Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including The Umbrella Academy and The Terminal List

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

This may or may not be my last lot of reviews before the traditional TMINE August vacation. It feels like the amount of TV being released in July has died down now, but there’s a whole bunch of new shows coming in August that actually look quite good – Netflix’s The Sandman and Disney+’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law being the most obvious ones – so I might have to forego my usual ‘if it comes out in August, I won’t watch/review it’ rule.

Let’s catch up with the regulars, which have pretty much all come and gone now.

Ms Marvel (Disney+) has proved to be the most boring of all the Marvel TV shows so far. The middle episodes in particular took the rather strange decision to be more or less focused on the partition of India and Pakistan and what a bad thing that was. It’s funny how US TV shows, when they do actually decide to go to another country, always focus on Some Terrible Wrong Thing From History That We Should Be Sorry About, isn’t it? I mean we should be sorry about the Partition, but not exactly in the way that the show says we should, in its simplistic way, and is that really the way to engage teenage viewers? It did manage to do a couple of interesting things in the final episode, but honestly, beyond the cameo in the end credits, I’m a bit sorry I wasted my time on this.

Superman & Lois (US: The CW; UK: BBC One) proved engaging enough to the end. The final episode had some lovely callbacks to Superman: The Movie but it was an ending where essentially the show came up with a big resolution to the big problem by creating an entirely new set of rules for the problem. I’m not even 100% sure I understand what happened. Also, after wondering why Superman & Lois in no way references the show it spun off from, Supergirl, for two seasons, the show decided in the final episode to declare that Superman is the world’s only superhero. Wait. What? It makes sense in context, but how does that work? Anyway, it was all very enjoyable as a season. I liked what they did with Adam Rayner’s character. I liked the innovations with the Superman mythos that setting it so late in his career have allowed it to do. Roll on season 3.

Obi-Wan Kenobi (Disney+) got progressively better with each week, more so as the Darth Vader and Obi-Wan moments increased, until the final two episodes which were actually pretty great. Some very cool Jedi moments, but I wish there’d been more Leia in the final episodes. Probably, actually, the Star Wars TV spin-off I’ve enjoyed the most so far.

For All Mankind (AppleTV+) has been getting progressively more exciting and more interesting each week, with pay off after pay off from previous episodes and seasons really making it worthwhile viewing. The parallels with true 90s history are amusing – what if the Republicans had come up with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? – as are the new conspiracy theories about space travel the world has hatched, and the Mars exploration is proving suitably cataclysmic. I’m not 100% sure the ‘son of Gordo’ storyline works, though. That’s a little bit too OTT.

The Orville (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+) is slowly finding its feet again. The jokes and funny moments are returning, and we’ve had SF cameos from the likes of Bruce Boxleitner (Tron, Babylon 5) to amuse the old school viewers (practically all of them?). The attempts at debates about philosophy and morality are usually very confused, with the continuing clumsy mixing of trans/gender discrimination issues ultimately making the show’s one big through-season debate a little pointless. But it’s generally been decent viewing, even if the show’s 1 hour+ runtime for episodes makes them a bit more of an endurance than they should be.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+) remembered to get serious again towards the end, with a couple of characters getting written out, perhaps in preparation for some interesting new arrivals next season. The season finale itself was nothing short of miraculous, being a redoing of my favourite the original series episode Balance of Terror that asked the question “What if Captain Pike had been the captain of the Enterprise in that episode?” and came to a very surprising answer, given Pike is the hero of this piece and Star Trek is generally a very pacifist show. I actually think in a lot of ways it might almost have been as good as the original episode, taking a lot of its predecessor’s strengths (its theatricality and discussions of war) and marrying them with this show’s usual strengths.

Also surprising was the inclusion of Kirk himself in the episode, since it was a very unshowy, un-Shatner performance by Paul Wesley. That allowed you to avoid being blinded by performance tics to see the nature of Kirk’s character better, so it was actually a surprisingly powerful episode for both Pike and Kirk. Overall, a generally great first season that’s probably now my favourite Star Trek since the original series.

Stranger Things (Netflix) came back for its final couple of episodes, which were very good. I’m not sure they really warranted the wait from the previous batch, since they didn’t do anything especially different or climactic. The Russian end of things all felt a bit superfluous and unnecessary, too. But they were suitably exciting and strong, packed with all the things that Stranger Things does so well. Including Kate Bush.

The Old Man (US: FX; UK: Disney+) continued to be very strong and very surprising, right up to the end. You thought it was definitely going to do one thing and it ended up doing something completely different instead. There is a plot revelation in episode two or three that makes you think “Really? Oh come on?” However, the next few episodes did get round to justifying it so it doesn’t feel quite as unlikely as it all initially seemed on first viewing.

There are some sterling performances from all the cast. Obviously, Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow and Joel Grey are great, but I wish Amy Brenneman had had a chance to do better shows and movies since she’s really good and Alia Shawkat is proving a revelation in a dramatic role. Leem Lubany (Condor) is similarly surprisingly superb, but even the supporting cast (The Wire‘s Gbenga Akinnagbe) do well with dialogue and scenes that are wonderfully theatrical/literary.

Weirdly, it’s only seven episodes long and the season finale doesn’t really feel like a season finale. I was expecting an episode eight to clear everything up. But there’s a second season at least, so I’ll definitely be tuning in for that.

Only Murders in the Building (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+) returned for a second season… but I gave up midway through the first episode. It felt a little too full of itself and charmless this time, and the arrival of the likes of Amy Schumer as herself felt a little forced.

Talking of shows I gave up on midway through the first episode, I gave The Terminal List (Amazon Prime Video) a whirl. That has Chris Pratt playing a Navy SEAL who goes on a mission that goes a bit pear-shaped and then goes on a personal mission to track down and kill those responsible for the deaths of his mates.

This is one of those shows where there’s clearly a lot of military advisers on hand telling everyone how to make it authentic but where the plot hasn’t had anywhere near that level of attention. Apart from the fact Pratt really isn’t a great actor – he got very, very lucky with his comedy roles, but without the laughs, he’s a bit of a charisma vacuum – the show made very little attempt to engage the audience. Bangs! Explosions! Patriotism! Isn’t that enough? What do you mean you want characters and innovative thinking? Soz.

Anyway, it actually felt like a step down from CBS’s SEAL Team, so I decided not to bother. Amazon – continuing to be the best at making B-grade action TV and movies.

Lastly, we had the return of The Umbrella Academy (Netflix). I managed to make my way through the entire season, which wasn’t quite as good as the first season but was definitely a step up from the second season. That gave us an alternative reality with a different Academy for us to enjoy that was full of some suitably silly and bonkers moments, such as a superhero who is just a cube. Marvellous. Good plotting and a great soundtrack, as per usual, too.

The characters were a little less well drawn, I thought, though, with a lot of character developments that came out of nowhere or that ignored previous character developments. What was up with Klaus, for example? And while Ellen Page’s transition to Elliot Page was incorporated into the plot, it did feel a little bit of an arbitrary character development that came without explanation and few questions from anyone. Would that all the world were so woke, hey?

But what have you been watching?

The Old Man
US TV

What have you been watching? Including Ms Marvel, Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Old Man

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

Let’s keep this short and sweet or else I’ll never get anything down! And I have a lot to cover.

Superman & Lois (US: The CW; UK: BBC One) seems to be operating on a fortnightly to three-weekly schedule at the moment. It’s been interesting and as good as always, even if it starting to feel like Smallville: The Parenting Years, . There’s an interesting ‘post-Metropolis’ vibe to the whole thing, like Superman’s youth was in Metropolis and now he’s older, things that we took as read (he won’t tell people his secret, etc) are no longer clear cut, since honestly, he’s getting on a bit now. So there have been some interesting format changes, at least.

Star Trek: Picard (US: Paramount+; UK: Amazon Prime) I finally watched to the end and it turned out to be okay by the end. Not total bobbins and the finale almost made up for the bobbins that went before it. But it was all a supertextually ‘We’re all old now and isn’t it a bit young and silly to be having fights, even with your arch enemies, so why don’t we just be nice to one another before we’re all dead.’ Which is fair enough I guess.

I watched another episode of The Essex Serpent (Apple TV+), which did suggest that maybe there really was a serpent (interesting!), but as usual, hints of adultery and failing marriages put it in my bad books for a couple of weeks so I got no further. Some interesting points around mass hysteria, though.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+) has been really fun. Maybe a little too fun? Remember those old episodes of Star Trek with Harry Mudd and the like? Like that much fun. I mean we’ve literally just had space pirates that have a spaceship that has a steering wheel off a ship.

Still awesome, though.

The Orville (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+) is back in new homes on both sides of the Atlantic. That seems to have forgotten it’s a Star Trek piss take that’s supposed to be having fun and appears to now think it actually is Star Trek and there’s not supposed to be fun in Star Trek. One funny line in the latest episode (there’s three new ones already) and zero in the first, which was basically one of those vaguely philosophical ones they do: can suicide be justified? Seems like if you want to watch funny Star Trek, you have to watch… Star Trek.

For All Mankind (AppleTV+) has made its return and has made it as far as the early 90s. Except the show postulates in a vaguely Watchmen-esque way that the continuation of the space race means that we’d be about 10-30 years ahead of where we were back then, with people doing video conferencing on their Apple Newtons. This season: we’re going to Mars and maybe socialist black Elon Musk, rather than the US and USSR, will be the man to get us there. There’s reduced soapiness at least, and it’s nice to see that our old guard are maybe not as liberal as people would like them to be. So I’m actually enjoying this one a lot more than season two. Particularly since this season opened with an episode that was almost as good as Gravity.

Stranger Things (Netflix) also returned and while not a marked improvement over season three, did feel a lot less repetitive and more innovative. This first batch of eps from the season (there’s a couple more to come next month, then another season after that) is a lot more grown up than the previous episodes, too, with some properly scary stuff going on. But most of it has the show’s favourite characters split up at the beginning, with the rest of the season then either about getting them back together or how 11 is going to get her powers back – which ultimately involves an explanation at last for why Hawkins is such a horror show. I really enjoyed it. I watched it over one weekend, which is something I generally don’t manage to get to do these days. There’s at least one really good new character, maybe two (no spoilers), as well.

And even if none of that was any good, there is one truly great scene that has justifiably propelled Kate Bush to the top of the charts again as a result. Watch it for that scene at least, because it’s actually incredibly moving – oddly enough.

After the jump, the new shows I’ve been watching. Although I might have to be brief on that, too. Sorry!

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Ms Marvel, Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Time Traveler’s Wife and The Old Man”
Night Sky
International TV

What have you been watching? Including Life and Beth and Night Sky

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

Like pretty much everyone in the UK, TMINE is about to pop off on its holidays to take advantage of next week’s double bank holiday – thanks, Queenie! – so time for a quick update on current TV viewing.

A lot of shows are in a holding pattern for us. Superman & Lois (US: The CW; UK: BBC One) is still on holiday. Bel-Air (Peacock) is still just there, waiting for us to watch the rest of it. Star Trek: Picard (US: Paramount+; UK: Amazon Prime) is still waiting for me to apologise for calling it bobbins. And The Essex Serpent (Apple TV+) is still there, waiting for me to do the ironing.

Whether I’ll get round to any of those, given that Obi Wan (Disney+) and the final season of Stranger Things (Netflix) were both released today, I can’t say.

We have watched a couple more episodes of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount+), which continues to be really good. Okay, so episode three wasn’t that great, perhaps because ‘genetically engineered people’ have been made so dull by the bobbins show. Enough of that, please.

But its killer move now, though, is to make the Gorn the big bad of the series.

You remember the Gorn, don’t you?

Well they’re back and they’re properly scary. Even though we haven’t seen them yet.

So lots of adventure, lots of excitement, lots of proper Spock. It’s Star Trek, guys!

I have watched a couple of episodes of new shows, as well. More on Life and Beth (US: Hulu; UK: Disney+) and Night Sky (Amazon Prime) after the jump.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Life and Beth and Night Sky”
Streaming TV

What have you been watching? Including Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and The Essex Serpent

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

It’s been a bit quiet for TV viewing here at TMINE Towers of late. We’ve not really been watching much at all. I actually blame TV networks for this, since there’s not been much we’ve wanted to watch.

Superman & Lois (US: The CW; UK: BBC One) came back for all of an episode before disappearing again. That’s progressing nicely and has survived The CW’s recent Night of Long Knives, so it’s good to know that there’ll be a season three.

I did manage to finish Moon Knight (Disney+). That’s probably now my favourite of all the Disney+ Marvel TV shows, thanks mainly to its dedication to ignoring the comics to give us something a lot more interest and based in Egyptian mythology. The addition of Scarlet Scarab at the end was something of a punch the air moment, too, and the mid-credits sequence was if not a game-changer, something that genuinely twisted the whole show and what you’d seen.

However, its biggest flaw was that it felt like the middle of an MCU movie, one that needed some prologue and epilogue featuring our titular hero since he hardly ever showed up. Season two isn’t confirmed, either, making this feel like a weird random addition to the MCU, rather than something too important. For now, anyway.

Meanwhile, Bel-Air (Peacock) is still just there, waiting for us to watch the rest of it. We’ve only watched one more episode of Star Trek: Picard (US: Paramount+; UK: Amazon Prime). That’s mainly because Lovely Wife is sorely aggrieved with me for calling it ‘bobbins’ last time and has withdrawn my viewing privileges, as she is the official custodian of all things Star Trek. But it’s also because it’s bobbins.

But while Lovely Wife may be the custodian of all things Star Trek, I’m the custodian of all things “not yet available to view in the UK”, which includes brand new Star Trek show Strange New Worlds. So we’ve watched two of those episodes.

And while Netflix might be losing its lustre as the world’s premier streamer (thanks to all manner of internal ructions and hubris, about which much has been written in the trades, recently, as its subscriber figures start to slump and it contemplates an ad-supported model), Apple TV+ is picking up and is on the verge of becoming ‘must see TV’. And so even though The Essex Serpent is a British period drama, I decided to give that a try, too.

Both of those after the jump…

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and The Essex Serpent”
International TV

What have you been watching? Including Moon Knight and Mr Inbetween

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

“Doing this every two weeks seems to be working out for me right now. I think I can pull this off. Famous last words.”

Oops. That’s what I said last time and it pretty much killed April. Work! Gah! More work! Gah. Holiday. Not gah. Actually quite relaxing.

Oh well. Best stop procrastinating and put some TV thoughts down on paper or those really will be my last words…

I’ve watched a whole bunch of new shows, as well as the regulars, but doing proper reviews will take the rest of the day, I reckon, so I’m going to be disciplined and stick to one sentence rundowns. And here’s the clincher: if you want to know more about one of the shows, ask me! Then I’ll respond in the comments.

I reckon that’ll work. And how’s that for fun, too?

There’s been an awful lot of new shows since the last of these, but here are the ones that interested me enough to watch them: The Ipcress File (UK: ITV); Minx (US: HBO Max); Welcome to Flatch (US: Fox); The Last Days of Ptolemy Gray (AppleTV+); Halo (Paramount+); Outer Range (Amazon Prime); Moon Knight (Disney+); and Russian Doll (season two) (Netflix).

Meanwhile, we’ve got stuck on a few of the regular shows: Bel-Air (Peacock) is sitting there, waiting for us to watch the rest of it when we’ve got the time; but Superman & Lois (US: The CW; UK: BBC One) has been on holiday all of April. The Endgame (US: NBC) got a bit repetitious so I gave up on that. I’ve been continuing to watch Star Trek: Picard (US: Paramount+; UK: Amazon Prime) and Severance (AppleTV+), though. And Mr InBetween (Australia: Showcase; UK: Disney+) has secretly been on Disney+ for months, I suspect, so I finally got to watch the third (final) season.

All of those after the jump…

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Moon Knight and Mr Inbetween”