Public Service Announcement 30 of 2016: The Young Pope

Without having seen any of it, it’s difficult to know what to make of HBO’s new show The Young Pope. My first impression was that a show in which Jude Law plays cigarette-smoking, Cherry Coke Zero-swigging, Cardinal Lenny Belardo, who becomes the first American to be crowned as Pope, sounds like delightfully trashy fun. Apparently, though, it very much isn’t; in fact, it might not be anything like trashy enough. Created, written, and directed by Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino, The Young Pope is, it would seem, an idiosyncratic and visually-stunning drama, showing the new Pope Pius XIII – a theological conservative, Coke and gaspers notwithstanding – grappling with Vatican politics. I would have been more likely to watch, I think, were the show not starting with a two-hour double-bill, which might be more Papa Belardo than I have the patience for. But we’ll see (tonight, Sky Atlantic, 9pm).

Also starting: season 2 of Life In Pieces (tomorrow, Amazon Prime); season 2 of Humans (Sunday 30 October, Channel 4, 9pm). And Fox’s poorly-received Rocky Horror revival is available on Sky Cinema from tomorrow.

More soon: November, as ever, is looking busy.

Private Eyes s1 ep 6

Time to check in on Private Eyes, now just over halfway through its first season. And this episode, ‘Partners in Crime’ is a good one to pick, because it’s perhaps the strongest one so far. Two cases of identity theft are connected by Angie and Shade to a speed dating organisation. So the two of them – of course – go undercover at a speed dating evening, hoping to find out which of the lonely hearts has been using his or her two minutes with strangers to get enough personal information to guess at passwords and the like.

There’s just a hint of edge in the air as well, with Angie – who got laid a couple of weeks ago, although personally I thought she could do a little better (i.e. Shade) – teasing Shade that he’s in a romantic slump. He’s also having to watch while his father (Barry Flatman) and daughter (the excellent Jordyn Negri) develop love lives of their own. But Shade responds by bringing his A-game when he and Angie, still undercover, inevitably find themselves sitting across a table from each other, giving us perhaps the most squee-worthy moment on the show so far, when Shade looks soulfully into Angie’s eyes and unspools his best lines, and in response Angie visibly has to restrain herself from doing that thing where you pull your collar to one side to let a little heat out.

This week, in fairness, the perp wasn’t who I thought it was – I can’t quite believe that I’m avoiding spoilers in a Private Eyes review, but anyway: I was pretty sure it was REDACTED, and somewhat surprised that it was, in fact, REDACTED. But the great thing about Private Eyes is that it doesn’t matter all that much. The plot rattles along, the charm comes off the screen in waves; it’s an hour of TV that doesn’t demand too much of the viewer, and makes no promises other than that you’ll be entertained. I love this show.

Nashville s4 ep 9

There’s a Highway 65 emergency: Markus decides to lose one of the songs from his album, so Rayna has to head down to the studio to try and find something else to fill the gap. On the way out she tells Deacon that she’s going to be in for a long day, which Deacon quickly but ruthlessly parses for innuendo and double meaning, finds some, and in consequence adopts his jealous resting face. So he decides to surprise them at the studio. Surprise! But they aren’t making out. At least, Markus and Rayna aren’t, although Markus and Deacon come pretty close to it; Markus is a huge fan of Deacon’s, as it turns out, and even wonders whether Deacon might have a song he could use to finish his album…? Hell yes, of course Deacon has a song for his new best bud!

But when Markus starts to record it, he has the temerity to change some of the lyrics. And, rather than being quietly pleased that one of his songs is (a) being recorded by a hot young talent (b) on his girlfriend’s record label and thus (c) quite possibly enabling them to pay the rent, Deacon flies off the handle. “What I know”, he snarls to Rayna, “is that (Markus) wants to sleep with you”, going on to imply that Rayna might well be receptive to that idea.

And rather than wondering why she’s putting up with this shit for another second, Rayna instead goes to see Markus to remind him – not that he’s raised the issue – that she’s Deacon’s gal, so back off, dude. Except, of course, he probably does want to sleep with Rayna. Incidentally, I like the fact that, even though Markus is supposed to be – at a guess – a good ten years younger than Rayna, this simply isn’t mentioned as an issue. On the other hand, I’m afraid I can’t with The Girls this week. I just can’t. So you’ll need to fill in the blanks yourselves on that storyline.

It now seems odd to reflect that there was a time when Luke and Rayna were a thing, although it might be that Rayna would have been doing a little better had she chosen the man behind Get The Luke. Anyway, he’s having yet another bad week. Yes, yes, I know that he’s keeping the circumstances of Jeff’s death on the downlow, but Colt’s sulky righteousness is kind of annoying.

Anyway, Luke decides that it’s time for some father/son bonding back on the ranch, and it’s going quite well until Gabriella turns up with a photographer, taking shots of Luke for the cover of Forbes (?!). Well, Colt just starts kicking off again, and one can’t really blame him, although – once again – it’s not quite Luke’s fault. I’m wondering, though, whether he should really start to think about the people he’s surrounding himself with, and by “surrounding himself with” I mean sleeping with, and by “the people” I mean Gabriella. Belatedly, Luke puts a hold on Get The Luke, even though there are “products in production”. Say what, now? GTL products? Is it too much to hope that we might get to see them? But Colt has had enough, so goes to live with his grandfather. Good.

An unexpected day off for The Exes, meantime, when their show in Charlotte is cancelled. Gunnar can’t write songs just now, because he’s realised that everything has been about Scarlett for years, and he’s not in that space just now. Erin – pay close attention, Deacon – is amusedly tolerant rather than homicidally jealous, gets Gunnar to loosen up and have some fun, and thus unblocks his creative flow, wearing a silly hat all the while.

Poor Scarlett, on the other hand, decides – in the face of all the accumulated evidence about her jerk of a bae – to head back to Nashville to surprise him. Surprise! Needless to say, Dr Yoko has many, many more important things to do than hang with his girlfriend for a few minutes: “I’m dealing with people who have cancer! I’m not driving around singing for a hundred people a night and getting a few free beers out of it!” And, rather than wondering why she’s putting up with this shit for another second, Scarlett makes some conciliatory noises and heads back to the tour, just in time to see Gunnar and Erin goofing around. Oh dear.

Will has a big decision to make as well: the publisher who, last week, liked his song has hooked him up with country star Wade Cole, who wants to work with Will but who declined to be photographed with him a few episodes ago. Wade – who, if the odds were right, I’d be prepared to bet is maybe a little in the closet himself – is all, it’s my wife and record label who don’t like the homos; as far as I’m concerned you can be as gay gay gay as you like. This doesn’t survive two seconds of Googling, as Will finds plenty of evidence that Wade has publicly opposed marriage equality in the name of the “traditional family”. What to do? Well, it’s a tricky one, but Will in the end – counselled by a distinctly unsympathetic Avery – decides that making bank this one time is more important. I’m guessing he’ll reverse that in an episode or two.

Avery, in all likelihood, is tetchy because he, too, is out of money, and doesn’t have big name stars offering to record his songs, but has to take another gig soundtracking an advertisement. He even declines to accept Emily’s offer to raid Juliette’s bank account in the latter’s continuing absence. But, right at the end, Juliette reaches out to Emily by phone: she’s (maybe) back… Which might be as well; a perfectly serviceable episode, but missing a spark, I thought.

Poldark s2 ep 8


This is not really how my weekend tv was supposed to go. First, the “evening wear” episode of Hooten and the Lady had the pair of them getting mixed up in a murder and fighting instead of flirting. And now Ross Poldark has gone mad with lust and pique, so I have to write about consent and rape culture instead of curly hair and romance. Why has all my easy viewing suddenly gone difficult? All I need now is for Mel and Sue to go nuts and burn the Bake Off tent to the ground for the madness to be complete.

(NB – Mel and Sue, this is NOT a hint.)

Sigh. Not that you’d think it, given the tenor of the press coverage this morning, but this week’s episode packs in quite a lot of other news before it gets to the complicated, tiptoe-through-the-minefield, be-shouted-at-on-the-Internet bit so let’s have a quick look at all of that before we get tangled up in the hard stuff.

Kicking things off with Ross and Dwight in court over their smuggling shenanigans made me groan at first – what was I saying last week about a rinse and repeat of eps 1 and 2? – but I needn’t have worried. For once in his life, Ross manages to talk his way out of trouble instead of deeper into it, and for all Dr Enys decides he’ll just swap personalities with his pal and give insolence in the face of authority a go, the presiding magistrate clearly can’t face going down the trial route again either. So all we get’s a frown, a fine, and we’re out of the courthouse and back in business. Hurrah!

Not that poor Dwight, busy pretending that Caroline hasn’t broken his heart, is very happy about either of his escapes. “It would never have lasted and would have led to misery on both sides,” he says of their being together, which would be a very healthy way of looking at things if it weren’t clear that their not being together has led to nothing but misery on both sides as well. Still, at least there are some signs of movement on the Enys front: from being so desperately unhappy about leaving Cornwall last week, a couple of words from Verity’s impossibly enthusiastic stepson (that dude is insanely happy) this week and the good doctor’s suddenly ready to run away to sea, so perhaps the idea of running away to get married might be less of a problem next time. If there is a next time. Come on, Caroline! Do you really want Dwight to end up with Rosina Hoblin?

While Dwight hangs moodily round the mine prescribing his usual fruit and fresh air combo (at this point, I feel like I could treat scurvy), Ross and co find tin, which means two things. One, someone has to say the Poldark fortunes are changing (every time). And two, just when it seems like it’s all about to go their way, disaster strikes (EVERY time) and everything crumbles, by which I mean literally crumbles – the mine collapses, Wheal Grace claims two more lives and, once again, the Poldark fortunes are in ruins. Poor miners, poor families, poor everybody, except of course, rich Warleggan the Weasel who uses the opportunity to finally secure Elizabeth’s hand (if not her heart since, as Aunt Agatha points out, she’s already bestowed that elsewhere) in marriage because Elizabeth is as mercenary and mercurial as she is hopeless at fending for herself.

I should feel some sympathy for Elizabeth, of course, because she lost her husband and her mum’s had a stroke, but her selfish, stupid behaviour over the past few weeks, and utter lack of respect for both Ross’s marriage and Ross’s wife has made that a challenging prospect. That, of course, makes her controversial encounter with Ross this week even more of a messy one, from my perspective at least. No matter what Elizabeth did beforehand, though, what Ross does is on him, no one else. However their sex ends, it begins with him forcing himself on her, and that is Not OK. Ever. Yes, it’s set in a historical context where attitudes to consent were less evolved. Yes, she’s been trying to regain his affections for weeks. And yes, there’s a weird, disturbing undercurrent to the whole scene suggesting – dear God – that she’s almost daring him to make a move on her, but while that and her ultimate, enthusiastic capitulation might make the issues more complicated, it doesn’t erase how the sex starts. It starts with a man in a rage, determined to exert physical, sexual control over a woman who chose someone else over him. Not. OK. Ever.

In the end, though, Elizabeth is the person who has to decide if she was violated, and it looks like she’s decided she wasn’t. This does of course bring with it the risk of the show perpetuating the notion, the bedrock of many a historical romance, that controlling, domineering, violent behaviour can be masterful and attractive, but, in fairness to the BBC and Debbie Horsfield, I can’t imagine anyone watching that scene last night thinking Ross’s behaviour was masterful or attractive, or indeed anything but appalling. And just in case there is any confusion, at least the magnificent Demelza, dishing out some well-deserved summary justice, is immediately on hand to set him and anyone else tempted to excuse his behaviour straight. “You must see I had no choice?” Think again, dude. Think again.

Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 6

My turn to review Hooten and The Lady having coincided – not entirely unintentionally – with what I thought would be the “week where they dress up in evening wear, pretend to be a couple and get all handsy in the process,” I was expecting quite a lot of light-hearted flirtatious fun from this episode. Just my luck then that I got the “dress up in evening wear” part but none of the rest of it; instead, our leads barely even look at each other in their finery, and this week’s instalment, quite unexpectedly, turns into something much more serious than the show has hitherto given any sign of intending to be.

It starts off cheerfully enough, in Russia, with the improbably-named Ulysses Hooten meeting up with his equally improbably-named friend Hercules Rudin, an old, wily thief who claims – apparently truthfully – to have tracked down the legendary 51st Faberge Egg, with the Sanguinary itself (ie the blood of the last Russian royal family) secreted inside. Now, ever since I watched Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna as a little girl, I’ve had something of a fascination for the Romanovs – lest anyone think I know what I’m talking about, though, this doesn’t extend to doing any studying or proper research, it just means I get a bit excited when any Romanov-related stuff crops up on tv. Add that to my general love of shiny things, and this type of bauble is manna to me.

It would seem that I’m not alone in that, however, since it’s also of great interest to a couple of stereotypically taciturn Russian goons who kidnap Hooten, and beat him up a bit in preparation to Lady Alex’s university classmate and nemesis (given how irritating she is just now, I can imagine Lady Alex was even more annoying at uni, but a handbag-sized crossbow is maybe taking things too far) to tease/torture him for egg-related info in that apparently titillating tv show kind of way that I’m fairly sure doesn’t happen all that often in real-life torture situations, but what would I know, not being a slinky tv villainess or indeed any other kind of villainess at all?

Of course, Alex, without any idea what the potential booty might be, nonetheless drops everything to hurtle across Europe when Hooten calls, only to be rewarded with a different kind of booty – how many times is that Michael Landes has been naked in this show now? – which she rescues and promptly covers up in a reindeer onesie because somebody thought we needed a Rudolf joke (a good one, admittedly) in October. Righto.

Anyway, modesty just about restored, if a little snugly so, it’s time to have our first real fight. As Alex carps about being dragged away from her (endless, dull, stupid) wedding prep to chase after a myth, poor Hooten, having already endured an afternoon of beating and mortification, and not entirely comfortable in the reindeer onesie, finally loses his temper and tells her the blindingly obvious: “Sweetheart…. you’d have dropped everything for a $10 snowglobe, because the truth is you don’t really want to get married.” So THERE.

Landes and Ophelia Lovibond are terrific in the awkwardness that follows; he knows he’s right but also knows he’s gone too far; she knows he’s right but hates that he is. There’s talk of parting ways right then, but of course, they don’t – they still have to be pursued through the forest by said goons, crash a wedding, find a very special cleaning lady, and fall out properly, because, in addition to being infuriating, Alex has an entirely one-track mind, and it’s not the fun kind of track either; her idea of expressing compassion and sympathy boils down to “Sorry about your dead pal, guys, but THINK HOW MUCH THIS SHINY THING WILL PLEASE THE MUSEUM!”

I’m not sure we can wholly blame Hooten for throwing the cursed egg into the sea after that.

Not that Alex leaves it there, of course (see above re: mind, one-track). After a frankly bizarre conversation with Clive, her BOSS, who allows his ADULT employee’s MOTHER to tell him how to run his team, she spits out some nonsense about being tired of being a good girl – the idea that she’s a good girl being news to both Clive and me since she’s pretty much done the opposite of every thing she’s been asked to do since the beginning of the season – retrieves the egg and has a good cry. Hooten, meanwhile, has an old, deadly, and apparently resurrected enemy to worry about, and the show, all of a sudden, has a Big Bad, an overarching, tragic mystery and a significantly darker underbelly than I thought. Is that a good thing? I don’t know, but I guess we’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.

Public Service Announcement 29 of 2016: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Black Mirror, Scorpion, Supergirl, Class, HyperNormalisation

A few more bits and pieces. Replicating what it’s doing with Designated Survivor, Netflix will also be making new episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, about to start its second season, available to UK viewers on Sundays, and therefore within a day or two of US transmission. Keep it up, Netflix. Unpopcult heartily endorses this event or product. Netflix also has – on the off-chance you’ve missed this news – the third season of Black Mirror, available today.

And in other news: season 2 of Supergirl (Monday 24 October, Sky 1, 8pm); season 7 of The Walking Dead (Monday 24 November, Fox UK, 9pm); season 3 of Scorpion (Saturday 22 October, ITV2, 8.50pm); season 2 of Chicago Med (Sunday 23 October, Universal, 9pm); the first and – as it turned out – last season of The Player (tonight, Spike, 9pm); Doctor Who spinoff Class (Saturday 22 October, BBC Three, 10am, with broadcast at some point on BBC 1); and the second season of Australian drama The Code, this time with added Anthony LaPaglia (Saturday 22 October, BBC Four, 9pm, stupid double bills).

Finally, idiosyncratic documentary-maker Adam Curtis’s latest dissection of our world, HyperNormalisation, is available on the iPlayer. I haven’t seen it – yet? – and I’m not going to pretend to have watched all of Curtis’s back catalogue. What I would say, though, is that when I do watch his films I always find them provocative and stimulating.

Nashville s4 ep 8

This week on Men Behaving Badly: men competing with others to behave badly. Let’s start with Deacon, who is exorcising his demons – alcoholic and familial – by working obsessively on the refurbishment of The Jeff. By happy coincidence, this also means he isn’t at home to help Rayna work out what the hell to do about The Girls. Older Girl: dyeing her hair, furious because Sony want to sign her and Rayna won’t allow it, sulking; Younger Girl: furious because OG wants to sign a solo deal; sulking. Rayna’s brilliant solution is to sign The Girls to Highway 65, which OG – correctly, let’s be fair – sees as a device to keep her under maternal control. Also: would you rather sign to massive global company Sony, or your mom’s vanity label?

Moving on to the other contenders: poor Scarlett is just drowning in a sea of asshats. The tour is going well, but Gunnar is skipping meet-and-greets in favour of sexytime with Erin, who might be keeping Gunnar happy but who can’t get Scarlett’s onstage sound levels right; which is, of course, her actual job. OK then, thinks Scarlett: I’ll give my boyfriend a call, and see if he has a couple of minutes to chat? “I’m seeing an 8 year old with lymphoma, so no”, snits Dr Yoko. Yeah, we get it; your job is just the most important thing ever. Shut up, Dr Yoko. How about maybe getting your girlfriend to do her job, bandmate? “She knows what she’s doing”, snaps Gunnar. You can shut up too, dude.

But then, mid-concert, Erin starts futzing with Scarlett’s sound and actually manages to blow the power in the venue. The Exes, backs against the wall, are forced into a scorching little acoustic performance; and, finally, Gunnar stands up for the band. “If you can’t do the job”, he snarls at Erin, “you need to get the hell off my tour”. Scarlett is surprised and a little impressed; and, just like that, the dying flame of Gunnlett starts to sputter into life again.

Some of the guys do come through, though. Luke is having problems with Colt, and I can see both sides of this one; ultimately, though, Luke is probably a good guy, and when Gabriella tells him that he needs a Juliette replacement on the tour, and a Jeff replacement in the boardroom, he chastises himself a little more, perhaps, than he needs to: “I feel like a hell of a lot of pain has happened on my watch”, he muses. I don’t think he can really be blamed for too much, though, apart from starting a stupid lifestyle brand. And he and Gabriella are now officially, if privately, an item, even though she warns him that it won’t be good for Get The Luke if word gets out. It’s not spelled out, but I’m guessing this to be a racial thing rather than a single man thing? In which case, good guy or not, Luke has some thinking to do, having already chased Will away from his label on Gabriella’s advice.

Markus is pretty decent this week as well: he works Rayna and his musicians into the ground, but he’s an artiste and they do that sort of thing; he then provides Rayna with sound bringing-the-kids-up advice. He also makes something of a pass at her, but I’d say he can be excused because (a) he does so decorously; (b) he takes an equally decorous brushoff for an answer; and (c) it’s Rayna, so who can blame him?

And Avery, reduced to soundtracking advertising jingles, is wondering what’s up with Will, who has locked himself in his room with what Avery assumes to be a succession of hookups. In fact, Will has been doing what musicians do, and has been turning his heartbreak into a song. He doesn’t want to sing it in public, so Avery hits The Bluebird and performs it himself, getting Will a possible publishing deal while he’s at it, while getting Juliette flashbacks. He still loves her, you see.

So some good guys as well. We end, though, on a high, piercing note of complete assholery, when Deacon – having momentarily torn himself away from ripping The Jeff to pieces, in order to see his partner and The Girls – sees that Markus has texted Rayna in an unremarkable, almost anodyne way: nice talking to you today, hope I helped, that sort of thing. Whereupon, with petted lip and furrowed brow, his features generally organise themselves into something instantly recognisable as jealous-jerk-face. We have a winner!