Public Service Announcement 53 of 2019: No Second Chance (Une chance de trop)

Despite being a huge fan of American writer Harlan Coben, I have never yet watched any TV show with his name on it. This time he exec produces a six-part French adaptation of his 2003 novel No Second Chance, in which – as ever – terrible things happen to ostensibly settled suburbanites. The unsuspecting victim is Dr Alice Lambert (Alexandra Lamy) who is shot in the back at her house by a mystery intruder, then wakes from a coma to discover what happened to her family. As far as I can tell it’s pretty good, I really do like Coben, and Dana Delany is in it, so it’s probably about time I gave one of these a go. First episode tonight at 11.10pm on Channel 4; everything available thereafter through Walter Presents.

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Private Eyes s3 ep 7

Becca’s new show – the Eyes’ answer to Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars – is plagued with “accidents” which are being attributed to some kind of supernatural shenanigans, despite very clearly being of far more prosaic origin. Of course, she calls in Shade and Angie, and, of course, poor Shade somehow gets roped into actually taking part in the show but he looks good in a matador dance costume so there’s that. Who’s sabotaging the show? What do they want? Well done to Angie who, between blatantly longing looks at Shade’s paso doble (I see you, girlfriend) and thanks to a little help from Zoe, manages to solve both questions, and well done to Shade for some very nifty footwork in the nick of time. Dude’s dancing is fun (and saves lives!) but, whether it’s because, like Zoe, I was watching this while laid up in bed with a cold and wasn’t really in the right headspace or because the story just isn’t that great, I found the rest of this episode a bit dull.

Poldark s5 ep 5

*SPOILERS*

What a chore of an episode.

George, a man utterly devoid of grace, decency or anything resembling humanity, decides it’s time to make a big splash in the House with a speech about the awesomeness of the slave trade. Said big splash is rightfully reduced to a dirty little puddle by one Captain Ross Poldark, whose counter-argument is particularly strong because of some insider info from Cecily, passionate because of his own innate ability to be anything else, and ruined because of his innate inability to Shut. Up. About. Stupid. Ned.

George, to whom character development is an alien concept, will not be stopped there, however. As his only two aims in life continue to be his own advancement and the utter destruction of everything Poldark-related (George, it’s been five seasons, my God, man, enough), he and the irredeemably slimy Hanson happily sign on to an unnecessarily elaborate plan to frame Ross and Stupid Ned for treason. I say “unnecessarily elaborate” since Stupid Ned is quite openly and more or less constantly shouting about how mad the King is and more besides, and all it takes for him to delightedly endorse a spot of regicide is a couple of ales and his inability to Shut. Up. Himself. So hiring an entire team to try and put a bit of paper in his pocket proclaiming his political sympathies seems somewhat surplus to requirements: he’s loudly announcing them to anyone who’ll listen anyway.

As well as being unnecessarily elaborate, the plan turns out to be somewhat easily foiled. The Ross part is derailed by Dr Dwight and Caroline who are both awesome, especially Caroline who very quickly gets over last week’s bout of jealousy, remembers how magnificent she is and sets about showing it. The Stupid Ned part, meanwhile, is derailed by…. gravity. Yes, the smoking gun super-crucial bit of paper, er, falls on the floor. Along with my eyes which roll clean out of my head. Do any of the constabulary searching for evidence of Stupid Ned’s treachery see the apparent documentary evidence as it lies there in PLAIN VIEW practically glowing? No. No, they don’t, so this plotline continues to be as ridiculous as it is ham-fisted, but there we are. It isn’t over yet, though: Stupid Ned ends up in jail anyway and liable to drag Stupid Ross down with him. Sympathising with either of them is becoming increasingly difficult.

Back in Cornwall, meanwhile, it’s just as difficult to understand why so much of this season is being taken up by Tess the Terrible’s carry-on, but once again, poor Demelza is stuck dealing with another of the permanently sulky one’s evil plans. Happily, she manages this reasonably efficiently with encouragement from Zacky Martin who is quite helpful and Brother Sam who isn’t much, but the show’s determined focus on the unspeakable Tess is still almost as annoying as whatever that muppet Geoffrey Charles thinks he’s doing going to Hanson for Cecily’s hand, which is a very, very high bar. Thank goodness then for the Enyses, and for Drake and Morwenna: without the four of them, this episode would have been wall-to-wall infuriating.

The Blacklist s6 ep 10

In a nicely chilling cold open, a hacker stops the pacemaker of a football-playing young girl, in order to leverage her father – who also owns the company which manufactures the pacemaker – into liquidating some of his assets and transferring them. But the hacker – known, helpfully, as The Rat – isn’t this week’s Blacklister. That’s The Cryptobanker, who launders illegally-gotten Bitcoin. (Which is one of those things, like swimming and powered flight, that I just don’t understand, but which happily continues in the face of my scepticism.) While Aram builds the girl a Faraday cage, so that the hacker can’t interfere with the pacemaker again, Red asks the Task Force to find The Cryptobanker, because reasons. It’s a brisk, muscular plot.

This week’s real thrills, though, are to be found at Red’s trial. Faced with a prosecutor who is planning to reveal the existence of the immunity agreement, and therefore the Task Force, Red gambles. He changes his plea to guilty,  then rushes through the jury’s consideration of whether he is to be subjected to the death penalty, in order to be back at the prison by a certain time. Because he has an escape plan. And it’s a great one, which totally works… right up until the last moment, when it doesn’t, and he’s recaptured on the verge of freedom.

Now convicted, and awaiting execution, does Red have anything else up his sleeve? Well, of course he does; he wanted the Cryptobanker found because he did some business with a man in Cairo, which is evidence of a great big conspiracy, which will get Red another immunity agreement. Or something. It hardly matters. It’s The Blacklist, and it’s brilliant, even if I’ve now decided not to bother worrying about whether Liz loves or hates Red at any given moment. This week she loves him, I think.

Private Eyes s3 ep 6

A routine insurance gig turns into the Eyes’ answer to Die Hard this week as Shade stumbles onto a hostage situation inside a household goods company. Of course, Shade won’t leave the hostages, and Angie won’t leave Shade (SQUEE! I mean, that counts as a SQUEE-able moment, doesn’t it? SQUEE!), which means some more perilous than usual – albeit still relatively gentle in comparison to other tv shows – shenanigans involving toasters, hairdryers and Shade apologising for having to punch some daftie in the ribs. It’s all nicely-plotted, funny and somehow, despite the guns, still sweet and low-stakes – I mean, genuine, serious consideration is given at one point to whether the armed men might be after the company’s new slow-cooker design, come on now – which is exactly how I like my Eyes, thank you very much. And bonus: Angie, Shade and Maz all get to showcase their talents and how well they work together, while newbie Ruth gets to be much less annoying than she was when she first showed up. Shame the same can’t be said for Inspector Carson, but we can’t have everything, I guess. What we can have, though, is a very good time for 40ish minutes and a “Best. Partner. Ever.” Yippee ki yay, indeed.

The Blacklist s6 ep 9

Red’s trial is about to start: He’s being accused of treason by providing details to Russia, in 1990, of the whereabouts of a US navy submarine, which was then attacked. (I don’t think I knew that.) Hang on, he says, there’s a Blacklister who can clear my name: Minister D, serial blackmailer, has proof that I didn’t commit the offence. So this week, at least, Liz and the Task Force are in no doubt that Red has his own reasons for wanting a Blacklister found.

Minister D’s MO is to gather incriminating information via an old-school phone tap, record it on an old-school tape, type out a transcript on an old-school typewriter, deliver it to the target, then demand vast sums of cash money. It’s remarkably successful, but – as it turns out – it hardly makes him the most difficult Blacklister to find. And while the Task Force is on that, Red’s trial finally gets under way. It is, of course, ludicrously entertaining, with Red still representing himself and prosecutor Sima calling Ressler as his star witness. Ressler cheerfully perjures himself by declining to reveal that the man in court isn’t actually Red Reddington; if “Red” is happy to face the death penalty when he could exculpate himself in seconds, reasons Ressler, it’s hardly for him to take an alternative view.

Minister D is found, as is the tape which proves Red’s argument that he was framed by Katarina Rostova, Alan Fitch, and the Cabal. (I could have done without ever hearing about the Cabal again, but there we go.) Red is found not guilty, but remains in custody as there are further trials to go. The question of why he would continue to take the hit for the actual Red remains unanswered. And Dembe finds out that Liz did, indeed, betray Red by ensuring that he would be arrested, but keeps that secret from Red, presumably because he has enough shit to do without also managing a full-on Red vs Liz war. All that and another #Kessler moment – don’t think I’m not watching you, you crazy kids. Six seasons in, The Blacklist continues to deliver.

Public Service Announcement 52 of 2019: FBI

If you thought tv was short another Dick Wolf franchise, or perhaps another show set in the New York office of the FBI, Sky Witness is here to help you out: Mr Law and Order’s latest, the imaginatively-named “FBI” has its UK premiere tonight (Thursday) with a double-bill kicking off at 9pm. But will it be any good? Depends what you mean by “any good,” to be honest.

If it’s anything like Law and Order original flavour, it’ll be efficiently-made, staid and self-righteous but very watchable when it’s on daytime tv at lunchtime and you happen to come upon re-runs nestled between home makeover shows and Bargain Hunt. If it’s anything like SVU, it’ll be efficiently-made, wildly sensationalist and self-righteous, but very watchable when it’s on in double or triple bills late at night on three channels at once, and you really don’t want to go to bed yet. Or if it’s anything like Chicago Med, it’ll be efficiently made, super-soapy and self-righteous, but its watchability will depend entirely on which characters are on screen at any given moment. Dick Wolf Televisual Universe completists will have many more examples but I think you get the picture. Not that you need me to tell you – if you’ve never seen a single minute of a Dick Wolf show, congratulations, you’re a unicorn. Or perhaps you’re Jed. Anyway, in the grand tradition of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I’m guessing this will be slick, over-wrought, determinedly unchallenging procedural television, absolutely secure in its own attitudes and rectitude but, either way, it’s not alone: Dick Wolf shows being like buses, this new one (having already been shown in the US) arrives not only with a second season already commissioned but also with its very own spin-off ”FBI: Most Wanted” ordered to series as well. All of a sudden, I am so tired. I don’t know if I can bring myself to watch this, but if I do, I’ll let you know.