I know it’s grossly unfair to judge it on the trailer alone, but Proven Innocent looks pretty terrible. A new US drama about a law firm which fights to overturn unlawful convictions, led by a woman whose not-so-Secret Pain is that she too was wrongfully convicted, it all sounds well-meaning enough but the gleefully nasty DA/ bogeyman and very high quota of potboiler-ish posturing in the promo suggests this show is more likely to be a one-note, cheesy melodrama than a nuanced examination of the US legal system. And the unenthusiastic critical reception isn’t making it sound any better. Having said that, though, if the trailer is indeed anything to go by, there’s every possibility the show might be blandly entertaining in a pulpy, supermarket-own-brand Law and Order-kind of way, so it might be more fun if you’re in the mood for it. I’m not, but any Kelsey “Used to be Frasier, now a self-appointed authority on Brexit (WTF?)” Grammer completists interested in checking it out can find it at 9pm on Universal tonight (Monday).
Well. I am VERY excited by the return tonight of Australian medical drama The Heart Guy – Doctor Doctor in its home country – for its third season. (It’s been renewed for a fourth, incidentally.) Its virtues are old-fashioned: decent plotting; a bit of redemption for the trying-not-to-be-a-bad-boy lead character; a notably strong cast, in particular Rodger Corser, Hayley McElhinney, and Nicole da Silva; and a proper ship that we can all get behind. While continuing to emphasise that this show will not change your life, I like it quite a lot, and the s3 trailer above suggests that we’re going to get at least some of what we want (Drama, 8pm).
I should probably have mentioned before now that BBC Scotland is repeating Tutti Frutti, which for many of us of a certain age is one of the defining comedy-dramas of its time. Brilliantly written, and with a cast to die for – Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Wilson, Maurice Roëves, and Katy Murphy – it hasn’t been shown on TV for the best part of 30 years, probably due to some licensing problem or other. I equivocated for a while about rewatching it, but ultimately decided that I was quite happy to live with my memories of the show, rather than risk spoiling them. I did, however, catch a couple of minutes the other night, from which it was instantly apparent that the person writing the subtitles is successfully eliminating all of the poetry, beauty, and humour from the dialogue. Well done, whoever you are (Saturday nights, 9pm).
Deutschland 83 caused something of a stir when it hit our screens almost exactly three years ago: its first episode was the most-watched foreign-language drama premiere ever, and the show unfolded into a witty and pop-culture-literate take on the depths of the Cold War as seen from the East German side, handling with skill and intelligence the intersection of the personal and the political. As ever, of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that when it was shown, the idea of a divided Europe and a warmonger in the White House seemed quaint. Oh God. Anyway, I said at the time that I’d be up for a sequel, and here it is: we’re three years closer to the Wall coming down, Martin is in exile in Angola, and his Aunt Lenora is now on manoeuvres in Cape Town. It starts tonight at 9pm on More4, with the whole thing available via All4 thereafter.
The BBC Television Service formally commenced operations in 1936 and, only 83 years later, Scotland now has its own channel. BBC Scotland starts this evening with a promise that it won’t be “all about numbers” – well, let’s wait and see about that. It also seems inevitable that it will require to deploy most of its intellectual and, indeed, financial resources on its current affairs and political coverage, and in particular in trying to convince a divided nation that it’s being fair to all sides. (Spoiler: it won’t succeed.)
Tonight’s opening slate of shows includes the first episode of the last ever season of Still Game (9pm); and, more interestingly, the TV premiere of Scottish documentary Nae Pasaran (10.30pm), which is about an incident in 1974 when workers in East Kilbride’s Rolls-Royce factory refused to service jet engines being used by Chilean dictator General Pinochet. He, of course, had in 1973 overthrown the democratically-elected President, Salvador Allende, and was running Chile with quite startling brutality, even by the standards of fascist military dictators. “Allende, Allende, el pueblo te defiende.”
(In Scotland: 108 on Virgin, 115 on Sky and Freeview. Outside Scotland, 162 on Virgin, 457 on Sky, 108 on Freesat. iPlayer as well.)
I did not expect to see Academy Award Winner Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin, if we’re being formal) leading a new British/American tv series about the trials and tribulations of London PR people on minor tv channel W, of all places, but we live in strange times. Even stranger than I thought, it turns out – unpopcult royalty Bradley Whitford apparently guest stars in an ep or two as well. Um…. Does this mean that Flack (starting tonight at 10pm, with various repeat showings and on catch-up thereafter) might actually be good? I mean, the trailer’s not overly inspiring, reviews have been mixed and I’m more than over tv shows about unpleasant people behaving unpleasantly. But the cast (which also includes Sophie Okonedo and Marc Warren) must have seen something in it and I’m curious to find out what that is, so I might just try an episode after all.
In other “These people are in this?!” news, meanwhile, Sky 1’s new eight-part street racing drama, Curfew, set in a dystopian future where life is governed by a strict, er, curfew features Sean Bean, Miranda Richardson, Adrian Lester and Billy Zane amongst others, and looks completely ridiculous. I’m not sure even I can bring myself to watch it but you can catch it tomorrow (Friday) at 2am or 9pm if you want to see Ned Stark on wheels fighting the power.
Time for some more Sunday night spycraft: channel 4’s new six-part drama, Traitors, starts tomorrow night at 9pm. Set in 1945 post-war London, it follows a young English woman persuaded to spy on the government by an American agent, in order to root out a supposed Russian one. The cast includes Keeley Hawes and Michael Stuhlbarg, and the trailer makes it look polished and well-made, but also very BBC period spy drama, by which I mean nothing particularly new or exciting. Having said that, though, channel 4 usually tries to do something a bit different with its drama and I love a forties hairdo, so I‘ll check out the first ep and report back in due course.
Speaking of the BBC meantime, BBC1 has its own six-parter, detective drama Baptiste, starting at 9pm tomorrow as well. It’s a spin-off featuring a popular character from The Missing , which did very well in its own right and coincidentally also had Keeley Hawes in it. Even the thought of The Missing was too upsetting for unpopcult to contemplate watching it but, in fairness, Baptiste is apparently about the search for a missing adult, as opposed to a child, so that’s…. not that cheerful a thought, either. Not for me, I don’t think, but if you decide to check it out, let us know how you get on.
Greyzone is Channel 4’s latest Scandi-drama purchase. It stars Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, who was of course Katrine Fønsmark – you know, the journalist one who should have ended up with Kasper – in Borgen. She plays Victoria, a drone engineer (DRONES!), who is abducted by terrorists wanting to repurpose her technology for their own ends. It also stars Tova Magnusson, Viktoria in season 2 of Bron/Broen (The Bridge), and it’s supposed to be a sleek, intelligent thriller. If it had appeared a few weeks ago I’d probably have given it a go, but at the moment I have plenty to watch and there’s more coming soon. The whole season is available on All 4 after the first episode is shown tomorrow night at 10.45pm.
I’ll probably also be skipping Dirty John, in which Unpopcult royalty Connie Britton plays Debra, a successful woman who is suckered into a relationship with dangerous con man John (Eric Bana); Valentine’s Day viewing par excellence, you’d have to concede. It’s a kind of amazing but true story, first brought to public attention in the 2017 podcast of the same name. Unfortunately – because I LOVED the podcast – the critical response to this TV adaptation has been muted, and I know what happens anyway. So I’m not planning to watch, but I’m happy to be told that I should be. Meantime, listen to the podcast. Really. It’s great (Netflix, Thursday).