Israeli TV

Fourth-episode verdict: Tehran (Israel: Kan 11; UK: Apple TV+)

In Israel: Aired on Kan 11 in June
In the UK: Fridays, Apple TV+

‘A Netflix Original’. ‘An Amazon Original’. ‘An Apple TV+ Original’. It’s always fascinating to see just how much TV on the global streaming services isn’t actually original – just some exclusive acquired TV given a new name tag.

Amazon is probably the most transparent service, but even the likes of Good Omens – a co-production with the BBC – get called Amazon Originals. Netflix, for its part, is happy to stamp Original on practically everything it buys from anyone else, whether it put any money into making it or not.

And now here comes Apple TV+’s first non-English language ‘Apple Original’, Tehran. Which is actually just a Kan 11 (Israel) TV show for which Apple has exclusive rights outside Israel. So far, so Netflix.

What’s more interesting than that simple aping of Netflix – and lack of honesty about a show’s origins, despite the global ‘trust us’ Apple brand – is this choice. It’s an Israeli show. Not French, German or anything else, but Israeli. And a spy show to boot, set in Iran, with a mix of Farsi, Hebrew, English and even French dialogue – all with some very high production values, too.

As a way of saying, “Netflix… similar, but classier. More Think Different”, you’d be hard-pushed to pick a clearer opening move.

Niv Sultan in Tehran

Tehran – but not

Tehran focuses on Tamar Rabinyan (Niv Sultan), a Jewish woman born in Iran but raised in Israel. A Mossad agent and computer hacker, she’s sent to Tehran to neutralise Iran’s air defences, so that Israeli warplanes can bomb a nuclear plant and prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic bomb.

When she arrives in Iran she switches identities with a Muslim employee of the local electricity company. But the mission goes wrong and she has to go into hiding, while being hunted by Shaun Toub (Iron Man) and occasionally helped by local Mossad agent Navid Negahban (Homeland, Legion).

As she does so, she learns more about her roots and Tehran itself.

Continue reading “Fourth-episode verdict: Tehran (Israel: Kan 11; UK: Apple TV+)”
US TV

What have you been watching? Including Filthy Rich, Criminal and Somebody Feed Phil

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

Previously on TMINE

Last week was super busy for TMINE, meaning I didn’t end up reviewing anything. Fortunately, I have been watching TV and yesterday, I was able to finally give you the lowdown on season 5 of Le Bureau des Légendes (The Bureau).

Enola Holmes (2020)

Next on TMINE

As promised, Orange Thursday will tomorrow feature Bill and Ted Face The Music (2020) and Enola Holmes (2020). I’m hoping to start watching Apple TV+’s new Israeli spy show, Tehran, at some point, so hopefully I’ll be reviewing that, too.

Emily in Paris starts on Netflix this week, but I suspect I’ll be skipping that. Ditto Hulu (US)’s horror anthology Monsterland. Otherwise, the decks are relatively clear of new shows until next week, so it’s probably going to be another quiet one. I might find something I missed to catch up on…

Sophie Okonedo in Criminal

What TMINE has been watching

The regulars list is still just one show, The Boys (Amazon), and even that’s on its last chance: reviews of its latest two episodes after the jump. Woke lost me midway through episode three, when I realised it wasn’t ever really going to use its “talking objects” conceit for anything useful and it wasn’t ever going to be truly funny or pointed enough to sustain my interest.

But Criminal returned for a UK-only second season last week. As should be clear by now, networks aren’t back up to running speed yet, so I’m going to eke out its four episodes weekly. You can read what I thought of ep one after the jump.

Meanwhile, Fox (US) has unveiled the first of its anaemic autumn line-up: Filthy Rich, the first episode of which I’ll be discussing after the jump as well.

But is that all I’ve been watching? Not all.

It’s not technically TMINE material, but I thought I’d mention Somebody Feed Phil, Netflix’s new food-travel documentary that features… the guy who created Everybody Loves Raymond. Not the most obvious choice, but that kind of puts it within TMINE’s scripted bailiwick.

Somebody Feeds Phil features Phil Rosenthal visiting a different city every week, where he sees the sights and eats various kinds of food. So far, so Anthony Bourdain, just with a guy who has no real food training and who thinks pretty much everything is the best thing he’s ever tasted, resulting in a lot of eye popping and gurning.

But importantly, it’s actually quite charming. Phil’s enthusiasm for everything is enjoyable to watch and he can kvetch with the best of them. He also doesn’t do the obvious things – for the London episode, for example, as well as going to Michelin-starred restaurants, he goes with Jay Rayner to a fish and chip shop in Dulwich, and has tea with Sophie Winkleman.

Plus he’s smart – one moment, he’ll be playing the fool, but the next he’ll be quoting poetry and waxing lyrical about Mexico City’s sunset, the next he’ll be explaining the historical origins of Americans’ strange ideas about British food.

Most of the restaurants he visits aren’t necessarily serving up the ‘local food’, either. This is very much a show not just about how globalisation is cross-pollinating various countries’ eating habits, it’s also about immigrants’ historical contribution to food. So Middle Eastern and African food get highlighted in London, Italian food in Lisbon and Chicago, and so on.

His guests are all pretty diverse, no matter where he goes. And sometimes the guests surprise you. I never realised Domenick Lombardozzi (The Wire, Breakout Kings) was such a foodie, for example.

Just as importantly, it’s not too touristy and doesn’t feel like it’s simply going to the places everyone else does. The London episode feels like authentic London, even taking in Borough Market, and the Lisbon episode wisely goes on a tour with Célia Pedroso – just as Lovely Wife and I did when we went there. Prophetically, we’d say to each other “I hope he goes to…” and the next minute, he’d be there.

Lastly, of course, his parents feature in every episode – as does his much beloved younger brother, who is also a producer on the show. It gives you a hint of how Rosenthal came up with the idea of Everybody Loves Raymond.

Paradoxically, I found the episodes set in cities I’d visited to be more interesting than those set in those I’d never been to. You might find the same – or the other way round. But if you want to try a slightly different sort of food show, Somebody Feed Phil might be just the ticket.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Filthy Rich, Criminal and Somebody Feed Phil”
French TV

Boxset Tuesday: Le Bureau Des Légendes (The Bureau) (season 5) (France: Canal+; UK: Sundance Now)

In France: Aired on Canal+ in April
In the UK: Available on Sundance Now

All good things end eventually. Sometimes they finish naturally, sometimes they’re forced to stop. And sometimes they just decide to do something odd. Like The Bureau.

Probably Britain’s finest ever spy show was The Sandbaggers, a marvellously daring combination of office politics, realpolitik and verisimilitude.

It tragically lasted a mere three seasons because its talented creator, Ian Mackintosh, mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the third season. The show’s quality dropped afterwards – if not markedly, at least noticeably – with other talents simply unable to do what Mackintosh uniquely could do.

France’s answer to The Sandbaggers is Le Bureau des Légendes (The Bureau), an equally thrilling but decidedly modern spy thriller about which I’ve written considerably over the years:

I’ve compared the two shows a considerable amount over the years, but I was somewhat hoping that The Bureau would finish on a slightly higher note than The Sandbaggers, as we entered what would appear to be the final season. The show has largely improved every season, from an already superb starting point, but its creator, Eric Rochant, has decided enough is enough and has decided to move on to make his (much deserved fortune) in the US.

Yet, here I am, forced to make the same comparison as always, because while season 5 of The Bureau is largely as brilliant, and possibly even better than previous seasons, Rochant decided to hand over the reins to the final two episodes to noted French director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust & Bone, Dheepan). And while these are actually pretty good by most standards, the show’s quality drops – if not markedly, at least noticeably.

By my God, those first eight episodes…

Spoilers aplenty after the reminder (in French) of what happened in seasons one to four, the (subtitled) trailer for season 5 and the jump. If you haven’t seen the previous seasons – or this season – you’re probably better off waiting until after you have. Remember: the only place you can now watch all five seasons in the UK is Sundance Now, since the first two aren’t on Amazon Prime any more (at least, not for free).

Continue reading “Boxset Tuesday: Le Bureau Des Légendes (The Bureau) (season 5) (France: Canal+; UK: Sundance Now)”
US TV

What have you been watching? Including Woke and The Boys

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

Tom Hardy in Venom (2018)

Previously on TMINE

It’s been a quiet week for new tele this week, thanks to the decimated US TV production schedule. But I did offer up reviews of Tenet (2020) and Venom (2018) for the returning Orange Thursday.

Next on TMINE

I managed to watch the first two episodes of Woke (US: Hulu), so I’ll be talking about them after the jump. HBO (US) mini-series We Are Who We Are starts tonight, but it’s a mini-series so I might skip it.

Coming later this week, I’m going to be watching the second season of Criminal (Netflix), so might well give that a review – at the moment, it looks like either season two is only going to be UK episodes or it’s just the four UK episodes arriving on Wednesday, with the German, French and Spanish episodes arriving at later dates.

I’m also hoping to finally get the chance to watch season 5 of Le Bureau des Légendes (The Bureau), which will be arriving on Sundance Now on Thursday.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo Nest (175) prequel Ratched is hitting Netflix on Friday, and I’m sure to give that a try (Sharon Stone’s in it!). But that seems to be about it.

Meanwhile, Orange Thursday will feature Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) and The Old Guard (2020).

What TMINE has been watching

The regulars list is down to a mere one show, The Boys (Amazon), the latest episode of which we’ll be discussing after the jump. But the shortness of that list has obviously given me some time to fill/waste TV-wise.

I began by continuing last year’s project: The Strange Report. For those who don’t know, The Strange Report is an ITC show from the 1960s – cf Department S, The Champions, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) – that sits between those more fantastic shows and the later, luxurious escapist likes of The Persuaders! and The Protectors.

What makes it so fascinating is it’s clearly trying to be both an ITC show and a serious, modern, Swinging 60s show. There’s the standard core cast of former Scotland Yard detective Adam Strange (Anthony Quayle) and his young associates – token American Kaz Garas (Wonder Woman) and hip artist/model Anneke Wills (Doctor Who) – who solve crimes using a combination of standard police techniques and, more intriguingly, forensics, with Garas constantly in a lab, staring down a microscope.

The plots are also a cut above the standard of the time, with early episodes seeing cult leaders being investigated, but the leaders turning out to be quite nice after all, and Chinese party officials being abducted – to be ‘re-educated’ by former prisoners who had been through the same thing themselves, resulting in some really surprisingly high-brow debates about the nature of Marxism.

It’s not had the benefits of frequent rebroadcasters and constant video releases that its telefantasy brethren have had, but the more I watch, the more it shapes up to be one of my favourite shows of the time.

However, watching The Old Guard for Orange Thursday made me want to watch some old episodes of Highlander, which is currently available for free on Amazon, albeit in a cropped for 16:9 format that leaves a little to be desired.

That’s a show that holds up less over time, although it does have many plus points, most of them Adrian Paul and the genuinely good fights, both with swords and martial arts.

The show’s biggest issue is that it was a co-production filmed in Canada for half a season, France for another half, and was filled with supporting cast members from both nations who struggled to act in English, even the English-speaking Canadians, so usually ended up with all manner of Brits being flown in to save the day. Plus it was often hokey as f***.

But there are plenty of good episodes, at least. For my first season delve, I started off not with the one with Peter Howitt (Bread) as the evil immortal mime driven mad by absinthe or even the one where Martin Kemp (Spandau Ballet) is an ex-member of the SAS (which is apparently part of the RAF in Highlander-world) who believes he’s on a holy mission from God.

Instead, I went with the ‘Die Hard in a courthouse‘ episode, which turns out to be not as good as I remember at all, and more a demonstration of the amazing power of a sharp stick to take you unawares.

Much better and funnier is the sixth season episode I went to next. For those who don’t remember the sixth season, that’s when Adrian Paul really wanted to leave the show, couldn’t/got paid a lot of money not to, but wasn’t around as much, so the producers used a lot of the episodes as backdoor pilots to a spin-off show about a female immortal. Those included the likes of Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), although Highlander: The Raven eventually (boringly) went with long-time fan favourite Amanda as its lead.

However, I was always very disappointed that Alice Evans never got the job, thanks to her performance in Patient Number 7. So I rewatched that. It was quite fun – she gets to be a musketeer and everything – plus her stuntwoman was really good, too. Shame, hey?

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Woke and The Boys”
International TV

What have you been watching? Including Young Wallander, The Umbrella Academy and The Boys

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

Previously on TMINE

I had a holiday. So it’s been a while, basically, since TMINE has reviewed anything.

I did watch some TV but not a huge amount, and what I did watch, I watched a little while ago, so I’m a little hazy about it. But I’ll do my best to recap, ready for September and the Autumn schedules.

Although…

Next on TMINE

…it’s worth noting that the US networks have basically pushed all new scripted shows to January 2021. Because of You Know What. So that means there won’t necessarily be a lot of new TV for the next few months. Or this week. But we’ll see what I can see.

In the schedules, at least, is Woke (US: Hulu) and The Duchess (Netflix), but I’ll probably give the latter a miss since I’m not the biggest fan of Katherine Ryan. So Woke it is.

Aya Cash and Antony Starr in The Boys

What TMINE has been watching

Long-time, observant readers will note that I didn’t apply my usual ‘Can I be arsed to catch up with this when I get back?’ rule to the Regulars list before I went. That’s because, with viewing fare scant, there was a big chance that even shows I couldn’t be bothered with I might still stick with. Conversely, holidays being what they are, there was also the possibility that I might not have stuck with shows I actually really liked.

So rather than second-guess myself, I decided to use empirical science to determine what I could actually be bothered catching up with and/or starting retrospectively.

The good news (for fans of those shows) is that I stuck it to the end of Baron Noir, Condor, Corporate, Doom Patrol, and Stargirl. I’ll discuss all of them after the jump.

The bad news (for fans of those shows) is that I really couldn’t be bothered watching any more of Das Boot, Dark or The Twilight Zone. I won’t be discussing them after the jump, but I watched a couple more episodes of Brave New World before giving up, so I will talk about that after the jump, as well.

In terms of new and returning shows, The Boys was back on Amazon on Friday with three new episodes, so I watched them. Young Wallander also showed up last week on Netflix, so I gave that a whirl, too. Earlier in August, The Umbrella Academy came back for season two, and I watched all of that. My thoughts on all of those after the jump as well.

I gave the second season of The New Legends of Monkey a go, but that was feeling a little too young for me this time round, so I never made it to the end of the first episode, although at least Monkey got his cloud powers back. But I might give that another go at some point.

That made me want to watch old episodes of The Water Margin, so I caught of couple of those, which were actually really good. You remember that, don’t you? I might watch more of them at some point…

And in an unrelated development, Lovely Wife saw that Cobra Kai (seasons one and two) had come to Netflix, so we watched them in the space of about three days. She loved it for more or less the same reasons I did when I made it one of my top shows of 2018 and it really does hold up well on a second viewing, too. So if you’ve not watched it, I recommend you do.

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including Young Wallander, The Umbrella Academy and The Boys”