Public Service Announcement 26 of 2018: Harrow

Fill-in-the-blanks time. Harrow is an Australian drama which stars (a) as a brilliant, yet maverick and rule-breaking (b), with a passion for (c), a complicated (d), and a Secret (e).

The answers are as follows: (b) forensic pathologist; (c) old movies; (d) home life, of course; and (e), unsurprisingly, is Pain. Which makes (a) all-important, because we really have, one imagines, seen this all before, and it will therefore stand (e.g Private Eyes) or fall on its actors. And this time the brilliant maverick etc. is played by Ioan Gruffudd. Which is good news for him at least, as no more than a few years ago he was complaining about not getting any good parts, and generally sounding like someone in need of a cwtch. However, Gruffudd is not an actor with whom I get on, so I’ll be giving this a miss. Ellie from Hawaii Five-0 (Mirrah Foulkes) also features. The season is only ten episodes long, and the show has been renewed, so if it sounds like your sort of thing it’s probably worth getting invested (tonight, Alibi, 9pm).


Nashville s6 ep 11

I had a big problem with this episode, because I’m kind of over Juliette and her Bolivian adventures. One could argue that the character – and, perhaps, the actor – have been ill-served by the writers; one could speculate about why that is the case. But what’s left is an arc which is both stupid and boring.

So let’s deal with everything else first. Fleetwood Nash are still mired in turmoil, with Gunnar and Avery arguing furiously about Alannah, because – who would have thought it? – when Gunnar said that he was OK with Avery’s romantic interest in Alannah he wasn’t being entirely truthful. Has Avery never met Gunnar before? “I just feel like I’ve caused nothing but trouble”, muses Alannah. Well, yes. Will adroitly runs a couple of diplomatic missions with a view to getting the band back together, or even in the same room, and he’s kind of successful. But meantime Alannah is off having signing talks with Brad, which – as Jessie tries to warn her – is really just a raised middle finger to the entire human race.

Then something… odd happens: Alannah, who has previously come across as someone who is reasonably comfortable in her own skin, suddenly has a meltdown, wondering why she’s always so hard on herself. I hadn’t seen any evidence of this, so it’s possible she’s being manipulative, I suppose. Either way St Avery is on hand to reassure her, prompting the thought in one viewer at least that what Avery could really, really do without is another high-maintenance love interest. Why can’t he just be allowed to have a little fun?

On the subject of love interests, Maddie calls Twig over in order to play him a half-written song… about Jonah. I’m aware that there has been some controversy about the concept of the “friendzone”, as it seems to be used by some to imply male entitlement. Since I think it fair to say that Twig doesn’t strike me as the entitled sort, I’m going to say that when your crush plays you a love song meant for someone else you’ve been friendzoned. Twig is good enough to do a bit of production work on the song, turning it into a bit of a banger, and he and OG are bonding about that when Jonah walks in. Oh dear. Twig risks an attempt at a kiss later, but he decorously backs off when Maddie makes it clear that she’s not interested, and their friendship is sort of preserved.

To Jonestown, Bolivia then (oh God), where Juliette is NOT. HAPPY. with the treatment of one of the “volunteers”. Wait, she thinks, until Darius finds out! Meantime, though, she tells a couple of his brainwashed surrogates that she wants to leave, and their response is to lock her up, which they present as entirely reasonable given her previous issues: issues which she herself has conceded have been addressed by the Church of Darius. But, but… says Juliette, you’re imprisoning me against my will! Meh, whatevs, say the disciples.

The whole thing takes a turn for the worse – the much worse – when Juliette discovers, courtesy of a test smuggled in by Disciple Rosa, that she’s pregnant. Rosa, whose son is being held captive by the cult, offers to help Juliette escape, and Juliette in turn promises that if she’s successful she’ll ensure that someone comes back to help Rosa get her son back. At the end it looks as if Juli has managed to break out – unless that apparently helpful Bolivian van driver is another of Darius’s people in country – which presumably means that next week a pregnant and irate Juliette is going to hit Nashville. The outcome of that will go a long way to determining whether the final few episodes of this show are going to be a pleasure or an endurance test. (Our reviews are now going on hiatus for a couple of weeks; but we’re nothing if not completists on Unpopcult, so we’ll catch up shortly.)

The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor) s2


I LOVE The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor in its native Australia), and I have now watched every episode of both seasons, although if you’re on UK broadcast schedule there are still a few to go.

So if anyone wants a spoilery discussion of the first two seasons I am HERE FOR YOU, including but by no means limited to questions such as:

· Are Hayley and Ajax too young to be getting married? Yes, although the proposal was sweet, as was the wedding: in particular their dance routine to ‘Green Light’

· Does Charlie’s novel sound any good? Nope.

· Ken and Mia (#Kia, I suppose) or Ken and Betty (#Ketty)? I don’t quite see why Ken and anyone, but he clearly has something.

· Would we want Hugh’s amoral mother as the Mayor of our town? You know what? I think we might. The trains would run on time, even if she were skimming something from the ticket prices.

· Did we like Hugh’s wife? No we did NOT. #stupidestrangedwife

· Were we SCREAMING at the TV when Hugh was about to come round from the anaesthetic, and Penny stepped away for a moment, and his #stupidestrangedwife totally slipped into the room JUST as he was waking up? We all know the answer to that.

· The biggie: are we shipping Hugh and Penny? YES. YES we are. We are shipping them HARD.

· Despite that – and here’s a controversial one – is it possible that, even though it’s not going to happen, Hugh and Charlie are MFEO? I think we need to give that consideration.

· Do we want to see the season 3 trailer? Oh, I think so:

· And was that… KISSING?! Looked like it to me.

· Should CJ be watching this? Yes she should. Please tell her.

Lethal Weapon s2 ep 22

It’s the season finale and also, perhaps, the finale for Lethal Weapon as we’ve come to know it. Murtaugh is being promoted permanently to Captain, and keen to remind everyone of that. Trish is just pleased that he’s getting out of the front line. However, he’s immediately in danger when Riggs’s trailer is riddled with gunfire while he’s visiting. 

The understandable working assumption, for what looks like being Riggs and Murtaugh’s last case as partners, is that someone wants Riggs dead. A little brainstorming reveals that the list of people who might be pissed at Riggs isn’t a short one, and the LAPD’s belief is reinforced when the investigation leads them to Grant Davenport (Martin Donovan), a baddie from earlier in the season, whose security is now being provided by Nathan, Riggs’s father.

In fact, though, Murtaugh is the target; it’s connected to Trish’s legal firm, where someone has been laundering money for Nathan’s gang of white supremacists. The stakes get high when Nathan kidnaps Trish and, in response, Riggs abducts Garrett, his half-brother, for the purposes of an exchange. 

Unsurprisingly, it all gets very violent. I’m not even sure whether Nathan ends up alive or dead. In general, though, one suspects that the plot for this episode was sketched out in the knowledge that Clayne Crawford might not be returning for a third season, because the writers gave themselves at least two options for a Riggs-free future: he and Molly are planning to move back to Texas; and he’s shot and, apparently, seriously wounded by his half-brother Garrett. 

Of course, we now know for sure that Crawford has been cut loose, and that the resulting need for a freewheeling maverick in the show will be addressed by the casting of Seann William Scott. A review of Scott’s recent filmography suggests that his was a career which was going nowhere, so being cast as the lead in an established network drama is a remarkable opportunity for him, even if for many of us it seems improbable that the loss of Crawford’s volatile mix of swagger, vulnerability and charm will be adequately compensated for by the appearance of Stifler out of American Pie. (Once again, I should make clear that I have no view on whether Crawford should have been sacked; I’m interested in what happens onscreen as a result.) I may be doing Scott a disservice, in which case I’ll be back with season 3 reviews. But if my fears turn out to be justified, it’s worth recording that the first two seasons of Lethal Weapon stand proud as an example of what you can do with a network procedural when you do it right.

Nashville s6 ep 10

This week in ‘Dude, Learn To Read A Room’: it’s day 1 of Brad’s stupid reality TV songwriter thing. Daphne plainly doesn’t want Deacon to take her to the studio. Deacon seems, God love him, to be genuinely baffled, and out of elementary tact Daphne doesn’t spell out her reasons: the fight with Brad, the pre-existing animosity, the previous convictions, the custody dispute… DUDE. Learn to READ a ROOM.

Meantime, The Lost Highways endure an excruciatingly awkward rehearsal, at which Alannah and Avery won’t even make eye contact, presumably because if they did they would immediately make lip contact. Gunnar then visits Alannah, uninvited, and is all puppyish enthusiasm, whereas it couldn’t be any clearer that Alannah is very much over Gunnar and onto Avery. DUDE. Learn to… etc. Full-on Fleetwood Mac-style dysfunction then ensues when Alannah and Avery make out; and, during a subsequent gig, Gunnar spanks the drums as if they were Avery’s head, then storms off stage. It’s worth noting, in passing, that Alannah’s dissection of how women, unlike men, always need to worry about the consequences of their actions is impressively written and delivered. I am LOVING THIS.

And Scarlett drags her wounded bird, Sean, to an open mic night at which he performs. He’s very good. Afterwards, he kisses Scarlett, who doesn’t respond. DUDE… etc. She’s all, don’t worry about it, but thus far I can’t detect any romantic interest on her part. I hope it remains that way.

It’s Brad’s week, though, which I’d be worried about except that it isn’t that long until the end of the show, and Nashville isn’t gonna let him walk away as a winner. He pushes Daphne into writing a song about her dead mom for the TV show, which presumably is yet another piece of Deacon-provocation. Jessie decides that the only way of dealing with his legal action is to split up with Deacon. And Alannah, presumably reckoning the future of The Lost Highways in minutes rather than years, turns up in his office to hear what he has to say about signing to his label. Whatever else you say about Brad, he at least can read a room. And this episode was very much better than last week’s.

Lethal Weapon s2 ep 21

Avery is away exploring a run for office, so Murtaugh is promoted to acting captain, with full access to the executive floor – which has a breakfast bar! – and the authority to order things like an LAPD Ferrari. (Which, it should be said, is deeply cool.) But he also has a high-profile case to worry about, when Lisa Conlon, the wife of a wealthy Big Pharma guy, is kidnapped. At first it looks as if it’s been motivated by money, but it isn’t.

Riggs, meantime, has managed to get his father moved to a prison closer to home. Which turns out to be handy when there’s evidence to suggest that the kidnappers are members of a white supremacist gang to which Riggs senior has ties, and there’s a deal on the table: if Riggs’s father helps to secure the hostage’s return, he’ll be released. Riggs’s ambivalence about this is clear, but he nonetheless visits his father and obtains information which moves the investigation forward. Leo Getz wanders in and out of the plot as well.

It’s not the best of the season, but it’s good enough: the emotional heft is amplified by Riggs’s discovery that he has a REDACTED; and there’s a delightfully nasty twist in the final scene.

Public Service Announcement 24 of 2018: This Is Us, Good Girls, Shades of Blue

Some heavyweight shows heading to our screens over the next couple of days. Top of the list is family drama This Is Us, a proper, old-fashioned, equal-opportunity tear-jerker for both men and women, with huge American audiences, critical credibility, and the Emmy-winning Sterling K. Brown producing yet another powerhouse performance. To paraphrase Brian Clough, he might not be the best actor on TV at the moment, but he’s definitely in the top one. Maybe the top two, with Elisabeth Moss as his competition.

Anyway, our CJ reviewed the first season until she could take no more of the weekly tragedy overload. (I’m more of a cold fish.) So we’ll definitely be watching, but reviews might be beyond us, at least to start with. Significantly, in the UK it’s been moved from Channel 4’s main outlet to a more niche channel, suggesting that once again a big American show hasn’t managed to make much of an impact on audiences here. Which, folks, is precisely why these shows don’t get put on at prime time on BBC1 or ITV. Just be grateful we can get them at all (Wednesday 4 July, 9pm, More4).

I’m also very interested in Good Girls, NBC’s dramedy about three suburban Detroit moms who decide to rob a supermarket. With a cast to die for – Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman, all wonderful in previous roles – it’s a bit of a shame that American ratings and critics were lukewarm. However, it’s been reviewed for a second season, and there are only ten episodes in this first run, which makes it a very tempting proposition (Netflix, from today).

And it’s your last chance to see Jennifer Lopez in the third and final season of Detective J-Lo, or Shades of Blue as the spoilsports at NBC insisted on calling it. Unpopcult watched to the end of the first season, which was both better and more ambitious than I’d been expecting, but for various reasons – choice on my part, technofail on CJ’s – we didn’t hang around for season 2, which makes it highly unlikely we’ll have much more to say at all. On the evidence of what I saw, though, Lopez deserves another vehicle; she’s both a star and a talent (tonight, 9pm, Sky Living).