Public Service Announcement 24 of 2017: Chance

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).

Public Service Announcement 23 of 2017: Riviera, Merciless (Dupla Identidade)

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.

Public Service Announcement 22 of 2017: Poldark

Given the lengthy gap between the irresistible season one and the difficult season two, I’m a little surprised and not entirely delighted to see that Poldark and his pals are back on our screens for season three so soon. It’s only been seven months since we last saw our hero and since he behaved like a complete asshat for most of the second run, only redeeming himself at the very end, he and I could frankly have done with a bit more time apart. And that’s just Cap’n Ross. The prospect of spending more time with Elizabeth and the Weasel Warleggan….. Argh.

I imagine showing the third season across the summer will pose its own additional challenges for the ratings as well – a brooding, clifftop romantic period drama is, I think, a dish best savoured in the cold, rather than in competition with the warm, light evenings of June, July and August, but hey ho. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, the Poldark posse returns to BBC 1 tomorrow (Sunday) night at 9pm, and I’m on reviewing duties as usual, so I should probably stop grumping about it, remember the things I love about the show, and be glad we’re getting a third season (and a fourth!) at all. Here’s hoping Ross is significantly less of a jerk this time around, though, or it’s going to be a very long nine weeks.

Public Service Announcement 21 of 2017: Orange Is The New Black, The Americans, Royal Pains, Orphan Black, The Loch

CJ will be along shortly to preview the start of Poldark’s third season. It’s a busy couple of days, in fact, for new and returning TV shows, and here are a few more.

Heavyweights Orange Is The New Black (Netflix, now) and The Americans (ITV Encore, Monday 12 June, 10pm), are both back for fifth seasons. Unfortunately I’ve somewhat lost touch with The Americans, as ITV Encore is one of these platform-specific channels I don’t have access to. Maybe one day I’ll catch up.

We used to be all over Orphan Black (Netflix, tomorrow), and now we… aren’t. No plans to change that, and in any event this is its final season. The charming, low-stakes Royal Pains (Universal, today, 5pm) is also entering its last run. I’m still watching, and I still haven’t met anyone else who does – although there are rumours out there that there may be two of us at least – so as ever I’m grateful to Universal for bringing the show back for me. Although not as grateful as I would be were they to get Private Eyes back on our screens stat. Make it so, Universal.

And in pointless new UK drama news: step forward The Loch (ITV, tomorrow, 9pm), in which an inexperienced detective investigates a murder in a close-knit loch-side community.

Public Service Announcement 20 of 2017: Ransom

It’s summertime, I’ve spent far too long over the past couple of weeks trying to get my head round unnecessarily weird prestige tv and I’m in the mood for something uncomplicated and entertaining; Ransom, a Canadian/German/American/French co-production about a (maverick, right? He’s got to be maverick) hostage negotiator played by Joseph Byrne from Holby City faking an American accent sounds just the thing. Starting tonight on Universal at 9pm, the 13 episode initial run is all we’re likely to get – with both CBS and RTLGroup ditching the show, there’s no real prospect of a second season – but that isn’t going to put me off. One-and-done can be fun! I’ll review the first episode at least and we’ll see how much.

Public Service Announcement 18 of 2017: Fargo, The Handmaid’s Tale

Erstwhile on Fargo: we had season 1, which I thought to have “everything you could look for in a TV drama”. But that didn’t quite prepare me for season 2. When I reviewed the first episode I described it as “reach(ing) a kind of rapturous perfection”. The amazing thing is that it actually got better and better from there. After about four or five episodes I remember, almost in a state of stupefaction, wondering whether there was any limit to what this show could do, and convinced that I was watching something which wasn’t merely excellent, but which would go down as something of a landmark. In short, I can’t quite believe that there’s any room for improvement. Anyway, season 3 is set in 2010, stars Ewan McGregor (as twins!), Caroline Coon, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and appears to have the same delicious mixture of low-life crime and family deception. My only concern is that Fargo auteur Noah Hawley might be starting to spread himself a little too thin, as auteurs are wont to do (Wednesday 31 May, 10pm, Channel 4).

Interestingly, the other heavyweight reaching our screens this week is also on Channel 4’s terrestrial channel, suggesting that it is once more trying to establish itself as a home for prestige drama. It’s Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale which, if the reviews from America are to be believed, is the latest don’t-miss drama to come rolling off the Golden Age’s assembly line. The ridiculously talented Elisabeth Moss leads a cast which includes Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Joseph Fiennes, and Samira Wiley. (Moss is also a producer.) It may be, of course, that a show about the subjugation of women set in a dystopian near-future will have some resonance in a time when the American President can boast about sexual assault, and some extremist theocracies seem intent on returning females to the Dark Ages. We shall see (tonight, 9pm, Channel 4).

Also starting: season 5 of Netflix’s House Of Cards (Tuesday 30 May); and some nonsense about the Kennedys, on Channel 5 tomorrow at 9pm, in which the part of Ted is played by Chandler Bing (“Could I have been more drunk when I drove off that bridge?”).

Public Service Announcement 17 of 2017: The Blacklist

Now that The Blacklist: Redemption has finished its run, The Blacklist is returning, with Dembe the Blacklister of the Week in the next episode. Given what happened before the hiatus I can’t see that ending well.

As for Redemption: it hasn’t been renewed, and I can see why not. I watched it all. I quite liked it. The characters were interesting, as were the plots. But it stubbornly refused to take off. That does give the main show’s writers a few opportunities, though, particularly given that Redemption’s final episode was clearly designed to open up the possibility of a second season. It’s been announced that Ryan Eggold is returning to the parent show, and Scottie and Solomon have already been Blacklisters, so the crossover is in place. Moreover Howard Hargrave (Terry O’Quinn) hasn’t yet featured, nor has quantum computing genius Richard Whitehall (Clarke Peters), and given that The Blacklist itself has been renewed for another season I wouldn’t be surprised to see Halcyon Aegis featuring again (Wednesday 24 May, 9pm, Sky 1).