Public Service Announcement 49 of 2017: Scandal

Well, here’s a thing. I was starting to think about my preview for the seventh and final season of Scandal, and I decided to go back and look at my review of the final episode of season 6. Except… I didn’t publish it, and I have no idea why. None at all. Anyway, as we’ve said before, on Unpopcult we’re nothing if not completists, and while publishing a months-old review might look as if I’m taking that to a preposterous conclusion, I wrote the damn thing and I also believe in using every last bit of the pig. So it’s under this PSA.

And it reminds me that, ridiculous as much of the Peus/Ruland arc was – why not just kill them, for God’s sake? – there were definitely things in the sixth season which also entertained me. So I’m looking forward to Scandal’s final chapter, I’m hoping that Olitz in Vermont will be endgame, and I’ll be reviewing every week (tonight, 10pm, Sky Living).

Also starting tonight: season 4 of Peaky Blinders (9pm, BBC Two).


Public Service Announcement 48 of 2017: Howards End; Grey’s Anatomy; The Sinner

In yet another example of just how big a deal TV is these days, the BBC tonight kicks off its four-part adaptation of E.M. Forster’s Howards End, with a screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan. That’s Academy Award-winning Kenneth Lonergan. Hayley Attwell, Tracey Ullman, Matthew Macfadyen, and Julia Ormond are among the cast. I loved the book and the Merchant/Ivory film adaptation. I don’t think, though, I’m quite going to have the time for this (tonight, BBC 1, 9pm).

And a couple we missed: old warhorse Grey’s Anatomy, back for its fourteenth season (Wednesdays, 9pm, Sky Living); and The Sinner, from the USA Network, starring Jessica Biel and Bill Pullman, in which Biel plays a woman who murders someone in public but has no idea why she did so. It’s supposed to be very good (all episodes on Netflix).

Public Service Announcement 47 of 2017: Alias Grace, Blindspot, The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds, The Vietnam War

Since real life means I won’t get near my tv this week, it’s raining things I want to watch. First up and now streaming on Netflix UK is Alias Grace, based on from Margaret Atwood’s novel about real-life maid Grace Marks, convicted of two murders in Canada in 1843 and sentenced to life imprisonment as a result. Adapted by Sarah Polley, with a cast including Sarah Gadon, Anna Paquin and Zachary Levi, and coming hot on the heels of the astonishing Handmaid’s Tale, this looks pretty special in its own right. If I ever get time to watch it, I’ll report back forthwith.

If you need cheering up after Alias Grace, meantime, you could do far worse than dip into the return of Channel 4’s documentary series The Secret Life of 4 Year Olds (Tuesday, 8pm), which is the type of thing I wouldn’t normally bother with, but I caught a couple of episodes by chance last year and it is just adorable.

Also on the documentary front, albeit featuring considerably fewer dimples and nap breaks, BBC4 is repeating Ken Burns’s ten-part The Vietnam War around 11.30 on Saturday nights. (I’ve given up trying to understand scheduling practices.) Episode 1 was on this weekend, but you can catch up on iplayer if you’re so minded. I have to confess that 17 hours of war documentary is probably not something I’m going to be able to make time for, but word – from Jed, in particular – is that it’s excellent so if you can fit it in, it sounds like it’s more than worth the investment.

The big news as far as unpopcult is concerned though, is the return of our beloved, demented Blindspot. Season 3 kicks off tonight (Monday) at 10pm on Sky Living and the even bigger news is that Ennis Esmer’s magnificent RICH DOTCOM – RICH DOTCOM! – is joining the cast on a recurring basis. We’ve been promised he’ll appear in at least ten episodes; Jed and I have been so excited since we heard, we’ve been close to combusting. RICH DOTCOM, you guys! I’ll be doing weekly – very possibly slightly hysterical – reviews as usual, and let me just say this now: if PAT DOTCOM were to happen, it would make my year.

Public Service Announcement 46 of 2017: Jim Clark: The Quiet Champion; 66 Days

Two documentaries. On Thursday at 8pm, BBC 4 is repeating its 2009 documentary Jim Clark: The Quiet Champion, about the enigmatic sheep farmer from the Scottish Borders who also happened to be one of the most talented racing drivers of all time. It’s a remarkable story told in an impressively straightforward, almost old-fashioned, manner.

And tonight at 9pm the same channel has 66 Days, about another enigma: Bobby Sands, who led the 1981 hunger strike by Republican inmates in Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison. This I haven’t seen yet, but it received excellent reviews last year when it was given a limited theatrical release.

Public Service Announcement 45 of 2017: The Good Doctor, Stranger Things

New American medical drama The Good Doctor starts in the UK tomorrow. Created by David Shore (House), it stars Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) as a young surgeon with autism. Hill Harper and the sublime Richard Schiff are in the supporting cast. When the first few episodes were made available to the American critics they were sniffy, to say the least. But then a funny thing happened: the viewers turned up. In their millions. And kept turning up, to the point where The Good Doctor has become the most-watched show in America, pushing the Big Bang behemoth into second place. So, as someone who hasn’t seen a second of it, here’s my prediction: The Good Doctor will be at worst serviceable, and at best surprisingly good. I’ll be reviewing the first episode at least (Friday 27 October, 9pm, Sky Living).

By way of contrast, the critics and the viewers were entirely in agreement about the first season of Netflix’s Stranger Things. CJ loved it too, as did the electorate in our 2016 end-of-year poll, and one suspects that one or two people around the world will be, uh, “phoning in sick” tomorrow in order to devour season 2. The advance word suggests that it’s another triumph (tomorrow, Netflix).

And a coupole of shows which have just started: season 4 of Empire kicked off yesterday on 5Star (Wednesdays, 10pm); and Marvel’s Inhumans, apparently set in the “MCU” (oh piss off), started yesterday. It’s reputedly crap (Wednesdays, 9pm, Sky 1).



Public Service Announcement 44 of 2017: Chance, Red Oaks

On the basis of its excellent first episode, I was all in on season 1 of Chance. It would be fair to say that the rest of the run didn’t quite live up to that, but it remained intriguingly noirish and Hitchcockian, with excellent performances from Hugh Laurie, Ethan Suplee, and Gretchen Mol.

For season 2 we’re much closer to American transmission, and all I know about the plot is that Chance will be asked to help with taking down a tech millionaire who might also be a serial killer. Now, the millionaire is played – and here’s where it gets really interesting – by Paul Schneider, who was, of course, Mark Brendanawicz in Parks and Recreation, the character who famously disappeared without a word being said. I always thought Mark was, to say the least, a little… off – other opinions are available – and Schneider himself appears to be, uh, not uncomplicated. In short, this could be inspired casting, and it’s certainly made sure that I’ll be watching (Friday 20 October, 10pm, Universal).

And season 3 of 80s-set comedy Red Oaks hits Amazon Prime tomorrow: I’ve never seen a minute of it, and probably never will, but it stars Unpopcult’s beloved Ennis Esmer so it’s almost certainly great.

Public Service Announcement 43 of 2017: Mindhunter, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane The Virgin

Netflix all the way in this PSA. Firstly an original, and an intriguing proposition at that: Mindhunter is a 70s-set drama about the FBI’s then nascent Behavioral Sciences Unit, with Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallanny as special agents who interview serial killers – yes, me too, I was also thinking that it really is about time someone featured them in a TV show – in order to help solve other cases. David Fincher and Charlize Theron exec produce. Netflix has kept its cards close to its corporate chest with Mindhunter, which might indicate either a lack or a surfeit of confidence. (At the time of writing I’m not entirely sure how many episodes there will be, although renewal has already been confirmed.) But the critics have now had a chance to see the first two episodes, and the reaction has been… generally positive? Available from tomorrow.

And two of the CW’s charmers are back on Netflix on Saturday: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, starring the preposterously talented Rachel Bloom, is simply one of the best things on TV. It returns for a third season. Jane The Virgin, perhaps a little off the boil last time out, starts season 4. Once again Netflix gets its customary round of applause for bringing these shows to UK audiences within hours of US transmission. Well done, Netflix.