Thursday, 28 May 2015

ANGEL, 3.16 – 'Sleep Tight' • BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 6.13 – 'Dead Things'

ANGEL: You look like hell. And not the fun one where they burn you with hot pokers for all eternity, but, the hard-core one--you know, Nixon and Britney Spears.
The problem with traditional U.S season lengths, from the not-too-distant-past, is that shows would usually try to stretch one narrative out all those episodes, with some filler in the form of 'standalone' adventures. These days, you tend to find that either seasons are cable-sized (10-13 episodes), or the writers fill seasons with more than one storyline, so they feel fuller and there's less chance of boredom. Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer exist before this change really sank in, so in re-watching these old seasons my attention does tend to wander after the first dozen hours or so. Thankfully, "SLEEP TIGHT" was exactly the kind of late-season wallop you need to wake you up, and hopefully the rest of this third season will race along much better.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

PENNY DREADFUL, 2.4 – 'Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places'


★★☆☆

After last week's bravura instalment, quality lurched back to a more standard level, all things considered. There were a few things I really liked about "Evil Spirits in Heavenly Places", but also more evidence that many of Penny Dreadful's characters are stuck in dull storylines of questionable importance to the grander scheme.

Monday, 25 May 2015

TV Picks: 25-31 May 2015 • Glee • The Magic Show Story • Springwatch Unsprung • Suntrap


Below are my picks of the most notable new shows, returning or premiering on UK screens over the next 7 days...

Friday, 22 May 2015

Pilot preview: CBS's SUPERGIRL


★★★☆

I've always found gender-bending superheroes to be rather unimaginative, because if you want to appeal to a female demographic why put a woman in the same costume as their male counterpart (with an added skirt), and peddle the same story? Why not create something unique and compelling on its own merits? This is why, for me, Wonder Woman will always be more exciting than Supergirl—and not just because the latter character's best-known as the basis for a terrible 1984 movie, attempting to cash-in on the success of the Christopher Reeve-starring Superman movies.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

PENNY DREADFUL, 2.3 – 'The Nightcomers'


★★★★

The highlight of the first season was a Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) flashback, episode 5's "Closer than Sisters", which provided much needed backstory to the ongoing story around it. The same could be true of this year, as "The Nightcomers" was likewise focused on Vanessa's past, and was quite a wonderful hour of spooky chills and heartbreak. It further enriched Vanessa's enigmatic character, deepened our understanding of her prickly nature and steadfast resolve, but also hinted at Penny Dreadful's long-term plan for her story, and created a fantastic, personal connection to season 2's villain.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

MAD MEN, 7.14 – 'Person to Person'


★★★☆

Series finales are hard to do; especially for successful shows like Mad Men, which have become emblems of a cultural sea change in television drama. You can't and won't satisfy everyone. "Person to Person" was an efficient episode with a few nice highlights, but it didn't impress me. Or dazzle me. Or leave me thinking about the show hours later. I was disappointed because I expected to be bedazzled, but I'm aware much of that is down to outsized expectations. This was never going to knock your socks off, a la Breaking Bad, now was it?

Monday, 18 May 2015

TV Picks: 18-24 May 2015 • Armada • Between • British Soap Awards • Eurovision • The Job Centre • Radio 1's Big Weekend


Below are my picks of the most notable new shows, returning or premiering on UK screens over the next 7 days...

Sunday, 17 May 2015

OUTLANDER, 1.15 – 'Wentworth Prison'


★★★★

For a television series that could so easily have become stuck in a fug of romanticised chivalry and glossiness, one of Outlander's biggest surprises has been how damned intense and unsettling it can become—not to mention outright gruesome. This began relatively early, with the notorious flashback where Jack Randall (Tobias Menzies) was seen gleefully flogging Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) to within an inch of his life, but a part of me wondered if that scene was an anomaly. But no, it seems Outlander takes a curious pleasure in bringing Captain "Black Jack" Randall back into the lives of Jamie and Claire (Caitriona Balfe), to wreak misery and psychological damage on the happy couple. This may become wearisome and repetitive, but not yet.

Friday, 15 May 2015

MAD MEN, 7.13 – 'The Milk & Honey Route'


★★★★

The penultimate episode of the series was as great as one could hope, and in some ways felt like a suitable finale. Three of the main characters—Don (Jon Hamm), Peter (Vincent Kartheiser), Peggy (January Jones)—got final scenes that worked as farewells, but what struck me most about "The Milk & Honey Route" is how well the writers wrong-footed fans convinced the show's near-obsession with mortality was a portent of Don Draper's demise... when it was actually his ex-wife Betty's life that's drawing to a premature end.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

ANGEL, 3.14 & 3.15 – 'Couplet' & 'Loyalty'

ANGEL: Just tell me what I can do.
CORDELIA: I need you to help me have sex. With Groo.
I didn't like "COUPLET" as much as I expected to, because most of it felt obvious and clichéd. I've seen too many variations on the idea of a protagonist feeling like he/she is being supplanted by a better alternative. The return of Pylean warrior Groo (Mark Lutz) also isn't something I'm particularly happy about, because it doesn't ring true that Cordelia's (Charisma Carpenter) so enamoured with him—and her giddy affection just makes her look a bit shallow, as Groo's a dope. Still, as the episode's title suggests, this hour did explore the show's many pairings that have materialised in recent weeks, which was fairly interesting...