Weekly Watchlist #9 (28th Oct – 3rd Nov)

Much more stuff this week!

Daybreak (Netflix)

This has really captivated me – very easy to dismiss as derivative (because, well, it absolutely is), but with just enough flourish to occasionally feel very inspired. Oddly, it’s not the most confident show – for every step it takes towards a new idea, it quickly hurries two steps back to comforting archetypes – but when it gets things right it absolutely soars. I’d struggle to recommend it wholeheartedly, but at the same time it’s clearly not a bad show: just one I wish was a little more willing to trust its best instincts.

Defending the Guilty (BBC Two)

It never quite managed to solve the flaw I highlighted a while ago – the lack of development for Will’s girlfriend – which becomes harder to ignore as the series concluded. At the same time, though, I still really enjoyed this: it’s funny and it’s moving, with a brilliant cast and a killer soundtrack. The ending invites a second series I’m not sure is wholly needed – but I really can’t wait for more.

House of Games (BBC Two)

I normally tend not to include all the quiz shows I watch in these listings, but I just wanted to note for posterity that I got an answer about Virginia Woolf very quickly this week, and I was very proud of myself.

That’s all.

In the Long Run (Sky One)

It’s easy to forget just how good a comic talent Idris Elba is, given his more high-profile outings tend towards the dramatic – even then, this loosely-autobiographical piece feels like it’s flown especially under the radar, not really making a huge impact on people’s impressions of Elba. (I’d bet more people know about his DJ work than this show. Actually, I’d bet more people would know him from Bond rumours than this show, and that’s probably never going to happen.)

That’s a shame – In the Long Run is a charming, funny little show, the sort of thing that I could very easily see being just as loved as Derry Girls or Stath Lets Flats if it too had found a home at Channel 4.

Motherland (BBC Two)

Admittedly, “I really can’t wait for more” is also exactly how I felt about Motherland’s first series; this year’s effort is much more easily written off. I could never quite put my finger on what changed – and maybe if I went back and rewatched the first series, I’d be disappointed by that as well. Either way, it’s been a disappointing year

Riverdale (Netflix)

Halloween is absolutely the best time of year for Riverdale. Wait a few months and I’ll say the same about Christmas, though – this is a show that really thrives on excess and exaggeration, so the heightened nature of any holiday always makes for an especially fun instalment of Riverdale nonsense.

Superstore & The Good Place (NBC, Netflix)

Doing these ones together, because I remain of basically the same mind about each – Superstore is just about recovering from a rough start, while The Good Place continues to tread water, increasingly prompting me to realise again (as is the case with every new season of The Good Place) that I just don’t love it. Both these shows might end up bumped from the weekly watchlist – I’ll still keep on top of them, of course, but I’m definitely not going to have something new to say about them each week.

Favourite show of October: I suspect ‘favourite’ is probably the wrong word here – I’d want to very heavily caveat it in this instance – but Daybreak is undeniably the show that’s made the most impression on me, and I suspect the one I’ll be thinking about longest.

Best new show of October: Again, I think it has to be Daybreak.

Most looking forward to in November: Lot of possibilities here – I have high hopes for His Dark Materials, some measured interest in a few of the Apple+ shows, and I haven’t quite got around to Watchmen yet so we’ll call that a November show – but it’s hard not to choose The End of the F***ing World series 2. Absolutely loved the first series, and really curious to see how Jessica Barden fills the role of the lead.

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Weekly Watchlist #7 (14th Oct – 20th Oct)

weekly watchlist 7 the good place tahani jameela jamil rebecca front thick of it succession kendall headphones

Haven’t picked up anything new yet this week. Been a while. Recommendations always appreciated!

Motherland (BBC Two)

An improvement this week, if only a little one, because last week’s new character was sidelined a bit. (It is… a shame that this character is played by the only WOC in the cast. The actress is great, but the character is really, really misconceived. Do intentionally irritating side-characters ever work?) Even then, anyway, the episode was a bit of a disappointment. Ah well.

Riverdale (The CW, Netflix)

It’s absolutely ridiculous, but that’s why I love it. Frankly I’d be disappointed if it ever tried to be grounded again – I watch this for nonsense like Veronica making reporters watch her sing and dance before giving a press conference, or Jughead having a classmate called ‘Bret Weston Wallis’. It is nonsense! And, therefore, often the highlight of my week.

Succession (HBO, Sky Atlantic)

Undoubtedly, it’s going to make my top ten for 2019 – how could it not? – but, as I’ve noted a few times over the past few weeks, I think it’s harmed by the fact it never quite followed up on the ending of episode 5 as much as it could have. Or, I suppose, maybe it’s more accurate to say ‘as much as I would’ve liked’. Given how important the relationship between Shiv and Kendall was to this episode, though, it definitely feels as though the ball was dropped, at least a little bit.

Still! That ending. Can’t wait for next year.

Superstore (NBC)

It’s still a little frustrating, and still feels like a weak cover of earlier years, but it’s starting to find the groove again. Thankfully!

The Good Place (NBC, Netflix)

So, here’s the other thing that bothers me about The Good Place: the mind-wipes. It’s never quite sat with me – especially in a show that purports to be a character-driven show – how easily and how willingly The Good Place quite literally resets its characters. There’s only ever been a partial restoration of memories once, so it’s not like these memories are going to be restored – I don’t understand how losing those memories isn’t essentially like a death?

That feels like a hugely important thing for a show that’s meant to be about its characters to grapple with – certainly I had a bit of trouble caring about any of them again at the start of series 2, as it became clear that all the development they underwent the year before was being undone – but especially so for a show that’s so heavily concerned with philosophy. How is that not something they’d get into – all these questions about selfhood and identity and what constitutes the fundamental essence of a person? It’s a strange device to use in such a throwaway fashion, and I’m increasingly realising I’ll never quite get a satisfactory answer on that.

The Thick of It (BBC Two, Netflix)

Very nearly caught up on this, just coming to the end of the third season. Really like Rebecca Front as Nicola Murray, quite a breath of fresh air for the show. Curious to see how they handle the coalition years in the next series too.

Quite a few things I’ve missed this week – fallen behind on Defending the Guilty, which is a bit of a shame. I’ll have to get back on top of that soon.

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Weekly Watchlist #6 (7th Oct – 13th Oct)

Still trying to work out a format for this that actually works, given that I’m not sure I have a lot worth saying about all the things I’m watching. Getting there, though.

House of Games (BBC Two)

I really, really like quiz shows, and this is fun enough and slightly offbeat enough to be worth tuning into regularly.

Motherland (BBC Two)

Hugely disappointed by this, I’ve got to admit – this, I think, made my best of 2017 list, so I was really looking forward to its return. Which was hugely underwhelming in the end! The issue I think was because so much of this episode was dedicated to a new, fairly one-note character, the entire episode structured around one fairly limited joke (“look, the mothers have to take care of this other mother, who is acting like a teenager”). Bit of a shame, that.

Riverdale (The CW, Netflix)

Genuinely moving, in a way I didn’t think of Riverdale ever could be.

Succession (HBO, Sky Atlantic)

I’ll miss this a lot when it ends for the year – admittedly I do think it’s faltered ever so slightly since those near-perfect opening episodes, but frankly Succession at 80% is better than a lot of shows at 100%.

Superstore (NBC)

Something of an improvement this week, but mainly I was just trying to work out where I recognised the actress playing Colleen from. (The answer, I’m fairly sure, is SNL. Or more likely Veep, since I don’t even really watch SNL.)

The Chase (ITV)

I watch this every day, more or less – even on the weekends, when it’s not actually on properly, I’ll tend to watch a syndicated repeat. I would hate to know how many hours of my life I’ve spent watching The Chase, to be honest. And how little I’ve actually learned from it! But I’m definitely getting better at it. Eventually, I will go on The Chase, I will take the higher offer, be caught within two questions, and never watch it again.

Which would be one way to break a habit, I suppose.

The Circle (Channel 4)

Still gradually working my way through The Circle, albeit fairly behind the actual broadcast schedule – six episodes a week is frankly too much of anything. It remains unexpectedly compelling, though; it’s the first reality show of its ilk that I’ve been genuinely into enough to actually want to watch six episodes of a week. (Or, well, try to anyway.)

The Good Place (NBC, Netflix)

This episode wound me up a bit, admittedly. I’ve always gone back and forth on Tahani, whether I find her charming or irritating; I’m increasingly starting to think, though, that while Tahani is still this cartoonishly bourgeoisie character, The Good Place is never quite going to make “there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism” land as its central thesis. (Assuming that remains its central thesis, admittedly.)

The character needs to develop beyond the initial archetype – I’m not saying there isn’t some depth to her (well, I’m not saying that at the moment, anyway), but while The Good Place still sticks to that initial joke, I’m not sure it’ll ever quite be what it seems to want to be.

You can look at other Weekly Watchlists here. If you liked this article and you want to support what I do, you can leave a tip over on ko-fi, or back my Patreon here.

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