Canadian TV

Review: Shoot The Messenger 1×1-1×2 (Canada: CBC)


In Canada: Mondays, 9pm (9.30pm NT), CBC

For ages, I was pining for a sequel to State of Play. I really was. It was just so bloody marvellous.

It didn’t help that the movie adaptation was just so average, I’m still only halfway through it.

State of Play 2 isn’t happening and never will. Sniff, boo hoo. So bless you Canada for trying to do your own (unofficial) State of Play. It’s not the same, it’s really not, but it touches me that you’d give it a go.

Shoot The Messenger has pretty much all the same plot threads as State of Play. It has street shootings. It has an intrepid reporter (Elyse Levesque from Stargate Universe) investigating a murder. It has an equally intreprid police department doing their own parallel investigation, with both sides feeding each other information to advance their own causes. The murder has political connections that might affect a certain big shot to whom Levesque has connections. It even has a plucky British newspaper editor (Alex “River Song” Kingston).

The big difference here is Levesque, who as well as being a cub reporter rather than a seasoned hack is also a bit of a shagger. She’s shagging the head of the police investigation (Lyriq Brent); she’s shagging her more experienced co-worker (Lucas Bryant). She also comes from a family of shaggers, since her sister is shagging said bigwig. And when Levesque isn’t shagging, she’s getting hit on the head or hiding under things. 

State of Play this is not. Sorry, Canada.

The show also lacks the journalistic verisimilitude of State of Play. While there are attempts to give both the police and newspaper sides of the plot a sheen of accuracy and Kingston’s frequent words of advice to Levesque are frequently useful, The Guardian-logo nicking, serious newspaper ‘The Gazette’ appears to be equipped with neither copy editors nor fact checkers, there don’t appear to be department heads, Levesque actually gets invited to the editor’s daily content meetings, there appears to be almost no appreciation of the existence of a little thing called the Internet or social media, Levesque thinks it’s okay to use a faux Google Images to check the spelling of names, and Kingston herself thinks it’s more grammatically correct to say ‘who is whom‘.

Oh dear.

State of Play comparisons to one side for a moment, Shoot The Messenger does at least do something different from the usual CBC drama, even the ones that are supposed to be thrilling (eg The Romeo Section, Cracked), by having some action and excitment – its plot focuses on the Somali community and local gang ‘the Mogadishu dogs’, with Levesque witnessing the murder of the brother of one of the gang members, which sets off a chain reaction of violence (and misreporting). But while there is the occasional insight into that community, mostly it’s all a lead in to corporate and political corruption and a Rob Ford analogy. 

But as a thriller, it’s not very thrilling and spends a lot of it’s time being apologetic for things and feeling sad about children getting killed in gang wars. There’s an unnecessary side plot about Levesque’s brain-damaged dad; with the exception of Brent, all the black characters are criminals or harbourers of criminals, leaving Bryant to be the implausible Somali expert at the paper; and Bryant seems like he’s on quaaludes the whole time.

Levesque and Kingston make Shoot The Messenger pass a lot more agreeably than it should. I might stick with it, since the political side of things hasn’t kicked in yet and it could well get better as a result. But more likely, I might just watch State of Play again.

What have you been watching? Including Marco Polo, Secret City, 19-2, The Last Ship and Preacher

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. 

With the fourth of July weekend in the US last week, things have been a little quieter than normal, but not completely quiet. There have been a few new shows to review and I’ve already cast a glance over Dead Of Summer (US: Freeform), The Kettering Incident (Australia: Foxtel Showcase) and Roadies (US: Showcase; UK: Amazon Prime), as well as passed a third-episode verdict on American Gothic (US: CBS; UK: Amazon Prime). Last night in Australia, Barracuda (Australia: ABC) started, and I’ll be reviewing that by the end of the week, I hope. There’s also a couple of new acquistions of Netflix that should be getting my attention this week, too.

Nevertheless, the regulars have been looking a bit thin on the ground, which means that after the jump, I’ll only be looking at 19-2, The Last Ship, Preacher and the final episode of Secret City. Oh yes – I managed to watch the first three episodes of the new season of Marco Polo. I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to hear about them, too

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Marco Polo, Secret City, 19-2, The Last Ship and Preacher”

What have you been watching? Including Spotlight, The Americans, Second Chance, The Magicians,

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. 

Can you feel it? It’s springtime, everyone, and that can only mean a changing of the TV seasons. Some current shows are finishing their runs, while others are just starting, and there are more on the way. Others are just lounging around, eating chocolate eggs.

This week, I’ve reviewed Underground (US: WGN America) and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders (US: CBS; UK: W), and if you cast your minds back to last year, I previewed Crowded (US: NBC), which has just started airing in the US. In the next couple of days, I’m going to be reviewing the entire second season of Daredevil (Netflix), which I somehow managed to binge-watch over the weekend, as well as anything else new that comes my way. Either that, or I’ll be toasting my eminent good sense in not bothering to watch ABC’s Of Gods And Prophets, given it was cancelled after a mere two episodes of Wicked City-bad ratings.

That means that after the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of 11.22.63, Billions, Damien, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, Flaked, Limitless, Lucifer, The Magicians, Okkupert (Occupied), Second Chance, Stan Lee’s Lucky Man, Supergirl and Vikings. One of those is probably not long for this world, one is getting a demotion, but surprisingly, two that had surprisingly awful beginnings are getting promoted to the recommended list. Can you guess which ones?

Oh yes. The Americans is back, too.

But first, a movie!

Spotlight (2015)
Journalism always seems exciting to outsiders, but if you actually look at what it involves, even if the results can be exciting, to be honest, the actual process is pretty monotonous. I use Excel in my day job just as much as I use Word – that should tell you something. Certainly, the most realistic movies and TV shows about journalism point out that it mostly involves endless note-taking, fact-checking, research, dead-ends and meetings, with even All The President’s Men being a major snoozefest most of the time – I think only the TV version of State of Play has ever managed to be both fun to watch while depicting something that a journalist would recognise as been similar to his or her day job. 

So it is with Spotlight, a meticulously exacting recreation of how the Boston Globe‘s investigative journalism department revealed in 2001 that nearly 100 local Catholic priests had abused as many as 1,000 boys and girls in their charge over the years and the church had covered it up. Featuring a star-studded but unflamboyant cast (Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci), the almost pre-Internet story largely consists of Ruffalo, McAdams and Keaton setting up spreadsheets, looking in books, sifting through legal documents and trying to find evidence, all without a gunshot, car chase or even fist fight (it is Boston) along the way.

The film just about manages to keep the viewer’s attention, helped in part by the sheer horror of the story, but also by the attention to location, the period details – yes, it really does feel like a period drama – and the exploration of the politics of the situation, with powerful pressure being applied to the paper and its journalists through subtle means, as the social interconnections between the paper, the church, the police and other institutions worked to try to prevent anyone rocking the boat. But there were times when even my desperate need to nitpick the movie’s accuracy (I couldn’t) wasn’t quite enough to stop my attention from wandering.

Don’t get me wrong – this is undoubtedly not only the second best journalism film ever made, but the second best film about a member of the Bradlee clan (Mad Men‘s John Slattery plays Ben Bradlee Jr). It’s also marvellous to have a grown-up film, telling a grown-up and important story, in which journalists are the good guys for the change. It just would have be nice to have a car chase, too.

PS It’s coming up to the Easter double holiday here in the UK, which means this will be the last WHYBW until 1st April. Or maybe the 2nd. Or maybe, just to be wacky, 30th March. It’ll just appear at some point around then, anyway.

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UK TV

Review: Mad Dogs 1×1

Mad Dogs

In the UK: Thursdays, 9pm, Sky 1 HD

As we all know, Sky1 doesn’t produce much original content, and what it has produced has tended to be lowest common denominator crud that sucks in the extreme. But the times they are a changing. The new philosophy at Sky 1 is that if they make programmes that are halfway decent, that will entice people to take out subscriptions – in particular, HD subscriptions.

So how about this for tempting: Mad Dogs, an HD-only four-part crime series set on Mallorca that stars Max Beesley, Ben Chaplin, Marc Warren and the Life on Mars/State of Play dream team that is Philip Glenister and John Simm? Maybe with just a hint of nudity from these stars…

Sounds good huh? Well, it doesn’t stop there, when it comes to BSkyB pulling out all the stops for this one: cue the promotional trailer by David LaChapelle. We can talk about whether it’s any good or not after the break…

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UK TV

State of Play – the movie: photos and trailer

Russell Crowe, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren in State of Play

Well, we all loved the BBC mini-series State of Play, starring John Simm, David Morrissey, Bill Nighy, James McAvoy, Kelly Macdonald, Marc Warren and Philip Glenister (at least I hope we do. If we don’t, we need to get it on DVD instantly). Now a Hollywood adaptation is on the way and is due to be released in US cinemas on April 17th.  

Starring Russell Crowe (as John Simm), Ben Affleck (as David Morrissey), Helen Mirren (as Bill Nighy), Rachel McAdams (as Kelly Macdonald), Jason Bateman (as Marc Warren) and Harry Lennix (as Philip Glenister) it’s got big budget US thriller all over it and not in a good way. Plus what’s up with Russell’s accent? Here’s a trailer – see if you disagree with me. For comparison’s sake, the trailer for the original mini-series is after it. You can also find photos from the movie at IMDB.