Public Service Announcement 8 of 2015: The Mysteries of Laura, Extant, Wolf Hall, Cucumber

More juggling-single-mother this week with the debut of NBC’s The Mysteries of Laura, a comedy/drama about homicide detective Laura Diamond, who has twin sons and is in the middle of divorcing her husband, who is also her boss. You can see the possibilities for comedy/drama piling up right there. Laura is played by Debra Messing, whose sitcom Will and Grace will be more than a footnote when the history of the struggle for gay rights is written; and the show is exec produced by, among others, Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s, Eli Stone, The Flash, Brothers and Sisters) and “McG” (Chuck, Nikita). I won’t be watching – Murder in the First got in there to fill the single mom/murder cop gap in my life – but I just have a feeling that this is a little bit better than the hostile critical response in America would suggest: viewing figures have held up well enough, to the point where renewal is at least a possibility, and Messing is an engaging screen presence (Tuesday 20 January, 9pm, 5 USA).

If sci-fi’s your thing, and it generally isn’t mine, NBC’s Extant makes its way to UK TV screens the same night.(Although it’s already been on Amazon.) Halle Berry stars as an astronaut who returns home pregnant after 13 months on a solo mission. But… how? And she’s married to Dr Luka Kovač off of ER, Goran Visnjic himself. As well as Berry and Visnjic the cast includes Hallie from The Newsroom (Grace Gummer) and Renee Walker from 24 (Annie Wersching, who deserves a regular gig). And the whole thing is co-produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, with Spielberg exec producing. It’s a nice compact 13 episodes and has a second-season renewal in the bag, so it’s worth getting invested if you’re interested (Tuesday 20 January, 9pm, Syfy UK).

On the home-grown side of the house this week, we have Wolf Hall, based on Hilary Mantel’s celebrated novel, which squats threateningly on my book shelves, all 700 or so unopened pages of it. (Yes, I know. I might be the only person nostalgic for the days when Mantel used to produce dazzling, sour, challenging fiction of a readable length. Eight Months on Ghazzah Street. Beyond Black. Fludd. A Change Of Climate. Those were books.) Mantel has endorsed the adaptation, and the cast includes Damian Lewis, Mark Rylance, Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Pryce, and Joanne Whalley, among others. CJ, who heads our historical drama department, will be reviewing the first episode at least (Wednesday 21 January, 9pm, BBC Two).

Finally, Russell T Davies’s latest project Cucumber gets under way this week, about middle-aged gay life in Manchester. It will run in tandem with Banana, about younger characters in the same fictional world, and Tofu, an online accompaniment. The ambition at least is to be applauded, whether or not the drama lives up to expectations (all on Thursday 21 January: Cucumber 9pm Channel 4; Banana 10pm E4; Tofu 10.30pm 4OD).

And coming soon: Mr Selfridge, The Good Wife, and Fortitude, among others.


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