It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently and your chance to recommend anything you've been watching.
I know there are a lot of new show coming soon. They really are. They're just not here yet.
That means that in the past week, I've only reviewed Six (US: History) and passed a third-episode verdict on Emerald City (US: NBC; UK: 5*). I'll be deluged again soon and complaining about it, I know….
Anyway, a few oldies are back in the schedules again, which means that as well as The Great Indoors, Lethal Weapon, Man Seeking Woman and Son of Zorn, I'll be covering Lucifer and Timeless and the season finale of Shooter. I also managed to squeeze in a few episodes of The Man in the High Castle. And I watched a movie.
The Magnificent Seven (2016) Antoine Fuqua's insipid remake of the classic 1960 Western, in which black-clad gunslinger Denzel Washington puts together a group of similarly iconic gunslingers to help protect Haley Bennett's village from powerful rich guy Peter Sarsgaard.
The film goes through most of the same motions as the original, from the introduction and recruitment of each of the remaining seven (Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Lee Byung-hun, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Vincent D'Onofrio and Martin Sensmeier) through the training of the villagers to the eventual battle with the baddies, but without ever really making you care about any of them, beyond the fact they're Lee Byung-hun, Chris Pratt and Vincent D'Onofrio. Indeed, unlike both the original and the film's ultimate antecedent, Shichinin no Samurai (The Seven Samurai), the film only really comes alive when it's an action scene, the characters proving otherwise unendearing or even interesting.
A few lines from the original ("If God had not wanted them shawn, he would not have made them sheep") manage to sneak in, but they only sure up the rest of the script's ultimate emptiness, and the frequent clichéd homages to Westerns in general only serve to make the movie look hackneyed.
Every Friday, I let you know the latest announcements about when new, imported TV shows will finally be arriving on your screens - assuming anyone's bought any, of course.
No one's bought anything new recently, except for Walter Presents, which hasn't announced when it's going to be airing Flight HS13 yet. Sorry.
The best I can do is let you know that Vikings, which has obviously been on both History and Amazon in the UK already, is coming to Blaze, which is apparently a channel that everyone can get on Freeview now, so y'all can watch it for free at last. Well I never.
First episode airs Sunday, February 26th, at 10pm.
In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, History In the UK: Not yet acquired
Why is it that dramas about Special Forces aren't that special? On the face of it, making an exciting show about the Special Forces shouldn't be that difficult. As A Bit of Fry and Laurie once pointed out, the SAS (and presumably other Special Forces) exist purely to be masturbatory fantasies for backbench MPs, so putting together a TV show involving Special Forces should inevitably result in something very exciting and, erm, climactic.
Yet, whether it's Ultimate Force,The Unit, Strike Back or now Six, somehow the resulting shows never quite hit the spot - they're close, but they're never really as satisfying as you think they'll be.
Six is interesting in this regard. Ten years ago, if you'd made a show called Six, the most anyone would guess you were doing was remaking The Prisoner. But thanks to their sterling work in dealing with Osama Bin Laden, the US Navy's SEAL Team 6 is the latest pin-up of the Special Forces world. That means you can call a TV show Six and it'll induce as much Pavlovian tumescence as if you'd called it Scarlett.
Trouble is, despite this launchpad, Six is all tease, no pay-off. The first episode follows a SEAL Team 6 team to a mission in Afghanistan where there's plenty of shooting and leader Walton Goggins (Justified, Vice Principals, The Hateful Eight) starts to blur a few boundaries by shooting prisoners. Two years later, Goggins is out of the SEALs and in Africa, working for a private contractor, while the rest of the team are thinking about doing something similar and/or having problems with their wives and/or the bottle and/or money.
Then Boko Haram come along and kidnap a group of school girls, as well as Goggins, and the team are pulling themselves back together to rescue him.
Six takes all the worst bits of The Unit and few of the best bits. It tries to mix up the personal and the military, but without having any idea how to create distinguishable characters, particularly not women, who are a never-ending parade of "why aren't you here for me and your children?"
Which might almost be excusable if it could do action, except it can't. Shoot-outs and action scenes are surprisingly few and far between, and when they turn up, they're nothing special. Name an action TV show, any action TV show - you'll have seen better and something probably more realistic.
But even little details let the show down. Maybe it's me, but giving your SEAL team the radio sign of "Delta 1" is only going to lead to confusion in the audience. And sure, kudos for managing to go with Boko Haram as your main bad guys, rather than ISIS (although a reveal at the end of the first episode shows Six is trying to have its cake and eat it), but having to have an officer explain to one of the world's premier anti-terrorist units who Boko Haram are is not a way to create verisimilitude.
More importantly, Goggins is just wrong as the leader of the team. Not for a second can you picture him as either a morally ambivalent hero or a SEAL. Now to a certain extent, that's not his fault - he was brought in not merely at the last moment but two episodes of filming after the last moment, which is when Joe Manganiello walked off the show with health problems. You can imagine Manganiello as "Rip Taggart":
Not so much.
It's like casting Vinny Jones as a wedding cake designer - it's simply not believable. So even though the rest of the cast of SEALs are (indistinguishable) butch manly types who look the part, little seems plausible as a result of Goggins' presence.
If you have to watch a Special Forces show, there were at least a few good episodes of The Unit (Dark of the Moon is excellent) and Strike Back, so stick with them rather than Six, since Six won't have yours. Six that is.
In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, NBC In the UK:Acquired by 5*. Will air early 2017
Grimdark is one of those words that can stop you taking an entire genre seriously. In this case, it's a mocking moniker for the prevalent idea that by making something dark and humourless, it's not only more adult, it's also better.
That's certainly been the approach of the producers of Emerald City, a beautifully directed but ultimately empty grimdark reimagining of The Wizard of Oz. It sees Dorothy a modern day Kansas nurse who gets whisked off by a tornado to the land of Oz, where she meets grimdark versions of familiar characters, ranging from the Munchkins (Icelandic speaking barbarians who paint themselves like they're in Braveheart) through the Scarecrow (murderous former soldier who's had his memories removed) to the Wizard of Oz (prostitute-visiting genocidal bully). The witches are there in varying degrees of drug-using, murderous, torturing depravity, too.
Oh so serious and important.
But grimdark. Tee hee.
Tell you what grimdark never manages to do: it never makes you care about a character, just their situation. And that's been consistent across all three episodes so far, with all manner of bad things happening, yet nothing ever making you care about the victims, beyond the fact they've been pushed to their doom by their gender-swapping childhood best friend or whatever miserable incident they've had to endure.
Other than the semi-decent cast assembled for the piece, what elevates the show from simple disgruntled teen's fan fiction to the point where it's almost watchable is the direction by Tarsem Singh, who makes the whole show genuinely beautiful to watch, something he's helped in considerably by the Spanish location shooting. Even while someone's emoting about some ancient prophecy concerning The Beast Beyond or dancing a ritual for dead witches, the viewer can simply drink in the mise-en-scène, admire a beautiful piece of Islamic architecture or Antoni Gaudí's Park Güell, and ignore the tedious dialogue.
Emerald City is imaginative and good to look at, but despite its best efforts, unlike The Wizard of Oz, it fails to make you care about the protagonists, antagonists or anyone else.
Barrometer rating: 3 TMINE's prediction: One season and one season only
It was a relatively quiet week last week for our Diana… if you discount the massively big spoilers for Wonder Woman that a French magazine has revealed (I'll spoiler cloak them for you if you don't want to read them):
Why did Zeus create the Amazons? Because shaping man in his image made his son Ares, incidentally a god of war, mad with jealousy, he convinces the guys to confront each other. To restore harmony between them, Zeus created the Amazons that Ares reduced to slavery. The Amazons revolt with the help of Zeus, who will die of the hand of his son having had time to find Themyscira, their haven of peace where they will grow Diana. (…) Diana Prince becomes Wonder Woman by helping Steve Trevor and a squad of proud arm-in-law in search of one who wants to wipe humanity off the map with deadly gas.
That's not my translation, BTW (sacre bleu!).
Anyway, if true, that's an interesting amalgam of all the Wonder Woman origin stories, including Greg Rucka's current one and even Joss Whedon's failed movie script, that's probably going to annoy every fan with a minimum of one detail - you pick which one annoys you most - not least because it's now about a couple of gods rather than at least one goddess. Let's see how it all pans out on-screen, though.
In comics, there's not a been much new. The first issue of Justice League/Power Rangers turnedup but beyond the alternative cover, no Diana.
She calls on gods, he calls on the power of a T-rex. Meet Jason, the Red Ranger, in JUSTICE LEAGUE/POWER RANGERS! http://bit.ly/2jc8SEt
That means that after the jump, we'll be looking at Wonder Woman (Rebirth) #14, Batman '66 Meets Wonder Woman '77 #4 and Justice League vs Suicide Squad #4, but not necessarily in that order. See you in a click.
About the blog
A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
Add in film, theatre, art, books, events, competitions and even weekly reviews of Wonder Woman comics, and you've (hopefully) got officially the fourth best blog on the web for media lovers. Oh yes, and there's The Barrometer, the ultimate guide to quality TV.
Praise for the blog Cision: fourth most important UK TV blog Blogging Edge: Blogger running Britain 2013
"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
"The Medium Is Not Enough is a light-hearted look at TV, often from the US, but also from the UK. With varied, well-written content, the blog features healthy engagement and features well in search engines."
"Billing itself as 'officially the fourth most popular UK TV blog', there are several whimsical regulars here that could help it climb as high as number three…"
I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.