Public Service Announcement 6 of 2020: Good Omens, The Rookie, Taken Down

Based on the 1990 book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens is an Amazon/BBC co-production which has been available on Prime since May 2019, and now makes its way to terrestrial TV. Leads David Tennant and Michael Sheen play a demon and an angel trying to save the Earth. A stellar cast also includes Frances McDormand – as, quite rightly, the voice of God – Jon Hamm, and Nick Offerman. Good Omens was reasonably well received when first shown, but as I have no interest in the work of Gaiman and Pratchett, or in fantasy as a genre, this probably isn’t for me. Having said that it doesn’t sound a million miles away from Lucifer, which I love (tonight, BBC Two, 9pm).

I’m much more interested in The Rookie, which in my view is one of those procedurals which becomes, as it finds its feet, a little more than the sum of its parts. I liked its first season a lot, and I’m pleased that it was renewed for this second season. It does not, of course, return entirely unscathed, and I’ve already said pretty much all that I have to about the loss of fan favourite Afton Williamson from the show. Mekia Cox (as the lead character’s new TA), Harrold Perrineau, and Ali Larter all join the cast this time round (Thursday 16 January, Sky Witness, 9pm).

And RTE’s six-part crime drama Taken Down makes its British debut tonight at 10pm on BBC Scotland. (It will, I think, be available UK-wide on the iPlayer.) A young Nigerian woman is found dead at a Dublin bus stop, and the investigation leads police officers into the world of asylum seekers. It’s co-written by Jo Spain, one of my favourite crime authors, and is probably worth a look for that alone.

Public Service Announcement 5 of 2020: The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story; Superstore

Just under a year ago I previewed The Yorkshire Ripper Files: A Very British Crime Story, and expressed the hope that it would be “unmissable”. As I anticipated, it’s an excellent piece of work, exploring both the repeated failures in the investigation, and the widely-held attitudes which fuelled some of those failures. Any accusation that the show judges the 70s through the prism of the values we hold decades years later is, in my view, both inaccurate and, in any event, beside the point: these attitudes and failures led directly to the murder of women and the terrorising of the wider female population.

If I have a criticism, it’s that the programme makers too often implied that they had turned up something new or previously unknown; in fact, there’s little here which will come as news to anyone with more than a passing interest in the case. But that’s a minor irritant rather than a reason for not watching, and I very much recommend this show (tonight – Wednesday, BBC Four, 9pm).

Also tonight, season 5 of Superstore gets under way. Never watched it, but sources close to Unpopcult like it a lot (ITV 2, 8.30pm).

 

Medical Police s1 ep 1

Netflix comedy Medical Police is a spin-off from WB’s medical drama parody, Children’s Hospital (no, me neither), the USP being that, this time, two of the doctors – exes no less! – from the, er, Children’s Hospital are recruited by the CDCC to save the world from a deadly virus and a global conspiracy, so it’s a spoof of medical dramas, spy/conspiracy thrillers, and maybe even will they/won’t they bickering duos too! Well! This all sounds like a tremendous idea, more than ripe for laughs, and each episode’s less than thirty minutes long, which would make Medical Police the holy grail of tv for me, except that this first episode at least is…. not funny. The digs it makes at genre cliches like characters repeatedly telling each other what they already know are clever enough, and the cast clearly had a whale of a time making it, but they enjoyed themselves a lot more than I did. It was just too over-the-top silly and sometimes irritating for me – I smiled a couple of times but more in a “touché” rather than a “teehee” kind of way, and there was nothing about the story or the characters (especially Owen, my God, he was annoying) I was interested in hearing more of. The trailer was better than the show. I’ll not be bothering with eps 2-10.

Hawaii Five-0 s10 ep 2

Eddie the Dog finds the bomb hidden in Steve’s house. That’s by no means Eddie the Dog’s last involvement this week. 

Or, for that matter, the last bomb either. Because, as in the last episode, Tani and Junior happen to be in the vicinity when something kicks off. This week, a road tunnel collapses – to start with, it looks like one of those things that, I dunno, happens when you build a tunnel? But when they find an empty prisoner transport van they realise that it might have been deliberate. And, sure enough, when they catch up with the escaped prisoner and his henchmen a second bomb is detonated, allowing the baddies to get away but trapping Tani, Junes, and half-a-dozen civilians.

The escapee is one Jackson Wilcox, a big-time drug dealer previously reported dead, but who the FBI has been keeping in a black site and using to build a case against others. Which is all well and good, but hardly helps the people trapped in the tunnel, who can’t get a signal to let those on the outside know how they are. There’s a narrow passage which might allow access, but it’s too small to allow a human through. So step forward, willingly or otherwise, Eddie the Dog. He could, someone advises Steve, be trapped himself. “I understand the risks”, snaps Steve, although the question of whether Eddie the Dog – who will actually be doing the grunt work – also understands them is tantalisingly left unanswered. Still, he – Eddie the Dog, that is, not Steve – goes scampering away happily enough, and is indeed able to give Tani a walkie-talkie with which she can speak to Steve.

Everyone is rescued through a ventilation shaft, although there’s a hairy moment when the rope bringing Junior up snaps, and he falls back into the tunnel. Tani, of course, descends to rescue him, and I’m thinking that it really is about time those two kids got to make out. Even Lou is unashamedly shipping it. Wilcox gets away, probably, but as things stand we don’t really have a sense of what his deal is, so I suppose he might not return in a future episode. And Steve is convinced that the bomb in his house was left by Fleischman from Northern Exposure, and he’s not in a mood to let that go. It all hangs together well enough.

Public Service Announcement 4 of 2020: The Enemy Within, Jett, Messiah

I’m a little disappointed that NBC’s The Enemy Within apparently isn’t great, because I very much like the sound of the premise: former high-ranking CIA officer Erica Shepherd (Jennifer Carpenter), imprisoned for espionage and treason, is recruited by the FBI to assist in the hunt for a terrorist. Carpenter was great (for the most part) in Dexter and (eternally) in our beloved Limitless, and with Morris Chestnut and Raza Jaffrey also in the cast as FBI agents, this sounds like a winner on paper. Unfortunately something went wrong between paper and screen: the critics were lukewarm and the viewers didn’t bite either, leading to cancellation after one (13-episode) season (5USA, Tuesdays at 9pm, first episode was yesterday but available on catch-up).

Cinemax’s Jett, meantime, stars Carla Gugino as another ex-con: this time a “world-class thief” who, on release, is offered work in her specialist area. Created, produced, and directed by Sebastian Gutiérrez, who is also Gugino’s off-screen partner, it all sounds like pretty good, high-octane fun. This first season has nine episodes; no word, as far as I know, on renewal, which probably doesn’t bode well (Sky One, Tuesdays at 10pm; also started yesterday and available on catch-up).

Finally, I know someone who’s enjoying Netflix’s Messiah – in which Mehdi Dehbi plays someone who appears in the Middle East, claiming to the scepticism of the CIA to be the returning Jesus – quite a lot.

Public Service Announcement 3 of 2020: Better Things, Jonestown – Terror in the Jungle

The remarkable Better Things is returning to British screens tonight for its third season. It’s difficult to pin down: a sort of low-key comedy-drama, rooted in realism but with flights of fantasy, with Pamela Adlon in the lead role as an actor and single mother trying to negotiate career and parenthood.

As an auteur-driven series – Adlon is creator, exec producer, director, writer, and star – if it has a predecessor it’s the equally dazzling Louie, a vehicle for Adlon’s former friend and collaborator Louis C.K., who was also involved in the first two seasons of Better Things. When C.K. was accused of, and admitted, sexual misconduct, Adlon severed her personal and professional ties with him, and this third season is the first one without his involvement. That Better Things has – according to American critics – not only survived, but actually got even better, is further evidence of Adlon’s genius. What it continues to have in common with Louie is the ability to wrongfoot the audience, and to produce genuinely astonishing TV out of the most mundane of family situations. It’s also worth saying that the three young actors playing Adlon’s daughters – Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood, and Olivia Edward – are terrific. (Especially Alligood, on the evidence of the second season.) This is truly great TV (tonight, 10pm, BBC2).

I’m also here for Storyville’s two-part documentary ‘Jonestown – Terror in the Jungle’, about Jim Jones and the People’s Temple in Guyana, a subject I find endlessly fascinating (tonight, 9pm, BBC 4).

Hawaii Five-0 s10 ep 1

Spoilers

The cliffhanger from the end of season 9 is resolved within seconds: it was, as expected, Jerry who took a bullet. He survives, I’m pleased to say, but inevitably spends most of the episode hors de combat.

There’s plenty else going on, though. While Steve is on a first date with Brooke, a newly-divorced friend of Danny’s, Junior and Tani are at the opera. Also in the audience is a Triad boss, Billy Sato, who is assassinated, presumably not just so that he can get out of watching an opera. Although the rest of the Five-0 is there quickly, the shooter escapes into a getaway car which turns out to have been stolen from Joel Fleischman out of Northern Exposure. (Sidebar: Whither the revival? I loved that show.) 

As the Five-0 chases the assassin, they keep running into Sergeant Quinn Liu (Katrina Law), a military police officer, who is trying to find two veterans who have gone missing. One, it transpires, is their shooter, who kills himself rather than be arrested. But Missing Vet #2 is still out there, and he tries to assassinate Masuda, the high-ranking Yakuza and father of Adam’s “close friend” Tamiko, at the precise moment when Adam is meeting him and other Yakuza. Again with the gangsters, Adam. Funny that. Vet #2 escapes in a monster truck and crushes half of downtown Honolulu as he gets away.

So who’s behind the two hitmen? There’s no big mystery there; generally, one can be sure that the big guest star (in this case Fleischman) isn’t just there for one scene. However, there isn’t enough evidence tying him to the murders and he’s not charged. Presumably he will be back, and he might even be connected to the mysterious figure planting a bomb in Steve’s garage at the end of the episode. 

There are some big changes, though. Jerry decides that he’s had enough of being shot at, and leaves the Five-0 in order to write a book about one of his conspiracy theories. As for Quinn – during the investigation she joins the rest of the Five-0 around the increasingly-crowded iTable, and although she’s not been asked to join the team yet it can’t be far away: on the evidence of this episode she’s got the necessary skill-set (by which I mean she shoots people); she was demoted within the Military Police for insubordination and deception; and Katrina Law’s name is in the opening credits. She’s here to stay, I think, and I’m fine with that.

What happened offscreen – whether Jorge Garcia actually wanted to leave or not, for example –  I have no idea, and no-one’s saying. The door has in any event been left open for his occasional return. It may, of course, be budgetary: although the running, chasing, shooting, and monster- truck-driving scenes this week won’t have come cheap, nor will the dramatic alterations atop the heads of the two leads. Steve’s hair is now thick and lustrously brown, as opposed to cropped and salt-and-pepper. And Danny’s… well, honestly, I don’t know what the hell is going on there.

But if that’s what’s needed to keep the show fresh, then fair enough. This week there’s a surfeit of action, an impressively high body count, and a couple of developments to be picked up in the next few weeks. Ten seasons in, this show still isn’t showing any signs of fatigue,