Saturday, 31 July 2010

Human Target hires Janet Montgomery

The Human Target producers seem to value British actresses. A few days after signing Indira Varma for season 2, as the team's new wealthy boss, they've now added Janet Montgomery (Entourage, Wrong Turn 3) as a master thief called Ames.

Is the addition of two women to the existing three-man team a step in the right direction? We'll find out when Human Target returns to Fox on 24 September.

'THE IT CROWD' 4.6 - "Reynholm vs Reynholm"


[SPOILERS] A limp end to what's been a disappointing fourth series. I failed to see the sense in focusing on Douglas (Matt Berry) for this finale, despite the fact he's become a more prominent part of the show. The core trio, with the possible exception of Jen (Katherine Parkinson), were essentially pushed into cameo roles! Fact is, while I loved Berry's fruity-voiced overacting in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (and to a lesser extent The Mighty Boosh), that joke's run thin and nothing about Douglas's unctuous misogyny is particularly clever or hilarious.

In "Reynholm vs Reynholm", Douglas's dead wife Victoria (Belinda Stewart-Wilson), who went missing years ago while she was washing their car, walked back into his office alive and well. The couple tried to rekindle their two-week relationship, but within another fortnight the Reynholm's were at each other's throats again -- only this time the snooty Victoria started legal action that could bring Reynholm Industries to its knees.

This episode was the second time this series that The IT Crowd's attempted to draw laughs from the collision of silly comedy and court room seriousness. There was even a call-back to "Something Happened" when Roy took the stand, revealing how he's still traumatized by his male masseuse kissing his bottom, but "Reynholm vs Reynholm" actually had even less of a plot.

It was nice to see Belinda Stewart-Wilson as the main guest star; familiar to viewers of Primeval as a bitchy civil servant, or as the yummy mummy of Will in The Inbetweeners. Appearing here as a posh ice queen, Stewart-Wilson made a good impression, even if Victoria wasn't given a truly memorable moment, killer story, or funny line of dialogue. The closest she came was playing footsie with Douglas's crotch under a restaurant table, but that scene was more focused on Douglas's reactions than anything.

One big problem I had with this episode (which extends to this show in general these days), is how predictable Graham Linehan's joke-writing has become. When a judge asked Douglas to cross-examine a witness, was there anybody watching whose mind didn't jump to the obvious fact Douglas would mistake "cross" to mean "angry"? The IT Crowd is at its best when it's fast-paced and blissfully absurdist, so there's less chance of you remaining ahead of the characters, but series 4 never found that pace and invention.

I could exhaustively pick this episode apart, but that would get supremely boring. Suffice to say, episode 6 wasted the idea of Douglas having to grapple with a dominant "ex" hellbent on destroying his firm, and made the error of sidelining Moss (Richard Ayoade) and Roy (Chris O'Dowd) almost entirely. Jen and Douglas aren't strong enough to hold an episode together alone, they certainly don't make a funny duo together, and while there were a few amusing ideas at times, there was a sluggish and empty feel to the storyline.

The highlights were a brief scene of physical comedy with a nervous Moss in court with a temperamental chair, followed by the fan-servicing return of office goth Richmond (Noel Fielding), who's since become a successful businessman, dyed his hair blonde, and created a company called "Goth2Boss" (the promotional video of which earned the episode's sole laugh from me).

Really, you have to worry when any modern-day comedy series trots out a tired pastiche of gaudy 1960s-era Star Trek, particularly one where the only joke seemed to be the crew are hot women.

It's sad, but I really want to 'Ctrl Alt Delete' this episode, and the majority of this series, from my memory.

Asides
  • Apparently, the court room scenes in "Something Happened" only came about last-minute to boost Roy's storyline, as Graham Linehan knew they had that set built for "Reynholm Vs Reynholm".
  • As mentioned in previous comments, The IT Crowd will definitely be back for a fifth series, but Linehan is actively seeking help in writing it. It's a good sign if he realizes he's struggling to keep the show going alone, so I hope fresh blood will help stir some life into this sitcom.
WRITER & DIRECTOR: Graham Linehan
GUEST CAST: Belinda Stewart-Wilson (Victoria Reynholm), Noel Fielding (Richmond), Joanna Bobin (Journalist), Gemma Chan (Female Sulu), Suzy Kane (Female Bones), Simon Kunz (Judge), Alexandra Roach (Stenographer) & Nick Sidi (Lawyer)
TRANSMISSION: 30 July 2010 - CHANNEL 4/HD, 10PM

Friday, 30 July 2010

TRAILER: Caprica Season 1.5


I had mixed feelings about Caprica, but ultimately I think it showed great potential amidst the missteps and awkward uses of character. I also found it hard to dismiss the feeling Caprica's story is crippled because it's heading towards an ending the majorit of its fanbase (Battlestar Galactica fans) know already. To counteract that, the journey needs to be compelling in its own right, and there were admittedly enough moments that achieved that.

Anyway, Syfy have released an extensive teaser for the remainder of season 1 (see above), which unfortunately won't air until January 2011. I think it's too early to be trying to whip the fans into a frenzy, but I guess this trailer makes it clear the show is becoming more action-packed and exciting. I'm actually very surprised by how far the story appears to be developing, if this trailer isn't cleverly misleading us. It almost makes me wonder if Caprica has enough story for a second season and beyond. But, as of right now, this trailer succeeds in making me pine for the show to return, and hopefully blow us away with a more focused and unpredictable feel.

Yvonne Strahovski is... 28 today!


Chuck cutie Yvonne Strahovski was born 28 years ago this very day. There's no other reason for this post, other than the opportunity to upload a sexy photo of Ms Strahovski and wish her a happy birthday. Mission accomplished. Many happy returns!

Yoba & Mennell join Alphas

Syfy have a superhero drama in the making called Alphas, about a team of people with extraordinary mental powers. It's written by Zak Penn (X-Men III, The Incredible Hulk), the 90-minute pilot's directed by Jack Bender (Lost), and they've just added Malik Yoba (Defying Gravity) and Laura Mennell (Watchmen, left) to the cast, alongside David Strathairn (Good Night, And Good Luck). The press release with full details is below:

MALIK YOBA AND LAURA MENNELL JOIN THE CAST OF SYFY'S ALPHAS

Yoba Portrays the Fiery Bill Harken and Mennell Portrays the Seductive Nina Theroux in 90-Minute Pilot Directed by Lost's Jack Bender and Starring Acclaimed Actor David Strathairn.

New York, New York - July 29, 2010 - Syfy has announced additional casting for its previously announced pilot Alphas, inking actors Malik Yoba and Laura Mennell to co-star in the wry action-adventure project from writers Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand, The Avengers, The Incredible Hulk) and Michael Karnow, it was announced today by Mark Stern, Executive Vice President of Original Programming, Syfy and Co-Head of Content for Universal Cable Productions, which is the studio for the project. Alphas is executive produced by Gail Berman, Lloyd Braun and Gene Stein for BermanBraun Television and will be directed by Jack Bender (director and executive producer of Lost). It is slated to commence production next month in Toronto.

Alphas follows a team of ordinary citizens whose brain anomalies imbue them with extraordinary mental and physical abilities. Taking the law into their own hands, the unlikely team, led by Dr. Lee Rosen (David Strathairn) investigates cases that suggest other Alpha activity to uncover what the CIA, FBI and Pentagon have not been able or willing to solve. These gifted individuals must balance their quirky personalities and disparate backgrounds with their not always visible powers as they work to solve crimes, stop the ticking time bomb and catch the enemy.

Yoba plays Alphas team member Bill Harken, a former FBI agent from working class roots. Harken's Alpha skill allows him to intentionally activate a "fight-or-flight mechanism" producing a power surge of adrenaline giving him increased strength, speed and immunity from pain.

Mennell plays the complicated Alpha team member Nina Theroux. Seductive, intelligent and confident, Nina's Alpha ability allows her to influence people into doing whatever she wishes but her power can sometimes spin out of control. Her skill also comes with a personal drawback in that she can never be sure if anyone's feelings for her are real. Nina was the first team member enlisted by Dr. Rosen to whom she remains extremely loyal.

"Malik and Laura are perfect additions to an already impressive ensemble cast. They both have great intensity and charisma," said Stern. "We look forward to seeing them breathe life into the complex characters of Harken and Nina."

Malik Yoba is well known for his co-starring role as NYPD detective J.C. Williams on the popular police drama New York Undercover from 1994 to 1998, and has also appeared in the feature films Why Did I Get Married? (2007), Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010), Cool Runnings (1993) and Criminal (2004). He has made numerous television appearances including on the series Arrested Development as Ice, a bounty hunter whose real love is party planning, and the recurring character Brock Harris on the sitcom Girlfriends. Yoba also appeared in the crime drama Thief and the NBC crime drama Raines, and portrayed astronaut Ted Shaw on the futuristic drama Defying Gravity.

Malik Yoba is represented by Kieran Maguire of The Arlook Group and Steve Muller at Innovative Artists.

Laura Mennell is a Canadian actress best known for her portrayal of Janey Slater in the feature film Watchmen, Lily Mercy in television movie Montana Sky (2007) and the Emmy nominated television movie Flight 93 (2006), which chronicled the events aboard United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001.

Laura Mennell is represented by Vicki Petronio-King for Play Management Inc.

Leading the cast will be critically lauded actor David Strathairn, who earned rave reviews and received Best Actor Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and Academy Award nominations for his portrayal of Edward R. Murrow in the film Good Night, and Good Luck. Strathairn plays the unconventional, eccentric Alphas team leader Dr. Lee Rosen. Though he comes across as somewhat of an absent-minded professor at times, he is also a cunning and manipulative power-player willing to bend the rules in pursuit of his objectives and in support of his Team.

About BermanBraun

BermanBraun is an independent media company whose three divisions -- television, feature film and digital media -- create and exploit entertainment content and advertising solutions throughout the world. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based company, founded by principals Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun in January 2007, has separate strategic global alliances with NBC and Microsoft to create and distribute creative content across all platforms. In February 2009, BermanBraun launched WONDERWALL -- the primary celebrity destination on the MSN Network, ranking ahead of TMZ.com and People.com in traffic, with number one user engagement in the celebrity news space. In April 2010, partners BermanBraun, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. (HFM U.S.) and MSN launched GLO, a lifestyle destination site. BermanBraun is currently producing THE CAPE for NBC's 2010/2011 television season. They are also producing DECODED for the History Channel for Fall 2010. BermanBraun also produces SWORDS for The Discovery Channel and IS SHE REALLY GOING OUT WITH HIM? on MTV.

About Universal Cable Productions

Universal Cable Productions creates quality content across multiple media platforms for USA, Syfy and other networks. A leader in innovative and critically acclaimed programming, UCP is the studio behind USA's Royal Pains, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Psych, In Plain Sight, Covert Affairs and Facing Kate, along with Syfy's Eureka, Warehouse 13 and Caprica. The studio also produced both long-running series Monk and Battlestar Galactica. UCP is a division of NBC Universal.

About Syfy

Syfy is a media destination for imagination-based entertainment. With year round acclaimed original series, events, blockbuster movies, classic science fiction and fantasy programming, a dynamic Web site (www.Syfy.com), and a portfolio of adjacent business (Syfy Ventures), Syfy is a passport to limitless possibilities. Originally launched in 1992 as SCI FI Channel, and currently in 95 million homes, Syfy is a network of NBC Universal, one of the world's leading media and entertainment companies. (Syfy. Imagine greater.)

Sky's HBO deal not water-tight

Sky's announcement that they've struck a £150m deal with HBO for exclusive UK rights to their back catalogue and future commissions isn't quite as comprehensive as first thought...

FX have stepped in to assure viewers that they still retain the pay-TV and first-run rights to True Blood, Eastbound & Down and The Wire. It's also been confirmed that the majority of HBO's archive will find a home on Sky's video-on-demand service Anytime, rather than be spread out amongst its suite of broadcast channels.

It's not yet clear if this means HBO shows will become unavailable to rival video-on-demand services (like Virgin Media's OnDemand), but that does seem very likely.

Sky have also revealed that Entourage (which has been shown in the UK on ITV2) will be the first HBO show to join its network soon.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Syfy's Being Human remake starts filming

Filming is now underway on the US remake of Being Human in Montreal, Canada. We already know the main lineup (Sam Witwer as vampire Aidan, Sam Huntington as werewolf Josh, and Meaghan Rath as ghost Sally), but Mark Pellegrino (Supernatural, Lost) has also joined the show as Aidan's vampire mentor Bishop. This recurring character could be a brand new addition to the US version, or perhaps a different take on vampire leader Herrick?

The director of the pilot is Adam Kane (The Mentalist, Heroes), and the 13-part Syfy series is expected to premiere in 2011.

Superhamm?

There are unconfirmed reports that Mad Men star Jon Hamm is being seriously considered for the Christopher Nolan-produced Superman reboot. I just wondered what everybody thinks about this. Personally, I think Hamm is a fantastic choice, if slightly too old (in an ideal world). But maybe Nolan's reboot is factoring in the idea of a middle-aged Superman, or it will be an interesting new wrinkle.

At the very least, we know Hamm's a wonderful actor, he'd look great in a suit as Clark Kent, and he reminds me of the Max Fleischer-style Superman in physicality. I think he'd be a very interesting choice and I'd love to see him get the job. The only way this could get better would be setting the film in the 1940s.

And why not add some other Mad Men cast members into the mix? January Jones as Lois Lane? Vincent Karthesier as Jimmy Olsen? John Slattery as Perry White? C'mon, you know that sounds brilliant!

Sky to develop original British comedy

Hot on the heels of the news Sky have secured the rights to every HBO show for the next five years, the satellite broadcaster have also announced their commitment to original British comedy.

The broadcaster is set to invest millions into developing UK comedy talent, and has already financed a new show from Ruth Jones (Gavin & Stacey) called Stella. Sally Lindsay (Coronation Street) will also take the lead in Mount Pleasant, a comedy about a thirtysomething woman's "not-so-perfect-life" in Manchester; This Is Jinsy will revolve around the peculiar residents of the fictional island of Jinsy; and a series of autobiographical shorts called "Little Crackers" will also air at Christmas, featuring comedy talent like Dawn French, Stephen Fry and Catherine Tate.

Lucy Lumsden, Sky's Head Of Comedy:

"It's been an exciting time spreading the good news about Sky's investment in comedy and I'm delighted that we've been able to attract a wealth of comedy talent. Sky's investment in original comedy is testament to our long-term commitment to original and innovative programming."
Lumsden made her name working for the BBC until June 2009 and is credited with developing shows like Gavin & Stacey, Little Britain and The Mighty Boosh.

Stuart Murphy, Director of Programmes for Sky 1, Sky 2 and Sky 3:

"[Lucy] is the leader in her field and has made sure that customers benefit from her considerable experience and brilliant sense of humour. This really will be content worth paying for."
This is great news. I'm so glad Sky are beginning to use their increasing muscle and money to create original content, rather than rely on sports, movies and US imports. Their similar initiative to fund original drama gave us Skellig, The Take, Going Postal, and Strike Back, so hopefully similar successes awaits them in comedy.

'SPARTACUS: BLOOD & SAND' 1.10 - "Party Favors"


[SPOILERS] I think it's safe to say "Party Favors" was a little lacking in plot, which is perhaps part of the reason it opened with an extended (and very bloody) battle, with Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) partnering Varro (Jai Courtney) in the arena against multiple enemies. This scene also reinforced their friendship and camaraderie, which swelled even further after Varro's missing wife was found by Mira (Katrina Law), the slave girl Spartacus had sent to find her. The two gladiators share a bond that's been part of the show from day one, so giving it a belated focus caused apprehension that proved justified...

In "Party Favors", Batiatus (John Hannah) agrees to host a coming-of-age party for the magistrate's son Numerius (Lliam Powell), the highlight of which will be an exhibition fight between reigning champion Spartacus and former-champion Crixus (Manu Bennett). It's an opportunity Crixus intends to take full advantage of, by breaking the rules and killing his nemesis during the fight to regain his title.

Meanwhile, the traumatized Ilithyia (Viva Bianca), still seething over the "mix-up" that resulted in her having sex with Spartacus and killing a socialite who laughed at her misfortune, plotted her revenge by sleeping with the virginal teenager Numerius and manipulating him into forcing Spartacus to fight Varro instead of Crixus. A last-minute change that foiled Crixus's plan, but caused equal torment for Spartacus when Numerious unexpectedly demanded the death of the defeated Varro...

Like many episodes of this series, "Party Favors" overcame the show's continuing problems (relatively thin stories, bloated dialogue) because the character dynamics have an undeniable allure and simple, gritty charm. The show is also at its best whenever it involves surreptitious maneuverings, particularly if the end result is a tragic one. We've already seen this with Batiatus ordering the death of Spartacus's wife to keep him at the ludus, and with Lucretia (Lucy Lawless) teaching Ilithyia a lesson out of jealousy, and this episode was equally as engrossing in its tense climax. It wasn't as unexpected as the death of Spartacus's wife mid-season, but it was certainly a more gut-wrenching one because we've had 10 episodes to build the relationship between Spartacus and Varro. And while Spartacus: Blood & Sand is hardly a complex show, it does a good job building sympathy and interest in its characters.

Overall, "Party Favors" wasn't a great episode but it ended fantastically well. Varro's unfair death will likely be the moment to reset Spartacus's opinion of gladiatorial life, and refocus his mind on escape (if only to see Varro's widow and ease his guilt), and I have a suspicion that compassionate slave Mira is being positioned as Spartacus's new love-interest after she arrived to comfort him in his cell.

Aside
  • If there was any doubt Spartacus: Blood & Sand is essentially targeted at teenage boys, the scene where young Numerious popped his cherry with Ilithyia felt designed to cause hormone overload in schoolboys of equivalent age.
WRITERS: Brent Fletcher & Miranda Kwok
DIRECTOR: Chris Martin-Jones
GUEST CAST: Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett, Nick Tarabay, Viva Bianca, Katrina Law, Jai Courtney, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Craig Walsh Wrightson, Ande Cunningham, Daniel Feuerriegel, Tania Nolan, Craig Parker, Mia Pistorius, Lliam Powell, Brooke Williams & Craig Walsh Wrightson
TRANSMISSION: 27 July 2010 - BRAVO, 10PM

Channel 4 get The Event

Channel 4 have acquired the UK rights to NBC's new conspiracy drama The Event, which is generating a great deal of buzz after the L.A Screenings and San Diego Comic-Con last weekend. The series concerns a man (Jason Ritter) searching for his missing fiancée, who stumbles upon the biggest government cover-up in history -- specifics of which is the show's mystery element, begging the question "what is The Event?"

Julian Bellamy, Head of Channel 4:

"The Event was the stand out show at this year's pilot screenings and so I am delighted to bring it to Channel 4 for its UK premiere. Ambitious, clever, fast-paced and gripping -– the series is the perfect addition to Channel 4's slate of quality US series. UK viewers should prepare themselves for an autumn of thrilling drama."
The Event premieres in the US on 20 September. Channel 4 are expected to start showing it in October.

Sky sign exclusive HBO deal

In an astonishing move, Sky have acquired the rights to HBO's entire TV archive and future programming for the next five years, in a £150m deal. This will assumedly provide the broadcaster with high quality programming to fill its newly-acquired suite of channels from Virgin Media (Living, Bravo, etc.)

What does this mean for viewers? Expect the schedules for those channels to be filled with repeats of Sex & The City, The Sopranos, Flight Of The Conchords, Band Of Brothers, Rome, Six Feet Under and The Wire; while current/future content like True Blood, Treme, Entourage, In Treatment, and Boardwalk Empire will likely get their UK premieres on Sky-branded channels (Sky1, Sky Movies, etc.) In the case of True Blood and Entourage, Sky will have to wait until existing deals with FX and ITV2 expire, respectively.

What do you make of this news? It certainly boosts Sky's drama output and will appeal to British fans of HBO. I just hope Sky don't put too many prestige shows on Sky Movies (as they did The Pacific), because you need an additonal movies package to get those channels. On the positive side, it looks like Living and Bravo will get an injection of quality if they become the home of HBO's older hits. Update: Sky are apparently planning to boost their video-on-demand service with the majority of HBO's back catalogue.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

'BETTER OFF TED' 1.1 & 1.2 - "Pilot" & "Heroes"


Silly comedy is trickier than people imagine, and I'm rarely convinced that modern American comedy can pull it off. It's been a long time since the heyday of Mel Brooks or the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker movies that gave us Airplane! and The Naked Gun, and I believe British comedy has done a better job keeping surrealist comedy alive in multiple formats: sitcom (Father Ted, The IT Crowd), stand-up (Eddie Izzard, Ross Noble), sketch shows (The Smell Of Reeves & Mortimer, Big Train), spoofs (Look Around You), family entertainment (Harry Hill's TV Burp), and gameshow (Shooting Stars).

Better Off Ted is a now-defunct US comedy that ran for two seasons, before ABC pulled the plug. It concerns the workforce of Veridian Dynamics, an unethical global corporation that pioneers cutting-edge technologies based on crackpot ideas. Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) works there as the head of R&D for the deliciously amoral Veronica (Portia de Rossi), in charge of nerdy whitecoat scientists like egghead duo Phil (Jonathan Slavin) and Lem (Malcolm Barrett).

It's a more corporate version of The IT Crowd with the style of Andy Richter Controls The Universe, but I struggled to find the first two episodes especially amusing or clever. In "Pilot", the team are working on weaponizing pumpkins, before Veronica decides to have Phil frozen for a year, while Ted meets an office drone called Linda (Andrea Anders) who's taken to stealing creamer in a petty show of rebellion from their corporate masters. In "Heroes", Phil and Lem were tasked with growing "cowless beef" in the lab, while Veronica was forced to create an award for Phil to prevent him suing Veridian over his enforced cryogenic test.

The show has quirky ideas and a good cast (although only de Rossi carved out a memorable persona), but it lacked a freewheeling sense of giddy hilarity that I personally demand from silly comedy. This being a US comedy, it can't avoid casting a hunk in the lead role, and Harrington demonstrated no real gift for comedy. It doesn't help that he's a straight man at the epicentre of this mad universe, so the show felt immediately less fun than had it cast someone with a more amusing personality. Ted also breaks the fourth wall (Malcolm In The Middle-style), which didn't feel at all necessary.

The thing in Better Off Ted's favour is a concept (not dissimilar to the BBC's short-lived Lab Rats) that lends itself extremely well to imaginative ideas and funny events. In fact, that key ingredient is something The IT Crowd sorely needed, as a sitcom that suffers from how its characters exist in a work environment that's a one-joke IT helpdesk and not a better springboard to madcap plots. The potential of this show's crazy laboratory and evil company idea is half the reason I'm sticking around for more; de Rossi's office bitch the other.

WRITER: Victor Fresco
DIRECTOR: Michael Fresco
CAST: Jay Harrington, Portia de Rossi, Andrea Anders, Jonathan Slavin, Malcolm Barrett, Isabella Acres, Maz Jobrani & Colin Baiocchi
TRANSMISSION: 27 July 2010 - FX/HD, 9PM

'PERSONS UNKNOWN' 1.7 - "Smoke And Steel"


[SPOILERS] The last few episodes renewed my interest in this series, but "Smoke And Steel" didn't connect with me. Ironically, this episode gave us our first big insights into the Organization that are behind things (a 50-year-old company testing people it believes will one day influence the world), but that explanation didn't excite or delight me. I actually found it hard to believe anyone beyond multimillionaire Charlie (Alan Ruck) will ever wield that kind of power. Janet (Daisy Betts) is just a single mother, right? Tori was just a spoiled partygirl! Hopefully the show will make sense of this in the remaining episodes, but for now I was left with the impression Persons Unknown is inching towards a ridiculous reveal.

The main selling point of "Smoke And Steel" was the largely plausible way the group dealt with conspirator Joe (Jason Wiles) now they're aware he is -- or was -- working with the enemy. There were still plenty of moments when it irritated me how people don't ask him pertinent questions about his background and activities, but by the end of the episode I felt like Joe had been sufficiently interrogated. Erika (Kandyse McClure) appears to have bonded with odious Blackman (Sean O'Bryan), finding he's just as willing to torture Joe for answers and once owned a halfway house for parolees; Charlie promised Joe he'll use his fortune to reward him if he helps him escape; and Janet had to deal with her blossoming feelings for Joe versus her fear he's still lying to the group. A fear that appeared justified when the gang found secret dossiers on their lives, hidden in Joe's bedside drawers.

Once again, the storyline in the outside world remains extremely difficult to feel a connection with. Mark (Gerald Kyd) isn't a very interesting hero, and his storyline feels like it's powered by others people pushing him around and letting him stumble upon the odd clue. At least last week he was breaking into the Ambassador's safe to steal documents, but before and after that Mark doesn't have much success of his own making. It feels like he's the only person stupid enough to go up against this all-powerful Organization, so a few of the Organizations enemies are only too happy to point Mark in the rough direction and watch him blunder in. In fact, the Organization sound so pervasive and powerful that I'm not sure the show has enough episodes left to orchestrate a plausible takedown.

There's still no sense of a pincer movement slowly clasping this miniseries together from two directions, but hopefully that will come as we approach the end. Again, the main reason I'm sticking with Persons Unknown is that it's a finite investment of my time over the slow summer months.

Asides
  • I didn't expect them to kill Tom (Reggie Lee), and in such a violent and graphic way. It was almost comical seeing him stumble around the kitchen on fire, accidentally tipping more hot liquids onto himself. And with the kidnapping of Joe from the bathroom at the end of this episode, hopefully a bigger villain is about to make their appearance.
  • Persons Unknown hasn't attracted many, if any, comments since I started reviewing it here. Are people watching, or am I the only one bothering? Maybe the title's a good description of the show's audience!
WRITER: Michael R. Perry
DIRECTOR: Rod Hardy
GUEST CAST: Reggie Lee, Michael Harney, Victor Alfieri, Gerald Kyd, James Read & Luis Gatica
TRANSMISSION: 24 July 2010 - NBC, 8/7c

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

BBC Three: Autumn 2010

What new delights do BBC3 have in store for its audience this autumn? Well, nothing that takes my fancy (beyond the new twentysomething comedy Him & Her starring Russell Tovey), but I'm no longer target demographic for the BBC's "youth channel". The BBC3 press release is below:

Thought-provoking factual and current affairs; innovative British drama; comedy talent at its best and new entertainment shows for young audiences

BBC Three's mission to engage younger audiences with bold, creative risk-taking and challenging programming continues this coming Autumn. BBC Three continues to do what no other digital channel does in reaching younger audiences with thought-provoking factual and current affairs; innovative British fiction; new, emerging comedy talent; and entertainment shows. The channel is now the most watched channel for 16-34 year olds for the hours it broadcasts and since its relaunch in February 2008 has grown by 29 per cent.

Danny Cohen, Controller BBC Three said: "It's been a great year so far for BBC Three with young audiences growing by a further 14 per cent. We hope to build on this across the Autumn with a rich range of thought-provoking Current Affairs and Factual, youthful drama, and energetic comedy and entertainment featuring young British talent."

BBC Three's commitment to hard-hitting factual and current affairs continues with a fresh range of programmes that shine a spotlight on the lives of young people around the world.

Brand new shows being announced today in factual and current affairs include:

Stacey Dooley, one of the stars of the hit BBC three series, Blood, Sweat And T-shirts, returns with two new moving and insightful documentaries exploring the issue of child exploitation. In Stacey Dooley Investigates – Kids With Guns, Stacey meets child soldiers in the Congo and hears their personal accounts of what life as a child soldier entailed.

In Child Sex Trafficking In Cambodia Stacey travels to Cambodia, where an estimated third of the country's 80,000 sex workers are under 18, to investigate under-age sex trafficking.

The Born Survivors season also returns with more hard-hitting, inspirational documentaries in which young people who live with serious issues reveal their strategies for survival. The films tell extraordinary stories of young people surviving whatever life throws at them, giving them a unique opportunity to talk candidly about their experiences and determination to change their lives.

Can't Bully Me follows four young people aged 12-14 as they endeavour to overcome the traumatic effects of bullying. They attend a network of specialised centres for children who've been so badly affected by their experiences that they can no longer attend mainstream school.

My Boyfriend The War Hero tells the story of Craig and Vicky. Eighteen-year-old Craig was hit by a roadside explosive. He lost both legs and an arm, becoming the youngest British serviceman to be injured in Afghanistan and one of only three British soldiers with a triple amputation to have survived his injuries.

Despite her youth, and the tremendous responsibility she's taking on, Vicky remains desperately in love with her fiancé and has made a commitment not just to share a home with him, but also eventually to marry him. The film follows Craig and Vicky in the first few months of their new life together as Craig copes with the consequences of his horrendous injuries and Vicky comes to terms with her decision to "stand by her man".

In Kara Tointon – Don't Call Me Stupid, actress Kara confronts the extent to which being dyslexic has affected her and realises how different her life could be when she compares how she lives and works, to her non-dyslexic EastEnders cast-mates, friends and family.

Kara, as part of the Born Survivors season, faces the truth about her dyslexia and embarks on a potentially life-changing programme as she sets out to improve her reading age to adult status and deal with the wider implications that the condition has had on her life.

In the inspiring documentary My Brother And Me, Jeff Brazier explores his relationship with his brother Spencer, who has cerebral palsy. It's a surprising and uplifting journey of two people finally learning how to understand and accept each other for who they are.

Spencer is 24. He has never had a job or a girlfriend and spends his days watching TV and playing computer games. Jeff believes that despite his disability Spencer is capable of living a much more active and fulfilling life. Now Jeff is planning to put his theories to the test.

Jeff and Spencer spend some serious time together while their mum (Spencer's full-time carer) gets away for a much-needed break, as Spencer moves in to Jeff's house in Essex. What Spencer doesn't know is the intense programme that Jeff's got in store for him. Jeff wants to push his brother to make some real changes in his life, but will Jeff's tough love prove too much for their already fragile relationship?

Jeff says: "Through embarking on this journey with Spencer I hope to provide the catalyst that will enable him to find himself, his courage and his confidence, break down the psychological restrictions he places on himself and for us to grow close once more after our 15 years of living with some distance between us."

Also announced in comedy:

BBC Three continues to give new writers and comedians their first break in TV. On the back of a hugely successful first series, Simon Brodkin returns with his critically acclaimed character Lee Nelson in Lee Nelson's Well Good Show. Nelsy gets in among the excitable studio audience, entertaining them with cheeky banter and all manner of daft games, ably assisted by his best mate, and "fat legend", Omelette.

Other Season Highlights:

Drama

Sex, lies and true love in modern Scotland. Lip Service is a seductive new relationship drama starring Laura Fraser, Ruta Gedmintas and Fiona Button following the lives of a group of 20-something friends.

Cat (Laura Fraser) is a self-assured architect, unnerved by the return of her former lover, Frankie (Ruta Gedmintas), a talented but emotionally reckless photographer who arrives back in Glasgow unannounced, bringing havoc in her wake. Fiona Button plays struggling actress Tess, Cat's best friend and flatmate who has an uncanny knack of falling for the wrong sorts of women.

This irreverent, sexy six-part series has been created by Harriet Braun (Mistresses, Attachments).

Comedy

Russell Tovey plays Steve, a laddish man with no desire to seek employment, in Stefan Golaszweski's hilarious and often shocking comedy about what really goes on behind the bedroom doors of today's twenty-somethings in Him And Her.

Dan Clark, comedian and writer, returns in the self-penned comedy, How Not To Live Your Life as desperate lothario Don who is still no wiser as to how to live his life.

And the channel welcomes home another favourite as Moz, Johnny Vegas, and Jenny, played by Sinead Matthews, return to Salford in Ideal after fleeing the UK to avoid a possible prison sentence. Ideal, now in its sixth series, is the channel's longest running comedy hit.

Entertainment

The Chief of Police has kicked the bucket, the President has been assassinated and the King is dead! So, who do you turn to? Each week on The King Is Dead a well-known public figure is hypothetically bumped off. It's down to the comedic interview panel, led by Simon Bird, to scour the Great British celebrity pool for a top-notch replacement. Three celebrities compete in this unique and vigorous interview process in a bid to prove they are the best applicant for the available job.

Factual

Following its success last year, The Adult Season returns to explore the pressures on young people to grow up quickly and what it means to be an adult. Leading the season of eight documentaries is a series of four films entitled My Mum And Me.

In Tulisa – My Mum And Me, Tulisa from chart-smashing N-Dubz heads ups this intimate and deeply personal authored single documentary. Tulisa's mother suffered from a schizo-affective disorder and she breaks the taboo to find out what life is like for other young Britons with a mentally ill mum or dad.

Being a teenager is tough, but for Jazz it's even harder, because she has an undiagnosed form of dwarfism and is smaller than an average seven-year-old. Small Teen, Big World tells the story of the close relationship between Jazz and her mum Bev, who has the same condition.

In the final film of the series, Glamour Models, Mum And Me gives a voice to a young girl, Georgia, whose unusual life is reaching a crossroads. Her mother is tabloid favourite Alicia Douvall. Should she pursue her mother's dreams of 21st-century tabloid celebrity or continue with her education?

The Adult Season also features a number of single documentaries: The Blind Me, from the producers of last year's acclaimed The Autistic Me, follows young blind people as they struggle to achieve the independent grown-up lives that others take for granted. Alice And Her Six Dads is a warm-hearted and emotional film, following 22-year-old Alice as she searches for her real dad.

During Alice's life there have been six different men that she's thought of as being her dad – some meant more to her than others. But there's one of these men Alice has no memory of – her biological dad. In this film Alice sets off on a journey to meet these different men from her childhood, and in the process work out what it really means to be a dad. And Alice has a big decision to make; she's recently got engaged, but which of her dads will walk her down the aisle?

Alongside these documentaries will be a range of new and returning series.

Following the success of last year's one-off documentary, Baby Beauty Queens returns as a six-part series diving into the world of the child beauty pageants where nine year olds get spray tans and diamante eyelashes are all the rage.

After a successful first series, Young, Dumb And Living Off Mum follows eight more inept and spoilt 17- to 23-year-olds as they leave their privileged pampered lives behind and attempt to grow up and sever the apron strings. From making their own beds to budgeting, they shoulder responsibility for the first time in their lives.

Also returning to the Adult Season is Underage And Pregnant – the candid programmes once again follow a mix of young mums, and some dads, with varied backgrounds as they come to terms with pregnancy, birth, and their new lives with a baby.

'TRUE BLOOD' 3.6 - "I Got A Right To Sing The Blues"


[SPOILERS] True Blood is a show comprised of trailer-bait moments and exhilarative cliffhangers, as the recent sizzle reel from the San Diego Comic-Con proved. It's just a shame that the show, particularly in this third year, isn't that great at compiling episodes of TV that work as a cohesive dramatic piece. It doesn't have subplots that support a central storyline, it just has lots of "stuff" happening that might coalesce into something approaching a story if you're lucky. It's almost like a collection of horror anthology scripts someone's shuffled together. And while that creates a certain level of enjoyable craziness to every episode, it's just so messy and unfocused that I'm still finding the bulk of season 3 watchable but rambling.

This week's smorgasbord played out thus: Sookie (Anna Paquin) was taken to Edgington's (Denis O'Hare) mansion for interrogation about her powers, prompting Bill (Stephen Moyer) to assault Edgington's aides and get himself handed to Lorena (Mariana Klaveno) for a slow, torturous death; Eric (Alexander Skarsgård) feigned allegiance to Edgington, focused on avenging the 3,000-year-old vampire's slaughter of his human family; Tara (Rutina Wesley) acquiesced to unhinged vampire Franklin's (James Frain) demands, secretly plotting to escape with Sookie by daylight; Tommy (Marshall Allman) gave in to a plea from his mother to continue using his shape-shifting ability to provide for his family (via illegal dog fighting); Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) grew closer to Jesus (Kevin Alejandro), but his drug-dealing caused upset when it came to light; Jason (Ryan Kwanten) was heartbroken to find that Crystal (Lindsay Pulsipher) has a fiancé and is pretending she doesn't know him; Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) made an effort to befriend Arlene (Carrie Preston) by "glamouring" a customer into leaving her a healthy tip; and Sophie-Anne (Evan Rachel Wood) was forced into agreeing to marry Edgington as penance for framing Eric over the illegal sale of V blood.

As usual, I found a third of "I Got A Right To Sing The Blues" perfectly satisfying and occasionally very good, while the remaining two thirds was slightly tedious or at too much of an embryonic stage to get excited about yet. I was glad to see Tara shake off her labeling as a victim, finally, as she bludgeoned Franklin's head to a messy pulp with a mace and was instrumental in springing Sookie from captivity. I've always had problems with Tara's character, but she's certainly better when her fierce determination and feistiness is channeled into a proactive way that gives us hope humans aren't just the playthings of True Blood's supernatural creatures. They actually stand a chance of defeating them without super-powered help from a bartending shape-shifter, vampire sheriff, or hunky werewolf.

I'm also enjoying Denis O'Hare as Edgington, particularly now we're getting some information about his opinions and values regarding werewolves (sub-dogs he can control to his own end) and humans (a species that deserve to be enslaved, in a vague parallel to Adolf Hitler's desire for a Master Race). Considering the flashback to WWII earlier this season, I'm hoping this is another nod towards "Operation Werewolf" and the 1930s. Were the Nazi's aware of vampires and werewolves in this universe? Also interesting to note how Lorena was lamenting the passing of the '30s, seeing that era in a positive light, when it's widely seen as a dark time in human history.

There was a slight development in the mystery of Sam's (Sam Trammell) parents, who appear to have been using Tommy's shape-shifting to make money all these years, just as his mother was forced to do before him. In essence, Sam's father is a domineering slave driver who has his wife and child under the thumb, which is a plausible real-world downside that (rarely for True Blood) has the balance of power weighted in a human's favour.

Everything else wasn't worth the effort. Jason's story has a thin skin of mystery concerning who/what Crystal is, which is fine, but the idea of him becoming a deputy and his jealousy for that teenage boy who's essentially himself 15 years ago isn't working for me. I also have zero interest in Lafayette's love life, so that storyline is already tempting my fast-forward button. It's also a crime that Jessica's being given nothing to do this year (having stolen multiple episodes last season so effortlessly), although I like the possibility that she'll become a "daughter" for Arlene. Isn't that where things are headed?

Overall, "I Got A Right To Sing The Blues" had just enough forward thrust and inciting moments to raise it a notch over average, and I admit True Blood's never boring for any notable length of time. True Blood's strength is its commitment to entertain with an unbridled desire to please and horrify its audience over an hour. It's thick with characters and moments that provide regular "hits". It's just a pity it has ADHD and finds it difficult to build a serialized story that provides decent material for more than 30% of the cast, in a manner that keeps you confident the writers are following a thought out plan.

Asides
  • Is that really the end of Franklin? Can vampires repair themselves after having their skull split open like a watermelon? If not, I can't help thinking that's a waste of James Frain, who was one of this season's best newcomers.
  • I'm glad there appears to be some movement on Sookie's abilities (telepathy, telekinesis, energy blasts), but the writers will have to tread carefully. Giving her character too much power and control wouldn't be wise, as Sookie's role on the show has always been the plucky and defiant damsel. If she didn't need protection and could look after herself in this world of vampires and werewolves, I think her character loses too much of what makes her sympathetic.
WRITER: Alan Ball
DIRECTOR: Michael Lehmann
GUEST CAST: Kevin Alejandro, Annica Bejhed, Grey Damon, Grainger Hines, Cooper Huckabee, Lil Mirkk, Melissa Rauch, John Rezig, Hans Tester, Tanya Wright, Marshall Allman, Mariana Klaveno, Denis O'Hare, Jim Parrack, Lindsay Pulsipher, Grant Bowler, Joe Manganiello, Brit Morgan, Evan Rachel Wood & James Frain
TRANSMISSION: 25 July 2010 - HBO, 9PM

Damages execs on DirecTV pickup

Michael Ausiello has a brief but interesting interview with Damages co-creators Daniel Zelman and Todd A. Kessler, where they chat about the show's recent surprise pickup by DirecTV and what that means for the show.

"DirecTV wants us to do the show that we've been doing. If anything, they want us to push what we've been doing even further. They're encouraging us to be as bold as possible, which is something we strive for anyway. There have been no discussions about altering the show in any fundamental way." Continue reading...
One thing that amused me about the interview is hearing that Zelman and Kessler are excited by the fact The 101 Network don't have breaks for advertising. Here in the UK, Damages has always been shown on the advert-less BBC1, so it slipped my mind that US audiences have been putting up with commercial breaks.

Monday, 26 July 2010

SDCC: Dexter, Glee, No Ordinary Family & V panels


In my final batch of videos from the San Diego Comic-Con, I've gathered together all the remaining panels. Some better quality than others, obviously.


"GLEE"


Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

"NO ORDINARY FAMILY"


Part 2

"V"


Part 2 - Part 3

Bubba in True Blood?

Here's a crazy possibility for the True Blood universe. Speaking at the San Diego Comic-Con, showrunner Alan Ball mentioned his reticence to bring the character of Bubba into the TV series. For those who don't read the source novels by Charlaine Harris (myself included), Bubba is Elvis Presley, who was transformed into a vampire by a morgue attendant. However, the process wasn't entirely successful because of drugs in Presley's system, so Bubba (don't call him Elvis!) is now somewhat braindamaged.

I can understand Ball's reluctance to use that character (it could be a disaster if handled badly), but one fan attending the True Blood panel apparently shouted out Bruce Campbell's name as someone who could pull it off -- to which Ball smiled and replied "Bruce Campbell, huh?"

Campbell appeared as an aged Elvis in the cult movie Bubba Ho-Tep from 2002, giving a performance that earned a lot of praise.

Is it possible Alan Ball will reconsider the possibility of involving Bubba and sign up geek-favourite Bruce Campbell? Who knows. I haven't read the books, so I just can't envisage a braindamaged vampire Elvis working in True Blood. It could be a shark-jumping moment of epic proportions, right? But, at the same time, Bruce Campbell as a fanged Elvis in Bon Temps -- wearing the iconic white jumpsuit perhaps?! I'd love to see that. Would you?

Nikita & Chase coming to Living

LivingTV have secured the UK rights to The CW's spy-action drama Nikita (starring Maggie Q, left) and NBC's Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Chase, about a team of US marshals. Nikita will be the jewel of Living's autumn schedule, with episodes airing shortly after their US broadcast. Interestingly, Chase will be renamed when it debuts on Living later this year.

Amy Barham, Living TV Group Head of Acquisitions:

"Nikita is the hottest, most action-packed new drama of the season with an amazingly strong female lead that we know will excite and engage Living's audiences this autumn."
Jeffrey Schlesinger, President of Warner Bros International Television Distribution:

"Our series have enjoyed great success on Living -- this is in no small part because the network truly invests in smart scheduling and creative marketing support around their programming. We believe the same will hold true for Nikita and Chase, two high-quality, compelling shows that fit perfectly into the programming mix of Living and its young audience."
These are the first new US acquisition by Living since the channel was bought by Sky from Virgin Media.

'SHERLOCK' 1.1 - "A Study In Pink"


[SPOILERS] Conceived during train journeys while working on Doctor Who, Sherlock is a modern update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 19th-century detective adventures, from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, writers whose affection for Victoriana is clear and evident. Gatiss's work is often inspired or set during the Industrial Age, while his first Who script ("The Unquiet Dead") featured that century's greatest novelist, Charles Dickens. Moffat's oeuvre is less historical in nature, although he recently wrote the BBC miniseries Jekyll, a contemporary sequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novella "The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde". A fine writing partnership to tackle the world's most famous crime-fighting duo, then.

Benedict Cumberbatch headlines as Sherlock, a cadaverous young man with flowing locks, prompting superficial physical comparisons to Matt Smith's look as The Doctor, compounded by the noted similarities in both character's intelligence and poise. Fortunately, delineation is clear in how Sherlock's a self-proclaimed "high-functioning sociopath" with a solemn, vaguely unsettling demeanour that only occasionally cracks into a lilting grin if a particularly baffling mystery presents itself.

"A Study In Pink" is a loose remake of Conan Doyle's "A Study In Scarlet" novella (so the case is easily cracked by Holmes bookworms), although Moffat's script offers original delights of its own. Half the fun is simply seeing how the source material's been updated, with invalided army soldier Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) back in London with post-traumatic stress disorder (and a psychosomatic limp), and finding himself flat-sharing with the titular sleuth. John forms a connection with Sherlock rather quickly, partly because he's the first man to actively marvel at this consultant detective's powers of deduction, after accompanying him to the scene of a crime: a fourth suspicious suicide that Sherlock believes is actually the handiwork of a serial killer.

The police treat Sherlock as a kind of annoying freak, occasionally called in by D.I Lestrade (Rupert Graves) as a last resort, although Lestrade knows that Sherlock's genius shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. As a raging egomaniac, John's vocal astonishment as Sherlock's abilities endears him to his waspish flatmate and, given John's profession, Sherlock's likewise keen to have a trusted doctor be his professional partner and, possibly, first real friend?

I had my doubts about Freeman in this role, as the actor often trots out mild variations on his character Tim from The Office, but he actually finds some depth and quiet dignity as John Watson which was a welcome surprise. I just don't believe in him as a military man. The dynamic between Freeman and Cumberbatch is at an embryonic stage right now, but there are plenty of signs the two actors will make a compelling odd couple. Cumberbatch does a startlingly good job making Sherlock amusingly exasperating, but not totally insufferable, and while the update refuses to give Sherlock a drug addiction (nicotine patches replace the iconic pipe, there's no sign of any opium), it's made clear that his drug is his work. He has a frightening, almost pathological need to be proven right, which comes to the fore in the climax over correctly deriving a poisoned pill from a 50/50 chance.

Sherlock also benefitted enormously from the assured direction of Paul McGuigan (Gangster No. 1, Lucky Number Slevin), whose work on the big-screen undoubtedly helped give this TV production a snap and style we rarely see on the small-screen. I particularly liked his cinematic eye in chopping the screen up into thirds, and the use of transitional swipes between scenes. There was also an inventive way to visualize texting, with phone messages being superimposed over the on-screen action. A simple but very effective device. The only mild concern was how words likewise appeared to show Sherlock's mental thought processes while examining a corpse, partly because it felt unnecessary because he vocalized his thoughts afterwards anyway. Hopefully the series will refine this idea, as it's an interesting way to put the viewer into Sherlock's mindspace, in principle.

Overall, Sherlock launched with an abundance of wit and dynamism from its two compelling leads, each biting into the succulent script from Moffat's pen -- which performed the same trick as his Jekyll miniseries, in presenting an old idea in a fresh way that doesn't feel ridiculous. Connoisseurs of the great detective will breathe a sigh of relief that the characterisation and deductive reasoning is intact, while newcomers will soak up what's essentially a great crime mystery with two mismatched friends at its core.

Asides
  • I wonder if accepting this role has removed Cumberbatch from inheriting the TARDIS one day, at least while Doctor Who's in Moffat's hands and both shows are on-air together. If it's indeed unlikely because of certain conflicts, wouldn't Cumberbatch make a great Master? There are clearly echoes of Smith's Doctor in his features and style, which would stick to the casting of John Simm as an intentional "dark twin" to mirror David Tennant's performance. To fan the flames of gossip, Cumberbatch has already hinted that he may appear in a multi-part Who storyline soon.
  • If you've ever doubted Sherlock Holmes's influence on modern-day crime shows, it was only a few months ago that Luther dealt with the idea of a taxi driving serial killer, too.
  • Three 90-minute adventures may equal a six-part regular miniseries, but that still feels annoyingly brief. Hopefully success will ensure a longer run if (when?) the show returns.
  • How great was the ending between Sherlock and the killer, over two bottles of pills? That scene in itself was responsible for half-a-star in my rating.
  • I was slightly surprised they've already setup the presence of Moriarty (Sherlock's "fan"), mainly because that feels like a trump card they'd hold in reserve for awhile. It was fun watching the script play with expectations regarding Moriarty and Mark Gatiss's character, who was amusingly revealed to be Sherlock's worrisome brother Mycroft. I didn't expect co-creator Gatiss to have gifted himself the arch-enemy role, but the deception still worked nicely.
WRITER: Steven Moffat
DIRECTOR: Paul McGuigan
CAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Louise Brealey, Vinette Robinson, Phil Davis & Mark Gatiss.
TRANSMISSION: 25 July 2010 - BBC1/HD, 9PM

TV Picks: 26 July – 1 August 2010 (Better Off Ted, Californication, The Great Outdoors, Leverage, Hammond Meets Moss, The Real Hustle: Celebrity Scammers, and more...)



MONDAY 26th
Ten Mile Menu (ITV, 5pm) Series where teams face a challenge to serve meals using ingredients sourced from a 10-mile radius.
The Hospital (Channel 4, 9pm) Return of the series examining the UK's health service.
Hammond Meets Moss (BBC2, 11.20pm) Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond meets racing car legend Stirling Moss.

TUESDAY 27th
Ship Rescue: The Devon Disaster (Five, 8pm) Documentary looking at the 2007 disaster when the MSC Napoli container ship crashed off the coast of Devon.
Better Off Ted (FX, 9pm) US comedy about a group of scientists working for an evil company.

WEDNESDAY 28th
Cutting Edge: The Man Who Jumps Off Buildings (Channel 4, 9pm) Documentary about base jumping.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent (Five, 9pm) Season 7 of the US drama.
The Great Outdoors (BBC4, 9pm) Comedy about a rambling club. Stars Mark Heap, Ruth Jones, Katherine Parkinson & Steve Edge.
Leverage (Bravo, 9pm) Season 2 of the US drama.
Californication (Fiver, 11.10pm) Season 3 of the US drama. Stars David Duchovny.

THURSDAY 29th
The Secret Tourist (BBC1, 9pm) Consumer series recreating popular scams. Presented by Matt Allwright.
Five That Changed Britain (BBC2, 9pm) Series looking at the period of time in May when the UK's political leaders debated the creation of a coalition government.
Police, Camera, Action! (ITV, 9pm) Camera footage of automobile accidents. Hosted by Gethin Jones.
The Real Hustle: Celebrity Scammers (BBC3, 10.30pm) Special series of the scamming series, where celebs participate in swindles. Featuring Matt Willis.
Stealing Shakespeare (BBC1, 10.35pm) Documentary about a rare book dealer who became involved in a mystery about the disappearance of Shakespeare's First Folio.

FRIDAY 30th
Nothing.

SATURDAY 31st
Nothing.

SUNDAY 1st
Nothing.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

SDCC: Chuck Panel


The weekend of videos from the San Diego Comic-Con continues! Had enough yet? Of course not! Here's the two-part Chuck panel someone in the audience recorded and posted online, together with the Jeffster "Bad Romance" parody.



'SPARTACUS: BLOOD & SAND' 1.9 - "Whore"


[SPOILERS] There's usually so much testosterone fuelling Spartacus: Blood & San that its female cast members can fall into the background, so it was great to have an episode with more of an emphasis on Lucretia (Lucy Lawless), Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) and Naevia (Lesley-Ann Brandt), even if this spotlight on the women was still entitled "Whore".

This week, Spartacus (Andy Whitfield) agreed to carry out what's expected of him as Champion of Capua, in prostituting himself to wealthy Roman called Licinia (Brooke Harmon) who has a fantasy where she has sex with a gladiator behind her husband's back. Batiatus (John Hannah) is more than happy to have his wife make the arrangements to please Licinia's fetish, as a business move, but matters were complicated when Lucretia's friend Ilithyia heard about the arrangement and decided she'd similarly like to sleep with Crixus (Manu Bennett). But Lucretia's jealousy over having to "share" Crixus, her favoured gladiator she regularly sleeps with behind her husband's back, led to her taking unusual steps to teach Ilithyia a lesson.

Elsewhere in the ludus, Varro (Jai Courtney) confided to Spartacus that his pregnant wife and child have gone missing; Spartacus refused the services of a nubile slave girl called Mira (Katrina Law) to prepare him for his night of passion with Licinia, but later reached an agreement with Mira to investigate Varro's missing family beyond the ludus walls; the lame Ashur (Nick Tarabay) tried to return to gladiatorial training, only to be refused by Batiatus, thus pushing him closer to the Batiatus's rival Solonius in bitterness; Crixus returned to training and appears to have overcome his near-fatal injuries, with an eye on reclaiming his title from Spartacus; and Naevia stole the key to Crixus's cell so they could be together after dark, although her pickpocketing move on a guard was initially misinterpreted by the covetous Crixus.

There was much to enjoy in "Whore", which was thick with sex, jealousy and hatred. I especially liked Lucretia's manoeuvrings, which resulted in a surprisingly horrible deception at the end: letting bitter enemies Spartacus and Lucretia have sex together (their faces hidden behind unnerving masks), believing they were actually having intercourse with Licinia and Crixus respectively. The look of horror on Ilithyia's face was palpable when the cruel trick was revealed in front of Licinia herself, who made the mistake of laughing at poor Ilithyia's situation and swiftly had her skull caved in by the enraged Ilithyia on some stone steps. So now Batiatus has the death of a Rome socialite on his premises to cover-up, while Lucretia will perhaps use her knowledge of Ilithyia's crime as leverage with her?

This hour was confidently written by Daniel Knauf (Carnivàle, Supernatural), and the direction by hyphenate Michael Hurst was easily a highlight of the series so far. At times it was beautifully cinematic, particularly in the excellent Spartacus/Ilithyia sex scene, which buzzed with sexuaity. The compositions and cinematography were also of a higher standard than usual, perhaps helped by the fact most scenes took place indoors (with no need for any greenscreen that often makes the exterior sequences look artificial and slightly cartoonish).

Overall, another very good episode as we inch closer to the finale. I'm interested to see how the dynamic will change between Lucretia and Ilithyia following this episode's horror, if Ashur will go through with helping Solonius, whether or not Crixus will regain his title in the arena, and exactly where Spartacus's fate will take him. Is escape from the ludus inevitable, perhaps with Varro in tow?

Asides
  • You may recognize Katrina Law from her guest-starring appearance in Chuck season 2 as Alexis, during "Chuck Versus The Beefcake".
  • Anyone else get an Eyes Wide Shut flashback with the Spartacus/Ilithyia sex scene?
WRITER: Daniel Knauf
DIRECTOR: Michael Hurst
GUEST CAST: Peter Mensah, Manu Bennett, Nick Tarabay, Viva Bianca, Katrina Law, Jai Courtney, Lesley-Ann Brandt, Craig Walsh Wrightson, Daniel Feuerriegel, Ande Cunningham, Brooke Harmon, Tim Foley, Ioane King, Mark Mitchinson & David Austin
TRANSMISSION: 20 July 2010 - BRAVO, 10PM

SDCC: Fringe Panel


Here are two videos from the Fringe panel at San Diego Comic-Con, where the cast and crew discuss season 3 and answer a few fan questions.

Russell T. Davies on Torchwood

SFX Magazine have a great interview with Russell T. Davies, focusing on his thoughts and plans for Torchwood's fourth series, which is to be a co-production between the BBC and Starz.

"It's a new model for the future, of BBC Worldwide actually becoming a production partner and making stuff for themselves. Their big thing in America is Dancing With The Stars, which is the American Strictly Come Dancing. They sell that format all over the world, but they actually make that for American television and it's hugely successful, more successful than Strictly is -- this year it overtook American Idol for the first time ever. So that's part of building up a production base here, of taking British ideas -- and new ideas -- and making them on a worldwide scale. It's a really good ambition, I think, and it's going to have to be the case more and more. If you look at things like Dickens adaptations and Cranford, they haven’t been able to afford themselves for decades -- they're all made with money from Boston and stuff like that. Co-partner funding has been the future for decades now." Continue reading...

Saturday, 24 July 2010

SDCC: True Blood - Season 3.5 Trailer


The trailer to promote the second-half of True Blood's third season has been released on the internet, following its premiere at the San Diego Comic-Con. I've been disappointed by this current season so far, but I have to say this trailer has revived my flagging interest. I guess it's easy to put together a two-minute sizzle reel for a show like True Blood, but here's hoping we're in for six exciting episodes that capitalize on the slow burn we've had so far. It all looks fantastic, but looks can be deceiving. What does everyone else think?

SDCC: "Joss Whedon Experience"


Yet more videos from the San Diego Comic-Con; this one focusing entirely on Joss Whedon. A great four-part video for fans of his work.





SDCC: Linda Hamilton joins Chuck!

Fans have been speculating about who'll be playing Chuck's mother in season 4 of NBC's spy-action comedy for the past few months, and now we have the answer. At the San Diego Comic-Con, the Chuck panel revealed that sci-fi favourite Linda Hamilton (The Terminator) has joined the cast in a recurring capacity.


Josh Schwartz, executive-producer:

"We're always looking for guest stars who will be great in the part, but who also speak to our audience and feel like it comes out of the universe of our show. If Chuck and Morgan were watching Chuck, they would be excited about Linda coming on board. Obviously her body of work was important to us, but also knowing what this part was and the intensity that we were going to need from someone, Linda was a natural fit. She'll be [kicking ass] right out of the gate."

"The mystery surrounding Chuck's mom is at the heart of the season, and there are going to be some shocking surprises in the first episode,” previews Fedak. “By the end of the episode we are going to turn everything on its head with regard to who she is."
Chris Fedak, executive producer:

"Chuck was certainly a Terminator fan, and Morgan was a Beauty & The Beast fan."
How do you feel about this piece of casting? I'm quite excited. I don't personally think Hamilton's the best choice of those rumoured, from an acting standpoint, but she undoubtedly has ample geek cred. Plus, she's physically plausible as a relation of Zachary Levi (if not as perfect as Scott Bakula was as his father -- seriously, rewatch Quantum Leap, it's like someone sent Levi back in time!)

SDCC: Dexter - Season 5 Trailer


"Sins may be forgiven, but conscience is a killer". Here's the official trailer for Dexter's fifth season (Showtime, 26 September), and I think it looks fantastic. I particularly love how it feels like a true sequel to the fourth season (which I guess it had to be, given how that year ended), and there are signs that Quinn's definitely taking over from Doakes as the guy who's on the precipice of exposing Dexter's activities. Again, a word of warning: contains massive spoilers for season 4, if you're not caught up.

SDCC: Visionaries - J.J Abrams & Joss Whedon


Above and below is a six-part video of the San Diego Comic-Con panel "Visionaries" with J.J Abrams (Alias, Lost, Fringe, Star Trek) and Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse). Check it out.





SDCC: Dexter (Showtime Anti-Hero Panel)


Above are some nicely-edited highlights of a "Showtime Anti-Hero" panel at San Diego Comic-Con that featured Dexter's Michael C. Hall and new exec-producer Chip Johannessen.

SDCC: True Blood Panel


Here are five videos covering True Blood's panel at the San Diego Comic-Con, with Alan Ball, Anna Paquin, Sam Trammel, Rutina Wesley, Nelsan Ellis, Stephen Moyer, Deborah Ann Woll, Kristin Bauer, Joe Manganiello, Denis O'Hare, and Alexander Skarsgård all answering questions from fans. Enjoy!