Single-camera police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine starts its UK run this week, fresh from unexpected Golden Globes for the show itself and star Andy Samberg, and also featuring Andre Braugher, about whom I’ve already said my piece more than once. It’s been well enough reviewed, and Fox in America has picked it up for a full 22-episode run, even if renewal for a second season is far from certain at this stage. It might be good. But I have no idea whether I’ll find it funny, still less whether you will. Tricky chap, comedy (Thursday 16 January, E4, 9pm).
Mob City, meantime, is another in the more or less unstoppable flood of American event TV, with big names attached every which way. Created by Frank Darabont (director, inter alia, of the overrated The Shawshank Redemption, and exec producer of The Walking Dead), and featuring Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead); Milo Ventimiglia (Peter Petrelli off of Heroes); the peerless Gregory Itzin (24, Covert Affairs, The Mentalist, everything else, and yet to play Nixon, the role he was born to); Neal McDonough (Justified, Desperate Housewives, everything else); Edward Burns (who was, at one point, the coming man in US movies); Robert Knepper (Heroes, Prison Break, everything else); Patrick Fischler (everything on TV ever); etc. Etc. etc. Etc.
Almost incidentally, it’s a six-part 1940s-LA-set cops vs gangsters noir drama from cable channel TNT, and it’s had decent if unspectacular reviews – it may be that it looks better than it is. But with only six parts, it might be worth at least giving it a go without feeling as if you’re signing half of your life away (Friday 17 January, FOX, 10pm).
Also starting: post-hiatus Big Bang Theory (Thursday, E4, 8.30pm) and 2 Broke Girls (ditto, 9.30pm); and from Canada, season 4 of Lost Girl (Thursday, Syfy UK, 10pm) and season 1 of cop drama Played (Friday, 5USA, 10pm).
Not starting: season 5 of Justified, which Channel 5 has confirmed it won’t be showing. Come on, More 4. Living. Netflix. Someone.
And coming very soon: Unpopcult’s favourite bromance is back…
The President of the US is about to undergo an operation. Renowned surgeon Dr Toni Collette is going to carry it out. But wait! Dr Toni Collette’s family have been taken hostage by Dylan McDermott and his piercing blue eyes, and she has to choose: kill the President and they live, save the President and they DIE.
Since this particular plotline seems like it’s already on tv every other week, Channel 4′s latest US import “Hostages” certainly has its work cut out for it in terms of trying to surprise UK viewers or even just holding their attention for the duration of its 15-episode run. It didn’t manage either of those feats in the US: reviews were “mixed” and the season (and probably series, no way this is getting renewed) finished earlier this week with abysmal ratings. But – as far as I can tell with my hand over my eyes, trying to avoid seeing too many spoilers – it looks like the main story is mostly complete by the end of the run, and tv is still a post-Christmas wasteland for the next week so I could do with some of the”high-octane” po-faced drama that the Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS combo promises. I’m going to give it a whirl. (The fact that Dylan McDermott is looking seriously handsome these days has nothing whatsoever to do with that decision, obviously.) If you fancy joining me, the pilot starts tonight at 9pm on Channel 4. I’ll review the first ep anyway and we’ll see what happens after that.
One of my favourite distractions returns this week, as UK viewers get season 6 of Castle. Now that Caskett is a thing, the writers need to find ways of making that more of a struggle than it should be (apart, of course, from the visibly diminishing chemistry between the two leads), so season 5 ended on some bobbins relationship cliffhanger, which presumably won’t be allowed to get in the way too much. You’ll probably know by now if it’s your sort of thing. It’s mine (Alibi, Thursday 9 January, 9pm).
Before that, we get our first look at The CW’s sci-fi drama The Tomorrow People, about teenagers who have evolved supernatural powers. It stars Jacob from Lost, Nina Myers from 24, Peyton List (Roger Sterling’s second wife in Mad Men), someone off of Home and Away, and a few others. It’s co-created by Greg Berlanti (Eli Stone, No Ordinary Family, Arrow), Julie Plec (The Vampire Diaries) and Phil Klemmer (Chuck), with all three exec producing alongside Danny Cannon of the CSI stable. And it’s a remake of a fondly-remembered (by those who saw it, which doesn’t include me) 70′s UK teen drama. So on the face of things it has a lot going for it, but the critical response in America was lukewarm at best, and ratings have been nothing special either. Unpopcult isn’t bothering, unless CJ has a change of heart (E4, Wednesday 8 January, 9pm).
And, belatedly, we should note The 7.39, a two-part drama about a man (David Morrissey) and woman (Sheridan Smith), both in committed relationships, who meet on a commuter train and fall for each other. The first episode, which was enjoyed by at least one friend of Unpopcult, was broadcast last night, and is on the iPlayer; the finale is tonight. Now, let it be said right here and now that I am entirely in favour of scenarios in which attractive younger women fall for older married men. As, presumably, is the writer of The 7.39, David (One Day) Nicholls, who is 47 and married. Perhaps David Morrissey, who is 49 and married, is too. I can’t help but think, though, that The 7.39 would be a more interesting proposition if the gender roles were reversed. Or if it had been written by a woman. Or if one of the leads hadn’t been quite as good-looking. Or… something (BBC1, 9pm).
Also starting: NCIS season 11 (Fox, Friday 10 January, 9pm); Grey’s Anatomy season 10 (Sky Living, Wednesday 8 January, 10pm); and Longmire’s first appearance on Freeview (5USA, tonight, 9pm), about which I’m not going to say anything in case we get accused again of not doing our homework. And Hostages, also coming soon, will have its own PSA later in the week.
As ever, Unpopcult’s only New Year resolution is to watch more TV, and we’re starting about now.
In 2013, Danish/Swedish cop drama Bron/Broen became the latest European drama to generate a well-meaning English-speaking-world remake or two, with a British/French (The Tunnel) and an American/Mexican imitation now available. But the good news is that the real thing is back this Saturday, with both principals – Sofia Helin and the underrated Kim Bodnia – on duty once again. This time, the border-spanning crime which throws them together happens when a ship, containing a very unpleasant surprise or two, rams the Øresund Bridge. As with season 1, reviews here as soon as I can manage them, a task which will be hampered by the BBC once again opting for those stupid double-bills (Saturday 4 January, 9pm, BBC 4).
Then on Monday, UK viewers get the make-or-break season 3 of Revenge. Season 1 was awesome; season 2, on the other hand, really wasn’t as good, although I was a lone voice in suggesting that it wasn’t that bad, either. My theory remains that when critics and viewers are suckered into believing that a show they like is a “guilty pleasure”, the inevitable backlash is louder and longer, as they scramble to claim that the show was never all that in the first place. Once again: there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. Like something, don’t like something, but don’t let would-be tastemakers make you feel guilty about it. There’s more than enough room for feeling guilty in real life.
Deep breath. Anyway. The good news is that season 3 ratings have held firm enough to make a further renewal more likely than not for now, which I’m hoping means, in turn, that the storytelling problems which marred the second season have been ironed out (Monday 6 January, 9pm, E4).
And, tonight (Thursday), ITV starts a rerun of the first season of 80s-set Russians-in-the US spy drama The Americans. If you’re fed up with Homeland – and quite a few people seem to be – this might fill the espionage-thriller gap in your life. I think it’s a great show, and tonight’s first episode was one of the best pieces of TV in 2013 (10.35pm).
Also starting: season 9 of Criminal Minds (Monday, 9pm, Sky Living), and season 4 of Mike and Molly (Monday, 9.30pm, Comedy Central). And Universal has started nightly re-runs of the first half of Sleepy Hollow, the show which, along with Unpopcult double-award-winner The Blacklist, has been the biggest hit of the new network dramas in America. It’s worth a look.
Unpopcult favourite Borgen returns this weekend for its third season. At the end of season 2 we left Birgitte (the radiant Sidse Babett Knudsen) in power, if only just. By the start of season 3 we’ve moved on two and a half years; Birgitte is out of politics, and making a nice living on the public speaking circuit, with a few consultancies and board memberships on the side. She will, however, be drawn back into the political world during the season, and will also acquire a new boyfriend (Archie off of Monarch of the Glen), which presumably means that those of us holding out for a reunion with Philip are going to be disappointed.
There’s no getting away from the fact that the reaction in Denmark to this season was muted, and the advance word from America – where they’re about halfway through – is that it doesn’t match up to seasons 1 and 2. Still, we’ll be the judges of that, and even lesser Borgen is going to be better than just about everything else on TV. Creator Adam Price is on the record as saying that there won’t be a fourth season, so we should enjoy it while we can. Usual stupid double-bills (Saturday, BBC4, 9pm).
We should probably have mentioned this before now, but The Client List started this week in the UK. It stars Jennifer Love Hewitt (who also exec produces, as is the fashion these days) as a hard-pressed single mom who goes to work in a massage parlour – called, apparently, ‘The Rub’ - which, it turns out, provides “extras” to its clientele. The clue should probably have been in the name. This isn’t the worst premise for a show by any means, but reviews in America were lukewarm at best, and after two seasons it’s just been cancelled. Which isn’t great news for new channel Lifetime UK, as it was part of its launch night package, along with ‘The Conversation With Amanda de Cadenet’. (Mondays, 10pm, Lifetime UK – but plenty of repeats if you want to catch up.)
There have been quite a few vampire shows on TV over the past few years, and now Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays the most famous one of all, in NBC’s US/UK production of Dracula. Carnivàle creator Daniel Knauf is showrunner, and while it’s pleasing to note that UK viewers are getting the show within a week of US transmission it’s had mixed reviews, to say the least, in America. Some people do like it, though, and ratings for that first episode were decent if unspectacular. There was never any chance that I’d be watching it, but even CJ – who does like a bit of vampire – is giving this a miss. If anyone’s watching, though, let us know if our sight-unseen judgment is misplaced (Thursday 31, Sky Living, 9pm).
No such concerns about the return of The Big Bang Theory for its seventh season the same night: the words “The whole universe was in a hot dense state…” have become the most solid guarantee of multi-camera sitcom quality since Friends was at its peak. A ratings monster in the States, the show is actually on a creative upswing – season 6 was measurably better than its predecessor – with a stellar cast and a warm heart under all of the snark. Haters gonna hate, but the rest of us will just enjoy (Thursday 31, E4, 8.30pm).
Public Service Announcement 45 of 2013: Strike Back, Ripper Street, The Escape Artist, The Vampire Diaries, The Mentalist
All righty, the clocks have gone back an hour, which is the tv schedulers’ cue to ram another bunch of shows on the box.
First up tonight (Monday) at 9pm, we have the return of two shows unpopcult won’t be troubling itself with: Strike Back (season 4 if you count the Richard Armitage season) on Sky 1 and Ripper Street (season 3) on BBC 1. I gave up on Strike Back a long time ago but if you’re looking for bombastic action tv with as much gratuitous nudity in it as possible, fill your boots. As for Ripper Street, whether it’s a good or bad addition to the period English serial killer genre, I don’t know, but if you’re a fan, enjoy.
Tomorrow night (Tuesday) at 9pm meanwhile, is even busier. BBC 1 has “The Escape Artist starring David Tennant, an actor whom I like but not quite enough to watch every single time he turns up in every second programme that’s made in the UK. Also “British legal thriller” is not a genre I’m overly enthusiastic about so I’ll be giving it a miss. Especially since The Vampire Diaries (season 5) and The Mentalist (season 6) are returning at exactly the same time, on ITV2 and Five respectively.
Both shows had their problems last year. Diaries, in particular, had an appalling fourth season and reviewing it every week put me in a terrible mood so I don’t think I’ll be doing that any more. Especially since the programme is now moving on to its college years period; always a “difficult” (and often disastrous) transition for a high school drama to make. Still, I’m daft enough to keep watching if not writing about it for now, since Damon is always good value and I’m hoping that the migration of the dreadful Klaus and the rest of the Mikkaelsons to their own spin-off series might re-energise the show and fix everything else. Hmmm.
The Mentalist meanwhile – while nowhere near as bad or as infuriating as Diaries – did not have a great fifth run either, with the mediocre episodes outnumbering the good ones by some distance. It did pull off a few home runs, however, and the news that Red John will finally be unmasked in the first half of the season is more than welcome. Again, I’m hoping that will re-energise the show and er, fix everything else. As well as giving us some serious Jisbon shipping opportunities – SQUEE!!!!!
Anyhoo, I’m still very fond of Jane and co, so, Red or Dead, the plan is to carry on reviewing each Mentalist ep as soon as I can. Even if it is now on on a Tuesday instead of a Friday, which is just wrong.
First up, a big welcome back to returning Unpopcult favourite Person of Interest for its second season. In its first year Person of Interest built on an intriguing premise and put together a run of episodes just about as good as anything you’re going to get from a network procedural drama. We’re now more than a year behind America, which is far from ideal – about a year from ideal, if you’re counting – but never mind; I’m just pleased to see it again. As with season 1, weekly reviews here (Thursday 24 October, Channel 5, 10pm).
Also this week, the return of Elementary, another excellent procedural and always worth watching for Jonny Lee Miller’s performance as Sherlock, which is every bit as good, at least, as Benedict Cumberbatch’s – yes, I am going to keep saying it; and no, I’m not letting it go. I was toying with weekly reviews of this one as well, but frankly for the moment I’ve got too much on. I’ll see how things look later in the run (Tuesday 22 October, Sky Living, 9pm).
Finally, ASBO/superpower hybrid Misfits returns for its fifth and final run. Creator Howard Overman has recently gone on the record to say that he didn’t think the fourth season was up to much. As it happens, I thought it rather better than the third. Anyway, with Joe Gilgun – who had an excellent season 4 – still in place, and perhaps a renewed determination to go out on a high, this might be worth one more go. Weekly reviews of this one as well (Wednesday 23 October, E4, 10pm).
Also starting: David MItchell and Robert Webb’s comedy/drama three-parter Ambassadors (Wednesday 23 October, BBC2, 9pm). And coming soon: The Mentalist, The Vampire Diaries, Big Bang, and David Tennant vehicle The Escape Artist, which is actually about a barrister, not an escapologist.
Winter is just about upon us, so obviously there are seven thousand (give or take) shows coming back or starting up. Jed will cover the second half of this week (POI! Other stuff!) in due course, but there’s a whole lot to get through before then so hold on to your remotes and here we go….
First up is season 2 of The Paradise, the shipping and shopping drama that doesn’t have Gregory Fitoussi in it. Sorry, everybody. But I suppose it’s the best we can do department-store drama-wise till Mr Selfridge comes back in the new year. And at least Miss Audrey will keep things trucking along meantime. Oh, wait… Hmmm. Er, anyway, if you want to check it out, 8pm tonight (Sunday) on BBC1 is the place. I’ll be reviewing the first ep at least and wondering what super-heroine shop assistant Denise will invent this time. The Internet? A cure for cancer? It’s Denise so I wouldn’t rule anything out.
Some slightly more modern fare makes it debut tomorrow (Monday) night, meanwhile, with David E Kelley’s recent medical drama Monday Mornings kicking off its first and only season at 9pm on Fox UK. Based on a novel (by real-life doctor Sanjay Gupta) about the weekly morbidity and mortality meetings at a busy US Hospital, it looks pretty earnest from the trailer, but Jamie “Apollo from BSG” Bamber’s in it, so I’ll be watching. While also trying not to get too attached, since it was cancelled way back in May.
Also on Monday night, the bafflingly successful Arrow returns to Sky 1 for a second season, starting at 8pm. I gave up on it after the first episode of the first season but if you’re one of its many fans, feel free to tell me what I’m missing, since I presume the answer isn’t just Stephen Amell’s abs. (Although they probably don’t hurt.)
And finally, Tuesday night at 10 pm on sees the UK debut of Vampire Diaries spin-off The Originals on Syfy UK. Yes, now Klaus has finished destroying the show I used to love, he’s been rewarded with his own shiny new series. Argh. There’s no way I could stand to watch a second of this abomination, since even the promo photos for the thing make me murderous, but, on the upside, now that the Mikkaelson menace has moved to New Orleans, Diaries (coming next week!) might have a hope in hell of not being wretched this year. We shall see.