CJ will be along shortly to preview the start of Poldark’s third season. It’s a busy couple of days, in fact, for new and returning TV shows, and here are a few more.
Heavyweights Orange Is The New Black (Netflix, now) and The Americans (ITV Encore, Monday 12 June, 10pm), are both back for fifth seasons. Unfortunately I’ve somewhat lost touch with The Americans, as ITV Encore is one of these platform-specific channels I don’t have access to. Maybe one day I’ll catch up.
We used to be all over Orphan Black (Netflix, tomorrow), and now we… aren’t. No plans to change that, and in any event this is its final season. The charming, low-stakes Royal Pains (Universal, today, 5pm) is also entering its last run. I’m still watching, and I still haven’t met anyone else who does – although there are rumours out there that there may be two of us at least – so as ever I’m grateful to Universal for bringing the show back for me. Although not as grateful as I would be were they to get Private Eyes back on our screens stat. Make it so, Universal.
And in pointless new UK drama news: step forward The Loch (ITV, tomorrow, 9pm), in which an inexperienced detective investigates a murder in a close-knit loch-side community.
This might be a pointless PSA, because I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person in the UK who actually watches American cable drama Royal Pains, viewing figures notwithstanding. Which is a shame, because its combination of likeable characters (now that Divya has been sorted out), Hamptons setting, moderately diverting plotting, and medical mysteries makes it the perfect summer evening after-work go-to. It could be argued that the show lost a little of its mojo when Jill Flint left, because she was both toothsome and a good foil for Mark Feuerstein’s concierge doctor Hank Lawson. But the show keeps rolling along nicely: this is season 5, and season 6 is about to get under way in the US. Somewhat bizarrely, episodes seem to be premiering at 5am, but let’s just pretend that the 8pm repeat is the actual broadcast time. I’ll be watching, and I still think it’s worth your time… hello? Anyone? Is this thing on? (Sunday 8 June, 8pm, Universal Channel.)
And if you missed season 1 of The Blacklist, Sky Living is repeating it from the start. Episode 1 is on at 11.05pm on Sunday; I think that’s a repeat of a repeat, if you see what I mean, but if you hunt around I’m sure you can find the regular weekly slot. Very highly recommended, if you like your American procedurals slick, implausible, and thrilling.
I think I’m the only person in the UK who watches Royal Pains; so thanks, Universal Channel, for bringing it back just for me. Season 4 of concierge doctor Hank’s adventures in the Hamptons starts this weekend; we’re still a season behind America, where this trivial but amiable show remains a decent-sized cable hit. I like it rather more than I thought I would, and it’s perfect summer viewing (Sunday 7 July, 8pm, Universal).
Bigger news the same evening, though, with the return of Dexter for its final season. We’ve spent the last few seasons falling anything up to a year behind American transmission; for this final season, though, Fox UK has done the decent thing and scheduled episodes to run no more than a week after US viewers get to see them. Which is, of course, something that Unpopcult has been banging on about for a long time now; so well done, Fox.
As for the show itself: season 7 represented an improvement on season 6 and its imaginary Big Bad, although it now seems unlikely that the show’s seasons 1 and 2 form will be repeated, and the decision to bring the show to an end after this year feels like the right one. Still, I have faith that with the finish line looming everyone will bring it, and given the proximity to US transmission we’re back with week-by-week reviews (Sunday 7 July, 9pm, Fox).
One new season, two repeats. House-in-the-Hamptons medical dramedy Royal Pains is back for its third season this weekend. I ended season 2 liking this show rather more than I did at the start of it, and more than I thought I would: it still isn’t going to change your world, but it’s an immensely likeable show which slips down very easily. We’re some way behind America with Royal Pains – season four has just started there – and I don’t anticipate writing weekly reviews, but it’s worth an hour of your time (Sunday 10 June, Universal, 7pm).
BBC4 is using the summer to repeat two of its more successful non-Forbrydelsen foreign dramas. Tonight sees the start of a rerun of season 2 of French cops-and-prosecutors show Spiral (Engrenages). On top of being drop-dead-cool and satisfyingly violent it also, in the remarkable Fitoussi/Proust/Fleurot triumvirate, has three of the hottest actors on TV. 50% of Unpopcult has already reviewed this; the other 50% (me) hasn’t seen it, but will be taking this opportunity. In double-bills, of course (tonight, BBC4, 9pm).
And there’s another chance to see Danish political drama Borgen, starting this week. If you don’t like the sound of the subject matter, don’t be put off: Borgen is a terrific character drama which happens to use politics as its backdrop, but is about very much more than that, and is anchored by a complex and dazzling performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen as the leader of a minority party who suddenly finds herself in a position of power. I loved it when it was first shown, and I urge you to give it a go. Even better, the first episode at least is being shown on its own, raising the possibility that on this occasion at least the BBC might get away from these accursed double-bills (Wednesday 13 June, BBC4, 11pm).
I can’t put my finger on why, exactly, but I’m definitely enjoying this season of Royal Pains more than the last one. I mean, not much has changed – Dr Hank and idiot brother Evan are still wandering around the Hamptons saving people, with Cameron Scott as enigmatic aristo Boris supplying the only real hint of mystery and danger – and of the changes which have been made I can do without Henry Winkler as Hank’s errant father, frankly.
It might just be that renewal for a second season has given the show a little more confidence in its strengths; it feels more relaxed, yet tighter in both scripting and plotting. This two-parter saw Hank and Evan at Boris’s summer residence in Cuba, which meant cigars, a sexy bartender, a medical crisis or two, and a kidnapping. And, of course, the only Hispanic actor, it seems, on every casting director’s speed-dial – yes, Papi out of Ugly Betty – as a dissident writer. Meantime back home Divya’s a lot less irritating than she was in season 1, there’s a new rival concierge doctor on the scene in the shape of Dr Peck (Anastasia Griffith from Damages), and Jill’s still just lovely.
What I’m trying to say, I think, is that if you bailed on Royal Pains early in season 1 it’s worth another go. Like I say, not much has changed, so it’s not as if you’ve missed any earth-shattering plot developments. (Although I’d still be much, much happier if someone bought the second season of White Collar, also a USA Network show, for UK transmission.)
Hank Lawson, concierge doctor to the Hamptons rich, is back for another season of (I assume) mildly diverting light medical dramedy. As we’ve said on here before it’s a bit of a cross between House and Burn Notice without being as good as either, and it’s not in the same league as its USA Network stablemate White Collar (of which there is presently no sign on UK channels). A stiff wind might well blow Royal Pains away, but it’ll keep you going over the summer (Universal, 8pm, Sunday 19th).
Pleasant, modestly-diverting Royal Pains brought its first season to an end with this pleasant and modestly-diverting episode. (Season 2 is under way in America.) Patient of the Week – yes, the House influence became, if anything, more pronounced as the season ran – is the part-owner of an old mansion where Divya’s engagement party is due to take place. Evan manages to lose all of HankMed’s money. And Jill has to decide what to do with her husband, a decision which, frankly, she’s been making a bit of a meal of for a few episodes now.
In fairness this was comfortably one of the stronger episodes, although one was still left wondering, just a little, what the point of the whole thing was. I didn’t ever get a feeling that the writers had sat down and thought too much about the trajectory of the season, although perhaps that added to the show’s freewheeling charm. For instance – having built up the storyline about the mysterious medical condition of mysterious Boris (Cameron Scott – frequently the best thing in the show) in the penultimate episode, the writers contrived barely to mention it this time. Traditionally the final episode of a season deals with things like that.
In its favour, though, what looked like being a long-running will-they-won’t-they? plotline was sorted out early on when Hank and Jill did it. Even there, though, Jill’s thoroughly creepy husband wandered back in for an episode or two to complicate a relationship which didn’t really need complicating. Anyway, this uncommonly early between-the-sheets action shifted the will-they? focus to the Evan/Divya relationship, the main problem there being that Evan was too goofy, and Divya too prissy and joyless; I didn’t really warm to either of them.
So, yes, it was indeed Burn Notice crossbred with House, although not as good as either; and nowhere near as good as USA Network’s other low-key charmer White Collar. I’ll quite happily watch the second season if anyone in the UK buys it, although if no-one does it won’t rock my world.