Archive for the ‘what I’m watching’ Category

Well, this seemed to go down the first couple of times I did this (Part 1 here; Part 2 here), so let’s do another one. As I’ve said, while I occasionally mention “tv shows I don’t like that everyone else does” I rarely tell you what I do like watching.

So, continuing in no particular order, what tv am I enjoying right now?

Another one mainly known for “this is A Clever Idea; let’s see what we can do with it”. An amnesiac woman is discovered in Times Square, covered in newly applied tattoos, one of them the name of an FBI agent. Turns out the tattoos are all clues to crimes that have taken place, or – more intriguingly – are about to take place. The first season ran with this and it was a clever conceit: an overarching storyline, combined with the mystery of who she is/was, the connection to the lead FBI agent and of course the ‘puzzle/bad guy of the week’, something serial cop show storytelling kind of relies upon. The clues were clever but not deviously so, and there were a few ‘Oh come on‘ moments, but in the whole, enough of a mystery, solidly told, slowly revealed, to keep me coming back. 

And then in season 2, almost all of the charm of the series, almost everything that made it unlike anything else so far… kind of melted away? The overarching storyline for season 2 became the important thing, sub-plots made little or any sense, a mole in the team that made no sense (I haven’t yet seen the in-story reveal, though it’s obvious who it is). Hmm. Though the acting of the leads is still fun to watch, the dialogue is less smart, and more clanky. I’ll stick with this until the end of season 2, but unless the quality moves up, I’ll probably duck out at that point. 

When I cease to care about what happens to the majority of characters in a show, better to not waste my time watching. I’m hoping, though, that the quality will return to that of the first season.

Now on its fourteenth season, I watch this for the same reason I enjoy the same seat and the same table at my local coffee shop: it’s comfortable, I know what I’m getting, it rarely disappoints and sometimes, just sometimes, it suprises me with how fun it is. While earlier seasons of the show contained genuine surprises and shocks, and there was a tension between some of the characters that lasted more than just-under-42-minutes-and-wasn’t-sorted-inside-a-single-episode, that time is long past. 

Yeah, sure, this show probably should have ended when ‘Tony’ left, but it’s an enjoyable enough way of spending ¾ of an hour. It’s neither particuarly smart, nor particularly funny, nor particularly… anything really. But I enjoy the show anyway. (I tried the spin offs, but never really took to them. NCIS: Los Angeles seemed to be trying too hard to be… I don’t know what, but just never seemed to know itself. And NCIS: New Orleans seemed to me to jump straight to stating ‘you’ll like these characters’ without at any point trying to justify the statement.)

Dark Matter
Based on a comic book that I didn’t enjoy, this series – currently between seasons -I most definitely did. Six characters wake up on a spaceship, no idea who they are. They discover who they are – or are supposed to be, anyway – and then discover they don’t really like who they are. What I really like about this show is that it addresses one of my personal beliefs: everyone is the sum of their own experiences; if you change the experiences, you change the person. But what if there are no experiences? Who are you then? This show constantly addresses that question and makes the case – and it’s a good one – that having to answer for experiences you no longer rememebr gives you multiple choices: embrace them, run from them, or deal with the dichotomy. Clever writing, a universe with structural integrity and smart plotting, this is a must see show for me whenever it’s on. The guest stars are always fun to see, and like earlier shows in this rundown, every one of them seems to be having a blast playing less than honourable people. That’s a nothing this this show looks at: what is honour? What is loyalty, and when you have conflicting loyalties, which do ou choose to honour… and why?

Lethal Weapon
While I’m mostly ok with separating out the artist from the art, the actor from the roles they play, I’ll admit to having a problem with enjoying Mel Gibson movies since his antisemitic rant a few years ago, and other examples of his misogyny and antisemitism that have since come to light. Which is a pity, because I quite enjoyed the first to Lethal Weapon movies. I didn’t enjoy the third and I don’t think I ever saw the fourth. But the first two I enjoyed, for very different reasons. So I was hoping I’d enjoy the series ‘inspired by’ the movies. And you know what? I do. I read a couple of previews suggesting that Clayne Crawford’s performance as Martin Riggs would make you forget about Gibson’s portrayal of the same character and dammit they were right. Everything about his portrayal just… works. And while to all intents and purposes Damon Wayans is playing a quite different character to Danny Glover’s character (younger, more affable, more self-deprecating), his version of Roger Murtagh is a much better fit for the tv series Riggs. I really, really like this show. The developing friendship of the partnership was a bit forced in earlier episodes, but by the fourth or fifth, it’s settled down and is written cleverly as hell. Riggs’ backstory informs his whole character, but never overwhelms it. It’s a fun show, and I like it. 

Yeah, yeah, it’s based on the comic book, but it’s better to say it’s inspred by. It takes a couple of the bits the producer liked from the book, and builds on them a whole new world. I shouldn’t like the show. There’s not a lot in there that attracts me to it. But you know what? I do like it. After a couple fo meh episodes in season 1, it returned to clever writing, good acting and smart storytelling towards the end of the season and constinued that in season 2. “The devil takes a vacation from ruling Hell to run a nightclub in LA”. Clever hook, and they run with it. Nothing earthshaking but always fun, and with enough of a reminder every episode that you’re rooting for a character that has a bad reputation, most of which he deserves. Clever supporting cast, who act their socks off…  which makes up for the oddly unconvincing female lead actor. 

OK, so that’s another few shows I like. To end with again, here’s a new show this season that I tried, but gave up on.

Michael Weatherly is usually a fun actor to watch… which is why I’m genuinely disappointed with the show he helms, after leaving NCIS. Bull is a ‘case of the week’ thing; concept being that jury trials can be rigged if you know jury science. Sometimes he works for the prosecution, sometimes for the defence, but he’ll deliver the verdict you want… most of the time; no one has a 100% record, after all. But it’s… boring. I watched the first three and realised I didn’t care about the characters, the cases, the acting, the writing or the show itself. I understand many others disagree, and that’s cool. This is one show though where I not only disagree, I genuinely don’t understand what they see in it.

Someting else tomorrow… I return to the scoured wasteland that is US politics, post-election…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any reviews or thought on television. I occasionally mention “tv shows I don’t like that everyone else does” and I’m duly mocked by those who consider that I have no taste (arguable) or no sense (more arguable). Usually, though, like any form of entertainment I don’t enjoy, my response is not that the show/comedian/movie is no good, nor that I have no taste… it’s just that it’s not to my taste.

But it occurs to me that I hardly ever tell you what I do enjoy watching. I started this post intending to write about comedy, but for various reasons, that’s going to be tomorrow.

So, in no particular order, what tv am I enjoying right now? (This turned out to be a long one, so I’m going to do it as multi-parts, one part very Wednesday. Won’t that be something too look forward to? Yes. Yes, it will. Won’t it?)

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
I’m tickled that Last Week Tonight abbreviates to LWT. There’s no reason why I should find it so amusing, and indeed, odds are that if you’re reading this, you don’t find it amusing at all. In fact, you probably don’t know what LWT is, and was, to a whoe generation of British people. LWT was London Weekend Television, and was for me ‘the weekend’. From early Friday Evening until Sunday night, my ‘local’ telly station was LWT. The logo is over there, by the side. 

Er-hem. Moving on.

Last Week Tonight, as everyone knows, is John Oliver’s show, the show he created for HBO about a year after his just wonderful three month stint sitting in for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, while Stewart was directing  a movie. It took three shows, just three, for Oliver to stop all the “It’s The Daily Show but on Sundays” criticism levelled at the new show. I say ‘criticism’, but that’s too harsh. It was an observation, a wrong one as it happens, as Oliver quickly made LWT into its very own beast. 

I’m not sure what makes me love the show so much. That’s not true: I do know, but I don’t know what single element makes me love it. Because for once a show has the perfect synergy of clever writing,  fantastic helming by Oliver, understanding of social media and its power, smart graphics, intelligent and detailed research, superbly judged guest cameos, and fact checking like you wouldn’t believe. The format allows Oliver to get genuinely angry about things, and the show gives him the  freedom to express that anger. With other ‘adult’ shows, I sometimes get the feeling of “ooh, it’s adult, we can say the word ‘fuck'” naughtiness. Not with LWT, or at least only ever very rarely. Every swear word, every bit of anger shown is – I have no doubt – genuine.

I’ve never met John Oliver, though we have mutual friends. He was a middlingly successful standup comedian over here in the UK before he joined The Daily Show and he occasionally did The Now Show, and Have I Got News For You. I’m genuinely delighted for his success and for the success of the show. He’s just done the last show of his current run of Last Week Tonight, and I’m already missing the show. My week won’t be the same without it.

Once Upon A Time
I’m a sucker for retellings of fairy tales. Whether it’s in prose (Snow Glass Apples by Neil Gaiman and the trilogy Poison, Chase, and Beauty by Sarah Pinborough stand out), in comics (you have read Fables by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, yes?) or on television, I love seeing how clever writing can make classic tales new. And Once Upon A Time does just that. It had a dip in quality in season 3 that actually led me to drop watching, but out of curiosity, I went back at the start of season 4 and was hooked (you’ll forgive the word, if you’ve seen the series) again. Not every episode f strong, not every performance is wonderful, not every storyline is clever. But enough are, and there’s more than enough plotting and sub-plotting, throughout every show that I keep coming back one more week.

One of the cleverest hooks for a show I can recall: in present day, New York suffers a terrorist attack. A newly qualified FBI agent at the scene is told that her organisation believes one of her classmates from a year earlier was involved. And the show then splits into two timelines, one showing her training and the people she trained with… and the other showing the current investigation as well as what happened to all those bright young recruits. The only fault with the show – and it’s one that has continued into the second season – is that sometimes, just sometimes, the flashback/current day synchronicity is a bit… clunky. A lesson learned back then will resonate just a bit too clunkily with a problem to be solved in present day. The acting is great, especially since the actors have to essentially play two roles, one the green recruit, one a  qualified agent. And in one case, the actor has to play four roles. Trust me, it works.

The Arrowverse

Yeah, was kind of obvious, nu? So let’s get them out of the way now. And yes, they’re grouped together because of the four shows, two were direct spin-offs of The Arrow and the fourth, while not originally part of the family of shows, as of this year… is.

The Flash
Let’s get this one out of the way first, as – sadly – it’s my least favourite. And it shouldn’t be. The first season was really good: clever, funny, full of joy… did I mention funny? Later seasons, and we’re a third of the way through season 3 now, lost that. The first season, while having loads of dark moments and clever plotting, was about the joy of discovering what it’s like to be ‘the fastest man alive’. We discovered the sheer fun of being really fast through the eyes of Barry Allen. Then… no. I mean, I really wish I liked this show more than I do. But whatever it had in the early days, it’s lost. I only watch it now for the same reason I read crossover issues of comics I’m not keen on. Just in case I miss something important. Meh.

Legends of Tomorrow
Take a group of diverse characters from the Arrowverse, con them into thinking they’re really important to history, and get them to help you save your son from dying in the future. And since you’re a time traveller, they’ll believe the ‘really important’ bit. Clever set up, but a one episode gag, right? No. Wrong. Flat wrong. This is the show that Flash was in the first season. Clever, funny, smart and dark when necessary. The diversity of the characters, morally as well as otherwise, is fun to watch, and the different time zones allow the characters’ different facets to shine through. At one point in history, knowing how to make a fire is more important than knowing how to fix an engine. At another, knowing how to fight a staged battle was more important than anything. At another, diplomacy was as deadly as a ray gun. Like Once Upon A Time, not every story is a winner, but the hit rate is good enough to keep me watching.

Not quite my favourite of the lot, but damn this show is fun. Perfect casting, great performances, and a Supergirl who can kick butt with the best of them. Other than that, I have no reason why I enjoy the show. The plotting isn’t the best, the episodic nature works agains the show, and the pacing isn’t quite there. But you know what, I don’t care, I just don’t. For once, I just enjoy watching a superhero done right.

The daddy of them group. Considering how much I lament the lack of humour, or wonder, in other shows, doesbn’t bother me at all here. This is a show that doesn’t pretend that the characters aren’t hugely damaged: seriously, there’s nt one of the main cast, or even the supporting cast, that isn’t hugely, hugely damaged. And seeing in flashback how one of them became that way, while watching in ‘present day’ the others become that way? It’s grisly and somehow compelling. Do I believe that an of the Arrowverse heroes/vigilantes could occur in ‘real life’? Naah. But if any did, it’d be The Hood.

See you tomorrow, with something about comedy, and who to blame if your favourite comedian doesn’t play your local theatre.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.