Public Service Announcement 28 of 2016: black-ish, The Big Bang Theory

A couple of American comedies at both ends of the TV lifespan start new seasons on British TV this week. It’s our first look at black-ish, the critically acclaimed show about a middle-class African-American family, now on its third season in the US. This should be good news; unfortunately, E4 is showing new episodes every weekday, five a week, which as far as I’m concerned is even worse than BBC Four’s ludicrous Saturday night double-bills. We’re all binge-watchers now, it seems, whether or not we want to be (Monday-Friday, E4, 7.30pm).

Meantime The Big Bang Theory is back for its tenth season, and by now you know what you’re getting with it, and whether you like it or not. I’m still watching, although it’s difficult to argue against the proposition that its best days are behind it (tonight, E4, 8.30pm).

Also starting: Fox’s reasonably well-received adaptation of The Exorcist (tonight, Syfy UK, 9pm); season 12 of Criminal Minds (Mondays, Sky Living, 9pm); and Crazyhead, which is Howard Overman’s latest attempt to recapture the Misfits magic (tonight, E4, 9pm, and internationally on Netflix pretty soon).

Public Service Announcement 27 of 2016: Westworld, Divorce, Empire, The Missing, Frequency

We’re a few days behind with some of this, so lots to get through. HBO’s latest big-budget maybe-this-one-will-stick drama, Westworld, made its way to British screens last week: based on a 1973 novel by Michael Crichton, it’s set in a Western-themed amusement park where android Hosts service the clients. It has the sort of cast which I can’t really call “astonishing” any more, because it’s becoming standard in the Platinum Age: Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Luke Hemsworth, Ed Harris, and so on. Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and (of course) J.J. Abrams are among the exec producers. The critical response has been generally positive, if not unanimously so (Sky Atlantic, Tuesdays, 9pm).

Also from HBO: the much-hyped Sharon Horgan/Sarah Jessica Parker collaboration, Divorce, a black comedy in which Parker plays a woman going through a marital breakup. The critics haven’t been quite as kind to this; which, together with the sour and hard-to-love second season of Catastrophe, makes me wonder whether Horgan, lavishly talented and Stakhanovite, is perhaps spreading herself a little too thinly (Sky Atlantic, tonight, 10.10pm).

Empire – which I gave up on some time ago – has returned for its third season (E4, Tuesdays, 10pm). And The Missing is back, with another missing-child drama for those who can bear to watch, which doesn’t include me. This time the action is set in Germany, David Morrissey and Keeley Hawes are the parents, and Tcheky Karyo returns as detective Julien Baptiste (BBC1, 12 October, 9pm).

And some streaming drama: season 5 of Ripper Street hits Amazon Prime tomorrow (Wednesday), and season 1 of The Ranch is already on Netflix.

Finally, Frequency, the CW’s reasonably-well-received adaptation of the 2000 movie, featuring a NYPD detective (Peyton List) who discovers that she is able to speak to her deceased father through an old ham radio, is also on Netflix.

Public Service Announcement 26 of 2016: The Fall, Luke Cage

The superb Gillian Anderson returns tonight as DSI Stella Gibson in The Fall, in which serial killer Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) has so far spent a couple of seasons finding inventive ways to humiliate, terrorise, and kill women. I’m a little wary of saying too much more about that topic, because (a) privilege and (b) I’m well aware that I’m open to unanswerable accusations of hypocrisy: I’ve watched plenty of shows in the past which women are violated in imaginative and gruesome ways, I no doubt will in the future, and in all honesty for as long as that continues to be the stock-in-trade of procedurals I don’t plan to stop any time soon. I’d quite like shows to at least own it, though; and I’m still a little vexed at the furious reaction in America to Stalker – a humble network show, of course – compared to the praise lavished on this and True Detective, which are British and/or cable shows, and therefore classier, even if their sexual politics are utterly reprehensible.

Anyway, The Fall, if it ever did, is definitely no longer getting a free pass, although it might be that with Spector lying in a hospital bed after the events of the final episode of season 2 the show will need to shift focus in any event. Moreover, as that second season was generally regarded – not just on Unpopcult – as falling well short of the first, The Fall has something to prove. Planning to watch; not planning to review (tonight, BBC Two, 9pm).

Netflix’s latest Marvel adaptation, Luke Cage, will be made available tomorrow. Cage was a character in (also Netflix’s) Jessica Jones, which was apparently very good but I didn’t watch it, because I’ve decided that comic book adaptations, like reality TV, might be for a lot of people but they aren’t for me. It follows that I’m unlikely to bother with this show either, although it too is supposed to be good. The USP for Unpopcult is, of course, that Cage is played by Mike Colter, who was the beautiful but unbelievably chilling Lemond Bishop in The Good Wife (all episodes on Netflix, Friday 30 September).

Public Service Announcement 25 of 2016: Hooten & The Lady, Private Eyes

Sky 1’s new action drama, Hooten & The Lady, seems to be an unashamed throwback to the Indiana Jones/Romancing The Stone globetrotting-escapades films of the 80s (which, of course, were themselves a throwback to an earlier era). Hooten’s a roguish American treasure-hunting adventurer, and Lady Alexandra Lindo-Parker is a expert at the British Museum, looking for something more stimulating. Normally Unpopcult probably wouldn’t bother. But there are two reasons – and we’re not proud of them – why we’re going to take a look at Hooten & The Lady. For CJ it’s Hooten (Michael Landes, who was Jimmy Olsen in the first season of The New Adventures of Superman). For me it’s The Lady (Ophelia Lovibond, who lit up the third season of Elementary). The advance word, though, is that Hooten and the Lady will not be hooking up. I suspect that to be a mistake, to say the least, because Unpopcult can’t have been alone in hoping for, if you will, Raiders of the Lost Ship. But we’ll report back on the first episode at least (Friday 16 September, Sky 1, 9pm).

One assumes that the makers of Canadian dramedy Private Eyes, on the other hand, know what needs to be done when you have Jason Priestley playing Matt, a hockey player turned private investigator, and Cindy Sampson (Supernatural) playing Angie, his feisty business partner. Faites vos jeux, ladies and gentlemen. As far as I can tell it’s light-hearted escapist fluff – which I mean as a compliment – in the mould of Castle (Monday 19 September, Universal, 8pm).

Also starting: season 6 of American Horror Story, commendably no more than a day or two behind American transmission (Friday, FOX UK, 10pm); season 2 of Aquarius (Friday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm).

Public Service Announcement 24 of 2016: The Night Of, Wolf Creek

First on this week’s list is the acclaimed eight-part HBO drama The Night Of, based on the UK show Criminal Justice. British actor Riz Ahmed plays the lead role of Naz, who has a night of sexy and druggy action with a young woman, then – inevitably, this being TV – wakes up the next morning to find her stabbed to death, and is accused of her murder. Richard Price and Steven Zaillian are co-creators, writers, and exec producers. The American critics loved it (Sky Atlantic, Thursday 1 September, 9pm).

And from the other side of the world, Wolf Creek, a six-part remake of the horror film of the same name, is one of the first original programme offerings from Australian streaming company Stan – no, I can’t keep up either. An American tourist in the outback survives an attack during which other members of her family are killed, then tries to track the killer herself. I haven’t seen the original – and, apparently, thoroughly nasty – movie, but the TV show was reasonably well-received in Australia. Trailer here (Fox UK, tonight, 10pm).

Also starting: Amazon Prime’s The Collection, which they’re touting as their first ever original UK drama, even though it’s set in post-war Paris (episode 1 available from Friday 2 September); season 3 of NBC’s The Night Shift (Sony Entertainment Television, tonight, 10pm); season 2 of Netflix’s well-received Narcos (available from Friday 2 September); and  the first and only season of Syfy’s already-cancelled Hunters, about a Philadelphia cop who tracks down aliens, or something. I have no intention of watching, but I quite like the fact that each episode has the title of an OMD song (Syfy UK, Wednesday 31 August, 9pm).

Forthcoming attraction: him out of Poldark, in Poldark. More on that soon.

Public Service Announcement 23 of 2016: Nashville, Beauty and the Baker, One of Us

Top of this list is, of course, returning Unpopcult favourite Nashville, back for season 4. I was delighted when Sky Living bought the rights to the show, because it has a good track record of broadcasting its American imports relatively swiftly after original transmission. This time, though, it’s messed up quite spectacularly; it’s nearly a year since we saw the last episode of season 3, and in the interim Nashville has started and completed its fourth season in America, been cancelled by ABC, and then revived by cable channel CMT, of which I know nothing. (But if Connie’s leaving, I can’t imagine the show has too much of a shelf-life, even with the geniuses behind thirtysomething as showrunners.)

All of which means that it’s been way too long since I had to worry about #Gunnlett, Deacon’s liver, W******’ D*****’ Records, Older Girl, Cadence, dumb-as-a-box-of-rocks Mayor Teddy, and the rest of them. It has to be said that the advance word on this season suggests that, perhaps, Nashville has shot its big rhinestoned bolt, but I don’t care, because I love this show. Weekly reviews as ever (Thursday 25 August, 10pm, Sky Living).

Next up, a couple of shows which started yesterday, both available on catch-up. All 4 has, um, all 10 episodes of Israeli romcom Beauty and the Baker – your guess is, in all likelihood, better than mine. And the latest BBC crime-drama-with-classy-cast One of Us kicks off with the murder of a young couple in Edinburgh, then – as far as I can discern – starts unpacking everyone’s secrets. My hunch – nothing new, probably OK (Tuesdays, 9pm, BBC One).

Also starting: season 3 of highly-rated 80s-set computer drama Halt and Catch Fire (Amazon Prime, from today); season 7 of Rizzoli and Isles (today, 9pm, Alibi); and something about cakes (today, BBC One and everywhere else for weeks and effing weeks, 8pm).

Public Service Announcement 22 of 2016: Shades of Blue, Containment, Mr. Robot

A few of July’s coming attractions. First up is Shades of Blue, or #DetectiveJLo as we’re calling it, in which Jennifer Lopez plays an NYPD detective who, having been caught up in a FBI anti-corruption initiative, is obliged to become an informant. And she’s a single mother, which I’m guessing will require her to juggle family and career; also, I’m assuming there’ll be a love interest somewhere in the cast. The reviews in America were generally unenthusiastic, but it hooked enough viewers to merit renewal for a second season. And, frankly, at this time of year Unpopcult is in the mood for some inconsequential cop nonsense. We’ll review the first episode, at least, in due course (Wednesday 13 July, Sky Living, 9pm).

Another new show from America, Containment, starts on the same night. It’s a remake of Belgian drama Cordon, in which part of a city is sealed off due to a disease outbreak. The CW has moved the action to Atlanta, home of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which intrigues me just a little: I’ve become used to CDC operatives turning up in the occasional episode of other shows, and I’d sometimes wondered why it didn’t get a vehicle of its own. However, Containment is another one which the critics haven’t embraced, and this time the viewers aren’t turning up in sufficient numbers to save it. So it’s going to be a one-and-done (Wednesday 13 July, E4, 9pm).

And the second season of Mr. Robot is making its way to British viewers via Amazon Prime, starting 14 July. I reviewed most of the first season, but didn’t quite finish watching it. This may be because I was never quite convinced that it’s as good as people were telling me, or it may be because I’m still not a huge boxset fan. However, the good news is that season 1 is finally going to be on “actual” TV as well, starting on Universal at 9pm on Thursday 21 July. So I might give it another go, even if that will involve a certain amount of rewatching.

A few others: two Unpopcult favourites are going from one season straight into the next. Parks and Recreation’s seventh and final season starts on Sunday 24 July at 11pm on Dave, and although the fifth season of White Collar is available on Netflix and iTunes, it gets its first TV showing on Universal, starting at 8pm on Monday 11 July. Having just watched the fourth season I’d forgotten how much I like this show, although I don’t think CJ is in any danger of forgetting how much she likes Matt Bomer.

And a final roundup: season 2 of Zoo, a show which looks completely bonkers, starts 17 July at 9pm on Sky Living; BBC 1’s starry adaptation (Toby Jones, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun, Ian Hart, Stephen Graham) of Joseph Conrad’s novel The Secret Agent starts at the same time; and Netflix’s 80s-set Winona Ryder-starring Stranger Things, in which a boy vanishes into thin air, drops on 15 July.