For more reviews and recommendations, please click here: Lately I've Been Watching
Limited Series: The Spy
5 stars plus ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A Gideon Raff series (he's the man responsible for Prisoners of War, on which the original few series of Homeland was based), starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Eli Cohen, who was Israel's top Mossad spy in the 1960s. It's an incredible story; if it was fiction, you'd think it was too far-fetched. As with Prisoners of War, it's so well produced, and doesn't use any of the sensationalism and genre clichés present in so many American and English series; pure class. Cohen's performance is completely believeable and utterly compelling, and it gives fascinating insight into life in the relevant countries at the time.
Also stars another man who is always worth watching—Noah Emmerich.
Series: The Deuce - Season 3 (Final Season)
5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
One of my favourite televisual treats over the last few years—I liked this season more than #2 and as much as #1. Aside from the tongue-hanging-out gorgeousness that is James Franco, it's terrifically well made. For anyone who doesn't know about it, it's about the dark side of New York; the bars, the porn and sex industry. #1 was set in 1970/71, #2 in 1975/6, and this one in 1984, when moves are being made to clean up the city, and AIDS is rearing its ugly head. It's the last one, because of course the city was cleaned up; at the end you see it in 2019, all smart, shiny and geared towards tourists, and it's kind of sad that Vinnie's world has disappeared, seedy and dangerous though it was. If you haven't seen it, start at the beginning—and I envy you for having it all to watch!
Maggie Gillenhall plays a prostitute-turned-porn star-turned-porn director, and Chris Coy, aka Terminus Martin in The Walking Dead, plays the owner of a men's 'bath house' whose partner is dying of AIDS.
Series: City On A Hill (Season 1)
4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Set in Boston in 1992, and starring Kevin Bacon ( 😍 😋) as corrupt yet venerated FBI officer Jackie Rohr who teams up with DA DeCourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge), a man of much integrity, to take down a team of armed robbers, after some security guards were murdered. There is much about the corruption in the legal and law enforcement system, generally, and it's also about the backstage dramas of Rohr and Ward's lives, and those of the two brothers around whom the gang revolves.
Sometimes, in the first few episodes, it was a bit hard to work out exactly what was going on, though you could get the general gist; lots of new characters were introduced quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though, and Bacon is fabulous.
Series: Mr Mercedes (Seasons 1-3)
4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, this crime/psych thriller stars Brendan Gleeson as the standard ex-cop obsessed with a former case—divorced, estranged from daughter, alcoholic, has quirky pet and colleagues who thought he needed to take some time out but the reality was that he was the only one know knew what was going on—haven't you seen/read this one a hundred times? But he plays the part so well that you don't mind the clichés, and Harry Treadaway as Mr Mercedes himself is excellent.
First season is SO good; second one entered slightly into the paranormal and, it being based on an S King book, I couldn't help wondering when the giant, mind-controlling spider in the town's sewage system was going to appear. But then it picked up and started getting feasible again, and it was nearly as good as the first season. I've just started watching Season 3, and it's ticking most of the boxes so far :)
NB: Just finished S3. I'd only give it 4*. Got a bit outlandish in parts, with plot developments too unlikely... I still liked it, but it also had a few too many dream sequences/hallucinations, which I consider to be a total waste of time. Also, the connections of everyone to Mr Mercedes seemed a bit contrived.
Note for TWD fans: you'll spot Maximiliano 'Can't go back, Bob' Hernandez, Kathy from Oceanside, and, if you're a total obsessive like me, the woman who wanted to cook a meal for Sasha at Deanna's 'Welcome to Alexandria' party 😉
Series: Jack Ryan (Season 2)
4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Based on Tom Clancy's books—it's fairly bog standard action thriller, hero-baddie stuff, but I liked it more than Season 1. This time concerned with illegal arms in Venezuela. John Krasinski is good as the main character, but... well, he's no Jack Bauer. It's one of those series that is good but forgettable, I think; worth watching if you like this sort of thing but I can't see it becoming a classic series that people will still be watching in 20 years' time, like 24 or The Wire.
Comedy Series: ATypical (Season 3)
4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I like this series about the autistic Sam Gardner and his family and friends; in Season 3, Sam is going off to college and is determined to do so with as little assistance as possible, sister Casey is struggling with her sexuality in an extremely irritating fashion, and his mother, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, continues to be so nauseating that you wonder why the whole family didn't leave home years ago. It's still good, but I think some aspects of it are getting a bit overdone. Love the character of Paige, his girlfriend, though; she's possibly the most OTT character of them all, but is great to watch.
Comedy Series: The Righteous Gemstones (Season 1)
3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
About a family of wealthy TV evangelists who are basically just a bunch of scumbags, with a runaway son who falls in with some criminals out to make money from them. One of the stars is Walton Goggins, who I really like, as the dead mother's feckless brother, also out to get some of the cash.
It's entertaining, a good story, though I wouldn't care if I didn't see any more of it; I'm not sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for Season 2. I knocked off another half star because of several completely unnecessary, full-on dick shots, one of which was at least semi-erect. I'm getting so fed up with too-explicit sex in almost every show, and neither do I want to see people taking a pee or clearing their throats into the sink in the morning, hear them taking a dump or see sick coming out of their mouths—and I certainly don't want to see middle-aged, floppy weiners and nutsacks all over the screen. I hope all this over-the-top realism is a trend that will end soon.
Documentary: Tell Me Who I Am
3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Astounding true story about twin brothers, now in their 50s: Marcus and Alex. When they were 18, Alex lost his memory after an accident. The only thing he could remember was that Marcus was his brother. Slowly, Marcus built up a picture for him of his entire life to date. The only trouble was that he left all the dark stuff out—and that dark stuff was SERIOUSLY dark. Child abuse, of a psychological and sexual kind. I liked the structure—Part 1 was from Alex's viewpoint, then in Part 2 we found out the reality from Marcus, which is where everything changed. Both men are likeable, and their stories are put forward in such a way that you can see both their POVs.
In Part 3 they talk together, and this is where I thought it lost its way. I felt like the directors were 'milking it' a bit, and it seemed like some of their conversation it was scripted for the purpose of moving the audience; it also became repetitive. Also, there was much left unanswered, not just about the sexual abuse—like, why did they sleep in a shed (the family was wealthy, and the family home impressive)? Was it their 'den' by choice, or a decision made by the parents? Why didn't they have any presents for Christmas and birthdays? Why was their father so distant? Why was their mother the way she was? Who was the famous artist who engaged in paedophilia?
It was interesting though not as compelling as I'd thought it would be, and I was contemplating getting the book to find out more about the background, but the lower starred reviews give the impression that it's much the same as the documentary - padded and repetitive, without enough explanation about the aspects you really do want to know about. Like, if you want to make some money out of your warts and all true story, can we have the whole thing?