Public Service Announcement 59 of 2015: Hawaii Five-0, And Then There Were None

A bit of welcome escapism for those of us enduring the British midwinter: Hawaii Five-0 is back for its sixth season. The fifth ended with a somewhat underwhelming cliffhanger, but that’s kind of beside the point for a show like this, which almost inevitably adheres doggedly to the classic procedural structure: there’s an A plot, a B plot, and maybe a C plot, and if there’s a big name guest star they’re very probably up to no good. There’s a reasonable chance that this will be the last season, but I thought that last time and I was wrong then, so who’s to say? Anyway, we still love this show, so weekly reviews as ever (Sunday 27 December, Sky 1, 9pm). And NCIS:LA starts its seventh season immediately afterwards at 10pm.

Before that, the BBC has thrown some money at a three-part adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’, with the kind of cast that the Beeb assembles for this sort of thing: Miranda Richardson, Charles Dance, Toby Stephens, Aidan Turner, etc. I probably wouldn’t have been watching anyway, but the BBC has made the decision easy for me by opting to run the three episodes on successive nights, starting tonight at 9pm. CJ may watch, I understand, so Unpopcult might have a view on it at some point.

Public Service Announcement 58 of 2015: Scandal

Scandal is back on UK screens tonight, perhaps with something to prove after an inconsistent fourth season. Still, with that group of characters, dialogue polished until it gleams, and an apparently inexhaustible supply of political chicanery as fuel, it’s never less than entertaining, even if the standards set by the jaw-dropping season 2 are unlikely to be repeated. Weekly reviews once more (tonight, 10pm, Sky Living).

Public Service Announcement 57 of 2015: Blindspot

There aren’t really many hits on US network TV these days, but new drama Blindspot comes close: it started in September, by mid-October it had a back-nine order, and by mid-November it had already been renewed for a second season. It has a deliciously high concept: a woman with amnesia is found concealed in a bag in Times Square; she’s naked but covered with tattoos, and one of the tattoos leads to Kurt Weller, an FBI agent. It turns out that each of the tattoos contains a clue to an unsolved crime. I’m a little worried about how much mileage there is in this: won’t they run out of tattoos at some point, or does Jane Doe have a lot of skin?

But that’s a minor issue. Cases of the Week, an overarching conspiracy, high production values (I assume) and a lead couple who might hook up. Dudes: this show could have been written for me and me alone. Sullivan Stapleton (Strike Back) is the Fed and Jaimie Alexander (Thor) is the woman, although shipping possibilities might be restricted if the stories that they don’t get on IRL are true. Can’t see it leading to weekly reviews, but then I thought that about The Blacklist (tonight, Sky Living, 9pm).

The BBC’s new drama Capital starts tonight as well: it’s based on a novel by John Lanchester, a writer I like a lot; adapted by safe-pair-of-TV-hands Peter Bowker; it has an excellent cast, including Toby Jones; and it’s about residents of an upmarket London suburb getting threatening letters. I’m sure it’ll be good. But does it have a naked woman stuffed into a bag and a Fed who wants to tap that? No. No it doesn’t (tonight, BBC 1, 9pm).

Public Service Announcement 56 of 2015: Elementary, The Bridge (Bron/Broen)

Elementary’s back tonight for UK viewers: one of the best US network procedurals around just now, with a Cumberbatch-equalling performance from Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes. The show really hit the heights in the first half of the last season with the Kitty arc, and I’m not sure whether it’ll ever match that. Mind you, there’s an excellent reason to watch this time round as well, with the news that John Noble – a terrific actor – has been cast as Sherlock’s father. I won’t be reviewing this season, not to start with anyway, but I’ll definitely be watching (tonight, Sky Living, 9pm).

Saturday, meantime, sees the return of Scandi-drama The Bridge (Bron/Broen) for its third season. I thought season 2 was significantly better than the first, but in my view the success of both was attributable in large measure to Kim Bodnia’s performance as Martin, the cop everyman grounding Sofie Helin’s Saga in something approaching reality. Bodnia, though, won’t be appearing this season, and for me that’s potentially a problem. Whether it’s a fatal one we’ll find out soon. Weekly reviews again, even though the BBC is persevering with the asinine double-bills (Saturday 21 November, BBC4, 9pm).

And two streamers: Amazon Prime has The Man In The High Castle, an adaptation (and apparently a loose one) of Philip K Dick’s counterfactual novel set in an America under German and Japanese rule, they having won World War 2. And Netflix has Jessica Jones, yet another live-action adaptation of a comic. Both are available tomorrow.

Public Service Announcement 55 of 2015: London Spy, Master of None, Nurse Jackie

The BBC’s big drama debut of next week is London Spy. It’s got the names: Ben Whishaw stars as Danny, young and hedonistic: he enters into a relationship with Alex (Edward Holcroft), older and more enigmatic, who then goes missing. The title suggests that at least one of them is going to be a spy. In London, perhaps. Mark Gatiss, Jim Broadbent, and Charlotte Rampling are in support. It’s written by novelist Tom Rob Smith, and directed by Jakob Verbruggen, who helmed the first season of The Fall. Might give this a go; apart from anything else, Whishaw is rightly becoming a major star, so I don’t expect to see much more of him in five-part dramas on BBC2 (Monday 9 November, 9pm).

All ten episodes of Netflix comedy Master of None are available as of today: it stars Aziz Ansari as Dev, an actor in New York City. It sounds as if it might be following in the rich tradition of shows-about-nothing with talented comedians at their centre (Seinfeld, Louie, Girls). We know, from Parks & Recreation, that Ansari has the chops; and the critical fanfares would suggest that this is one of the best new shows of the year.

And the seventh and final season of Nurse Jackie started a few days ago, hot on the heels of season 6, but a year or so after I stopped caring (Wednesdays, Sky Atlantic, 10.10pm).

Public Service Announcement 54 of 2015: Code Black, The Blacklist, Supergirl

The latest US network medical drama, Code Black, has attracted lukewarm reviews and poor ratings in America. So it’s toast, in all likelihood; it’s just a matter of when. But is there, nonetheless, a reason to watch? Not if you’re me. But our CJ was very interested to discover that Raza Jaffrey, an actor of whom she approves, particularly when he was playing Khan in Homeland – see here, and here, and here – is playing a doctor. So, is #DrKhan enough to get you to tune in? (Thursday 29 October, Watch, 9pm.)

One show I will be watching, and reviewing, is The Blacklist, now starting its third season. I thought season 1 was great fun; I wasn’t quite as keen – eh? eh? Do you see what I did there? – on season 2, although I still enjoyed it. With any luck the writers will have worked out that the best episodes have Ryan Eggold in them, and won’t bench him for half a year. Double-bill to start; review as soon as I can do it (Friday 30 October, Sky Living, 9pm).

And here’s one I haven’t made up my mind about: CBS’s adaptation of Supergirl, which started the other night in America to excellent reviews and big ratings: it’s up there with Blindspot (coming to the UK in November) as the best-rated new show of the autumn in the US. It probably isn’t too much of a surprise: one of the exec producers is Greg Berlanti, who is also involved with Arrow and The Flash, comic-book adaptations which people genuinely like. (By “people”, incidentally, I mean “people”, not “people who wet themselves with excitement if they see the names of DC or Marvel attached to something”.) Not unimportantly for Unpopcult purposes, Berlanti was also behind Eli Stone, and he’s joined here by Ali Adler, who was an exec producer on our beloved Chuck, and who wrote this first episode. Melissa Benoist (Glee) is your Supergirl; and Mehcad Brooks, Calista Flockhart, David Harewood, and Laura Benanti are just some of the familiar faces in the cast. This really might be worth a look (Thursday 29 October, Sky 1, 8pm).

Public Service Announcement 53 of 2015: Scream Queens, How To Get Away With Murder, Catastrophe

Lots happening this week. Let’s start with the UK debut of Ryan Murphy’s latest show, comedy/drama/horror Scream Queens, starring Rachel Berry from Glee and Jeff Fordham from Nashville among others. The first season focusses on a series of murders at a college sorority. The intention seems to be that it will be an anthology in future seasons, although that presumes renewal, which for now is a long way from being certain. It doesn’t look like my kind of thing, and CJ says she would sooner jump out of a window than watch. So that’s a “no” from Unpopcult, then (tonight, E4, 10pm).

The second season of latest Shonda-hit How To Get Away With Murder looks like a safer bet. Like the first season, this one is planned to clock in at a tauter-than-normal 15 episodes, unusual for a network show, but if your lead actor is Viola Davis – now with an Emmy under her belt – you do the deal she wants. I was entertained if not wholly convinced by season 1, although I thought its second half generally stronger, and it’ll be interesting to see whether they can make the concept work again (Wednesday 26, Universal, 10pm).

And one of the most pleasant surprises of early 2015 is back this week as well: Catastrophe, which I was going to call a “British comedy”, although since its writers/creators/lead actors are Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, that probably wouldn’t be entirely accurate. The important thing, though, is that it manages to be simultaneously funny, romantic, and foul-mouthed, with Horgan and Delaney two of the most likeable and attractive screen presences around at the moment (Tuesday 27, Channel 4, 10pm).

Also starting: season 2 of The Affair (Wednesday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm); season 7 of The Vampire Diaries (Wednesday, ITV 2, 11pm); season 7 of The Middle (Tuesday, Comedy Central, 9pm).

As ever, we start to get busy at this time of year: we’ll have at least one more PSA this week, with The Blacklist, Supergirl, and Code Black all coming up very shortly. And before the end of the year UK viewers will be getting Elementary, The Bridge (Scand-iteration), London Spy, Blindspot, and Scandal, among others.