57 minus 46: Ten Things I’ve Been Watching…

Posted: 2 July 2021 in 57 minus, television, ten things
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It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, obviously, but last time I did a run, I found myself enjoying the ‘Ten Things…” posts, and from what I recall others apparently liked them as well.

I’m not sure I’ll do podcasts this time around; I don’t think there are ten new ones I’m listening to, and would recommend.

And while I could no doubt come up with more Doctor Who posts, maybe I’ll save them for if the run continues beyond my birthday. Possible, but unlikely, I’d have thought. But I said that last time as well, so who knows?

However, there’ve been some new tv shows I’ve enjoyed, and even some tv shows that started, and were cancelled, and even some non-tv related things I’ve been watching since the last time I blogged. So why not?

A reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

Prodigal Son
Prodigal Son has a great concept: serial killer from high society gets away with it for years; is eventually caught; his son becomes a criminal profiler used by the FBI and then NYPD, but son uses father’s expertise to help catch other killers. Oh, and son is completely and utterly messed up himself, the whole family is broken. Oh, and the son turned the father in. Yeah, there’s that.

Tom Payne is the son, Michael Sheen, very obviously having the time of his life, plays the grizzled but still charmingly psychopathic been-in-the-nut-house-for-years father, and Bellamy Young is brilliant as the mother/ex-wife. Oh, and the supporting cast is great as well. The stories are… so-so, to be honest. There are loads that could easily support a two hour movie of the week and so they feel a bit rushed to fit it in 42 minutes’ of tv. But they’re just there to show off the characters. And the characters are fantastic. Not one of the people on the show is well balanced; all of them have secrets from the others and the drip drip drip as they come out is excruciatingly wonderful to watch.

Sheen and Payne are enormous fun whenever they’re on screen, as are Sheen and Young. I would very, very, very much like to see Sheen and Young do something else in the future; they’re fantastic on screen together.

It’s recently been announced that the show has been cancelled after two seasons; if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it without hesitation. The pilot (for once) is pretty good at setting out what’s going on, and what will be happening.


 
 

Deception
When I first saw the trailer for Deception, I wasn’t that interested, to be honest. Seemed like a knock-off of Jonathan Creek, and if I wanted to watch Jonathan Creek, then I’d watch Jonathan Creek. But I was wrong, and the cancelled-after-one=season show quickly became one of my favourites. OK, the basic idea is the same: magician solves locked-room mysteries and similar impossible crimes. But that’s pretty much all there is that’s even remotely similar.

For a start, there’s the hook. He’s arrested for murder in the opening minutes of the show. Except it’s not him you’re seeing arrested. It’s his twin. For decades, the ‘magician’ has been two people, twins. Those ‘impossible disappear from a box, and appear a mile away’ tricks? A bit easier if there are two of you. So the twin is arrested, but he swears he’s been framed. The twin who hasn’t been arrested starts solving (with his back room team) impossible crimes for the FBI… so he has access to the FBI to – hopefully – clear his brother.

Again, none of these people are particularly well-balanced, but they grow through the show. There’s not one of the main cast who’s the same at the end of this show as at the beginning. And at least two of the characters change a bit, even if just a bit, during each show. Their experiences in the show have consequences; they’re not always pleasant ones. That’s brave to do in a show. The crimes are clever and the solutions equally so. And ‘the big baddie’ is fun, and interesting and you want to know more about them.

There’s a season long arc and the season ends on a great cliffhanger, sadly unresolved.

But yeah, while never the greatest show around, it’s fun, and clever, and I liked the actors and what they did with their roles.

(Quick additional comment here: Instinct started at the same time as Perception and I only mention it, and enjoyed it, for two reasons: 1) it was genuinely unusual but delightful to see the protagonist in a lovely, loving, respectful and silly-at-times gay marriage… and that it was seen and shown as nothing unusual to the other characters. 2) whoever had the idea of making ALAN CUMMINGS play an ex-CIA field agent deserves either firing or a promotion. It’s either a truly awful idea or a genuinely wonderful ones. When I figure out which, I’ll let you know.)


 
 
Arrowverse
While not having anything like the same level of excitement as in the early years, I’ve enjoyed the Arrowverse shows on and off the past couple of years. The final mega-crossover was cleverly done and returned to what made the Earth-X crossover so enjoyable: everyone mixing and matching throughout rather than four different shows each of which play an entirely separate part in the story. That may work when it’s Law & Order/One Chicago but not when it’s in the world where comics crossovers are more common than not, these days.

Of the newer shows, well, I didn’t really enjoy Stargirl (I know it’s not formally part of the Arrowverse but give it time); I just wasn’t the audience for it, and I’m beginning to get the same feeling about Superman & Lois. Black Lightning I loved, every episode and the darker tone to the show rewarded viewers who stuck with it. Supergirl disappeared up its own portal a while back and I have no idea what any character wants at any given time. Which is more the fault of the writers than in should be. I’d say the same about Legends of Tomorrow. Of the newer show, Batwoman continues to be fun, and clever, and I’m enjoying the cast changes there.

Arrow, on the other hand, constantly worked as a show for me. Almost every episode, and particularly the final couple of seasons. And The Flash seems to have finally realised after a season of dread that the show is supposed to be… fun.

Hmm, when I started this bit, I didn’t expect it to end like that. I have liked the Arrowverse, but I’m not entirely sure why, now.


 
 
Fringe
Every so often, as show comes along that I just… miss out on watching at the time of broadcast. And, by the time I notice everyone else is raving about it, it feels too late to catch up.

Well, hello Fringe. At one point, it seemed that everyone I knew was saying very nice things about the show, and recommending it. But every time I felt like maybe watching it, I got the impression that there was just so much continuity bound up in the show that a) I’d have to start watching from the first episode or there’d be no point… and b) I’d be behind everyone else so, and couldn’t participate in the discussion and have to avoid any spoilers, so what would be the the point?

Well, jump forward a few years; the show’s long over. And, during lockdown, I’m looking for something to occupy my time. And I get hold of a copy of the first season of Fringe. I’d forgotten most of what I did know about it, and had this vague idea that it was of the same genre as The X-Files, a show I’d never really enjoyed that much.

I put on the first episode. And before I knew it, I’d watched four episodes and was hooked. Genuinely can’t remember a show where I’d gone from ‘ok, let’s see what this is about’ to ‘I must watch more… more… give me more…’

The very occasional duff episode, and the show definitely rewarded binge-watching; I’m not sure I’d have recalled every dropped loose end that got picked up six episodes later without it. But wow, was this a great show. The multiple earths thing could have been written for me, and the acting just amazed me episode after episode.

By the time I got to the ‘alternate universe’s comic books’, I was already being blown away every episode. I can’t think of another show that packed quite so much into every episode, once it found its feet, other than The Last Ship, which made a point of it, and another show I went from watching the pilot to wanting more, immediately.

The plot was convoluted, the ‘weird stuff’ perfectly reasonable in-universe, and I’m not sure any other show would, twice, blow away, destroy, the entire continuity of the show and rely upon the viewers’ intelligence and loyalty to carry them through the ‘what the fuck is happening now?’ arcs.

An utterly astonishing show that treated its viewers with… respect. And I’m so, so glad I eventually got around to watching.

(Not for nothing, I discovered Jared Harris first when he played George VI in The Crown; it was fun to see him in this as an out and out baddie… a couple of out and out baddies in fact. Watch the show and that will make sense, I promise.)


 
 
Good Omens
Ah, be fair, if there was any individual show you’d have expected me to mention in this Ten Things, it was this one, right? I’ve always enjoyed Good Omens as a novel, and I quite enjoyed the Radio 4 version of it. But it’s never been my favourite novel or anything.

While I enjoy Neil’s writing (yes, fair to mention in a ‘declaration of personal interest’ that Neil’s an old friend), I’ve never been able to get into Discworld. I wish I did; I wish I enjoyed the books as much as everyone seems to, and as much as everyone else seems think I will.

I’ve no idea why I don’t enjoy Discworld; I’ve tried several books, on several occasions, and I just don’t ‘get’ what everyone else does from the stories.

Usual reminder: When I say I ‘don’t enjoy’ something, that doesn’t mean I regard it as ‘no good’, nor that I have no taste (debatable, I guess); merely that it’s not to my taste. And when I say ‘I didn’t like something’, that’s very different from “I disliked it.” The former is a mere absence of enjoyment; the latter is an active antipathy to it.

So, no, I just ‘didn’t enjoy’ Discworld when I tried it. But I’ve always liked the writing on Good Omens. So was delighted when they announced the show. And everything I learned about it, including the superb casting, increased my anticipation.

While the trailer gave me pause, I’ll admit I was wrong to even slightly doubt the show itself.

Watching the trailer, I wasn’t sure David Tennant displayed the oleogenous subtlety I always associated (rightly or wrongly) with Crowley’s more devious nature and actions. But of course, the trailer had to grab your attention. And it did.

And the show, when it was entirely faithful to the novel, and also when it veered away from the source material, grabbed me… and didn’t let go. There was no point at all, while watching it, where I didn’t want to know… what happened next.

And of course, that the show had, on occasion, veered away from the novel, maintained the suspense throughout. I knew where we were going; I was never quite sure I knew how we’d get there.

I hope the writer, actors and crew regard that as a compliment; it’s very much intended that way.

Two final points: 1) The music; My hat, it’s good. Every note spot perfect for the moment, every musical phrase appropriate for the scene. 2) I see it’s been announced that John Finnemore is going to be on board to write season 2 with Neil. John’s one of the smartest comedy writers around, who understands you can’t have comedy without pathos, and also that a laugh can come from the malicious enjoyment of someone else’s misfortune. But John never lazily writes to that end. He’s a very clever man. And he’s one of the nicest people I’ve met in comedy, so there’s that as well.


 
 
Cabin Fever
So, John Finnemore. He’s one of the smartest comed– Oh, I’ve already done that bit, right? Well, one of the things John is famous for is as the writer of one of the smartest, funniest, most enjoyable radio sitcoms in the BBC’s history: Cabin Pressure. Anything I could tell you about it wouldn’t do it justice.

BUT, and here’s why this bit is in here, when lockdown hit, John created a quasi-sequel, with one character – the character he played in the show – also in lockdown. He called it Cabin Fever, and during a time in which nastiness and worry and panic and fear were prevalent, John gave us something that was charming and funny and sweet and lovely.

I’d recommend it without hesitation if you want chunks of funny and sweet and nice in your life


 
 
MrWhoseTheBoss
Another YouTube channel I’ve discovered and started watching the past year or so.

I’m not someone who watches YouTube videos that teach me stuff. Not really, nor that do reviews of tech stuff. Occasionally, if I’m interested in a new piece of tech, I’ll do a search for reviews of that specific tech, but that’s all. I certainly won’t subscribe to the channel or anything, or eagerly wait for the next video to be released.

But this time, I did all of those.

I had the opportunity to upgrade some of my tech. And my iPhone XR’s limitations were beginning, just beginning, to bug me. So I took a look online to see what people were saying about the iPhone 12 range. And I discovered MrWhoseTheBoss or more precisely I discovered the channel, and then the fella who runs it: Arun Maini. And I watched his review. And then watched some more reviews he did. And then checked out his other videos, his playlists of ’10 smartphone failures’ and ’15 tech fails’ and ‘gadgets under $50’ and at some point I subscribed and started looking forward to his explanatory videos, where he talked about what 6G was, and so much more, about scams online and other stuff as well.

He’s engaging, and funny, and self-deprecating and very self-aware of all three.

The best recommendation I can give is that you’ll watch a 15 minute video and wonder where the time went. You’ll think it zoomed by in five or six. He’s good. And he’s fun to watch.

Here’s one of his more recent videos.

 
 
For the final three, I’m breaking the ‘new things I’ve been watching’ idea, but they’re definitely three things that I’ve been watching during lockdown
 
 
Bill Nighy/Johnny Worricker trilogy
Bill Nighy is, I think, incapable of giving a bad performance. Even when he’s been in stuff I’ve not enjoyed, I’ve enjoyed his work in it. He was a delighted us Samwise Gamgee in The Lord Of The Rings and… what, you didn’t know that? Oh yes, oh he very much was, in the BBC Radio 4 version, forty years ago; the same production in which Bilbo was played by John Le Mesurier, Gandalf by Micheal Hordern and Frodo by Ian Holm, yes the same Ian Holm who played Bilbo in those movies you’ve probably seen.

But yes, Bill Nighy. And Johnny Worricker, gentleman (not really) spy (ok, yes). David Hare wrote three movies featuring Worricker — Page Eight, Turks & Caicos, and Salting The Battlefield — and I’d recommend them all, especially all in sequence. They’re only about an hour and a half each and they’re flat out wonderful. The casting is brilliant throughout, including a delightful Christopher Walken in the second, and a very niche British cast…

Bill Nighy – Radio 4′s LOTR
Rachel Weisz – The Mummy
Michael Gambon & Ralph Feinnes – Harry Potter
Alice Krige – Star Trek
Felicity Jones – Rogue One
Saskia Reeves – Dune
Ewen Bremner – Wonder Woman

In fact, I like them so much, here are short trailers for all three. Highest possible recommendation for all three.


 
 
Law & Order
I always kind of liked the show but one of the channels on Freeview has been showing half a dozen episodes a day for tghe past couple of years, and I’ve pretty much gotten hooked on the show. I’m continually fascinated by how such a formulaic show managed to not seem ‘samey’, how it kept fresh. Part of it of course is the regular change of cast. Even the roles played by the two longest-serving cast members – S. Epatha Merkerson and Sam Waterston – were kept fresh because it wasn’t merely their characters that counted, but how they intereacted with other cast members. I find it utterly engrossing how new main characters enter the show and have to find their feet. And how that isn’t always a happy experience. (And no, I’m not talking about shorter lived characters. Milena Govich’s character was deliberately written as having a tough time, and Michael Imerioli’s chatracter was again deliberately short term.)

But sometimes the police characters and the DA’s staff not only don’t get on but positively dislike each other, and even when they do genuinely have affection for each other… (McCoy/Briscoe for example) their aims, wants and and objectives clash. The show doesn’t shy away from that, nor provide easy answers to who’s right when they do clash.

(Small sidebar, your honour: I’ve been surprised how much I enjoyed the Homicide: Life On The Streets crossovers, without at any point wanting to watch the other show’s run.)

And much as I loved Lennie Briscoe, and Angie Harmon’s and Carey Lowell’s… the show needed, and got, a shot in the arm in the final three seasons when Linus Roach, Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson turned up.

There’s not another show I can think of with the exception of Doctor Who where the changes of cast are so inherent to the show that the show would be an entirely differnt, weaker, show without it.
 
 
Doctor Who
And talking of which, Doctor Who. Yeah, I’ve been enjoying the Jodie Whittaker Doctor run far more on rewatches than I did when I watched them at the time they were broadcast. Nothing more to say on that other than here’s some Doctor Who .

And that’s ten. Ten Things I’ve enjoyed watching during Lockdown.

Oh, I guess there’s one more, I suppose.
 


 
 
Oh, I did enjoy watching that. I really did. And the rest of the season’s not been too bad either.

 

As for rewatching, there are some shows I enjoy rewatching but I do it so regularly that it’s daft to include them here. So, they’ll be here next week.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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