Public Service Announcement 40 of 2017: The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is that rare thing: a critical success which manages to be immensely watchable at the same time. And, of course, highly relevant: an America run by religious zealots who want to control the reproductive rights of women isn’t really that hard to imagine. On the back of a big night out at the Emmys – hoovering up eight, all told, including Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Lead Actress (the peerless Elisabeth Moss) – and decent UK ratings, Channel 4 has done the sensible thing and scheduled a quick repeat of season 1 for those who missed out. Unpopcult heartily endorses this event or product (tonight, More 4, 10.15pm).

And The Apprentice is back, which I really only mention as it gives me my annual excuse to wheel out Mitchell and Webb’s skewering of this modern-day Bedlam. “Everyone will think that they’re the only person to have noticed that the contestants are all idiots. I’ve got a hunch that, for some reason, people will think that this never stops being worth commenting upon…” (BBC 1, Wednesdays).



Public Service Announcement 44 of 2014: The Apprentice, The Knick, Sleepy Hollow

More tv, in case your Sky+/TIVO/PVR hasn’t yet exploded.

First up, old warhorse The Apprentice returns tonight (Tuesday) on BBC1 at 9pm for its 14th series, with episode 2 following hot on its heels tomorrow, also at 9pm. I don’t think I’ll be watching or writing about it – I’ve reached the Big Brother-type stage where I find the contestants and tasks annoying rather than funny – but if you’re still keen on the show and looking for a fellow fan, you can always check out our friend Tim’s recaps over at Slouching towards tv.

From something old to something new, meantime, as Steven Soderbergh’s new project The Knick begins its UK run on Sky Atlantic at 9pm on Thursday. Starring the always excellent, always handsome and yet never quite a megastar Clive Owen and set in a New York hospital in 1900, advance word suggests that The Knick is uncompromising, serious and incredibly bloody drama – not for the squeamish, then, or even those who just haven’t had their dinner yet. Cinemax and I don’t tend to rub along well together (oh God, the Strike Back sequels) but the overwhelmingly positive critical consensus seems to be that this show is nothing like their usual fare and demands both attention and respect, so I’ll give the first episode a go and report back in due course.

If neither reality tv nor realistic tv is your thing, however, there’s always the second season of Sleepy Hollow to check out; it hits UK screens tomorrow (Wednesday) at 9pm on Universal. Both Jed and I tried it, and both Jed and I gave up on it very quickly but it has plenty of fans and the very charming Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane so if a wisecracking procedural with a dollop of the supernatural is your cup of tea, drink it in.

And that’s all for today, but check back over the next few days for previews of – amongst other things – Scorpion, How To Get Away With Murder and, of course, Ultimate Beach Bromance, sorry, I mean Hawaii Five-0.

The Apprentice s9 ep 1

Blergh. After the most recent, decidedly lacklustre runs of both this and the Young version, I’m not sure I’ll make it to the end of the Apprentice season unless they make some drastic changes to freshen it up. However, I’m here for now: first eps are always for meeting the candidates and trying to work out who’s the biggest numptie, so let the games begin.

Oh yeah, and there’s a task about selling stuff. Now, what was I saying about drastic changes and freshening it up….?

Public Service Announcement 19 of 2013: Hannibal, Justified, The LA Complex, The Apprentice

I’m in two minds about new American import Hannibal. On the one hand, this Bryan Fuller-developed prequel to the events of Red Dragon and The Silence Of The Lambs has been generally (if by no means unanimously) well-received by American critics, even if renewal for a second season remains in the balance for now. And it features Mads Mikkelsen, one of the best actors of his generation (and Troels Hartmann’s brother), in the title role, with Hugh Dancy as Special Agent Will Graham. On the other hand, apparently it’s proper scary, and I really don’t like being scared: horror isn’t my thing at all. If it’s yours, though, Hannibal might be just what the evil forensic psychiatrist ordered (Sky Living, Tuesday 7 May, 10pm).

We’re on safer ground the next evening, with the start of season 4 of Unpopcult favourite Justified. The last season, while very good, wasn’t quite up to the standard of season 2, which was something of a TV drama landmark; but advance word would suggest that this season is a little better again. We can be sure, either way, that Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins will continue to deliver two of the best acting performances on TV (5 USA, Wednesday 8 May, 10pm).

And earlier the same evening a bit of a curiosity. Canadian drama series The LA Complex was shown on The CW in America, and features a group of 20-year-old wannabe actors/dancers/etc trying to make it in Los Angeles. Sounds appalling. Apparently, though, it’s actually pretty good, with highbrow critics such as Alan Sepinwall and Emily Nussbaum weighing in on its side. Having said that, it’s run for two (fairly short) seasons and isn’t being renewed, so it’s maybe not worth getting invested (MTV (sic), Wednesday 8 May, 9pm).

Finally, on the allegedly unscripted side of the house, the zillionth season of upmarket freak show The Apprentice starts this week, with two episodes full of everything you’ve come to love. On Tuesday the competitors are given shipping containers full of random items to sell; Wednesday is all about inventing and marketing a flavoured beer (BBC 1, Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 May, 9pm).

Young Apprentice s3 Week 8

Last Young Apprentice ever? Very possibly – word is that the BBC won’t be commissioning another season, although Lord Sugar apparently wants to try his luck taking the show elsewhere if they don’t change their minds.

Meh. It was fun for a while, but I think both the adult and junior versions of the show have had their day, to be honest. I’d “rest” both of them for a few years; maybe think about bringing them back in a decade or two.

But I’m getting ahead of myself; we still have tonight’s finale to get through – the baby businessfolk have to create and brand a new line of sportswear, with accompanying video and everything. Which sounds a lot like the hair product task a couple of weeks ago, but there we go. I don’t care who wins, just as long as it’s not Patrick.