to have it book-ended in the style of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, too. 
  • Van Helsing: Possibly the worst movie ever made

“What did you watch this 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 this week? Including Cult, Zero Hour, Mr and Mrs Murder, The Blue Rose, Arrow and Being Human (US)

It’s “What did you watch this week?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this week that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV).
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Engrenages/Spiral (BBC4/Netflix)
  • Top Gear (BBC2/BBC America)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can’t be sure which. If I got the channels wrong, let me know and I’ll fix them

Still in the queue: plenty. As well as two episodes of The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Archer and Community, last night’s Banshee and Spartacus, and all the remaining episodes of House of Cards, two new shows launched this week in the US and the UK – CBS’s Golden Boy and ITV’s Lightfields – that I haven’t had time to watch. I think that means a little bit of rationalisation of my viewing is needed so I’m pruning out the following regulars and shows that were on trial:

  • The Blue Rose: Still hasn’t hit its stride after four episodes, which is just way too long a time to be on trial. Let me know if it finds its mojo.
  • Cult: A pretty tiresome second episode. The show might be easier to watch if the show-within-a-show weren’t so dreadful, but the show’s own storyline is so fundamentally silly, that I’ve yet to find much to make me want to watch any more. There was an interesting twist at one point, where the hero begins to question the motives of the heroine, but that didn’t go very far. Intriguingly, the episode was written by Steven Rea, who is, of course, the show’s creator in-series. I wonder if it’s hard to write a show in which you’re a character. Or is someone using a pseudonym?
  • Go On: Nice cast, doing relatively good work with a heart, but never side-splitting.
  • Mr and Mrs Murder: An Australian show about married crime scene cleaners who also solve crimes. From the outset, clearly not taking itself seriously, but the characters don’t quite work, they’re more irritating than funny, and I don’t really see those two together.
  • Zero Hour: Robbed off the most ridiculous qualities of the first episode, the second episode was merely stupid and insipid. Switched off after only a few minutes.

Doctor Blake is still on trial, since although it’s very good, I’m not a big fan of mystery shows per se.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars:

  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1): Geoff Johns is back on writing duties. Shudders. He’s certainly a big fan of stories with father issues, isn’t he? And of terrible dialogue? We also got a canary reference and Alex Kingston turned up with an American accent as Laurel’s mum. John Barrowman had a good stab at acting this week, someone else knows Arrow’s secret identity, Kelly Hu and another Arrow villain made a (somewhat ludicrous) return and we all got to laugh at Arrow’s ‘perfect’ Chinese accent.
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): A rather nice chase scene in the style of Reservoir Dogs and Point Break, a sex scene that was actually romantic rather than mechanical, and a nice touch with the Amish villain feeling nostalgic for the good old days.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Josh’s family turned up at last. However, everyone’s brains left. Why exactly would anyone believe that Aidan would deliberately drink blood that was poisonous to him? It’s essentially a false conflict set up to create a dramatic choice, which is a bit tedious. I want to see where the Sally storyline is going, but why didn’t anyone suspect something like this would happen once her soul was on the line?
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): Loving the flashbacks. And they handled the Travis romance reasonably well, too.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Another episode that was less mystery, more ‘Why would someone do this?’ Not very interesting.
  • Go On (NBC): Bradley Whitford turned up and was good; Piper Perabo was as good as always; the Mary Poppins storyline was good. But I didn’t laugh. Hence it being dropped from my regular viewing.
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky1): Elizabeth Banks was back, although it wasn’t until right at the end that she got to really strut her stuff.
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): A chance to look inside foster homes and how much like prisons they are. And Fiona got angry. This should be fun.
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Cooper has a new partner, who’s great. Major Dad turned out to be Cooper’s old training officer as well, which was great, too. The shoot out was great. Why isn’t anyone watching this?
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): Some good things – decimation (yes, that really did happen) and Caesar among the rebels, making you feel sorry for the Romans for a change. Hope last night’s episode was as good.
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Paul Ben Victor (The Wire, The Invisible Man) showed up but didn’t get to do much in an episode that was again dull procedural wrapped in the far more interesting series arc. And Mia finds out – where will it all end up? However, it winds up, please let’s not have so many procedurals along the way.

“What did you watch this 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?