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.
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.