Public Service Announcement 25 of 2017: GLOW

The first season of Netflix’s latest comedy-drama GLOW is available from tomorrow (Friday) and, if critical reaction is anything to go by, may well be worth a look. Featuring Alison Brie from Mad Men and, weirdly, Kate Nash from “Foundations“, GLOW is a fictional story built around the 1980s real one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – for some people that alone will be enough to give it a big yes or a big no. Just in case it helps, though, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. And, for those of us keeping an eye on gender politics and representation (or lack thereof) in both fiction and real-life, it’s worth noting that the creators, producers and most of the cast are women, and the story is obviously about women making progress in a particularly male-dominated time and profession – as far as I’m concerned, GLOW deserves credit for that at the very least.

The Blacklist s4 ep 19

This week’s Blacklister is Dr. Bogdan Krilov, a specialist in the science of memory manipulation; and, in fact, the person responsible for erasing Liz’s memories of The Fire. Mr. Kaplan has been in touch with him, so Red thinks he should be found, and – of course – the Task Force jumps to attention. Liz and Samar are on that, during which Liz will encounter Dr Selma Orchard, who also played around with Liz’s memory a couple of seasons back, and will discover that Dr. Krilov was inside her head as recently as two years ago. Liz seems to be a bid of a memory-manipulator magnet, it has to be said. And Red heads to Vienna on the trail of Mr. Kaplan. Almost early-to-mid-period James Bond-esque, this: cafés with sachertorte, trains with compartments and passenger lists.

Meantime, Ressler is still digging into the murder of Reven Wright, which I didn’t care that much about when it happened, still less a season and a half later, and which doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with the rest of the plot. Until… it does, and I don’t think I can say much more about that. Suffice to say that Mr. Kaplan’s plan is to bring down the Task Force which is shielding Red. And, as it happens, Detective Gale is trying to do the same thing; he’s worked out that mysterious mega-criminals started being arrested round about the time that Liz joined the Task Force, and concludes that Red is feeding intel to the FBI. It’s a busy and exciting episode; perhaps not quite up to the standard of the last couple of weeks, but very good indeed.

Cardinal s1 ep 5; s1 ep 6

Two very good episodes to finish. In episode 5 the plot strands are being drawn together: a hunter has found the body of Woody, the burglar who got unlucky last week, and from Woody’s internet search history Cardinal and Delorme deduce, very quickly, that since dude was looking at guitars this has to have something to do with the missing Keith and, therefore, with our serial killers. Another leap of logic takes them to the music shop where Eric works, and although he’s not there he becomes their main person of interest.

Meantime Delorme has concluded that Cardinal is paying someone off, rather than being bribed, and sure enough he hands money over to a mysterious woman who comes to his house. In domestic news Cardinal’s wife does a runner from her presumably not-very-secure care facility, and Lise has an argument with Josh – who seems, let’s be honest, to be a bit of a cock – over her entirely understandable desire not to bear his children.

And the episode finishes with a couple of shocks: Eric lures Cardinal and Delorme to a deserted school and shoots Delorme, although she’s wearing a bulletproof vest. When Eric tries to drive away Cardinal jumps into his van and, after a crash, shoots and kills him. But what Cardinal and Delorme don’t yet know is that Eric has an accomplice, Edie, who drags poor Keith into a car boot, then stabs him.

Which takes us into the sixth and final episode. With Keith and Edie both missing, the characters all start to talk as if Keith is dead, which of course is the biggest clue that he’s still alive. But we’ll get to that: first of all Delorme confronts Cardinal with her conclusions from her investigation into him, which are that he’s been taking money to avoid the truth coming out about him tipping off drug dealer Kyle Corbett about a raid, which led to a cop being killed. Cardinal doesn’t even try to deny it, which is also significant for those of us who watch procedurals. Sure enough, Cardinal has been taking the rap for someone else, and since that someone else is his wife, it starts to look very unlikely that he’s going to be hooking up with Delorme, even though Josh takes the hint and moves out.

Meantime Edie discovers that Keith has somehow escaped from the car boot, and takes the battle directly to Cardinal by going to his house and pointing a gun at his daughter, meaning that when Cardinal – who by now has found out about Edie – arrives home he gets shot a couple of times. Fortunately Delorme turns up a few minutes later to kill Edie and save Cardinal, but they still don’t sleep together. It’s like the writers just don’t care about shipping possibilities.

So Cardinal stayed on top of its plots, didn’t outstay its welcome, provided further evidence that Karine Vanasse has star quality, put Agnes Obel on the soundtrack, and finished with its two strongest episodes. I’d say it goes down as a success. Two more seasons are planned, and if the BBC buys them I’ll watch them.

Public Service Announcement 24 of 2017: Chance

It feels churlish to wonder if we really need a TV show in which Hugh Laurie plays a talented medic with a monosyllabic surname, but that’s what Hulu’s new drama Chance is giving us. Eldon Chance – do you see what they did there? – is a forensic neuropsychiatrist with a complicated private life and a Secret Pain or two, who gets entangled with a femme fatale patient (Gretchen Mol) and thus with her violent detective husband (Leo from Scandal). The first two episodes are directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, Room) which, together with The Handmaid’s Tale, suggests that Hulu want to be seen as serious premium TV players. Although the critical response in America was mixed I have a strong feeling that this is actually pretty good, but I just don’t know if I have the time to watch it (tonight, Universal, 9pm).

Poldark s3 ep 2

*SPOILERS*

This week on Poldark, a grizzled, drunken old pirate with a hook for a hand and not too many teeth joins the cast and everyone pretends he’s irresistible to all the women of the parish. Given that said parish includes a host of handsome young men led by Aidan Turner who have a habit of taking their shirts off, it’s a little odd that Old Man Hook is singled out as the Clooney of the bunch but no matter. His real function is to make “Argh” noises and coax Ross back onto the high seas, and he accomplishes that with aplomb; we’ll come to that later.

First, though, the young men, which sounds creepy, but bear with me. Demelza’s two brothers have, in true Poldark fashion, moved into one of Ross’s cottages and got jobs down the mine, and, also in true Poldark fashion, started noising up the Warleggan Weasel, partly by accident and partly because it’s hard not to. Oopsy.

Brother Sam – I think, it took me half the episode to settle on which was which – is exceptionally tedious; given that all he ever does is preach, his principal achievement this week is getting on everyone’s nerves, including mine, Ross and George’s – who says you don’t have anything in common, huh, fellas? Brother Drake, however, more than makes up for his sibling’s shortcomings, being not only sweet himself, but sweet on Morwenna too, bless. She may hide it better but she’s just as smitten in her own way, and the pair of them are so delightful with their wildflowers and their shell bracelets and their wishing well, that both Geoffrey Charles and I are completely charmed (though possibly not in the same way the naughty Prudie is, hee) and shipping them forthwith. Which I imagine means another lovely romance doomed to end in disaster, so everybody brace yourselves.

Disaster being one of this show’s abiding themes, of course, this week we have the triple gut-punch of Doctor Dwight’s ship going missing at sea, Capt Blamey’s ship also going missing at sea, and the Warleggan Weasel becoming the new town magistrate, Ross having turned the job down for reasons which might make sense if you’re Ross, but are infuriating and short-sighted if you’re everyone else. I mean, yes, obviously it’s a tad surprising that the chief poacher’s been offered the head gamekeeper post in the first place, but if the guy who actually presided over his big show trial is willing to let bygones be bygones, couldn’t Ross? Sigh.

One problem at a time, though – there are missing sailors we need to find. At least Verity’s flying visit ends a lot more happily than I thought it might, with Capt Blamey safe and Mrs Blamey heading off to Lisbon to live happily ever after with him. “Will I ever see you again?” asks Aunt Agatha, tearfully, making me fear for Aunt Agatha and the odds of her surviving this season. “I promise you will,” says Verity, which in turn makes me fear for Verity, but get to the back of the queue, V, come on, now – it looks like our beloved Doctor Dwight might actually have been shot in the head, and if that’s true, both Caroline and I will be heartbroken. Sob.

Nevertheless, Capt Hothead Ross is on his way to France with Capt Hook to try and rescue his buddy, putting himself in amongst all the “riot and bloodshed,” because of course he is. And for the first time since this show began, I fear for him too – although Ross is still at the centre of things and there is still this endless, aggravating feud with the Weasel Warleggan to contend with, now that he and Demelza seem to be back on an even keel and suddenly there are all these new young men in the cast, ready to take on make-the-nation-swoon duties in his stead, this episode really feels like it could be the start of a shift towards the new generation. (Whether wee Valentine can hold out long enough to join them, mind you, given Elizabeth’s utter loathing for the poor mite, is still up in the air.) Can you have Poldark without, um, Poldark? I know I’m always criticising the big idiot, but honestly? I’d rather not find out. Come on, Ross. Make it back from France in one piece, you big lug. Please.

Bull s1 ep 23

So, uh, yeah. I watched every episode of Bull. On one level – age, demographic – I’m probably exactly who it was aimed at. It’s still a bit weird, though, because as far as I can tell the show’s USP is the presence of Michael Weatherly in the lead role. Now, Weatherly made a name for himself in Dark Angel, then spent years as the star of ratings behemoth NCIS. I haven’t knowingly seen a single second of either show, and until now wouldn’t have been able to pick Weatherly out of a police lineup.

Anyway. Dr Jason Bull is the head of Trial Analysis Corporation (TAC), a company which provides in-depth jury analysis during litigation. It seems to be a huge enterprise, but we only really get to meet a few of his team: Marissa (the superb Geneva Carr), who seems to be his chief lieutenant; Chunk (Christopher Palmer), on fashion and styling duties; pugnacious lawyer Benny (Freddy Rodriguez); investigator Danny (Jaime Lee Kirchner); and – in keeping with most procedurals these days – an attractive geek, Cable (Annabelle Attanasio).

Most episodes follow the same pattern: Bull, to a variable amount of scepticism from one or all of the team, takes on a case, then provides on-the-spot thumbs-up-or-down during voir dire, and when the case looks hopeless reassures the client that everything will work out OK in due course. Meantime, TAC assembles a shadow jury, designed to replicate the real one as closely as possible, meaning that they can immediately gauge the success or failure of courtroom strategies. Then they win, with the proviso that if their client has been acquitted in a criminal case Bull will identify the real baddie before the credits roll.

Its very predictability, though, is most probably the secret of its success (and it has been a success in America, with a second season on the way): in horribly uncertain times, it’s nice to have a show in which good generally beats evil. And it also has Weatherly, who is charming, with occasional hints of both steel and vulnerability. It’s a remarkably sexless show, mind you: the obvious ship is Bull and Marissa, but the writers have shown no sign at all of going there; meantime, even though at one point Bull seemed to be able to choose between Jill Flint and Eliza Dushku, which is quite the choice, he generally gave the impression that he’d be happier just going to bed on his own.

Dushku appeared in this season finale, at the end of a three-episode guest arc as J.P. Nunnelly, self-proclaimed world-class litigator. And it was one of the better episodes, even though I had to get over Bull’s nonsensical scruples about taking on a case which might have been funded through drug money. Once he’d worked through that, because of the involvement of a violent cartel the jury members were seated behind a screen, meaning that TAC had to guess what they looked like when assembling the shadow jury. Much to my embarrassment – this being Bull – I didn’t quite understand the conclusion: why would REDACTED be safe from retribution just because of the way in which the case ended? I may have missed something. But Bull proved, more often than not, to be just the thing when I wanted to watch something diverting and enjoyable, and I’ll definitely be back for the next season.

Public Service Announcement 23 of 2017: Riviera, Merciless (Dupla Identidade)

It may be light outside, but it’s dark on the box this weekend with a couple of new thrillers keen to bring a bit of a shiver to your living room.

First up, Sky Atlantic’s glossy new mystery, Riviera – all ten episodes are currently available on Sky Go/Catch-up, or you can catch the repeat of episode 1 tomorrow (Sunday) at 9pm and episode 2 on Thursday, also at 9pm. Julia Stiles plays an American art dealer married to billionaire Anthony LaPaglia and living the life of Riley on the Côte d’Azur till he dies suddenly and their beautiful life turns out to have been hiding something very ugly. Sky have been advertising this for what seems like my entire adult life, and the trailers featuring glamorous rich people behaving dubiously in a gorgeous location certainly look stunning – if nothing else, the French tourist board should be delighted. Whether it’s any good is another matter, but with a cast including Stiles, LaPaglia, Lena Olin and Iwan Rheon, and Neil Jordan one of the executive producers, it might well be worth a look.

Not to be outdone, meanwhile, Channel 4’s Walter Presents brings us 13-part Brazilian hit drama Dupla Identidade, renamed “Merciless” for UK audiences for some reason (what is this compulsion to change the names of subtitled dramas? See also Les Hommes de l’ombre/Spin) at 10.15pm, also on Sunday. Sounding decidedly nasty for my tastes, it follows a smart, handsome, alluring political operator who murders young women (of COURSE) for fun and wheedles his way into working with the police and messing with the head of the female (of COURSE) psychologist trying to catch him. Walter and a lot of the press around the show compare it to Dexter but it sounds a lot more like The Fall to me, and since I have no appetite for tv’s continuing fetishisation of the horrific murders of young women and the sadists who delight in carrying them out, I’ll be avoiding this one like the plague. If you watch it and I’m being unfair, though, let me know.