Lightweight adventures-of-a-trial-consultant drama Bull, shown first on Universal in the UK, makes its way to free-to-air this week. I watched season 1 and liked it, but I wouldn’t for a second argue that it’s unmissable. If you’re looking for something undemanding to get you through the summer it might be worth a look, and if you then want to join me in shipping Bull and Marissa the more the merrier. But don’t come and shout at me when it isn’t Game of Thrones, because it really isn’t (Tuesday 18 July, 9pm, 5USA).
It’s been a long wait for what’s going to be a short season but Game of Thrones is finally back. Yes, it’s international simulcast time again as season 7 starts on Sky Atlantic at 2AM on Monday morning (UK time), after an evening of Thrones-themed programming including the South Bank Show special on George RR Martin, the last four episodes of season 6 and The Story So Far re-cap of, um, the story so far. Which, as far as I can remember, had Cersei killing off half of Kings Landing, Team Dany on a boat, Littlefinger still sniffing round Sansa, secret Targaryen Jon at very high risk of being killed again, and the ice zombies most definitely on their way. *punches air* Reviews as soon as I calm down enough to write’em, you guys. Winter. Is. Here.
Unpopcult might be about to go on its own summer hiatus – although it hasn’t quite happened yet – but the TV keeps on coming. First up is the third season of How To Get Away With Murder, which has finally made its way to the UK. It’s moved from Universal to Sky Living, but I won’t be moving with it; at some point during season 2 I realised that I was trying way too hard to care about any of the characters. It’s been renewed for a fourth season, though, so if it’s still your thing it’s worth keeping going (Thursday 13 July, 9pm, Sky Living).
Next, I have little idea of how the artistic side of the Netflix business model works. It seems to me, though, that from time to time it consists of throwing a load of money and a load of stars at an interesting writer-directer and hoping that magic will ensue. Step forward Friends From College, a comedy about a group of Harvard buddies reconnecting. It’s exec produced by Nicholas Stoller (The Five-Year Engagement, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Muppets) and Francesca Delbanco, his – sorry, I know this looks kind of sexist, but I’ve looked her up on IMDB and as far as I can see this is her first credit – wife. It stars, among others, Cobie Smulders, Annie Parisse, Keegan-Michael Key, Fred Savage, and Billy Eichner. And, after all that, the advance reviews suggest that it’s rubbish (Netflix, Friday 14 July).
Finally, a bit of British drama: In The Dark is a four-part adaptation of a Mark Billingham crime thriller. I’m a big fan of Billingham, and the book is excellent. As ever, though, it’s precisely because I like the source material that I won’t be watching: I know what DS Helen Weeks looks like, and it isn’t MyAnna Buring. I have a hunch, though, that this will actually be quite good (tonight, 9pm, BBC 1).
It’s nearly three years since Outlander was first broadcast on Starz in America, and over two since its UK debut on Amazon Prime. But that, one would guess, still leaves a healthy number of people who might want to watch it, which is presumably why Channel 4 has ponied up to bring it to British broadcast TV for the first time. Paradoxically, it’s become something of a phenomenon around the world without yet gaining much traction in Scotland, where it is set (and where Unpopcult lives); possibly because of the resident population’s limited tolerance for romantic time-travelling nonsense with a misty-eyed view of the country’s history. (I’m guessing. I haven’t seen it.) Maybe its availability to the mass audience will change that (tonight, 9pm, More4).
Netflix’s latest throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks is Gypsy, dropping tomorrow, in which Naomi Watts plays a therapist who “begins to develop dangerous and intimate relationships with the people in her patients’ lives”. Haven’t we seen something like this before? Anyway, the advance word generally hasn’t been great.
And finally, this isn’t new: but, for British viewers, it’s worth flagging up that both seasons of conspiracy thriller Utopia are now available through Channel 4’s on demand services. When it was first shown I said it might be the best British drama – not a genre for which I usually have much patience – for years: startlingly original, visually stunning, intelligent, unsettling. And all without relying on maverick cops, middle-class adulterers, or imaginatively terrorised women. Recommended: particularly the first season, particularly the astonishing first episode of the first season.
The first season of Netflix’s latest comedy-drama GLOW is available from tomorrow (Friday) and, if critical reaction is anything to go by, may well be worth a look. Featuring Alison Brie from Mad Men and, weirdly, Kate Nash from “Foundations“, GLOW is a fictional story built around the 1980s real one of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – for some people that alone will be enough to give it a big yes or a big no. Just in case it helps, though, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. And, for those of us keeping an eye on gender politics and representation (or lack thereof) in both fiction and real-life, it’s worth noting that the creators, producers and most of the cast are women, and the story is obviously about women making progress in a particularly male-dominated time and profession – as far as I’m concerned, GLOW deserves credit for that at the very least.
It feels churlish to wonder if we really need a TV show in which Hugh Laurie plays a talented medic with a monosyllabic surname, but that’s what Hulu’s new drama Chance is giving us. Eldon Chance – do you see what they did there? – is a forensic neuropsychiatrist with a complicated private life and a Secret Pain or two, who gets entangled with a femme fatale patient (Gretchen Mol) and thus with her violent detective husband (Leo from Scandal). The first two episodes are directed by Lenny Abrahamson (Frank, Room) which, together with The Handmaid’s Tale, suggests that Hulu want to be seen as serious premium TV players. Although the critical response in America was mixed I have a strong feeling that this is actually pretty good, but I just don’t know if I have the time to watch it (tonight, Universal, 9pm).
It may be light outside, but it’s dark on the box this weekend with a couple of new thrillers keen to bring a bit of a shiver to your living room.
First up, Sky Atlantic’s glossy new mystery, Riviera – all ten episodes are currently available on Sky Go/Catch-up, or you can catch the repeat of episode 1 tomorrow (Sunday) at 9pm and episode 2 on Thursday, also at 9pm. Julia Stiles plays an American art dealer married to billionaire Anthony LaPaglia and living the life of Riley on the Côte d’Azur till he dies suddenly and their beautiful life turns out to have been hiding something very ugly. Sky have been advertising this for what seems like my entire adult life, and the trailers featuring glamorous rich people behaving dubiously in a gorgeous location certainly look stunning – if nothing else, the French tourist board should be delighted. Whether it’s any good is another matter, but with a cast including Stiles, LaPaglia, Lena Olin and Iwan Rheon, and Neil Jordan one of the executive producers, it might well be worth a look.
Not to be outdone, meanwhile, Channel 4’s Walter Presents brings us 13-part Brazilian hit drama Dupla Identidade, renamed “Merciless” for UK audiences for some reason (what is this compulsion to change the names of subtitled dramas? See also Les Hommes de l’ombre/Spin) at 10.15pm, also on Sunday. Sounding decidedly nasty for my tastes, it follows a smart, handsome, alluring political operator who murders young women (of COURSE) for fun and wheedles his way into working with the police and messing with the head of the female (of COURSE) psychologist trying to catch him. Walter and a lot of the press around the show compare it to Dexter but it sounds a lot more like The Fall to me, and since I have no appetite for tv’s continuing fetishisation of the horrific murders of young women and the sadists who delight in carrying them out, I’ll be avoiding this one like the plague. If you watch it and I’m being unfair, though, let me know.