Chance s1 ep 1

San Francisco. Hugh Laurie is Dr. Eldon Chance, a consulting neuropsychiatrist: this means, apparently, that he assesses mental health issues then passes the patient to someone else for treatment. Not a million miles from House, then. Chance has marriage problems, a teenage daughter (“Life sucks”), money worries, and possibly a Secret Pain, which we’ll get to.

He is consulted by Jaclyn Blackstone (Gretchen Mol), who has been suffering memory lapses and appears to have developed a second personality, all after being assaulted by her husband Raymond (Paul Adelstein), a homicide detective who seems to be capable of turning on the charm or the menace as circumstances require. Chance refers her to a friend, Suzanne (Liza Gay Hamilton), for treatment. And that – an apparently accidental meeting in a bookshop aside – is that for Chance and Jaclyn, at least until she turns up in hospital badly beaten, and Suzanne suggests that Chance should visit her. Which brings him back into Jaclyn’s orbit, somewhat to the concern of both Suzanne and Chance’s receptionist Lucy (Greta Lee), both of whom drop hints about where this all might be headed: Suzanne implies that Chance has previous for messing about with a patient (“Once is a mistake. Twice is a decision”), and Lucy clearly thinks that Jaclyn is manipulating Chance. We also discover that Jaclyn’s last therapist was murdered in mysterious circumstances.

In the meantime, trying to raise some money, Chance has been visiting the antiques shop of an old friend, Carl (Clarke Peters), in order to sell a desk. Carl’s assistant D (a chilling Ethan Suplee) offers to restore the desk to enhance its value, and Chance and D start to hang out: D, it transpires, has a taste for vigilante violence, summed up in a tense and ultimately gruesomely bloody sequence towards the end of the episode when he essentially dangles Chance as bait in front of a group of muggers, all of whom he then beats up. I would imagine that Chance will shortly be inviting D to use his skills on Jaclyn’s violent husband.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the Golden Age’s glut of TV is that, in an odd way, it can be something of a relief when a new show turns out to be substandard. And so, on one level, I’m sorry to say that I loved Chance. The acting is excellent – Suplee, in particular, is mesmerising; the pace is measured, but that feels like a deliberate decision rather than an attempt to mitigate a paucity of material; the script is strong. And the production values are sky-high and satisfyingly noir-esque. I can’t imagine that the Vertigo references are accidental: San Francisco setting aside, there are occasional stabs of Herrmann-esque music; a blonde femme fatale who has to be saved by an older man; even the dual personalities. I was engrossed from start to finish.

So Chance is another one for my list. If you want to see if it might fit on yours, it’s on Universal in the UK, and the first two episodes are available on catch-up.

Poldark s3 ep 3


“Papa’s been gone a long while, hasn’t he? Where can he be?”

“Creeping moodily around rural revolutionary France” is the answer to that question, as Captains Poldark and Hook, neither of whom is blessed with the power of stealth, hang about les rues françaises as conspicuously as humanly possible, waiting for news of Doctor Dwight. Or for apprehension and execution by La Republique – whichever comes first.

Keeping a low profile proves somewhat challenging for Ross, who spends much of the episode visibly tamping down his have-a-go-heroic impulses as throats are slit, women are manhandled and other unsportsmanlike behaviour is rampant all around him, but this is the new, improved Ross 2.0, and he has priorities; “I’ve a wife, a child, and another on the way. I’ll be keeping my head down and my mouth shut.” Not quite shut enough, mind you – this trip involves a lot of standing on street corners speaking English and looking shifty – but it’s more the serial brooding that tips off La Republique – or more specifically, la femme at le Pub – that l’homme anglais who’s not-so-surreptitiously smouldering right there in the middle of la salle might be on more than just a cheese and wine run.

Thankfully, a quick bribe later and our man’s deported as opposed to transported directly to Doctor Dwight’s side in French prison. (Dwight’s not dead – Hurrah! But he’s in prison – Boo!) Un petit thing like the threat of imminent, intimate introduction to la guillotine isn’t going to stop our hero, though, oh non. “Tell my wife I’ve been delayed,” he drawls, handing Capt Hook his stupid triangle hat and diving off into the Channel, before procuring a green beanie and returning to le SAME PUB and le SAME TABLE to get caught by la SAME FEMME. Dude, FFS!

No more Captain Sensible this time, though. Having procured the information he came for at last, our homme can finally go full Captain Hothead and embark on what I was going to call Aidan Turner’s audition for James Bond till I saw Digital Spy had already got there first. Dammit. Anyway, let’s just say Ross makes up for all that earlier standing around clenching his fists by joyfully unfurling his action hero flag and taking out a troop of French soldiers entirely single-handedly – although it’s more like single-headedly, it being a lot less of a faff to head-butt people when you’re wearing a beanie than it is with the stupid triangle hat – and dashing triumphantly back to Cornwall with news of Doctor Dwight’s (temporary, I would have thought, unless someone gets him out of le prison tout de suite) survival.

While her husband plays action man across the sea, meanwhile, the very pregnant and increasingly fed up Demelza does every other thing that needs doing because she is a proto-feminist powerhouse and everyone else is no good to man nor horse. “Fiend for prayer”(Hee) Sam continues to smile beatifically while constantly, interminably sermonising but, since he can’t sort sermonising space for himself, Demelza has to do that as well. Twice. Drake continues to moon after Morwenna and it’s adorable, but, dude, your sister, who has provided you with a home, a church and all manner besides, is UBER-pregnant and still running a working farm essentially by herself, as well as running after you and your jobless brother – could the pair of you not do some scything or something for her, FFS? As for Prudie, well yes, she’s funny and supportive, and throws dough around with great enthusiasm, but she could stand to do a bit more of the heavy lifting, too, thanks very much.

Happily, Demelza recognises both her own worth and everybody else’s lack thereof, so when her handsome idiot of a husband eventually comes back and presumes to try and second-guess what she did while he was off playing soldiers, he’s made to realise his mistake very, very quickly, and peace (also temporary, I’m sure) reigns once again in the Poldark house reigns once as they – horizontally, and very enthusiastically – make it up to one another.

While Ross and Demelza work their way back to marital bliss, however, life at Trenwith is a tad less passionate. Elizabeth, being both awful and deluded, continues to blame Ross and Demelza (FFS girl, Ross I understand, but how is it DEMELZA’s fault you slept with her husband?) for the whole Valentine being, um, “much darker” than Geoffrey Charles situation. So, in a state of high dudgeon, off she trots with her appalling husband to Truro, only to remember that a) her husband is the worst person alive and b) her leaving Trenwith is the best thing that ever happened to everyone except her, with c) Aunt Agatha, Morwenna and Geoffrey Charles (now the proud owner of his own stupid triangle hat) now entirely free to swing from the chandeliers if they so wish, never mind associate with every Carne and Captain Hothead within a 100 mile radius. Hurrah! My brain says I should feel sorry for Elizabeth, since the existential horror of marriage to Judge Dread (no, I don’t mean Dredd) is such that it requires both ye olde anti-depressants and booze, but that would require humanity of Demelza-size proportions and I’m just not that awesome. Which is a shame for me on a number of levels, only one of which is really pertinent to this post: this season is much better than the previous one, this episode was a good one and I enjoyed it, but if the show hadn’t made Elizabeth and George such terrible, wretched people and I didn’t spend all their increasingly lengthy and annoying screen time wondering why they haven’t died already, I might have enjoyed it (and every other episode) even more.

The Blacklist s4 ep 20


I don’t know what they were putting in the water in The Blacklist’s writers’ room when they were putting the post-hiatus run together, but this is another storming episode. The Blacklister of the Week is Edgar Grant, a mild-mannered school janitor known as The Debt Collector. He’s a sociopath-for-hire who is paid by people who want to extract a fitting revenge on those they think have wronged them, and he’s after Liz.

So when he abducts Liz, there are a few questions: who wants revenge on our beloved Liz, why does he want it, where has The Debt Collector taken her, what does he plan to do, and can he be stopped? With no better options, and the corpse of a previous Collector victim to examine, Red offers Mr. Kaplan a truce: they need to work together to save Liz. Mr. Kaplan agrees, sort of, which among other things takes her to the school where Grant works, giving her a brief but wonderful opportunity to prove that she’s the best substitute teacher ever.

The Task Force, meantime, has worked out that the Collector was hired by one Tyson Pryor, a former professor convicted years ago, after the intervention of a young FBI profiler, for sending anthrax through the post. Now terminally ill, Pryor has been released on compassionate grounds, but when confronted claims – plausibly – to have nothing whatever to do with Liz’s abduction.

And he’s telling the truth. Because The Debt Collector was hired by Red, in order to dangle Liz as bait for Mr. Kaplan. And it’s working: the Collector has taken Liz to a remote lodge, where Red and Dembe are already waiting. Mr. Kaplan isn’t far behind, and Ressler and the FBI come charging in fairly quickly thereafter. A tense standoff ensues. But what Ressler doesn’t know is that Detective Julian Gale is onto him and the Task Force, and has followed Ressler in order to take a shot at Red; which he does, but without success.

So everyone gets away, just about, and Red now has to reckon with two crucial facts: Mr. Kaplan isn’t prepared to allow for the possibility of peaceful co-existence, and whoever it was who tried to shoot him is a new player entirely. Which sets us up very nicely for this week’s season-ending double-bill.

Hawaii Five-0 s7 ep 25

A quick sidebar before we get started: as I hoped, I was able to catch up with the MacGyver/Hawaii Five-0 crossover episode, which was… fine. As it’s the only episode (of either iteration of MacGyver) I’ve ever seen, my observations are few in number and probably inaccurate: like everything else just now, it has a hot female hacker; there’s an unconvincing ship; and George Eads is doing a lot of the heavy lifting.

Anyway, to business. Moani, the girl rescued from sex traffickers a few episodes ago, gets in touch with Kono and provides her with a sketch of someone else who was involved in the trafficking ring. He’s identified as Deon Miller, and he’s still very much a part of the business; in fact, he’s found to be driving a truck with a trailer full of terrified girls.

What to do? Well, to start with the HPD (led by the returning Abby) uses some cars and barriers to set up what it thinks is a perimeter, in the hope that Miller will stop, but Miller just crashes through it. And then things get kind of weird. Miller’s being followed; everyone knows where he is – it’s even on TV; no-one knows where he’s going; yes, he’s probably got plenty of fuel, so he can keep moving for a while, but it’s an island, and there’s a limit to where he can go. Rather than just wait him out, though, maybe until he really needs to go to the john, Steve decides that immediate action is called for: the truck, he explains, is to be guided towards a tunnel, and when it emerges he’s going to jump on top of it, enter the trailer, free the girls, smack Miller around, etc. “Are you”, demands Danny, “completely whacked out of your head?” Probably; but he’s going to do it, and everyone – including Steve – keeps talking as if it’s more or less a suicide mission, without exploring the possibility that hanging around and doing nothing might work just at least as well.

Steve successfully jumps onto the truck, though and uses some sort of portable welding device to open the roof of the trailer and free the girls, although not without the usual violence, and some daring stuntwork. It’s all pretty intense, and it’s worth remembering that this is the 25th episode of the season; Alex O’Loughlin undoubtedly needs a rest.

And as this is the finale, a few threads need to be left dangling. Kono, earlier seen buying a pregnancy test, and despairing about how the Five-0’s successful operation will barely make a dent on child sex trafficking, hops on a plane to Carson City, Nevada, which was where Miller intended to take the girls. It still isn’t clear if Grace Park will be back for the eighth season, and it would be a shame if she weren’t, although I daresay the show could survive.

Meantime Steve isn’t feeling well, and it isn’t anything to do with Danny’s organ being inside him; it’s because he has radiation poisoning (!) from handling the dirty bomb earlier in the year. As Alex O’Loughlin has said before that he wouldn’t want to do more than eight seasons (although he seems to be relaxing his stance on that), it’s possible this is the start of that particular trail of breadcrumbs. I will be very much back next time, though: I thought this was the best season of H50 for years.

Nashville s5 ep 8

Juliette is off to church, to explain to Hallie and her congregation that she wants to record a gospel album, with them as the choir. A certain amount of criticism ensues: essentially, Caucasian with a bad-girl image and no history of belief in God coming in here making money from African-American Christians. Unsurprisingly, Juliette fires back and leaves, but – equally unsurprisingly, since endgame here is clearly Juli Goes Gospel – she returns the next day with a little more humility and apologises, which does the trick.

Meantime, the extraordinary news is that, after four and a half seasons, I think I’ve finally been cured of my long-standing Gunnlett obsession. And it’s Scarlett who’s done it. This week she decides that she can’t be with anyone just now, but that she might just hook up with Damien, and once again expects Gunnar to be fine with that. It’s not, she tells him peevishly, an “either/or”. Oh yes it is, he (correctly) replies: either you’re gonna sleep with him or you’re not. And she does. With the same Damien who, let’s not forget – although the show has – treated Scarlett appallingly in the name of art a few episodes ago. The only conclusion which can be drawn, unfortunately, is that she’s into that sort of thing. Anyway. Gunnar, dude; you can do better.

The minor drama in the Jaymes/Claybourne household this week is that Daphne has her first period, which is the sort of thing that the Nashville of seasons 1-4 wouldn’t have troubled itself with. Deacon’s befuddlement is quite sweet. The bigger problem is that Rayna’s stalker is… standing over 300 feet from her house. Well, I thought: he’s not much of a stalker, and I can’t imagine the TAU would have bothered itself with him. But then he turns out to be quite proficient at stalking after all – much better at that than, say, Rayna’s security goons are at keeping her safe – and, wielding a knife, confronts her within the Highway 65 offices. Rayna eventually manages to get away, but as she’s being driven home she’s in a car crash. So not a great evening for Rayna, really; but a passable episode.

Lethal Weapon s1 ep 15

A few days ago I was quite nice about Bull, which has finished its first season. It’s not my favourite new network show, though, because that, of course, is Lethal Weapon; which, if I’m being honest, is pretty much my favourite anything at the moment. When I reviewed the first episode I admitted to being amazed at how good it was, and week after week I’ve been amazed over and over again.

It’s not difficult to work out why. The script is great: action, laugh-out-loud zingers, real emotion, and an ability to switch mood without feeling too manipulative. Which, in turn, is where the actors comes in. Damon Wayans is a terrific Murtaugh, and he and Keesha Sharp (who was Mrs Johnnie Cochran in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story) as Trish, his wife, are a supportive, affectionate, and sexy midlife married couple. Clayne Crawford is occasionally remarkable as the recently-widowed Riggs; capable, particularly in the earlier episodes, of moving me to tears as the depth of his loss was made apparent. And first among equals in the supporting cast is Kevin Rahm as Captain Avery, who I’ll watch with pleasure in anything, and who is really great here: the episode in which Avery’s career was under threat was a season highlight.

And this episode, ‘As Good As It Getz’, might have been one of the best so far. It had The Odd Couple’s Thomas Lennon turning in a dazzling cameo as ambulance-chasing lawyer Leo Getz, suddenly on the wrong side of a drug cartel; and, more significantly, the return of Hilarie Burton as DEA agent Karen Palmer, who has chemistry with Riggs, as all of the other characters have noticed. Which is great news, because the one thing this show has been lacking until now is a proper ship. In fact, just as I was writing down the words “you guys, I am ALREADY shipping them SO HARD” they – in all likelihood – made out in a lift. Squee! I am SO ON BOARD with #Riggsmer, as is everyone else in the show.

It continues to be the case that Lethal Weapon isn’t “great TV”. It isn’t edgy cable fodder with a tortured male antihero, it isn’t a streaming service’s latest “bingeworthy” (oh God oh God how I hate that concept) drama. But this was a seriously brilliant hour of TV. So I don’t just like this show, I like like it. In fact I would happily marry Lethal Weapon, move to the suburbs with it, and bear its children.

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.