Private Eyes s2 ep 2

It’s not quite up there with “pretending to be a couple”, but the “things that go bump in the night” episode is another time-honoured procedural trope that at least half of unpopcult is very fond of, and the rules are pretty clear. Number one: The Mulder/Scully principle – one partner’s super-sceptical, one’s more open-minded to the possibility of supernatural goings-on. Two: by episode’s end, there will be a rational explanation for most of the supposedly unexplained shenanigans. Three: but not for all of them, because Four: a little lingering eerieness is no bad thing. And five: yeah, no, I think that about covers it, unless – bonus ball – the OTP have to hold/hug/grab onto each other at some point because, y’know, scary times.

So, faced with the prospect of all these delights in addition to the usual joy that is Private Eyes, my levels of excitement on sitting down to watch this week’s were almost as high as Mount Logan. It’s to the show’s credit, then, that, despite it breaking just about every rule on the list and turning the episode into something entirely different than I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed it anyway.

From the start, nobody – and certainly not Shade, my pick for the likely Mulder – even entertains the prospect of anything supernatural. No, the rational explanation is revealed very quickly and the rest of the episode drops any hint of eerieness (and any hope of hold/grab/hugging) in favour of a fight against the far more prosaic realities of corruption, big business and Angie’s unique filing system. Which, because this is Private Eyes, is not just fine, but surprisingly fun and warm-hearted. It also seems to be a gentle way to reset the template for the rest of the season. Angie’s Dead Parent Conspiracy Arc takes a sharp swerve away from the expected route and ends up being nothing of the sort, albeit still giving us some very SQUEE-able moments along the way. New character Zoe, doing a decent job treading the fine line between quirky and annoying, might say she’s needed as “a buffer” between Shade and Angie – she isn’t, they’re lovely and they clearly adore each other, come on – but she’s really there to fill the space left by the absent Jules. And Ennis Esmer’s Maz looks like he’s going to be taking up the screen time Nolan would have had last year, which is great because Nolan is always angry, Maz is great fun, and HELLO, it’s Ennis Esmer, COME ON.

With the innate niceness at its heart, the relatively low-stakes (I mean, yes it’s corruption and threats and whatnot, but most procedurals we watch involve mass murdering serial killers and such) mystery solved and the villains vanquished in “if it wasn’t for those pesky kids…” Scooby Doo fashion, the whole thing is very, very Canadian, which I mean as a compliment of the highest order. I suspect that the world would be in significantly better shape if folk tried to be a bit more Private Eyes and a bit less True Detective, but there we go.


Public Service Announcement 35 of 2017: Murder in the First, Rellik, Liar

Murder in the First returns to British screens this week for its third and, as it turns out, final season. I thought the first season to be an underrated gem; the second, unfortunately, less so. But I’m on board again for this. Steven Bochco is still at the wheel, an excellent cast is once again led by Kathleen Robertson and Taye Diggs, and the formula is the same: a Murder One-esque focus on a single case through the whole (10 episode) season, this time the nightclub shooting of a professional American footballer (Tuesday 12 September, 9pm, FOX UK).

Rather weirdly, the terrestrial channels have scheduled two six-part crime-based dramas written by brothers Harry and Jack Wiliams (The Missing, One of Us) against each other. So in the BBC One corner there’s Rellik, in which Richard Dormer plays a detective on the trail of a serial killer. The show’s USP is that the story is told in reverse; hence, I’m guessing, the title. Bothering be won’t I. And in the ITV corner there’s six-parter Liar, in which Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt accuses Ioan Gruffudd of date rape (both Monday 11 September at 9pm).

Some other bits and pieces: Cold Feet is back (Thursdays, 9pm, ITV); the TV adaptation of JK Rowling’s Strike, after a ratings triumph for its first season, goes straight into season 2 (tonight, BBC One, 9pm); there’s a show about dancing (Saturdays, BBC One); Amazon Prime has season 3 of Outlander from tomorrow; and season 4 of BoJack Horseman has dropped on Netflix.

Finally, the first episode of the new season of American Horror Story is set, almost fittingly, on the night of Donald Trump’s election; almost fittingly because it’s been a horror story for more than just America (Fridays, 10pm, FOX UK).

Nashville s5 ep 19

Ever since Rayna’s death this has been one gloomy show, and it doesn’t get any better this week, starting with Scarlett miscarrying. Her ob/gyn is clear that it’s nothing to do with last week’s assault – these things, tragically, sometimes just happen – but its effects are by no means limited to Scarlett, whose heart is broken.

Gunnar ventures dangerously close to making it about him, but pulls back just in time; he does, though, track down one of the adolescent muggers and beats the crap out of him. Jessie Caine, having been told in confidence by Deacon, turns up on Scarlett’s doorstep and offers her some gifts and sympathy: somewhat presumptuous, perhaps, given that they don’t know each other, but it’s a nice scene. Deacon then rips Jessie, once more putting the chances of romance back for an episode or two, before discovering that her empathy stems from having gone through the same thing herself.

And then Gunnar – who, frankly, has behaved himself more or less impeccably for weeks now – is told by Scarlett that they need to take some time apart, which I thought they were doing anyway, and heads off to Texas to link up with Avery’s tour. It’s unlikely, but I really hope that Gunnar gets to have a little fun in Texas, because Lord knows he deserves it. And in that event it would be nice – if implausible – to think that he wouldn’t get any shit from Scarlett.

No-one else is having any fun either. Juliette is having a launch party for her new album (?), including the song she stole from Maddie. She does her best to keep Maddie and songwriter Travis apart, but inevitably they meet and compare notes, leading to Maddie throwing a drink into Juliette’s face. Juli goes to Raynadu to apologise, and leaves a suitably contrite message with Daphne. “She seems like she really means it”, Daphne tells Maddie. Sure she does; it’s always easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission. Not a bad episode, exactly, but it lay on me like a heavy, wet blanket.

Private Eyes s2 ep 1

There are few things more confusing than the serious announcement that “This programme is sponsored by American Assassin, rated 18,” just before the start of what is usually one of the most amiable, peaceable and far-from-assassins-and-18-ratings shows on tv. Happily though, this alarmingly incongruous combination of sponsor and tv real estate doesn’t in fact signal a very sudden, very sharp turn into dark territory for our beloved Private Eyes – and just as well, since unpopcult can only take so much tumult in the world at the one time. No, our favourite show is as easy-going as it ever was, and season 2 gets off to a flying (sorry) start with Shade hurtling, not entirely voluntarily, through a glass window – homage to John Reese? You decide – just as Angie comes home suspiciously early from her holiday with Detective Speedbump, and everyone slots back easily into exactly the affable, loveable, shippable show we want. Phew.

The mystery of the week is significantly better than it needs to be, with an interesting twist, some swoonworthy Shade heroics and an unexpectedly moving resolution. I’m not a fan of Dead Parent Conspiracy Arcs as a general rule, but the Angie’s Dad story begins promisingly and pensively enough. Becca’s only in it long enough to be booed. (BOOOO!) And on the shipping front, Angie’s real reason for abruptly terminating her Nolan-time is beginning to dawn on Nolan if not on Angie herself (it’s because of Shade, you guys, SHADE); she and Shade pretend to be married for no real reason other than WE LOVE IT; Shade asks her out for dinner twice even if she chooses not to notice (WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, GIRL?); and he also pays 500 bucks (plus 500 for cleaning!) to retrieve that sofa just to make her happy, and me SQUEE. Sigh. I’m so happy! “Private Eyes, we’re watching you…” And loving it.

Public Service Announcement 34 of 2017: Doctor Foster, Tin Star

Clearly, the only thing we really care about this week is Private Eyes. There are a few other things worth mentioning, though. The BBC has brought back ratings blockbuster Doctor Foster for a second go-round of middle-class adultery and revenge. While the first season had the usual UK drama flaws – too many episodes, occasionally ridiculous contrivances – it was entertaining enough, and writer Mike Bartlett was prepared to make his lead character somewhat unlikeable. So a second season might be worth a look. I don’t expect to review this time round (Tuesday 5 September, BBC One, 9pm).

Sky Atlantic, meantime, will be showing the latest drama from hit-and-miss production company Kudos. Tin Star, um, stars Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks, with Roth as a London detective who moves to the Rocky Mountains and encounters trouble from oil workers. It’s already been renewed for a second season, which suggests that someone has confidence in it. The whole season will be available on demand for (ew) bingeing, because these days we’re children who can’t wait a whole week for another episode (Thursday 7 September, Sky Atlantic, 9pm).

And the BBC iPlayer has the fascinating documentary Frank Lloyd Wright: The Man Who Built America for another three weeks or so. Highly recommended.

Public Service Announcement 33 of 2017: Private Eyes

I was going to start this post with a list of terrible, terrifying things happening in the world right now, but I don’t want to be responsible for the entire unpopcult readership taking to their beds in abject despair, so let me just get to my point instead: we could all use some light in the darkness and, friends, a veritable sunburst is at hand. Season two of the warm, cheery, wonderful Private Eyes – a White Collar-esque tale (sans electronic tag) of delightfully mismatched crimefighting buddies who bicker loudly but love each other secretly – arrives on UK screens tomorrow (Monday) at 8pm on Universal, and not a moment too soon. Unpopcult fell deeply, some might say hysterically, in love with Shangie and co last season, and who can blame us? With a charming cast including Jason Priestley, Cindy Sampson, and unpopcult royalty Ennis “Rich Dotcom” Esmer; a bushel of resolutely inconsequential, light-hearted mysteries; and a ship we’re so on board we’ve got our own cabins, Private Eyes got us through some tough times last year and we’re counting on it to do the same once again. Maybe that’s a lot of pressure to put on a will-they/won’t-they comedy procedural, but we can’t help it. We love this show SO MUCH. Reviews every week, as fast we can write’em, then, and, just to start the ball rolling: SQUEEEEEE.

Nashville s5 ep 18

Boy. That escalated quickly.

But let’s back up a bit. Deacon is being badgered on the phone by a fostering charity, who have managed to place Liv in a great home, so maybe we’ll never hear from her again. But the charity – remarkably pushy, I thought, with a man who has very recently and unexpectedly lost his wife – want something of Rayna’s for a forthcoming auction. Something she’s actually worn, they pruriently specify. He digs out a spangly jacket and heads to the auction, where he’s seated at the same table as Jessie, who is approached by her ex Brad (our old friend Jeffrey Nordling). Now, Brad is very evidently a piece of garbage, whose public behaviour towards Jessie is so remarkably controlling that he essentially outs himself as an abuser. He even kinda sorta threatens Deacon, which isn’t something you’d want to do lightly to someone with the Deac’s anger management issues.

Anyways Deacon and Jessie both leave the auction, and Jessie explains to Deacon that Brad managed to get custody of their son because of all the terrible things he said about her. (Although the way in which she kicks some bins over perhaps suggests that she, too, has some “stuff” she needs to “work through”.) Then Deacon goes back in and performs a song – a cover of Waylon Jennings’s stellar ‘Dreaming My Dreams With You’ – the womens all start cryin’, proving Alyssa’s point yet again, and this week it’s Jessie’s turn to sneak in and listen to Deacon performing. Still think they’re gonna bang.

Avery has gone on tour, and in the very first hotel he stays in there’s a cute barmaid who more or less offers to have sex with him within seconds of meeting him. Which has to be tempting, but he declines. Nice fakeout by the show, though, with Yuri the TV guy. Juliette, meantime, is rehearsing for a tour of her own (I think?) and having to accept that post-plane crash she can’t do what she used to. It being Juliette, this process takes a while.

Daphne goes to a party with that boy she likes, expecting that they’re going to watch a scary movie. But when the parents of the host leave, the teens all start ferociously dry-humping. So Daphne and Boy slip into the garden, where they chat and have a go on the swings, thus putting off growing up for a few more hours. Sweet. It’s all very well handled by Maisy Stella, incidentally. And, once again, one can acknowledge that she and Lennon have been turning in some excellent work this season, while wondering at the same time whether the show needs quite so much teen drama in it.

But we need to end with The Exes, who have been pressed by Alyssa into appearing in a TV commercial for a flatpack furniture company not named Ikea, the message being that while life is complicated putting a table up doesn’t have to be. (And, if The Exes are well enough known to advertise something, I’m again finding it difficult to calibrate their exact level of fame.) Except when they get to the studio it isn’t a table, it’s a crib, and Scarlett eventually breaks down in tears, this not being the first time this season she’s had problems with a director. In passing, though, it’s been pretty obvious for weeks that Scarlett needs a break, and specifically not to be in the public eye for a while; and while she’s properly not ashamed of anything in her life, there’s a point at which well-being has to take precedence over principle.

And then we finish the episode with, perhaps, one of the most bizarre things you’ll ever see on Nashville. Gunnar and Scarlett are in a supermarket car park, where Gunnar – correctly – is telling Scarlett that she doesn’t want to be with him, so stop pretending. He keeps getting interrupted by a mini-gang of boys who look as if they’re like ten years old or something, and who want him to buy them some beer. But when he repeatedly declines, one of them suddenly pulls a gun on him, robs them both, then humiliates him. And when the boys finally run off Gunnar and Scarlett fall, sobbing, into each others’ arms. So are they now back together? Who knows? WTF?