Although television has always created its own stars, for many of them TV was just a stepping-stone to the movies, long seen as the creative and financial superior. This continued into the present Golden Age, even as it became more and more apparent that well-made TV offered unrivalled artistic opportunities. The tide had to turn, and Glenn Close was one of the first proper movie stars of the current era to head the other way, when in 2007 she starred in the first season of legal thriller Damages.
Damages was one of the very first shows we covered on Unpopcult: we liked the first season, didn’t think as much of the second, and regarded the third as a return to form. And there, in 2010, on the brink of cancellation, we left it. But Damages was revived for two more seasons, and now, nearly three years after its transmission in America, season 4 has finally found a home on UK television. (It has, I should say, been available on Netflix for a while.) Close and Rose Byrne are back, joined by John Goodman and Dylan Baker, who is one of my favourite actors. The season attracted decent reviews when shown in America, but I kind of feel as if the thrill has gone. Film stars turning up on TV is no longer a big deal – we in the UK, for example, are getting HBO’s True Detective, with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, in about four weeks – and with so much competition around, its time may have passed. On the other hand, of course, “when I am through with you…” (Monday 27 January, 9pm, Lifetime).
There is, however, another – potentially more interesting – example of TV/cinema cross-pollination the same night. Andrew Haigh managed something of a cult triumph with the charming and deceptively profound low-budget British film Weekend (2011). This brought him to the attention of HBO, and as a result he’s exec producing and showrunning Looking, an eight-part comedy-drama about gay men in San Francisco, which started a week ago in America. (Haigh also writes and directs some of the episodes.) It’s been generally well-received by US critics, and if it’s as good as Weekend it’ll be worth watching. I’ll be reviewing the first episode at least (Monday 27 January, 10.35pm, Sky Atlantic).
Also starting the same night: apparently dreadful Giovanni Ribisi/Seth Green sitcom Dads (9.30pm, ITV2). And coming very soon – to much Unpopcult excitement – The Good Wife.