Public Service Announcement 37 of 2016: Hawaii Five-0, Modern Family

Our penultimate PSA of 2016 contains some returning old favourites. First up is the seventh season of Hawaii Five-0, which has done a very good job of managing Scott Caan’s reduced commitment to the show by becoming more of an ensemble piece, with Chi McBride in particular stepping up. At the end of season 6 we left Steve and Danny in hospital, following the insertion of Danny’s organ into Steve. And, yes, that’s exactly what happened, dress it up as you might. Weekly reviews as normal (Sunday 1 January, 9pm, Sky 1).

Modern Family is back tonight for its eighth season. The ensemble cast remains strong, even if the writing occasionally betrays a lack of inspiration, but if season 7 is anything to go by it’s Ty Burrell’s show these days (8.30pm, Sky 1).

And a few other bits and pieces: season 8 of NCIS: Los Angeles (Sunday 1 January, 10pm, Sky 1); Dawn French, Iain Glen, Sheila Hancock, and Emilia Fox star in infidelity drama Delicious (tonight, 9pm, Sky 1); and Jonathan Creek was on a couple of nights ago and, although it’s had one or two sniffy reviews, it wasn’t bad at all (BBC iPlayer).

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Public Service Announcement 52 of 2015: Fargo, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory

I thought Fargo was the best new show of 2014: cleverly plotted, witty, beautifully shot, a fantastic cast, and the wonderful Allison Tolman as the beating heart of the whole thing. So I’m delighted that it’s back for a second season, even with the action shifted to 1979, and an entirely new cast. What a cast, though: Patrick Wilson (as Lou Solverson, played by Keith Carradine in season 1), Ted Danson, Jean Smart, Kirsten Dunst, Nick Offerman (RON FUCKING SWANSON, folks), Jeffrey Donovan and Bruce Campbell from Burn Notice, Jesse Plemons from Friday Night Lights, Cristin Miloti from HIMYM, and Adam Arkin from everything. The newly-fashionable anthology structure doesn’t guarantee success by any means – step forward, True Detective – but the advance reviews from America could scarcely have been more enthusiastic. And we’re only a week behind. Truly, the TV Gods are being good to us (tonight, 10pm, Channel 4).

The two biggest comedies in America also start their latest seasons in the UK this week, and since nothing attracts TV haters like successful comedy, you’ll find no shortage of people telling you that Modern Family (tonight, 8.30pm, Sky 1), and The Big Bang Theory (Thursday, 8.30pm, E4) aren’t and have never been funny. Except, of course, they are and always have been. There’s room for debate about whether they’ve already peaked, mind you: I thought the last season of Modern Family was about as good as the one before, which is to say a little better than the one before that, but not as good as the ones before that. It remained Ty Burrell’s show in season 6, although the emergence of Sarah Hyland as a genuine comic talent is becoming more and more apparent. Meantime the money-making machine that is Big Bang rumbles on. The female side of the cast – often the more reliable – is further strengthened this season with the permanent addition of Laura Spencer, and those (i.e. me) who like to watch for this sort of thing will be reassured to know that the newly-single Kaley Cuoco definitely isn’t hooking up again with Johnny Galecki.

Also starting: season 3 of Sleepy Hollow (Thursday, 9pm, Universal); season 11 of Criminal Minds (tonight, 9pm, Sky Living); season 5 of American Horror Story, with added Gaga (Tuesday, 10pm, FOX UK); and the latest attempt to revive The Muppets, which has had mixed reviews (tonight, 8pm, Sky 1).

Public Service Announcement 49 of 2014: Modern Family, The Vampire Diaries

A brief PSA this week. The highlight is the return tonight of Modern Family for its sixth season – your mileage will vary, but I thought season 5 represented an improvement on the fourth. Not that it matters much: part of the joy of a long-running comedy such as this one is our familiarity with the characters, meaning that not everything needs to be spelled out; we can fill in any blanks ourselves. It’s also assisted by an impressive consistency in its cast – even the awkward growing-up years have been negotiated with considerable grace. (Sky 1, 8pm).

Also back: The Vampire Diaries, which CJ has officially given up on (season 6, Tuesday, ITV 2, 9pm); Blue Bloods (season 5, Wednesday, Sky Atlantic, 9pm); Franklin & Bash (season 4, Thursday, Sony Entertainment Television, 10pm); and Two and a Half Men (season 12, Wednesday, Comedy Central, 9pm).

Next week’s already looking stalker-tastic, though. More in due course.

Public Service Announcement 12 of 2014: My Mad Fat Diary, Doll & Em

After years of complaining about British drama, round about a year ago I was stopped in my tracks by two new shows from Channel 4’s stable: the dark, complex, and visually stunning Utopia, which will be returning later this year for a second run; and My Mad Fat Diary, back this week.

Saddled with an unpromising title, which made My Mad Fat Diary sound like an exploitative reality show, this 80s-set adaptation of Rae Earl’s semi-autobiographical novel about growing up with mental health issues was perhaps my biggest surprise of the year: charming, moving, sensitive, and amusing, impressive in the way in which it repeatedly sidestepped predictability, and with a predominantly young cast which clearly believed in the material and adorned it with some of the freshest and most appealing acting you’re likely to see. (But not above giving us a happy ending, which is also in its favour.) I loved it, and I’m delighted to see it back, with the gang off to college this time. Season 1 reviews here, if you’re catching up; weekly reviews of season 2 as soon as I can write them (Monday 17 February, 10pm, E4).

The next night sees another in the expanding genre of faux-documentaries in which actors play heightened versions of themselves: Doll & Em, with Emily Mortimer as Em, big-name actor, and her real-life bestie Dolly Wells as Doll, who relocates to America after a relationship breaks down, and becomes Mortimer’s assistant. In keeping with the conventions of the genre it’s created by Mortimer, and part-improvised, part-scripted by the leads (with director Azazel Jacobs also chipping in). Mortimer is a genuine talent, if perhaps difficult to warm to; Wells I have no idea about, which is, I suppose, partly the point.

Sky Living has been good enough to make the first six minutes or so available, which should be enough to give you an idea of whether you’re interested. Personally my tolerance for humblebragging actors showing themselves being egotistical and unappealing, thus implicitly demonstrating how self-deprecating and captivating they actually are, has been pretty much sated already, so Unpopcult isn’t bothering. But we may, of course, have misjudged it, and over at Slouching towards TV our friend Tim will be doing weekly reviews if you fancy giving it a go (Tuesday 18 February, 10pm, Sky Living; on HBO in America in March).

Finally, I think we can all agree that, after season 3 of Sherlock, Elementary now stands unchallenged as the best Holmesian adaptation presently on TV, with Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock also superior to Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal. It’s back for the second half of season 2 (Tuesday 18 February, 9pm, Sky Living). And the slightly-past-its-best Modern Family returns for its fifth season, with a double-bill (Monday 17 February, 8pm, Sky 1).

Coming soon: some welcome old friends, and promising newcomers.

Public Service Announcement 15 of 2013: Revolution, Modern Family, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones

*Bounces up and down*

Are you excited? I’m excited! Lots of sci-fi/fantasy fans are excited! Because this weekend’s tv is a HUGE deal, bringing with it the return of the two biggest “genre” shows in the world right now. Woo hoo!

Before we get to them though, by way of (less exciting) appetiser, tonight (Friday) sees the UK debut of new sci-fi kid on the block, Revolution – 9pm, Sky 1. (That’s immediately after the second half of season 4 of Modern Family finally resumes at 8.30pm on the same channel, Dunphy fans.)

Produced by JJ Abrams (and what isn’t, these days?) the show is set 15 years after all the electricity in the world just stops working, using flashbacks (and what doesn’t, these days?) to show how it happened in the first place. Critical reaction has been much less impressive than the ratings but Revolution has been a huge hit with US viewers. Tucked away on a Friday night on Sky 1, however, I doubt it’ll do the same business here but, either way, I think it looks kind of dull. Unless Jed decides to write about it, we probably won’t be covering Revolution in any detail on these pages but if you give it a go, let us know what you think.

That out of the way, it’s time to turn to the main events.

Tomorrow (Saturday) – 6.15 pm on BBC 1 – at last brings us the second half at season 7 of Doctor Who and it has a lot to prove. The first half of the season wasn’t without its flaws and, with Amy and Rory finally gone, this latest run has a new companion to develop in the shape of Jenna-Louise Coleman, as well as the spectre of the show’s 50th anniversary looming large. I’m not sure any show could stand up to the obsessive, almost demented scrutiny this one is subject to, but the combination of Matt Smith as the Doctor and Steven Moffat at the helm means I’ll be watching. As will many millions of other folk. Review here as soon as possible.

Once the Doctor’s popped in, however, it’s only another 2 sleeps after that till the return of the Starks, the Lannisters and the rest of the good / not-so-good residents of the Seven Kingdoms. Yes, it’s the big one: GAME. OF. THRONES.

Season 3 begins on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Easter Monday (the day after it starts in the US) and I. CANNOT. WAIT. I absolutely love Game of Thrones. I’m not sure it loves me, though, given its tendency to kill off (sob!) or torture certain characters I adore, so my anticipation for the new season is tempered with stomach-churning fear of what terrible things might befall King Robb, Arya, Jon Smoulders-in-the-Snow and the rest. And utter bewilderment as to why we have to spend so much time hanging out with bloody Daenerys, the one “good” character I am absolutely sure will make it to the end because I cannot bear her. Or her stupid dragons. Sigh. But even Daenerys can’t bring me down. Winter is coming, so I’ll be reviewing…. VERY EXCITEDLY.

Public Service Announcement 45 of 2012: Hunted, Modern Family

We’re starting to get busy again. Next week – of which more shortly – sees the return of Homeland, Nurse Jackie, and Mike & Molly, and the start of The River.

Rounding off this week, though, an intriguing newcomer and a returning favourite. The newcomer is espionage/action drama Hunted, from the Kudos stable which gave us Spooks, Life on Mars, and Ashes to Ashes. (And Outcasts. Let’s not forget Outcasts.) It’s exec produced by Frank Spotnitz, who was with The X Files for most of its TV run, and stars Melissa George, who annoyed many viewers of Alias (in an explicitly unsympathetic role) and was then really rather good in season 1 of In Treatment. She plays Sam, who works for Byzantium, an intelligence agency; there’s an attempt on her life, which seems to have come from within Byzantium. Who can she trust? Etc. Part of me is looking forward to Hunted; the other part has a nagging fear that, to paraphrase Easy A, it’s going to be a little… incredibly rubbish. CJ’s on reviewing duties to start with at least (tonight, 9pm, BBC 1).

And tomorrow night Modern Family is back, bolstered by its now-annual clutch of Emmys. There seems to be a narrative out there that season 3 wasn’t as good as the first two. Well, perhaps not, although I thought it was absolutely fine. But Modern Family remains the most reliable of mainstream sitcoms, with a wonderful ensemble cast, plenty of “peerenting” from Phil, an occasionally heavy hand on the sugar, and a quietly subversive take on the “traditional” family. It remains something to be thankful for (Friday 5 October, 8pm, Sky 1).

Also tomorrow: as part of the buildup to the release of Skyfall, Sky launches its 007 movie channel which, for the next month, will be showing all-day back-to-back James Bond films. Anyone fancying a duvet day tomorrow could watch Thunderball, The Spy Who Loved Me, Goldfinger, Live And Let Die, Dr No, and Casino Royale. Oh yes.

Public Service Announcement 11 of 2012: House, Modern Family, Those Who Kill

First, two returning Unpopcult favourites: House is back tonight at 10pm on Sky 1 to complete what we now know will be its final run. Pre-hiatus I was rather enjoying this season, and with any luck everyone concerned will bring it for the remaining episodes. Modern Family, meantime, which probably has quite a few more seasons to go unless key cast members find something else to do, returns tomorrow at 8pm, also on Sky 1.

And some more Scanda-crime, as ITV 3 brings us Danish thriller Those Who Kill. Like Forbrydelsen it did very well with native audiences, is set in Copenhagen with a female cop in the lead, and has Lars Mikkelsen co-starring. Rather than being about one murder, though, it’s about a team which tracks down serial killers. Alison Graham in the Radio Times describes it as “efficient, if unpleasant”, which isn’t quite enough to convince me to watch. Anyway, if it were that good BBC 4 would have bought it (tonight, ITV 3, 10pm).