What We’re Watching

In this week’s What We’re Watching, Andy Oates recounts the shows he’s been catching up on as Summer winds down and the new TV season appears on the horizon.

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Curb Your Enthusiasm

Curb Your Enthusiasm isn’t an immensely popular show in the UK, with it originally airing on Channel 4, but since not receiving much attention from the likes of Netflix or Amazon Video. Indeed, the only way to view Curb Your Enthusiasm in the UK legally is through either buying the DVD released or purchasing it through sites such as iTunes, Google Play and TalkTalk TV Store. However, it’s a show that is absolutely worth the additional effort of watching it. Curb Your Enthusiasm follows Larry David, creator of the hit 1990’s sitcom Seinfeld, playing a fictionalized version of himself as he suffers through the tribulations of everyday life in Hollywood. Larry’s cynical character is judgemental of everyone around him, while frequently struggling to do right himself, in this fantastic series. Due to David’s past, Curb Your Enthusiasm works brilliantly as a sister show to Seinfeld, but it will still be enjoyable to anybody unfamiliar with Seinfeld. A host of fantastic guest stars including Ted Danson, Michael J. Fox, Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Scorsese, Mel Brooks, Ben Stiller and more serve as a spectacular cherry on top of David’s hysterical series. With Larry David recently confirming he’s returning to create Season 9, stating that “In the immortal words of Julius Caesar, ‘I left, I did nothing, I returned.'”, there’s no better time to try Curb Your Enthusiasm than now. Hopefully, a streaming service such as Netflix can add it to their roster and open it up to a wider audience.

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Archer

Archer just finished its seventh season earlier this summer, which is an impressive feat for any show. Even more impressively, FX have renewed the show up to the completion of a tenth season, guaranteeing it sticks around for at least another three years. However, Archer has certainly earned this honour by providing seven (mostly) consistent years of laughs. The show follows spy Sterling Archer and his various colleagues throughout their escapades, serving as a humorous parallel to spy entertainment such as the James Bond films. The show mostly follows this setting but sometimes deviates, most notably in Season 5 (known as Archer Vice) where Archer’s place of work is disbanded and as such he and the other characters enter the drug industry, and Season 7 which features the characters becoming private detectives. While some fans argue that the show is at its strongest when it sticks to its spy roots, there’s still plenty of laughs to be had in Seasons 5 and 7, while perhaps they don’t rank amongst the show’s strongest. Speaking of strong seasons, I was surprised when I first began watching it that Archer has a strong entry season too that doesn’t take too long to get into the swing of things, unlike many other shows out there. Archer is one of the strongest comedies going right now, especially one of the strongest animated comedies, and with all seven seasons currently being available on Netflix, I can’t recommend you check it out highly enough.

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BoJack Horseman

Speaking of brilliant animated comedies, BoJack Horseman is a fairly recent entry into the genre, having just completed its third season this summer. BoJack is a Netflix Original with a star-studded cast, featuring Will Arnett as the eponymous BoJack, Aaron Paul as his unwanted housemate, Todd, Alison Brie as a friend, Diane, who meets BoJack by becoming the ghostwriter of his autobiography and more. The show’s first season takes a while to show its true colours, with the first six episodes, while entertaining, not showing much that you couldn’t really find from any number of similar shows. However, in the second half of the season, BoJack Horseman reveals its heart as it delves more into the psyche of its main character, a horse who was the star of a 90’s sitcom and has since become washed up, cynical and depressed. BoJack Horseman is a comedy at skin level, but it is not afraid to cross the line into drama frequently and expertly as episodes explore the darkness of BoJack’s mind. The show even comes off as quite depressing at certain times, and this summer’s Season 3 was perhaps the most depressing the show has put out yet, while simultaneously the most entertaining. Fish Out of Water being arguably the show’s most entertaining episode, and an episode later in the season (you’ll know it when you see it) being by far the most depressing. Nevertheless, BoJack Horseman is the exact kind of quality you’d expect from a Netflix Original, and definitely worth a watch. I implore anybody that watches to make sure they stick with it until the end of Season One at least to truly see what the show is.

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Gotham

I can’t remember a show in recent years that I’ve had as much of a love-hate relationship with as I have had with Gotham. I remember watching the pilot and establishing that relationship then and there, establishing main character Jim Gordon (Ben McKenzie) as a straight cop in crooked Gotham investigating the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, Thomas and Martha Wayne. The show would make extremely on the nose references to future Batman villains that starred and the tone wasn’t really consistent. But it also established elements of the show I loved, such as Robin Lord Taylor’s fantastic portrayal of Oswald Cobblepot, also known as The Penguin. The first season limped on with no real sense of direction and delivering hit and miss episodes in what was very much a “case of the week” style show without a strong overarching narrative. While there were a fair few episodes I enjoyed in Season One, I found myself unimpressed with the finale and pretty much uninterested in a Season Two. However, after hearing positive impressions from fans who stuck with it, I decided to give Gotham a second chance when its second season hit Netflix earlier in the summer. I’m glad I did. Gotham is still far from a perfect show, but it has become a much more entertaining one. Season Two has a stronger focus on serialized storytelling, with a clear narrative arc for all the episodes. Furthermore, Gotham has utilized the idea of two separate plots for the first and second half of the series, which helps stop the plot become tedious with the hefty 22 episode order. The show’s acting also improves, meaning Lord Taylor’s incredibly enjoyable Penguin is also joined by an improved Cory Michael Smith, who is given a lot more to do with Edward Nygma, the younger version of the villainous Riddler. Several of the show’s staple cast members become more enjoyable too with the stronger content, and there are some fantastic additions such as James Frain as the mysterious Theo Galavan and B.D. Wong as Hugo Strange. Gotham works best when viewed as a fun parallel universe to the incredibly popular Batman mythos, and with the show hitting a much better stride in its second season, I’m excited to see what the showrunners can give us this fall.

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Peep Show

I’m extremely late to the Peep Show party, but with the show having ended 2015, this summer I decided to finally get into Peep Show, with the entire series now available for free on All4. And so far, it’s becoming one of my favourite British comedies. Like other entries on this list, it doesn’t take Peep Show a long time to get into its stride, and when it does it is fantastic. There’s rarely an episode that feels bland or inferior to the others. The show has a heart to its characters but never in a way where it strays away from its comedic strengths. The hilarious David Mitchell and Robert Webb are fantastic as the leads Mark and Jeremy, with Mitchell’s Mark being a cynical loan manager and Webb’s Jeremy being a wannabe slacking musician. I was pleasantly surprised to find the show didn’t linger on the “odd couple” element the show has going for it and instead uses that as the foundation for its own brand of comedy. For a fantastic product of British levity, look no further than Peep Show.