Magnum P.I. s1 ep 1

As I said in our PSA, I haven’t seen an episode of the original Magnum, P.I. As far as I can tell, though, most of the key features – apart from a comma in the title – have been transposed into this reboot: former Navy SEAL Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez) lives on Oahu, Hawaii, working as the security consultant for unseen author Robin Masters, and on his own account as a private investigator. He lives on Masters’s property, which is run by majordomo Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks), who in the original was male. Juliet and Magnum bicker. As well as her expert verbal jousting with Magnum, Juliet is ex-MI6, and therefore entirely capable of snapping two shaven-headed assassins into little bits if the need arises. The need arises.

Meantime, Magnum hangs out with, and is assisted by, his bro-ish buddies Rick (Zachary Knighton), TC (Stephen Hill), and Sebastian (Domenick Lombardozzi), with whom he bonded in an Afghanistan POW camp. (There’s a flashback to the traditional cauterising-the-wound-with-gunpowder scene.) And there’s a cop (Sung Kang), standing as proxy for The Entire HPD and Every Cop In A P.I. Show Ever, who doesn’t trust Magnum and warns him away from, well, pretty much everything.

That’s our set-up, although in an era where every show, even the network procedurals, have set new standards for speed and action, you need to start big or go home. And, in fairness, Magnum’s first act is to parachute into North Korea. From outer space. With a postmodern twist at the end. Not bad at all. Then, once Magnum is back in Hawaii, one of his friends is abducted and murdered, which he solves with the help of Higgins, who all of a sudden is being a little bit nicer to him: I think we’re supposed to ship them, and I was going to say that I’d want a bit more in the way of chemistry. But as you know we’re always about the ship; so, yeah, OK, I’m here for #Maggins. (#Hignum?)

Boxes, therefore, are all ticked with a ruthless efficiently. Everything’s there… but something’s missing, and I’m not sure what something is. I see that when I reviewed the first two episodes of Hawaii Five-0 I was a bit lukewarm, but identified the performance of Scott Caan as a good reason to keep going. Magnum, unfortunately, doesn’t have its own Scott Caan, and Hernandez is likeable but lightweight in the lead role. As far as I can see, though, general opinion is that the show gets better, and there’s probably enough here for me to commit to another couple of episodes at least.


Crazy Ex-Girlfriend s4 ep 9

Most of this episode is terrific. Rebecca’s storyline – in which she distracts herself from her feelings about her three exes by trying to sleep with Jason, the dude she connected with online – is a head-spinning mixture of feminism, guest stars, double-entendre-as-metaphor, romance, and gynaecology. Also a terrifically meta joke about Neil Patrick Harris, and colossal amounts of shade being thrown at ‘Cats’. It’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend at its full-tilt best, and it’s perilously close to genius. 

In the margins of that, Greg and Nathaniel meet-cute at the gym and start to hang out, both not yet knowing that they dated Rebecca. White Josh watches in horror as the inevitable day of revelation approaches. This is fine, even if I’m now pretty sure that New Greg isn’t as good. But Darryl’s plot, in which he’s feeling unloved in his workplace, and is at his neediest and whiniest, is no fun at all. 

You s1 ep 10

Doing my best to avoid spoilers.

As I speculated at the time, Netflix’s decision to drop season 1 of You on Boxing Day was presumably targeted at the off-for-the-fortnight audience. And it now looks like a stroke of scheduling genius, because it’s undoubtedly become a thing, perhaps even edging towards a cultural phenomenon, tapping in to the way in which our unease about online privacy coexists with our addiction to social media.

Joe (Penn Badgley), a bookshop manager, becomes infatuated with customer Beck (Elizabeth Lail), a poverty-stricken grad student, and uses readily-available online information to track her down and woo her. Joe is an out-and-out stalker, and a dangerous psychopath at that, but to start with at least the show allows for a degree of ambiguity about whether he might, in some ways, be the hero he sees himself as. Partly this is because Joe also keeps an eye on the wellbeing of his neighbour Paco (Luca Padovan), a young boy suffering because of his mother’s unpleasant partner. And partly it’s because Beck’s social circle is so toxic: she’s in a relationship with independently wealthy Benji (Lou Taylor Pucci), who is trying to get his artisanal soda business off the ground, friendly with the poisonous Peach (Shay Mitchell), and being hit on by her professor. I mean, these people deserve what’s coming their way.

Part of what makes You such an intriguing proposition is that, although most of the characters live much of their lives in the online public arena, they all have secrets; including Beck, who to start with appears to be an uncomplicated love interest archetype, and Peach, whose secret is a deliciously nasty one. Joe more so than most, of course: what happened, for example, to the ex-girlfriend who apparently left the country after they broke up?

Although You is bracingly of-its-time, there are plenty of influences at work: a bit of The Talented Mr Ripley, a little Revenge, perhaps? And, of course, a huge debt to Dexter: the voiceover, the keepsakes, the “noble cause” murders, the fact that no-one seems to have noticed that a lot of people die around Joe. Which I’m delighted about, because it sometimes seems as if Dexter so thoroughly trashed its reputation in its later seasons that it rarely even features in pieces about shows that trashed their reputations in their later seasons. I suspect that people have forgotten how thrillingly and daringly transgressive and amoral Dexter was at the start, and You channels some of this queasy, irresistible energy.

Also, there’s plenty of great acting on view. It seems that Badgley has become quite the sex symbol, even as he tries to plead that Joe isn’t supposed to be charming. And there’s some delectable satire to be found in Beck’s circle: Shay Mitchell is terrific as Peach; and Kathryn Gallagher as “influencer” Annika, and Hari Nef as Blythe, a pass-agg student, are endlessly watchable. You isn’t perfect: it’s probably a little baggy in the middle, and it’s a shame that at least part of the final episode revolved around a terrified young woman imprisoned in a cage.  But it’s really very good indeed, and I’m looking forward to the second season.

Madam Secretary s5 ep 5

Henry is in Thailand for some conference or other, also being attended by his college girlfriend Rochana. Elizabeth, left back in D.C., is visibly just a little bit jealous, and she hasn’t even seen Henry and Rochana – still attractive, there’s no doubt about that – having dinner. With Rochana TAKING HENRY’S HAND. Hey-ho, I thought; I don’t actually want M-Sec’s marriage to hit the rocks, but would a little what-happens-in-Thailand-etc. be so bad?

Then Rochana disses the Thai King at the conference and, as she intended, she’s arrested and faces 60 years in jail. Elizabeth does her best to sound disappointed when Henry phones her with the news. “She did violate the law”, she murmurs. “We can’t interfere…” this being something that flies in the face of the subject of pretty much every episode ever of this show, which is essentially predicated on America interfering. Henry successfully asks the King for a Royal pardon, which at first Rochana is unaccountably peevish about: can’t she just stay in prison to make a point, or something? Nuh-uh, says Henry; we’re leaving. But as they’re driving out of Thailand the King dies, which invalidates the pardon; Rochana is recaptured and faces the death penalty; and Henry himself is in jail as well. Suddenly – what do you know? – interfering is OK again, and an exfiltration operation is put in motion.

Back home, meantime, Elizabeth is about to officially announce her candidacy for the Oval, and meeting with a Mike B-appointed ghost writer who is going to write a book for her. Matt is worried that M-Sec no longer likes him. And Jason is pissing about with his college applications. The show appears to be determined to put Elizabeth and her family through a run for the Presidency, and I’m in two minds about that, because I quite like the focus on foreign affairs, even if this week’s foreign affair wasn’t quite the one I was hoping for. Never mind. A good episode.

Public Service Announcement 4 of 2019: Magnum P.I., True Detective

Nearly nine years ago – my God – I reviewed the first two episodes of the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, noting that “(e)ither I’m the worst possible viewer for the Hawaii Five-O reboot, or the best… I’ve never seen a single episode of the original”. Tucked away in the comments under that piece you might find one from a CJ Cregg, saying of Magnum P.I., “No doubt someone somewhere is watching to see how H50 does before they decide to remake that too…”.

And… here we all are. Yes, it’s finally time for another reboot of another Hawaiian-based TV classic of which I haven’t seen a single episode. This iteration of Magnum P.I. has Jay Hernandez – for Unpopcult purposes, Curtis Pryce in Scandal and Dante in Nashville – in the title role, supported by, among others, Zachary Knighton (FlashForward, Happy Endings), and Perdita Weeks. And Tim Kang, forever part of Unpopcult’s roll of honour for playing the gloriously deadpan Cho in The Mentalist. It’s exec produced by H50’s Peter Lenkov, among others, and it would seem to be part of CBS’s Hawaiian Television Universe, as Noelani and Kamekona might pop up. Obviously, it will be a lot of nonsense. Obviously, I will be watching (Wednesday 16 January, 9pm, Sky One).

Meantime, prestige-TV anthology drama series True Detective has just returned for its third season. I thought the first good, if flawed (principally in respect of its jaw-dropping attitude to women), and on the back of poor reviews I didn’t bother with the second. This time around Oscar-winning Mahershala Ali leads the cast, it’s about a “macabre child murder”, and the critics appear to be back onside. It would, however, take a little effort for me to watch it, given that it’s on Sky Atlantic, and that’s more effort than I’m presently minded to expend (Mondays, 10.10pm).

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 2

Jack Teague, regular guy, is on a plane to Hawaii with his family. But there’s an armed hijacker on board, who sedates regular guy Jack, blows a hole in the plane, then parachutes out taking regular guy Jack with him. Well, even if you’d never seen a moment of H50 before this, you’d probably have concluded that Jack isn’t so regular; and so it proves when the hijacker is found, very dead, in the jungle. And when Lou digs up footage of Agent Miller, Greer’s partner from last week, apparently waiting at the airport for Jack’s plane to land, it all suggests a link to China. Yes, Jack is a Chinese spy. Except that it isn’t quite so simple.

Meantime, Tani has embarked on the latest doomed attempt to prove that Adam Noshimuri is a baddie, by asking her old HPD instructor – the one she punched out, resulting in her dismissal from the Academy – to run tests on the gun she found in Adam’s house. He eventually agrees. My bet: it’ll be confirmed as the same gun that fired the bullets which killed Adam’s sister, but he’ll wriggle out again. Eddie the Dog has dug up the money Steve buried in his garden. Of course he has. Danny, unsurprisingly, is scathing: the Back Garden Bank is, he seethes at Steve, the “stupidest, most ignorant, dumbest idea you ever had in the nine years I’ve known you. Dumbest. Dumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumb”.

By the end of the episode Agent Miller has been REDACTED by the Chinese. Agent Greer – on the run from last week – has been captured, which is better news. But as Steve hands her over to the CIA she reminds him that something – apart from them sleeping together – happened in Marrakesh, and it’s the sort of something you probably don’t want a Chinese mole to be holding over you. I thought this was great. It’s also worth observing that the dialogue, last week and this, has had a welcome wit and lightness of touch.

Public Service Announcement 2 of 2019: Bull, Better Things, Sex Education, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

It’s difficult to know what to give top billing to. So let’s start with Bull, more or less explicitly a vehicle for Michael Weatherly with a slight procedural drama attached: he plays Dr Jason Bull, the head of a jury consulting firm. But really you could change “jury consulting firm” to “private investigation company” or, for that matter, “big-city FBI office”, and following some very minor tweaking of plots and characters it would still be the sort of thing one could half-watch while ironing, or idly perusing the web. Which is fine; as I keep saying, TV drama can’t – and shouldn’t – be wall-to-wall premium shows which need you to do your homework before and after watching. Season 2 ended with Dr Bull having a heart attack, and season 3 is now well under way in America, which suggests that, y’know, he survived, because the clue’s in the show’s title.

But here, of course, is the thing: Eliza Dushku, who was in three episodes at the end of the first season, and had been tapped for a regular role going forward, has just received a vast amount of cash money from CBS as an out-of-court settlement after being fired from the show following her complaints about Weatherly’s on-set conduct. This is… not good, and it will be interesting to see whether it affects the show’s future; traditionally, shows have kept going if they make financial sense, and everything would otherwise point to Bull being nailed-on for a fourth season. But the way in which the Roseanne reboot was summarily executed might suggest that times are changing (Friday 11 November, FOX (UK), 10pm).

And, continuing that general theme, the first season of acclaimed comedy-drama Better Things makes its way to the UK tonight. It’s very much a collaboration between the exceptional Pamela Adlon and her long-time friend and supporter Louis C.K.; between them, they wrote every episode in the first two seasons. Adlon – very often the best thing in Louie – stars as Sam Fox (a name which clearly has less significance in the US than in the UK), an actress and single parent to three children. (She has three children in real life.)

But here, again, is the thing: Louis C.K. has since been unmasked, to Adlon’s evident anguish, as a serial sexual predator, is not involved with the show’s third season, and in his post-shame comedy routines he appears to be doubling-down on being a persona non grata. This is… not good. I plan to keep the art and the artist firmly apart, though, and watch this show (tonight, BBC Two, 9pm).

Two less #problematic shows: Netflix’s dramedy Sex Education, starring Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist and Asa Butterfield as her teenage son, who starts to provide therapy to his peers. The critics who have seen it like it, generally quite a lot. And Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is back on Netflix in the UK this weekend for its final run of episodes. I haven’t found it easy to write about, but I’ve started so I’ll finish; reviews until the end.

Also starting: season 8 of amiable cops-in-the-sun drama Death in Paradise (tonight, BBC One, 9pm); season 2 of The Orville (tonight, FOX (UK), 9pm); season 2 of Friends From College (tomorrow, Netflix); and season 1 of Titans (tomorrow, Netflix).