Public Service Announcement 14 of 2018: Timeless, The Crossing, The Americans, Madam Secretary, Silicon Valley, Deep State

Unpopcult is very excited by the news that ludicrous-but-fun time-travelling drama Timeless is returning to UK screens this week. There’s a lot to be said for Timeless: it has a highly likeable cast; its Cases of the Week are generally entertaining, even if the Big Conspiracy isn’t the most diverting; and, to its credit, it follows through on its casting of an African American (the excellent Malcolm Barrett) in one of the lead roles by exploring what it might mean for a black man to drop in on, say, America in 1954, when he needs treated for a gunshot wound but the hospitals are segregated. And the costumes are great.

But – let’s be honest – we’re excited because we’re shipping Lucy and Wyatt VERY HARD INDEED, and if Wyatt has finally managed to get his STUPID DEAD WIFE out of his system and realise WHAT’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM, we could be in for a treat. After its first season Timeless was cancelled and then un-cancelled, so we should probably appreciate it while we’ve got it (tonight, E4, 9pm).

ABC’s new Lost-wannabe thriller, The Crossing, started in the US yesterday, so it’s very much to Amazon Prime’s credit that it’s already available here. The premise is that a group of war-fleeing refugees turn up in America seeking asylum, claiming to be from 180 years in the future. Critical response has been lukewarm, and I don’t have access to Amazon Prime anyway, so if you try it let us know what it’s like.

On the subject of shows that I can’t legitimately watch, the sixth and final season of The Americans is starting tonight at 10pm. This annoys me because, despite regarding the show as a genuine best-thing-on-TV contender, the last couple of seasons were shown first on ITV Encore, a channel to which not everyone has access. And now it’s going out on ITV4, a more widely available channel, but I’ve lost touch with it so won’t be watching. (I think at least one of the past two seasons might have been repeated on ITV4, but I only know that because I stumbled across it halfway through.) Shame.

Also starting: the post-hiatus rest of season 4 of Madam Secretary (5 April, Sky Living, 9pm); season 5 of Silicon Valley (5 April, Sky Atlantic, 10.15pm); season 2 of Star (tonight, 5star, 10pm); and Fox UK’s new spy thriller Deep State, in which Mark Strong plays a retired hitman who has to deal with an MI6 cell gone rogue in the Middle East. Might be OK (5 April, Fox UK, 9pm).


Public Service Announcement 13 of 2018: The Good Fight, Keeping Faith

The Good Fight or “What Diane Lockhart Did Next” hit screens last year with some very big heels to fill – things went awry for The Good Wife towards the end of its run, but it will always be one of my favourite programmes of all time. Happily, TGF did its mother show proud: its first season wasn’t perfect (neither was TGW’s) but, as I said in my review of the season finale, it wasn’t just a worthy follow-up to one of the best tv shows ever made but a genuinely terrific one in its own right. So I’m looking forward to season two, starting on More 4 tonight (Thursday) at 9pm and pleased to see that we’re getting a very civilised thirteen episodes this time around instead of the mere ten we had before. Statement necklaces at the ready: we’ll be reviewing weekly, as usual.

Talking of shows about female lawyers, meantime, BBC Wales’s eight-part drama Keeping Faith has been quietly hidden away from the rest of the UK, with episodes going out at 9pm on Tuesday nights on BBC 1 Wales while everyone else has to make do with Shetland or something. Eve Myles stars as solicitor Faith (yes, the title is stupid, but don’t let it put you off) whose husband Evan just up and disappears one day, leaving her with their kids, their legal practice and no idea what is going on. All five episodes shown so far are available on iPlayer and while the first episode takes a little while to get going, once Evan vanishes things get very compelling very quickly – Faith herself is a great, rounded character, the mystery deepens with every episode, and, as one of my workmates made me realise today, the show manages to be quite gripping without, if I can paraphrase Jed, relying on the usual thriller motif of “artfully-displayed” naked female corpses (take note, True Detective, The Fall and co). It’s not anywhere near as glamorous or as sharp as The Good Fight, but I really, really like it – if you’re interested, it’s worth a shot.

Public Service Announcement 12 of 2018: Nashville, Below The Surface

Nashville is returning to UK screens for its sixth and last season. I thought season 5, its first post-network effort, a little up-and-down: understandably, perhaps, the show seemed directionless in the immediate post-Connie Britton period, and Hayden Panettiere wasn’t given nearly enough to do. (Connie fans – and who isn’t one? – might like to note that her new show 9-1-1 now has a UK broadcaster.) But it was an excellent year for Chip Esten, and for Maisy and Lennon Stella. Anyway this is all irrelevant, because I stopped pretending years ago that I was anything other than hopelessly in love with this show. And even though I’m now the only person left on the good ship Gunnlett, if that isn’t endgame a little part of me will die. Weekly reviews to come (Friday 9 March, 10pm, Sky Living).

I’m also going to review the first two episodes, at least, of the next inhabitant of BBC4’s Subtitles-on-Saturday slot: Below The Surface (Gidseltagningen), a Danish drama in which 15 people are taken hostage on board an underground train in Copenhagen. It’s exec produced by, among others, Adam Price (Borgen) and Søren Sveistrup (The Killing/Forbrydelsen). It’s been a while since Unpopcult took on some Scandi-drama, and I quite like the premise, so I’m going to give it a go, even if, inevitably, it’s in BBC4’s favoured stupid double-bills (Saturday 10 March, BBC4, 9 and 10pm).

Also starting: season 2 of Jessica Jones (Netflix, now); season 5 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (tonight, E4, 9pm); season 8 of Still Game (tonight, BBC 1, 9.30pm).

Public Service Announcement 11 of 2018: American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Scandal, The Good Doctor, Designated Survivor (maybe)

Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story anthology series returns to UK television tonight. I thought the first season, The People vs O.J. Simpson, was something close to a masterpiece. This second season, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, arrives with slightly less of a critical fanfare, although reviews have generally been good; and, apparently, containing an excellent performance from Glee’s Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan, Versace’s killer. Thing is, although I should be watching, I’m not going to be. It may be that I’m just not as interested in this case as I am in that of Simpson. Written, incidentally, by Tom Rob Smith, also responsible for scripting the decidedly patchy London Spy (tonight, BBC2, 9pm).

After that, though, some Unpopcult favourites are lining up to come back from their midseason hibernation. Scandal is back for its final run of episodes (Thursday 1 March, Sky Living, 10pm). The Good Doctor returns for the rest of its first season (Friday 2 March, Sky Living, 9pm). And there was a rumour that UK viewers would this week once more be getting to see President Jack Bauer in the Designated Survivor Situation Room, grappling with what we must presume to be the irrevocable REDACTED of his beloved REDACTED, who at least won’t be prosecuted for felony corruption (Netflix, maybe Thursday 1 March, but don’t bet on it).

Public Service Announcement 10 of 2018: The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon

Following its midseason hiatus, The Big Bang Theory returns to UK television tonight, presumably making for a happy evening in E4’s advertising sales department. And it’s immediately followed by the British debut of Young Sheldon. This is the spinoff prequel about the 9-year-old Sheldon negotiating his Texas childhood. It’s single camera as opposed to its multicam parent, so it very probably has a different feel. The reviews would suggest that it’s OK, and unsurprisingly – it being part of the Big Bang-iverse – it’s done well enough in the ratings to justify renewal for a second season (8pm and 8.30pm, E4.)

Public Service Announcement 9 of 2018: Homeland

The argument against season 7 of Homeland (and seasons 2-6 as well), generally from people who don’t watch it any more, runs as follows: it should have finished after one season with the death of Brody, which would have left it standing as a unique, brilliant, and imaginative one-off drama. It’s never been as good since. It’s all about the money now.

And the argument in favour: well, it’s difficult to quibble with much of that. But we are where we are; successful TV shows are always all about the money, and they generally don’t stop while they’re still making bank; we should instead discuss whether it’s any good, rather than worrying about whether it should exist at all.

On balance I’m in the latter camp. Homeland, it’s true, has never quite hit the heights of its first season, and is unlikely to ever again. Evaluated on its own terms, though, for what it is, rather than what it isn’t: it’s not bad at all. Inconsistent for sure; but capable of being an intelligent and well-made drama, which in recent seasons has shown a welcome willingness to grapple with hot-button topics – for example, terrorism in Europe in season 5, and an alt-right fake news factory in season 6. On the other hand, the treatment of Quinn last time around was frankly bizarre: why bring him back from almost certain death just to make him suffer, then kill him anyway? (And getting rid of Astrid as well was a grievous error, assuming that the actor didn’t want out.)

This time round, at least to start with, Carrie will be dealing with the consequences of the events of the last season, in which President Keane somewhat brutally cleaned house and restricted civil liberties. Although given that she’d barely survived a right-wing coup attempt led by Dar Adal, one can see why she might have wanted to tighten her grip a little. Looking forward to this. Weekly reviews as ever (tonight, Channel 4, 9pm).


Public Service Announcement 8 of 2018: Collateral, Trauma

It’s John Simm vs John Simm tonight (Monday), as the BBC and ITV have somehow managed to ignore every other day of the year and schedule both of their big new dramas featuring the same man, on the same night at the same time. Um…well done?

At 9pm on BBC2, and first up for our purposes, is Collateral, a project so steeped in pedigree it should have its own category at Crufts. Written by Oscar nominee/ BAFTA winner and generally venerated playwright Sir David Hare, and starring Oscar nominee/ BAFTA winner and generally venerated actress Carey Mulligan, with a supporting cast including the aforementioned Mr Simm and the wonderful Nicola Walker, it couldn’t sound more prestigious if it tried. Mulligan plays a detective investigating the murder of a pizza delivery driver and, without wishing to wander into spoiler territory, this is a serious BBC drama in four parts, so it’s going to delve into some uncomfortable, upsetting issues. I can’t face any more weighty, worthy detective dramas at the moment though – if I need a reminder of the appalling things people can do to each other, I can just watch the news – so I’m going to give it a miss.

Also at 9pm, then, ITV1 has Trauma, an “event series” showing across three consecutive nights – as if anybody has time for that – written by Mike “Doctor Foster” Bartlett, and starring Simm as a grieving father who blames (rightly or wrongly, I’m guessing we’ll find out) trauma consultant Adrian Lester for the death of Simm’s teenage son while under Lester’s care. Whether it’ll be any good or not, and whether it’ll be a sad, sobering look at class, grief and the magnitude of the challenges facing the NHS, or a scenery-chewing soap opera, I have no idea and I don’t think I’ll be tuning in to find out, but let us know if you do.