Poldark s5 ep 1


The opening flashback to prequel-era Poldark – barely alive, in a field of comrades, wholly dead – makes me wonder, somewhat apprehensively, if this season is going to be about PTSD, which a) was hard enough when we went through it with Dwight and b) seems a bit late now, since Ross has been back from that particular war for years. Happily though, Cap’n Poldark is as far from traumatised as can be at the moment: in fact, he’s positively mellow and calm these days (and incredibly restrained and patient with the appalling George), which is lovely and long overdue, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

Since he doesn’t have any immediate crises of his own for now, though, the writers have to rustle up someone else’s for him to get involved with. So the flashback turns out to be their way of doing it, introducing us to the first of this season’s big problems/ opportunities to get into big trouble in the form of old friend Ned Despard: currently in gaol for taking from the rich and giving to the poor in an entirely appropriate, legal and “must be stopped” if you’re the rich, kind of way. ‘Twas ever thus.

With Ned designated an enemy of “the Government, the Crown, the Empire” and – since his wife Catherine is a freed slave – “the slave trade,” Dr Dwight, bless him, gently enquires (a number of times) “if it’s wise to become embroiled” in this particular storyline, but this just makes Ross and I laugh, since a) of course it’s not and b) since when does that make any difference? There’s Ned to save, slavery to fight and another 7 episodes left, so let’s just get on with fighting the power one last time, hey? And get on with it, we do. By the end of the episode, Ross has, surprisingly easily, managed to save the King from assassination, get himself recruited as a secret agent and free Ned as quid pro quo, but since Ned is about as likely to go quietly and let false charges of treason be bygones as much as Ross is, no doubt things will get a lot harder in early course.

As Ross fights slavery, meanwhile, Demelza tries, not quite as successfully, to soothe dissent among the latest workers fired by George (also a running theme over the years). Offering the chief agitator a job doesn’t quite do it, though. Somebody sets Nampara on fire anyway, which seems a tad unfair, and if Demelza believes Miss Tess wasn’t involved, she might be the only one who does, but we’ll see. No injuries, no casualties – so far – and Mistress Poldark is soon off to join her husband and his merry crew in London too.

Said band of buddies also includes Geoffrey Charles, who wants to leave school and join the military, but needs money to pay for it. Mad, mean George won’t give him a penny, but no matter; GC is soon distracted by one Miss Cecily Hanson who has very Poldark-friendly politics but a very non-Poldark friendly father who was instrumental in sending Ned to jail and is now going into business with George. Or trying to, his efforts being somewhat hampered by the fact that George can’t understand that Elizabeth is dead and wants to know what she thinks of the business plan. Oh God. I loathe George, but poor Valentine. Poor baby whose name I’ve forgotten. And poor, lovely Drake who just keeps finding himself in situations where George tries to have him killed. Argh. It’s a reasonable enough start to the season, and I like this new, relaxed Ross, but the Ned storyline is already boring me, Tess is awful, and there hasn’t been anywhere near as much Dr Dwight and Caroline yet for my liking. I’m not exactly on the edge of my cliff seat waiting for the next instalment.


Public Service Announcement 47 of 2019: Elementary, Better Things, Harrow

Elementary is back, for the last time. “With the seventh and final season underway in America”, wondered The Sunday Times on 2 June, “can we now concede that this modern-day Holmes reboot was far superior to our own Sherlock?” Well, Elementary is better acted and plotted; has a more interesting relationship between the two leads; and, crucially, isn’t smugly, but wrongly, convinced of its own genius . So: yes, The Sunday Times, indeed we can concede it. In fact, some of us have been saying it for years (tonight, 9pm, Sky Witness).

In its own low-key way, Better Things – which also returns this week – has a claim to be somewhere near the top of the Best Things On TV list: Pamela Adlon is the star and auteur of a bittersweet comedy-drama about a single mom in LA, trying to cope with her modestly successful acting career, the pressures of parenthood, and the challenges of life. Although Adlon has now severed her ties with longtime ally Louis C.K., he was still involved with the show during this second season, and on the evidence of the stellar first run of episodes this show shares with C.K.’s self-named vehicle the ability to conjure jaw-dropping genius out of nowhere. For the avoidance of doubt I’m not for a second suggesting that C.K. is the visionary behind Better Things: this is very much Adlon’s show, and the word from America is that the C.K.-less third season of Better Things is astonishing. Meantime, we can savour season 2 (Wednesday 17 July, 10pm, BBC2).

And season 2 of Harrow is here. Didn’t bother with the first season; won’t be bothering with this one; thus far, no-one has told me that I’m missing out (tonight, 9pm, Alibi).

Public Service Announcement 46 of 2019: Poldark

The halcyon days of that heady first season may be long gone, and along with them any real excitement on my part about the continuing sun-dappled, shirt-optional adventures of Cap’n Ross, his friends, lovers and enemies, but we’re not quite done with 18th century Cornwall’s answer to Dynasty yet. Yes, Poldark and pals are back for one last hurrah: the fifth and apparently final (for now – nobody’s completely ruling out the possibility of something more, somewhere down the line, just in case) starts tonight (Sunday) at 9pm on BBC1 and I’ll be back, reviewing, and hoping against hope that Ross has become less of an idiot; he and Demelza manage one season without falling out; George has moved to an off-screen, never to be seen, different county entirely; and Dr Dwight and Caroline just get to live happily ever after. My chances are not good.

Private Eyes s3 ep 2

Angie’s stressed out about the downturn in Everett & Shade’s business since she went to jail. Zoe and Maz are bickering – not the cute, flirty kind of bickering, but the in-your-bones, weary, miserable one. And Shade’s old friend Cordell hires the team to find out who’s been spying on his possibly-not-entirely-honest wife. Huh. No show can be wall-to-wall happiness, but this does seem a little more downbeat than your usual episode of the Eyes, even if that’s still several thousand times less downbeat than your average detective show. It all kind of works out in the end, though: there’s an unexpectedly poignant, heartening resolution to the case of the week; Shade helps keep Angie’s chin up in typically supportive, squee-worthy fashion (I love him) and, although I’m very sad about Zoe and Maz because they’re great, it’s clearly not over for them yet. Downbeat or not, it’s still one of the nicest hours of my week.

Public Service Announcement 45 of 2019: LA’s Finest

In the scheme of things, we really don’t need yet another cop show, but I quite like the idea for LA’s Finest: it’s a spin-off of Bad Boys II, with Gabrielle Union’s character having moved on from whatever went on in it – I remember enjoying that film a very, very long time ago, but I don’t remember a single thing about the plot – and taken up work as a detective in LA, along with partner Jessica Alba. So I suppose the elevator pitch is Bad Girls. Or Lethal Women. Anyway, years after Cagney and Lacey handed in their badges, all-female cop duos are still relatively rare, but “maverick cops” “skirting the rules” are ten a penny, and reboots/ remakes/ spin-offs are everywhere these days too, so who knows if this will be something new or more of the usual. Critical reaction has not been positive but a second season has been commissioned, so somebody must like it. If you want to make up your own mind, episode 1 is at 9pm tonight (Wednesday) on Fox UK.

The Blacklist s6 ep 5

Not for the first time, it’s worth remarking that The Blacklist isn’t scared to get weird every now and again: this week’s cold open features home invaders wearing monkey masks forcing a wealthy businessman to drink poison from a flask. The deceased, Harris Van Ness, was one of Red’s allies, and Red breaks off from his ongoing court case to alert the Task Force. Which, of course, springs into action, as it always does when Red’s interests are threatened.

But the actual problem lies elsewhere. Van Ness left all of his wealth to his son, one Tim Peterson, whose existence was unknown to the rest of Van Ness’s relatives. Tim works in a bowling alley, seems to move in somewhat more trailer-park-adjacent circles than the rest of his newly-discovered family, and has just got engaged to Deidre, a charming school teacher. None of it quite adds up, though, and a brief investigation reveals that Deidre isn’t what she seems. She’s an actor, provided by an agency named Alter Ego, which “fills vacancies”: a wife, a family, whatever. (It all reminded me a little of this astonishing piece in The New Yorker.) And a baddie.

Meantime Red is in court, arguing that the search which yielded the gun found on him was illegal, that the gun is inadmissible in evidence, and that therefore he hasn’t breached his immunity agreement. As he’s representing himself, that means we get the pleasure of James Spader cross-examining a witness and making legal submissions. (I’ve never seen The Practice or Boston Legal, and I’m kind of regretting that now.) Even more pleasingly – for those of us who care about these things – the show actually pays the viewer the compliment of providing a reasoned, nuanced decision on Red’s motion to suppress. No doubt the judge will be revealed, in due course, to be in someone’s pay. For now, though, I’m liking her.

As with last week, the supposed Blacklister – Alter Ego itself – isn’t much of a villain at all; in fact Ressler, who has a family wedding to go to and needs a plus-one, consults them at the end in order to hire a partner. But, again as with last week, that’s very much beside the point, because The Blacklist is on terrific form at the moment.

Private Eyes s3 ep 1

Today may be its somewhat flashier US cousin, but Canada Day was on Monday of this week, and in the UK it came bearing gifts: namely the new season of unpopcult’s beloved Private Eyes, back to make us feel a little brighter about the world for 40-ish minutes a week, thank GOD. Although even Private Eyes has its stresses. I mean, Angie starts off the season in prison, with a couple of con artists and a very tightly-wound federal agent keen to keep her there, but we know the visibly worried Shade isn’t going to stand for that (because he loves her). He mortgages his house to get her out (because he loves her), and with a little help from Maz, Zoe and a delightfully daytime soap-style fake-out towards the end (although it isn’t all fake, because, did I mention, he loves her), Everett and Shade Investigations are back together, the baddies are behind bars, and I genuinely feel better about life. What’s not to love? There’s shipping, squeeing, smiling and lovely characters being lovely, not only to each other, but to anyone they meet who needs it – what Angie did for Loretta, awwww! I’m delighted with all of it. Welcome back, Eyes, we’ve missed you.