What to expect from season 4 of Homeland, returning to UK screens this weekend? Well, after a generally lacklustre third season which waved goodbye both to credibility and to one of its main characters, some reinvention is called for, even if Carrie has added motherhood to the list of things she really isn’t cut out for but is doing anyway, like spying. So Carrie probably back in the field; Saul and Dar Adal indulging in some more competitive brooding; Nazarin Boniadi (Fara) is promoted to season regular, so perhaps something about whether Muslims can really be good Americans. MOAR naked Quinn butt, perhaps? The news that Damian Lewis has been seen on-set, though, is unwelcome, suggesting that in time-honoured fashion the writers will be both having and eating their cake, with Brody dream sequences or something else I don’t approve of.
And all of it, as CJ said in her Tyrant smackdown, against a real-life backdrop which is providing more than enough bad news from the Middle East. In fairness, though, the first two episodes have generally been pretty well-received in America – once again we’re only a few days behind, so well played Channel 4 – and I would really like to like Homeland again. So I’ll review the first couple of episodes at least, then we’ll see (Sunday 12 October, Channel 4, 9pm). EDIT: started with a double-bill in America, but one episode only in the UK. Which presumably means that there’ll be an effing double-bill later in the run.
One of the highest-profile new American series has its UK debut on Monday, with the start of Gotham. Exec produced for Fox by something of an Unpopcult dream team – The Mentalist‘s Bruno Heller, Nikita‘s Danny Cannon, and Gossip Girl‘s John Stephens – and starring Southland‘s Ben McKenzie, there’s a lot to like already, if only they didn’t actually have to go and make a TV show as well. Anyway, Gotham takes the Batman mythology and gives it an intriguing spin, with McKenzie playing the man who will become Commissioner Gordon, investigating the murder of a Mr and Mrs Wayne. Wonder if they had any children? Reviews have been good if not outstanding, ratings have so far been respectable, and it seems reasonable to conclude that you might well like it, if this is the sort of thing you like. Unpopcult hasn’t yet decided if this is the sort of thing it likes (Monday 13 October, Channel 5, 9pm).
And BBC4 is getting in on the action as well, with Australian political/conspiracy/media drama The Code kicking off this weekend. We’re only a couple of weeks behind original transmission with this one as well, so hats off to BBC4, and how about Parks and Rec? Anyway, Lucy Lawless is in it, it’s supposed to be good, and CJ’s giving it some thought (Saturday 11 October, BBC4, 9pm, effing double-bill).
But it’s make-your-mind-up time, because Hawaii Five-0, The Knick, The Flash, The Big Bang Theory, SHIELD, Scorpion, How To Get Away With Murder, and AHS are just some of the shows hitting UK screens before the end of October. More on all of that in due course.
New ABC drama Forever starts tonight in the UK. It stars Ioan Gruffudd as Dr Henry Morgan, a New York medical examiner who has a secret – he’s actually immortal!!!1! Yes, it’s Undead Body of Proof. In fairness, the premise offers at least the possibility of good silly fun, but the show opened in America to a critical reception which was largely unenthusiastic, while generally not being actually hostile. Equally, ratings haven’t been dreadful, but as yet are nowhere near a level which would guarantee renewal. CJ’s seen the first episode, and thinks it’s more for me; I haven’t seen it and won’t be bothering. But if anyone does, or has, let me know if I’m making a mistake (Sky 1, 9pm).
With that out of the way, though, let’s get the bunting out for the return of one of the best new shows of the 2013/14 season: The Blacklist is back. A killer concept, a well-paced backstory, and a scenery-chewing yet occasionally subtle central performance from James Spader; it’s everything a network procedural drama should be. My only hope for season 2 is that members of the supporting cast manage to emerge from Red Reddington’s shadow; but, hell, I don’t care too much if they don’t, because The Blacklist isn’t broke and doesn’t need fixing. As with season 1, weekly reviews (tomorrow, Sky Living, 9pm).
And there’s a sort-of return for Unpopcult favourite Justified, without a UK broadcaster for the moment, but as of the start of October season 5 is available on demand through Sky something-or-other. Without looking too closely, the better to avoid spoilers, I kind of got the impression that this season wasn’t quite as rapturously received as previous ones.
Might be as well to get the stuff lingering on your hard drive watched or deleted, though, because there’s much more around the corner: Homeland, Gotham, Sleepy Hollow, The Knick, How To Get Away With Murder, and Hawaii Five-0 are just some of the shows hitting UK screens over the next couple of weeks.
As CJ said yesterday, things are starting to get a little busier round here. On top of Haven, Legends, and The Strain, HBO’s ten-parter The Leftovers starts its UK run this evening on Sky Atlantic at 9pm. It’s another high concept: three years before the first episode, 2% or the population of the world disappeared for unexplained reasons, and the show focusses on the people left behind in a small town in the state of New York. The Leftovers was co-created by Lost’s Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta, the author of the novel on which the show is based. Both also exec produce, Lindelof had a hand in writing most of the episodes, and Justin Theroux, Christopher Eccleston, and Amy Brenneman are in the cast.
It attracted mixed reviews, to be sure, but many of the critics who liked the first episode really liked it and kept on liking it, and HBO has renewed it for a second season (standard HBO practice, but still welcome). Most importantly of all, viewing figures have stayed at more or less the same level throughout, suggesting very strongly that The Leftovers has found and kept an audience, albeit a “select” one. So all of that, plus the Lindelof factor, means that Unpopcult is in: weekly reviews, starting tonight.
And coming soon: oh, all the usual stuff, plus Gotham, The Knick, and The Flash. And we’re only about three weeks away from the return of The Blacklist…
The steady trickle of tv turns into a deluge this week: Jed will be along to talk about The Leftovers tomorrow but, in the meantime, here’s my contribution to the week’s PSA pot….
First up, Haven returns to Syfy UK at 9pm tomorrow (Tuesday) for the “first part” of its fifth and final season. Except that it’s one of those “final” seasons which is split into two halves (each strangely enough the length of a normal season) and shown in different years. *Rolls eyes*
Regardless, whether we’re calling it two seasons or one, I’m delighted we’re getting new episodes at all – after a pretty ropey first season, Haven has turned into something special and ending it forever on last season’s cliffhanger would have been UNACCEPTABLE. Especially since that season was fantastic, Audrey and Nathan make a gorgeous (if insanely star-crossed) ship and Duke, quite frankly, RULES. We won’t be doing weekly reviews, but comments about the show are, as always, welcome on this thread. (Especially if they involve lots of yelling at Evil Audrey.)
From a returning favourite to two newbies then, Wednesday night at 10pm brings with it the UK debuts of both Legends (on Sky 1) and The Strain (on Watch). Legends revolves around some undercover spy-related shenanigans which, yes, I know, but its USP is that the undercover spy in question is Sean Bean. Which, frankly, is all I need to know. Action tv afficionados may be attracted by the involvement of Howard “24 and Homeland” Gordon, certain viewers’ interest may be piqued by the presence of Ali Larter or Amber Valletta…..whatevs. It’s Ned Stark: Secret Agent, so count me in for now, anyway. I’ll review the first episode and we’ll see where we go from there.
Which brings me to The Strain, created by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, with Carlton “not Damon Lindelof but the other Lost guy” Cuse taking on showrunner duties. It’s about a nasty virus turning folk into vampires and threatening humanity as we know it so if you’re not cool with a) Hazmat suits, b) vampires or c) very scary telly, it’s maybe not for you but reviews have been good, it’s been renewed for a second season and I like a spot of the undead with my evening cuppa so I’m on review duties for ep 1 at least. Even if it means watching from behind the sofa and sleeping with all the lights on afterwards.
After a very quiet summer, we’re heading slowly but surely back into wall-to-wall tv territory so, to ease us in, unpopcult’s autumn season kicks off on Friday (12th) with the UK debuts of The Last Ship and Tyrant.
Much as I’d like it to be, The Last Ship isn’t actually about Will and Alicia from The Good Wife – *wipes away quiet tear* – nor any other doomed romance I’m over-invested in. Instead, it’s about an actual, er, ship – the big boat that sails on water kind – which surfaces after four months of radio silence to the news that the rest of the planet has been decimated by a terrible virus and Captain McSteamy from Grey’s Anatomy and his crew are humanity’s last hope for finding a cure. So far so sounds more like a two-hour movie than a ten-episode series, but the show did well enough in its summer run on TNT in the US for a second season to be commissioned and reviews have been a bit more positive than you’d expect given that critical marmite Michael Bay’s one of the executive producers. I’ll give ep 1 a go and report back anyway. If you fancy joining me, it’s on Sky 1 at 8pm on Friday.
Following hot on The Last Ship’s heels (or should that be The Last Ship’s stern?) at 9pm on Friday, this time on Fox UK, we have Tyrant, a show which I presume was conceived as a result of a dare: the nice, US-based son of a nasty, fictional, Middle Eastern dictator goes back to his birthplace after years away and ends up embroiled in the country’s political crisis. No potential for causing offence, there, not at all, of course and, coming from the team that brought you Homeland, I’m sure this will be a sensitive, balanced and in no way stupid or sensationalist look at Middle Eastern politics and people …. *dissolves into bitter laughter*
Er, yes, sorry. Anyway, again, we’ll review ep 1 at least as soon as we can. Meantime, look out for PSAs about The Leftovers, The Strain, Haven and more very soon.
Apparently when you’re trying to pitch a film or TV show, you sometimes need a killer high concept. Well, 50’s-set drama Crimes of Passion (original Swedish title Maria Lang, the author on whose books the series is based) is being touted as Mad Men meets Forbrydelsen. Put like that it sounds rather irresistible – sexy period setting meets Scandi-noir – even if, truth be told, it doesn’t sound too much like either; in particular, the midsummer setting for tonight’s instalment isn’t all that noir. Anyway, the BBC is doing its best to persuade us that this’ll fill the Saturday night subtitled drama gap. Thing is, though, that when tonight’s episode was shown in Sweden the reviews were poor, meaning that the rest of the series was released to DVD rather than being broadcast, which isn’t much of a recommendation at all. Still, the Radio Times’s Alison Graham likes it well enough, as does Andrew Collins in The Guardian, and I haven’t seen it, so who knows? Perhaps it travels well. Haven’t yet decided if I’m going to give it a go (tonight, BBC4, 9pm).
And coming soon – the same stuff as last time.
The second season of Under The Dome, based on a Stephen King novel that I haven’t read and won’t be reading, gets under way in the UK tonight. Season 1 certainly started well, but by midseason was becoming increasingly diverted by dumb storylines – like that one where that guy imprisoned that girl for what seemed like months – and complete bobbins about monarch butterflies and pink stars. And it was further handicapped by a lead character who failed to bring the charisma: whether that was the fault of the acting or the writing I have no idea.
Still, I watched until the end of the season, which says something (about Under The Dome or about me), and American viewing figures were good, suggesting that there’s an appetite for a show with a strong central mystery and a limited 13-episode season. Except, of course, those self-same viewing figures meant that the show, inevitably, was renewed; and, equally inevitably, viewing figures are down for the second season, with the critical response so far suggesting that those who have bailed out aren’t missing much at all (tonight, Channel 5, 10pm).
Coming soon: as well as the usual autumn glut of returning shows, UK starts for Tyrant, The Strain, and The Leftovers, among others. More in due course.