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!

Public Service Announcement 28 of 2016: black-ish, The Big Bang Theory

A couple of American comedies at both ends of the TV lifespan start new seasons on British TV this week. It’s our first look at black-ish, the critically acclaimed show about a middle-class African-American family, now on its third season in the US. This should be good news; unfortunately, E4 is showing new episodes every weekday, five a week, which as far as I’m concerned is even worse than BBC Four’s ludicrous Saturday night double-bills. We’re all binge-watchers now, it seems, whether or not we want to be (Monday-Friday, E4, 7.30pm).

Meantime The Big Bang Theory is back for its tenth season, and by now you know what you’re getting with it, and whether you like it or not. I’m still watching, although it’s difficult to argue against the proposition that its best days are behind it (tonight, E4, 8.30pm).

Also starting: Fox’s reasonably well-received adaptation of The Exorcist (tonight, Syfy UK, 9pm); season 12 of Criminal Minds (Mondays, Sky Living, 9pm); and Crazyhead, which is Howard Overman’s latest attempt to recapture the Misfits magic (tonight, E4, 9pm, and internationally on Netflix pretty soon).

Poldark s2 ep 7


imageTrouble at t’mine once again this week as the cash is running out and along with it any hope of finding the much anticipated cache of copper. What’s a Poldark to do?

“If I were you”, counsels Zacky Martin(?), “I’d not throw good money after bad,” which is entirely sensible and practical advice. Obviously, Captain Poldark ignores it, since throwing good money after bad is basically his entire business plan but, before he has time to burn the last lump of coal, news arrives of the now near-mythical Mark Daniel himself! Why not ask him where the pot of gold copper at the end of the rainbow bottom of the mine is? He’ll know, right? I mean, what else has he had to think about?

Ignoring Demelza’s advice as usual then, off we sail with Trencrom and co, only to find a very bearded Mark so wrapped up in guilt and pain that, never mind detailed mine workings, he can’t even be trusted with directions to the house next door. Oops.

Still, the journey isn’t entirely wasted since it at least serves as something of an awakening for our handsome but hotheaded hero: “To pin everything on the ramblings of a man crazed with grief and rage – what was I thinking?” he wonders. I don’t know Ross, maybe you weren’t thinking at all?.

It’s been a long time coming, but Ross’s contemplative mood/ actual use of his brain doesn’t end there, either. “These last few years, often I have known failure” he muses. “Tell us something that isn’t bloody obvious,” at least one exasperated blogger replies. “I didn’t just gamble with money, I gambled with the happiness and security of my workers.” He adds. “And…?” the blogger prods hopefully. “And most especially that of my wife and child!” he remembers. Hallelujah! Since it’s something that we’ve all been yelling for weeks now, I should be delighted, but since it’s Ross Poldark, whose lurches from attentive husband to asshat and back again are both frequent and bewildering, I’m sure he’ll have forgotten again by next week.

While the much-in-demand Captain is away learning this week’s life lessons, however, cousin-in-law/pen pal Elizabeth’s wondering why he’s not responding to her letters. “It’s unlike him to be so remiss” she pouts. “I wonder what could have detained him (from dropping everything to dash immediately to my side. I mean, I’ve snapped my fingers, haven’t I?)”

I may be paraphrasing.

The redoubtable, hilarious Aunt Agatha, not wasting her time waiting on any man, proposes a different solution. “The male of the species,” she declares, “Inadequate at best. Better to rely on one’s own resources.” Which is fair enough when one’s own resources include a sharp tongue and a large pistol, but since Elizabeth lacks both the pluck and personality of her great aunt, she decides not to bother with taking care of her own business and heads off to Nampara to simper at Ross in person instead. Only to find Ross’s wife and her now steadfastly loyal servant instead. “I expect he was too busy to reply” says Elizabeth, the note of entitlement in her voice unmistakeable. “Yes, I expect he was” replies Demelza, the “Get your horse off my land and your mitts off my man,” being implied.

Remember when Elizabeth and Demelza were friends? They don’t.

imageDr Enys is doing enough remembering of everything for everyone, though. His affair with and the death of Keren Daniel – which I thought he and the writers had totally forgotten about since – is suddenly back on his mind, as is everything and everyone else. He and Caroline are in love, she wants to elope, but he’s uneasy: “You may find the reality less romantic than you imagine,” he cautions. Or, in other words, sometimes love just ain’t enough.

The date is set and the trunks are packed, though, so all Dr Enys has do is to survive the episode, heal Rosina Hoblin-Again, unmask the informer, save Ross and co from arrest, try not to be killed by repeated blows to the head and body, and meet his lady at their love shack in time. Phew! Alas it’s the last of these that proves too difficult, thought; poor Dwight has such a busy (and genuinely exciting, compelling) week sorting and saving everyone else that I thought he would be dead before the episode’s end. After all, this show has previous for killing off a significant character just when they’ve reached their best. (Which means I’m now terrified Aunt Agatha won’t make it to the end of the season.)

Thankfully, though, the good doctor lives to heal another knee, and I’m delighted – he’s a thoroughly decent, kind, likeable character, and his friendships with both Ross and Demelza are lovely. It’s just a shame that he had to miss his own elopement to do it. Still, much as I liked his love story, and sad that I am it’s over, if the alternative was Ross getting caught (again) and being tried (again) and a rinse and repeat of episodes 1 and 2, then sorry Dwight, I know it hurts now, but I’m glad you picked your Cornish pals over Caroline. Chin up.

Designated Survivor s1 ep 4

For just a second, at the start of this episode, I genuinely expected to hear Kiefer Sutherland, in voiceover, saying “The following takes place between…”, because it’s a very 24-esque cold open: a man, seemingly in fear, runs up a flight of stairs, sends an email, then gets tased.

Once we know more about the email, it seems to be proof that everyone’s favourite made-up terrorist group, Al-Sakar (sp? – this is my third try, I think), was behind the attack on the Capitol; and, on top of that, it contains information about the whereabouts of its leader Majid Nassar, apparently on a compound in Algeria. So, General Cochrane asks President Kirkman eagerly, now can we start bombing, pls? Not so fast, says POTUS; the American agent who sent us this information has been captured and is also on the compound, and I’m not killing him. Nuh-uh, says Cochrane, he knew the risks; and, while POTUS’s attention is elsewhere he starts to prepare to attack anyway. Whereupon POTUS – finally – sacks him and appoints General Chernow (Mykelti Williamson, another 24 alum) in his stead.

Unfortunately Tom can’t sack his wife, who needs a solid relating to a former client, and gets it from Kimble Hookstraten, who makes such a huge meal of emphasising that FLOTUS now owes her one that we can expect the favour to be called in very soon. And a good week for Seth: I thought he might make it to Chief of Staff, but, although I was perhaps getting a little ahead of myself, he does become the President’s Press Secretary when the present incumbent – promoted way beyond his level of competence by the bomb – is ripped limb from limb by the press corps, although at least he didn’t promise a secret plan to fight inflation (Any excuse to use that clip. Any excuse. “Oh God…”).

The really, really, really good news this week, though, is that Governor Royce is back – obviously it’s terrible, because he’s a bad man, but Michael Gaston is a GREAT villain – and up to his old tricks. There’s going to be a civil rights march in Michigan, which Emily flies out to observe, with a view to deterring Royce from setting the dogs (or whatever) on the protesters. But when her plane lands, Royce’s stormtroopers refuse to let her leave the airport. You wanna play, bitch, thinks Kirkman; OK then. I’ll federalise the National Guard, send them in, and get them to escort Emily. Except that the Guard also refuses to acknowledge Kirkman’s authority, and instead makes it clear that it regards its Commander-in-Chief as being one John Royce, Governor of Michigan.

So Emily comes up with a neat plan which will allow everyone to save face, and thus gets Royce on the plane back to Washington for a sit-down with the President. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Kirkman has a little surprise waiting for Royce when he lands. It feels to Emily like a betrayal of trust: he’s “turning into a different person”, she grumbles to Aaron, as the two of them chat about the issues of the day, and tacitly ponder at which point to indicate an interest in seeing the other naked. Well, yes, Emily. He’s no longer Mr Secretary Kirkman of the Department of Housing and Development; he’s now President Jack Bauer.

It’s another insanely good episode. If the show has a weakness, it’s that the storyline featuring Agent Maggie Q’s investigation of the attack still feels a little undercooked: this week she looks into Congressman MacLeish, concludes that he had nothing to do with it, and is then pointed in his direction again when she’s the recipient of a phone call with one of those cryptic, late night, Deep Throaty morsels of information which really annoy me. Why couldn’t the caller just tell her what’s going on, rather than fire an unexplained room number at her? Because we’re only on episode 4, I suppose.

Containment ep13

How do you finish a story when you don’t know if you’re halfway through telling it, a quarter of the way through telling it, or completely, irrevocably done?

The idiosyncrasies of the basic American tv network system with its 13 episode initial order, followed by the “wait and see” if you’re going to get a” back nine” to finish your season, followed by another “wait and see” if you’re getting a second season or more on top of that, or nothing at all, is frustrating enough for the viewer, but in a show like Containment where the ratings are borderline and the overall arc is everything – unlike say a cop procedural where the arc can be prioritised or completely ignored from week-to-week – it must be the Rubik’s Cube of writing for the people actually trying to make it. How do you plan an ending to your story when you don’t know if it’s actually going to be the ending or if it might turn out to be something more akin to a paragraph break?

In this particular instance, rather than go for broke with a big cliffhanger – if it had finished with say Jake suddenly starting to cough up blood, DUN DUN DUN, I might have resorted to violence – or give up and give us a big finish, the writers of Containment have found a middle road, giving us a series of little finishes instead.

Having spent the past thirteen weeks twinkling at each other while waiting to die (since episode 1, every time one of these two ever came on screen, the sense that something terrible was going to happen to them was palpable), Bert and Micheline decide they’ve had enough of waiting around for the inevitable and write themselves out in somewhat maudlin fashion. I never quite understood either character, and juxtaposing Bert’s triumphant, hard-won survival with Katie’s horrible death two eps ago only to have him chuck it all in now seems a bit pointless, but then again I’m spending my Sunday morning writing about the “finale” of a CW show that was cancelled after thirteen eps, so “pointless” is probably the order of the day.

Granddaughter Teresa, Xander and baby Leanne meanwhile, get stuck with Jana and co in the sewer tunnels which Dr Lommers – in one last villainous flourish, before she’s finally brought down, ignominiously and somewhat bizarrely, by Leo working with Lex’s Dad – is having blown up. Team Teresa bails out early, retreating to the now-empty store (since gangster-philosopher Trey and co are currently in residence at the hospital) to reclaim, rebuild and get engaged. Congratulations! Jana and the others press on, however, till they’re stopped, not by the explosions all around them, but by unhappy boyfriend Lex proclaiming, in somewhat ridiculous fashion,”People of the Cordon! Do not come any further!” A brief struggle with his conscience, though, and presto! Lex and Jana are reunited at last, which is nice for them, but they’re also back in the Cordon, which isn’t so great for their long-term prospects of survival. Or indeed Quentin and Suze’s.

Or is it? Cannerts’s “cure’ – essentially bleeding poor Thomas dry – doesn’t save Cinco(?) but, as Jake, proving himself to be a better scientist than the man in the white coat on whom all hope depends, points out, this death is different. Small comfort, one might think, but no: Cinco died from the treatment, not the virus. So a pinch less of this, a touch more of that and we may well have a cure on our hands after all. Even if it means that that supremely creepy preacher guy who was telling people ages ago that he could heal them was apparently, if accidentally, right.

Still, the scene where Jake starts to list the names of the dead and people start to volunteer is poignant and sweet, and Jake’s heartfelt monologue as he scatters Katie’s ashes on the roof and ends the show (forever, as it turns out) inevitably made me cry. I loved Containment; it had its problems but it was also far more thoughtful, serious, harrowing and moving than critics or many viewers gave it credit for. Most of all, though, I loved Jake and Katie, and while killing her off was a brave move by the writers, defying audience expectations, breaking shipper hearts and fully committing to the indiscriminate, devastating nature of the virus they had created, it also left a great gaping Jatie-shaped hole in the show, which poor Jake can’t fill on his own for long, and no one else in the cast comes even close to compensating for. Better then, that it does end now, with hope of a cure, justice for Lommers and one last promise of love and honour from our handsome cop hero to our beautiful fallen heroine. That’ll do me.

Hooten & The Lady s1 ep 5

Alex and fiancé Edward are fretting about where to have their forthcoming wedding-that-isn’t-going-to-happen when she receives a call from Ella, being held at gunpoint in Ethiopia. Her captors clearly share some of our reservations about the Western-centric approach taken by this show to the appropriation of cultural treasures: they want the Sabean spoon, an artefact held in the British Museum, handed over to them within 48 hours. Although Alex is told to come alone we know that Hooten will be her plus-one, just as soon as she can tear him away from taking bets on bare-knuckle fighting in Turkey.

And so to Africa, starting in Eritrea, where in Bond-ian manner the woman picking Alex and Hooten up at the airport is, of course, under orders to kill them. She fails – twice – which leaves them with the minor problem that they don’t actually know where Ella is, although once they make some improbable connections between the spoon and the lost treasure of the Queen of Sheba they work it out quickly enough, assisted by Clive, this week on his own in the Chloe O’ Brian role back at the museum.

Ella is tracked down, then Alex is captured as well, leaving Hooten on his own to save the day. It isn’t a spoiler to reveal that he does so, in an episode which is an entertaining and handsomely-mounted (location filming in South Africa) way of passing an hour, if not as good as last week’s. The best news is that, because Ella finally gets out of the museum, the terrific Jessica Hynes is allowed a little more room to breathe. Once at large, though, Ella can’t fail to pick up on what’s definitely not going on between Hooten and Alex: “unresolved sexual tension”, muses Ella to Hooten, an odd thing to say in a show which is allegedly devoted to the proposition that nothing is going to happen between its two leads. As it happens, Hooten could do much worse than have a fling with Ella; although, sadly, I think we can more or less rule that out. Finally, it’s worth noting that this episode was written by the young actor Karla Crome, who was one of the very best things in the final two seasons of Misfits, and evidently has big things ahead of her, whatever side of the camera she ends up on.

Nashville s4 ep 7

It’s the first post-Jeff episode and, since the main action is all about his death and its effects on those who knew him, particularly Layla and Juliette, I think I’m going to get rid of the other storylines first, as a sort of supporting attraction. So: Deacon is intent on going ahead with his plan to become part-owner of a bar with his AA sponsor Frankie and rename it – oh God oh God oh God – The Beverly. As I’ve already heard much, much more about Beverly than I care to, and would be delighted if everyone on the show would shut the eff up about her and never mention her again, I propose instead to refer to the bar in the future using the name of a departed character I actually miss. So The Jeff it is. Rayna is, of course, sceptical but ultimately supportive, even if she must by now be privately thinking that while life with Mayor Teddy – who directs this week – might have had its, uh, challenges, he never pulled shit like this.

The Gunnar/Scarlett tour – already looking like a trainwreck and it hasn’t even started – needs a sound engineer. Fortunately, Gunnar’s sleeping with one: Erin, whose relationship with him is about as convincing as Scarlett’s with Dr Yoko. Gunnar is told by a couple of people to grow up, but he’s not going to, is he? And Scarlett’s had her extensions cut off. Meantime Avery is looking for somewhere to live, but eventually accepts an invitation to extend his stay chez Will, who is something of a good guy this week: as well as being a friend to Avery (who breaks down rather harrowingly), and singing a lullaby to Cadence (as predicted a few weeks ago by our friend Bill), he provides significant moral support to Layla, above and beyond the call of duty for an ex-spouse.

Which brings me back to the main story of the week: Jeff’s death. And it’s striking just how viciously Layla is treated, once again, almost as if the writers have a private bet with each other. Jeff’s sister turns up, makes it clear to Layla – who is, at this point, numb with grief – that she won’t be welcome at the funeral, then kicks her out of the hotel room she was sharing with Jeff. Juliette’s advice to her – “You can get over him by pretending the two of you never happened!” is so staggeringly insensitive that one of her assistants is unable to conceal her shock. “What?” wonders Juliette. “That was great advice!” And although Colt saw what happened to Jeff, he’s discouraged from telling Layla, even after Juliette’s sieve-like memory is jolted into remembering the events on the rooftop. This seems remarkably cruel, as it means that Layla has to carry on believing that a man she thought to be in love with her killed himself. Well done, everyone. Well done.

Not for the first time, though, the episode belongs to Hayden Panettiere. I have of course said this plenty of times before, but I don’t think I can say it often enough: she was playing this role while actually suffering from postpartum depression in real life. And so, when Juliette finally agrees to enter rehab at the end of the episode, it also marks the point at which Panettiere takes a leave of absence from Nashville.  I do, though, think it’s more than time for this storyline to conclude and for us to have, perhaps, a little fun; this was another wrenching episode.