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Public Service Announcement 46 of 2014: How To Get Away With Murder, Scorpion, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Big Bang Theory

October 22, 2014 18 comments

Lots beginning over the next couple of days. Let’s start in Shondaland: as well as the return of old warhorse Grey’s Anatomy for its eleventh season (tonight, Sky Living, 9pm), Ms Rhimes has exec produced new show How To Get Away With Murder, which is created by Peter Nowalk, a writer and exec producer on Scandal. How To… stars Viola Davis as defence attorney and law professor Annalise Keating, who along with her students becomes involved in a murder. Unsurprisingly, Keating also has a complicated home and professional life. It’s been reasonably well-received by critics, its ratings are holding up, it’s already had a full-season order, and it looks like another hit for Shonda. I’ll be watching: I’m not anticipating week-by-week reviews, but then I thought that about Scandal (tonight, Universal, 10pm).

The other big new drama of the week is Scorpion, in which a maverick misfit computer genius and his maverick etc. friends are recruited by the Department of Homeland Security to do the sort of thing that mavericks etc. would do in a show like this: unsolvable crimes are solved. Now, Scorpion had poor reviews, but for now at least the viewers are turning up in considerable numbers, suggesting that it’s doing something right (Thursday 23 October, ITV 2, 9pm).

As, apparently, is Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., although I’ll be fecked if I know what it is. I reviewed the first half of season 1 and eventually gave up, although our friend Tim over at Slouching towards TV kept going for the whole run. It’s now back for a second season, and fairness compels me to acknowledge that the general view is that the show improved a little after I stopped watching. I’m not starting again, though (Friday 24 October, Channel 4, 8pm).

A much safer bet is The Big Bang Theory, back for its eighth season. There’s a simple reason why it’s America’s top-rated comedy: it’s very, very good at what it does. And there’s a simple reason why the cast members are worth every dollar of their new pay deals: they make CBS an absolute fortune (Thursday 23 October E4, 8.30pm).

And American Horror Story returned yesterday for its fourth season, subtitled Freak Show (Tuesdays, FOX UK, 10pm).

All six of these shows, incidentally, are at worst a few weeks behind American transmission, suggesting that UK broadcasters are finally getting that particular message. There’s more to come before the end of October as well; and more still in November.

Public Service Announcement 45 of 2014: Hawaii Five-0

October 18, 2014 Leave a comment

We’ve had our ups and downs over the years with Hawaii Five-0, but season 4 was probably the best since the first one, which means that there are grounds to be optimistic about season 5, starting in the UK this weekend. I know it looks as if I’m pretty cynical about this show, but I really do like it: at its best, it balances decent action and plotting with a winning sense of its own ridiculousness. I’m not expecting H50 to get much further, to be honest, so we should enjoy the scenery, the product placement, the frequent “Oh, FFS!” moments, and the Bromance Watch while we can. Weekly reviews as ever (Sunday 19 October, Sky 1, 9pm)

And lots of other procedurals are back: NCIS: LA (Sunday, Sky 1, 10pm); Law & Order: SVU (Sunday, Universal, 9pm); and Criminal Minds (Monday, Sky Living, 9pm) all return to British screens over the next few days, as does – or did – House of Lies (yesterday, Sky Atlantic, 10pm; but probably repeats, on demand, and so on).

More soon, including How To Get Away With Murder, Scorpion, SHIELD, The Flash, and others.

Public Service Announcement 44 of 2014: The Apprentice, The Knick, Sleepy Hollow

October 14, 2014 1 comment

More tv, in case your Sky+/TIVO/PVR hasn’t yet exploded.

First up, old warhorse The Apprentice returns tonight (Tuesday) on BBC1 at 9pm for its 14th series, with episode 2 following hot on its heels tomorrow, also at 9pm. I don’t think I’ll be watching or writing about it – I’ve reached the Big Brother-type stage where I find the contestants and tasks annoying rather than funny – but if you’re still keen on the show and looking for a fellow fan, you can always check out our friend Tim’s recaps over at Slouching towards tv.

From something old to something new, meantime, as Steven Soderbergh’s new project The Knick begins its UK run on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Thursday. Starring the always excellent, always handsome and yet never quite a megastar Clive Owen and set in a New York hospital in 1900, advance word suggests that The Knick is uncompromising, serious and incredibly bloody drama – not for the squeamish, then, or even those who just haven’t had their dinner yet. Cinemax and I don’t tend to rub along well together (oh God, the Strike Back sequels) but the overwhelmingly positive critical consensus seems to be that this show is nothing like their usual fare and demands both attention and respect, so I’ll give the first episode a go and report back in due course.

If neither reality tv nor realistic tv is your thing, however, there’s always the second season of Sleepy Hollow to check out; it hits UK screens tomorrow (Wednesday) at 9pm on Universal. Both Jed and I tried it, and both Jed and I gave up on it very quickly but it has plenty of fans and the very charming Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane so if a wisecracking procedural with a dollop of the supernatural is your cup of tea, drink it in.

And that’s all for today, but check back over the next few days for previews of – amongst other things – Scorpion, How To Get Away With Murder and, of course, Ultimate Beach Bromance, sorry, I mean Hawaii Five-0.

Public Service Announcement 43 of 2014: Homeland, Gotham, The Code

October 9, 2014 5 comments

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.

Public Service Announcement 42 of 2014: Forever, The Blacklist, Justified

October 2, 2014 Leave a comment

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.

Public Service Announcement 41 of 2014: The Leftovers

September 16, 2014 2 comments

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…

Public Service Announcement 40 of 2014: Haven, Legends, The Strain

September 15, 2014 1 comment

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.

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