The Punisher
Internet TV

Boxset Tuesday: The Punisher (season two) (Netflix)

Available on Netflix

Marvel’s The Punisher is constantly surprising. It’s surprising that it’s so surprising. An unexpected spin-off from season two of Marvel’s Daredevil, its potential seemed limited: an ex-marine is a bit hacked off that his wife and children are killed by gangsters, so tools himself up to the nines with all the guns and ammo he can get his hands on to punish those responsible. And in an age of the alt-right and mass shootings, an angry white man shooting up the neighbourhood because he thinks it’s gone to the dogs doesn’t really have great optics.

Yet, season one of Marvel’s The Punisher was one of TMINE’s Top N shows of 2018, a musing on men’s role in society, class, the brotherhood of soldiering and the nature of war. It saw ‘The Punisher’ aka Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) facing up to former best friend Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) in New York to deal with moral infractions by the CIA, the alt-right and corporate greed, all while slowly realising that maybe he can no longer fit into a family thanks to the violence he’s seen – and meted out.

More surprisingly still, there was actually very little ‘punishing’. Indeed, I pointed out that “Frank Castle hardly feels like ‘The Punisher’ at all.”

Season two isn’t that different in that regard. Indeed, contrary to Netflix’s standard “first season as a pilot” rule, I’d say here, it’s “two seasons as a pilot”, with Frank only becoming The Punisher in the season’s – and perhaps the series’ – final scene. Up to that point, what we have is a curious retread of the first season, but with perspectives switched.

The Punisher

Pilgrim’s progress

Season two opens with everyone in very different places from where they started season one. Russo is laid up in a coma in hospital, his face now a mangled ‘jigsaw’ thanks to Frank’s work in season one. Department of Homeland Security special agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) may now be in charge of New York’s DHS operations, but she’s obsessed with Russo, visiting him every day in hospital, convinced he’s faking his coma and, when he wakes up, his apparent amnesia about what he did in the first season.

Meanwhile, Frank’s in a good place, travelling the US. Unfortunately, one day he goes to the wrong bar and ends up having to save  Giorgia Whigham’s Amy Bendix from a group of highly trained killers. Soon, fundamentalist Christian ‘John Pilgrim’ (Shooter‘s Josh Stewart) is on his tail trying to kill both him and Bendix.

You can bet, of course, that those two plot threads are going to intertwine, but their resolution? Maybe not what you’d expect from The Punisher.

Continue reading “Boxset Tuesday: The Punisher (season two) (Netflix)”

Roswell New Mexico
US TV

Review: Roswell, New Mexico 1×1 (US: The CW)

In the US: Tuesdays, 9pm, The CW
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Given The CW’s current efforts to expand its drama provision quickly without making every show about a DC superhero, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s trawling through its and its predecessors’ archive of successful shows to see if it can find anything good to remake. Charmed was the first on its list and now we have a reboot of 1999 UPN/The WB series Roswell, more geographically explicitly called Roswell, New Mexico.

There’s a reason for that.

You might not remember Roswell. It was based on the Roswell High series of young adult books (not vice versa, as I discovered shortly after reviewing two of them for Dreamwatch back in the day – oops) and tried to capture the power of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s decision to depict relatively humdrum teenage romances as being of literally Earth-shattering importance, largely because at least one person involved is a bit supernatural or alien.

However, it never managed to hit even a tenth of the impact of Buffy, so if you remember Roswell much at all, it’s probably because you remember its rather splendid theme tune by Dido:

Alternatively, you may remember it as launching the careers of the likes of Katherine Heigl (Suits), Shiri Appleby (UnREAL), Emilie De Ravin (Lost), Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami) and Colin Hanks (Fargo), all of whom have gone onto much better things. And 27 Dresses in Heigl’s case.

Roswell, New Mexico
(L-R): Nathan Dean Parsons as Max Evans, Lily Cowles as Isobel Evans-Bracken and Michael Vlamis as Michael Guerin — Photo: Ursula Coyote/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

Deja vu

If by chance or use of the spice Melange you can actually remember the plot of Roswell, you’ll already know what Roswell, New Mexico is going to present you with, since the first episode is a virtual remake. It sees Jeanine Mason (So You Think You Can Dance) taking on Appleby’s role as Liz, now the daughter of two undocumented immigrants. A jaded biomedical researcher elsewhere, she nevertheless returns to her home town of Roswell, New Mexico, that she thought she’d left behind.

While temporarily helping out in her parents’ diner, she’s accidentally shot by anti-immigrants and is about to die. Fortunately, her former High School boyfriend turned town deputy sheriff Max (was Jason Behr but now True Blood‘s Nathan Dean Parsons) is on hand. I say fortunately, because he’s also an alien and has various supernatural powers, including the ability to heal people with his touch, which leaves a glowing palm print on Mason’s skin when he removes the bullet and heals her wound.

Despite sister Isabel (was Heigl, now Lily Cowles) and brother Michael (was Brandon Fehr but now Michael Vlamis)’s express wishes to the contrary, he’s soon revealing all to Mason. He explains that he and they are aliens, survivors of the famous UFO crash landing in Roswell in 1947. Their pods lay dormant for 50+ years, after which they emerged looking like human children and were adopted by human families – or fostered in Vlamis’ case. They’ve kept themselves to themselves to avoid being experimented upon, but he loves her so much, he had to tell her his secret. Otherwise, they just want to be left in peace to live normal lives.

Unfortunately for the aliens, there’s a secret military contingent in town who are keeping an eye out for aliens – and glowing palm prints. They don’t believe that the aliens are peaceful… and surprisingly they might have a point, since the death of Mason’s mum might have a different explanation from the one she’s always been told.

Roswell, New Mexico
(L-R): Lily Cowles as Isobel and Michael Vlamis as Michael — Photo: John Golden Britt/The CW — © 2018 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved

Continue reading “Review: Roswell, New Mexico 1×1 (US: The CW)”

Fam on CBS
International TV

What have you been watching? Including Schooled and Fam

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

It only took about a week before WHYBW missed its scheduled slot, but given how much new stuff has recently arrived and how much old stuff has returned to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, please forgive me. Still, I was wondering what I was going to do on Thursdays…

The Passage
THE PASSAGE: L-R: Saniyya Sidney and Mak-Paul Gosselaar in THE PASSAGE on FOX. ©2018 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Steve Dietl/FOX

This week’s reviews

To be frank, I’ve done a crap-load of reviews and previews since last time, too.

Please peruse them at your leisure, whether you intend to watch the shows or not.

Schooled
ABC’s Schooled

New shows

Coming up in the next week, I’ll be reviewing The CW’s Roswell reboot, Roswell, New Mexico. Season two of The Punisher will be hitting Netflix this Friday, so I’ll undoubtedly be watching that. And if anything else pops up I’ll review that, too, if I can.

After the jump, though, despite my already extensive viewing schedule, there’ll be reviews of two other new shows I managed to catch: Schooled (US: ABC) and Fam (US: CBS). Gosh, mid-season replacements that are also sitcoms. Cos they’re always funny, hey?

I’ll also be talking about series five of Cuckoo (UK: BBC Three), which I know isn’t a new show and it’s not even a show new to me, but I think it’s probably the first time I’ll have talked about it on the blog.

The Orville

The regulars

Although Counterpart decided to take a break this Sunday, a whole bunch of other shows decided to return this week. That means that after the jump, there’ll be the season (and probably series) finale of the one remaining regular, Happy Together, as well as new episodes of returning regulars Magnum P.I.Corporate and True Detective. Joining them will be the second episodes of both Cavendish and Project Blue Book.

And for reasons that will become clear, I’ll also be talking about every episode of The Orville that’s aired since I gave up on it after its third episode.

See you in a mo…

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Schooled and Fam”

The Passage
US TV

Review: The Passage 1×1 (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Tuesdays, 9pm, Fox UK

Remember the days when illnesses on TV simply made people sick? Happy times, huh? Now, they simply kill huge chunks of the Earth’s population (The Last Ship), turn huge chunks of the Earth’s population into zombies (The Walking Dead), turn huge chunks of the Earth’s population into vampires (The Strain) or turn a few people into weird immortals who want to kill everyone else (Helix).

Now we have The Passage, in which we have a virus that turns a few people into weird, immortal, definitely-not-vampires who want to kill everyone else. There’s new, hey?

The Passage

Passing bad

It starts off with good scientist Henry Ian Cusick (Lost, The 100) heading off to South America to investigate a supposed 250-year-old man, hoping to find out the secret of his longevity. Unfortunately, it turns out that the secret is he’s a vampire – don’t say vampire – and he ends up biting Cusick’s fellow scientist Jamie McShane (Bosch, Bloodline). McShane rapidly heals and equally rapidly becomes a bit odd, so he’s shipped back home and locked up and experimented upon to see if the secret of his vampirism – don’t say vampire – can be replicated and maybe made less ‘vampirey’ (don’t say vampire).

After experimenting a lot on handy death-row prisoners, the scientists get their formula to the point that the vampires – don’t – still look human, even if they do have to drink blood from time to time. But that’s still not good enough and the scientists reckon that the problem is all their test subjects are too old. Stick the secret formula into a child and they might have a way of curing all diseases and death, all without the need to constantly crack open someone’s vein for some top O-.

When a new avian flu pandemic for which there’s no vaccine flares up in East Asia, morality about experimenting on kids quickly gets thrown aside as the Americans realise it might infect Americans. So they pick a test orphan (Saniyya Sidney) and dispatch ex-special forces soldier and Saved By the Bell star Mark-Paul Gosselaar to bring her in.

Unfortunately for them, he lost his own child three years previously and soon develops a bond with the girl. Despite not knowing exactly what they’re up to, he quickly decides his bosses are evil and decides to ignore his orders and go on the run.

Which is probably just as well, because the new creatures of the day, not the night, definitely not the night, might also have psychic powers and are filling people’s dreams with thoughts – thoughts that might include letting them out and infecting the human race with the new engineered strain of the disease.

However, given we’re told by Sidney in voiceover at the beginning that “this is how the world ends”, I wouldn’t put all my money on Gosselaar succeeding in his quest, if I were you.

Continue reading “Review: The Passage 1×1 (US: Fox; UK: Fox UK)”

Don Cheadle as Mo, Andrew Rannells as Blair and Regina Hall as Dawn in Black Monday
US TV

Preview: Black Monday 1×1 (US: Showtime; UK: Sky Atlantic)

In the US: Sunday, 10/9c, Showtime. Starts January 20
In the UK: Probably Sky Atlantic because of its carriage deal

As I suggested yesterday when I previewed Deadly Class, 80s nostalgia has entered a new phase and is now finally contemplating the downside of the 80s, not just its terrible hairstyles and great music. Unfortunately, Deadly Class turned out to be a pretty weak affair, written as if by someone who’d read about the 80s in a Wikipedia article, rather than by someone who’d actually been there. It didn’t feel like anyone involved really had a firsthand, good idea of what was bad about the 80s.

Now, Black Monday isn’t any more successful at recreating the 80s than Deadly Class is. Set on Wall Street a year before one of the most terrible moments of the 80s and purporting to reveal the true cause of that eponymous stock market crash, there’s never a moment when you think you’re watching a documentary, as you often did in The Americans, or a movie or TV show of the time, as you often do with Stranger Things. Not even deploying the old Showtime titles helps there.

Subways are too graffiti-covered, hairstyles are too stupid, clothes are too loud or too brown, cars are too ridiculous. It’s Wolf of Wall Street made by someone whose only idea of the 80s comes from having watched Wolf of Wall Street.

But that misses the point. Black Monday has a get-out card that Deadly Class doesn’t. It’s a comedy.

Black Monday
Don Cheadle as Maurice Monroe, Regina Hall as Dawn Darcy and Paul Scheer as Keith in Black Monday – Photo: Erin Simkin/Showtime

Black Monday

The star of the piece, fresh from modern day financial skullduggery in Showtime’s own House of Lies, is Don Cheadle playing Maurice Monroe, the owner of the 11th most powerful brokerage on Wall Street in 1986. A self-made man who pulled himself up from dirty poverty, Cheadle has his eye on acquiring a company called Georgina’s Jeans, which makes its trousers in Manhattan and whose land is therefore worth twice what the company itself is worth. Soon, he’s putting the wheels in motion to try to acquire it.

Meanwhile, Andrew Rannells (Girls, The New Normal)’ marvellously named Blair Pfaff is the new kid on the street. A recent MBA graduate whom all the brokerages want because of his computer modelling skills, the world looks like it’s his oyster until he (literally) bumps into Monroe, who on the spot decides to destroy Rannells’ life. Soon, they will clash again – but how will it end?

Black Monday
Don Cheadle and Andrew Rannells in Showtime’s Black Monday

The Clash

To some extent, we know the answer to that question, since we start with a flashforward to Black Monday itself when the fates of the two characters are seemingly revealed. We also know in a different way, because there’s a twist to the main plot of the first episode that you’ll probably see a mile off.

But Black Monday‘s real skills aren’t in the plotting so much as the general mockery of the 80s. There’s a slight air of Trading Places to proceedings and the show also acts as a slight precursor to yet another Showtime finance show, Billions, but the show’s best when it’s sending up Wall Street’s excesses of the time, and those of the decade itself. You get all the trash talking, the cocaine-addled aggression, the nerdy white privilege, the raw power, the stupid gadgets and more. Brilliant.

There’s also the political incorrectness and the show does a reasonable job of having its cake and eating it. It gets to enjoy characters saying things like “Will all the Koreans now leave the room” and having female broker Regina Hall (Ally McBeal) deal with the sexual innuendo of fellow brokers, while simultaneously wagging its finger and saying, “Tut, tut. The 80s, hey? Haven’t we evolved for the better?”

Ken Marino
Ken Marino in Black Monday

Less 80s than the 80s

Nevertheless, despite some good individual moments and a cast that also includes the likes of Ken Marino (Party Down, Marry Me) and Casey Wilson (Happy Endings, Marry Me), there isn’t a huge number of laughs to be had. Cheadle gets a good line in dialogue, but comes across like a toned down Don Simpson at worst, rather than a Donald Trump or Gordon Gecko; Rannells is a little too camp to be the unhoned Wall Street type the script demands of him; and Hall is mostly there to force Cheadle to mourn over his empty life, rather than have any real animus or anima or her own. It’s all just a little bit too weak and unfocused to really make it as satire.

But if you just fancy looking at the 80s and laughing at them, and you’ve already seen Trading Places too many times, Black Monday‘s a decent enough way to spend a half hour.