Public Service Announcement 6 of 2015: Girls, Marry Me

A quick round-up of some of this week’s returning and starting shows. Walking thinkpiece generator Lena Dunham is back with the fourth season of Girls, with a fifth already ordered. And although this episode was only shown in America like ten minutes ago – well played again, Sky Atlantic – it’s already controversial. One word: motorboating (tonight, Sky Atlantic, 10pm).

The fifth and final season of one-time Unpopcult favourite Damages makes it to broadcast TV this week, just as co-creators Kessler/Kessler/Zelman gear up for new project Bloodline, starring Kyle Chandler – COACH TAYLOR – and coming to Netflix in March. We’ll have more on that in due course, but for now farewell, Damages (tomorrow, Lifetime, 10pm).

And NBC sit-rom-com Marry Me starts in the UK this week: created by David Caspe, who was behind Happy Endings, and sharing a few cast-members with that show as well, it was moderately well-received in America and has had a full-season (well, 18 episodes) pick-up, even if a second season looks unlikely (Thursday, E4, 9.30pm). It slots in to E4’s Thursday night American comedy schedule after The Big Bang Theory, returning this week for the second half of its eighth season (8.30pm), and season 2 of Brooklyn Nine Nine (9pm).

Also back: season 4 of Suits (Thursday, Dave, 10pm); season 10 of Bones (Wednesday, Sky Living, 9pm); and the second half of season 4 of American Horror Story (Wednesday, Fox UK, 10pm). Murder In The First and Ascension both start later this week as well, but we’ll have more on them in a separate PSA.

Public Service Announcement 5 of 2015: Signed, Sealed, Delivered

Those looking for an undemanding couple of hours in front of the tv may be interested in catching up with Daniel Meade’s latest, Signed, Sealed, Delivered starting today in the UK at 5pm on Movies 24. Hallmark’s series about a team of postal workers, led by Eric Mabius himself, who make it their mission to match up undelivered mail (and life lessons) with the relevant people seems to have done well amongst its particular demographic in the US, with a third season planned for this year, so if you like your Sunday afternoon tv warm, cheesy and determinedly old-fashioned (would using text or email or even – heavens! – Facebook not short-circuit a lot of these stories?) this might well post your parcel.

Public Service Announcement 4 of 2015: Spiral (Engrenages)

It feels a little bit wrong to be getting excited about a French crime drama given the horrific events in France of the past couple of days, but tv is escapism as much as it is entertainment so I’m giving myself a pass for looking forward to the return of Spiral (Engrenages).

With its mix of dodgy cops, dodgy lawyers and dodgier criminals, Season 4 was a masterclass in dark, daring, often difficult drama, but while I’d like to pretend I loved it purely for its hard-hitting look at les issues, the searing chemistry between star-crossed lawyers Pierre and Josephine probably had a lot more to do with it. Are Gregory Fitoussi and Audrey Fleurot the two most beautiful people on tv? Discutez.

Anyhoo, season 5 (“Double Murder”) promises more from les angsty avocats, as well as the return of wily Juge Roban and the usual “unorthodox” police work from Capt Laure and co. Despite unpopcult’s tireless campaign against the tyranny of double bills, OF COURSE that’s what we’re getting again, with the first two episodes of season 5 kicking off at 9pm on BBC 4 tomorrow (Saturday). So be it. I’ll be watching and reviewing as soon as I can, and likely getting very excited in the process.

Public Service Announcement 3 of 2015: Scandal; The Americans

When Sky Living bought the UK broadcast rights to Scandal I optimistically expressed the hope that it would mean we’d get to see new episodes a little closer to American transmission. It seems to be happening: season 3 finished in December, and around a month later we’re straight into season 4, which means that we’re now only a few episodes behind the US. Well played, Sky Living.

The third season, with its focus on the antics of black-ops specialists B-613, was a little below the standard of the astonishing season 2, although it should be acknowledged that some of the creative decisions were faits accomplis, as Kerry Washington’s pregnancy meant that her screen time had to be limited (and creatively filmed), and that the season itself had to be truncated. But season 4’s back with a full 22 episodes, full Kerry availability, and (on the basis of a spoiler-dodging trip round online reactions) full-on Scandalesque deliciousness. Week-by-week reviews of this one, as ever (tonight, 10pm, Sky Living).

The TV Lord giveth, though, and she taketh away: ITV has just announced that it won’t be showing season 3 of The Americans, which returns in a couple of weeks in the US. This is very disappointing, if hardly surprising. Much as I love that show – and I do; I think it’s one of the very best things on TV at the moment – I’ve always wondered what it was doing on the UK’s biggest commercial TV channel on a Saturday night, when it’s on cable in America. Even though I think that everyone should be watching The Americans, if I’m honest it’s niche viewing at best. Still, with so many outlets available for broadcast and streaming these days, here’s hoping that someone’s prepared to make it legitimately available in the UK.

Meantime, there are plenty of other shows starting in January and February – we’ll be previewing the return of Spiral (Engrenages) soon, and there’s much more to come, including UK debuts for Murder In The First and The Mysteries Of Laura.

Public Service Announcement 2 of 2015: Broadchurch, Revenge

Broadchurch, then. The first season became something of a phenomenon in the UK in 2013, combining strong ratings and critical approval, culminating in a second-season renewal and three BAFTAs, including Best Drama. I thought it was good but not outstanding: the acting was generally spot-on, as was the sense of loss, and it was invigorating to see a scripted drama turn into a major TV event. On the other hand it was a naked attempt to relocate Scandi-noir, and specifically Forbrydelsen, to the English coast; and it didn’t really need eight episodes.

But renewal was both inevitable and welcome, and the sense of anticipation around the second season, starting tonight, has been heightened by the impressive, almost fanatical, levels of secrecy maintained by ITV and writer Chris Chibnall. Most of the core cast is returning, but Chibnall has promised that season 2 won’t simply be a thematic repeat of the first season, with another body being found at the foot of the cliffs. He’s not disclosing much more than that, though: the smart money is probably on some sort of re-examination of the Sandbrook case which haunted DI Hardy in season 1, but that’s no more than a guess, and anyone who knows isn’t saying. (Refreshingly, ITV has declined to make advance copies of the show available to the media, who are therefore as much in the dark as the viewing audience.) I’ll get a review together as soon as I can (ITV 1, 9pm).

If you’re wanting some respite from the Broadchurch gloom, ABC’s Revenge returns to British screens at the same time. It’s been a bit up-and-down for Revenge since its creation: the first season was deliriously ridiculous fun which made the most of a high-concept premise. Season 2 was, at best, a mis-step. There was a return to form, though, in the third season, particularly the dazzling run of episodes which concluded it. So I’m prepared to be optimistic about the fourth (and, perhaps, final) season, which starts tonight (E4, 9pm).

Also back: season 2 of The 100 (Tuesday, E4, 9pm); season 9 of Supernatural (Tuesday, E4, 10pm); season 6 of The Middle (Tuesday, Comedy Central, 9pm); the second half of season 4 of Mike & Molly (Tuesday, Comedy Central, 9pm).

And coming soon: Scandal, Girls, Brooklyn Nine Nine, and lots of others.

Public Service Announcement 1 of 2015: Crisis, The Musketeers

Happy new year from Unpopcult; and, in the words of Spinal Tap, we hope you enjoy our new direction. Our one and only New Year resolution is unchanged from last year, though: to watch more TV.

Getting us under way in 2015 is NBC drama Crisis, in which a Secret Service agent, in his first day on the job, finds himself at the centre of a major emergency when the President’s son and other children of the Washington elite are abducted during a school trip. I’m guessing that there’ll be a reason why someone more experienced couldn’t be given the task. Dermot Mulroney is the (or perhaps “a” – haven’t seen it) baddie, with Gillian Anderson taking time off from hunting a Belfast serial killer to feature as well. Despite a reasonable critical response, Crisis was cancelled after only 13 episodes. Still, at least if you give it a go you know that you’re not going to be watching for years. CJ will be reviewing the first one at least (tonight, 9pm, Watch).

And also starting today, the second season of the BBC’s swashbuckling historical drama nonsense The Musketeers, featuring – as I understand it – bucketloads of totty for women of a certain age. From the season 1 cast Peter Capaldi has found something else to do and has moved on, but Marc Warren – last seen on Unpopcult as a key part of the atrocious Kalinda’s Husband arc in The Good Wife – has been added. CJ reviewed the very first episode, described it as “merde“, and hasn’t been back. If you’re still on board, though, our friend Tim might be reviewing over at his place (tonight, 9pm, BBC1).

Coming within the week: Broadchurch, Revenge, and Scandal, among others. More on them soon.

Public Service Announcement 57 of 2014: Mapp and Lucia

Despite my historical-fiction obsessed youth, I’ve somehow managed to avoid reading any of the Mapp and Lucia novels or even seeing the previous tv adaptation. EF Benson’s comedy of manners has been adapted for tv once again though – which is a bit lazy, I think, since there’s no shortage of stuff, both historical and otherwise, that hasn’t actually been adapted before and could do with an airing – and the new three-part version kicks off tonight (Monday) on BBC 1 at 9.05pm. Part 2 is on tomorrow at 9pm and Part 3 on Wednesday at 8.30pm in Scotland, 9pm everywhere else.

This version has a very impressive cast led by the always excellent Anna Chancellor and Miranda Richardson and, until I started writing this, I had actually intended to give it a go. But “streaming” across successive nights is second only to double bills (stupid double bills) in the list of scheduling decisions I really can’t be doing with, and, while I could get over that if I had to, the more pressing difficulty is that the show itself looks really annoying in that Jeeves and Wooster/Cold Comfort Farm-y kind of way that I just do not find funny. So I’ll probably just sit this one out too. But if you see it and it turns out to be great, please let me know.