Public Service Announcement 41 of 2015: Secrets and Lies, Doctor Foster

The American remake of Australian drama Secrets and Lies starts in the UK tonight. Ryan Phillipe plays Ben Crawford, who finds the dead body of a five-year-old boy in the woods, and comes under suspicion for his murder. (I have a clear recollection that Alan Bennett, somewhere in his diaries, describes this as his persistent fear when he goes for a countryside walk.) Juliette Lewis plays the investigating detective. On the one hand it’s a neat premise, and the season is only ten episodes long. On the other reviews weren’t great at all, although that hasn’t stopped the show being renewed for a second season on the presently fashionable anthology basis, with a largely different cast. Lewis will return for season 2, though, which presumably means that no matter how much jeopardy her character’s in during season 1, she’s going to survive (Watch, 9pm).

Also starting tonight: Doctor Foster, a UK drama in which Suranne Jones, as the title character, thinks her husband has been having an affair. Yeah. On the bright side Jodie Comer, who was dazzling in My Mad Fat Diary, is in it (BBC 1, 9pm).

And I’m really only mentioning Channel 4’s Hunted – starting tomorrow – to point out that it isn’t the long-awaited spinoff from the BBC’s 2012 Melissa George vehicle. (Hm. It’s almost as if it’s not going to happen. Still, some of us out here are keeping the flame.) It’s a reality thing about the surveillance society, and it won’t be as good as Person Of Interest.

Public Service Announcement 40 of 2015: Rectify, Backstrom, The Fixer

I’m now a little bit more annoyed about the launch of AMC Global, the channel that almost no-one can see, now that it’s broadcasting a show I actually wanted to watch: Rectify, a drama about a man convicted of the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, then exonerated after 19 years on Death Row, returning to his hometown. It’s had three (relatively brief) seasons in America, it’s been renewed for a fourth, and the critics love it. It actually started on Tuesday, but I assume – I haven’t looked, because I don’t really care – that AMC has re-runs, or an on-demand service, or something (Tuesdays, 9pm, AMC Global).

Another one that we’re a bit late to is Backstrom, which started last night. This looked pretty promising: Rainn Wilson stars as a misanthropic cop in Portland: Detective House, if you will. But the critics weren’t kind, the viewers didn’t show up, and it was cancelled after 13 episodes. So probably not worth getting invested (Wednesdays, 9pm, FOX UK).

And a real curio to finish: The Fixer, a Canadian conspiracy drama mini-series, featuring Hildy from Murder in the First. Apart from that, your guess is as good as mine: according to IMDB it’s only been shown in Sweden and Hungary, and it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry yet. So I’m kind of guessing that it… isn’t very good? But if I’m wrong, please let me know, because I heart Hildy (Friday 4 September, 10pm, FOX UK).

Public Service Announcement 39 of 2015: Narcos, Fear The Walking Dead, The Pinkertons

Narcos, the latest show off the Netflix production line, was made available this morning. It’s a ten part drama based on the story of the Colombia-based Medellín cartel, and drug lord Pablo Escobar. The advance reviews suggest it’s very good. Hell, it probably is. But who has the time to watch it?

And for UK viewers there’s yet another example of the perils of #peakTV on Monday, when undead spin-off Fear The Walking Dead starts. I wasn’t planning to watch anyway, but even if I were I wouldn’t have been able to, because it’s on yet another new channel that not everyone can see: AMC Global, which has some sort of exclusive carriage deal with BT. Or if you have a £20 per month BT Sport deal through Sky – but not Virgin – you can see it, or something. I’m boring myself now, but one more time: if you make it difficult and/or costly for people to watch your silly zombie show, they’ll find an easy and cheap way. Or perhaps, as I suggested when previewing The Americans, viewers will sign up for BT in their millions. Who knows?

Finally, a show that lots of people can see, but probably won’t: The Pinkertons, a Canadian period drama based on real life cases from the archive of the detective agency of the same name, starts on Sunday on UK Drama. Freeview, Sky, Virgin; take your pick. Angus Macfadyen stars as the first Pinkerton.

Public Service Announcement 38 of 2015: The Americans

A few weeks ago I lamented the fact that Cold War spy drama The Americans, which in my view is one of the very best things on TV, had been dropped by its UK broadcaster ITV. At that point, there was no word on whether it was going to be picked up by someone else. Well, it has now, although it’s not unequivocally good news: seasons 3 and 4 are going to be on ITV Encore, available only through various iterations of the Sky platform. It’s possible, I suppose, that this will drive millions of consumers towards Sky, and not towards torrents.

Anyway, the advance word on season 3 is that it’s at least as good as the first two. I think I’ve just about given up on trying to persuade the uncommitted to watch. Just in case there’s anyone out there thinking of giving it a go, though, this is an amazing show. But probably not one you can jump into at this stage – I’d recommend going back to the start (tonight, 10pm, ITV Encore).

Public Service Announcement 37 of 2015: Zoo, Show Me A Hero

In 2013, CBS turned Stephen King’s novel Under The Dome into a thirteen-episode summer schedule filler. It’s now on its third season, so it may be that CBS decided to try and repeat the trick. Anyway, this time round the blockbuster novel is James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge’s 2012 book Zoo, and the premise is similarly high-concept: a zoologist notices that, all over the world, the rate of animal attacks on humans is rising, and he concludes that these aren’t isolated incidents: Brer Animal is fighting back.

It’s a deliciously stupid idea, and I’d like to be able to say that Zoo is probably worth watching. American viewers are about halfway through the season, though, and the critical response there has been tepid at best. On the other hand viewing figures aren’t terrible and have stabilised, suggesting that it’s found an audience. Bob Benson from Mad Men is the prophetic zoologist; Michael Steadman from thirtysomething is his father; Charlie Swan from Twilight is a pathologist. I’m not planning to watch, but I’m receptive to anyone who’s seen it and wants to change my mind (tonight, 9pm, Sky 1).

The American critics loved HBO’s new six-parter Show Me A Hero, mind you. It’s also based on a book, although this one’s about attempts to desegregate public housing in Yonkers, NY, in the late 1980s and early 1990s. It’s exec produced and co-written by David Simon, and the cast includes Oscar Isaac, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, and Catherine Keener, so it’s all about as upmarket as you can get. The response in America suggests that potential viewers shouldn’t be put off by the worthiness of the material (Monday 17 August, 9pm, Sky Atlantic).

Public Service Announcement 36 of 2016: Aquarius; The Last Man On Earth

Those of us with a familiarity with the life and works of Charles Manson will know that the next two days (August 9 and 10) are, respectively, the anniversaries of the 1969 murders at Sharon Tate’s house, and of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. And – coincidentally – Sky Atlantic is about to start showing NBC’s Aquarius, set in 1967, in which David Duchovny plays a LAPD detective whose search for a missing girl leads him to Manson and his gang. Reviews haven’t been great, and ratings haven’t been up to much either. Nonetheless, the show has been renewed for a second season, and I’m sufficiently interested in Manson to seriously considering giving it a go. It’s on Sky Atlantic, which means that not everyone can see it. Still, though, anyone who starts watching can be reasonably sure that Sky Atlantic won’t arbitrarily decide not to bother showing one of the episodes. Fun for all the Family (Tuesday 11 August, 9pm, Sky Atlantic).

Meantime, if anyone has an appetite for more Mansoniana, I wholeheartedly recommend Karina Longworth’s excellent podcast ‘You Must Remember This’, which is presently most of the way through a multi-episode season called ‘Charles Manson’s Hollywood’, linking Manson to the film and music scenes of late ‘60s America. And if anyone’s interested in movies but not in Manson, I wholeheartedly recommend the other 50 or so episodes, in which Longworth uncovers, in her words, “the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century”. I haven’t yet come across an episode which wasn’t worth listening to.

Also starting this week: well-received American comedy The Last Man On Earth, starring the Emmy-nominated Will Forte as a man who thinks he’s the only survivor of a virus which has wiped out the population of the world. As the show also features Kristen Schaal and January Jones, among others, I’m guessing he’s wrong (Monday 10 August, 9pm, Dave); and season 6 of Suits (Monday 10 August, 10pm, Dave).

Public Service Announcement 35 of 2015: Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

Netflix today releases its latest original show, an eight-episode prequel to Wet Hot American Summer (2001). The original film was poorly reviewed when it came out but now has a cult following. Early critical feedback on the TV show, though, has been much more positive. The cast list is astonishing: Poehler, Rudd, Hamm, Schwartzman, Wiig, Cera, Schiff, Peele, Slattery; and that’s barely half of it. But that isn’t really the point of this PSA, because as things stand I don’t intend to watch it, not having seen the film.

My point, and I do have one, is this. In February 2013, Netflix took its first tentative steps into the world of original programming when it released House Of Cards, itself a remake of a British show. In fact, I suppose you could argue that its only truly original dramas in 2013 were Hemlock Grove and Orange Is The New Black. Next year, including new and renewed shows, it plans to release somewhere north of 35 – thirty-five – of its own shows. Plus, in all likelihood, some films.

Now, no-one knows how many viewers Netflix’s shows get. (Well, presumably someone at Netflix knows, but they aren’t saying. In any event, right up until the point where Netflix goes out of business, it’s irrelevant: it’s the total number of subscribers which matters.) But if we’re talking about creators/broadcasters/distributors of TV, let’s add Amazon Prime to Netflix. Then let’s add the American cable channels, which only a few years ago had something close to a monopoly on quality TV drama. Then the American networks. Then – why not? – the BBC, Channel 4, Canal +, DR… How many hundreds of shows is that? How many of them are going to be truly unmissable? (Very few of them.) How many of them are going to be, at least, rather good? (Quite a lot of them.)

I can’t believe that the market for TV is infinitely elastic. My TV-watching time certainly isn’t. But clearly someone thinks there’s scope for more. I have literally no idea where this is all going to end up.