• Jon Matthews

I've been watching...

Tempting though it may be, I have decided not to add my thoughts to the cacophony of voices giving their opinion on the covid-19 pandemic. Instead I took a look at my Netflix/Amazon Prime history from the last few months and decided to give my thoughts on what I’ve been watching lately, in case it is of some use to you in these trying times. I’ve split this into 3 categories, classic TV, new TV and film. This list does not include DVDs I’ve watched or film/tv I’ve streamed from other sources.

Classic TV:

Star Trek – The Next Generation (Netflix)

TNG is comfortably my favourite Star Trek series and my wife and I have gradually been working our way through it for some time now. The show’s finest episodes represent fantastic drama, tension and intrigue. It’s weakest episodes, however, are guilty of just going through the motions in order to fill a spot in the hefty 24 episode seasons demanded of shows back in the day. A good quality watch it/skip it guide may be useful. Sub plots are occasionally full of all-American-apple-pie-cheese that usually manages to be more endearing that grating. Definitely worth a re-watch and still peak Trek. (5/5).

Porridge (Netflix)

Despite the occasional N bomb, this show holds up pretty well. Ronnie Barker (the funny one from the two Ronnies) is fantastic as Fletcher, a surprisingly complex character, full of witty one-liners, many of which he wrote himself. The supporting cast are a jolly and diverse (though often stereotyped) bunch of characters who mostly serve as straight men to Barker’s lovable criminal. Episodes featuring Grouty (Maester Aemon from GoT) or Blanco (David Jason from David Jason) are particular highlights. It still makes me laugh. (4/5).

Blackadder (Netflix)

I’ve always had fond memories of Blackadder but I find that upon re-watching, series four aside, it is mostly pretty terrible. The first series is famously awful and although ‘II’ and ‘the third’ attempt to squeeze more jokes in, most episodes are actually quite boring. There are exceptions, mostly those redeemed by fun performances from guest stars. Rick Mayell (s2e1); Tom Baker (s2e3); Robbie Coltrane (s3e2) and Miranda Richards (s3e5) are particular highlights. Blackadder Goes Forth, however, is an exceptional piece of television with dark humour, excellent characters and bleak finale. Seasons 1-3 (2/5). Season 4 (5/5).

Fawlty Towers (Netflix)

I was once told that the secret to comedy was, ‘always leave the audience wanting more’. Fawlty Towers, with a total of 12 episodes, is the epitome of this. In stark contrast to a lot of British comedies, which go on far too long, it delivered 12 excellent episodes packed full of a variety of comedic styles. It dabbles in slapstick, but never relies on it. It dips its toe into stereotyping but (with the exception of Manuel) never dives straight in. It uses witty one-liners, but not so much it becomes mundane. It is driven by a solid cast who perform their characters exceptionally – after all, I think we’ve all met a Basil Fawlty. (5/5).

New TV:

Altered Carbon (Netflix)

I love sci-fi and, with a few exceptions, have been saddened by how sci-fi has been overrun with dystopian melodramas, half-arsed horrors and whatever Black Mirror is supposed to be. Altered Carbon has been popping up as a recommendation for months and a few people have mentioned it to me, so I gave it a go. I lasted 15 minutes before I got bored. Maybe I’ll give it another go but it doesn’t look fun. I just want weird aliens and cool spaceships, is that too much to ask? (0/5) – though arguably should have been given more of a chance.

Wynona Earp (Netflix)

We’re coming up on the end of season one and although we’ve taken an extended break (to meet my weird alien and cool spaceship craving by watching pretty much all of Farscape), we will definitely get back to this soon. A sort of Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Firefly modern fantasy western drama, with a handful of fun characters and one or two painfully annoying ones. (3.5/5) – I’m fairly sure this will increase the more we watch.

Another Life (Netflix)

In the past I’ve enjoyed some of Netflix’s science fiction offerings, Star Trek: Discovery has breathed new life into a franchise damaged by JJ Abrams obsession with lens flares and Ascension was a lot of fun with some excellent twists and turns. Another Life looked worth a watch. Katee Sackhoff deserves some credit for her fine attempt to play a thinly drawn out character with a painfully obvious traumatic backstory and it was for her that I kept watching as long as I did. The overall premise is good, but the story develops in fits and starts and the big reveals lack conviction. All the way through it just felt lacking and it was hard to work out exactly what was wrong and I think I carried on watching out of hope more than enjoyment. In the end I gave up two episodes out from the finale – which demonstrates how little I cared by this point. (1/5)

The Expanse (Amazon Prime)

I stopped watching The Expanse halfway through season 2 for a very different reason to why I gave up on Another Life. This is an exceptional series, dubbed the Game of Thrones of science-fiction, and is definitely worth a watch, even if you’re not a sci-fi fan. The characters are brilliant and played phenomenally well by a great cast. The show is well paced with tension building nicely throughout. The political backdrop is believable and it’s nice to see Ceres (my favourite dwarf-planet) get some action. It’s like Star Trek if the capitalists win. So, if it’s so good, why did I stop watching it? I decided I had to read the books first and God help me, if you spoil it for me, I’ll hunt you down like a depressed detective chasing a lost heiress. (5/5).

Star Trek: Picard (Amazon Prime)

I will review this fully when the series is complete.


Silence of the Lambs (Netflix)

There’s nothing I can say about this film that hasn’t already been said. If you’ve never watched it, watch it. If you haven’t watched it in the last 5 years, watch it. (5/5) – I’d consider making it higher but that sort of thing annoys me.

The Great Escape (Netflix)

Another truly classic film. Despite its length, it doesn’t drag, to such an extent it’s almost a surprise when you realise it’s nearing the end. I’ve always preferred The Colditz Story, because it contains numerous escape attempts (and is truer to events) rather than focussing on just one. Another classic much watch. (4/5).

The King (Netflix)

This is a great movie that hasn’t received the recognition it deserves. It follows the story of Henry V from his feud with his father up until the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt (spoiler alert, we won), though it has more in common with Shakespeare’s play than true history. A fine example of delightful pacing and Robert Pattinson is great fun as the Dauphin, with his outrageous French accent! (4/5).

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