Tuesday, 31 August 2010

'TRUE BLOOD' 3.11 – "Fresh Blood"


[SPOILERS] As penultimate episodes go, this was a snooze. The way storylines have been mixed this year has been a real problem for True Blood, always noticeable when a compelling subplot is swiftly followed by an extended period of utter dreariness. I've complained about this all season, and I don't get the feeling Alan Ball perceives this as a problem, which is a real shame. I really don't follow the logic of starting or resuming storylines that haven't been a sizeable part of season 3 -- as preparation for season 4, or otherwise.

To recap the shenanigans: Bill (Stephen Moyer) rescued Sookie (Anna Paquin) from Fangtasia, but they didn't get far before Edgington (Denis O'Hare) recaptured them on the highway -- helped by Eric (Alexander Skarsgard), who's allied himself with Edgington by promising the vampire king that half-fairy Sookie's blood will protect him from sunlight; Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) and Hoyt (Jim Parrack) resume their courtship, with Jessica admitting she killed a trucker because she couldn’t control her bloodlust; Sam (Sam Trammell) returns to work in a drunken state and causes half his staff to leave because of his rudeness; Arlene (Carrie Preston) decided to get an abortion with the help of Holly's (Lauren Bowles) witchcraft in the woods; Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) suffered nightmarish flashbacks because of his V trip with Jesus (Kevin Alejandro); Crystal (Lindsay Pulsipher) revealed to Jason (Ryan Kwanten) that she's a "were-panther", before he later realized that teen rival Kitch (Grey Damon) is going to beat his high school records because he's been taking V; and Tara (Rutina Wesley) confronted Andy (Chris Bauer) about his cover-up with Eggs' death, before apparently rekindling her romance with Sam.

It saddens me to say this, but everything unrelated to Edgington tested my patience here – with the possible exception of Jessica's storyline, because it was very brief and I'm grateful to see her reunited with Hoyt. The rest of the storylines made me angry for various reasons: who cares about Lafayette having bad hallucinations, or his entire storyline this year? Who cares that nice-guy Sam's having a public meltdown? Who even remembered that Jason had a rival in a young kid called Kitch earlier this season? Is Tara still crying over Eggs? Crystal's big secret is that she's a "were-panther" – seriously? Who thought that was a good idea? And now we're laying the groundwork for Arlene becoming a witch, I assume – but is that a good move for her? There are less and less regular human characters you can invest in, which does feel like a problem to me. And where the heck has werewolf Alcide gone? Worryingly, that character's going to become a regular next season! Is that necessary, or wanted, by anyone who can see past his rippling muscles?

Quite frankly, True Blood's on a precipice. The show is still fun because it's silly, gruesome, and crazy enough to keep you watching for the abundant violence, sex, nudity, hammy acting, and occasionally juicy dialogue -- but Alan Ball needs to get a grip on the disorderly universe he's inherited from Charlaine Harris's novels, because it feels out of control. The cast is so huge that 70% of them have been given pointless or weak storylines -- as something to justify their presence, rather than anything the audience is actually interested in seeing. And some of the story arcs this year have been terrible -- with the sole exception of most tethered to Russell Edgington, but even the way his storyline's been handled has left me cold at times. Remember that wonderful climax with Edgington declaring war on mankind during a live news broadcast? The show just hasn't capitalized on that delicious threat. Indeed, most of the characters on the show seem blissfully unaware that even took place on national TV!

I guess the secret behind True Blood's continuing success is that it punctuates every hour with at least three memorable moments, and the cliffhangers are usually stimulating enough to lure you back -- like this week's one with Eric handcuffing himself to Russell in broad daylight. But while that's an enviable skill, it can't last forever. There will come a time (if it hasn't come already) when audiences tire of the shock-tactics and begin to realize there aren't many credible or motivating characters doing logical, interesting things. It's often said that a popular show takes a few years to die, because it has so much momentum and mass perception takes awhile to change. I suppose that means Alan Ball's team need to ensure season 4 bounces back, because otherwise it'll just become a horror circus that should have left town long ago.

WRITER: Nancy Oliver
DIRECTOR: Daniel Minahan
GUEST CAST: Kevin Alejandro, Marshall Allman, Todd Lowe, Denis O'Hare, Jim Parrack, Carrie Preston, Lindsay Pulsipher, Lauren Bowles, Jessica Tuck, James Harvey Ward, Grey Damon, Melissa Rauch, Lil Mikk, Carlson Young & Natasha Alam
TRANSMISSION: 29 August 2010 – HBO, 9PM

Monday, 30 August 2010

'VEXED' 1.3


Here's my problem with Vexed in a nutshell: it wants to have a compelling will-they-won't-they flavour amid the sleuthing, but Jack (Toby Stephens) and Kate (Lucy Punch) have no real chemistry, and Jack's such a massive prick that you're hoping he gets transferred somewhere far away. Sure, ginger cheeseball Jack's preferable to Kate's loathsome hubbie Dan (Rory Kinnear), but that's not a good enough reason to want to see Jack and Kate become an item... and that's a major flaw for a series aiming for a Moonlighting-esque romance.

The final part of this mercifully brief series was an improvement over the inept second episode, but not quite as strong as the mediocre premiere. The investigation revolved around the disappearance of Gemma G (Scarlett Rose Patterson), lead singer of girl group "Candy Crew", who has apparently been kidnapped for ransom. Suspicion fell on known "super-fan" John-Paul (Dylan Brown), who was struck off the list of suspects because he's in a wheelchair, as everyone at home contemplated the obvious "twist" that the group's manager Richard (Del Synnott) has staged Gemma's abduction for the free publicity. Fortunately, Jack made the same deductive leap shortly after everyone at home, and the script appeared to end that clichéd line of enquiry. However, just when you thought the story was now free to move into unpredictable realms, it instead reversed to reveal how disabled John-Paul was indeed the culprit, coerced by Candy Crew's manager into keeping Gemma G for longer than planned to boost record sales (the latter part of his plan inspired by Jack's initially mistaken theory).

But is anyone watching Vexed for its plots? They barely fill the hour and neither victim or perpetrator are of any concern. The show is more interested in giving Jack and Kate various situations to handle during their investigation, but nine of that's as much fun as it should be. They're just not funny characters -- individually, or together. Stephens has misjudged the tone completely and made Jack into an exasperating, incompetent twerp. Punch is more likeable, but her "blonde Katherine Parkinson" shtick wears thin and her character's so wet it's hard to care about her.

It's hard to see what Howard Overman was doing with Vexed, which has one of TV's most well-trodden premises (mismatched detectives who would be perfect as lovers, but don't realize it), and failed to put an interesting slant on it. It's not very funny, it's not very dramatic, it falls between two stools and can't get up. There are sporadic moments where you titter over a sight gag or a phrase, but the show builds such a thick atmosphere of tedium that you're just not in the mood to laugh. The only thing that grabbed my interest was seeing Lucy Punch sprint around the woods in some tiny lycra running shorts, hate to say it.

Overall, I can't imagine Vexed being re-commissioned by the BBC (not least because the production company Greenlit has gone into administration). It felt like it was thrown into the summer schedule because the BBC knew they had a turkey on their hands, and despite the fact I like the actors and writer's previous work, none of it gelled on-screen. It really was a limp, disappointing detective series, and I don't think too many people will care if this is the last we see of it.

WRITER: Howard Overman
DIRECTOR: Matt Lipsey
GUEST CAST: Rory Kinnear, Roger Griffiths, Ronny Jhutti, Del Synnott, Dylan Brown, Marcy Oni, Jayne Wisener, Jenny Jules, Scarlett Rose Patterson, Jumayn Hunter & Tony Gardner
TRANSMISSION: 29 August 2010 - BBC2/HD, 9PM

Emmy Awards 2010: The Winners

The Good Wife's Archie Panjabi winning "Best Supporting Actress"
The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were held last night in Los Angeles at the Nokia Theatre (airing live coast to coast for the first time ever), and below are the winners that I was particularly pleased about.

Best Drama
Mad Men

Best Supporting Actress
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife

Outstanding Actor
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Best Supporting Actor In A Drama
Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy
Jane Lynch, Glee

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy
Neil Patrick Harris, Glee

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama
John Lithgow, Dexter

Outstanding Direction In A Comedy
Ryan Murphy, Glee ("Pilot – Director's Cut")

Outstanding Direction In A Drama
Steve Shill, Dexter ("The Getaway")

Outstanding Writing In A Drama
Matthew Weiner & Erin Levy, Mad Men ("Shut The Door. Have A Seat")

Best Miniseries
The Pacific

I'm especially glad that Bryan Cranston won Best Actor and Aaron Paul got his first ever Emmy for his role on Breaking Bad, too. That show is seen as being a little obscure for Emmy voters, but they definitely proved everyone wrong this year. The complete list of winner can be read here.

TV Picks: 30 August – 5 September 2010 ('I Am Slave', 'King Is Dead', 'Marple', 'The Middle', 'My Funniest Year', 'Waterloo Road', and more...)



BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY
Pointless (BBC1, 4.30pm) Return of the weekdaily gameshow where contestants have to score the lowest amount of points possible, by giving the least obvious answers to surveyed questions.
Come Dine With Me (Channel 4, 5pm) Return of the culinary entertainment/gameshow.
Coach Trip (Channel 4, 5.30pm) Return of the travel-based reality gameshow.
Edinburgh Military Tattoo 2010 (BBC1, 7pm) 60th Anniversary of the annual military tattoo in Edinburgh.
I Am Slave (Channel 4, 8.30pm) Drama about an African child stolen from her village and sold into slavery in Khartoum before being bought by a family in London. Stars Wunmi Mosaku, Lubna Azabal, Igal Naor & Amaar Sardharwalla.
Agatha Christie's Marple (ITV1, 9pm) Mystery drama with the iconic elderly sleuth. Stars Julia McKenzie, Nicholas Parsons, Lynda Baron, Elizabeth Rider, JJ Field, Jodie Hay, Neil Pearson, Nigel Planer, Sarah Alexander, Holly Willoughby & Holly Valance.
Storyville: YouTube Hero – The Winnebago Man (BBC4, 10pm) Documentary about a 1989 promotional video where a salesman's anger was captured on film and became an online sensation 20 years later.

TUESDAY 31st
Natureshock: Killer Squid Invasion (Channel 5, 8pm) Five-part documentary series, starting with the Humboldt squid of the Pacific Ocean.
Hello Glastonbury! (BBC4, 8pm) Documentary following three different bands as they prepare to play at Glastonbury.
Zimbabwe's Forgotten Children (BBC2, 9pm) Documentary about the deprived children of Africa.
The Hunt For Britain's Sex Traffickers (Channel 4, 9pm) Three-part series following Operation Pentameter 2, created to stop sex trafficking in the UK.
The People's Detective (ITV3, 9pm) Six-part series looking at some of the UK's most popular fictional detectives. Starting with Morse and Frost.

WEDNESDAY 1st
The Tony Blair Interview with Andrew Marr (BBC2, 7pm) The ex-PM sits down for an interview, ahead of his memoirs being published.
Waterloo Road (BBC1, 8pm) Return of the school drama. Starring Amanda Burton, Ian Puleston-Davies, William Ash, Linzey Cocker & Ceallach Spellman. Continues Thursday.
Churches: How To Read Them (BBC4, 8.40pm) Six-part series looking at the pagan symbolism and sexual imagery sometimes found inside picturesque British churches.
The Eiger: Wall Of Death (BBC4, 9pm) Documentary about the notorious Alpine challenge, which has claimed the lives of 60 climbers.
Burn Notice (FX, 10pm) Season 3 of the US drama.

THURSDAY 2nd
Motorway Cops (BBC1, 9pm) Series looking at accidents and problems on the roads of the UK.
The King Is Dead (BBC3, 10.30pm) Seven-part spoof comedy gameshow. Starring Simon Bird.
Secret Girlfriend (Fiver, 10.30pm) Comedy about a man's attempts to keep the identity of his girlfriend a secret from his unstable ex. Starring Derek Miller & Sara Fletcher.

FRIDAY 3rd
The Middle (Sky1, 8pm) US family sitcom. Starring Patricia Heaton, Neil Flynn, Eden Sher & Atticus Shaffer.

SATURDAY 4th
My Funniest Year: 2000 (Channel 4, 10pm) Rufus Hound presents a retrospective on the year 2000, with celebrity guests and clips.

SUNDAY 5th
U Be Dead (ITV1, 9pm) Drama about a woman imprisoned for stalking a London doctor. Stars David Morrissey, Alex Lowe, Tara Fitzgerald, Lucy Griffiths & Dearbhla Molloy.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

'PERSONS UNKNOWN' 1.12 & 1.13 – "And Then There Was One" & "Shadows In The Cave"


[SPOILERS] The penultimate part of Persons Unknown was mostly as dumb as the majority of episodes have been, but it was definitely helped by a last-minute twist that worked nicely. My expectations have sunk so low that I don't expect this show to surprise me, which means I'm much easier to fool, and that's in the show's favour.

But first, we had to suffer some poor moments: the arc about Ulrich (Alan Smyth) falling in love with Janet (Daisy Betts) went nowhere interesting, as he was forced to make plans to have the town's inhabitants "flushed" (i.e. pressured to kill each other, with the last one standing being allowed to survive), and instead decided to lead everyone to safety by disarming the perimeter "pain-wall". A noble act of treachery that resulted in him having his head blown off by his superiors -- in perhaps the single most confusing moment on television this year. I assume something shot him from the way it was directed, but the moment was edited (or censored?) so ham-fistedly that instead of shock, I felt bewilderment. And it was such an abrupt end to Ulrich that it made the build-up between Ulrich/Janet feel even more unnecessary than it is.

The rest of the episode became a weird psychological game, as every character was seemingly killed by their fellow captives. Charlie (Alan Ruck) suffered a fatal heart-attack after arguing with Erika (Kandyse McClure), but may have actually been given a lethal injection; Blackham (Sean O'Bryan) was beaten to death by a mystery man in a baseball cap; Moira (Tina Holmes) went crazy and caved Erika's head in with a piano and door, before pushing Graham (Chadwick Boseman) off a balcony and trying to strangle Janet, who instead managed to kill Moira with a fire extinguisher's hose round the neck; and Joe (Jason Wiles) poisoned his beloved Janet, to emerge as the sole survivor. Only, in a retrospectively obvious twist, all the deaths had been faked as part of a masterplan for Joe to sacrifice himself and get everyone out of town in body-bags.

Why does a town full of surveillance cameras fail to overhear people coming up with this elaborate escape plan? Why didn't someone check to make sure the captives were definitely dead? Oh, who knows. And at this stage, who really cares? The twist worked quite well; doing enough to salvage what was becoming a very stupid episode in many respects.


The finale of Persons Unknown was perhaps the best episode the show's managed since mid-season, but there was such an appalling lack of answers to any of the big questions that it made me furious. Audiences have been led to believe this show was a self-contained summer miniseries, never intended to last longer than its 13 episodes, so there's simply no excuse for ending it without explaining anything. That's just audience manipulation by the network. It also possibly shows how clueless the writers were throughout, because it feels like they had no overall reveal or answer to give us. I don't blame anyone for thinking they've wasted 13 hours of their lives on this show, because there's simply no way NBC will be bringing it back.

Following the van crash that closed episode 12, Joe has been removed from the town and inexplicably apparently given a second chance; Janet wakes up in a San Francisco hospital, where her story is made to look delusional by the Organization's Director (Joanna Lipari) posing as a nurse; Moira and Erika are on the run in Morocco; Charlie and Blackham are driving aimlessly in a stolen car; and Graham is being interrogated in the Organization's notorious "white room" with intravenous drugs. How did everyone get so separated? Who knows.

There was only one element of "Shadows In The Cave" that had any merit, and that was Janet's escape from hospital to return home and be with her daughter Megan, because that’s been a constant desire for her character from the start. I could actually feel some kind of emotional response to Janet finally getting to see her daughter (even if Megan didn't seem particularly excited or happy to see her). and the reveal that Janet's mother has been secretly working to unravel the Organization wasn't too implausible. It at least explained who was pulling Sam's strings, the mysterious man who helped Mark (Gerald Kyd) and Kat (Lola Glaudini) a few times earlier this season.

Speaking of whom, Mark and Kat have been a really pathetic double-act all season and this finale made them look even more useless. After 12-weeks of investigating the Organization all around the world, chasing leads, and intending to rescue Janet, they both had absolutely no effect on the outcome of the story. Their only small victory was in locating the HQ of the Organization, The Mansfield Institute, in Iowa. Shortly after, both were caught and detained by the villains. I guess it was intended to be a tragic end for them, but it just made me realize the only point to their characters was to bumble around in the outside world and let the writers shed light on a few areas of the Organization it would otherwise be impossible to. They just had no positive effect on anyone. A flashback to when Mark was married to Janet, upset over news of her pregnancy, surprised me because I barely remember the fact those two are supposed to have a history together.

For the most part, all the characters were pushed aside to do nothing in this finale, because the only half-decent story belonged to Janet. But, inevitably, everyone was eventually recaptured and sent back to suffer at the Organization's hand. It wasn't even shown how everyone was recaptured, we were just left to accept that fact when everyone woke up back inside nondescript hotel rooms -- with the twist being that Kat's stuck in an internment camp full of caged dissenters (with Ambassador Fairchild amongst them), Joe's new group includes Mark, and Janet's new group includes her fellow escapees, who have apparently progressed to "Level 2": a large ship called "Almas Perdidas" (Spanish for "Lost Souls"), sailing across a turbulent sea.

A fun ending in many ways, yet overwhelmed by the exasperating knowledge that there won't be a second series to give us the answers cruelly denied here. Or was this show sold to us wrong from the very start by the network and, in interviews, some of its actors? If I'd known the creators were vying for a second year, I would probably have quit Persons Unknown weeks ago, but the promise of concrete answers kept me going. So the fact absolutely none were given is utterly unforgivable in my eye. Why were these people chosen? What is the Program? How many "levels" are there? What do people achieve or win at the end? What do the Organization hope to gain from any of this? Why someone just kill Mark and Kat? I guess we'll never know.

Overall, Persons Unknown will go down as a summer flop that took a derivative idea and didn't know what to do with it. The character development was poorly handled (you barely knew anyone's back-story beyond generalities, until awkward monologues a few hours before the end), entire subplots went nowhere or in circles, there were plot-arc's that existed just to eat up time, and it just had a very improvised feel about it. But most inexcusable was the fact it became clear even creator Christopher McQuarrie didn't have any firm answers -- or if he does he decided to withhold them and let everyone believe this miniseries had a beginning, middle and end. It didn't, and because of the show's abysmal ratings, the end-game and answers will never be known.

Asides
  • As if to cap the silliness of this episode, why did they cast the excellent Robert Picardo and have him wear a woman's white wig?
  • Blackham knew Charlie's wife's name, hinting that he's a mole. Nothing could be made of that before the show ended, but the prospect of Blackham secretly working for the Organization all this time is crazy. They've already pulled that trick twice! Mind you, quite why Blackham didn't just claim he read it in those personal files everyone was given awhile back, is beyond me!
  • Just to speculate, would season 2 have divided its time between Joe's group going through the town-based rigmarole all over again, Kat trying to escape her prison camp with the Ambassador, and Janet's gang doing pretty much the same thing again while getting sea sick?
  • The finale's title is a reference to Plato's Allegory Of The Cave, although there was nothing about this episode that really plays into that. Sounds intellectual, though, right?
WRITERS: Linda McGibney (1.12) & Chrisopher McQuarrie (1.13)
DIRECTORS: Jonathan Frakes (1.12) & Michael Rymer (1.13)
GUEST CAST: Joanna Lipari, Alan Smyth & Andy Greenfield
TRANSMISSION: 28 August 2010 – NBC, 8/7c

Coming Soon: 'Whitechapel' series 2

There's no reason for crime thriller Whitechapel to get a sequel, beyond the fact it was ITV's best-performing drama of 2009 and one that received good reviews and strong ratings. Considering it was about a serial-killer copying the exploits of Jack The Ripper in the titular London district, there didn't seem to be much chance of a second run. This was a one-off drama special, right..?

Well, no. ITV weren't prepared to let Whitechapel's success go unexploited, so it's back soon with another three-part story, this time focused on copycat murders based on the infamous Kray Twins, who operated around Whitechapel in the '60s.

Rupert Penry-Jones and Phil Davis are back as mismatched detectives Chandler and Miles, again joined by Steve Pemberton's Edward Buchan -- a Ripperlogist who assumedly knows a little something about the Krays, too. New characters include DCI Cazenove (comedian Peter Serafinowicz) and Craig Parkinson as both Jimmy and Johnny Kray. The series is once again written by Ben Court and Caroline Ip, directed by David Evans (Unforgiven, Survivors).

'Doctor Who' split in two!

Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat and actress Karen Gillan have been speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. There wasn't much to report from their Q&A, except the surprising reveal that series 6 will be split in two...

Steven Moffat:

"What this show needs is a big event in the middle. We do 13 episodes, which is two series worth, so this year we're going to make it two series. It will come back for seven episodes at Easter, build to an Earth-shattering climax... honestly, a gamechanging event for Amy, The Doctor and Rory. The split series is hugely exciting because viewers will be treated to two premieres, two finales and more event episodes. For the kids it will never be more than a few months to the next Doctor Who! Easter, Autumn, Christmas!"
The BBC's statement:

"The split transmission is the result of a request from Steven Moffat to write a new Doctor Who story arc which involves a big plot twist in the middle of the series. By splitting the series Moffat plans to give viewers one of the most exciting Doctor Who cliffhangers and plot twists ever, leaving them waiting, on the edge of their seats, until the autumn to find out what happens."
How do you feel about this? Seven episodes starting in Easter, a mid-series cliffhanger, and then the remaining six episodes in Autumn? Will fans hate being faced with a summer hiatus halfway through? Maybe this will be a good thing, in that the production won't have to be as rushed if they know they have a break in the middle? And we'll likely adjust to having Doctor Who spread more evenly throughout the year, right?

'Misfits' third series greenlit

Speaking to SFX Magazine, Howard Overman has confirmed that his teen superhero drama Misfits has already been given a third series, before the second has even aired! Apparently, this year's Christmas special will provide a transitional link to series 3, which promises to be very different...

Howard Overman:

"[The show] will have to change for a third series because they will have finished their community service. It's a difficult one, because they commissioned it as a Christmas special and they said they wanted it stand-alone, but in reality the transmission date will be a week after the end of the second series. So to the audience, no mater how it's marketed, they will be thinking it's just an episode seven.

"So it does feel different to the other episodes but you can't ignore that everyone will have been watching the week before. I suppose what it does, is it provides a link between the second series and the third series, where it sort of gives a hint of the direction we might head in for a third season, with their personal situations, while not ignoring what's happened in series two." Continue reading...

ITV: Autumn/Winter 2010-11

ITV are next to reveal their list of autumn/winter programming for ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4. Here's what caught my eye: two-part crime drama DCI Banks: Aftermath (starring Stephen Tompkinson), true-life drama U Be Dead (starring David Morrissey), series 2 of Whitechapel (now focusing on copycats of The Krays), series 3 of Law & Order UK, Midsomer Murders, Poirot, detective series Vera (starring Brenda Blethyn), medical drama Monroe (starring James Nesbitt), supernatural drama The Oaks, series 4 of Primeval, chat/entertainment show Paul O'Grady Live!, endurance gameshow 71 Degrees North, I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!, comedy-drama Benidorm, Harry Hill's TV Burp, physical gameshow The Cube, comedy panel show Celebrity Juice, and breakfast show Daybreak (with Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley).

The full press release with further details can be read below:

This autumn, ITV1 launches a season of high quality drama, written by and starring, some of the UK’s biggest talents. Led by Downton Abbey, from Oscar-winning writer, Julian Fellowes, a spectacular autumn season of new drama series and one-off films includes Bouquet of Barbed Wire, DCI Banks, The Little House, and the return of Whitechapel

As ITV continues to overhaul and refresh its schedule, the autumn also marks the launch of the channel’s new breakfast programme, Daybreak, presented by new signings Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley.

The biggest entertainment show on television returned to ITV1 in August with a record breaking 12.6 million viewers tuning in for the first audition show from The X Factor 2010; which joins new shows such as Paul O’Grady Live and 71 Degrees North and returning entertainment hits including I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, The Cube and Harry Hill’s TV Burp.

In Factual, Monte Carlo and Bust sits alongside a journey of a very different kind in David Suchet on the Orient Express. There is a stunning insight into the natural world in Ray Mears Field Guide to Britain; and ITV gains unique access to The Savoy. In sport, Adrian Chiles presents live coverage of England’s qualification campaign for Euro 2012 as well as live UEFA Champions League and The FA Cup.

ITV Director of Television, Peter Fincham said: “ITV1 has always been home to high quality drama, but as we work to refresh and update the mix of commissions in this incredibly important genre, I’m particularly delighted to be working with writers of the calibre of Julian Fellowes, Guy Andrews, Ben Court and Caroline Ip on such an exciting season of new series and event dramas.

"Downton Abbey and A Bouquet of Barbed Wire are just two particular highlights of a terrific autumn season, alongside some of the nation’s biggest entertainment shows, stunning factual series and, at the other end of the schedule, the exciting launch of our new breakfast programme, Daybreak – with Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley."

Drama

Downton Abbey, set in an Edwardian country house, portrays the lives of the Crawley family, who have been the earls of Grantham since 1772, and the servants who work for them.. Written and created by Oscar-winning writer, Julian Fellowes, the costume drama boasts an all-star cast including Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern.

Bouquet of Barbed Wire is a modern reworking of Andrea Newman’s taboo-busting 1970s psychological drama which explores the consequences of a father’s obsessive love for his daughter and how secrets once buried in the past return to haunt their lives. Written by Guy Andrews, the drama stars Trevor Eve, Hermione Norris, Tom Riley, Imogen Poots and Mark Lewis Jones.

DCI Banks: Aftermath stars Stephen Tompkinson as Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, in a two part drama, adapted from the novel by award winning international crime writer, Peter Robinson, which tells the story of an ordinary house in an ordinary street which is about to become infamous.

The Little House is a compelling two-part thriller exploring the psychological power struggles within one family and the lengths an obsessive mother will go to to keep control of her son. Adapted for television by Ed Whitmore, the drama stars BAFTA-winning actress Francesca Annis, alongside Tim Pigott-Smith, Rupert Evans and Lucy Griffiths.

Whitechapel, which debuted to audiences of over nine million in 2009, returns – starring Rupert Penry-Jones, Phil Davis, and Steve Pemberton – this time focusing on a killer who is copying the crimes of the infamous Kray twins..

Joe Maddison’s War is the last television film by the late, award winning, playwright and screenwriter, Alan Plater. Starring Kevin Whately, Robson Green and Derek Jacobi – the drama follows Newcastle shipyard worker, Joe (Whately) as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery following his decision to join the Home Guard in 1939.

Sir David Jason stars in two new films for ITV1: Come Rain Come Shine – as Eastend ex-docker, Don, in an emotional and contemporary family drama by Jeff Pope; and Albert’s Memorial, a one off drama following the story of three World War II veterans who set off on a trip that will change their lives forever. And, in U Be Dead, David Morrissey and Tara Fitzgerald star in a one-off drama based on the extraordinary true story of a dangerous stalker.

There is also the return of Law & Order: UK for a third series, Midsomer Murders, and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Emmerdale continues with a series of gripping storylines over the autumn season; and as the year draws to a close, the nation’s favourite soap, Coronation Street celebrates its 50th anniversary in dramatic style, forever changing life in Weatherfield.

Entertainment

The Autumn has already kicked off with the return of the multi-award winning talent show, The X Factor, which returned to ITV1 with its biggest ever audience 12.6 million and a series of guest judges including Geri Halliwell, Katy Perry, Natalie Imbruglia, Nicole Scherzinger and Pixie Lott – alongside regular judges Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Cheryl Cole.

In September, Paul O’Grady returns to ITV1 with a lavish new entertainment show kicking off the weekends.

Ten celebrities embark on the journey of a lifetime, to the icy glaciers and snow of Scandinavia, in 71 Degrees North. Hosted by Kate Thornton and Gethin Jones, each episode of the eight-part adventure show sees the adventuring celebrities undertake specific challenges from mountain trekking through to underwater ice-swimming and reindeer herding – as they battle it out to reach the North Cape.

After a successful debut last autumn, The Cube returns to ITV1 for a second series hosted by Phillip Schofield. This time there will be new games to test the nerve of the contestants, which will include two celebrity specials during the series.

Following on from the most successful series of the show in five years, Ant and Dec return with the tenth series of I’m A Celebrity….Get Me Out Of Here! with a new selection of celebrities giving up their luxury lifestyles for a stay of up to three weeks in the Australian jungle, and some terrifying bushtucker trials.

In comedy, the multi BAFTA award-winning Harry Hill’s TV Burp returns, and a special one-off Benidorm sees the nation’s favourite holidaymakers make the trip back to Spain at Christmas, ahead of a new series in 2011.

And, one of the world’s biggest music stars makes an appearance on ITV1, in Phil Collins: One Night Only, with the singer and songwriter performing hits new and old in front of a live audience and accompanied by an extraordinary ensemble of musicians and vocalists.

Daytime

In the latest stage of the transformation of the ITV1 schedule, Breakfast time on the channel gets a completely new look from September, as Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley present Daybreak. Live from brand-news, state-of-the-art studios in London, Adrian and Christine will be joined by an unrivalled team of special correspondents and editors tasked with setting the day’s agenda – delivering reputation building news, engaging entertainment content, major interviews, as well as eye-catching consumer items, health, sport, human interest and lifestyle features.

Following on from Daybreak each day, Lorraine also has a new studio and a new look from September, as Lorraine Kelly continues to interview a range of guests from high profile celebrities to ordinary people with extraordinary stories.

Holly and Phil return from their summer break as This Morning continues to entertain millions across the mid-morning followed by a hugely popular daytime line up that includes Loose Women and The Jeremy Kyle Show.

Factual

Three couples hit the road on a jaunt from London to Monte Carlo in a new travel adventure series, Monte Carlo or Bust. Jack Dee and Ade Edmondson drive a VW Camper; Jodie Kidd and Julian Clary travel in a Bentley convertible; and Penny Smith and Rory McGrath get behind the wheel of a Mini Cooper – taking in the beautiful French countryside as they compete to collect items that best represent the nation.

There’s a journey of a very different kind in David Suchet on the Orient Express, as David Suchet unravels the mystery of the world’s most iconic train and immerses himself in the glamour, romance, history and escapism of a train immortalised in the Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express.

In Ray Mears’ Wild Britain, the wildlife expert uncovers some of the finest wildlife and habitats from around the country – with each episode having a different theme.

There is a rare and fascinating look behind the scenes in one of the nation’s most iconic institutions in The Savoy – following the £200 million overhaul of one of the world’s most famous hotels and its journey towards reopening.

And ITV1 viewers are treated to wildlife of three very different kinds in three new series for the channel. In Horsepower with Martin Clunes, the actor and presenter travels the world to unlock the secrets of man’s partnership with horses. The world’s oldest zoo opens its doors to television in London Zoo. And, filmed in Namibia, Cheetah Kingdom focuses on the rescue, conservation and release of one of the world’s fastest mammals at the Okonjima Game Reserve.

Also returning to ITV1 this autumn: Stephen Tomkinson’s Balloon Adventure, Real Crime with Mark Austin, Lion Country, and the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards.

Sport

The pinnacle of club football returns in September with the start of the UEFA Champions League. ITV1 will have the pick of the action on Wednesday night matchdays, with Chelsea and Manchester United amongst the teams in contention.

After the disappointment of the 2010 World Cup, England start their qualification campaign for the Euro 2012 finals, with their first match against Bulgaria live on ITV1 on September 3rd.

The world’s oldest football competition, The FA Cup, also kicks off in the autumn with the pick of the matches from round one onwards shown live on ITV1 as well as comprehensive highlights from every round.

Adrian Chiles presents ITV1’s live football coverage alongside a range of special guest analysts and expert commentary from Clive Tyldesley and Peter Drury.

ITV2

ITV2 welcomes a new genre of programming to the channel this autumn with the start of The Only Way Is Essex. An eclectic mix of soap opera, observational documentary, and reality show, the brand new 10-part living soap follows a cast of colourful characters as they go about their ‘totally Essex’ lives.

The channel goes behind the scenes with one of the biggest pop phenomenons of the last year, in Jedward: Let Loose. Following their huge success on The X Factor, the series follows the Irish twins as they set up home away from their parents for the very first time.

In The Saturdays: 24/7, ITV2 has exclusive access to one of the hottest UK bands in a new four part series following the five-piece girl group. And, in two special hour-long programmes, Denise and Fearne’s Charity Trek for Breast Cancer, sees Denise Van Outen and Fearne Cotton lead a host of female celebrities, including Holly Willoughby and Alexandra Burke, on a gruelling seven-day trek along the Inca Trail to raise money for Breast Cancer Care.

Katy Brand also returns with a brand new series, Katy Brand Versus… in which the award winning comedian meets and parodies a music star in each episode, featuring among others, Shakira and Mr Hudson. There is also the return of Fearne And... in which Fearne Cotton has exclusive access to the lives of Mischa Barton, Perez Hilton, Craig David and Beth Ditto.

One of ITV2's iconic programmes, the anarchic panel show Celebrity Juice returns to the channel bigger and better than ever; once again presented by Keith Lemon alongside Holly and Fearne. Hit US dramas, Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl are back for new series, broadcast alongside their US premiere dates. There is the return of the hugely successful Peter Andre: The Next Chapter.

ITV2 also welcomes the hugely popular brand extension shows, The Xtra Factor, with new host Konnie Huq, and I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here Now!

ITV3

Alongside a host of classic and contemporary drama, the acclaimed ITV3 original comedy drama series Ladies of Letters, starring Maureen Lipman and Anne Reid, returns to ITV3.

Now in its third year, the Specsavers Crime Thriller Awards return to ITV3 in October, celebrating the very best of the most popular genre of fiction.

ITV4

ITV4 launches three brand new shows this autumn. A new entertainment series, Richard Bacon’s Beer and Pizza Club, will see the presenter invites guests from the world of showbusiness and comedy into his living room for beer, pizza and chat about the kind of subjects that men only discuss in private.

Mark Watson Kick's Off is a new sports panel show brought to ITV4 by the makers of Radio Five Live's successful Fighting Talk; and in Sports Mash - Taking the Mic, archive sport footage is given a comic twist by being re-voiced by Alistair McGowan and David Lamb.

Top quality sport on ITV4 in the autumn includes UEFA Europa League football, Grand Slam of Darts, and brand new snooker tournament, Power Snooker.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

BBC4/HD: 'Mad Men' returns

In case you haven't heard, BBC Four have the UK premiere of Mad Men's fourth season on 8 September @10pm. BBC HD will simulcast the series, as usual.

By that point, we will be 7 episodes behind the US broadcast on AMC.

'PERSONS UNKNOWN' 1.11 - "Seven Sacrifices"


[SPOILERS] Just to clarify, NBC released "Seven Sacrifices" as an online exclusive ahead of tonight's two-part finale, so there's a possibility you missed this episode, or will have difficulty seeing it (particularly if you're outside the US). There are ways and means online, which I only encourage you to pursue because of NBC's shoddy, if understandable, treatment here.

A three-season marathon of 24
"Seven Sacrifices" continued the notion that Ulrich (Alan Smyth) has fallen in love with Janet (Daisy Betts), who's using her feminine wiles to make him believe her feelings are mutual. It's essentially the same tactic briefly used by Tori earlier this season, which failed against the original Night Watchman, so isn't it disappointing that the female characters lean on their sexuality as a means to escape? I was once glad that Moira (Tina Holmes) was using her brains and compiling a "clue wall" in her room, but it hasn't resulted in any breakthroughs from her.

I do find Smyth a more compelling actor than his predecessor, no matter how late his arrival on the show has been, but his accelerated feelings for Janet still doesn't feel credible -- given how professional he was with the Director (Joanna Lipari) before this mission. It's day two since his arrival and he's showing Janet the "inner sanctum" of monitors that are snooping on everyone? What kind of Program is this, when the subjects just have to flutter their eyelashes to get a peek behind the curtain? The Program itself remains ill-defined, but there's a constant suggestion that people now working for the Organization were themselves kidnapped and put through the same torment, and believe it helped them get over various problems in their lives.

Interestingly, it was confirmed that last week's subplot with Kat (X) and Mark (Gerald Kyd) in the town wasn't the town our characters are trapped inside, but an identical one somewhere else. That makes sense of some of last week's problems (like how Kat and Mark went undetected -- as I assume the cameras weren't on), but just goes to show how badly the writers explained the situation last time. This week, Kat and Mark flew back to San Francisco with a tin full of the severed thumbs they stole from dead bodies inside the Other Town, only for Mark to be arrested and Kat to realize that her life's been torn apart in her absence -- leaving her with no job and no home. It's still laughable how little I care about either character; they're just blunt instruments bumbling around on the sidelines, poised to expose the mystery in some way. I don't have faith it will be done in a satisfying way, as so much of their storyline feels at the mercy of whatever the writer needs to happen.

Why are barbers good at shaving, anyway?
Charlie (Alan Ruck) and Blackham (Sean O'Bryan) are becoming closer (another recent turnaround that doesn't feel likely to me), and their story this week involved Blackham beginning to accept the control over their lives -- seemingly because Ulrich gives good wet shaves in the hitherto unused barbershop -- although Charlie's acting as the voice of reason and unwilling to forgive and forget what's been done to them.

A problem with Persons Unknown right now is the thrust of the story being about captured strangers fighting to escape a ghost town full of surveillance cameras has been lost. I can barely remember them interacting with each other in a compelling way, having broken off into duos (Janet/Joe, Moira/Graham, Blackham/Charlie). With the possible exception of Janet, nobody even seems to have a plan right now -- despite the fact Joe must surely have some idea how to escape, or at least cause their captors some problems. And the more we learn about the Organization the less I find myself caring. They're a dull outfit comprised entirely of clichés, and their goal is kept annoyingly vague to maintain a mystery I don't think will be anything very surprising.

WRITER: Michael R. Perry
DIRECTOR: Tim Matheson
GUEST CAST: Joanna Lipari, Alan Smyth, Carlos Lacamara & Andy Greenfield
RELEASE: 27 August 2010 - NBC.com (online), 8/7c

BBC3 get 'Touch'

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, BBC Three's Controller Danny Cohen announced supernatural thiller Touch, from writer Jack Thorne (Skins, Cast Offs), for next year. The series revolves around a geek called Paul, who has the ability to see the dead and realizes they intend to destroy the living, unless he can stop them.

Ben Stephenson, BBC Drama Commissioner:

"Touch started life as one of our drama pilots but quickly showed such imagination and energy that we asked the hugely talented Jack Thorne to write five more episodes and Touch the series was born."
The six-part hour-long series will begin filming next year, with producer Caroline Skinner and exec-producer Sue Hogg involved. The show has not been cast yet.

Interestingly, Cohen also confirmed that none of this year's drama pilots that aired (Pulse, Dappers and Stanley Park) will be taken to series.

'Luther' returns in 2011

BBC1 Controller Jay Hunt confirmed at the Edinburgh International Television Festival that cop show Luther will return in 2011 with two two-hour specials. I assume the reduction in episodes from six to four hours (telling just two stories) is because Idris Elba's a busy actor with a tight schedule to work around. I know the series didn't connect with everyone, but I personally found it enjoyably daft and surprisingly gripping towards the end, so I'm glad we'll be seeing more.

Sherlock's three-part return

Jay Hunt, Controller of BBC1, has spoken at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, where she confirmed the return of Sherlock for another run of three 90-minute episodes in 2011.

"When you bring a title back, you run the risk of being accused of being bereft of ideas. This embodies the development process at its very best -- we piloted it, saw it, thought it wasn't quite right -- the storytelling's not right, the duration's not right and we need to look at the casting -- so we changed it. It's bold, ambitious and strikes a fundamentally different note on Sunday night. Steven wanted to write them as 90 minute episodes, but that's the same next year. It's coming back as three 90-minute episodes."
This despite widespread feeling that shorter episodes and a longer run would be more appealing to viewers. From Hunt's quote, I assume the original unaired pilot was a more traditional hour but didn't work. If so, that's fine. I just hope the scripts don't feel as saggy in the middle next time. But it's a pity there won't be more than three episodes. I guess audiences will have to adjusting their expectations, and start treating Sherlock like ITV's occasional Poirot adventures.

Creators Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss:

"We've been overwhelmed by the warmth of response to our new Sherlock Holmes and John Watson and can't wait to take them on three new adventures next year. There'll be baffling new puzzles, old friends and new enemies -– whether on two, or four legs. And we might well be seeing the cold master of logic and reason unexpectedly falling. But in love? Or over a precipice? Who can tell?"

TRAILER: 'Merlin', series 3


Here's a terrible teaser trailer for Merlin's third series. Exactly the kind of thing that drains whatever excitement you've allowed to build over the summer. I'm sure the quality of this teaser isn't indicative of the series itself (there will probably be a better, longer trailer released soon), but I seriously have to question the BBC's marketing people when crud like this gets released to promote a major Saturday night hit. And isn't it about time they ditched the breathy "Merrlin" voice-over? If you haven't heard, Merlin returns to BBC1 on 11 September.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Howard Overman on 'Dirk Gently'

Howard Overman (Merlin, Misfits, Vexed) is writing an hour-long TV pilot based on Dirk Gently, hero of Douglas Adams's novel Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Overman has spoken to SFX Magazine about this project, and how he's decided to tackle the book.

"I'm aware that it's a bit of a poison chalice. What I did was take the character, Dirk Gently, and his detection method, and write a new story. It has elements from the book, obviously, in it, but it's kind of a different story. Because if you've ever read the book, the story in there isn't really adaptable for TV. Especially not on the budget we've been made to do it on, because it involves an alien planet and all sorts of weird and wacky ideas." Continue reading...
What do you think? Personally, I can't help feeling anxious because Overman's most recent series, BBC2's Vexed, has been a crushing disappointment and makes me suspect he's not naturally adept at writing mysteries. So hearing that Dirk Gently won't follow the plot of any of the novels, but instead pay homage to certain elements while carving out its own unique path, has me slightly worried. I understand why Overman's decided to do this (not least for budgetary reasons), but is he the man for the job?

We'll find out when Dirk Gently airs on BBC4 later this year.

'Three Inches' of detail

Syfy have released some information about their upcoming superhero drama Three Inches, starring Noah Reid, James Marsters, Naoko Mori & Kyle Schmid.

In Three Inches, professional daydreamer and underachiever, Walter Spackman (Noah Reid) is struck by lightning, and develops a unique "super" power -- the ability to move any object using just his mind.. but only a distance of three inches.

He's soon recruited by a covert team of superheroes each gifted with their own extraordinarily ordinary abilities. Together, the unlikely band of heroes proves that "super" is simply a state of mind.

James Marsters will star as Troy Hamilton, a former government agent who takes Walter in to his own team of "super" heroes who fight evil wherever they find it. He is a father figure to Walter.

Naoko Mori plays Annika, a woman who can duplicate and broadcast any sound she hears.

Kyle Schmid will play Brandon, the "super" hero team leader with all the cockiness and strength of a true action hero, minus the superpowers. He is the opposite of Walter and sees most of the team as freaks.

Talking Point: do you skip adverts?


It's been reported via a YouGov survey that 90% of people who own a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) skip the adverts they've recorded. The following suggestions were made to reverse this trend by those surveyed: shorter commercial breaks (48%), better advertising campaigns (32%) and shorter adverts (17%). Does this reflect your own opinion?

Do you even watch TV adverts? If you own a DVR, do you record programmes specifically to skip the ads later? If you don't own a DVR, do you leave the room when the adverts are on, or surf other channels for awhile? UK-specific, do you frequent the BBC channels more often because there are no adverts?

And if it's increasingly difficult to get viewers to watch adverts, should we be worried? Adverts pay for TV shows on commercial networks, so if advertisers know less people are watching their ads, what can they do to combat this? Will they start paying less for advert slots, thus reducing the income of networks, meaning there's less money around to spend on creating TV shows?

Will DVR manufacturers be pressured to disable the ability to fast-forward through adverts? It always struck me as bizarre how DVRs allow you to do that! Could broadcasters help by reducing the number of ad breaks, encouraging DVR-owning viewers to watch in real-time more often?

Also, isn't it a shame adverts are now so easily avoidable? Remember the days when it was believed adverts were better than the programmes they interrupted? Okay, I'd rather have better programmes than adverts, so I'm not too upset about that turnaround...

One final thought: people watch different things on TV, but a memorable/amusing advert can be seen by nearly everyone and is therefore better placed to make a pop-culture impact than TV is. That still happens today (remember Cadbury's drumming gorilla -- above?) but are iconic adverts doomed to being lost amidst a fast-forwarded streak on DVRs?

Competition Winner: 'Cemetery Junction' DVD/Blu-ray


Last weekend I offered a copy of Cemetery Junction on DVD/Blu-ray to a random person who could correctly answer the following question: "In which town, county and year is Cemetery Junction set?" The answer is Reading, Berkshire, 1973. Of all the correct answers received, the random winner (chosen using Random.org) is below:

Ian Deveney, East Sussex

As requested, a Blu-ray of Cemetery Junction (courtesy of Sony Pictures UK) will be winging its way to Ian's house by the weekend. Congratulations and enjoy the film! And thanks to everyone who took the time to enter this competition. Hopefully there will be more to follow.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Channel 4: autumn/winter 2010

Channel 4 are the latest broadcaster to announce their autumn/winter line-up, with quite a few shows catching my eye: Peep Show returns for a seventh series; The Inbetweeners are back for a third series; Misfits is back for seconds (mid-October I've heard); controversial Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle has a stand-up/sketch-show hybrid called Tramadol Nights; sitcoms The Increasingly Poor Decisions Of Todd Margaret, Campus and Phone Shop (all from last year's Comedy Showcase season); a social history of the '80s in Alan Davies' Teenage Revolution; Gordon Ramsay has a new food show called Best Restaurant; Jamie Oliver tries to reinvent fast food with Thirty Minute Meals; drama This Is England '86 from Shane Meadows; period drama Any Human Heart (starring Jim Broadbent, Kim Cattrall, Matthew Macfadyen and Gillian Anderson); four-part drama The Promise (starring Claire Foy and Christian Cooke); comedian Morgana Robinson gets her TV debut with The Morgana Show; while US dramas The Event and The Pillars Of The Earth are the channel's big foreign imports this year.

Julian Bellamy, Acting Chief Creative Officer of Channel 4:

"This is an exciting time for Channel 4 as we enter a period of creativity and innovation with more freedom to try new things. We're putting brand new comedy talent... in the heart of the schedule, we've backed major dramas including Shane Meadows's stunning TV debut and the sumptuous Any Human Heart, and we've got the hottest show from America this season, The Event."
The full press release can be read below:

As time is very nearly called on the Big Brother House, Channel 4 looks to the future with a rich and varied autumn line up featuring major drama serials from Shane Meadows and William Boyd, brand new comedy talent Morgana Robinson in primetime and a range of ambitious new factual shows.

Julian Bellamy, Acting Chief Creative Officer, Channel 4, said:

"This is an exciting time for Channel 4 as we enter a period of creativity and innovation with more freedom to try new things. We're putting brand new comedy talent Morgana in the heart of the schedule, we've backed major dramas including Shane Meadows' stunning TV debut and the sumptuous Any Human Heart, and we've got the hottest show from America this season, The Event.

Add to this big, ambitious factual shows reflecting modern Britain in a way that has not been done before, Seven Days in Notting Hill, Coppers and Wedding House, Peter Tatchell on the Pope and key talent Katie Piper launching her first full series on the channel".

Channel 4's longstanding commitment to discovering new comic talent continues with the TV debut of Morgana Robinson in The Morgana Show. Stepping straight into a peak time slot on Channel 4, Morgana combines her own characters with wonderfully realised impressions of the likes of Fearne Cotton, Cheryl Cole and Boris Johnson.

The channel also welcomes one of the Britain's most viscerally talented comedians. Frankie Boyle's Tramadol Nights is a brand new six-part series combining Frankie's no-holds-barred stand up with pre-filmed sketches in which he picks apart all aspects of modern life.

Seven Days in Notting Hill is a new kind of documentary series in which viewers will be able to follow the lives of a variety of compelling characters as they actually happen. This is a docu-soap where viewers see events that have only just taken place. Through the accompanying website, viewers will be able to provide advice to the characters and may even influence some of their choices.

Another series capturing a slice of British life is Wedding House in which a team of experts take over a country manor house to play host to wedding ceremonies for 50 couples - with every moment captured on camera. There's one condition - once the bride and groom have had a chat about what their dream wedding would entail, they won't get to see a single thing until they arrive at the venue on their wedding day.

Following the phenomenal success and critical acclaim of This Is England, Shane Meadows (Somers Town, Dead Man's Shoes) revisits the lives of Shaun, Woody, Lol and the rest of the gang with a blistering four-part series. This Is England '86 is a story about growing up, and growing sideways, set against the backdrop of the Mexico World Cup at a time when Chris de Burgh is number one, Top Gun is filling the cinemas and over 3.4 million Brits are unemployed.

Jim Broadbent, Matthew Macfadyen and Sam Claflin all take on the lead role of Logan Mountstuart in William Boyd's adaptation of his best-selling novel, Any Human Heart. An all-star cast brings together Hayley Atwell, Natasha Little, Emerald Fennell, Ed Stoppard, Samuel West and Kim Cattrall alongside Gillian Anderson and Tom Hollander as the lovers, wives, friends and infamous figures that Mountstuart encounters throughout his ordinary and yet utterly extraordinary life.

Following last year's moving Cutting Edge film, Katie Piper returns in Katie: My Beautiful Friends, a new four-part documentary series, in which Katie uses her personal experience to help rebuild the lives and confidence of people like her who are fighting for normality while living with a disfigurement.

To mark the Papal visit in September, Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell presents an hour-long examination of Pope Benedict XVI. Featuring interviews with critics and supporters alike, the programme explores the Pope's personal, religious and political journey since the 1930s, as well as the motives and effects of his controversial policies. The Pope (w/t) provides a serious assessment of the impact of Benedict XVI after five years in office and examines the conflict between some of his values and those held in modern Britain.

The Event is an emotional, high-octane conspiracy thriller making its UK premiere on Channel 4 just weeks after its Stateside debut. Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) is an everyman who, while investigating the mysterious disappearance of his fiancée Leila (Sarah Roemer), unwittingly begins to expose the biggest cover-up in U.S. history.

With unprecedented access to four police forces, Coppers (w/t) shows the police as never seen them before, revealing what it's really like to be on the front line in 21st century Britain. Coppers gives ordinary police officers the chance to say what they really think of the people they have to deal with on our behalf, while mini-cameras in cars and mounted on helmets allow viewers to get up close and personal with the police and the people they come up against.

Packed with archive footage and home videos, Alan Davies' Teenage Revolution provides a unique social history of the 80s through the prism of Alan's own teenage experiences. It is a personal journey exploring two inter-linked stories spanning the decade: Davies' own experiences growing up in suburban Britain, and the seismic social, cultural and political changes that made the country what it is today.

Firing the starting gun on Channel 4's commitment to the Paralympic Games and broadcasting two years to the day before the London 2012 Paralympic Games begin, Inside Incredible Athletes profiles some of the elite British athletes - from both a personal and a scientific perspective. Examining their demanding training regimes and the particular skills required for high performance at each sport, this 90-minute programme features stunning sporting performance sequences, filmed against a backdrop of iconic locations around London - directed by Mike Christie (Jump London).

A brand new magazine show, Food, tells viewers everything they need to know about the food they buy and where it comes from. Presenters Jay Rayner, Anna Richardson and roving reporter Ravinder Bhogal examine the truth behind British food production to challenge and inform consumers and the UK's food suppliers, and encourage new ways of supplying and shopping for food.

Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver return, each with brand new series. Ramsay's Best Restaurant seeks out the finest British restaurants up and down the country. From John O'Groats to Land's End, diners have nominated thousands of restaurants as their favourite local eatery. Chef Ramsay sets out to put their culinary skills to the test before finally crowning the best of the best. And if the budget won't stretch to eating out, tune into Jamie's Thirty Minute Meals. The chef's new 40-part tea-time series promises to teach anyone how to cook a complete meal in just 30 minutes, by sharing his tricks of the trade for smart ideas to preparing amazing food super-quick. In each fast-paced programme Jamie cooks a whole meal from scratch, without a ‘here's one I prepared earlier' in sight.

Robert Webb makes his solo debut on Channel 4 with a new comedy show offering an alternative take on the week's online news. Robert's Web scours the internet for the funniest tweets, the most talked-about uploads, the weirdest new Facebook groups and the best celebrity websites.

And Robert returns, alongside David Mitchell, in Peep Show as the critically acclaimed sitcom enters a record-breaking seventh series on Channel 4 - becoming the longest running comedy in the channel's 28-year history.

BAFTA-winning comedy The Inbetweeners also returns for another series packed with more excruciating teenage mishaps and embarrassing attempts to pull, while Comedy Showcase success story PhoneShop gets a full series as part of E4's autumn line-up.

Another Comedy Showcase alumni gets a full series on More4. In The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret the eponymous American Margaret (David Cross) bluffs his way into an apparently great job opportunity, heading up the sales team in his employer's London office. The only problem is he knows nothing about British culture… or indeed anything about sales. And to add to his problems he spectacularly fails to impress Alice (Sharon Horgan), the first beautiful girl he meets.

And Hollyoaks continues this autumn with a wave of explosive storylines across the main show and Hollyoaks Later, while everybody's favourite ASBO teens return for a new series of the BAFTA-winning drama Misfits on E4.

Preview: 'NO ORDINARY FAMILY' 1.1 - "Pilot"


[SPOILERS] Bland and lacking in creativity or originality, ABC's new superhero series No Ordinary Family is a live-action copy of The Incredibles -- minus its animated kin's innovations, robust mythology, sense of scope, and interesting archetypes.

The Powells are an imperfect American family with the clichéd divisions that unfailingly implies on US TV: workaholic mom Stephanie (Julie Benz) is a businesswoman who never finds time to spend with her family; Jim (Michael Chiklis) is a police sketch artist whose desk job means he's never involved in frontline action; daughter Daphne (Kay Panabaker) is a hormonal girl with a crush on the school hunk; and JJ (Jimmy Bennett) is a surly teenage boy with possible learning difficulties.

Following a ridiculously premature plane crash in the Amazon during an impromptu family trip (seriously, within the opening six minutes the Powells have flown to South America on a whim, survived a disaster that kills Tate Donovan's pilot, and apparently shaken off the trauma during the journey back home), the Powells discover they've each gained a superpower from the effervescent river: Stephanie can move at lightning speed, enabling her to find time to spend with her family; Jim realizes his skin's (nearly) impervious, he's incredibly strong, and can leap tall buildings with a single bound; Daphne begins to hear people's thoughts; and JJ eventually discovers he's a genius during a maths exam.

This pilot is a textbook example of humdrum storytelling, particularly for anyone with the slightest acquaintance with the superhero genre. To its credit, No Ordinary Family deals with its "origin story" at a lively pace that never allows boredom to totally set in, with enough FX-fuelled moments to sustain interest (Jim catching baseballs slung by an automated pitching machine, or Stephanie tearing around a running track to calculate her speed), but the concept is utterly conventional and never offers any surprises. The tone aims at a young age group, thus lacking the grisly delights of Heroes, which almost certainly means No Ordinary Family won't gain street cred from the over-15s. It's the superhero show young kids and parents will be watching together, thanks to a bright and breezy temperament with a family-centric concept they can relate to.

For older audiences versed in comic-book lore, with broader tastes, No Ordinary Family has a multitude of problems. The actors weren't given time to shape their characters and cement their fraught family dynamic before they get "touched by God"; asking audiences to accept Chiklis as a sketch artist is a big stretch (particularly as he's associated with one of TV's toughest cops thanks to The Shield), and both of the teenager's personalities are so hackneyed it's a slight insult. It helps that yummy Benz, affable Chiklis, and endearing Panabaker, are likable screen presences, but you'll be watching more for residual affection towards them than any interest in the characters they play here.

This being a US family drama airing on a network, its edges are soft and the Powells are only dysfunctional in acceptable ways we've seen enacted millions of times before (the sensitive daughter upset over her non-existent love life, the underachieving son who feels ignored by his parents, etc), and the choice of powers are either overexposed or just plain boring. I think I've been shown the pro's and con's of mind-reading so often I can already predict Daphne's entire arc this season. And why give someone a super-power as internalized and dull as super-intelligence, when you could have visual fun with elasticity, flight, or teleportation?

It's mildly refreshing to have a superhero drama where the afflicted aren't all afraid or resentful of their gifts, which is often the direction the superhero genre takes. Instead, Jim and Stephanie were particularly keen to use their abilities and let close friends in on the secret. Jim confides in his buddy George (Romany Malco), who excitedly builds him "a lair" with WiFi, while Stephanie's friend Katie (Autumn Reeser) immediately proposes entering the Olympics.

But while there are admittedly positives to No Ordinary Family's upbeat styling, the writing didn't fill me with hope. The opening moments were awfully rushed with a disappointing plane crash (Misfits achieved more excitement with some cheap, giant hailstones!), the dialogue wasn't great, there were many confusing moments (Stephanie told Jim she has super-speed after a scene where she'd already demonstrated that fact), and it generally buzzed along doing a functional but uninspired job. And the show's little nods to other superheroes (Iron Man, Superman, X-Men, even a line taken from Jumper!) were cute, but only reminded me how dull the Powells are in comparison to their contemporaries.

Overall, lightweight and trivial, No Ordinary Family has a decent ensemble cast and a fun idea, but the pilot offers no evidence that it's poised to stretch and develop the genre into an interesting new shape. Young children and parents will probably find enough to keep themselves entertained, but if No Ordinary Family continues with this tenor I can't see the older crowd sticking with it for long.

WRITERS: Greg Berlanti & Jon Harmon Feldman
DIRECTOR: David Semel
CAST: Michael Chiklis, Julie Benz, Kay Panabaker, Jimmy Bennett, Tate Donovan, Romany Malco, Autumn Reeser, Christina Chang, Stephen Collins & Josh Stewart
TRANSMISSION: 28 September 2010 - ABC

'Primeval' goes Canadian

The creators of Primeval, Impossible Pictures, have agreed a franchising deal with Canadian independent company Omni Film Productions. This means a Canadian version of the series will now be made, with Judy and Garfield Reeves-Stevens (Star Trek Enterprise) expected to deliver scripts.

Jonathan Drake, Managing Director of Impossible Pictures:

"We won't be replacing the UK show in the international market but complementing it. It will provide a positive glow for our catalogue of existing Primeval shows. And if something were to happen to the UK version, the brand still survives."
Impossible Pictures and Omni Film Productions previously worked together on Defying Gravity.

The original UK version of Primeval is currently filming its fifth series, having already wrapped on the fourth, in preparation for a 2011 return to ITV and Watch. The rights to a movie are still owned by Warner Bros, having been sold in May 2009, but there's been no firm movement on that separate project.

'THE DEEP' 1.4 - "Everything Put Together Falls Apart"


[SPOILERS] The titles almost beg to be made fun of, don't they? The penultimate episode of The Deep once again felt thinly stretched, contained only a few half-decent moments, and the characters continue to be as substantial as jellyfish -- meaning I can't get swept along by their exploits. It also disappointed me that the "mystery" is exactly what most people guessed from episode 2 (Irish explorer Cath discovered a micro-organism that can excrete 75% clean fuel, which Russian oil corporations don't want exposed).

The one positive about "Everything Put Together Falls Apart" was that it looked slicker, no doubt because Colm McCarthy (Spooks, The Tudors) has taken over the director's chair. There were more imaginative camera angles, some good compositions, and several scenes that approached the cinematic feel The Deep's been aiming for but missing. Unfortunately, creator Simon Donald was back behind the script, so it felt sluggish, the dialogue was functional at best, and it missed some good opportunities. In particular, far more should have been made of Clem (James Nesbitt) going to see Vincent (Sacha Dawan) and thanking him for sacrificing himself to plug the ship's radiation leak.

I'd just be repeating myself to continue reviewing this episode any further, but there was an enjoyable sequence with Clem (inside LURCH) being dangled into a 2,000-foot deep trench to extract fresh "lavaworms" that hold the key to the world's energy crisis (although it dragged on too long). And despite the climactic surprise that they killed-off James Nesbitt (the one actor most people assumed would survive till the very end), his character's death didn't touch me. And the loss of Nesbitt doesn't bode well for the big finale next week, because he was the only actor capable of making me take some notice. Without him, The Deep could be totally scuppered.

WRITER: Simon Donald
DIRECTOR: Colm McCarthy
GUEST CAST: Orla Brady, Tom Wlaschiha, Nick Nevern, Goran Kostic, Nigel Whitmey, Dan Li & Molly Jones
TRANSMISSION: 24 August 2010 - BBC1/HD, 9PM

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Syfy cast 'Three Inches'

Naoko Mori gets Three Inches!
There's yet another superhero drama on the horizon, which I've mentioned already here: Syfy's Three Inches, about an underachiever called Walter (Noah Reid) with the power to move objects with his mind, but only by the titular three inches. Casting is now in full-swing, and some of the names attached have piqued my interest...

Cult favourite James Marsters (Buffy, Angel) has signed on to play a character called Troy; Stephanie Jacobsen (Sarah Connor Chronicles, Melrose Place) is playing Watts; a beautiful woman who can manipulate people's emotions; and Naoko Mori (Torchwood) will play a character who can vocally duplicate any sound she hears.

There are so many superhero shows around right now, even with the demise of the inspirational Heroes. Coming soon we have No Ordinary Family, The Cape and Alphas (also on Syfy), joining Misfits. Will Three Inches offer anything different to the others?

BBC Four acquire 'Rubicon'

AMC's 13-part conspiracy thriller Rubicon has been bought by BBC Four for transmission in the UK. The series stars James Badge Dale (The Pacific) as an intelligence analyst who begins to suspect he's working for a secret society that manipulate world events. Considering the fact BBC4 also air AMC's Mad Men, it seems the channel have a good relationship with the US cable station. Is there any chance they'd be willing to pickup the rights to Breaking Bad and treat that show with the respect they show Mad Men?

BBC Four: Autumn/Winter 2010

BBC4 have announced their programming for the autumn/winter months, full details of which are below in the press release. Of particular interest to me: A History Of Horror With Mark Gatiss, Dirk Gently, Patrick Stewart in Macbeth, Ruth Jones in Hattie (a bio-drama of comedienne Hattie Jaques), and Anna Nicole - The Opera.

Shakespeare, Sculpture, Self Portrait and Anna Nicole Smith –- BBC Four Announces A Culturally-Enriching New Line-Up For Autumn And Winter.

Richard Klein, Controller of BBC Four, today unveils the channel’s autumn 2010/winter 2011 line-up, packed full of insightful, opinionated and bold new programmes for the discerning viewer.

New announcements include a brand new literary adaptation of Douglas Adams's masterpiece Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and an opera about the life of Anna Nicole Smith, a season on sculpture and an entire village that has dug up their back gardens to unearth a fascinating history.

Culture and knowledge

Unashamedly expert, undiluted and in-depth, the season consists of an extensive range of intelligent programmes focusing on the arts, music, culture and knowledge in all its forms.

2010 has seen the channel enjoy its best ever performance, with both share (1.1 per cent) and reach (15.4 per cent) up considerably on the same period last year and an average of 8.4 million viewers coming to the channel each week. With the new line-up, BBC Four continues its mission to be the most culturally enriching channel within the UK’s digital broadcasting world.

Richard Klein says: "BBC Four is the channel that seeks to offer television to those parts of the brain that other television channels don't reach. We always aim to provide context and complexity, and all with a strong flavour of wit and opinion. So I am delighted to be able to offer a host of deliciously inventive, thought-provoking and entertaining programmes over the next six months. From arts to performance, drama and comedy to social culture, history and science, there is programming here to satisfy the most curious and interested of minds, as well as one or two surprises for the fun of it."

Visual arts

In line with BBC Four's goal always to add context and champion opinion, this season features the channel's strongest ever line-up of visual arts, reflecting and commenting on the cultural DNA of the UK and the wider world. There's a major season embracing one of Britain's greatest contributions to the art world – sculpture, with the channel's widest range of in-depth programmes celebrating everything from the world's most fascinating tombs, gargoyles and royal statues to the meaning of the fig leaf in 2,000 years of Western art and ethics. As part of the season, journalist Alastair Sooke delves deeply into the three golden ages in The Story Of British Sculpture and actor David Thewlis becomes part of art itself by having his head recreated by three different sculptors in How To Get A Head In Sculpture.

As part of one of television’s most ambitious arts projects ever to assess and document the Western tradition of painting, BBC Four turns its undivided attention to a fourth country in Art Of Germany, having already scrutinised the art of Italy, Russia and Spain. The programme features unprecedented access inside Cologne Cathedral and rare footage of Franz Marc's sketches from the First World War trenches – his last before he was killed. The season also includes an examination of some of the most influential and impressive avant garde artists of the 20th century who dwelled upon our own shores in Art Of Cornwall.

In-depth knowledge

Always proud to provoke lively discussion and debate, BBC Four continues to seek out new points of view from the finest experts in their field. This autumn, critic and author Laura Cumming brings her in-depth knowledge of self portrait to the channel in Portrait Of The Artist and acclaimed writer, actor and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss turns his hand to presenting and indulges his passion for horror films in A History Of Horror With Mark Gatiss, part of a blood curdling new season on the genre.

The season also sees Patrick Stewart play Macbeth in a spectacularly dark, contemporary and stylish film version of Rupert Goold's highly acclaimed production, set in an undefined and ominous central European world. And, following the BBC's recent focus on opera, BBC Four reinforces its commitment to representing the arts in all its forms, as one of popular culture’s enigmas – glamour model Anna Nicole Smith – is immortalised in an opera about her life by the Royal Opera House and Olivier Award-winning composer Mark Anthony Turnage in Anna Nicole – The Opera, to be screened on the channel early next year.

In other areas of performance, BBC Four goes behind the scenes of one of the country’s most respected arts institutions in a documentary celebrating 60 years of the English National Ballet, and examines the impact of traditional dance on our cultural heritage as Charles Hazlewood stages the UK’s biggest clog dancing event in Get Your Clogs On.

The best in drama writing and performance

BBC Four is committed to championing the very best screen-writing, dramatic performance and hosting drama of significance. Two of Britain's best-loved actresses take centre stage in two original screenplays. In a remarkable display of acting, Jessie Wallace stars as Pat Phoenix playing the role of Elsie Tanner in Coronation Street – A Star is Born. The drama examines how one writer defied convention and Granada TV's management when he wrote the first Coronation Street script 50 years ago this year, bringing northern working class kitchen sink drama into people's homes for the first time.

In Hattie, Ruth Jones is magnificent as one of Britain's most adored comediennes, Carry On queen Hattie Jacques. Far from the matronly woman she so often portrayed, the drama reveals the secret romance between Hattie and a younger man.

In Dirk Gently, we see the celebrated character's first ever on-screen appearance. The hapless detective stumbles upon more than he bargained for when he sets out to solve the disappearance of a cat from an old lady's house.

Inspiring knowledge

Also this season, BBC Four combines its reputation for inspiring knowledge and providing an alternative view on a subject in Michael Wood's Story Of England. Utilising a completely new approach, Michael embarks on his most ambitious television project to date as he convinces an entire village to dig up their back gardens, resulting in the discovery of 2,000 years' worth of fascinating artifacts and real-life stories. By taking a seemingly ordinary village and turning it, literally, upside down, he creates an incredible living, fluid picture of how Britain has changed, complete with Tudor teachers, highwaymen, Suffragettes and First World War soldiers, along with discovering an entirely unique way of bringing history to life on the channel.

Reassessing great arts and artists

BBC Four is also committed to re-calibrating and reassessing some of our greatest arts and artists. And early next year, as part of that commitment, the channel will bring together DH Lawrence's two great works of early modern erotic fiction, Women In Love and The Rainbow. Originally written as a single novel, Billy Ivory’s script is an ambitious reinterpretation, reuniting the two stories to form one stunning drama for the first time. Starring Rosamund Pike, Women In Love is part of a season exploring love and sexuality in 20th-century literature, which also includes Amanda Coe's adaptation of John Braine's celebrated rite-of-passage novel Room At The Top.

Classical and contemporary music

In all of its music offerings, BBC Four strives to provide not only the widest range of content spanning classical and contemporary artists, but unique insight about the musician behind the melody. This season it goes even further as Tony Palmer returns to BBC Television after 40 years with the first feature-length biography of Gustav Holst, including unseen footage in which his daughter explains how Holst wrote The Planets during weekends and school holidays.

Please note these are working titles and may change prior to transmission.