Public Service Announcement 43 of 2012: The Paradise, Parenthood

Having overdosed on the stuff for years, I tend to avoid lavish period drama these days, but the trailer I saw the other day for BBC1’s new Victorian effort ”The Paradise” has piqued my interest.  Adapted from a novel by Zola and re-located to the North-East of England, it’s about a girl who goes to work in a department store and falls for the bad boy owner. Yes, it combines my two principal interests: shipping and shopping.  How on earth can I resist that?  Episode 1 of 8 starts on BBC1 at 9pm on Tuesday (25th) if you want to join me in giving it a go.
Meantime, however, anyone who missed season 1 of the marvellous Parenthood can remedy that forthwith as Five USA is re-running it daily (yes, EVERY weekday) from Monday (24th) at 12.30 pm.  Being Five and therefore even worse at scheduling than everybody else, they still have no idea what to do with one of the only genuinely wonderful shows they actually have the rights to, so the times change during the week – this Tuesday’s ep is at 12.05, for instance, then Wednesday’s is at 12.30 – and it’s highly unlikely your series link will work because it’s EVERY DAY, so you’ll have to do a bit of chasing it around the schedules.  Not to mention, they might just decide to stop mid-way through and not tell you if/when it’s coming back.  Again.  ARGH.  But don’t let that put you off; once it hits its stride, it’s too lovely and heartwarming a show to ignore.  Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean.

Public Service Announcement 25 of 2012: Parenthood

Several weeks after pulling the plug on Parenthood, 5* has decided to give it another go. As of tomorrow (Monday 18), the second season will be shown daily – yes, daily – at 2pm. Yes, 2pm. The most positive construction to put on this is that 5* is trying to find an audience for this most brilliant of shows; given, though, that I was one of the four or five regular UK viewers, and daily 2pm showings couldn’t suit me less, I’m thinking that they didn’t bust the budget on audience research. More likely is that they’re burning it off, and that Five’s buying team won’t be extending themselves trying to obtain the rights to season 3. Still, it puts BBC4’s stupid double-bills into perspective, and it’s there if you want it. The first five episodes will be rerun from tomorrow, which means “new” episodes from Monday 25 June.

Parenthood s2 ep 1

Haddie’s getting driving lessons from her mom. Adam’s under pressure at work. Sarah needs a job. Crosby’s trying to keep his LDR going, while making eyes at Gaby. Julia and Joel are having to deal with sex questions from their daughter. Everyone’s trying to persuade Zeek not to do any DIY. And Max (the jaw-dropping Max Burkholder) finds out that he can’t have a sleepover with Jabbar, and throws a tantrum. (In the sort of brilliantly-observed detail that adorns this show Gaby sees it coming and, in the background, discreetly removes her earrings because she know she’s about to have to grapple with him.)

Nothing happens, yet everything does; that’s what family life is like. We’re well over a year behind American transmission of this show, so I don’t anticipate weekly reviews. But just in case there was any doubt about it: I love Parenthood, and want to marry it and bear its children.

Public Service Announcement 9 of 2012: Grimm, Friday Night Lights, Secret Circle, Ringer, Parenthood, The Mentalist

Looks like the hiatus is properly over because this coming week is crazy busy on the TV front.

Monday (13th) at 8pm on Watch brings us the UK debut of Grimm, a dark fairytale-inspired series (but not that one) about a young (quite good-looking, in case you’re wondering) man, who discovers he’s a descendant of those Grimms and has to protect humanity from the supernatural nasties that are apparently everywhere.  It’s from the makers of Angel, and the pilot is a clever, enjoyable riff on the Red Riding Hood legend: cute, downbeat, and a little bit, um, grim, but in a good way.  Advance word from unpopcult’s US sources (*waves at e*) is that it’s worth sticking with so I will be taking that advice.  I might also write about it occasionally, we’ll see.

Moving away from the supernatural to a different kind of magical, 8pm on Sky Atlantic meanwhile sees the start of something marvellous: season 1 of the frankly magnificent Friday Night Lights.  We won’t be reviewing it as FNL season 1 and 2 have already been shown (and shunted about the schedules) on ITV4 when I think only Jed and I watched them.  This is verging on criminal.  I cannot over-state how absolutely astoundingly good this programme is and what a crying shame it is that it doesn’t get more UK attention.  Whether you care about American football or not (and I don’t) doesn’t matter a jot, either: with a brilliant cast led by unpopcult favourites Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, FNL is a wonderfully warm, realistic and beautiful portrait of a marriage, a town and a school in the heart of Texas, and it’s hands-down one of the best things you’ll see on TV this year.  Or any year for that matter.  I’m hoping that enough people will watch it to encourage Sky Atlantic to buy seasons 3, 4 and 5 which haven’t been shown in the UK ever, and if you’re one of those people, feel free to comment on this thread and tell us how you get on.  Eric and Tami Taylor 4EVA!

Ok, that’s my cheerleading done, let’s move onto Wednesday then, when 8pm on Living means the return of the decidedly less impressive Secret Circle after its mid-season break.  Secret Circle started in a CW-tastically entertaining fashion then unfortunately lost its way when it killed off a main character, turned another one into a whiny jerk, and brought in a third one who’s an ass.  Big mistake, Circle.  The second half of the season is make or break time as its renewal or otherwise is still far from decided, but I’m sticking with it (and my weekly reviews) for now.

And no, we’re not done yet.  Stay with me, now.  Thursday brings with it the return of both Ringer (s1 part 2) and Parenthood (s2), at 8pm on Sky Living and 10pm on 5* respectively.  One of these shows is fabulously, awesomely silly and has Buffy The Vampire Slayer posing as her evil twin, while the other one is a fantastically funny and warm family drama from FNL genius Jason Katims.  But there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure here at unpopcult so we’ll be watching them both avidly.

And finally – for now, anyway, but Jed will be along in the next few days to fill you in on yet more tempting tv – set your DVRs for 9pm on Friday as The Mentalist is back on Channel 5 after its Celebrity Big Brother-related break.  Jane, I love you.  Rigsby, stay away from Van Pelt.  Cho and Lisbon, keep it cool.  And Van Pelt: go away.  Far, far away.  Please.

Parenthood s1 ep 13

The final episode of the first season didn’t deviate too far from the Parenthood template: Crosby has to decide whether to follow his baby mama to New York; Zeek’s trying to get back into his wife’s good books; Amber (the reliably excellent Mae Whitfield) is still being vilified for sleeping with the wrong guy, so runs away. Cue reconciliation, love, hugging/learning.

And I loved it. I love Parenthood. Absolutely love it. There isn’t a weak link in the cast, the dialogue has that overlapping thing going on which makes it feel naturalistic and semi-improvised, even if it isn’t, and the plotting has just about enough plausibility to it. It can be funny, it can be touching, it can even be quietly profound, and it’s an absolute triumph for show runner Jason Katims and everyone involved.

I do, however, have a dilemma. Part of me wants to actually be a Braverman – you know, go for coffee with my brothers and sisters, hang out, put the world to rights, go watch the Little League with the rest of them. But if I were a Braverman, I presumably couldn’t – how can I put this? – hit on any of the women. Is there another show on TV at the moment with such a concentration of attractive women in their 30s and 40s? (I can’t speak for how the guys look, but I would imagine Peter Krause, at the very least, has a significant fan base.) If you wanted to start poking holes in the plausibility of the show, you could probably start with the unreasonably beautiful cast.

But I really don’t want to find fault with this show. For the moment it perhaps isn’t in my very top league of TV dramas (a league currently populated by Mad Men, The Good Wife, and Justified), but it’s right at the top of the promotion candidates, and my understanding is that season 2 is even better. Not that there’s any word on when we in the UK might get season 2, but if and when we do I’ll be right there. I love Parenthood.

Parenthood s1 ep 1; s1 ep 2

Day-um. Part of me wants to dislike any new show that I watch; I’ve got enough to be getting on with, frankly. Unfortunately I like Parenthood. I might even really like it. A lot. The ghost of Thirtysomething hangs over Parenthood, even down to the music, which is school of W.G. Snuffy Walden. It’s about the four adult Bravermen children of blustering, interfering, but heart-of-gold-possessing paterfamilias Zeek: dependable family man Adam; single parent Sarah; commitment-phobe Crosby; and driven attorney Julia. As all have partners and (as it turns out) children, there’s a large cast, but it’s marshalled well: I was a little confused at the end of the first episode, but I resisted the temptation to hit Wikipedia and it all seemed to have settled down by the second.

The problems and pleasures are those of the family, and as the title suggests specifically those of the parent: in episode 1 Sarah and her children move back into the family house; Crosby manages to put off impregnating his girlfriend, but then finds out he has a son by another woman; Adam discovers that his son Max might be autistic. In episode 2 Max’s diagnosis is confirmed; Julia tries to bond with her daughter; Adam tries to nail a possum which has settled in his garden; Sarah’s kids start their new school. Things like that. I’ll be very disappointed if a tornado ever rips down the middle of this community.

So far it’s never really got more than moderately funny, although there have been promising signs. And although some of the dialogue and situations have an acerbic edge, it’s got plenty of sentimentality. Lashings of the stuff, in fact, to the point where things which were clearly meant to be tear-jerking didn’t really do it for me, and I speak as someone who’s moved to tears by more or less anything since I became a father myself. But perhaps that’ll come once I’ve decided which of the characters to care about. Which will undoubtedly happen: Parenthood is a keeper. I don’t anticipate regular reviews, but then I said that about The Good Wife.

Public Service Announcement 15 of 2011: Rubicon, Parenthood, The Kennedys, The Crimson Petal and the White

Three more American imports to consider, all starting this Thursday, 7 April, and, therefore, showing on the same night as The Good Wife, Brothers and Sisters, The Big C, House, Chuck, and 30 Rock. Memo to schedulers: Tuesday’s a bit quiet just now. Why not put something on then?

Anyway, AMC’s conspiracy drama Rubicon finally hits British screens for the first episode of what turned out to be its only, 13-episode season. It seems to be about an intelligence analyst who comes across a mysterious secret organisation which is manipulating American and world affairs. Expect some slow-paced but intriguing drama drawing heavily on the influence of 70s movies like The Parallax View. A decent critical reception wasn’t enough to save it, but I think it might be worth a go. CJ’s on reviewing duties. (10pm, BBC 4)

Parenthood, meantime, is a bit more mainstream: an NBC family dramedy with the familiar but always welcome Peter Krause (Six Feet Under, Dirty Sexy Money, Sports Night) and Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) as brother and sister Adam and Sarah Braverman. (For those, like CJ and me, who are interested in these things, Krause and Graham are presently in a relationship IN REAL LIFE!!!!!111!!!, the impact of which is somewhat dulled by the fact that they’re not in a relationship on Parenthood. But still.) There’s pedigree in the backroom as well, with the familiar team of Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, plus Thomas Schlamme of The West Wing et al, and Friday Night Lights’s Jason Katims, all exec producing; Katims is showrunner. Its first 13 episode season did well enough to secure renewal for a 22 episode second season, and although a third hasn’t been confirmed yet it’s looking like a good bet. I don’t know if this will merit weekly reviews, but I’ll be reporting back on the first at least. (10pm, 5*)

The History Channel has the controversial miniseries The Kennedys, with Greg Kinnear as Jack, Barry Pepper as Bobby, and the underrated Katie Holmes as Jackie. It’s only just been broadcast in the US to a generally lukewarm reception. We’re not anticipating reviewing it here, but if anyone does watch let us know what it’s like. (9pm, History)

And finally back with the homegrown stuff: the BBC’s adaptation of Michel Faber’s Victorian-era-set novel ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ starts this Wednesday. Oddly enough it was once recommended to Lauren Graham’s character in an episode of Gilmore Girls. One of us might be watching, although probably not me because it’s on at the same time as the Champions League. (9pm, BBC 2)