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.


Public Service Announcement 42 of 2017: Dynasty, X Company, The Big Bang Theory, Mr. Robot, Nile Rodgers: How To Make It In The Music Business

More, more, more. Back in the day I was a HUGE fan of Dynasty. Blake. Fallon. Sammy Jo. Krystle. Alexis. Krystle and Alexis bitch-slapping each other. I mean, come the eff on. This was as vital and as gloriously, trashily entertaining as 80s TV got. So I am, in theory at least, entirely on board for this Josh Schwartz-created CW reboot. Thus far, though, the reviews have been mixed, and I may to hang on to see if a positive consensus emerges. Once again, though, well played Netflix, which is bringing new episodes to UK viewers within a day or so of American transmission (Thursday 12 October).

Such is Unpopcult’s affection for all things Canadian at the moment that there’s a part of me considering taking a look at World War 2 drama X Company, about spies who are trained in Ontario then sent into action in Europe. This first season is a couple of years old now – two more were made – and as far as I can tell it was generally well-received (History, tonight, 9pm).

Also starting: season 11 of you-know-what-you’re-getting comedy The Big Bang Theory (E4, Thursday 12 October, 8.30pm); season 3 of Mr. Robot (Amazon Prime, Thursday 12 October); season 2 of Riverdale (Netflix, Thursday 12 October); and season 7 of Once Upon A Time (Netflix, today).

And a word about Nile Rodgers: How To Make It In The Music Business, a three-part series in which Rodgers unpacks his changing career. Part 1, which was shown last Friday, took us through Rodgers meeting his musical soulmate Bernard Edwards, the Chic years, and their move into collaborating with other artists. Or, put another way, through the creation of some of the finest pop music of all time; and we haven’t even reached Upside Down yet. It’s on the iPlayer; part 2 is on Friday.

Public Service Announcement 41 of 2017: The Gifted, Snowfall, Ian Hislop Goes Off The Rails

I’m generally not a fan of shows which are set in a “universe”, simply because they tend not to be my thing. The Gifted, though, might well be worth a look: set in the X-Men you-know-what, it stars Stephen Moyer and (50% of) Unpopcult favourite Amy Acker as parents who discover that their children have mutant abilities and, to prevent them being taken into camps, go on the run with them. Matt Nix, of Burn Notice, is the creator and showrunner, and has brought Coby Bell with him. We’re only a few days behind American transmission, and the reviews have been OK-ish (tonight, Fox UK, 9pm).

Snowfall was also the recipient of OK-ish reviews, but there isn’t much resemblance beyond that: created by director John Singleton, it’s an FX ten-parter – now renewed for a second season – set during the crack cocaine epidemic in 1983 Los Angeles. Seems like a curious acquisition for BBC Two, but what do I know about acquisition policy? Not much, is what I know (tonight, BBC 2, 10pm).

And one of the first programmes I wrote about on here – almost fully 8 years ago – is being shown again this week. It’s Ian Hislop Goes Off The Rails, in which the Private Eye editor examines the creation and consequences of the Beeching Report, one of the most significant and mythologised events of postwar British history. Anyway, this documentary is highly recommended: charming but penetrating. I intend to watch it again, partly because I liked it so much, partly because it’s a topic which continues to interest me, and partly because, even since original transmission, the context has changed, as railway usage in the UK has continued to increase quite significantly (Tuesday 10 October, BBC 4, 11pm).

Finally, the zillionth season of Law And Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) gets under way tonight (Universal, 10pm).

Public Service Announcement 40 of 2017: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is that rare thing: a critical success which manages to be immensely watchable at the same time. And, of course, highly relevant: an America run by religious zealots who want to control the reproductive rights of women isn’t really that hard to imagine. On the back of a big night out at the Emmys – hoovering up eight, all told, including Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Lead Actress (the peerless Elisabeth Moss) – and decent UK ratings, Channel 4 has done the sensible thing and scheduled a quick repeat of season 1 for those who missed out. Unpopcult heartily endorses this event or product (tonight, More 4, 10.15pm).

And The Apprentice is back, which I really only mention as it gives me my annual excuse to wheel out Mitchell and Webb’s skewering of this modern-day Bedlam. “Everyone will think that they’re the only person to have noticed that the contestants are all idiots. I’ve got a hunch that, for some reason, people will think that this never stops being worth commenting upon…” (BBC 1, Wednesdays).



Public Service Announcement 39 of 2017: Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dimension 404

Two long-running comedy shows return this week for their ninth season. At one end of the spectrum we’ve got Modern Family, which is past its peak but still reliable, more or less, largely due to the fact that in the Burrell/O’Neill/Ferguson/Hyland/Stonestreet team it has some of TV’s best sitcom turns (Friday 6 October, 8.30pm, Sky 1). And you could certainly show it to your beloved aunt, unlike the peerless Curb Your Enthusiasm, back after 5 years for more delicious misanthropy (Mondays, 10pm, Sky Atlantic).

A few other bits and pieces: season 2 of Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black makes its way to broadcast TV (tonight, 9pm, Sony Channel); season 3 of Lucifer has now started on Amazon Prime, but I can’t tell you anything about it because I’ve only just started watching the first season and I’m trying to stay spoiler-free; and science fiction/black comedy anthology Dimension 404 arrives tomorrow, with a decent cast – Patton Oswalt, Megan Mullaly, Sarah Hyland (again), Lea Michele, and so on. Mark Hamill narrates. People seem to like it (Thursday 5 October, 9pm, Syfy UK).

Public Service Announcement 38 of 2017: Designated Survivor; Law And Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders; The Deuce

The nights are drawing in, which means that some of our favourite American shows are returning. And first up is Designated Survivor, in which President Jack Bauer, helped by Nikita, grapples with the conspiracy which killed off the rest of the US government. My feeling is that the second half of the season 1 wasn’t quite as good as the delirious nonsense of the first half, but I’m delighted to see it back. And a show which enables us to imagine anyone – literally anyone – in the Oval Office, instead of the real-life incumbent, has to be a good thing. We’ll be reviewing week-by-week; and, once again, Netflix UK deserves praise for bringing the show to British viewers within 24 hours or so of American transmission. Some day, as I’ve said numerous times before, all TV will be available everywhere on that sort of timescale (tomorrow, Netflix).

Next, the Law and Order franchise ventures into true crime with a retelling of the story of Lyle and Erik Menendez, who were accused in the 90s of murdering their wealthy parents. It stars Edie Falco, indisputably one of the best TV actors of her generation, as defence attorney Leslie Abramson, and Dr Mark Greene from ER as the judge who presided over the trial. The supporting cast features, among others, Unpopcult favourites Josh Charles and Julianne Nicholson. I was quite looking forward to this, but unfortunately the advance buzz from America suggests that it’s a bit of a letdown (tomorrow, 9pm, Sky Living).

And one I forgot the other day. The Deuce, which on the face of it is almost a parody of an HBO show: created by David Simon and George Pelecanos; starring James Franco; set in 70s New York; about the porn industry; already renewed for a second season; and garnering stellar reviews. Does it, therefore, sound a little too much like hard work? It’ll be interesting to see whether it succeeds in getting actual viewers to actually watch it (Tuesdays, 10pm, Sky Atlantic).

Public Service Announcement 37 of 2017: Star Trek: Discovery; The Good Place; Ken Burns’s The Vietnam War; Limitless

If Unpopcult stood for anything (and, frankly, we don’t; we’re just messing around) it would be that there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure. And – more pertinently for the purposes of this PSA – that we in the UK should get to see American shows as soon as possible after original transmission.

Two cheers, therefore, for Netflix UK. Firstly, it’s giving British viewers episodes of Star Trek: Discovery within a day of first showing in the USA. Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman are co-creators for CBS All Access, and the initial word is positive. I’m not even going to attempt any sort of introduction, because I have no interest in the Star Trek “universe”, but our CJ might be reviewing the first episode at least (Netflix, now).

Secondly, it has become the UK home for highly-rated sitcom The Good Place: season 1 is available now, and season 2 episodes will be available shortly after American broadcast. This stars Kristen Bell as a woman who dies and, as a result of an administrative error, is sent upstairs rather than downstairs, if you’ll forgive the complex theology. The magnificent Ted Danson presides over Bell’s particular Good Place (Netflix, now).

What the heck; lets have another cheer for Netflix UK, because it also has the one and only season of the sublime Limitless, which we watched, loved, reviewed, and then mourned. Based on the film, and with Bradley Cooper making occasional guest appearances, it’s a riot of wit and invention which stands comparison with Chuck in its pomp. We love this show, and we love Jake McDorman in it. And, for British drama fans, season 2 of Happy Valley has made its way there (both Netflix, now).

And now some documentaries. Not to be outdone by Netflix, the BBC has snapped up Ken Burns’s series The Vietnam War, which is being shown at the moment in America. The reviews would suggest that this is outstanding (tonight, BBC 4, 9pm, double-bill).

BBC 4 is also repeating its series An Art Lover’s Guide, hosted by the charming Janina Ramirez and Alistair Sooke. The first episode is set in Amsterdam, quite possibly my favourite city in the world. It’s following that with a new series, Britain’s Lost Masterpieces, which starts with the discovery of a possible Rubens masterpiece in a Glasgow museum (Wednesday, BBC 4, 8pm and 9pm).

There’s more to come later in the week as well; we’re getting busy again.