Public Service Announcement 48 of 2019: Keeping Faith

Yellow jackets at the ready! Keeping Faith, last year’s surprise hit from BBC Wales, returns for its second English-language season tomorrow (Tuesday) at 9pm, the Welsh version having already been shown on S4C earlier this year. The first season was ideal summer viewing – if not always entirely focussed; the story did quite a bit of meandering in the middle – with its feisty heroine plunged into utter chaos by the disappearance of her seemingly perfect husband, against a background of bizarre gangsters, corrupt cops and lying in-laws who lie, but the ending was somewhat unsatisfying, concentrating as it did on leaving things open for a second season instead of finishing off the one we already had. The only way REDACTED should have shown up was in a body bag, as far as I’m concerned. But we are where we are. Eve Myles is great, I have a sizeable crush on Mark Lewis Jones’s Steve Baldini and the Welsh scenery is just gorgeous – so, whether REDACTED’s back or not, I’m looking forward to season two. I don’t think we’ll be doing weekly reviews, unless Jed takes a notion, though, so comments will be welcome on this thread if anyone’s with me.


Public Service Announcement 47 of 2019: Elementary, Better Things, Harrow

Elementary is back, for the last time. “With the seventh and final season underway in America”, wondered The Sunday Times on 2 June, “can we now concede that this modern-day Holmes reboot was far superior to our own Sherlock?” Well, Elementary is better acted and plotted; has a more interesting relationship between the two leads; and, crucially, isn’t smugly, but wrongly, convinced of its own genius . So: yes, The Sunday Times, indeed we can concede it. In fact, some of us have been saying it for years (tonight, 9pm, Sky Witness).

In its own low-key way, Better Things – which also returns this week – has a claim to be somewhere near the top of the Best Things On TV list: Pamela Adlon is the star and auteur of a bittersweet comedy-drama about a single mom in LA, trying to cope with her modestly successful acting career, the pressures of parenthood, and the challenges of life. Although Adlon has now severed her ties with longtime ally Louis C.K., he was still involved with the show during this second season, and on the evidence of the stellar first run of episodes this show shares with C.K.’s self-named vehicle the ability to conjure jaw-dropping genius out of nowhere. For the avoidance of doubt I’m not for a second suggesting that C.K. is the visionary behind Better Things: this is very much Adlon’s show, and the word from America is that the C.K.-less third season of Better Things is astonishing. Meantime, we can savour season 2 (Wednesday 17 July, 10pm, BBC2).

And season 2 of Harrow is here. Didn’t bother with the first season; won’t be bothering with this one; thus far, no-one has told me that I’m missing out (tonight, 9pm, Alibi).

Public Service Announcement 46 of 2019: Poldark

The halcyon days of that heady first season may be long gone, and along with them any real excitement on my part about the continuing sun-dappled, shirt-optional adventures of Cap’n Ross, his friends, lovers and enemies, but we’re not quite done with 18th century Cornwall’s answer to Dynasty yet. Yes, Poldark and pals are back for one last hurrah: the fifth and apparently final (for now – nobody’s completely ruling out the possibility of something more, somewhere down the line, just in case) starts tonight (Sunday) at 9pm on BBC1 and I’ll be back, reviewing, and hoping against hope that Ross has become less of an idiot; he and Demelza manage one season without falling out; George has moved to an off-screen, never to be seen, different county entirely; and Dr Dwight and Caroline just get to live happily ever after. My chances are not good.

Public Service Announcement 45 of 2019: LA’s Finest

In the scheme of things, we really don’t need yet another cop show, but I quite like the idea for LA’s Finest: it’s a spin-off of Bad Boys II, with Gabrielle Union’s character having moved on from whatever went on in it – I remember enjoying that film a very, very long time ago, but I don’t remember a single thing about the plot – and taken up work as a detective in LA, along with partner Jessica Alba. So I suppose the elevator pitch is Bad Girls. Or Lethal Women. Anyway, years after Cagney and Lacey handed in their badges, all-female cop duos are still relatively rare, but “maverick cops” “skirting the rules” are ten a penny, and reboots/ remakes/ spin-offs are everywhere these days too, so who knows if this will be something new or more of the usual. Critical reaction has not been positive but a second season has been commissioned, so somebody must like it. If you want to make up your own mind, episode 1 is at 9pm tonight (Wednesday) on Fox UK.

Public Service Announcement 44 of 2019: For the People

I liked the first season of Shondaland’s legal drama For the People quite a lot: fresh-faced AUSAs and public defenders battle with each other in and out of the courtroom, with snappy dialogue, smart plots, a ship or three, and enchanting performances by Hope Davis and Ben Shenkman as the grown-ups in charge of each office. This second season will, however, be the last: unfortunately, American audiences just weren’t buying what For the People was selling, and it’s hardly going to inspire save-the-show hashtags. Charles Michael Davis joins the cast this time round as an investigator, but I’m guessing and hoping that otherwise it’s business as usual (Wednesday 3 July, Sky Witness, 10pm).

Public Service Announcement 43 of 2019: Private Eyes, Waco

You know how much Unpopcult loves Private Eyes. But after a week reading about Brexit, the rapist in The White House, the likelihood that in a matter of weeks Boris Johnson is going to be my prime minister, the climate emergency, and – I can scarcely believe I’m typing this – fucking concentration camps in the United States of America in 2019, we’re perilously close to needing something, anything, which might put a hint of a smile on our faces for a few minutes. Thank the very Lord above, then, for the return of this cheerfully inconsequential Canadian PI dramedy, with leads Cindy Sampson and Jason Priestley as partners in a detective agency, and – more importantly for our purposes – the reigning three-in-a-row winners of Unpopcult’s Ship of the Year Award. Unpopcult royalty Ennis Esmer is in it as well, which further seals the deal. We’ll be reviewing every episode, because it reduces the risk of us catching sight of the news (Monday 1 July, 8pm, Universal).

I suspect that Waco, the Paramount Network’s miniseries dramatising the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians’ compound in Texas, is somewhat more serious. It stars, among others, Taylor Kitsch – Tim Riggins! – as David Koresh; Michael Shannon – yes, the Michael Shannon who might be one of the best actors on the planet – as Gary Noesner, the head of the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit; and Emmy-nominated John Leguizamo as an ATF agent. However, the critical response was lukewarm, which is presumably why we’ve had to wait 18 months to see it in the UK (Monday 1 July, 9pm, Alibi).

Public Service Announcement 42 of 2019: Bellevue, How To Get Away With Murder

Our Unpopcanada division is about to ramp up production, with the return of Private Eyes to British screens next week. Meantime, the whole of eight-part Canadian crime drama Bellevue is available on My5. Anna Paquin plays a detective investigating the disappearance of a trans teen, while dealing with what looks like lashings of Secret Pain: a father who committed suicide, and the reappearance of a mysterious person from her past. Reviews would suggest that it’s OK; the fact that it wasn’t renewed after this season, shown in 2017 in its home country, would suggest that it didn’t quite find an audience.

And I’m a couple of days late with the return of How To Get Away With Murder, largely because I don’t care any more. But it’s back for its fifth season at 9pm on Sky Witness on Wednesdays. I assume they’re still all unlikeable.