Will on TNT
US TV reviews

Third-episode verdict: Will (US: TNT)

In the US: Mondays, 9pm (ET/PT), TNT
In the UK: Not yet acquired

It’s no coincidence that the best moment in the third episode of Will was a straight lift of the famous opening scene of Trainspotting, complete with Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ playing in the background, since it’s a show that very much excels when it remembers to have a lust for life. Unfortunately, when it forgets that zest, it becomes just an ordinary, turgid period drama.

It’s a retelling of William Shakespeare’s ‘lost years’ when he first came to London, all given a punk make-over by Baz Luhrmann’s long-time writing partner Craig Pearce and Elizabeth‘s director Shekhar Kapur. Will‘s first episode is a truly exciting piece of work giving us a contemporary Elizabethan London, full of fire and joys and a Clash soundtrack, yet still clearly anchored in the history of the time. We get to see Shakespeare’s first (possible) play performed, while he does his best to hide his secret catholicism from the authorities, who include spy and writing rival Christopher Marlowe. There’s also a love interest to inspire him, although given he’s married to Anne Hathaway and has a whole bunch of kids, he’s torn between his new love and his catholic beliefs.

And it was all marvellously exciting in the same way A Knight’s Tale and Moulin Rouge were. Episode two (Cowards Die Many Times), however, was a far duller, joyless piece more interested in Marlowe’s pouting and Shakespeare’s potential as the leader of a Catholic uprising than life and theatre in all its glories. 16th century theatre as the punk rock of its time? Who cares when there’s torturing of the innocent to be had?

For about half of episode three (The Two Gentlemen), the show looked like it had lost its way and was continuing on the path set by episode two. But along came Iggy Pop (unfortunately without show co-star Ewen Bremner around to join in) and once again, all was right in the world, as Shakespeare learns that good artists borrow, great artists steal – in this case, literally – and before you know it, he’s crossing out the names from a Spanish book to give us The Two Gentlemen of Verona, all while Marlowe is having rampant gay orgies to try to inspire a Doctor Faustus out of himself.

Provided Will confines itself mainly to the man and his work while maintaining its fabulous punk aesthetic and appreciation for time, place and language, it’ll be must-see TV. It throws away dusty, tedious period dramas to give us something far more compelling and joyful that still manages to give us some actual history. But when it gets lured back into the ordinary and the conventional, it’s as unremarkable as John Ford.

Barrometer rating: ‘2 or about as good as John Barrowman’s appearance in Doctor Who

The Barrometer for Will

I'm Sorry
TV reviews

What have you been watching? Including I’m Sorry, Friends From College, GLOW and Game of Thrones

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you each week what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you’ve been watching.

First up, it’s a warm welcome to the returning “TMINE recommends“, which went missing in action during the recent TMINE redesign while I worked out how to reproduce it in WordPress. To be honest, though, I hadn’t updated it in a couple of years, so it wasn’t quite as useful as it was before. But I spent a little bit of my weekend recommending things in the system, so it should now be as complete a list as it was in its glory days.

I’ve also been working on some variably useful A-Z indexes of reviews, including ones for all the TV reviews, audio play reviews and Internet TV reviews. More to come when I’m not exhausted. With all of these, though, I’ve yet to work out a good way of including the weekly mini-reviews from WHYBW, so they’re not 100% complete, but they’re the best they’ve ever been all the same.

Trawling through them reminded me of all manner of shows that I’d completely forgotten about, too. Remember Mr Sunshine and Pepper Dennis? Of course you don’t.

Right, now the admin’s out the way, let’s talk TV.

Things are starting to hot up again in TV around the world so expect some actual reviews later in the week and the start of next week. You’ll certainly be getting a third-episode verdict of Will tomorrow and I’ll probably be doing you a third-episode verdict of Snowfall next week, since I haven’t got round to watching last night’s episode yet. After the jump, I’ll be looking at the latest episodes of the now very short list of regulars: Ronny Chieng – International Student, Twin Peaks and the returning Game of Thrones. I’ve also managed to work my way through the whole of GLOW and I’ve tried two new shows: I’m Sorry (US: TruTV) and Friends From College (Netflix). See you on the other side!

Continue reading “What have you been watching? Including I’m Sorry, Friends From College, GLOW and Game of Thrones”

Salvation
US TV reviews

Review: Salvation 1×1 (US: CBS; UK: Amazon)

In the US: Wednesdays, 9pm ET/PT, CBS
In the UK: Amazon Video. Starts Monday 17th July

Armageddon was one of those early Michael Bay movies that not only hinted at the horrors that would greet us when the Transformers series would arrive like a careening HGV through the sides of our homes but was in its own right irredeemably dumb. In case you’ve blanked it from your memories, allow me to remind you: there’s an asteroid coming towards the Earth and only a crack team of miners can save the planet – by landing on the asteroid in a spaceship and blowing it up.

Scientifically, politically, logically, narratively and adverbially, it was complete nonsense in every regard, but it was at least fun and it did such good box office, it was only natural that someone, somewhere, somewhen would decide to make a TV series of it. Salvation isn’t an official sequel, but not only are the basics of Armageddon all there, the writers have actually seen Armageddon and aren’t afraid of letting you know it – and that they think their show is better.

It’s not.

Continue reading “Review: Salvation 1×1 (US: CBS; UK: Amazon)”

Snowfall
US TV reviews

Review: Snowfall 1×1 (US: FX)

In the US: Wednesdays, 10pm ET/PT, FX

Boyz N The Hood was one of those great movies of the early 90s that announced a new talent and a new voice in cinema – in this case, John Singleton’s. Originally entitled Summer of 84, it’s a blistering movie about his experiences of growing up in the-then South Central LA.

So when you see that he’s making a TV series on a similar theme to his magnum opus, you’re going to want to take note, aren’t you? Snowfall is set in the summer of 1983 and is almost a “the path not taken” rebuke to Boyz n the Hood. It sees Damson Idris playing a young drug dealer. Idris is smart, smart enough to go to college, but he resents being treated as ‘a mascot’ at predominantly white colleges and can’t leave his family to go to a black college on the east coast. So minor league drug-dealing and mopping floors it is for him. But then he comes across a big-time drug dealer at his home and sees an opportunity to finally start making real money.

But Snowfall is all about the crack epidemic of early 80s LA and what it did to the city, and to tell that story, Singleton goes Crash, giving us multiple seemingly unconnected stories that are all set to converge later on. We have Carter Hudson playing a disgraced CIA agent who finally sees an opportunity to make some good money to fund his operations – by selling cocaine. There’s also a Mexican lucador (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) who takes enforcement projects on the side, but who may have burgled the wrong house at the wrong time. And there’s a Nicaraguan ‘freedom fighter’ (Juan Javier Cardenas) who needs his war funded, too.

The show has saving graces. Idris’ character is indeed smart and gets great dialogue, too. The direction (Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s, not Singleton’s) is lovely, too. The CIA plot is fascinating in the same way Narcos was, thanks to the air of historicity and Idris’ mission to sell drugs is tense and you do root for him. Watching how all the characters come together is going to be intriguing, too.

So I’ve sat up and taken note. But I’ve not been very intrigued. Sure, the story of what drugs did in the 80s specifically to the West Coast isn’t something that’s been explored much. But unless you’re from LA, I’m not sure how interested you are in drilling down.

The female characters are all pretty terribly handled, too, although things perk up a bit at the end. Peris-Mencheta’s doesn’t have any explanation for existing yet and with so many plots to handle, everything advances slowly.

Snowfall is good enough that I’ll tune in for another episode. But it’s not a show that captures the interest straight away and it doesn’t yet feel like something that has anything new to say. I’ll give it a chance, though.