Public Service Announcement 24 of 2019: Lucifer, 9-1-1, Jane the Virgin

Although season 3 of Lucifer has been available for some time now on Amazon Prime, its first run on UK broadcast TV starts tonight. If Lucifer were just a procedural with a high concept – the Devil himself comes back to Earth in corporeal form, falls in with a female detective, and solves crimes – that in itself would be more than enough. But here’s the thing: it’s actually a properly good show, and capable on its day – of which there are quite a few – of being outstanding. And it has one of the best ships on TV. Lucifer was cancelled at the end of this season but rescued by Netflix, which will be showing the fourth season shortly (tonight, Fox (UK), 9pm).

And more good news: first-responder sirens-and-shipping drama 9-1-1 is returning from its season 2 hiatus, with renewal for a third year already in the bag. Reviewing the last episode I called the show “generally excellent”, and “largely a show about decent people doing their best. In these cynical times, we need a bit of that”, all of which I stand by (Tuesday 9 April, Sky Witness, 10pm).

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to note that the final season of Jane the Virgin is now available week-by-week on Netflix in the UK. I’m a couple of years behind, I’m afraid, but hanging in there, because this is one of those shows which uses humour and a light touch while grappling with some heavyweight themes. One of the best things on TV.

Public Service Announcement 43 of 2017: Mindhunter, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Jane The Virgin

Netflix all the way in this PSA. Firstly an original, and an intriguing proposition at that: Mindhunter is a 70s-set drama about the FBI’s then nascent Behavioral Sciences Unit, with Jonathan Groff and Holt McCallanny as special agents who interview serial killers – yes, me too, I was also thinking that it really is about time someone featured them in a TV show – in order to help solve other cases. David Fincher and Charlize Theron exec produce. Netflix has kept its cards close to its corporate chest with Mindhunter, which might indicate either a lack or a surfeit of confidence. (At the time of writing I’m not entirely sure how many episodes there will be, although renewal has already been confirmed.) But the critics have now had a chance to see the first two episodes, and the reaction has been… generally positive? Available from tomorrow.

And two of the CW’s charmers are back on Netflix on Saturday: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, starring the preposterously talented Rachel Bloom, is simply one of the best things on TV. It returns for a third season. Jane The Virgin, perhaps a little off the boil last time out, starts season 4. Once again Netflix gets its customary round of applause for bringing these shows to UK audiences within hours of US transmission. Well done, Netflix.

Public Service Announcement 27 of 2017: The Leftovers, Jane the Virgin

Anyone waiting and wondering when the third and final season of The Leftovers is coming to UK screens need wait and wonder no more – season three starts with a double-bill at 10pm tomorrow (Tuesday) on Sky Atlantic. I’m a huge fan of the show and the astounding Carrie Coon in particular, so I’ll be watching, but since unpopcult is winding down a bit for the summer, the show finished in the US a few weeks ago, and I would pretty much be talking to myself – is there anyone in the UK other than me watching The Leftovers? Hit me up in the comments! – I don’t think I’ll be reviewing this time around. Anyone who hasn’t seen it, though, and is in the mood for some incredibly powerful, challenging, sometimes crazy but often magnificent tv might want to try seasons 1 and 2 (currently on Sky Box Sets) and see how you go. It’s not for everyone, but if it’s for you, you’re in for a treat.

For those who like their tv a little cheerier, meanwhile, season 3 of Jane the Virgin has finally arrived on Netflix UK. Like original UK broadcaster Channel 4, I gave up on the show some time ago, but if the endless saga of Sin Rostro and whatever other nonsense the Villaneuvas and friends have got themselves tangled up in hasn’t put you off, go forth and stream, my friends. Netflix has your back.

Public Service Announcement 12 of 2016: Jane the Virgin, Blue Eyes (Blå ögon), Line of Duty

I called the first season of the wonderful Jane the Virgin “perhaps the most pleasant TV surprise of 2015”, so I’m delighted that season 2 has finally made its way to the UK, and that the show has already been renewed for a third year. We left the show in the middle of a typically absurd (and I mean that in a loving way) cliffhanger – the abduction of Jane’s baby Mateo by international mega-criminal Sin Rostro – although I can’t imagine that will be allowed to stand in the way of the good-natured comedy for too long.

As well as a witty, knowing script, Jane the Virgin has an excellent cast which plays the show’s over-the-top melodrama for all it’s worth, while creating characters worth caring about. They’re all good, although – as we’ve said before – it’s Jaime Camil as the narcissistic-but-lovable Rogelio who steals every scene he’s in. I’ve got too much on to review it from the start of the season, but like last time I might pick it up towards the end (tonight, E4, 7.30pm).

More from Walter Presents later this week, with the first episode of Swedish political drama Blue Eyes (Blå ögon). I think it’s a good thing that we in the UK are getting the opportunity to see more of our continent’s TV. Unfortunately, I’m so busy with the American stuff that I don’t really have time for it, which is undoubtedly my loss (Friday 25 March, More4, 9pm).

And I don’t have time for the British dramas either, such as Line of Duty, back for a third season (Thursday 24 March, BBC Two, 9pm).

Jane the Virgin s1 ep 22

We’ve waited 21 episodes for it, so it’s no real surprise that the birth of Jane’s baby is the only show in town this week, with just about everything else revolving around it. Rafael and Michael butt heads again over Jane’s affections, and in a way which simply confirms that when I officially joined #TeamMichael I made the right choice. Rafael’s a jerk, and a selfish one at that.

In due course we get to the birth of Mateo Gloriano Rogelio Solano Villanueva, played for both laughs and tears, like so much in this terrific show. Although, as ever, Rogelio comes very close to stealing the scene from mother and baby: the way in which he is overcome with emotion when discovering that Jane has included his name in the baby’s, very quickly pivoting to his default egotism when realising that Rogelio just is one of several middle names (“We’ll see how nicknames develop. Matelio perhaps?”). And, of course, that alarm. Jaime Camil has been working miracles on a weekly basis in this show, and he doesn’t falter this week either, just taking the male MVP award from the Latin Lover Narrator. The news that Rogelio and Xio got married while drunk in Vegas is also welcome, as their in-love-but-can’t-admit-it plot arc was in the teensiest danger of stalling.

But there are a few more twists to go. Nadine shows up in Michael’s apartment, offering to co-operate in tracking Sin Rostro down, and providing en passant the information that SR has had plastic surgery, presumably meaning she could be someone we’ve already seen, or a new character entirely. The clinic which treated Rafael for cancer has discovered another of his sperm samples, which it seems remarkably willing to hand over to Petra without checking further.

And, of course, Jane hands her baby over to a nurse for a hearing test, but the nurse is on #TeamSinRostro, and Mateo is kidnapped. Which isn’t good, but this is essentially a comedy, so I’d be surprised if that plot lasts past the second episode of season 2. US viewers get that in October; in the UK, I suppose we’ll just have to tap our toes and wait. Jane the Virgin, though, has been perhaps the most pleasant TV surprise of 2015, made with wit, heart, and love.

Jane the Virgin s1 ep 21

Just as Jane decides to push for custody of her baby, Rafael decides that he’s made a mistake in breaking up with her. Word, dude. But I don’t care, because Michael – who’s been skilfully playing the long game for weeks – has managed to edge his way back into Jane’s good books, her heart; and perhaps, in due course, her bed. This whole arc in general has been really, really well done: both Michael and Rafael have their flaws, and their good points. Jane and Rafael together can be sexy, but Jane and Michael have a sweet, affectionate chemistry.

Anyway, I’m still quite happy with my long-term decision to get onto #TeamMichael, and the scenes that he and Jane share this week are just adorable, particularly the one where they move over the course of an evening from IMs, to texts, and to a phone conversation. But #TeamRafael – misguided though its members might be – get thrown a bone or two as well, particularly the way in which Jane and Rafael SPOILER ALERT* to SPOILER ALERT**. In the middle of all that, meantime, Petra continues to stop, intriguingly, just short of being irredeemably horrible: there’s definitely been a rise in her level of manipulation since her mother returned, but Yael Grobglas’s acting keeps you believing that this is someone who’s known hard times and is doing what she needs to do to get along. Plus she’s genuinely in love with Rafael.

While all that’s going on, Jane has to attend her five-year school reunion – five years? Is that a thing? – and face up to Mean Girls and high-school crushes who run a mile when finding out that she’s up the stick. She’s also trying to work on her novel, and is now planning to go to graduate writing school after the birth. I know that people write what they know, and that what writers know is writing, but… I’d prefer it if Jane were doing something else, tbh.

And Xiomara and Rogelio are working on their Vegas show, although the whole thing grinds to a halt when Rogelio can’t cope with standing on a rising hydraulic platform. He eventually admits to a fear of heights. And leprechauns: “I KNOW WHAT I SAW!” Perhaps a little short of this show’s very best, but still a great way to spend an hour.
*work together
** get Magda put away. (Yes, this device has been shamelessly lifted from the show. #plagiarism)

Jane the Virgin s1 ep 20

640-3The real miracle of Jane the Virgin, of course, isn’t the conception of Jane’s baby: it’s the way in which the show manages to combine the deep silliness of its telenovela roots with real emotion; these people have to service the plot, but they also live and breathe. None more so than Jane herself, exquisitely played by Gina Rodriguez: this week, Jane has to deal with the fact that she’s working in the same hotel as Magda, the formerly wheelchair-bound mother of Rafael’s ex-wife, who pushed Alba down the stairs (telenovela silliness), and at the same time work through the reality of her split from Rafael, and the realisation that she might have to cope with things on her own (something-in-my-eye emotion).

640-2Jane’s mother Xo is also still single, as Rogelio won’t forgive her for kissing Marco, although you can see that he totally wants to. Much as he claims to be enjoying the challenge of playing the intergalactic cop, now down to just a disembodied head – meaning that he has to act with his “face… and hair” – a member of the production team of The Passions Of Santos asks him to return, as ratings have collapsed since his character was killed. Needless to say, that last issue is no problem at all, and Santos gets a memorable resurrection scene.

And Luisa is back, with a new professional wrestler girlfriend. She suggests that the hotel raises some money by hosting a wrestling bout, the Melee At The Marbella, between her girlfriend – Juicy Jordan – and Juicy’s nemesis, Candy Crunch. This is good fun in itself, but the genius touch is to use the framing device of pro-wrestling matchup posters to illustrate the episode’s head-to-heads: thus Mommy Long Legs (Xo) faces off against De La Vengeance (Rogelio), The Cold Warrior (Petra) tangles with The Pregnant Punisher (Jane), and Detective Danger (Michael) battles The Hot-Elier (Rafael). Another great episode.

Jane the Virgin s1 ep 19

Another difficult week, relationship-wise, for the junior Villanueva women. Jane is unwilling to accept that it’s over, and she manages to persuade a reluctant Rafael that they should go and see a therapist. It kind of works for a while – and that skinny-dipping scene was ALL kinds of hot – but by the end he’s back where he started: he loves Jane, but not in that way. He may be lying, of course.

Rogelio, meantime, is preparing for his one-night-only residency in #DeLaVegas. The highlight of the episode, of course – of course – belonged, as it always does, to him; specifically his song for Jane’s baby, which ends far too soon when Jane’s writing tutor smacks him in the face because of a long-ago romantic misunderstanding, which the Rogelio gift basket with two smoked meats didn’t quite mitigate. (Although their next romantic misunderstanding happens far more quickly than I would have imagined.) We should have expected the song to be good, of course; as Rogelio had already explained, “I don’t like to use the term triple threat, because it suggests I’m limited to only three skills.” But he then finds out about Xiomara kissing Marco, and his pride won’t accept it. That, too, is no surprise.

Petra ends up alone as well: after managing to escape from Aaron/Roman, she needs someone to talk to, and calls Rafael, who can’t speak to her at that point. I half-wondered if she was going to phone Michael at that point, but instead she’s so lonely that she calls her mother. Hm. I’ve rather warmed to Petra after she got out from under Magda’s influence, so I’m not sure how I feel about that, even if it might lead to Alba getting a proper storyline. Romantic, sad, and funny. A lovely episode.

Jane the Virgin s1 ep 18

With a couple of shows finishing, we’re moving Jane the Virgin up to weekly reviews for the rest of its season 1 run. This episode is primarily about the differences between the suitors of the younger Villanueva women. (We’ll put Father Edward aside for now, although if that revelation forces Alba to be less moralistic then all to the good.) Rogelio is visited by one of this week’s two manifestations of the mom-who-turns-up, who hates Xo because she thinks that Rogelio didn’t know about her pregnancy. Rogelio both adores and is terrified of his mother, so is torn between her and Xo, although promises to tell his mother the truth “on her deathbed”. Meantime Jane is worried that Rafael isn’t able to commit to being either a father or a partner, and wonders what the future will hold.

And perhaps not surprisingly it’s Rogelio, who underneath the bluster has a heart of gold, who steps up: he tells his mother that he knew about Xo’s baby, then chases her away when she continues to savage Xo. Rafael, on the other hand, is less than supportive when it looks as if Jane might have sabotaged his chances of getting the hotel’s liquor licence back, then spends more and more time on his BlackBerry. It all culminates in him splitting up with Jane, who is grief-stricken. Well, I’m not: I’ve been hashtag Team Michael, to quote Rogelio from a couple of weeks ago, for ages now, and I wish him well with that stalky ex of his.

Rafael’s mom is the other turner-upper of the week, and I’m guessing that the throwaway line about how Raf has a half-brother won’t go to waste, nor would I be amazed – this being Jane the Virgin – were it to be someone we’ve already seen. And Petra has been kidnapped by Aaron, now more or less confirmed to be Roman.

As ever, in an episode which perhaps doesn’t spark quite as well as this show normally does, Rogelio has all the best lines: “Who cares if your eggs are too old!” he bellows enthusiastically to Xo when the topic of parenthood comes up. “We’ll buy fresh ones! Combine my DNA with anyone and the child will be extraordinary!” Not to mention the perm/abortion one. And Jaime Camil’s gift for physical comedy is as acute as his gift for the verbal kind: his walk away from the camera on being told by his mother to straighten up is a wonderful little moment.

Jane the Virgin s1 ep 16

CJ was a big fan of Jane the Virgin straight out of the gate, but it took me a few weeks to get the point: I could see that it was nice and all, but I wasn’t sold on it, and anyway I thought that the character of Michael had been treated a little shoddily, if I’m being honest. But I was wrong. This is a truly great show: romantic without being cloying; preposterously plotted, yet with genuine emotion at its core; and very funny. It has strong female characters and (what seems to me like) a solid grasp of Hispanic American life, but without being didactic about any of it. Also, a telenovela which is (at least in part) about a telenovela is always going to be a little meta at least, but Jane the Virgin manages to be cleverly and amusingly knowing rather than smug about it. (Interestingly, judging from an exchange of texts I had with CJ recently, she seems to have gone off the show just as I’ve resolved to marry it and have its children.)

On top of all of that, the show has a great central performance by Gina Rodriguez as Jane, who feels like a person of real substance, sympathetic yet purposeful. Nor does it hurt that Rodriguez evinces a sort of sweet and well-scrubbed sexiness. The Latin Lover Narrator, of course, is just fabulous, and gets a reasonable proportion of the best lines. The use of onscreen text has got saltier and funnier every week. (In this episode, for example, the captions for the dog’s barks made me laugh out loud.) And the supporting cast is strong, in particular Jaime Camil as the outstandingly vain and egotistical telenovela star Rogelio De La Vega, who just lights the screen up every time he’s on it, even when playing a peach-clad intergalactic detective.

This episode might have been one of the best so far: Jane has writers’ block, a not-particularly-subtle metaphor for her relationship with Rafael, which is in trouble after she rejected his proposal of marriage. Rogelio is shadowing Michael as part of his research for playing the aforementioned peach-clad intergalactic detective (“I take my craft very seriously, which you can see by my use of the word ‘craft’”. Later on, in a fantasy sequence, they will dance a salsa. God, I love Rogelio.) Petra – the exceptional Yael Grobglas – has started to work more closely with Rafael. Jane unknowingly meets Michael’s ex-girlfriend at her writers’ workshop. And Xo is planning to move in with Rogelio, which has annoyed her mother (whose character is arguably the only weak link in the show, which is not in any way the fault of Ivonne Coll who plays the role).

I absolutely adore this show. If you’re not watching, give it a try.