Public Service Announcement 18 of 2019: The Heart Guy (Doctor Doctor), Tutti Frutti

Well. I am VERY excited by the return tonight of Australian medical drama The Heart Guy – Doctor Doctor in its home country – for its third season. (It’s been renewed for a fourth, incidentally.) Its virtues are old-fashioned: decent plotting; a bit of redemption for the trying-not-to-be-a-bad-boy lead character; a notably strong cast, in particular Rodger Corser, Hayley McElhinney, and Nicole da Silva; and a proper ship that we can all get behind. While continuing to emphasise that this show will not change your life, I like it quite a lot, and the s3 trailer above suggests that we’re going to get at least some of what we want (Drama, 8pm).

I should probably have mentioned before now that BBC Scotland is repeating Tutti Frutti, which for many of us of a certain age is one of the defining comedy-dramas of its time. Brilliantly written, and with a cast to die for – Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Wilson, Maurice Roëves, and Katy Murphy – it hasn’t been shown on TV for the best part of 30 years, probably due to some licensing problem or other. I equivocated for a while about rewatching it, but ultimately decided that I was quite happy to live with my memories of the show, rather than risk spoiling them. I did, however, catch a couple of minutes the other night, from which it was instantly apparent that the person writing the subtitles is successfully eliminating all of the poetry, beauty, and humour from the dialogue. Well done, whoever you are (Saturday nights, 9pm).

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Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 10

Within the first couple of minutes of this blistering episode we’ve had an “oorah!”, a go-bag, and Joe White. Hey-ho, I thought, I’m going to like this one. And I did. Hired assassins are taking out the six-man SEAL team which did the thing in Marrakesh to which Agent Greer alluded a few episodes ago. Three are already down, leaving Steve, Joe, and a dude named Cole. The thing in Marrakesh, incidentally, was the taking out of a high-value target, on the orders of Greer. It might not even have been legal, apparently. Huh. Steve does at least ten illegal things before breakfast most days, because that’s how the Big K rolls, bitches. 

Anyway, Steve is attacked at home – bizarrely, they only send one assassin; haven’t they heard of Steve? – and survives, chasing his badly-wounded assailant off. Grover starts to track him down. Steve and Joe, realising that this needs to be ended, hatch a plan, and in furtherance of it Steve visits Greer, who seems to be quarterbacking the whole thing from prison. According to her, the people behind Operation Get The SEALS are “rich, motivated, and ruthless”. Ooh! (It’s the son of the high-value target, now himself a wealthy shipping magnate in Denmark, who is funding the revenge operation.) Steve drops a couple of indiscreet hints, hoping to draw the assassins out, and he and Joe then retreat to Joe’s rather gorgeous Montana ranch. Cole turns up for the lolz. 

Although Steve has made it clear that the rest of the Five-0 has to stay away from the Last Battle itself, they help a little. Grover captures the guy, half-dead through blood loss, who tried to kill Steve. You must help me, he says. You’re police. Only thing I must do, replies Grover magnificently, is “stay black and die”. And I’m not police; I’m Five-0. (Once again I have to reflect on the fact that people from all over the word are supposed to know about the existence and legal powers of this local police force.) Adam’s contribution is, of course, to talk to an old Yakuza contact.

So Steve, Joe, Cole, and a shit-ton of guns settle in at Joe’s ranch, and wait for the baddies, who duly appear. Inevitably, a huge battle ensues. The assassins are all killed, but at a price. Cole dies. Joe is hit. There’s a surgeon on the next ranch, he says to Steve; can you take me there? The only means of transport is equine, so Steve and Joe saddle up, leaving behind a ranch whose market value has just dropped considerably. But on the way to the surgeon, Joe calls a halt; there is no surgeon. He’s dying and he knows it.

And he’s right: before a beautiful Montanan sunset, Joe White breathes his last, in the arms of his most successful, uh, “tadpole”. It’s quite a big deal; Terry O’Quinn has been around this show for years, and now there’s no-one left to call Steve “son”. I thought this was the best episode of the season so far, and I fully expect Steve to go apeshit next week.

Public Service Announcement 17 of 2019: Deutschland 86

Deutschland 83 caused something of a stir when it hit our screens almost exactly three years ago: its first episode was the most-watched foreign-language drama premiere ever, and the show unfolded into a witty and pop-culture-literate take on the depths of the Cold War as seen from the East German side, handling with skill and intelligence the intersection of the personal and the political. As ever, of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that when it was shown, the idea of a divided Europe and a warmonger in the White House seemed quaint. Oh God. Anyway, I said at the time that I’d be up for a sequel, and here it is: we’re three years closer to the Wall coming down, Martin is in exile in Angola, and his Aunt Lenora is now on manoeuvres in Cape Town. It starts tonight at 9pm on More4, with the whole thing available via All4 thereafter.

The Good Doctor s2 ep 15

Although The Good Doctor has been on generally excellent form recently, it has undoubtedly lost some of its focus on Shaun and changed into something of an ensemble show, a little bit more like a traditional medical procedural. Does it need a disruptor? Well, it’s got one. Step forward Dr Jackson Han, the new chief of surgery, played by our old friend Daniel Dae Kim, who of course also exec produces the show. Which presumably means that when he says he wants to play a brilliant, high-paid, high-maintenance, high-cheekboned surgeon, that’s what he gets to do.

Han starts off by turning up late for his own welcome brunch – next time I move jobs I totally want a welcome brunch, or just a brunch – and scrubbing into an incredibly delicate operation on Persie, a new-born with a catalogue of medical problems, poor little thing. He puts loud music on, which immediately throws Shaun off balance, and starts firing questions at the interns. “Shame-based learning”, Lim admonishes gently afterwards, “isn’t my style”. Then Han tells Melendez to run a full preventative workup on Minesh, a wealthy hospital donor. Melendez is somewhat put out, but complies with the “request”, and finds that Minesh has a tumour which is probably benign, but might not be; and they won’t know unless or until it kills him or is removed. Minesh has to decide whether to have risky surgery to take it out.

Persie, meantime, spends most of the episode on the operating table, as the surgeons desperately try to save her. Her mother wonders whether the antidepressants she took before she knew she was pregnant might have caused the birth defects. Shaun allows that they might have, which incurs Han’s wrath; and although Lim and Claire defend Shaun’s improving communication skills, it’s clear that Han has already taken agin Shaun; or, at least, his bedside manner. Shaun later comes up with a quite phenomenal save to keep Persie alive, but Han has made his mind up: Shaun is going to pathology, where he can use his undoubted diagnostic skills while not interacting with patients.

Finally, Glassman’s storyline continues to be the least successful part of the show: this week he’s encouraged, by fellow-patient Larry, to embrace cancer as an identity. Larry seems kind of annoying, but what do I know? I’ve never been there. On the whole, though, a great episode. Directed by Freddie Highmore himself, incidentally.

Blindspot s4 ep 11

Well, thank goodness for that. Blindspot’s sense of humour returns this week as everyone (except Zapata; the writers are too enraptured with her tragic heroine narrative to give it even a minute’s rest) gets to send themselves up in a true crime/ murder mystery pastiche making loving fun of them all.

Long story short: the team investigate the murder of superfan Kurt’s favourite mystery writer, and in doing so have to solve the “real-life” (in Blindspot’s universe, not ours) murders in his unfinished final manuscript. Which features Team Tat in starring roles.

To add to all the fun, there’s finally a bit of PATDOTCOM romance (or PETDOTBIZ, to be strictly accurate: everyone is very clear, to my chagrin, that the only way this particular ship will ever hit the water is in fantasy sequences like these) and the heightened versions manage the difficult trick of catching the essence of the “normal” characters and their emotions besides, while also cheerfully, charmingly acknowledging their innate ridiculousness. Lovely. Of course, it’s not all fun and games – Jane’s in dire straits, and Zapata is doing whatever she’s doing – but it’s the best episode since the mid-season hiatus by miles. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 9

Urban vigilante Gene Wahale, who styles himself ‘The Night Sentinel’, takes down a drug dealer, all the while filming his heroics for his YouTube channel. Unfortunately, he is then killed. Perhaps by one of the 37 people he had subjected to a citizens’ arrest? Nope, nor at the hand of his younger rival in vigilanteism, ‘Guardian’.

At this point, one viewer at least was wondering whether the death of one of these idiots was an entirely bad thing; a view, perhaps, tacitly shared by Lieutenant Daniel Williams. “Something’s wrong with you”, he observes, if you want to “put on tights and fight crime”. This leads to an impassioned debate with Steve about superheroes, during which Danny is very much on the side of comic book characters with superhuman powers, as opposed to Batman who “inherit(ed) money and bought a bunch of Batmobiles”.

When their investigation brings them into contact with Honolulu’s comic book community, I feared the worst. However, against my expectations the episode turned out to be ridiculous but goofy fun, and I enjoyed it a lot. I still think ‘Guardian’ needs to get laid stat, mind you.

And meantime, another long-running plot arc is brought to the most abrupt of ends, when Yakuza banker Kimura is dragged before a room full of oyubun; it was he who organised the hit on Noriko and then tried to frame Adam. In recognition of his long service, Kimura is offered “Yakuza justice or Five-0 justice”, and when he opts for the latter – and who can blame him? – Adam steps out of the shadows to effect the arrest. Once again working with the Yakuza, Adam?

Bergerac s1 ep 8

When it was reported a few weeks ago that Jersey-set police drama Bergerac is being revived, I suddenly had a desire to watch an episode of the original. A quick hunt around the schedules revealed that it’s currently being re-run by Drama, and so I picked this episode, ‘Late For A Funeral’, from my EPG.

The first thing to say is that I enjoyed it, and did so unironically. The plotting was solid: a diver, in the process of trying to recover something from a downed Nazi plane is murdered by someone who cuts his breathing tube, and Bergerac tries to solve both the killing and the mystery of what a German pilot might have been trying to fly out of Jersey. And there were, of course, lots of delicious incidental period trappings: a VCR; “photostats”; a hero with the top four buttons of his shirt undone; the pathologist who pours a shot of whisky into his mug of tea before getting to work; drinks after work at Diamante Lil’s; for that matter, Lil’s astonishing jacket, which made her look like a human chandelier; cigar-chomping rogue businessman Charlie Hungerford; a reference to the Common Market; and so on.

But the main reason I selected this one to watch is, of course, because of the war theme. I don’t recall watching this specific episode in 1981, when it was first broadcast, but at that time I would have regarded anything to do with World War II as impossibly ancient history. We are now, of course, further from 1981 than it was from the end of the War, and so I was keen to see how that issue was handled. Pretty well, is the answer. It gave me a bit of a jolt to see a character of about my age who had, unremarkably, been a fighter pilot. But Charlie Hungerford aside – “We shot down enough of your lot!” he, uh, jokes at one point with a couple of Germans who hire him to recover the plane for themselves – there is no suggestion that the war is anything other than firmly in the past. And the deceased German pilot’s surviving parents, who visit Jersey to reclaim his remains, are treated with discretion and courtesy. Anyway, I was both fascinated and entertained.