Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 2

Jack Teague, regular guy, is on a plane to Hawaii with his family. But there’s an armed hijacker on board, who sedates regular guy Jack, blows a hole in the plane, then parachutes out taking regular guy Jack with him. Well, even if you’d never seen a moment of H50 before this, you’d probably have concluded that Jack isn’t so regular; and so it proves when the hijacker is found, very dead, in the jungle. And when Lou digs up footage of Agent Miller, Greer’s partner from last week, apparently waiting at the airport for Jack’s plane to land, it all suggests a link to China. Yes, Jack is a Chinese spy. Except that it isn’t quite so simple.

Meantime, Tani has embarked on the latest doomed attempt to prove that Adam Noshimuri is a baddie, by asking her old HPD instructor – the one she punched out, resulting in her dismissal from the Academy – to run tests on the gun she found in Adam’s house. He eventually agrees. My bet: it’ll be confirmed as the same gun that fired the bullets which killed Adam’s sister, but he’ll wriggle out again. Eddie the Dog has dug up the money Steve buried in his garden. Of course he has. Danny, unsurprisingly, is scathing: the Back Garden Bank is, he seethes at Steve, the “stupidest, most ignorant, dumbest idea you ever had in the nine years I’ve known you. Dumbest. Dumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumbdumb”.

By the end of the episode Agent Miller has been REDACTED by the Chinese. Agent Greer – on the run from last week – has been captured, which is better news. But as Steve hands her over to the CIA she reminds him that something – apart from them sleeping together – happened in Marrakesh, and it’s the sort of something you probably don’t want a Chinese mole to be holding over you. I thought this was great. It’s also worth observing that the dialogue, last week and this, has had a welcome wit and lightness of touch.

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Charmed (2018) s1 ep 1

Without claiming to be a fan as such, I’m quite fond of the original Charmed. I wasn’t a regular viewer but I caught a lot of repeats over recent years and I shipped Piper and Leo hard, so even though the series technically ended in 2006, it really doesn’t feel that long ago to me, and a reboot/ re-imagining seems both very early and somewhat unnecessary as a result. I can understand why some of the show’s fanbase are so upset by it. But I can also understand why the CW thought it was a good idea. I mean, ok, on the surface, it’s a fantasy romantic drama about sisters who happen to be legendary witches using their extraordinary magical powers to save innocent people from evil things, but look a little deeper and it’s a warm-hearted feminist fable about a group of women, persecuted throughout history, and the immense power for change and for good that they have when they band together. In the Time’s Up/ Me Too era, it’s bang on trend.

Unfortunately, however, Charmed 2.0 knows exactly how “now” it is and is determined to make sure the viewer is too. I’m not talking about the changes made to the sisters’ ethnicity or sexual orientation; if you have to do a reboot, diversifying the main characters and changing things up so the new, modern version of the show has a new, modern identity of its own is fair enough. But this new version and these new characters are ill-served by the programme-makers’ determination to imbue them with as many Twitter talking points as humanly – or indeed magically – possible. Every second line is either a homily about something – consent, representation, the patriarchy, sexual harassment, etc – delivered with all the subtlety of a foghorn, or it’s a set-up for the next one, and while I’m completely on board with what the show is trying to say, even l don’t particularly enjoy being lectured for fortyish minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, I want my tv drama to be progressive and feminist and inclusive. I want it to be woke. This show is preaching to the choir as far as I’m concerned. But I also want my tv drama to be entertaining and well-written and New Charmed is neither of those things, largely because it doesn’t seem to trust itself or its audience with anything more than constant, flashing neon reminders of how well-meaning it all is. The sisters’ mother, for instance, is (a) a women’s studies professor who is (b) murdered while (c) spearheading an investigation into (d) sexual harassment allegations by a young woman who has (e) since been suspiciously silenced against (f) a respected male professor who turns out to be an ancient demon who (g) feeds his power by draining women of their strength – it’s like the writers are playing liberal bingo, and checking off as many talking points as they can possibly cram in to one episode. Save some for next week, Charmed!

I’ve been trying to write thus review for three days now and each time I end up feeling bad about it. The bottom line is that tv drama is a great tool for exploring important issues and changing attitudes, and New Charmed is commendably keen to be a part of that. It’s just far too heavy-handed about it, and the fun and the, er, charm of the original show is conspicuously missing from this pilot episode as a result. It might well get better once it stops trying so hard, but at the moment it seems boring and cringe-worthy, and neither the characters nor any of the plotlines are anywhere near entertaining enough to make me want to waste any more time on it. I’m done.

Public Service Announcement 2 of 2019: Bull, Better Things, Sex Education, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

It’s difficult to know what to give top billing to. So let’s start with Bull, more or less explicitly a vehicle for Michael Weatherly with a slight procedural drama attached: he plays Dr Jason Bull, the head of a jury consulting firm. But really you could change “jury consulting firm” to “private investigation company” or, for that matter, “big-city FBI office”, and following some very minor tweaking of plots and characters it would still be the sort of thing one could half-watch while ironing, or idly perusing the web. Which is fine; as I keep saying, TV drama can’t – and shouldn’t – be wall-to-wall premium shows which need you to do your homework before and after watching. Season 2 ended with Dr Bull having a heart attack, and season 3 is now well under way in America, which suggests that, y’know, he survived, because the clue’s in the show’s title.

But here, of course, is the thing: Eliza Dushku, who was in three episodes at the end of the first season, and had been tapped for a regular role going forward, has just received a vast amount of cash money from CBS as an out-of-court settlement after being fired from the show following her complaints about Weatherly’s on-set conduct. This is… not good, and it will be interesting to see whether it affects the show’s future; traditionally, shows have kept going if they make financial sense, and everything would otherwise point to Bull being nailed-on for a fourth season. But the way in which the Roseanne reboot was summarily executed might suggest that times are changing (Friday 11 November, FOX (UK), 10pm).

And, continuing that general theme, the first season of acclaimed comedy-drama Better Things makes its way to the UK tonight. It’s very much a collaboration between the exceptional Pamela Adlon and her long-time friend and supporter Louis C.K.; between them, they wrote every episode in the first two seasons. Adlon – very often the best thing in Louie – stars as Sam Fox (a name which clearly has less significance in the US than in the UK), an actress and single parent to three children. (She has three children in real life.)

But here, again, is the thing: Louis C.K. has since been unmasked, to Adlon’s evident anguish, as a serial sexual predator, is not involved with the show’s third season, and in his post-shame comedy routines he appears to be doubling-down on being a persona non grata. This is… not good. I plan to keep the art and the artist firmly apart, though, and watch this show (tonight, BBC Two, 9pm).

Two less #problematic shows: Netflix’s dramedy Sex Education, starring Gillian Anderson as a sex therapist and Asa Butterfield as her teenage son, who starts to provide therapy to his peers. The critics who have seen it like it, generally quite a lot. And Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is back on Netflix in the UK this weekend for its final run of episodes. I haven’t found it easy to write about, but I’ve started so I’ll finish; reviews until the end.

Also starting: season 8 of amiable cops-in-the-sun drama Death in Paradise (tonight, BBC One, 9pm); season 2 of The Orville (tonight, FOX (UK), 9pm); season 2 of Friends From College (tomorrow, Netflix); and season 1 of Titans (tomorrow, Netflix).

Public Service Announcement 1 of 2019: Catastrophe, LA To Vegas, Charmed

Dysfunctional marriage comedy Catastrophe is back for its fourth season tonight. During its first run of episodes I described it as “performing minor miracles… pulling off the trick of being adorably sweet, filthy, and funny all at the same time”. Unfortunately, in seasons 2 and 3 it misplaced the sweetness and a lot of the humour, replacing them with a sour and angry misanthropy. To be clear: there is very much a place for anger, and sour misanthropy, in my life and on my TV. But I expect my comedies to be funny at least; and, despite the presence of Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, two of the most attractive and likeable performers around, Catastrophe just became a lot harder to love. Will this be remedied in season 4? We’ll find out from 10pm tonight on Channel 4.

Also starting tonight: the first and only season of LA To Vegas, an American sitcom about a budget airline. Apart from the curiosity value of seeing Jack from Stalker in a comedy, there doesn’t seem much reason to watch this: the critical response was lukewarm at best, and it was cancelled by Fox after 15 episodes (Paramount, 9pm). Also, The CW’s reboot of witchy fantasy drama Charmed gets under way tonight. This time the reviews might best be described as “mixed”, but Unpopcult has a track record of liking CW shows (E4, 9pm).

 

Madam Secretary s5 ep 4

The remains of some World War 2 fighter pilots have been found in the Philippines, but the Filipino government is being uncooperative about their return, and is holding out for a nice big dollop of military aid. Meantime, a campaign group led by the daughter of one of the deceased is putting pressure on Dalton and his administration to get a result, a problem he doesn’t need in the run-up to the midterms. POTUS takes the problem away from the Department of Defense and gives it to State instead, which is a vote of confidence in Elizabeth, but potentially problematic given that the last time she met the idiot Filipino president, Andrada, he sexually assaulted her and she punched him on the nose. And Henry and Stevie are refused service in a DC restaurant by the ex-serviceman who owns the premises.

It presumably takes most of M-Sec’s diplomatic savvy to prevent her from ordering the carpet-bombing of the Phillipines, and having someone smash the pissy little restaurant up as well. Instead she tries to break the logjam. She starts in America, where authorisation of the military aid package is being held up by one “Senator Callister”, who turns out in fact to be Luke Wheeler out of Nashville. I was hoping that at some point she would offer to start wheelin’ and dealin’ with him, but I was sorely disappointed. Anyway, Senator Wheeler declines to change his position, which he dresses up as a principled stance on the human rights record of Andrada; but which instead, on investigation, turns out instead to have been motivated by a nasty little collision between his xenophobia and his ambition: he is considering a run for the White House himself and sees Elizabeth as a potential rival. President Luke Wheeler! Wheels up on Air Force One! I could go for that, particularly if, say, Juliette Barnes were made his Chief of Staff.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Returning to Mad Sec as presently written: Elizabeth, having struck out with Wheeler, decides to fly to Manila to tackle Andrada on his home patch. She is ultimately successful in bringing the boys home, but another problem then presents itself: one of the deceased might not be eligible for a military funeral because he had deserted before returning and dying in battle. So which is more important: the desertion or his death? Send for Mr Ethics himself, Henry, whose advice the Commander-in-Chief listens to and ignores. Meantime, M-Sec’s younger daughter Alison is working for the campaign of a charismatic young candidate for Congress, but when he compromises on a key policy she’s so appalled she decides not to vote. Quite rightly, Elizabeth tells her to get the hell over herself already and go and vote. (Personally, I’d not only make it easier to vote, I’d make it compulsory. That’s how you ensure that politicians take more account of the needs of the presently disenfranchised.) The show draws a line linking deaths in battle and the right to vote: it’s about as subtle as, well, having your plane blown out of the sky by artillery fire, but that’s very much par for the course with this show at the moment. Like last week, this episode was no more or less than Mad Sec doing its thing, which it does very well.

Blindspot s4 ep 8

*SPOILERS*

It’s the mid-season finale, so the stakes are astronomical but, on Blindspot, when are they not? “A ballistic missile is inbound to New York!” Patterson announces. “Er… again?” I wonder. Team Tat is trying to stop a nuclear attack, you guys, so it must be … Monday.

In fairness though, they do an excellent job of making this one seem even more apocalyptic than usual, with lots of chat about evacuation (though, really, how far is anyone going to get in 37 minutes?) and staying till the end and calling our respective soulmates even though they might be in a mood with us or maybe even threatening to kill us and bring down global civilisation as we know it. Relationships go through rough patches, y’know, and this is a nuclear weapon we’re dealing with.

Except – hurrah! – it’s not! Since Weller very sensibly fills PatDotcom in on the whole Dr Jane/Ms Hyde Remi situation early doors, Team Tat’s axis of awesomeness works out it’s a trick pretty quickly, but the CIA and their extremely half-hearted black site evacuation protocols – 2 agents in a van? That’s it? Really? – are unmoved. So Remi and Fauxman spring Shepherd (albeit a significantly older and keener-on-a-quiet-life Shepherd) and it is ON. By which I mean, Operation Save Jane Whether She Likes It or Not is ON: Weller is in charge of driving very fast and getting shot at, and Rich and Patterson handle the snazzy tech, with a significant assist from one Boston Arliss Crabb who is very sorry he accidentally caused international nuclear panic, and hopes very much that you won’t make him go back to Supermax because of it, please.

Luckily for Boston, nobody will. I struggle to believe he’d get off quite that easily, but plausibility has always been a rare commodity on Blindspot and since I’m momentarily furious when it looks like he’s actually going to take the fall for NotJane, I’m quite pleased that realism ends up taking the hit instead.

With Boston taken care of then, the plan is for Patterson and Rich (who, lest we forget, are not actually doctors) to attempt some completely experimental, possibly fatal and definitely crazy brain surgery to try and get Kurt’s best girl back. Weitz and “Ed”, meanwhile, are in Mexico trying to get Reade’s best girl back, which means that this half-season really is all about rough patches in relationships, huh?

Of course, it’s a tad too much of a coincidence that Madeleine dashes off just in time for Team Zap to corner their erstwhile colleague alone – did Madeleine know they were coming? If so, I hope it’s not because Weitz is on her payroll. He’s been one of the surprise pleasures of the season so far and I want him to hang around but I don’t think secretly working for Ms Burke is going to help with that. Who knows, though? Team Tat and the show obviously think even actual murderers Remi and Zapata can eventually be welcomed back into the fold, so maybe taking a little coin from this year’s global supervillain doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker, after all.

Anyway. The show’s winter run has had some terrific eps and some not-so-terrific eps, and we end this pretty good one with half of the team trying to corral rogue agent no.1, the other half trying to corral rogue agent no.2 and Remi and Kurt running right at each other, which is a great final scene, even if the supervillain in me wonders why Remi doesn’t just shoot him. I guess Kurt’s right and there’s a lot more Jane left in the lady after all.

Hawaii Five-0 s9 ep 1

We open with someone floating face-down in what looks like some sort of sensory deprivation tank, wearing a surprisingly old-school rubber suit. The someone is then removed and the suit cut open… by Wo Fat! And it’s Steve inside! And he’s dead! (And the rubber suit is indeed old-school, because this episode is a remake of the original show’s 1968 pilot episode.) Well, I thought, bringing Wo Fat back from the dead to kill Steve in a giant swimming pool probably wouldn’t be the most ridiculous thing H50 has ever done. But… wait. It isn’t Wo Fat. And Steve’s alive. I have no idea what’s going on, so can we please have an expository flashback?

Of course we can; because this is Hawaii Five-0, where in medias res is your, and my, friend. And back we go a couple of days, to Steve and Junior burying large sums of cash money in Steve’s garden. It turns out that this represents Kamekona’s investment in The Money Pit, Steve and Danny’s restaurant, and this act of complete idiocy is justified by Steve, somewhat unconvincingly, on the basis that he… doesn’t want to take it to a bank, because then he’d need a formal partnership agreement, or something? I mean, I can see why convicted criminal Kame might be happier keeping his financial affairs on a strictly greenbacks-only basis, but the head of the Five-0 Task Force…? 

Fortunately a corpse has been washed up on the beach, so we can skip to the actual plot. The DOA is Tom Hennessy, an old CIA bud of Steve’s. Agent Greer, leading the investigation, tells Steve that Hennessy seems to be one of a number of murdered Company operatives, and that there’s probably a mole giving them up. Isn’t there always? A little spice is added when it’s revealed that Greer is a former girlfriend of Steve’s, and Danny, for one, thinks that Steve should be looking to get down to some “grown folks’ business” with her once the case has been solved.

The investigation leads the Five-0 to a ship, where they find the sensory deprivation tank. So Steve decides that the best way of flushing out the mole is for him to allow himself to be captured and dangled in the tank, whereupon he will feed his captors false information. Danny thinks this is “really stupid”, which seems to be understating the position by a factor of about a billion. But Steve goes ahead and does it anyway, which is where we came in. It’s a delightfully demented episode with which to open a new season, while also nicely paying homage to the show’s original iteration, and giving us a potential new Big Bad into the bargain. Good work all round.