The not-so-good people of Mystic Falls are back from their mid-season break: Vampire Diaries returns to ITV2 this week at 9pm on Tuesday (19th). Given how annoying season 4 has been till now, I’m not really looking forward to it resuming, but I’ll still be watching and reviewing the show for now, even if it is more in hope than expectation.
Hey y’all / Attention mes amies – time to set your tv recording devices for one newbie and one returning show, both worthy of note over the next few days.
First up, tonight (Thursday) sees the UK premiere of Nashville on More 4 at 10pm. Ratings and reviews in the US have been solid rather than stellar for this everyday tale of country (musician) folk but it seems a safe bet for a second season and, even if it weren’t, the excellent cast is headed up by the magnificent Connie Britton – that’s TAMI TAYLOR – as country legend Rayna James and includes Eric “Martin from Without a Trace” Close as her husband, Hayden “Claire from Heroes” Panettiere as her arch-rival, and Powers “guy I know is famous but can’t remember what from” Booth as her panto villain dad. While the show has its fair share of flaws, there’s plenty to enjoy, including the accents, the gorgeous soundtrack – and I say that as someone generally not keen on country music – and Rayna’s history with her guitarist, which is, er, “complicated.” Not sure if we’ll be writing about it yet, but it’s worth watching. Especially bcause, y’know, MRS COACH.
We will, however, be writing about Spiral (Engrenages) which returns for a fourth season this week in the now standard Saturday subtitled drama slot – 9pm on BBC 4. Seeing as it’s now the law or something, it’s being shown in double bills again, which you know how we feel about, but fine, WHATEVER, SCHEDULERS. WHATEVER.
Anyway, for the uninitiated, Spiral is an uncompromising French drama about cops, lawyers, judges and criminals in Paris and it manages to be quite astonishingly grim, gritty and glam all at the same time. On the police side of things, Laure and Gilou’s determination to break every single rule of a) policing and b) common sense meant season three had more than its fair share of frankly infuriating moments but the judge and lawyer stuff was great, not least because Grégory Fitoussi’s Pierre (swoon) and Audrey Fleurot’s Joséphine almost set the tv screen on fire with the heat between them. (*fans self*) Never mind the season arc about a terror group waging war against the gendarmerie, there’s le shipping to be done!
What with Spiral and Mr Selfridge, unpopcult’s Fitoussi-watch team (ie me) will be on full alert for the next few weeks: I’ll be reviewing Spiral too and hoping for plenty of Pierre, a lot less of Laure and someone to get shot of Gilou. Join me?
Being Human – or the latest iteration of it, at least – returns to British screens tonight (Sunday) at 10PM on BBC3, and l don’t really know what to do about it.
I’ve always thought the show should have ended when we lost Mitchell (whom I adored, hopelessly and completely, in case I haven’t said it 17 million times already), and now, a season on, Annie and George are gone too, and I’m finding it impossible not to hate the idea of this new flat-sharing “ghost, vampire and werewolf” even trying to replace the original ones that I loved. Which I know sounds utterly mad, but, sweet though Hal and Tom may be, they can’t ever be Mitchell and George, and I can’t bloody bear Alex; the show returning tonight is now really “Being Human: The New Class” with a group of knock-offs I don’t care about stepping into the roles of characters I loved so much that it was (ok, still is) borderline unhealthy.
Sigh. I think that’s probably my decision made but it’s late, I’m tired and it’s been a very long week. If I lighten up, change my mind and tune in to the new season, I’ll let you know. If you give it a shot meantime, tell me if you think I should.
After an unwelcome three month hiatus season 1 of Person of Interest returns to UK screens tonight, in the not-much-sought-after Sunday 9pm slot. The show was really starting to get going, with what was by common consent its best episode to date, when it was taken off the air. We’re now essentially a year behind American transmission again for this show, and Channel 5 is building quite the track record for purchasing good American imports and then not knowing what to do with them. I wonder whether we’ll see season 2 at all, in fact (tonight, 9pm, Channel 5).
On the comedy side this week, 30 Rock is back for the rest of season 6. American viewers are well ahead of us here as well; they’re about to get the final episode of season 7, which will be the series finale as well (Wednesday 30 January, 10.30pm, Comedy Central). Season 8 of How I Met Your Mother is slightly fresher, if you allow for the show being arguably four or five years past its peak. However, it still scores every now and again, and it boasts, in Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel, two of the best sitcom performers of its era. It’s taking over The Big Bang Theory’s slot (Thursday 31, 8.30pm, E4). And season 2 of Charlie Sheen’s look-at-me-Chuck-Lorre vehicle Anger Management kicks off on Wednesday at 10pm on Comedy Central.
Finally, two more drama starts: season 8 of Criminal Minds (Monday 28, 9pm, Sky Living) and season 2 of the Dallas reboot (Tuesday 29, 9pm, Channel 5).
It’s way too early for there to be an uncomplicatedly happy ending to the season, so when dream boy Archie asks Rae out we hope for the best – true love 4EVA! – but fear the worst. The looks being exchanged by Rae’s new gang of friends suggested that all was not as it seemed, and so it turned out; my worst-case scenario would have been that someone had persuaded Archie to do it, but the truth is both plausible and sweetly handled. Rae’s reaction to the whole thing suggests that, with the assistance of therapist Kester (a finely-tuned performance from Ian Hart), she’s getting there. And could Finn, perhaps, be the next object of Rae’s lust? Presumably in the next couple of weeks we’ll get to find out the reasons for Chloe’s occasionally passive-aggressive behaviour towards Rae, and what’s going on with her mysterious relationship.
This episode, another delight, built on the promise of the first: as I said then, there’s considerable power in the way that My Mad Fat Diary makes the teenage experience both universal (we’ve all been there) and oddly timeless (some of us are still there). This week, for example, Rae draws up her Romantic Milestone Checklist: (1) pass through the mystical orgasm gateway; (2) see someone naked; (3) kiss someone. I haven’t yet reached the age at which these milestones have ceased to become relevant, and I’m not sure that I want to.
The show continues to be anchored by Sharon Rooney as Rae, outwardly robust but with a thin layer of scar tissue, both literal and metaphorical, covering her wounds. The supporting cast also turn in convincingly naturalistic performances, with a special mention again for Sophie Wright as Tix, whose scenes this week are harrowing yet not without hope. She, Rooney, and the whole show continue to be an unexpected but refreshing blast of fresh air.
Another film star making the jump to TV tonight, with the UK debut of Kevin Bacon vehicle The Following, about a charismatic serial killer who has a cult following among other serial killers. Bacon’s the FBI man trying to catch everyone, and Kevin Williamson is showrunner. Sounds OK, but according to American critics it really isn’t: “laziness, silliness, and pretentiousness”, according to Maureen Ryan at HuffPo; “an empty exercise in fetishizing the charismatic evil of serial killers”, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix; “odious and lame”, suggests Emily Nussbaum of The New Yorker. And our own Alison Graham calls it ”hateful, misogynistic drool”. Mind you, the ratings in America for this first episode were good. Tempted? (Tonight, 10pm, Sky Atlantic)
Much more to the taste of the critics is Louie, a black comedy-drama written and directed by and starring American stand-up Louis C.K. in a fictionalised version of his life as a divorced father. It’s already completed three seasons in America, gaining more and more praise as it’s gone along, and winning C.K. a writing Emmy along the way (tonight, 9pm, FOX).
And Thursday sees the return of the two-time winner of the Unpopcult Award for Best Drama, The Good Wife. Arguably the best American network drama on British TV, and in its best weeks right up there with the cable stuff as well, The Good Wife is proof in itself that you can make intelligent, well-acted TV for the mass market. We love it (Thursday 24 January, 9pm, More4).
Also this week: the post-Newtown return of Haven (tonight, 9pm, SyFy); season 2 of The Glades (tonight, 9pm, Alibi); season 2 of Suits (Thursday, 9pm, Dave). And coming soon: the long-awaited return of Person of Interest.
The CW re-boot of the classic (and awesome) 80′s Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman tv series hits UK screens tonight (Wednesday) at 9pm on Watch. Starring Lana from Smallville as homicide detective (really?) Catherine, the show brings with it a fair amount of baggage in the form of derisory reviews and a leading man, Jay Ryan, who may be great, I don’t know, but looks less like a Beast than I do.
That scar is fooling nobody, y’all.
In fairness, there does seem to be a suggestion that, regardless of attractively-drawn scar on CW-standard handsome visage, much of Mr Beast’s, er, beastliness is attributable to his inner “monster” rather than his outer face. Which, on one view, might be a revolutionary twist on the time-honoured maxim that “beauty’s only skin deep’ but, on another view, might just be stupid. I guess we’ll see.
Regardless of the precise location of the beastliness, though, the show does look like it’s going to be embarrassingly bad, but embarrassingly bad in the kind of way I’ve been known to enjoy: all angsty, gorgeous people, trapped in breathless love triangles, throwing each other brooding, desire-filled gazes, worrying their pretty little heads about whatever is trying to kill them/break them up/make them do their homework…. I think we all know I love this type of rubbish, so I’ll be giving it a go at least. And maybe loathing myself afterwards, but I’ll let you know….
New British show My Mad Fat Diary may not be done any favours by its title: it sounds like the worst kind of exploitative reality TV, but instead it’s a 90′s set comedy/drama adapted from Rae Earl’s book about a generously-built teenage girl with psychiatric problems and an unhelpful home life, trying to negotiate the pitfalls of adolescence. With up-and-comer Sharon Rooney in the main role, this has “potential cult” written all over it (Monday 14 January, E4, 10pm).
More British drama the next night, this time from the Kudos stable, with the debut of conspiracy thriller Utopia. Five strangers are brought together by the manuscript of graphic novel The Utopia Experiments, and then find themselves pursued by a shadowy network called, prosaically, The Network. I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that, with the end of Spooks and Ashes to Ashes, and the relative failure of Outcasts, Eternal Law, and Hunted (although I remain of the view that the latter was much better than its critics said) Kudos could be doing with a hit. So the PR operation for Utopia has been in full swing. Dennis Kelly (Spooks, Pulling) is writing, and the cast includes former Misfit Nathan Stewart-Jarrett. Worth a go? (Tuesday 15 January, Channel 4, 10pm)
And Lena Dunham’s zeitgeisty comedy Girls is back (Monday, Sky Atlantic, 10pm), as is Psych (Sunday, Universal, 7pm).
Created and exec produced by experienced TV writers Ryan Murphy and Ali Adler, The New Normal is one of this season’s new American comedies. In some ways it’s very thinly disguised autobiography: Andrew Rannels plays Bryan Collins (i.e. Ryan Murphy), showrunner of a musical TV show called Sing (i.e. Glee), and Justin Bartha plays David Sawyer (i.e. David Miller, Murphy’s real-life husband). Bryan and David decide to become parents by means of a surrogate (as did Murphy and Miller in December 2012). Enter single mother Goldie, played by Georgia King, who agrees to help out, and Ellen Barkin as her conservative grandmother.
The critical reception in America for The New Normal was no better than moderate, but it’s been given a full-season order, and as things stand it looks odds-on for renewal, which perhaps suggests that it’s found an audience. And Matt Bomer turns up as a guest star a few episodes in. Bomer, CJ. BOMER. You know, this might just be worth a go (Thursday 10 January, 9pm, E4).
The UK’s FX channel is rebranding this weekend as FOX, and the big show on opening night is the start of season 10 of NCIS (Friday 11 January, 9pm, FOX).
Also starting: season 3 of Rizzoli and Isles (Thursday, 9pm, Alibi); season 8 of American Dad! (Thursday, 9.30pm, FX); Clement/LaFrenais penned two-part David Tennant vehicle Spies of Warsaw (tonight, 9pm, BBC4).
Holiday’s over, TV is back, and this weekend sees the return to British screens of some very heavy hitters.
First up is the second season of Danish political drama Borgen, season 1 of which was something of a revelation. Given that it emerged from the same stable as Forbrydelsen, its excellence was predictable; who knew, though, that a show about Danish coalition politics could be so exciting? In my personal Scanda-drama hierarchy Borgen is second only to Forbrydelsen I, so I’m expecting great things. Unfortunately the BBC scheduling department hasn’t made a New Year resolution to lose the double-bills already (Saturday 5 January, 9pm and 10pm, BBC4).
There’s a Sky new season double-bill the evening after, with the return of Glee and Hawaii Five-0. On the evidence of seasons 2 and 3 Glee remains the most maddeningly inconsistent show on the air, capable both of brilliance and crass misjudgements, sometimes in the same episode. Rachel’s off to New York, of course, which might give the show a bit of freshness, but otherwise I’d anticipate that the oldest teenagers on TV will be giving us more of the same. It’d take a mighty drop in quality to stop me watching now, mind you, so I’m expecting to be doing week-by-week reviews here (Sunday 6 January, 8pm, Sky 1).
Hawaii Five-0, on the other hand, is remarkably consistent and, just as “Frank Lampard Jr.” eventually became Frank Lampard, H50 is gradually losing the “reboot” tag and becoming a strong show in its own right: a superior procedural with great scenery and an endearingly literal approach to product placement. (“Dude. Why not do your internet searches with Bing?”) The core, of course, is the relationship between Steve (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danny (Scott Caan). It’s no surprise that, to date, any attempts by the writers to introduce female romantic partners for the guys have been less than successful; Stanno remains the only love story on Oahu worth a damn. CJ will be on the bromance beat, at least to start with (Sunday 6 January, 9pm, Sky 1).
And the day after that E4 is running season 2 of the sensational Revenge, much earlier than it gave us season 1 (which started at the end of May 2012 in the UK). My EPG’s synopsis for episode 1 is as follows: “Emily returns to the Hamptons after spending time with her mentor in Japan. In search of answers about her mother, she takes Nolan to a psychiatric ward”. Which is about as appetite-whetting a preview as you can get, and tells you all you need to know about this absurd yet brilliant show. Particularly that Nolan will be back. It’s preceded by a season 1 catch-up, but do yourself a favour if you haven’t seen Revenge: record season 2, and go get the season 1 box-set (Monday 7 January, 9pm, E4).
Finally, something homegrown: ITV and PBS co-production Mr Selfridge, created by Andrew Davies, starring Jeremy Piven, and based on the true story of the man behind department store behemoth Selfridges. Not a million miles, apparently, from the BBC’s recent drama The Paradise: yes, more shipping and shopping (Sunday 6 January, 9pm, ITV 1).
Also starting over the next few days: NCIS: LA season 4 (Sunday, 10pm, Sky 1), and doomed sitcom Ben and Kate (Monday, 9pm, ITV 2)
And coming soon, Fringe, Bones, The New Normal, NCIS, Psych, Girls season 2, Beauty and the Beast, Louie (finally), The Following…