9-1-1 s1 ep 1

Abby (Secret Pains: boyfriend left her, mother has Alzheimer’s; played by Connie Britton, good but comfortably in her wheelhouse) is an emergency dispatcher in LA: she answers the calls, directs the first responders, and keeps the panicked caller talking until help gets there. That help is provided by, among others, fire department captain Bobby (Secret Pain: recovering alcoholic; played by Peter Krause, good but etc.) and LAPD sergeant Athena (Secret Pain: her husband, the father of her children, has just come out as gay; played by Angela Bassett, and you know how this goes by now).

They are supported by, among others, young hothead LAFD rookie Buck (Oliver Stark, interesting), whose inability to keep his, uh, hose in his firetruck around attractive women ultimately leads to Bobby giving him a #MeToo era sacking (“It’s not 1950 any more. We work with women side by side”); and LAFD paramedics Hen (Aisha Hinds) and Chimney (Kenneth Choi).

And that’s pretty much it as far as the premise goes. There are three Cases of the Week in this episode. In the first, a stoner calls in claiming that there’s a baby crying inside the walls of his apartment: maybe someone flushed a baby down the toilet and it got stuck? This is clearly preposterous, except that’s what happened. In the second, a woman is being choked to death by her pet snake. The amount of time it takes the assembled first responders to decide to kill the effing snake is surprising.

So far, so meh; and I was left thinking that I would have expected a show with Ryan Murphy’s name on it to be a little bit more exciting, or shocking, or… something? The third Case of the Week, though, works. Abby takes a call from a nine-year-old girl, alone in her suburban house, who claims that home invaders are trying to get into her home; and she doesn’t know her address because they’ve just moved in.

To start with, the precise nature of the threat is left tantalisingly unclear, until it all snaps into focus. Abby, by phone, quarterbacks the terrified girl round her house, while trying to find out where she lives in order to direct the emergency services. It’s nothing new, but it’s done very well, and in a way which gives Buck an opportunity to redeem himself while assuring Abby that she’s the real hero. It actually occurred to me while watching this that it would be entirely possible – in fact, likely – that Abby might not ever be in the same room as any of the emergency workers. On the other hand, as she and Bobby – attractive, been round the block once or twice, ruefulness in their eyes – are the show’s obvious ship, I’d be a little disappointed if the writers didn’t at least give that a go.

On balance, I’m probably going to watch 9-1-1 again, although that might well be, in part, because of the comfort offered by the familiar: I like Britton, I like Krause, and I like slick procedurals. If you want more than that, I’m not sure yet that this is the show for you.

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Public Service Announcement 29 of 2018: Burden of Truth; 9-1-1; Ten Days In The Valley

The premise of Canadian drama Burden of Truth is defiantly, almost ostentatiously stitched together from other TV shows and films: Kristin Kreuk stars as the big city professional who goes to a small town (Northern Exposure); specifically, she’s an attorney (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend); specifically, it’s her hometown (The Heart Guy); specifically, she’s fighting for people who have been poisoned by the actions of a corporate giant (Erin Brockovitch). It’s Erin Kreukovich, if you will. I’m guessing there’ll be a dash of Secret Pain, and maybe a Childhood Sweetheart she’s never really got over as well? Anyway, the reviews have been reasonably good, it’s only ten episodes long (although it has been renewed) and it’s Canadian, and Unpopcult is ALL ABOUT shows from the former Empire at the moment. In short, my suspicion is that this will be unexpectedly watchable (Tuesday 14 August, 9pm, Universal TV).

And the premise of American drama 9-1-1 seems to have stemmed from someone’s realisation that if you do a show about firefighters or medics or cops you’re limiting yourself unnecessarily: why not do a show about all three? Why not indeed. So the TV exec producer dream team of Ryan Murphy, Brad Falchuk, Tim Minear, and Bradley Buecker has recruited a Star (Angela Bassett), some TV royalty (Connie Britton and Peter Krause), some excellent support (Kenneth Choi and Unpopcult favourite Rockmond Dunbar), and wrapped it all up in a great big first-responder drama in which, according to American broadcasters Fox, the protagonists “must try to balance saving those who are at their most vulnerable with solving the problems in their own lives”. You… don’t say. The reviews have been OK-ish, but Murphy and Falchuk know what they’re about, and Britton and Krause have been over the course and distance before. Once again, it’s a ten-episode first season; once again, it’s been renewed (Wednesday 15 August, 9pm, Sky Witness).

We’ll have first episode reviews of both as soon as we can. We probably won’t be reviewing ABC’s Ten Days In The Valley, which starts tonight, but it’s worth saying that it might well merit a look: Kyra Sedgwick stars as a TV producer whose daughter disappears in the middle of the night. Currie Graham, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Erika Christensen are in the cast as well, the reviews were reasonable, but audiences didn’t bite. Ten episodes again. I like this trend towards shorter first seasons a lot (tonight, Alibi, 10pm).

Nashville s6 ep 15

Gideon is aware that Daphne knows about his drinking. Can we, he wonders, “keep this between the two of us”? That’s… kind of how abusers operate, Gideon. But later on Deacon finds a full bottle of booze in his father’s car and kicks his father out. I have a horrible feeling that next week’s finale will be all about father and son reconciling, so let’s say no more about this storyline for now.

Anyway, the rest of this week’s episode was a lot more fun. Who would have thought that a huge ranch offering equine therapy might be financially unsustainable? Well, it is, and it might have to close down, so Scarlett – being, frankly, much nicer to the hard-faced woman who runs it than she deserves – starts to organise a benefit concert. If it doesn’t make enough money to get by I don’t quite see how a short-term boost in funds will really make a huge difference, but everyone else seems delighted. 

It means, at least, that for the first time in weeks Scarlett and Gunnar are in the same room, as she tries to recruit him for the benefit. He, like her, hasn’t written anything new in ages, and his attempts to do so are unsuccessful at first. But then he decides not to be Gunnar any more – it might be that Not-Gunnar is the logical endpoint of what used to be our Gunnar-of-the-Week series – and knocks out something of a rock-and-roll banger. Steve Earle – don’t ask, keep going – encourages him, and Gunnar is therefore encouraged to hit the stage at the benefit. Along the way he almost makes out with Will, in a slightly odd scene. It isn’t the first time something like this has nearly kinda sorta happened, and I wonder whether the writers have tiptoed up to this as a possible storyline then backed away.

Also on stage at Horse Aid are Scarlett and Sean. Now, given that Mrs Sean has, by this point, already said to Scarlett “Sometimes I think he’d be better off with you”, it might not have been entirely appropriate for the Scarlett and Sean show to feature lots of meaningful eye contact. Sean, of course, thinks he’s in; but Scarlett tells him to go and be with his wife. I’d like this arc to be finished now, thanks.

There’s so much talk, last week and this, about Cadence maybe having a temperature that it’s no surprise when she’s hospitalised. Fortunately it’s been caught in time; I really didn’t want a life-or-death cliffhanger leading into the finale. The issue of Juliette’s pregnancy remains, for now, something of which Avery is unaware, because she doesn’t want him to stay with her just because of that. Juliette has also announced that she is to go to war with Darius and simultaneously retire from the music business. Alannah is still flirting through gritted teeth with Brad, and is so very obviously soliciting his interest that she might as well be writing a song called “I’m Taping My Boss’s Sexual Harassment”. Finally, Twig decides that he’s had enough of being Jonah’s bitch, which is all the encouragement Maddie needed to kiss him. This is all much, much better than the Gideon storyline.

For the People s1 ep 1

We begin with Sandra Bell – played by Britt Robertson, who was great in teen dramas The Secret Circle and Life Unexpected, and might just save this show from itself by sheer charm alone – turning up over an hour early to be sworn in as a new public defender at “the Mother Court” in New York. She’s keen, see! The other five newbies we’re supposed to follow turn up in dribs and drabs but, after a whole episode, I can only tell you the names of two more of them, so I don’t think the writers like the rest as much as they like Sandra Bell. (NB: She gets called “Sandra Bell” rather than “Sandra” an awful lot by folk who think they’re being cute, but might need to disabuse themselves of that notion.) Further evidence of this is that, as it happens, the other two whose names I know are Ally and Seth, aka Sandra Bell’s best friend/roommate and best friend/roommate’s boyfriend-but-spoiler-not-for-long, because Sandra Bell says both their names a lot.

Anyway, because this is a Shondaland show, “they’re young, they’re hungry, they’re smart” and they’re all beautifully dressed. They don’t speak in house-style monologue yet, for which I am profoundly grateful, but they’re very impassioned, which is fine for this type of glossy nonsense: it’s a network procedural, not an undercover investigation by channel 4 news. Under that same heading, see also the very simplistic, somewhat unfair attitude this first episode has to prosecutorial motives and ethics, and the fact that chief public defender Hope Davis likes to dish out life lessons – or maybe just to train Sandra Bell – by way of long, laboured baseball stories. I’ve had many bosses in my life, some good, some bad, but the day one of them starts trying to teach me the Tao of Charlie Nicholas is the day I will need to get a new job. Sandra Bell seems to like it though, so whatevs.

Something I can’t really handwave so easily, however, is that two of the new kids on the block – Sandra Bell, of course, and a really annoying dude who calls her “Sandra Bell” but also has definite signs of a Secret Pain so maybe he’s got potential – brassily volunteer themselves into dealing with the presumably high-profile and very important case of a young man essentially recruited by law enforcement to try to bomb the Statue of Liberty on their FIRST DAY. And then both of them are allowed to run the trial within what seems like their first week. With their bosses sitting right next to them. I mean, if their bosses have the time to sit there, why are they not actually running this incredibly high-stakes case themselves? Or at least handing it over to someone who hasn’t just walked in the door? Do they really….. You know what, never mind. It’s summer, nobody is pretending this show is anything more than shiny tat, and nobody needs me to fret about its verisimilitude. It might as well be set in space, it doesn’t matter.

Onto the things that maybe do. For the People has a reasonably diverse cast, the acting is all perfectly fine in that swishy, splashy network procedural way, and the Statue case is actually reasonably under-played – its message is clear and worthwhile, even if Hope’s character doesn’t trust us to get it ourselves, and succumbs to the temptation to spell it out all for us at the very end. In Robertson’s hands, Sandra Bell seems quite nice when she could very easily have been infuriating, and if I watch it again, she’ll probably be the reason – nobody else made enough of an impression for me to care about them either way, but in fairness it’s only the first episode. Maybe Annoying Ambitious Guy or Buttoned-up Prosecutor Girl in Boring Suits will come into their own in the second. Ending this one with the lyric “This is what legends are made of!” seems wildly over-optimistic, though. If you want to talk “legends”, For the People shows no immediate signs of getting close to any of them: it’s not as earnest or compelling as Law and Order, it’s not as quirky or charming as LA Law, and it’s not anywhere near as clever or funny as The Good Wife or The Good Fight. But it is watchable and mildly entertaining: I wouldn’t give it any awards, but I probably would give it another episode. I didn’t hate it.

Private Eyes s2 ep 18

After a sweet little beginning which stopped just short of shipper-tastic – I mean, would a hug have killed anybody? – the Private Eyes season finale changed tack very quickly, snapping into an unusually hi-tech, high stakes and, er, high volume (the “DON’T TALK, NOT SAFE” bit was awesome) story for what’s normally a happily lo-fi, relaxed way to spend 45 minutes a week, even if they have been pushing the Eyes envelope a little this year. Not that Everett and Shade Investigations will be challenging Ethan Hunt and the IMF to an apocalyptic spycraft-off any time soon, but this tale of heists, hacking and harassment was something of a departure for Private Eyes, and a tad different in tone and consequences from, say, finding a kidnapped octopus.

Perhaps that’s why REDACTED’s story didn’t feel right from the start. I guessed very quickly that she was lying, and what she was lying about, and if Angie and Shade had done their due diligence (or watched a bit more Blindspot) instead of being so kind and trusting they would have as well, but since the absolute joy of this show is precisely that kindness and trust, that wouldn’t have made it much of an episode. Either way, my mounting unease just made things significantly more exciting and, for all the plot might not hold up to too close an examination, I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless. The ending was incredibly cruel, but since we’re (thank GOD) getting a third season, and we all know that Shade absolutely is going to get his partner/friend (aka love of his life, amirite?) Angie out of there, I forgive them. Especially since it might lead to that hug I’ve been waiting for. For so long, you guys. SO LONG.

A great season finale then, to round off another charming, cheerful season of a show I can’t get enough of. I’ve liked some episodes better than others, but it’s never mattered: Angie and Shade are a terrific team and I ship them with every ounce of my being, Zoe has turned out to be a delightful, capable sidekick, and I completely and utterly adore Maz. While Jules and Liam are very sweet kids, mind you, I would be fine if I never heard about their trip to Italy ever again, but that’s just me being an old grump. This show has so much heart, it captured mine long ago: I love it to pieces, and I can’t wait for season three.

Public Service Announcement 28 of 2018: For the People, The Good Doctor

Apparently Sky Living’s name has been causing Sky TV one or two problems. Its market research has revealed that some of those who are unfamiliar with Living expect it to broadcast lifestyle shows; whereas it is, in fact, probably the UK’s most reliable source of American procedural dramas. As of tomorrow, therefore, Sky Living will be rebranded as Sky Witness. Hee. Sky Witness! Do you see what they did there? (Actually, I’m not 100% sure myself that I see what they did there. so let’s move on.)

As part of the launch there will, in August, be three new American shows on Witness, and the first of these is For the People, a legal drama from Shonda Rhimes’s Shondaland stable. It stars – among others – Ben Shenkman, who latterly became one of the most interesting things in Royal Pains; Britt Robertson;  Ben Rappaport, the “other Cary” in The Good Wife; the wonderful Hope Davis; and Anna Deavere Smith. Now, this doesn’t need to be great to push my buttons: give me some shipping, some Secret Pain, some ethical dilemmas, and some “Objection!” “Sustained!” “Counsel, approach!” dialogue and I’m likely to be on board.

The more interesting subplot, it seems to me, is whether Rhimes is still in possession of her mojo, particularly as she’s about to jump ship to Netflix for scarcely-conceivable amounts of cash money. Scandal remained relevant at least until it concluded, but it undoubtedly went downhill after its second season. How To Get Away With Murder and Gray’s Anatomy are hanging on in there, but her most recent new show, The Catch, crashed and burned after two seasons. I liked it quite a lot, but that opinion wasn’t shared by enough people to keep it going.

For the People has been renewed for a second season, and this first season is only ten episodes long. This seems to be a trend in American TV, and it’s one of which I wholly approve; with so much choice these days, it’s asking a lot of a viewer to commit to a 20-plus episode season of any new show. Anyway, I’m going to give this a go. CJ will be reviewing the first episode, and I’m sure we can rely on her to give a Shondaland show starring someone out of Royal Pains a fair review. *looks to camera* (Monday 6 August, 10pm, Sky Witness.)

And just a quick word about The Good Doctor: if you missed it first time round, Sky Witness is running season 1 from the start, commencing on Monday 6 August at 8pm. It’s a well-crafted medical drama, which I realise sounds as if I’m damning it with faint praise. But the acting is good, the plots quite often head off in unexpected directions, and it’s definitely worth a look.

Poldark s4 ep 8

*SPOILERS*

“The process of recovery is not a straightforward one, but I hope that our abiding love for each other will mend what has been broken.”

Preach, Dr Dwight. As well as superlative medical skills and a lovely bedside manner, the nicest man in the county handily manages to summarises this entire finale in one sentence, as he and Caroline, Ross and Demelza, Drake and Morwenna, and, yes, even Elizabeth and George, try to love their way back to happiness, although in Elizabeth’s case, it’s not so much love as it is lie. Poor Elizabeth. Her scheme actually works, for a moment, but the price is too high and the collateral damage, for now, anyway, unquantifiable. George may be a better father as a result – the scenes in the bedroom and in the graveyard where he stands with Valentine at his side, contemplating their loss, are desperately sad and moving – but is he a better man? If he uses REDACTED’s death as another excuse to step up his feud with Ross and the Carnes even more, next season might be even more annoying than this one.

Since this episode is the tv equivalent of a very fast-moving registry office – birth, death and marriage all in the space of an hour – though, there is as much delight to go around as there is devastation, even if everyone has to go through a lot of grief to get their happy endings. Drake wins Morwenna back by being gentle, patient and selfless, and seals the deal by waving a very big stick at the appalling NotTom Harry. Go Drake! After the horrors she’s been through, and the setbacks he’s had, I’m so glad they’re happy for now, even if I know it’s only going to last till the start of next season because this is Poldark and nobody is allowed to be happy for very long.

I’m overjoyed for the wonderful Dwight and Caroline, reunited and looking to the future with hope and love again, too – they’re just so decent. And such terrific friends to Ross and Demelza, saving them from their own stubbornness more times than I can count. Caroline persuading Ross to come back to Cornwall with her is the kindest, most sensible thing she could possibly have done for him and Demelza, and it’s the first step in reuniting them too: a little chat, a lot of passion, and all’s right with the Nampara Poldarks once again, although obviously – see above – nobody should get too comfortable. The show has already spent four seasons having Ross and Demelza fight and make up and fight and make up, so I can’t see the next one being eight episodes of smiles and sunshine.

The Poldark formula has been tired for a while now, though. Fond as I am of a number of the characters, and impressed as I am by many of the performances, I’ve found this season something of a chore. The Ross and Demelza plot line isn’t the only recycled one, either; like I said, if the next season means yet more of George smugly scheming to destroy Poldark and his family, it will drive me nuts. As Ross put it: “What do you want, George? What more do you want?”

But maybe REDACTED’s death will act as a reset button and change all that. Could we see a softer, kinder George next year? Will he take responsibility for his own behaviour and change it? Will he honour his wife’s memory by reaching out to Ross in the end? *Shrugs* Yeah, no, I don’t think so either. But we can hope. “Poldark will return”, according to the end credits, and I’m ambivalent about that since I’m already bored with it but, in fairness this was a tremendous finale and I would like to see how the whole thing ends. I read somewhere that the fifth season is expected to be the last, and I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it really should be.