Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan
Streaming TV

Review: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan (season one) (Amazon)

In the UK: Available on Amazon

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is a character who is much loved and much hated, all while simultaneously inspiring much indifference. Created by Clancy back in the 80s during the post-Carter, Reaganite dry run at “Make America Great Again”, Ryan is an honourable spy with all-American values who defeats enemies from around the world while demonstrating why America is num-ber one, num-ber one, num-ber one. Simultaneously able to rebuke Prince Charles for not being emotional enough after saving him from terrorists (Patriot Games) while praising the SAS for being “almost as good as our marines”, he’s been the star of 16 books and moved his way up from lowly analyst to President of the United States. It’s that aspirational, conservative moral superiority that is probably the secret to his success in the books, although Clancy’s provision of lovely detailed technical information about the baffles on Hughes 500 helicopters has also helped to get the military hardware fans excited where it counts.

In movies, though, Ryan’s not fared quite as well. Arguably America’s answer to James Bond, that’s as much true because of the number of actors who have portrayed him as the cultural role he plays – Alec Baldwin (The Hunt for Red October), Harrison Ford (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger), Ben Affleck (The Sum of All Fears) and Christopher Pine (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) have all played him in one movie franchise attempt after another that has failed to come close to the impact or longevity of Bond.

John Krasinski
John Krasinski as Jack Ryan

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’s TV series

Now Amazon are having a go at turning him into the star of a TV franchise with the imaginatively titled Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. It sees the ‘Ryanverse’ being reset to the beginning once again, with John Krasinski (slightly beefier now than he was in The Office (US)) taking on the title character, who has now switched majors from history to become a doctor of economics turned CIA analyst. Consistent with the rest of the Ryanverse, he’s still a former marine with an injured back turned lowly, back-office guy, this time monitoring bank transactions in the Middle East. When he spots some atypical SWIFT transfers, he brings it to the attention of his new boss – The Wire‘s Wendell Pierce taking on the role of old favourite James Greer, who’s now a morally compromised field spy rather than a distinguished admiral.

Before he knows it, he’s being whisked off by helicopter from a party where he’s meeting his future wife Cathy Mueller (Limitless‘s Abbie Cornish) so he can help to track down a new bin Laden (The Looming Tower‘s Ali Suliman) using his all-American gumption – and ability to patronise other cultures.

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Review: Corporate 1×1 (US: Comedy Central)

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, Comedy Central

Normally, my go-to take-home going forward from a review of a Comedy Central comedy is that it would have been funny – or at least funnier – if I’d been smoking something illicit while watching, which is pretty much what most of the target audience will be doing.

However, Corporate would fire me for that, unless I managed to find a scapegoat instead.

Set in the completely evil conglomerate of ‘Hampton Deville’, Corporate is actually a marvellously dark and edgy piece that looks like something David Fincher might have done in his Fight Club days, given half a chance. It’s written by and stars Matt Ingebretson and Jake Weisman as two minor executives at the aforementioned evil corporation who are already on their own life’s Plan B and have seen all hope and joy leave their existences thanks to Hampton Deville and its corporate culture.

Episode one is ostensibly about the company’s launch of a new tablet “eight times as large as the iPad”, which goes wrong when someone in the social media department creates an ill-taste Tweet about hurricane victims. CEO Lance Reddick (The Wire, Fringe) is enraged so sets mid-tier execs Anne Dudek (House, Covert Affairs) and Adam Lustick to find the culprit. They in turn delegate to Ingebretson and Weisman, who react very differently to being given power for the first time in their five year careers at the company.

Office Space

The first episode’s jokes are mostly about corporate culture (eg who gets first dibs at bagels, how open you should be about stress caused by your job, who should be cc:ed v bcc:ed and why, how to get free cake), which are reminiscent naturally enough of Office Space and its TPS reports. It’s also done very well and raised plenty of laughs from me along the way.

However, this is clearly Office Space for the social media generation, and the show understands the Twitter and the Facebook well, as well as its limitations, with the second half a great take on the power of social media to create bad publicity – and how easy it is for a ‘social media guru’ to change that and for corporations to end up not actually doing anything.

The void

However, the show’s equally interested in darkness, depression and crushed dreams. Plenty are the jokes on suicide and the death of hope – indeed, the first episode is called ‘the void’.

“Plan B failed – time for Plan C”


“That’s right! You’re such a good friend to know that.”

Flailing against corporate culture? Don’t. You can’t fight it. No good deed will go unpunished. All you can do is climb to the top so that you’re no longer under anyone else’s thumb.

Again, here it’s as accurate as with its analysis of office politics…


The fact it’s attracted the cast it has should be enough to convince you that this is at least a cut above the normal Comedy Central output. The more you know of the corporate world, the funnier you’ll find it, I suspect. Bleakly funny.

4 Blocks
German TV

Boxset Monday: 4 Blocks (season 1) (Germany: TNT Series; UK: Amazon)

In Germany: Aired on TNT Serie in May 2017
In the UK: Available on Amazon

The Wire is one of those shows that casts huge shadow over TV. Arguably one of the best TV shows ever made, if not the best, it’s a novelistic, many-layered show as Charlie Brooker will happily explain to you (you’re welcome, Charlie):

Naturally, every new, vaguely similar TV show wants to be “the new The Wire” to bask in inherited glory. As soon as international distributors want to export their gritty cop show to another country, said cop show becomes the country in question’s “answer to The Wire“. So Engrenages (Spiral) was “France’s answer to The Wire“, for example, even though it’s better to think of its first season, at least, more as Law & Order meets Scandal.

However, I think it’s fair to say that the multiple award-winning 4 Blocks is the first show that you could call “somewhere’s answer to The Wire” (that somewhere being Germany) and for that genuinely to be the case, both in terms of themes and general quality of production – all without being a straight carbon copy. Even if the Süddeutsche Zeitung thinks it’s more like The Sopranos and Die Zeit thinks it’s the ‘German Gomorra‘.

Here’s a highly NSFW trailer. Slightly spoilery discussion of the whole season after the jump.

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HBO's The Deuce

When’s that show you mentioned starting again, TMINE? Including The Deuce, Law & Order: True Crime, X Company, Room 104, Snatch and Alias Grace

Every Friday, TMINE lets you know the latest announcements about when new imported TV shows will finally be arriving on UK screens – assuming anyone’s bought anything, of course

After last week’s deafening silence when it came to acquisitions, it’s all go this week, and we’ve got a flood of premiere dates, too, you’ll be glad to hear. Indeed, the only new acquisition that hasn’t already been given a premiere date is The Orville (US: Fox: UK: Fox UK), which I reviewed earlier this week. I’ll let you know when it’s revealed. I’m assuming it’s not going to be kept a secret, anyway.

After the jump, pop-pickers, I’ll be giving you the rundown of all the new acquisitions and their matching premiere dates. See you in a mo…

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Streaming TV

Review: Narcos (season three) (Netflix)

The first two seasons of Narcos demonstrated just what a truly global television company intent on producing quality output can do.

Shot on location in Colombia almost entirely in Spanish and using real-life news footage to reinforce its message, Narcos depicted the real-life efforts of the US’s Drug Enforcement Administration to stop the famous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar’s operations in Colombia and beyond. It was a slow-burning but ultimately mesmerising critique, showing the complexity of the drugs trade, crime, law enforcement and life in South America almost as well as The Wire did. It also had a tour de force performance by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura that dominated proceedings.

However, season two ends up with the capture/death of Pablo Escobar, so what would Narcos be about for its final two seasons, you might wonder. More importantly, given that the show thrived on its sheen of veracity, what would it do for leads, given not only the departure of Moura but also the fact its two DEA agent heroes (Pedro Pascal and Boyd Holbrook) had little to do with the Colombian drug trade after their ultimate location of Escobar?

Answers at last

Now we have our answers, some of which were partly provided at the end of season two. Season three follows the fate of the four Colombian ‘godfathers’ (played by Alberto Ammann, Damián Alcázar, Francisco Denis and Pêpê Rapazote) of the so-called Cali cartel, as they try to negotiate their way to a surrender and a future as legitimate businessmen – something that not all of them want and that the other cartels might take advantage of.

Still at the DEA, though, is Pedro Pascal who also gets to take over narration duties from Holbrook. Although the CIA and even the US ambassador are playing a more strategic, political game, Pascal wants to do the right thing, and he’s going to try to bring all of Cali to book before they’re able to negotiate their own terms. There are also two new DEA agents (Michael Stahl-David and Matt Whelan), who unlike Holbrook have been trained from the outset to deal with the new sophistication of the cartels. Unfortunately, even they don’t quite realise just how deep and far the fingers of the cartels have penetrated every aspect of Colombian society.

Importantly, season 3 doesn’t quite follow the same template as the previous two seasons since a huge part of the season is Matias Varela’s smart, considered head of Cali security. A former engineer who’s looking to go legit, he’s not a bad guy at heart, so the question is whether he’ll be able to stomach Cali operations for much longer, particularly once his friends and their families start getting murdered by his own employers…

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