The Strain ep 1

A big, nasty, winged monster-man may or may not have wiped out a plane-full of passengers. The plane lands at JFK in radio silence. The CDC, FBI and all sorts of other acronyms arrive for the obligatory and tiresome jurisdictional turf war. Our CDC hero Dr Ephraim Goodweather (no, honestly) who insists on milk at all his investigation scenes and is estranged from his wife because she resents his job (because that has never happened on tv before, oh no) wins. An old Van Helsing-type fellow who keeps a pet heart in a jar, as you do, knows what the monster-man is and what really happened on the plane, so obviously Dr “Eph” ignores him. And there’s a sinister big corporation called the Stoneheart Group (why not go the whole hog and call it “Bloodsucking Dead Folk Inc”?) behind it all. “This programme contains scenes of horror?” Maybe so, voiceover lady, but nowhere near enough of them and they were completely lost among what felt like hours of lazy and boring cliche.

What an abject waste of tv-watching time this was. There’s no point in a 68-minute long first episode of anything, let alone a series that’s supposed to give everyone the creeps, if 67 of those 68 minutes are wasted on the dullest, most hackneyed characterisation and the longest, most drawn-out set-up, while the viewer is left to wonder when in the hell something remotely original or unnerving might happen. The Strain wasn’t scary or shocking, it was cheesy and shlocky; every single plot point was signposted in neon in advance – the only twist which surprised me was the identity of the obligatory traitor – and was either too obvious, too dull or just too ridiculous to scare anyone above the age of 10. Even a scene in the City morgue near the end which should have given me nightmares was more trite than terrifying, and if I, a card-carrying wuss, am saying that, this show has big problems. And it also has one less viewer: life is far too short for me to bother with episode 2.

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Public Service Announcement 40 of 2014: Haven, Legends, The Strain

The steady trickle of tv turns into a deluge this week: Jed will be along to talk about The Leftovers tomorrow but, in the meantime, here’s my contribution to the week’s PSA pot….

First up, Haven returns to Syfy UK at 9pm tomorrow (Tuesday) for the “first part” of its fifth and final season. Except that it’s one of those “final” seasons which is split into two halves (each strangely enough the length of a normal season) and shown in different years. *Rolls eyes*

Regardless, whether we’re calling it two seasons or one, I’m delighted we’re getting new episodes at all – after a pretty ropey first season, Haven has turned into something special and ending it forever on last season’s cliffhanger would have been UNACCEPTABLE. Especially since that season was fantastic, Audrey and Nathan make a gorgeous (if insanely star-crossed) ship and Duke, quite frankly, RULES. We won’t be doing weekly reviews, but comments about the show are, as always, welcome on this thread. (Especially if they involve lots of yelling at Evil Audrey.)

From a returning favourite to two newbies then, Wednesday night at 10pm brings with it the UK debuts of both Legends (on Sky 1) and The Strain (on Watch). Legends revolves around some undercover spy-related shenanigans which, yes, I know, but its USP is that the undercover spy in question is Sean Bean. Which, frankly, is all I need to know. Action tv afficionados may be attracted by the involvement of Howard “24 and Homeland” Gordon, certain viewers’ interest may be piqued by the presence of Ali Larter or Amber Valletta…..whatevs. It’s Ned Stark: Secret Agent, so count me in for now, anyway. I’ll review the first episode and we’ll see where we go from there.

Which brings me to The Strain, created by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, with Carlton “not Damon Lindelof but the other Lost guy” Cuse taking on showrunner duties. It’s about a nasty virus turning folk into vampires and threatening humanity as we know it so if you’re not cool with a) Hazmat suits, b) vampires or c) very scary telly, it’s maybe not for you but reviews have been good, it’s been renewed for a second season and I like a spot of the undead with my evening cuppa so I’m on review duties for ep 1 at least. Even if it means watching from behind the sofa and sleeping with all the lights on afterwards.