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.
New season, new Doctor, as latest incarnation Peter Capaldi takes over the Tardis. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the old companion – for the moment at least – though, which is a bit of a problem for me since Clara drives me mad, but I’m still watching for now. Episode 1 kicks off tomorrow (Saturday) at 7.50pm on BBC1, and I’ll review as soon as I can.
Turning from new UK sci-fi to some cult US stuff, the one and only season of Joss Whedon’s future-set space western Firefly begins another repeat run on Monday (25th August) at 9pm on Syfy UK. Unpopcult’s friends at TV Rerun UK tell us it’ll be on every weekday – which isn’t exactly convenient but at least it’s only one season, I suppose – followed by a screening of its spin-off movie Serenity on Saturday 13th September at 9pm. Both are worth a look if you’re interested in sci-fi and/or Whedon’s work: Firefly in particular has a die-hard following that only gets more fervent with the passage of time, as well as featuring Whedon faves Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk, along with our own Jed’s fave Morena Baccarin, in early roles. We won’t be reviewing since it’s a repeat, but if you’re watching and want to chat about it, comments are more than welcome on this thread.
Arriving on UK screens tomorrow (Monday) night at 9pm on Watch, and adapted from Jason Mott’s novel “The Returned,” US drama Resurrection is apparently different from both the French tv series Les Revenants (confusingly also called “The Returned” over here) and its upcoming US remake, but it’s difficult to see how (beyond the obvious) given the basic premise they share: small, insular town has to deal with a bunch of people suddenly coming back from the dead, said people including one wee boy who may well scare the living daylights out of me.
I doubt we need quite so many versions of what is essentially the same story (Les Revenants itself was based on a French film, just to add to the confusion), whatever language or country they’re in, and this one will need some kind of miracle if it’s going to outdo the creepy atmosphere and downright scariness of its Gallic rival. But a second season has already been commissioned, it’s ridiculously quiet at Unpopcult HQ and I need something to watch so I think I’ll give ep 1 a shot and see how we go from there.
Masters of Sex, one of my favourite new shows of 2013, returns to British screens tomorrow night for the start of season 2. Like The Americans, one of my other cable favourites of last year, the advance word is that the show has used the opportunity of a second season to become even better. Meantime, the first season has hoovered up deserved Emmy nominations for the refulgent Lizzy Caplan as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama, and for Allison Janney and Beau Bridges in the Guest categories. And we’re only around four weeks behind American transmission, which isn’t at all bad (tomorrow, More4, 10pm).
We’re still waiting for the autumn deluge of new and returning shows, but there are a few other things starting around now. After three years the not-as-good American remake of The Killing (Forbrydelsen) was itself killed by AMC, but resurrected by Netflix for a fourth and final six-episode season, released on August 1. Sky Atlantic has Gomorrah, the Italian adaptation of a book about the Camorra, which was also turned into a film a few years ago (tonight, 9pm).
And new channel TruTV – no, me neither – starts today, and will be showing Conan O’Brien’s talk show nightly at 11pm. I’m very much not an expert, so the next few sentences can be discounted, but it seems to me as an outsider that the late night talk shows have simultaneously become more visible – if anyone does a bit that’s worth seeing, it’s all over social media within 24 hours – and less essential to their parent broadcasters, because fewer people are watching live. Which gives Coco’s show, with a small but select audience on parent cable channel TBS, a fighting chance of greater cultural relevance than might otherwise be the case. Meantime, here in the UK it isn’t easy to see any of the American late night shows as they were intended – we get The Daily Show on cable/satellite, some Fallon if you hunt around, and that’s about it, I think. I wonder if Stephen Colbert’s impending move to Letterman’s chair might prompt an enterprising British broadcaster to take a chance on it? Probably not.
It’s been a while, and More4’s idiotic four-month-long game of hide and seek means that UK viewers are now almost a full calendar year behind the USA. But we can put all of that nonsense behind us, because Scandal is BACK. The deserved winner of the Best Drama award in Unpopcult’s 2013 poll is now in the hands of Sky Living, which on balance is probably good news – say what you like about Sky, but in general its scheduling is better than that of other British TV broadcasters.
Anyway, let’s not worry about that. The second season of Scandal was perhaps as close to flawless as that of any network drama I can recall (although the just-concluded season 5 of The Good Wife came pretty close). And as far as I can discern, stepping gingerly between spoiler-shaped landmines, we don’t need to worry about a drop in quality as we go hurtling into season 3, even if it had to shed a few episodes to fit in with Emmy-nominated Kerry Washington’s pregnancy. It’s Scandal time, folks. SCANDAL (Thursday 31 July, 9pm, Sky Living).
Also coming soon – heh – the fantastic Masters of Sex.
Maggie Q’s new show Stalker may be causing a lot of controversy in the US before it’s even aired but, here in the UK, some of us are still waiting to see the end of her old show Nikita. That wait is nearly over at last, however, as the fourth and final season arrives on Sky Living on Monday night (21st) at 9pm.
The second and third seasons had their flaws – Alex, Ryan, Alex, Amanda the Mad Scientist, Alex – but there was plenty of great stuff too so, as long as Nikki, Michael and Birkhoff are around, I’m in. And we’re only getting 6 episodes this time, which hopefully means time to wrap up the story without getting bogged down in nonsense like the Zetrov carry-on. Yay! Anyway, check back here for reviews of every ep, laced with a liberal amount of shipping and squeeing. In fact, let me start practising now: Mikita 4eva!!!!! SQUEEEEEE!!!!!