I seem to know quite a few people who gave up on The Americans during its first season, which just goes to show how opinions can differ. I thought this 80s-set drama about Russian spies in American suburbia was terrifically enjoyable, and very probably the best new (cable) drama of 2013. So I’m delighted to see it back on British screens this weekend, commendably soon after US transmission (well done ITV). And the exciting news is that, according to initial reaction to the first episodes of season 2, The Americans has got even better, which opens up the thrilling possibility that, rather like Justified did between seasons 1 and 2, The Americans might have gone from really good to great. Anyway, don’t listen to the naysayers: The Americans is worthy of your time (Saturday 15 March, 9.20pm, ITV 1).
Which, sadly, is more than can be said for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., returning tonight after its mid-season hiatus. I almost never bail on shows – and I should do so a lot more, frankly – but one good episode and a couple of half-decent ones were nowhere near enough to persuade me to continue either watching or reviewing. It should be said that the evidence from America, where a handful of post-hiatus episodes has been screened, is that there might have been a recent improvement in quality; it’s too late for me, I’m afraid. Our friend Tim at Slouching towards TV is, I think, carrying on with weekly reviews, but we’re out.
Which makes us “losers”, apparently, according to Clark Gregg, Mr Tahiti-It’s-A-Magical-Place himself. We should have had more patience, according to Mr Gregg – ironically the best thing about the show so far – who compared the first run of episodes to eating the “healthy stuff” and saving “dessert” for later. Now, I like it when actors are passionate about their shows, and I suppose you could applaud his ingenuity in trying to turn the show’s limp plots, miscast and misfiring actors, and lame dialogue into virtues; and, for that matter, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into The Sopranos or something. Having given the matter further careful consideration, though, he and his show can piss off (tonight, 8pm, Channel 4).
And I suppose we should mention the UK debut of Ironside, a remake of the 60s/70s show about a wheelchair-bound detective. Blair Underwood – always watchable – is the star, but it was cancelled after only a few episodes, so it hardly seems worth taking an interest. I’m guessing that there must be contractual reasons why 5USA is bothering to show it at all, otherwise it would look odd that it’s broadcasting Ironside while cancelling its contract to show Justified (Tuesday 18 March, 9pm, 5USA).
Coming soon: Person of Interest, and new Scandi-drama Mammon. And just around the corner: Burn Notice, Mad Men, and Game of Thrones.