TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including Debris, Coming 2 America and Can’t Get You Out Of My Head

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

What a busy week I had last week! So much so, even the current reduced TMINE service was out of the question. However, fingers crossed, this new regular Monday slot is going to work out better with my new schedule.

I’ve continued to watch the usual thing: Young Rock (US: NBC) is more or less the same as always, being a comedy, although last week’s was the first to stick to more or less one time zone. So not much to say about that. I’ve watched another ep of For All Mankind (Apple TV+), which was fine – a bit dull, but with one big emotional scene – but I’ve not caught up with the latest yet.

However, I have watched new things!

Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Available on iPlayer

I gave a couple of episodes of Adam Curtis’s Can’t Get You Out of My Head a whirl, which given there are six of them that are about two hours long each in some cases was about as much as I could do.

And it’s pretty good, almost back to the form of The Power of Nightmares, as well as a return to some of its ideas, so it’s almost a rounding up of Curtis’s work of the past 20 years. Some of it is counter-intuitive and backtracks, so now Vladimir Putin is largely powerless apparently. He also manages to link all manner of unconnected things in surprising ways that end up making surprising sense.

But a lot of it you feel like shouting “That’s nonsense!” at, only to realise you’ll see it’s all true in about 10 years’ time (cf The Power of Nightmares). And it’s also very depressing. But then that’s the news right now.

Also, if you play Adam Curtis Bingo as a drinking game, you will be hammered by the end of the first hour.

However, I honestly can’t face watching four more episodes. Seriously, it’s too long.

Coming 2 America (2021)

Available on Amazon Prime

Sequel to the 80s comedy classic that sees Eddie Murphy discovering he has a son in America and bringing him back to his how country to become his heir. Slight problems: he already has three daughters, all of whom would be better monarchs than the new guy; and Wesley Snipes runs the neighbouring country of Nexdoria and expects his daughter to marry Murphy’s son.

And I know everyone hates it, but I loved it. Would happily watch it again. For starters, it’s co-written by Kenya Barris (#BlackAF, black-ish et al), who is a genius, and there are genuinely laugh out lines, as well as some great callbacks to the original. The story isn’t just a retread of the original – more an inversion – and although one can question why a prince who went to America to find his equal partner would find it hard to let a daughter take over from him, you can sort of see how it’s commenting on how young radicals become conservative in their old age as they tire of trying to fight the system.

Importantly, while it’s clearly not a film made by Africans, it’s very definitely a movie made by Black Americans – director Craig Brewer is most famous for Hustle & Flow (2005) – and it’s far more imbued with Black American culture and values than the original was. This feels like a movie made by Black Americans for Black Americans, that in part comments on their own feelings about Africa and satirises them. And there are the occasional nods to knowledge of African culture, such as Snipes’ talking about ‘aunties’

Equally importantly, turns out Snipes is a comedy genius and he gets to do a little bit of martial arts. Bonus!

Debris

Available in the US on NBC and Peacock

At first look, Debris feels like one of those generic NBC mystery shows (cf Manifest) crossed with a Fox/CBS procedural. The central conceit here is that an alien spaceship entered our solar system and then started to break up, raining down debris on the Earth. However, whatever that spaceship is made from, it’s got weird properties that seriously mess up physics – and people. The US and UK launch a joint taskforce to gather as much of the debris together as possible to prevent all manners of disaster happening, with Jonathan Tucker (Kingdom, The Black Donnellys) and Riann Steele (Holby City) playing CIA and MI6 officers respectively.

So far so ordinary. Both sides are also keeping secrets from one another and there are shadowy individuals also collecting the debris for their own use. Each episode so far has also had heartwarming endings that tell us something about the human spirit. Yuch.

However, this is probably the closest thing we’ve had to The X-Files since it first started in several ways. Firstly, it’s got a great electronic soundtrack. Secondly, it’s just plain disconcerting. The effects the debris have genuinely feel alien and more like magic than science, with resurrections and cloning just not as we know it. It’s almost Fringe-like at times. I mean Mulder and Scully didn’t go everywhere trailing huge suitcases containing hazmat equipment and who knows what else. It’s clear this is hugely dangerous and mindwarping stuff, right down to Tucker (spoiler alert) having to shoot one of his own clones in the second episode.

This is quickly joining my regulars list. I hope it maintains the same level of uneasiness throughout.

But what have you been watching?

Film

What have you been watching? Including Beyond Clueless

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

Splat! Hit another brick wall. Sorry, I’ve barely watched anything this week. WandaVision (Disney+) was about it and while I enjoyed it, it was something of a Basil Exposition episode. Interesting, though, to see how this Agatha Harkness compares to the comic books version, so let’s see if they mesh up this week, given this appears to be a big exercise in making the Wanda Maximoff of the MCU a lot more like the one of the comic books.

Young Rock (US: NBC) I continued to watch out of the corner of one eye and was amiable enough. Randall Park is probably the best thing about it, as usual (“I used to be an actor” “yes, you’ve mentioned it. Several times”).

In movies, I tried to watch Legend (1985) on MUBI. However, that had the Jerry Goldsmith score, rather than the Tangerine Dream score, so was practically unwatchable.

That meant the only film I actually watched was another MUBI offering: Beyond Clueless (2014), a UK look at the teen movies that were made after Clueless (1995). It’s fair to say it’s a pretty shallow affair that’s more reminiscent of a Channel 4 100 Greatest… show than anything that really adds to the understanding of those movies.

Although there is a sort of grouping of ideas, there’s no real look at the development of themes over time, just a sort of mild critique of their attitudes. It’s not helped by the fact that it lumps together romcoms and horror movies under the same umbrella, which makes any real critique almost impossible. And there are also notable omissions, while many movies from which clips are extracted barely get any real discussion, just act as wallpaper.

On the plus side, I did spend an inordinate amount of time spotting people who did go on to be far more famous in other film and TV roles a decade later, but who I’d never realised had been in movies like this before. Baring Ali Larter, of course.

But what have you been watching?

US TV

What have you been watching? Including Clarice and Young Rock

It’s “What have you been watching?”, your chance to recommend to fellow TMINE readers anything you’ve been watching this week

And we’re picking up speed now! Not quite the pre-lockdown TMINE throughput I know, but I’m glad to say I am watching TV and movies again, albeit selectively now. And that there is TV to watch.

I just don’t have the time to write about it…

The regulars

In terms of the regulars list is, there’s WandaVision (Disney+). This was, of course, the big revelations episode, as we learn who or what has been responsible for everything so far. The big reveal itself was marvellously done – (spoiler alert) it was Agatha all along! – and shows the virtue of paying attention. But actually everything before it was lovely, too, with head nods to 2010s sitcoms including Happy Endings, The Office (US) and Modern Family. A lot of pathos, too, as more of Vision’s story is revealed to him.

The other ‘regular’ I watched was The Equalizer (US: CBS). That effectively formed the second part of a two-part pilot, with the show establishing its parameters, explaining why it’s called ‘The Equalizer’ and opening up the possibilities of plots that aren’t just crim of the week – although that was a nice change to the Big Bad of week one. All the same, I think I’ve seen enough of it to have my fill. If you like procedurals, it’s a pretty good one, but I don’t, so it’s not for me.

Talking of procedurals, we had the return of a previous regular, Harrow (Australia: ABC; UK: Alibi), for season three. I watched the first episode of that and we had the now-traditional “format revamp”, with another new generic character replacement. I enjoyed the addition to the Harrow backstory, but apart from the tortured ‘son’ revelation, I think the moment I decided to give up on it when Fern did yet another “Oh Dad! I hate you!” moment. Bored now. Sorry.

After the jump, the new shows I’ve watched: Clarice and Young Rock. But I’ll just briefly mention two movies that I’ve watched this week.

The Greatest Showman (2017) is a quasi-biographical musical of PT Barnum’s life and creation of the circus, with Hugh Jackman assembling a group of misfits rejected by society and giving them A Family – and a job being stared at for money. The songs aren’t bad, if not that memorable, and the cast (Zac Efron, Zendaya) is very good. It’s more memorable as an epic piece of ahistorical wokeness, but if that’s your bad, it’s fun enough.

Also gracing my retinas this week was The News of the World (2021), which you can currently see on Netflix. It’s best thought of as Tom Hanks doing John Wayne in The Searchers (1956), taking an orphaned German girl, who’s gone native with some native Americans, back to her supposed family. While also delivering the news to people, since he basically reads out newspapers for a living.

It’s very beautifully put together and bar a couple of slightly shakycam action scenes, you’d never know it was Paul Greengrass directing it, with so many big open vistas and drone shots. But is it engaging in the slightest? Not really.

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