September 30, 2016

News: Drunk Girl, High Guy; Dear Murderer; full seasons for Designated Survivor and Speechless; + more

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Internet TV

  • Shea Whigham and Dawnn Lewis to co-star in Amazon's The Legend of Master Legend
  • Nia Long to recur on Netflix's Dear White People

New Zealand TV

  • TVNZ unveils 2017 schedule, including barrister drama Dear Murderer with Mark Mitchinson

US TV

US TV show casting

New US TV shows

New US TV show casting

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September 29, 2016

Preview: Berlin Station 1x1-1x2 (US: Epix)

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Berlin Station

In the US: Sundays, 9pm ET/PT, Epix. Starts October 16

'Peak TV' is the name given to the idea of there being too much TV for us to consume. Thanks to the Internet, cable, et al, it's a lot easier for a company to 'transmit' content; also, more and more people want to make content. As a result, that means there's an awful lot of TV out there being made by an awful lot of people. However, there's only so much talent in the world and it's starting to get spread pretty thinly, particularly around the world's media industry, which means that there's a lot of bad TV made by people who don't actually know how to make good TV.

A while ago I came up with the idea of 'cargo cult TV' - TV going through all the motions of a genre but without really understanding the rules of that genre. As a result, it's missing something essential. I'd like to expand that to encompass the idea of people making TV but not really getting TV.

Take Epix's Berlin Station. Until recently, like AMC - aka American Movie Classics - before it, it was content to air other people's content before suddenly deciding it was going to make some TV shows of its own. The first show to make it out of the gates is Berlin Station, created by spy novelist Olen Steinhauer and set in… well, you can probably guess.

Now Berlin Station goes through all the motions of being both a proper spy show and a proper TV show. Nevertheless, it's cargo cult TV. Something intrinsic's missing from it that actually makes it either a spy show or a TV show.

Like other cargo cultists, Steinhauer and Epix have done their best to emulate TV producers. They've recruited a great big, top notch cast. The hero of the piece is our very own Dick Head, Richard Armitage, who's no stranger to spying thanks to Chris Ryan's Strike Back, Captain America and Spooks. They've got Michelle Forbes (Homicide, The Killing (US), In Treatment), Rhys Ifans (Elementary, Twin Town), Tamlyn Tomita (Babylon 5, The Joy Luck Club) and Richard Jenkins (Six Feet Under), too. 

They've found a German co-production partner, hired some actual German actors and flown all the way to Berlin to film everything. They've even done what every other political show has done of late and 'stolen from the headlines' - and, of course, since there's very few headlines about spying these days, that means Yet Another Edward Snowden whistleblower plotline. And they've hired a proper European film director for the first two episodes - Michaël Roskam (The Drop)

All of which is designed to fool the viewer into somehow thinking they're watching a top, premium cable TV show.

Except they're not. They're watching pure cargo cult TV arse.

Continue reading "Preview: Berlin Station 1x1-1x2 (US: Epix)"

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Signing's come a long way on UK TV

Posted yesterday at 21:14 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

For those who are nostalgic for TV times past (like me), it's sometimes easy to forget that the past wasn't necessarily better - particularly for minority groups. Consider the deaf (assuming you're not. Deaf that is). Time was that BSL signing on television was unheard of. It just didn't happen. 

The first exposure to it I remember getting was when one of my favourite early 80s bands, Red Box, appeared on Blue Peter to discuss the inclusion of a BSL signer in the video for their song 'Lean On Me'. 

Of course, when 'For America', their next song came out, no BSL signing was deemed necessary. Gimmick, maybe?

And apart from a new little show on Sunday afternoons called See Hear, that was about it for BSL for quite some time.

Nowadays, although we're still not exactly talking global signing, the BBC has both signed versions of regular programming in its Sign Zone slot and original programming, too, including the now venerable See Hear.

You don't have to stay up late set the video to watch signed programmes, since you can watch them on iPlayer, too. There's even live signing on BBC News.

Like the BBC, Channel 4 has its own late night signing, as do E4 and Film4, and of course the recent Rio Paralympics was signed.

Other channels? Not so much.

Commercials are an interesting one. This recent one for Maltesers is something of a first. 

Lovely, hey? But perhaps even lovelier is the signed version (yes, really), since it showed that enough people would recognise the BSL signer from the Rio Paralympics that he could be included in the ad. Not that he had a lot to do…

News: Boy Meets Girl cancelled; You're The Worst, High Maintenance renewed; Italian Job TV series; + more

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  • New trailer for Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them

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New US TV show casting

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September 28, 2016

Third-episode verdict: Quarry (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic)

Posted 2 days ago at 21:06 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerQuarry.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In the US: Fridays, 10pm, Cinemax
In the UK: Sky Atlantic. Starts October

Good direction can go a long way towards making a not-great show seem better. Quarry is such a show, benefitting pretty much with every scene from Greg Yaitanes' direction. The former Banshee exec producer and director might not have created Quarry, but directing every episode of this first season, he's certainly made his mark on what is simultaneously both Banshee and 'anti-Banshee'.

As I pointed out in my review of Quarry's first episode, thematically the two shows have a lot in common, with Logan Marshall-Green's ex-Vietnam-vet turned hitman 'Quarry' enduring a lost love, the lure of a criminal lifestyle that draws him in and the simultaneous acknowledgement of crime's costs, just as Banshee's 'Lucas Hood' had to experience. Since then we've also had greater emphasis on Damon Herriman, the gay fellow criminal who helps Marshall-Green, who is the Job of the piece.

But while Banshee was also often very beautiful to look at, it was a fast-paced, modern show that revelled in its pulp origins and ultra-violence, whereas Quarry wants to be a languid, visual, 70s, noirish piece that finds violence upsetting. All Quarry's acts of violence are coming back to haunt him, practically in every scene, whether they're his alleged war crimes from Vietnam or the murders he committed in the first episode.

The ex-soldier turned hitman isn't exactly a new trope, but it's more or less only Yaitanes' direction and the largely non-American cast that lift it out of the ordinary and into the realm of quality TV. Would the second episode have been much good without the bravura first person POV car chase? Not a chance. Indeed, the whole show could have been a slower moving, slightly less ridiculous Blindspot if it had had a different director. 

But visuals can only get you so far. Quarry's plot is slow-moving, its characters unappealing, its message muddled and confused. It's not saying or doing anything you won't have heard before in countless genre shows and movies. In fact, it's probably saying less, and you could have watched Peter Mullan doing more or less the same act he's doing here over on ITV in The Fixer for free.

Nevertheless, just as you would look at a painting for its aesthetics rather than its plot, you could certainly watch Quarry just to see some genuine innovation in visual storytelling on US TV. The story itself is no great shakes, but the visuals could keep you going for a whole season. 

Barrometer rating: 3
TMINE prediction: Might make it to a second season, but a harder sell for Cinemax than Banshee

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Weekly Wonder Woman: Trinity #1; Justice League (Rebirth) #2-5

Posted 2 days ago at 20:43 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

I was aiming for Monday, I honestly was, but here we are again on Wonder Woman Wednesday thanks to tele and work - you know, my usual litany of excuses. Anyway, usual catch-up rules because of my August holiday break: I'll update you on what's been happening in all the issues I missed, but only with the titles that were out last week. Also, no mentioning of today's new releases because spoilers.

That means that this week, it's a recap of all that's been going on in Justice League (Rebirth) #2-5, as well as a look at new title Trinity #1. Well, Trinity (Rebirth) #1 technically, but since there hasn't been a Trinity title in ages and ages, we'll just gloss over that wrinkle.

All that after the break, but I should probably mention that our Diana also needed a helping hand from Superman last week in Superman #7. She didn't ask and she wasn't the only one, but helped he did. 

Wonder Woman needs help in Superman #7

Turns out that Paris thing was a ruse of Greg Rucka, unless Diana was back in London to pick up her things or something.

Continue reading "Weekly Wonder Woman: Trinity #1; Justice League (Rebirth) #2-5"

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Review: Pitch 1x1 (US: Fox)

Posted 2 days ago at 16:20 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Pitch

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, Fox

While my general antipathy to TV shows based around the music industry is well known and formalised enough that I can claim to be "tough on music TV, tough on the causes of music TV", another general genre dislike I have is for TV shows based around sport. This is less well known because there aren't generally that many sports shows on TV - a Ballers here, a Barracuda there, a Necessary Roughness over there, a Back In the Game at the back, but that's about it, fortunately. 

But I do, even when it's a sport in which I'm interested, such as MMA. Sorry, Kingdom

A show about baseball like Pitch? That would normally stand no great a chance of my watching it than that a whelk has of surviving a supernova. But thanks to a bit of recasting back in March that saw Elisabeth Shue replaced, Pitch managed to make me slightly interested in the fact it even existed by hiring a certain someone special.

Ali Larter in Pitch

Yep, after being unceremoniously dumped in the Legends season 2 reboot last year, TMINE's first TV love, Ali Larter, is back on our screens, this time playing a baseball agent. Fingers crossed this isn't another sporting event she's going to be edited out of, too.

Big yawns so far on the plot, but Pitch is all about what happens when baseball team the San Diego Padres recruits the world's first ever female Major League baseball player (Kylie Bunbury). She may not be as strong as the other pitchers, but she does have a secret weapon taught to her by her father (Michael Beach) - a surprising 'screwball pitch' that enables her to fox the batters. 

Can she cope with the pressure, the expectations, the adulation of little girls everywhere, the demands of her dad, the misogyny of the Internet and sports commentators, and the dickery of her team-mates, including the now slightly aging captain Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Saved By The Bell, Truth Be Told, Franklin and Bash, Raising the Bar)?

To be honest, I didn't really care, probably because baseball is a sport that's basically as dull as rounders but which you need to drink beer during to make remotely tolerable. But Pitch also makes the entire first episode play out like every other 'underdog against the odds' sports drama you've ever seen, from the initial failure that makes our heroine think she's never going to make it all the way to her triumphant - but not too triumphant, because that wouldn't be realistic - breakthrough at the end. Gosselaar even has to deliver a powerful motivational speech near the end when Bunbury's at her lowest and so aware of the formula is he that he actually says before it, "If this were a movie, this is the point where I would give you a powerful motivational speech that would help you win."

Yawns.

There is a little variety, with Gosselaar and Bunbury's former teammate Mo McRae turning in surprisingly amusing performances. 'Character actor Bob Balaban', to give him his full title, is marvellous as the Padres' owner. And there's also a whole bunch of people, none of whom I recognised or even came to close to recognising, who I'm pretty sure either play baseball professionally or talk about it on TV. If you like baseball, that might appeal to you for a reason almost as unfathomable as your liking baseball.

There's also a very big revelation towards the end of the episode that's actually pretty clever. However, that can only be pulled off once, leaving subsequent episodes to fend for themselves with the show's standard foundations instead. 

But apart from Gosselaar, Larter (of course) and just generally wanting to root for the first female anything, even something as pointless as Major League pitcher, there's not much in Pitch for anyone who doesn't like a sport where you spend as much time plugging data into Excel spreadsheets and using the AVERAGE() formula as you do watching players standing around with big wooden sticks.

"Tough on sports TV, tough on the causes of sports TV" - I wonder if it'll catch on?

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News: I Love Dick, The Tick, JCVJ green lit; The Strain, Doctor Doctor renewed; + more

Posted 2 days ago at 06:31 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Internet TV

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US TV

US TV show casting

New US TV show casting

  • Jeff Ward to star in Syfy's Channel Zero: The No-End House
  • Claire Cooper to recur on ABC's Still Star-Crossed

September 27, 2016

Review: Notorious 1x1 (US: ABC)

Posted 3 days ago at 19:56 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Notorious

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC

TV news producer - sexy job? Probably not. Mainly just people sitting down, looking at spreadsheets, working horrible hours and getting an ulcer while trying to work out where today's top story could come from.

Criminal defence attorney - sexy job? Probably not. Mainly just people sitting down, looking at abstruse papers, working horrible hours and getting an ulcer while trying to work out where an obviously guilty client's defence is going to come from.

But when you stick them together, hey? Sexy, right?

Nope. Two ulcers, that's what. Duh. But Notorious nevertheless tries to convince of the two careers' combined sexiness by using the simple tactic of removing reality from the equation altogether.

Like CBS's Bull, Notorious is 'inspired' by real people's lives - in this case, those of criminal defence attorney Mark Geragos and Larry King Live news producer Wendy Walker. Like Bull, that means it's almost certainly nothing like their lives, but a big fat development check will still be heading their way.

The lovely Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) plays the top news producer who's also best friends with top defence attorney Daniel Sunjata (Graceland). He gives her scoops with all his most media-worthy clients, she gives him the heads up when sh*t starts heading their way - it's all win-win for them both.

Then Sunjata's top billionaire client, who coincidentally happens to be married to Sunjata's ex-girlfriend, appears to wrap his car around a person and Perabo and Sunjata are having to help each other out without ruining their friendship. Except things aren't quite as they seem and before you know it, Perabo and Sunjata are investigating the crime themselves - and each other.

Even without clients claiming they'd taken pain medication that caused them to 'sleep drive', this is nonsense of the highest order. Improbably, Perabo's assistant happens to be a former escort, a handy former career that helps her to secure all manner of scoops and is in no sense stigmatised. And maybe life on Larry King Live was a lot stranger than we imagine, but Perabo's star anchor (Kate Jennings Grant) spends most of her time in her underwear, shagging rappers before she's due to be on-screen. Oh yes, shagging rappers who organise indoor barbecues in her dressing room. That's not unlikely, is it?

Sunjata presides over a slightly more plausible firm that includes the likes of J August Richards (Angel), except he's the kind of go-to top attorney who'll go to a car impound lot at night so he can extract a great big bag of cocaine and dispose of it, rather than get someone else to do it. I wonder if that'll look a bit encriminating?

There is struggling in Notorious something interesting being said about the interplay between the media and the law when it comes to celebrities and how the truth is a rapidly diminishing aspect of cable news that the quest for ratings is obscuring. Unfortunately, said message is struggling beneath a layer of absurdity that makes Scandal look like a documentary about the Eisenhower White House years. 

I wish the cast well in their future careers, but you should try to help speed them on their way, by not watching this Notorious and watching the rather marvellous Cary Grant/Ingrid Bergman thriller instead.

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Preview: Insecure 1x1 (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic)

Posted 3 days ago at 18:53 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Insecure

In the US: Sundays, 10.30pm, HBO. Starts October 9
In the UK: Acquired by Sky Atlantic. Will air in October

Don't let my TV-set avatar fool you. I'm not actually an everyday household appliance. Let me reveal to you now that I'm actually a middle-aged, middle-class, white guy from London who doesn't get out much and who's never spent longer than a week in the US.

Now I think about it, you probably worked all that out for yourselves already.

Anyway, that 'revelation' means that it shouldn't surprise you that I have no idea what it's like to be a twentysomething, educated, single black American woman. I can guess, but you might as well be asking me the length of the Emperor of China's nose.

To be fair, though, judging by Insecure, twentysomething, educated, single black American women aren't quite sure what it's like to be a twentysomething, educated, single black American woman - or at least, they know what it's like but they're pretty sure it's different from what it's supposed to be like.

Based on her own web series, Awkward Black GirlInsecure is co-written by and stars Issa Rae, who plays a well meaning member of an outreach programme for inner city schools. The only black member of the programme, she finds herself seen by her white colleagues as their 'in' to the ghetto, even though the kids all mock this college graduate for 'not talking like a black girl'. Meanwhile, her boyfriend of five years is still trying to get his act together and her attorney best friend is looking for a man - perhaps any man - who doesn't respond with 'I'm not looking for a relationship at the moment' when pressed for any degree of commitment.

The show is co-written by former Daily Show correspondent Larry Wilmore, who's established himself as a guarantee of clever, insightful comedy writing about African-American life with shows such as black-ish and his own show, The Nightly Show. Together, Rae and he have created something that's not really laugh out loud funny, but which has the ring of authenticity, as well as sympathetic, recognisable characters.

Rae is herself a top performer, successfully depicting someone who's navigating through all of society's stereotypes about women, American-Americans and American-American women. One stand out scene has Rae rehearsing for a night out, running through a gamut of different 'black women', including one fairly decent English black woman ("No, you drive on the wrong side of the road"), before collapsing into a heap of self-doubt ("No, that's too aggressive").

Will I stick with it? Maybe. It's got a lot to say that's interesting, but I'm potentially too far away (continents and decades) for it to truly grab me. But I will say that not being a big BET or OWN viewer, I've not seen anything like it before and new always interests me. Give it a whirl, because it might be new for you, too.

Will, Grace, Karen and Jack reunite to discuss the US elections

Posted 3 days ago at 07:19 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's actually pretty much spot-on. Odd they're still all together, though.

News: Phantom reunion; BBC Four acquires Deep Water; Alan Cumming is Dr Death; SWAT remake + more

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September 26, 2016

Fancy seeing Supergirl's Superman in action?

Posted 4 days ago at 21:02 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

There is literally more fun, more beauty, more appreciation for the character in these two minutes than in all of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman. Okay, the effects are a bit rubbish and it's all a bit cheesy,  - it is Supergirl after all - but somehow it still ends up being delightful.

Review: Van Helsing 1x1 (US: Syfy)

Posted 4 days ago at 20:13 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Van Helsing

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, Syfy

Syfy's new mantra may be 'fewer, bigger, better', a tactic that's already given us the likes of The Magicians and Childhood's End, but that doesn't mean it's going to stop being the home to z-grade, made-in-Canada schlock such as Killjoys, Hunters and Dark Matter. 

In particular, taking a leaf out of frequent contributor the Asylum's playbook, Syfy does love to develop non-copyright infinging shows that are still rather similar to other successful shows, but which are generally rather cheap and terrible, the most successful of these being Z Nation.

Without a huge amount of thought, Syfy now gives us Van Helsing - not to be confused with the rather similarly plotted Wynonna Earp or the identically named movie Van Helsing - in which the daughter of noted vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing wakes up in 2019 and discovers that the western half of the US has been over-run with vampires thanks to a volcanic eruption this year. Hmm, sounds a bit like the quite popular The Strain, doesn't it? What a coincidence.

Notably, Miss Van Helsing now appears to have super powers and do martial arts and stuff. Could she be the saviour prophesied, who'll save humanity from the Feeders? You'll be asking if she's the Chosen One next.

The keenest and most astute of you will probably guess that Van Helsing bares no resemblance whatsoever to Bram Stoker's Dracula or the nice little Dutch scientist Van Helsing who appears in it. Unlike Stoker's vampires, the vampires of this piece can't roam in daylight without burning up and have a lot more in common with Walking Dead zombies than any vampires you might have come across in your media travels. 

Instead, the show is an ultra-low budget, "seven fighty, diverse people in rooms" kind of show in which people shout the plot at each other in between moaning about the collapse of civilisation and their dead loved ones before shooting one another. Fight scenes are simultaneously reasonable yet dreadful, with everything looking just fine and well choreographed until something terribly embarrassing takes place that makes you think they just didn't know what to do next - either that or they couldn't afford more than one piece of paper per fight to map out the moves on.

Everything about Van Helsing is derivative. Literally the only good thing about it is the surprisingly good soundtrack. Watching it is painful and, worst of all, hugely boring. It even makes me yearn for the comparatively high quality, absolutely low quality Wynonna Earp

Avoid.

What have you been watching? Including MacGyver, Lucifer, Doctor Doctor and Mr Robot

Posted 4 days ago at 17:06 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. 

I think I did pretty well last week at keeping up with all the new TV releases. It wasn't until Thursday/Friday when a big bunch of them dropped in my lap that I fell behind. All the same, there have been a few new ones over the weekend, too, which makes my job a little harder. I'll try to catch up with them over the coming week, but my workload's a bit fierce so I might end up doing 'mini-reviews'.

Elsewhere, I've already reviewed The Good Place (US: NBC), Kevin Can Wait (US: CBS), Bull (US: CBS), This Is Us (US: NBC; UK: Channel 4), Designated Survivor (US: ABC; UK: Netflix), Lethal Weapon (US: CBS; UK: ITV) and The Exorcist (US: Fox; UK: Syfy). This week, I'm aiming to review the first episodes of Van Helsing (US: Syfy), Berlin Station (US: Epix), Insecure (US: HBO), Pitch (US: Fox) and Notorious (US: ABC), as well as pass third-episode verdicts on Quarry (US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) and The Good Place. If I have time, I might even preview Falling Water (US: USA). I wouldn't put any money on that happening, though.

After the jump, I'll be looking at the latest episodes of Doctor Doctor, High Maintenance, Halt and Catch Fire and You're The Worst, as well as the season finale of Mr Robot and the return of Lucifer. But before that, there was one other new show I took a look at…

MacGyver (US: CBS)
A quick glance over TMINE, including the original's appearance in Nostalgia Corner and an attempt to crowdsource ideas for a female MacGyver, should show you how keen various people have been over the years to reboot the 80s action show about an engineering genius turned spy who uses his technical prowess to get himself out of scrapes, often with the help of a Swiss Army Knife.

Finally, though, someone's finally gone and done it - twice, in fact, since the first pilot was scrapped, most of the cast fired, and this exceedingly awful new episode filmed in June with a new cast to replace it. A reboot, rather than a sequel, MacGyver sees former army bomb disposal expert turned super secret spy Lucas Till (X-Men: First Class) as the new MacGyver, former CSI George Eads as the ex-Delta Jack Dalton, who together 'bro' their way around the world in an effort to stop Vinnie Jones from killing everyone with a bioweapon. 

Whereas the original series was at great pains to ensure the science of the piece was at least semi-feasible and novel, this new MacGyver thinks science is for sissies, but can't dispense with it altogether because what is MacGyver without some macgyvering? So the other head-nod to the original beside the names and the voiceover (somewhat wooden in this case) is also the worst part of the show, with Till either using a paper clip (you can tell it's a paper clip because every time he uses it, the words 'Paper Clip' appear on the screen) or something inaccurate you've seen in a movie some time (eg passing a biometric scan using a fingerprint obtained by dusting a previous fingerprint), rather than anything halfway competent.

It's also got a few women problems and every so often thinks to itself, "Maybe I could do that bit in the pilot of Scorpion. Or Hawaii Five-O's," since sticking to one remake is too hard. If only it had been as interesting as either of those, though, since 10 minutes before the end, I was clubbing myself in the hope that it would be ending soon. That's when they nicked a bit from Intelligence and I gave up.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including MacGyver, Lucifer, Doctor Doctor and Mr Robot"

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Review: The Exorcist 1x1 (US: Fox; UK: Syfy)

Posted 4 days ago at 16:04 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Exorcist

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: Wednesdays, 9pm, Syfy. Starts October 19

Over the past couple of years, it's become very apparent there's a big difference between two groups: people who movies and TV shows, and the people who make the trailers for them. Last year, of course, we had the horror that was the Supergirl trailer, which made us think we were getting that spoof Black Widow solo movie from Saturday Night Live. Except the pilot turned out to be a lot of jolly fun instead. 

Then, this summer, we had Suicide Squad. Now, by all accounts, that was never going to be a great movie, but such was Warner Bros's concern that it was going to tank at the box office, when a trailer for the movie got people all excited for it, the company actually got the trailer makers to edit the final movie. The result? A nonsensical disaster. 

Don't trust trailers, seems to be the lesson.

Now, one of the big US TV trends of late has been the remaking of old horror movies, with A&E's terrible sequel to The OmenDamien, already having crashed and burned this year. So I guess it's no surprise that Fox would eventually get round to a remake of perhaps the most famous of them all - the one Mark Kermode himself reckons is also the best movie of all timeThe Exorcist.

"Of course, it's Fox," we all thought. "It's bound to be rubbish." And then we saw the trailer, which basically just confirmed our worst fears: the remakers didn't understand the source and were just going to do a generic horror show.

Well, guess what - the trailer lied. Again. The Exorcist not only understands what made the original work, it's genuinely good and even scary… so far. Here's the misleading trailer - more after the jump.

Continue reading "Review: The Exorcist 1x1 (US: Fox; UK: Syfy)"

News: Victoria renewed; Channel 4 acquires This Is Us; Peter Capaldi to guest on Class; + more

Posted 4 days ago at 07:32 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Doctor Who

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New US TV shows

  • ABC developing: Cagney and Lacey-esque team of female detectives drama

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September 23, 2016

Review: Lethal Weapon 1x1 (US: Fox; UK: ITV)

Posted 7 days ago at 08:49 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Lethal Weapon

In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox
In the UK: Acquired by ITV. Will air this autumn

I love Lethal Weapon. I really do. Despite the constant repeats of Die Hard at Christmas and a general moving by society away from movies associated with Mel Gibsonsince his 'incidents', to me, it's the best and most important of the 80s action movies.

I could probably even write a thesis about it, it's so important. Written by Shane Black (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Iron Man 3), ostensibly it's a buddy-buddy cop movie in which the 'lethal weapon' of the piece - Gibson, a former special forces soldier who's now suicidal following the death of his wife - is partnered with the soon-to-retire Danny Glover, eventually becoming friends after fighting drug smugglers. In actuality, it sees aimless American men wondering what their purpose in society is, now that the Vietnam War is over, with Gibson's burn-out on one side, Mitchell Ryan and Gary Busey's amoral army of mercenaries on the other. It debates the nature of the 'new man' and whether unreconstructed men should aspire to be what society needs, and eventually crafts out a purpose for the left-behind: Gibson's trailer park trash who was 'only ever good at one thing' (killing) is able to put aside his suicidal tendencies by using those skills to help others when needed. 

Of course, that was the 80s and the debate has now evolved. So did Lethal Weapon, itself evolving from a semi-serious piece into an almost outright family comedy that could comfortably accommodate Chris Rock, Joe Pesci and Rene Russo in its ranks.

It's this latter incarnation of the franchise that Fox's new TV adaptation is largely channelling, but pleasingly, there are still traces of that original darker tone to the show. Based loosely on Shane Black's original script, it sees Clay Crawford (Rectify) take on the Gibson role, Riggs now being a Texan former Navy SEAL sniper turned cop who's on the verge of becoming a father when his pregnant wife is killed in a car crash.

Relocating back to his wife's home town of Los Angeles, he's partnered with Damon Wayans (In Living Color), an older cop just returned to work after having a heart attack. Neither's keen to work with the other at first, particularly once Wayans learns that Crawford has a death wish, but through various developments and stunt scenes directed by series exec producer McG (Charlie's Angels), they slowly forge a bond together.

Although the Lethal Weapon movies eventually became one big family with a continuing ensemble, don't be too surprised that for a series, that ensemble becomes even larger. The Murtaugh family comes through the transition intact, albeit with different ages. Jordana Brewster (Dallas, Fast & Furious) takes on the late Mary Ellen Trainor's role as Crawford's psychiatrist, while Tony Plana (Ugly Betty, Madam Secretary) takes on the new role of Crawford's father-in-law. 

Given that Wayans is largely known for comedy, you might be expecting the show to be nothing but buddy-buddy laughs. However, Crawford is the main focus of the show. As well as capitalising on Riggs' sharpshooting and martial arts skills, the TV adaptation still puts his death wish high on the show's feature list. 

As you might expect, given the 30 years' time difference, there are tonal differences, particularly in the attitudes to former military. Special forces aren't as mysterious as they were and attitudes to the armed forces are different - the wounds of the Vietnam War to the American psyche are different to those from Iraq. Wayans' son wants to enlist 'for the experience', and Crawford is 'happy' to point out that's a great idea if the experience you want is seeing your best friend shot in the head.

Also new is the culture gap between California and Texas, with Crawford a more well spoken Southern gentleman than Gibson. Meanwhile, Wayans' comedy talents are instead used most when dealing with his wife (Keesha Sharp) and family, rather than with Crawford. 

All the same, despite death wishes, a dead pregnant wife in the first five minutes and the copious number of car chases and shootouts, Lethal Weapon the TV series is a decidedly lighter affair than it probably should be and is nowhere near as compelling as it should be, either. Crawford, who is still undoubtedly the show's biggest asset and does fine at both the dark and the light, doesn't have the same manic energy that Gibson had once he had a target in his sights. The script is all over the place, despite the fine template, and its reinventions of old scenes are virtually nonsense.

And despite McG's presence behind the camera, the action is mostly badly choreographed, underwhelming and empty, other than a couple of fight scenes. Indeed, among all the other damage he undergoes in the episode, one of the lead characters is shot twice and the only trace of injury at the end is his arm in a sling. This is action because it can look cool, rather than because it has any real meaning.

Crawford is good enough and the character still Riggs enough that I'll tune in for episode two, at least, in the hope the show pulls itself together in later episodes. But this feels like an adaptation that either only loosely understands its original material or doesn't feel it can fully exploit it in a primetime show. Whichever it is, it also can't create something of its own that's as good or even half as engaging.

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