Public Service Announcement 15 of 2015: Bloodline

Unpopcult was somewhat excited when it heard about Netflix’s latest drama, Bloodline, created and exec produced by Todd A. Kessler, Daniel Zelman, and Glenn Kessler, the creators of Damages, and starring Kyle Chandler. The rest of the cast isn’t too shabby either: Linda Cardellini, Sam Shepard, Sissy Spacek, Norbert Leo Butz, and Ben Mendelsohn, among others. But it’s Coach Taylor in Damages, folks. Coach Taylor in Damages!

It’s actually a Florida-set family-in-crisis story, rather than a murky crime thriller, although some of the Damages tropes – most significantly the multiple timelines – seem to be in play once again. The critical reaction has been mixed but generally positive, which gives us a bit of a problem. Unpopcult’s dancecard is pretty darn full at the moment, frankly, with Stalker, Person of Interest, and How To Get Away With Murder returning before the end of March; and Mad Men, Jane The Virgin, Game Of Thrones, and Louie just some of the shows starting in April. So we’re rather busy. On the other hand, it’s Coach Taylor in Damages (Netflix, tomorrow).

Public Service Announcement 14 of 2015: Poldark, The Following, Criminal Minds

The 1970s Poldark tv series (adapted from the Winston Graham novels) has a sizeable and devoted fan following, of which, cards on the table, I’m not a member. It might be the best series in the world, it might be the worst – like most things, it might be somewhere in between, but I have no idea since I’ve never watched it. And since my Sunday night period drama slot is currently occupied by (the sadly now Fitoussi-less) Mr Selfridge, I’m not sure I would have watched this year’s shiny, new version either – starting tomorrow (Sunday) at 9pm on BBC1 – had the BBC not had the very good sense to put Aidan Turner in it.

A historical romantic drama. With Mitchell from Being Human. As the hero.


As if I could resist that. Check back here for weekly reviews, as soon as I can write them.

For those looking for some significantly nastier stuff to watch, meanwhile, serial killer madness The Following returns to Sky Atlantic tonight at 9pm for its third season, and Criminal Minds picks up where it left off mid-season 10 on Sky Living on Monday night at 10pm. I’ll be far too busy swooning over Poldark for any of that unpleasantness, though.

Public Service Announcement 13 of 2015: Critical, 12 Monkeys, The Blacklist

Two new shows to start with. First up is Sky’s new medical drama Critical, written by Jed Mercurio (Line Of Duty, Cardiac Arrest), and starring Lennie James. The conceit is that each hour-long episode will follow, in more or less real time, a medical team’s attempts to save a life. It seems that the focus will be on medical procedures rather than the personal lives of the characters, and since I quite like to take an interest in the personal lives of TV characters it probably isn’t for me (tonight, Sky 1, 9pm).

The other new show is Syfy’s 12 Monkeys, based of course on the film, which started a few weeks ago in America to a lukewarm critical response and indifferent ratings. Which is a shame, because it stars Unpopcult favourite Aaron Stanford (Birkhoff in Nikita), a man who needs the right vehicle to become a star. (It also features Ryan from Nikita. Perhaps Percy and Amanda will drop in to give the ratings a boost.) I have a funny feeling that this might actually be big dumb fun, which I mean in a positive way (Friday 27 February, Syfy UK, 9pm).

And also on Friday, The Blacklist is back after its mid-season hiatus. If we’re being honest, I think we’d have to concede that the first part of season 2 didn’t really catch fire. Was it simply an absence-of-Tom issue, or is there a deeper problem? In the interim it’s been renewed for a third season, mind you, so there’s no looming crisis. A return to season 1 form would be nice, though (Friday 27 February, Sky LIving, 9pm).

Two others to look out for: Netflix has season 3 of House of Cards from Friday. And if you missed the wonderful Fargo – my favourite new show of 2014 – Channel 4 is repeating it, starting at 2.40am on Friday night, by which I mean Saturday morning, if you see what I’m getting at.

Public Service Announcement 12 of 2015: The Casual Vacancy, Indian Summers

There’s a good old-fashioned TV smackdown tonight, with two new hour-long network dramas starting at 9pm, the same time as an already established third (Mr Selfridge), and at least one other on cable (Hawaii Five-0).

In the BBC1 corner, it has the first of three-parter The Casual Vacancy, an adaptation of JK Rowling’s novel. And Channel Four fights back with the start of 1932-set ten-parter Indian Summers, the most expensive drama in the channel’s history. Both look custom-built to appeal to the British viewer (and the increasingly important international market): Cotswolds vs India; Rowling’s take on small town English politics vs the declining British Raj; Michael Gambon, Rory Kinnear, and Keeley Hawes vs Julie Walters and Henry Lloyd-Hughes off of The Inbetweeners. Me, I’m watching neither.

In other news, the latest Scandi-import is international Emmy-nominated 30 Degrees In February (“30 grader i februari”), about Swedish expats in Thailand. It started a couple of days ago, but I’m sure there are catch-up opportunities all over the place (Fridays, Sky Arts 1). And a reminder that Elementary, presently in fine form, is back this week for the second half of its third season (Tuesday 17 February, 9pm, Sky Living).

Public Service Announcement 11 of 2015: Hawaii Five-0

A quick reminder that Hawaii Five-0 returns tonight for the second half of season 5. On the evidence of the first nine episodes, it’s ticking over nicely (9pm, Sky 1). And NCIS:LA is back as well on the same channel at 10pm.

Also this week: season 2 of charming comedy-drama Looking (5 February, 11.10pm, Sky Atlantic); and, nine years after the first season, Lisa Kudrow vehicle The Comeback has, um, come back. To a reasonably good critical reception in America, it should be said (5 February, 10.15pm, Sky Atlantic).

Public Service Announcement 10 of 2015: The Good Wife, Fortitude, Catastrophe

I think Unpopcult’s love for The Good Wife has been well-documented: ferociously intelligent, well-plotted, brilliantly acted, and often very funny, it’s the best network drama around. One could make a case for it being arguably the best pound-for-pound show of any sort on TV just now, and with every season its status increases. In its fifth season, The Good Wife – which won Best Drama in our end-of-year poll, with Juli, Josh, Walicia, and even Damian scoring as well – managed to successfully negotiate the loss of a crucial and much-loved character with dignity and grace, possibly emerging even stronger at the other end. As in previous years UK viewers are getting it in January, which leaves us a few weeks behind. But it’s always worth waiting for, and CJ will be back on the week-by-week reviews (tonight, More4, 9pm)

We’re more equivocal about big new Sky Atlantic production Fortitude, showing on Pivot (?) in America round about now as well. On the face of it there’s no reason not to watch. It’s a crime thriller set in Svalbard, Norway – a place which is fascinating in itself – in a community so rural that polar bears are an ever-present threat. It has a remarkable cast, including Christopher Eccleston, Michael Gambon, Sofie Gråbøl, and the wonderful Stanley Tucci. And the advance word suggests it’s good. But can we be bothered? The decision is made more difficult by Sky borrowing a leaf from the BBC’s playbook-for-idiots and starting with a two-hour episode (tonight, Sky Atlantic, 9pm).

And finally a sort of retrospective PSA. New British comedy Catastrophe, created, written by, and starring Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, is currently performing minor miracles on Monday nights, pulling off the trick of being adorably sweet, filthy, and funny all at the same time. The first two episodes are still available on 4OD; meantime, Horgan and Delaney can start clearing some mantelpiece space in anticipation of the awards with which they’re going to be showered. And it’s already been renewed for a second season, by someone who recognises TV gold when they see it (Mondays, Channel 4, 10pm).

Also on: part 2 of the first season of Scorpion (Thursday, ITV2, 9pm). And coming soon: Nurse Jackie, The Mentalist, NCIS: New Orleans, Looking, H50, The Blacklist, and more.

Public Service Announcement 9 of 2015: Mr Selfridge

Coffees and keyboards at the ready, everybody – our Fitoussi Watch team (ie me) will be pulling triple shifts for the next few weekends thanks to the return of Mr Selfridge to ITV 1 tomorrow (Sunday) at 9pm for its third season. The undisputed leader in the shipping and shopping genre – The Paradise having limped unceremoniously to cancellation after season 2 – is fast-forwarding past the First World War (a sensible decision, I think, since this isn’t a show built to cope well with serious wartime drama) and jumping straight to 1919.

The second season was infinitely better than the first, despite Agnes being a complete idiot for most of it, but since Gregory Fitoussi is rumoured only to be in 5 of the 10 episodes this time around, I’m concerned that, if that’s true, a) they might be tempted to revive the disastrous love triangle again with Henri being sidelined in favour of the horrendous Victor (I mean, seriously, HOW is this possible? Will you just LOOK at Henri?) and b) the programme will be pants. Mon Dieu. I can only hope Mr Crabbe and Miss Mardle are around to supply a little sweetness when M Leclair is not, since my interest in the Selfridge family themselves – despite their ever-increasing numbers and screen time – is purely as a means of keeping the legendary shop open. We shall see, but meantime check back here for weekly reviews as quickly as I can write them.