Nashville s5 ep 21

In the (almost) five years of Nashville’s existence, and in particular during this sui generis season, I’ve completely lost any ability I might have had to tell the good and the bad episodes apart. But what the heck: I liked this one; in fact, it was my favourite for weeks. Don’t ask me why, though.

Maddie is filming a commercial for makeup company Mascara 24, for which Highway 65 will be paid an unconscionable amount of money. In order to comply with the demands of the director she mimes ‘Tidal Wave’ over and over again while soaking wet – yet another difficult director, Nashville, change the record on this one – until the client spots that the words of the song don’t actually reference, you know, mascara, and demands a change in the lyrics. Maddie refuses, because it’s her song and it came from the bottom of her teen heart, or something, and Deacon backs her up until Zach points out that (a) the contract between M24 and H65 allows the former to do whatever the hell they like; and (b) if Maddie breaks the contract, he’s pulling out of H65, which will mean the end of the company. Ruh-roh.

So Deacon – who, as he would be the first to admit, is no sort of CEO – does what he usually does, which is to have a sort of cast meeting to decide what to do. The H65 talent, in turn, leaves it up to him, apart from Daphne’s pert observation that there really isn’t much point in H65 existing if it isn’t what Rayna wanted it to be. Three things at this stage: Firstly, I’m still not convinced that Zach is the bad guy here, exactly; he knows that H65’s future lies in more than record sales. Secondly, I still like Alyssa, who continues to be much more interesting than she needs to be: she’s properly concerned about Maddie’s welfare when the commercial is being filmed, and she also turns out when pressed into karaoke – no, not me, I couldn’t possibly – to have a great voice herself, which makes me wonder if we’ll find out that she’s living her dreams through Maddie. And, thirdly, this might be a good place to point out that Chip Esten has had a hell of a season, particularly the post-Rayna episodes.

We’ll leave Deacon pondering that dilemma for now, and instead head out to see Avery and Gunnar, both having a wonderful time being boys on the road. Avery is having to field numerous phone calls from Juliette, who is being particularly high-maintenance. At the same time, tour manager (?) Polly, another from the Nashville production line of perky brunettes, is wondering aloud why you would want to be in a relationship if it weren’t fun. A light-bulb visibly goes on above Avery’s head at the mention of the word “fun”, and another goes on atop Gunnar (“Whoa!”) when Polly makes it very clear, sometimes even while wearing a bra, that she wouldn’t mind a little what-goes-on-tour with Avery. But Juliette is then conciliatory over the phone, and Avery decides that’s better than bedding Polly, because he’s an idiot who likes being treated badly.

Deacon, meantime, is kidnapped by Jessie, who takes him out to the middle of nowhere to clear his head. When he gets back, he’s decides what to do: he tells Zach to back off, and plays a gig at the Opry which we perhaps get to see just a little too much of (but, as mentioned above, if anyone on this show has earned a showcase it’s Esten). Then he comes off stage and gives Jessie… a firm hug, no more, although one which still has Daphne looking a little perturbed. Don’t worry, Daphne. No-one on this show has sex any more. You’re not about to get a new mom.


Lucifer s1 ep 3

First things first. We have to deal with the hornèd, cloven-footed elephant in the room, and it’s that this cradle Catholic has a qualm or two about saying anything approving with reference to a show which (a) is named Lucifer and (b) features Lucifer as a appealing and good-looking bad boy. So every time I text CJ to say something like “I really like Lucifer”, or “Thursday night is Lucifer night”, or “YOU TOTALLY NEED TO GET LUCIFER INTO YOUR LIFE!!!!!111!”, there’s a hard-wired part of me seeking absolution. And so – even though if there is a God, He knows, by definition, that it’s an American network procedural I’m talking about – I want to make it clear to Him that this is all about Lucifer-the-show, not Lucifer-the-Prince-of-Darkness.

Anyway. How does Lucifer stack up so far? Pretty… well, I guess? The ludicrous premise is that Lucifer Morningstar (a camply charming Tom Ellis) has got bored of the underworld – although there have been a few allusions to some sort of political dispute in Hell, in which I am not very interested – and has instead, as one does, pitched up in Los Angeles, where he owns a nightclub. In the first episode a pop star of Lucifer’s acquaintance is murdered. The investigation is helmed by the razor-sharp-cheekboned Detective Chloe Decker (Lauren German, late of H50), single mom and ex-actor, and Lucifer – obviously – muscles into the investigation, helping to to solve the crime because he thinks that people who have done bad things should be punished for them, while he and Chloe bicker. This pattern is followed in episodes 2 (film star’s son killed) and 3 (American footballer’s hookup killed).

I suppose you could argue that this third episode showed some signs of Luciferian personal development, because he feels responsible for the footballer being arrested, but that apart the plotting is from the procedural playbook: with the tried-and-tested combination of smart, snarky female cop and wisecracking male freelancer with Special Powers, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. It’s Castle without the writer, or The Mentalist with the devil; The Satanist, if you will. It isn’t even as if Lucifer is hiding his true identity: there’s the name, the black car, the dark clothing, and his free admission that he can persuade people to reveal their darkest desires because he’s, well, Lucifer, safe in the knowledge that no-one will believe him anyway.

It’s all pretty good fun, with the very evident potential to become better, and there isn’t really much more that I want from a procedural. (I also approve of Linda, the nerdy-hot psychiatrist who is Lucifer’s confidant and occasional sexytimes partner.) As well as a readymade ship – and, yes, I am shipping them – the Lucifer/Chloe dynamic benefits from her inscrutability: Lucifer’s powers don’t work on her, and he wants to know why. And there’s the occasional hint of out-and-out nastiness rounding things off: every now and again Lucifer manifests himself as a demon rather than an English-accented smoothie, which of course terrorises those who see it. The end of the second episode, where Chloe visits the baddie from the first episode, now hospitalised because he’s maintaining that the man who caught him is the Devil, was proper shivers-down-the-spine stuff: he’s in a state of terror, but is assumed to be delusional. Oh no he isn’t.

So. No weekly reviews, because it’s total nonsense, but yes: I’m into Lucifer. The show. THE SHOW.

Nashville s5 ep 20

There… wasn’t very much going on this week, was there? Never mind. These episodes can have a quiet charm of their own. Sometimes. Gunnar is on the road with Avery, and there’s a sort of running theme of Gunnar and Scarlett trying and failing to have a phone conversation with each other, which leaves him free to pursue other things. So he visits his hometown, Aurora, and drops in on his grandmother, who brought him up, and is now in a nursing home. As it turns out she’s an appalling human being, and his upbringing – there are some flashbacks – was also appalling.

On the bright side, he’s at a gas station when he bumps into his high school crush Kelly, who’s still – let’s be clear about this – somewhat crushable. They hang out for a while, which is all good; I said last week that I was hoping Gunnar would get a little sugar in Texas. Then they kiss, and get my hopes up even more. But they break the kiss off before it can go any further, and Kelly reveals that she’s married. Booo. Scarlett, meantime, is taking self-defence lessons, which by the end of the episode seem to have restored her sangfroid a little.

Back at Raynadu, Maddie wakes up to the news that she’s been nominated for an AMA. But so has Juliette, and as far as Maddie is concerned they’re still not speaking to each other. That rumbles on for the hour, with Juliette making a conciliatory gesture via Twitter, and Maddie “throwing shade”, as I believe the young people were saying a couple of years ago, back at her.

And Deacon once more offers to help Jessie, although he must sometimes be wondering why he bothers. She plays a new song for him, which he likes, and after she fails to get studio time somewhere he offers to help her record it. But she throws it back in his face: “Why”, she demands, “are you doing this?” It turns out that she thinks he’s trying to control her, or something, but since he’s very obviously just being nice it seems unfair. Nor is this the first time something like this has happened. But since we know her to be, in all likelihood, the victim of spousal abuse, and since Deacon forgives her, I guess I can too. They still haven’t made out, incidentally. They have a nice chemistry as STUPID FRIENDS, I suppose, but I don’t watch TV for platonic friendships between men and women, and I’m left wondering whether ANYONE on this show, post-repositioning, actually wants to have sex ever again.

Public Service Announcement 35 of 2017: Murder in the First, Rellik, Liar

Murder in the First returns to British screens this week for its third and, as it turns out, final season. I thought the first season to be an underrated gem; the second, unfortunately, less so. But I’m on board again for this. Steven Bochco is still at the wheel, an excellent cast is once again led by Kathleen Robertson and Taye Diggs, and the formula is the same: a Murder One-esque focus on a single case through the whole (10 episode) season, this time the nightclub shooting of a professional American footballer (Tuesday 12 September, 9pm, FOX UK).

Rather weirdly, the terrestrial channels have scheduled two six-part crime-based dramas written by brothers Harry and Jack Wiliams (The Missing, One of Us) against each other. So in the BBC One corner there’s Rellik, in which Richard Dormer plays a detective on the trail of a serial killer. The show’s USP is that the story is told in reverse; hence, I’m guessing, the title. Bothering be won’t I. And in the ITV corner there’s six-parter Liar, in which Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt accuses Ioan Gruffudd of date rape (both Monday 11 September at 9pm).

Some other bits and pieces: Cold Feet is back (Thursdays, 9pm, ITV); the TV adaptation of JK Rowling’s Strike, after a ratings triumph for its first season, goes straight into season 2 (tonight, BBC One, 9pm); there’s a show about dancing (Saturdays, BBC One); Amazon Prime has season 3 of Outlander from tomorrow; and season 4 of BoJack Horseman has dropped on Netflix.

Finally, the first episode of the new season of American Horror Story is set, almost fittingly, on the night of Donald Trump’s election; almost fittingly because it’s been a horror story for more than just America (Fridays, 10pm, FOX UK).

Nashville s5 ep 19

Ever since Rayna’s death this has been one gloomy show, and it doesn’t get any better this week, starting with Scarlett miscarrying. Her ob/gyn is clear that it’s nothing to do with last week’s assault – these things, tragically, sometimes just happen – but its effects are by no means limited to Scarlett, whose heart is broken.

Gunnar ventures dangerously close to making it about him, but pulls back just in time; he does, though, track down one of the adolescent muggers and beats the crap out of him. Jessie Caine, having been told in confidence by Deacon, turns up on Scarlett’s doorstep and offers her some gifts and sympathy: somewhat presumptuous, perhaps, given that they don’t know each other, but it’s a nice scene. Deacon then rips Jessie, once more putting the chances of romance back for an episode or two, before discovering that her empathy stems from having gone through the same thing herself.

And then Gunnar – who, frankly, has behaved himself more or less impeccably for weeks now – is told by Scarlett that they need to take some time apart, which I thought they were doing anyway, and heads off to Texas to link up with Avery’s tour. It’s unlikely, but I really hope that Gunnar gets to have a little fun in Texas, because Lord knows he deserves it. And in that event it would be nice – if implausible – to think that he wouldn’t get any shit from Scarlett.

No-one else is having any fun either. Juliette is having a launch party for her new album (?), including the song she stole from Maddie. She does her best to keep Maddie and songwriter Travis apart, but inevitably they meet and compare notes, leading to Maddie throwing a drink into Juliette’s face. Juli goes to Raynadu to apologise, and leaves a suitably contrite message with Daphne. “She seems like she really means it”, Daphne tells Maddie. Sure she does; it’s always easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission. Not a bad episode, exactly, but it lay on me like a heavy, wet blanket.

Public Service Announcement 34 of 2017: Doctor Foster, Tin Star

Clearly, the only thing we really care about this week is Private Eyes. There are a few other things worth mentioning, though. The BBC has brought back ratings blockbuster Doctor Foster for a second go-round of middle-class adultery and revenge. While the first season had the usual UK drama flaws – too many episodes, occasionally ridiculous contrivances – it was entertaining enough, and writer Mike Bartlett was prepared to make his lead character somewhat unlikeable. So a second season might be worth a look. I don’t expect to review this time round (Tuesday 5 September, BBC One, 9pm).

Sky Atlantic, meantime, will be showing the latest drama from hit-and-miss production company Kudos. Tin Star, um, stars Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks, with Roth as a London detective who moves to the Rocky Mountains and encounters trouble from oil workers. It’s already been renewed for a second season, which suggests that someone has confidence in it. The whole season will be available on demand for (ew) bingeing, because these days we’re children who can’t wait a whole week for another episode (Thursday 7 September, Sky Atlantic, 9pm).

And the BBC iPlayer has the fascinating documentary Frank Lloyd Wright: The Man Who Built America for another three weeks or so. Highly recommended.

Nashville s5 ep 18

Boy. That escalated quickly.

But let’s back up a bit. Deacon is being badgered on the phone by a fostering charity, who have managed to place Liv in a great home, so maybe we’ll never hear from her again. But the charity – remarkably pushy, I thought, with a man who has very recently and unexpectedly lost his wife – want something of Rayna’s for a forthcoming auction. Something she’s actually worn, they pruriently specify. He digs out a spangly jacket and heads to the auction, where he’s seated at the same table as Jessie, who is approached by her ex Brad (our old friend Jeffrey Nordling). Now, Brad is very evidently a piece of garbage, whose public behaviour towards Jessie is so remarkably controlling that he essentially outs himself as an abuser. He even kinda sorta threatens Deacon, which isn’t something you’d want to do lightly to someone with the Deac’s anger management issues.

Anyways Deacon and Jessie both leave the auction, and Jessie explains to Deacon that Brad managed to get custody of their son because of all the terrible things he said about her. (Although the way in which she kicks some bins over perhaps suggests that she, too, has some “stuff” she needs to “work through”.) Then Deacon goes back in and performs a song – a cover of Waylon Jennings’s stellar ‘Dreaming My Dreams With You’ – the womens all start cryin’, proving Alyssa’s point yet again, and this week it’s Jessie’s turn to sneak in and listen to Deacon performing. Still think they’re gonna bang.

Avery has gone on tour, and in the very first hotel he stays in there’s a cute barmaid who more or less offers to have sex with him within seconds of meeting him. Which has to be tempting, but he declines. Nice fakeout by the show, though, with Yuri the TV guy. Juliette, meantime, is rehearsing for a tour of her own (I think?) and having to accept that post-plane crash she can’t do what she used to. It being Juliette, this process takes a while.

Daphne goes to a party with that boy she likes, expecting that they’re going to watch a scary movie. But when the parents of the host leave, the teens all start ferociously dry-humping. So Daphne and Boy slip into the garden, where they chat and have a go on the swings, thus putting off growing up for a few more hours. Sweet. It’s all very well handled by Maisy Stella, incidentally. And, once again, one can acknowledge that she and Lennon have been turning in some excellent work this season, while wondering at the same time whether the show needs quite so much teen drama in it.

But we need to end with The Exes, who have been pressed by Alyssa into appearing in a TV commercial for a flatpack furniture company not named Ikea, the message being that while life is complicated putting a table up doesn’t have to be. (And, if The Exes are well enough known to advertise something, I’m again finding it difficult to calibrate their exact level of fame.) Except when they get to the studio it isn’t a table, it’s a crib, and Scarlett eventually breaks down in tears, this not being the first time this season she’s had problems with a director. In passing, though, it’s been pretty obvious for weeks that Scarlett needs a break, and specifically not to be in the public eye for a while; and while she’s properly not ashamed of anything in her life, there’s a point at which well-being has to take precedence over principle.

And then we finish the episode with, perhaps, one of the most bizarre things you’ll ever see on Nashville. Gunnar and Scarlett are in a supermarket car park, where Gunnar – correctly – is telling Scarlett that she doesn’t want to be with him, so stop pretending. He keeps getting interrupted by a mini-gang of boys who look as if they’re like ten years old or something, and who want him to buy them some beer. But when he repeatedly declines, one of them suddenly pulls a gun on him, robs them both, then humiliates him. And when the boys finally run off Gunnar and Scarlett fall, sobbing, into each others’ arms. So are they now back together? Who knows? WTF?