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What was the last TV show you watched?

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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Hudson Valley, NY
I've been watching bits and pieces of The Story of Film: An Odyssey on Amazon Prime. A 15-part documentary series made for British TV in 2011.

One of my longtime friends recommended it as brilliant... but as a far more serious film scholar, I think it's a worthwhile attempt... but it misses mentioning some important stuff about film history and/or oversimplifies quite a lot. It also tends to attribute lofty artistic-advancement goals to lots of people who were just making films as a business. Like Buster Keaton, who was always bemused by the modernist man-versus-whatever symbolism attributed to his films by latter day critics (as it is here): "I was just trying to make people laugh when I took my pratfalls."

That said, it may be the best documentary of its kind so far, and if you don't know much about film history, it's a pretty good primer that will point you to lots of important films, directors, genres, and styles. However, if you're already knowledgeable, you will find some questionable observations, and some real head-scratchers.

For example, the series selects Howard Hawks as the prototypical director of the classic Hollywood studio era, adept at many genres yet with a definite personal style. Don't get me wrong, I like lots of Hawks' films... but how about John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Michael Curtiz, Frank Capra, Billy Wilder, Raoul Walsh, and so many others?!? I mean, the obvious choice is John Ford, whose influence was and remains far greater than Hawks.

Anyway, despite my carping there's a lot to chew on here, and if you're curious you should give it a look.
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
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1,651
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St John's Wood, London UK
Americana Girl. Netflex. A Taylor Swift documentary feast for the eyes.
Ms Swift is quite the lass and all but shown as most sensitive even vulnerable to the slings and arrows,
rocks and stones thrown inside the entertainment industry shadows. Very interesting professionally were
her corporate entity Taylor Swift Inc. accoutrement and outside political considerations.
A vivid portrait of the artist.
 

Edward

Bartender
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London, UK
Finished all three series of Only Murders in the Building; I do hope there is more to come. I'm now onto The Orville. Intriguing stuff. Not the parody I had anticipated, but rather the closest thing there is to a Torchwood to the Doctor Who of the official Star trek properties. Explores a number of themes ST did over the years, in the same indirect (but clearly comprehended) manner. I do hope they at some point get a fourth (and more) series.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
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5,180
Location
Troy, New York, USA
Finished all three series of Only Murders in the Building; I do hope there is more to come. I'm now onto The Orville. Intriguing stuff. Not the parody I had anticipated, but rather the closest thing there is to a Torchwood to the Doctor Who of the official Star trek properties. Explores a number of themes ST did over the years, in the same indirect (but clearly comprehended) manner. I do hope they at some point get a fourth (and more) series.
Don't hold your breath waiting for more Orville compadre... I think that ship has sailed despite how much I loved it.

Worf
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
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1,651
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St John's Wood, London UK
Cunk On Earth. Mockumentary featuring English comedienne Diane Morgan as Philomenia Cunk,
something of a cross between Olivia Colman and Natalie Dormer, cute as a button and eyes a man
could drown in. The first two episodes were fairly decent fare but third chapter on America 1960s focused
on JFK including some rather ill chosen words surprisingly allowed edit stand regarding his assassination.
I immediately turned this Netflix (2023) mocku off. Embarrased this came UK.
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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Hudson Valley, NY
I only lasted 15 minutes with Cunk On Earth.

Nothing about it worked for me. The alleged comedy was just too dumb. I didn't realize that Cunk is a character, not an actual person... but either way, I didn't find her interesting/charming/funny/whatever enough to keep watching.

Sounds like it's a good thing that I didn't make it to that third ep!
 

Edward

Bartender
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London, UK
Don't hold your breath waiting for more Orville compadre... I think that ship has sailed despite how much I loved it.

Worf

So a google tells me. What a shame! Seems it was a victim of various acquisitions of bulk properties and network / streaming switches. Maybe the platforms didn't have the imagination to see the value in letting it evolve into something much great than the "Trek with naughty jokes and a few swears" that I think it started out.

I only lasted 15 minutes with Cunk On Earth.

Nothing about it worked for me. The alleged comedy was just too dumb. I didn't realize that Cunk is a character, not an actual person... but either way, I didn't find her interesting/charming/funny/whatever enough to keep watching.

Sounds like it's a good thing that I didn't make it to that third ep!

The script is written by Charlie Brooker (the brain behind Black Mirror). His stuff is generally silly mixed with the very dark and the occasional touch of bad taste. I enjoy that, but its not for everyone. My favourite bits of the Cunk shows are where they have academics in - those are all genuinely the people and in the roles they are presented as - and they're all in on the joke. I'd love to see the outtakes. It's a frighteningly good parody, bordering on simple pastiche, of dumbed down, mainstream tv documentaries this side of the world now.

Used to see Diane Morgan in the London comedy clubs as half of Two Episodes of Mash with Joe Wilkinson. I loved their material - surrealist, with no traditional punchlines or "jokes". They had one skit where He was Buzz Aldrin who'd walked dog mess into the Apollo capsule on launch, and as punishment was being told Neil Armstrong was going to be allowed to walk on the moon first instead of him. Simple set-up, really made with the delivery. The Cunk persona is very close to Morgan's own stand-up delivery.
 

Edward

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London, UK
I loved it. Liked it so much I then went and watched "The Haunting of Hill House". This director clearly knows and loves his horror.

Worf

He seems to be a very Marmite proposition or most. The Poe-Heads I know hated it as lazy and superficial in its links. I can see where they were coming from, but they're not the target audience. This was aimed at people who wanted something popcorny which nods to Poe as a pop-culture reference point, but doesn't rely on the audience having actually read the material to begin with. I found it entertaining, sort of Succession meets Gothic horror. I also quite enjoyed that (as has been the case with others off his series) the ending wasn't quite so blatant as to directly make it a Faustian pact - it left the viewer to join the dots.

I'm just back to the office as of Monday from three weeks off (well... two by the time I finished the work that I'd been trying to get done for the last month once I could switch off email and get on with it....). I watched a *lot* of TV in that period, but of particular note:

- Finally caught up with some of the new Star Wars content. Obi Wan was fun enough, which was nice as the montage from those diabolical prequels at the start was very off-putting. The kids weren't intensely annoying, so unlike the prequels I wasn't automatically rooting for their enemies, which helped. I also enjoyed the Mandalorian and Book of Boba Fett - the latter significantly more so than I'd anticipated. I had feared that they'd ruin the character by taking away all his mystique, but it worked very well. I loved the whole spaghetti Western vibe both had. boba's jump pack also being a rocket launcher was (I assume!) a cute inside joke referencing the action figures and that first-phase mistake that worked nicely in the plot. Also enjoyed how they worked the baby Yoda thingy; they very neatly avoided it being nothing other than cutsey, comedy-relief overload. It choosing the Mandalorian path over the Jedi was a lovely touch. The one mistake I made - because Disney+ presents them as wholly separate shows - was watching BoBF *after* TM, when I think I should have watched it between seasons 2 and 3 of the former. Pity that's not clear on the interface. The real star of them all was Andor - a prequel series to the stand out best of all the SW cinema releases. The first two episodes were so dull I nearly gave up - they really cold have been usefully condensed into twenty minutes of screen time. After that it gets really good. The prison set episodes especially. All done and said, while not without its missteps (especially Solo - what a stinker!), Disney's Star Wars is a marked improvement on Lucas', particularly when it comes to world-building and making it all three dimensional. Partly that's to do with the additional screen time a series offers, of course, but also it's the thinking details Lucas missed - a literate culture, with a media, not everyone working for the Empire is Mindless Evil, many are just people doing a job, the administration, it's all there.

I also watched The Bear - not a show I'd have expected to get so caught up in, but enjoyed it immensely.

Over on the BBC, the new Doctor Who looks promising, while the last episode of the "real" Ghosts was pitched perfectly. The star of the BBC's Christmas output was Murder is Easy, this year's Agatha Christie two-parter. A small tweak with the protagonist, now a Nigerian young man brought to "Mother England" in order to work in Whitehall very well incorporated into the plot on a manner which works perfectly for the story. Possibly Christie's most political book, the original themes of women's equality and fair pay are also referenced in their place. Beautifully done - and total clothes porn. Well worth watching.

Back on Disney+, I'm currently coming to the end of National Geographic's A Small Light, the story of Miep Gies and her husband in Amsterdam in WW2. Miep worked for Otto Frank and took great risks ensuring the Frank family and friends in the secret annex actually ate during their period of hiding, while her husband joined up with the Dutch Resistance. It's not an easy watch knowing what the end will be for the Franks, especially Otto, who strived so hard to keep his family safe, and in the end was the only one who survived the death camps. Outstanding production.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
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Troy, New York, USA
"Reacher" (season 2) - I was surprised to learn the "Reacher" season 2 had already blasted past season 1's viewership total and was about to lap the field by the 3rd episode. "Reacher" is a easy bit of fluff for people who want their heroes, strong, uncomplicated and stoic. Clint Eastwood with jackhammer fists and a body to pull it off (sorry Mr. Cruise). Season 2 gives us more of the same except this time Reacher gets the "Band back together" and fills in some of his backstory and history in the Army. Given that Amazon is doling out the season in dribs and drabs that drive me nuts I can't give a full accounting of my feelings on the this iteration of the show, but so far so good. It ain't Shakespeare but it's fun.

Worf
 

Edward

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London, UK
"Reacher" (season 2) - I was surprised to learn the "Reacher" season 2 had already blasted past season 1's viewership total and was about to lap the field by the 3rd episode. "Reacher" is a easy bit of fluff for people who want their heroes, strong, uncomplicated and stoic. Clint Eastwood with jackhammer fists and a body to pull it off (sorry Mr. Cruise). Season 2 gives us more of the same except this time Reacher gets the "Band back together" and fills in some of his backstory and history in the Army. Given that Amazon is doling out the season in dribs and drabs that drive me nuts I can't give a full accounting of my feelings on the this iteration of the show, but so far so good. It ain't Shakespeare but it's fun.

Worf


Oh, I *loathe* it when they release a series only an episode or two at a time. What I hate most is that they dress it up with the pretence that it's somehow what the viewers want, that we all like the good old days of waiting for something week to week no TV.... when the truth is that it's ultimately all about encouraging people to sign up at least for the run, rather than taking a one-of (sometimes even a free month) to binge watch the lot. I completely understand this as a business case, but it frustrates me that they try to pretend it's something else.

Unless I'm an outlier of course - but TBH the only element of "communal experience" I care about with stuff on TV are those folks who've seen everything first and make sure to drop spoilers so they can show that off - then shrug it off with "well, if you cared that much you'd have seen it already."
 

Worf

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5,180
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Troy, New York, USA
"A Murder in Venice" - I'd avoided Branagh's take of Poirot till now because I was so familiar with this first two films. I've seen numerous versions of "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile" is like watching paint dry. However, several folks who's reviews of films I respect said that they found "A Murder in Venice" to be exemplary so we decided to give it whirl. Also, being wholly unfamiliar with the work I'd be going in blind which to me is a plus.

Moody, atmospheric and engrossing the film captivated me from the start. Not being an "expert" on Belgian accents I can't testify as to Branagh's fidelity to Poirot. The sets, costumes etc... were all first rate. With such a large ensemble cast however I did feel that some of the backgrounds were a bit rushed. Still retaining some braincells I rarely get through mysteries without figuring them out either partially or completely. In this case I had to admit that the double twist at the end of film caught me totally off-guard. Any film that can do that to me is aces in my book.

I recommend it whole heartedly, particularly if you've never seen or read the story.

Worf
 

Edward

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"A Murder in Venice" - I'd avoided Branagh's take of Poirot till now because I was so familiar with this first two films. I've seen numerous versions of "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile" is like watching paint dry. However, several folks who's reviews of films I respect said that they found "A Murder in Venice" to be exemplary so we decided to give it whirl. Also, being wholly unfamiliar with the work I'd be going in blind which to me is a plus.

Moody, atmospheric and engrossing the film captivated me from the start. Not being an "expert" on Belgian accents I can't testify as to Branagh's fidelity to Poirot. The sets, costumes etc... were all first rate. With such a large ensemble cast however I did feel that some of the backgrounds were a bit rushed. Still retaining some braincells I rarely get through mysteries without figuring them out either partially or completely. In this case I had to admit that the double twist at the end of film caught me totally off-guard. Any film that can do that to me is aces in my book.

I recommend it whole heartedly, particularly if you've never seen or read the story.

Worf

Yes, it's a fun reimagining of a lesser-known story. I liked how they played with the supernatural in it. Redoing the author as a younger American instead of an English woman closer in age to Poirot was fun. I enjoyed the other films well enough. for me, Suchet was the perfect Poirot. Ustinov gave good performances, though didn't embody the character in the books the way Suchet did. Branagh gives the air that he's doing something different (I previously compared him to Downey-Junior's Sherlock Holmes), and that's more fun for me to see than someone else not doing it as well as Suchet. (Malkovich was something in the same approach in the one-of he did a few years ago, also well worth catching if you can.)

With the first film, Branagh was definitely finding his feet. In Nile, he seemed to have gotten to grips with his take on the character. This one, however, really saw him confident in the role and it flew imo.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
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Troy, New York, USA
Yes, it's a fun reimagining of a lesser-known story. I liked how they played with the supernatural in it. Redoing the author as a younger American instead of an English woman closer in age to Poirot was fun. I enjoyed the other films well enough. for me, Suchet was the perfect Poirot. Ustinov gave good performances, though didn't embody the character in the books the way Suchet did. Branagh gives the air that he's doing something different (I previously compared him to Downey-Junior's Sherlock Holmes), and that's more fun for me to see than someone else not doing it as well as Suchet. (Malkovich was something in the same approach in the one-of he did a few years ago, also well worth catching if you can.)

With the first film, Branagh was definitely finding his feet. In Nile, he seemed to have gotten to grips with his take on the character. This one, however, really saw him confident in the role and it flew imo.
I, unfortunately, have not seen Suchet's take on Poirot. I did catch the Malkovich one and found it poignant and riveting. But I'm so unfamiliar with the character as a whole that I'm not versed enough to comment on fidelity. Thanks for your views and reviews. I look forward to the next one eagerly. I found the American writer annoying and distasteful. Another friend informed me that she's a recurring character in the series and, as you point out, English and older. I don't see how Poirot could have anything to do with her going forward after the shenanigans she pulled.

Worf
 

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
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Barnaby Jones, S1 E1, and Mannix, S1 E1. Did not see these first time around. The Quinn Martin style parodied so devastatingly in Police Squad! is out in full force.
 
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Stumbled across Columbo on the Great American Family channel during Christmas break. I remember it from my childhood but as an adult I find it to be much better. Smartly done; I really like it. I have spent most of this weekend watching it or at least having it in the background.
:D
 

Edward

Bartender
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London, UK
I, unfortunately, have not seen Suchet's take on Poirot. I did catch the Malkovich one and found it poignant and riveting. But I'm so unfamiliar with the character as a whole that I'm not versed enough to comment on fidelity. Thanks for your views and reviews. I look forward to the next one eagerly. I found the American writer annoying and distasteful. Another friend informed me that she's a recurring character in the series and, as you point out, English and older. I don't see how Poirot could have anything to do with her going forward after the shenanigans she pulled.

Worf

If you can pick it up on DVD (available pretty cheaply on Amazon - it's probably on Britbox too, come to think of it), it's well worth a view. The lovely thing is that across many years they were able to do every single story, so there's the full set with a constant set of players. It gives them real depth by the end.

Stumbled across Columbo on the Great American Family channel during Christmas break. I remember it from my childhood but as an adult I find it to be much better. Smartly done; I really like it. I have spent most of this weekend watching it or at least having it in the background.
:D

I don't know if there's another who did it first, but I'm pretty sure that Columbo was the first mainstream TV detective where they dispensed with the whodunnit format, and let the viewer in on the murderer's secret. Then it becomes more a game of cat and mouse. Peter Falk was an absolute joy. For years I was sure Mrs Columbo was a rhetorical device and he lived alone - until they held her funeral in a 1990 episode. I loved Falk playing himself (in a version little different in temperament than Columbo) in Himmel Uber Berlin in which he was an angel who had chosen the human life instead - and become an actor. Real gift for comedy as well as the gentle humour and light touch with which he played the lieutenant.

This last few days I've been binging Batman: The Animated Series on UK Netflix. Every single bit as good as I remember it. Ostensibly a kids' cartoon, but one that never talked down to its audience - and is remarkably adult with it. Running 1992-1995 originally, it plays with a beautiful retro-futurism that is just perfect for the tone of the Batman universe. Close enough to modern tech that there's nothing that looks obviously dated - it feel less "vintage", more "parallel universe". If only they could have just once captured this in live action! (Though to be fair the most recent live action film and the series Gotham got very close.)
 

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