Monday, 30 July 2012

Olympic break

I'm taking some time off until the weekend, primarily because I have tickets to the Olympic tennis at Wimbledon. As usual, this means I can't guarantee DMD will be updated at the usual times and frequency. Breaking Bad and True Blood will be reviewed at some point, but I'm not entirely sure when. I'll try and maintain the usual schedule, if I can, but no promises. There may be bonus reviews of John Carter and The Dark Knight Rises at some point, as a sweetener.

But, for now, please use this opportunity to check my TV archive for any reviews you may have missed, or get involved in some of the most recent comments. Reader input on my London 2012 Opening Ceremony post became a particularly fun read.

Follow me on Twitter for daily updates, and a few photos from Wimbledon undoubtedly...

Bye for now!

TV Picks: 30 July – 5 August 2012 (Lemon La Vida Loca, Lost Children, The Midwives, Simply Italian, Vexed, etc.)

From Ronaldo to Ronaldo (ITV4, 7pm) Profiles of the best football players, from Cristiano Ronaldo to Zinedine Zidane.
Arctic Icebreakers (Channel 5, 8pm) Science documentary looking at the design of engineering vessels that must travel through icy seas.
PICK OF THE DAY Simply Italian (Channel 4, 8.30pm) Culinary series focusing on Italian food. Presented by Michela Chiappa.
We Love The Monkees (ITV1, 9pm) Profile of the 1960s pop group, in the wake of Davy Jones' death in February 2012.

The Midwives (BBC2, 9pm) Documentary on the midwives of St Mary's Hospital in Manchester. (1/6)
Secrets Of The Shoplifters (Channel 4, 9pm) Follow-up to January's documentary about the increase in shoplifting from Britain's high street stores.
PICK OF THE DAY Lost Children (Channel 4, 10pm) Documentary on the work of a residential day school run by Barnardo's, looking after kids with emotional and behavioural problems. (1/2)

PICK OF THE DAY Vexed (BBC2, 9pm) Series 2 of the comedy cop drama about two mismatched detectives. Starring Toby Stephens & Miranda Raison. (1/6)

Hairy Dieters: How To Love Food & Lose Weight (BBC2, 8pm) The Hairy Bikers try to lose weight while still eating food they enjoy. (1/4)
PICK OF THE DAY Lemon La Vida Loca (ITV2, 10pm) Spoof reality show following Keith Lemon and his girlfriend Rosie. (1/4)

PICK OF THE DAY Soham: A Parents' Tale (ITV1, 9pm) Documentary looking at the tragic case of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, who were killed in their hometown ten years ago.


PICK OF THE DAY Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure (BBC2, 8pm) Ken Hom and Ching He-Huang travel across China sampling the country's food. (1/4)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Trailer: HUNTED (BBC)

Hunted is the BBC's flashy new espionage thriller, created by Frank Spotnitz (The X Files, Millennium). It stars Melissa George (Alias, The Slap) as a highly skilled intelligence operative called Sam who goes on the run after being targeted by her own elite firm. Spotnitz himself says he's "... incredibly excited about the ambition of this series. It's got action on a cinematic scale, huge story twists and turns, and intriguing characters who are both emotionally and morally complex. I can’t imagine a better cast, director or production team to bring it all to life."

Jane Featherstone, Chief Executive of producers Kudos, says they're "... very lucky to have the brilliant Melissa George in the role. She'll bring guts, subtlety and strength to the role, which is exactly what we need. Starring opposite Melissa is the brilliant Adam Rayner as Aidan, together their fantastically complicated romance will keep audiences gripped."

The series is a co-production between Spooks creators Kudos Film & Television, Spotnitz's production company Big Light Productions and HBO's Cinemax (who also co-produce Sky's Strike Back). The cast is rounded out by Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones), Adam Rayner (Mistresses), Morven Christie (The Sinking of the Laconia), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Lost), Lex Shrapnel (Captain America), Uriel Emil (Criminal Justice), Patrick Malahide (Billy Elliot), Oscar Kennedy (Toast) and Stephen Campbell Moore (The History Boys).

What do you think of the trailer? Is it essentially the BBC's own Strike Back? The next Spooks? Is there anything here to get you excited, or does it all feel a little by-the-numbers from the trailer? Just another Bourne-esque spy-on-the-run show?

Trailer: MERLIN, series 5

The BBC have released a 40-second trailer for the fifth series of Merlin, which will premiere later this year. It heralds the dawn of a new era now Arthur's king and Gwen's become his queen, and the footage looks to be continuing the darker tone began in series 4. I can't say I'm hugely excited, because I think Merlin's taken far too long to reach this point in its life (The Legend Begins says the tagline. What, five years into the show?!), and the biggest problem remains the iffy plotting and the similar basis of most stories.

But, despite all that, I'll keep watching. It's a fun show for a Saturday evening, and obvious a good tag-team partner with Doctor Who each year on the BBC. But I'll no doubt spend much of the series counting the show's tiresome clichés. I already counted a few just from the trailer.

Merlin has no premiere date yet, but rumours suggest it will follow the first half-series of Doctor Who, sometime in October.

Update (03/08/12). The BBC have now released an extended version of the above trailer, which includes a lot more footage:

Saturday, 28 July 2012


I think the UK lacks confidence and self-belief sometimes, because it's troubling to remember the cynicism many people had about the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. For years cynics have said nothing will live up to Beijing's awesome 2008 event, given how much money they spent, and the thousands of citizens who practised round-the-clock to make it look so startling. But I thought last night's ceremony was a triumph, even taking into considerations all the silly, cheesy moments. There was nothing outright bad about the occasion, thank heavens, and it managed nods to most things Britain's renowned for around the world—historically, culturally and socially.

As a former global superpower, we may have lost the biggest empire the world's ever known, but we kept our pride and sense of humour.

There were many highlights for me. I loved the initial stages, with a bucolic stadium of green pastures and farm animals transformed into an industrialised nation of towering chimneys and factory workers. Kenneth Branagh (replacing Mark Rylance) quoting William Shakespeare's The Tempest, dressed as the brilliant Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel; the whiff of J.R.R Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings works as allegory for the Industrial Revolution; the magnificent moment with the forging of the glowing Olympic rings, which then soared into the sky before coming together in unity. That was an absolutely fantastic and iconic moment.

Away from all the heavily choreographed spectacle, which often resembled a massive West End musical—especially in the sequence celebrating the National Health Service, via iconography from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, and Harry Potter—there were a surprising number of comedy sketches, of the type you'd usually expect to see during Comic Relief. Daniel Craig as James Bond 007, appearing alongside The Queen ("Good evening, Mr Bond")—who allowed herself to be portrayed as an octogenarian Bond Girl, parachuting out of a helicopter into the stadium—was probably most memorable pre-recorded moment. Sure, Her Majesty was still determined to look like a grumpy pensioner throughout the whole show, but it proves she has a sense of humour if she agreed to that. I hear China's commentary went silent during the moment Elizabeth II deployed a Union flag parachute, as they were so flabbergasted that the UK portrayed a head of state in such a flippant manner.

It was also a reminder that Rowan Atkinson is a global superstar thanks to Mr Bean, as he was drafted in to appear in a live Bean-style sketch that involved playing a monotonous keyboard note during Chariots of Fire—which was then spoofed during a dream sequence of the beach running sequence. It was a simple silent comedy moment, that helped it cross generational and cultural barriers. I thought it was all good fun, if hardly side-splitting.

I was less gripped by the latter stages of dancing and merriment, although it was perfectly enjoyable to watch and catch the many references to British culture. Did you spot the Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Yellow Submarine from The Beatles oeuvre? The UK's fantastic contribution to the music industry was well represented throughout the evening, with the ultimate compilation of British punk, rock and pop songs: Queen, David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols, The Arctic Monkeys, The Beatles, Coldplay, Oasis, The Prodigy, Orbital, Muse, Blur, Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, the Rolling Stones, and many, many, many more.

One of the best ideas of the ceremony came at the end, during the moment where the Olympic cauldron is finally lit by the Olympic torch that's been carried around the country for the past few months. This usually means a famous athlete or sporting legend is given the honour, but London 2012 broke with tradition and instead honoured its "Inspire A Generation" motto—with Sir Steve Redgrave running the final leg with the torch, but passing it to a group of fellow Olympians who then bestowed the honour to up-and-coming young athletes... who lit the cauldron, composed of hundreds of petal-shaped torches, each signifying a participating country, which then rose up to create one gigantic burning flame. It was a brilliant and unique idea, perfectly done.

As you can no doubt tell, I thought this was a triumphant occasion. There were silly and ridiculous moments, together with eye-rolling references to things only the home crowd would understand, but thankfully British culture still travels well internationally. I think most foreigners will have understood or recognised the majority of things this ceremony was trying to communicate—in its grand ambition to cover so much, without relying on the obvious touchstones. For example, there was no sign of King Arthur, Robin Hood, H.G Wells, red post boxes, Sherlock Holmes, double-decker buses, Charles Darwin, or Doctor Who—while The Beatles didn't feature as prominently as I was expecting them to. Sir Paul McCartney was on hand to perform in person, however. Maybe they're saving some of that for the closing ceremony? But I was quite pleased by the choices, really. The ceremony celebrated less obvious British heroes—such as "Tubular Bells" musician Mike Oldfield and Sir Tim Berners-Lee (creator of the world wide web).

This was quirky, fun, inventive, creative, transformative, inspiring, passionate, crazy, dazzling. It was definitely too long at nudging 4-hours, but after seven year's of media hype and £27 million spent... it needed to be something substantial. Beijing's ceremony cost about £65m in comparison, but London didn't look like a cheap alternative stuck in China's shadow. There was more of a narrative to what was happening, which made a very welcome change, because we're a country with something to say and plenty to celebrate.

The Opening Ceremony pulled in a home audience of 27 million on BBC1/HD, making it one of the most-watched TV shows in British TV history, while entertaining the world and promoting everything that's great about Great Britain. I'm not the sportiest of people, but director Danny Boyle, writer Frank Cottrell Bryce, and the 7,500 volunteers did the nation proud when it mattered.

What did you think of the London 2012 opening to the 30th Olympiad? Did it live up to expectations, or did you find it a bore? Was the tone pitched just perfectly, or did Danny Boyle only succeed in creating a messy spectacle that probably confused foreigners? And if you were watching overseas, did your local broadcaster handle the event well? I hear America suffered a delayed broadcast (with the show beginning just when it had ended in the UK), and was also crammed full of adverts that sapped the pace! In the age of live-streaming and social media, this cause a great deal of upset online, understandably. You can't get away with non-live broadcasts of global events like this, really. The US aired the Royal Wedding without any delays, so why not the Olympics?

All thoughts on the London 2012 Olympics welcome; good or bad, just ensure they're constructive.

BBC1, Friday 27 July 2012.


After two seasons, AMC have pulled the plug on murder-mystery drama The Killing—the US remake of the internationally successful Danish drama Forbryldsen. The show launched to high ratings (2.72m) and critical acclaim two years ago, but viewers dropped away and critical opinion shifted over the course of its first season. The second season, which concluded the central "Who Killed Rosie Larsen?" mystery, and which many thought had been unwisely dragged out too far, aired to 1.45m subscribers.

In a statement, AMC said that "after much deliberation, we've come to the difficult decision not to renew The Killing for a third season. AMC is incredibly proud of the show and is fortunate to have worked with such a talented team on this project, from showrunner Veena Sud and our terrific partners at Fox Television Studios to the talented, dedicated crew and exceptional cast."

Fox Television Studios, who made the show for AMC, have also release a statement saying they're "... extremely proud of The Killing, the extraordinary writing staff and crew, and what we believe is one of the best casts on television. We will proceed to try to find another home for the show."

It's not yet known if another broadcaster will pick up the show, but it means The Killing isn't dead and buried yet. It may make sense for a lesser channel to buy the show, if they think inheriting the show's average audience of 1.5m audience is possible and acceptable. We could be looking at a Damages-style situation, where FX axed the show but it was bought by DirecTV—who had to cut the budget, but managed to prevent the show losing its marquee actors and distinct look.

I personally don't care what happens. I adored The Killing's pilot and was invested in the show's first five episodes, but the story started to lose me when a red herring undermined the bulk of season 1's plot. I watched the first few episodes of season 2, still curious about who Rosie Larsen's killer is, but then realised I don't actually care enough to sit through so many plodding episodes. I read a recap of the finale, where the mystery was explained and... yeah, it sounded very underwhelming, so I saved myself some hours there.

What about you? Did you like The Killing? Did you stick with it to the bitter end? Would you watch a third season on a different channel? Or should the show just leave the airwaves, because it clearly didn't translate to America—beyond importing the original's style and soundtrack so accurately.

Friday, 27 July 2012

BBC1 Original British Drama - autumn 2012

After the recent BBC2 trailer, now it's BBC1's turn to get in on the action. They've released a tease of six new dramas coming to the BBC's flagship channel this autumn, and naturally they look glossier and more expensive than BBC2's more erudite offerings.

There's the four-part drama Good Cop, starring Warren Brown (Luther) as a Liverpool policeman whose moral compass gets spun after the death of a friend; Suranne Jones headlining Joe Ahearne's adaptation of James Herbert's ghost story The Secret of Crickley Hall, alongside Tom Ellis (Miranda), Douglas Henshall (South Riding), David Warner, Sarah Smart (Wallander), Iain De Caestecker (The Fades) and Donald Sumpter (Game of Thrones); the Anglo-American co-production Hunted from writer Frank Spotnitz (The X Files), starring Melissa George (Alias) as a spy on the run from her own agency; Shetland, a two-part murder-mystery set on the titular Scottish isles, starring Douglas Henshall as Detective Jimmy Perez; series 2 of Jimmy McGovern's Accused, this time starring Anne-Marie Duff (Shameless), Olivia Colman (Peep Show), Robert Sheehan (Misfits) and Sheridan Smith (Love Soup); and 19th-century cop show Ripper Street, an eight-part BBC America co-production following police officers of the infamous Whitechapel district in the aftermath of the Jack the Ripper murders, starring Matthew Macfadyen (Spooks), Jerome Flynn (Game of Thrones), Adam Rothenberg (Alcatraz), Myanna Buring (The Twilight Saga) and David Dawson (Luther).

Ripper Street - just one of BBC One's six new dramas coming this autumn
It's a brilliant line-up, that certainly looks very exciting from the trailer. I'm particularly keen to see Hunted and Ripper Street, but Good Cop and The Secret of Crickley Hall also sound very promising. Each show has a fantastic group of actors involved, too. At a time when Sky are dominating industry headlines with their fancy new homegrown productions, it's nice for the BBC to remind people they haven't been written off.

E4 buy GLEE writer's THE NEW NORMAL

E4 have been having great success with US sitcoms just recently, as acquisitions like The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, New Girl, Suburgatory and Don't Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 have all been drawing good ratings for the youth-targeted digital channel. Who needs those endless repeats of Friends, right?

Adding to their US-heavy line-up, E4 have just bought the UK rights to The New NormalGlee co-creator Ryan Murphy's sitcom about a gay Beverly Hills couple (played by Andrew Rannells and Justin Bartha) that hire a surrogate mother (Georgia King) to bear them a child, who moves into their home with her eight-year-old daughter to escape her prejudiced mother (Ellen Barkin).

I really like the concept of this sitcom, which immediately brings a lot of comic possibilities to mind, and it also stars the excellent Georgia King—a very funny and talented British actress who's due a major breakthrough like this. I'm looking forward to this one. Check out NBC's trailer below:

The New Normal begins a 13-episode run on NBC this September, and will premiere on E4 in early-2013.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

LIFE'S TOO SHORT ending with a special

Ratings and reaction to Life's Too Short were terrible earlier this year, so most people assumed the BBC would quietly axe Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's latest sitcom. But then Gervais claimed on Twitter that a second series was very likely, which felt strange and self-delusional at the time, especially as the show was then greeted with a muted response in the US.

Yesterday, the show's star Warwick Davis confirmed that Life's Too Short won't be back for another series, but the story will conclude with a one-hour special—to be filmed next February.

Davis cited time constraints for this change of plan, and it's true that Gervais is a busy man, but this smells like a compromise to me. It would be too embarrassing if Gervais and Merchant's latest show was axed after one series, and the BBC don't want to upset two talents with their status in the showbiz world, so best to make out Short's coming to a natural but premature conclusion because of things beyond their control.

What, didn't they plan to have time to write series 2? If Life's Too Short had been a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic, would we be reading about the show ending with a special in 2013? I very much doubt it somehow.

Oh well. I didn't like the show very much, so I don't particularly care. I'm actually more excited about Stephen Merchant's next project, because he's making a sitcom pilot called Hello Ladies for HBO, where he'll play an Englishman who's spectacularly bad with women and living in Los Angeles. I'm already laughing. He's writing it with Lee Eisenberg and Gene Gene Stupnitsky, who work on the US version of The Office. They also wrote Year One and Bad Teacher, which doesn't bode as well, but let's hope Merchant's influence is the strongest.

BBC2 Original British Drama – autumn 2012

The BBC have released a minute-long tease for the autumn, focusing on BBC2's successful "Original British Drama" strand. The Hour returns for series 2 of the 1950s newsroom drama, where it seems news anchor Hector (Dominic West) is embroiled in a scandal, but the rest are all new offerings. There's Parade's End, an adaptation of the Ford Madox Ford novels, starring Sherlock's Benedict Cumberbatch; Toby Jones plays Alfred Hitchcock in The Girl, with Sienna Miller as the famous director's obsession Tippi Hedren; The X Files' Gillian Anderson stars in psychological thriller The Fall as a detective trying to catch a serial killer operating in Belfast; Stephen Poliakoff's Dancing on the Edge about a 1930s black jazz band, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew Goode (Watchmen); and, perhaps most excitingly, Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss stars in Jane Campion's seven-part detective drama Top of the Lake, about the search for a missing pregnant 12-year-old in New Zealand.

There are no confirmed premiere dates for these shows yet, but expect them to start arriving from late-August.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

MISFITS: Series 4 Photo & Web-Chat

Howard Overman and Matt Stevens, the creator and producer of E4's superhero hit Misfits, were involved with a live web-chat on the show's official site earlier today. During their dialogue, they revealed a few things about the currently filming fourth series (including the fact Shaun Dooley's playing the latest probation worker), updated fans on the prospect of a US remake ("the storm will reach any country which I sell the format to. So it looks like there might be a storm in America soon..."), teased what to expect from series 4 ("... killer rabbits and the four horsemen of the apocalypse and a puppy [that] meets a very tragic demise"), and revealed what the new character's super-powers will be ("... telekinesis, x-ray vision, a very bad memory, and the power to be pussy whipped").

They also released a brand new photo of the cast (above), which now includes Karla Crome (Hit & Miss) as Jess and Nathan McMullen as Finn. The other two new characters, Alex and Abby, apparently won't be wearing the gang's signature orange boiler suits... for the time being.

Excited for Misfits' series 4 yet? I have to say, I really like the look of the new gang in that photo.

Sky partner NBC for DRACULA with Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Sky have been co-producing a few shows with US networks just recently, most notably Strike Back with Cinemax and Treasure Island with Syfy, and now they've partnered with NBC to bring a fresh interpretation of Dracula to our screens. Carnival Films & Television (the company behind Downton Abbey) will produce the ten-part drama alongside Univeral Television, Flame Ventures, Playground and Sky Living, which will air on NBC and Sky Living.

In this "epic tale of love and revenge", Dracula (The Tudors' Jonathan Rhys Meyers) will arrive in Victorian London, posing as an American entrepreneur with ambitions to modernise society with science, before falling in love a woman who appears to be the reincarnation of his late wife. The pilot has been written by Cole Haddon.

Bela Bajaria, Universal's Television Executive VP, has commented that they "... are thrilled to produce this smart, sophisticated, and provocative re-imagining of Dracula, in partnership with [executive-producers] Colin [Callender], Tony [Krantz] and our International studio arm and Sky Living for NBC Network. It is a timeless tale with relevant, surprising twists and turns with the exquisite Jonathan Rhys Meyers in the marquee role", while NBC Universal's President of International TV Production has said "we are delighted that Jonathan Rhys Meyers has chosen this project to return to television and have built an amazing team of producers behind the camera to deliver this extraordinary show. Since 1897, the story of Dracula has captivated readers and viewers alike and this sexy, updated twist on the classic also promises not to disappoint."

Over in the UK, Sky's Anne Mensah has commented that they are "... pleased to be announcing our first-ever co-production with NBC Universal and we are delighted to be bringing an actor as exciting as Jonathan Rhys Meyers to Sky. Dracula combines the biggest and best talent both in front of and behind the camera and will keep our customers intrigued and enthralled. With its dark, twisted and intelligent script it absolutely sets the scale, tone and ambition for future dramas on Sky Living."

What do you make of this project? I think it's great that Sky are partnering with Americans for certain projects—ones that benefit from UK-style smaller runs and British talent, but have US muscle and money behind them. It's the best of both worlds, really. The concept behind this Dracula doesn't grab me as a worthwhile adaptation, with the only notable changes being to make Dracula an American (or pretending to be an American), and having an affinity for science. But we'll see. There will undoubtedly be nuances to the story, and perhaps future casting decisions will provoke some more interest. Will they be including Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing? Is Mina Harker going to be Dracula's love interest once again? Will Seward and Lucy feature in any way?

One to keep an eye on, most definitely, although the fact it's airing on Sky Living gives me some pause. That channel usually deals in rather schmaltzy or cheesy genre programming, so I'd be more excited if it was airing on Sky1 or Sky Atlantic. Will this be on primetime NBC in the autumn of 2013? Lots to consider...

TRUE BLOOD, 5.7 – "In the Beginning"

My blood's boiling...

True Blood's been incompetent and wilfully stupid for years now, but it's now become insulting and wretched. If you're still watching HBO's vampire drama, I hope it's only out of grim fascination, because from a creative perspective it's become a catastrophic mess. Scenes lurch out of nowhere, logic takes a backseat, and any clarity of motivation is practically non-existent. It feels like each episode's writer is under orders to fill an hour with whatever malformed ideas they have, rather than work together to weave a satisfying story. At times it feels like this season's being written in a round robin style; with each writer having to produce a screenplay based solely on the one that preceded it.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


Over at MSN TV, I review the "Olympics" episode of Absolutely Fabulous, which completes the popular sitcom's triptych of 20th anniversary specials...

Cards on the table, I'm not a fan of Absolutely Fabulous. Jennifer Saunders's 1990s sitcom never appealed to me as a teenager as I wasn't the target audience when it premiered in 1992; this remained true throughout its intermittent lifespan. The show plays better to women and gay men, although it's obviously not designed to exclude heterosexual guys. Whenever the show focuses on its dysfunctional family, it feels more accessible and hilarious to me... Continue reading...

BREAKING BAD, 5.2 - "Madrigal"

Nothing's simple. If Walt (Bryan Cranston) thinks he's just going to step into Gus Fring's shoes and become the city's drug lord, he's in for a rude awakening. Obviously he knows it won't happen overnight and needs careful planning, but after destroying Gus's incriminating laptop, Walt is blissfully unaware of the other repercussions Fring's death has set in motion...

"Madrigal" served to remind us that you can't eliminate someone like Gus Fring without shock-waves. First there's Madrigal Electromotive, the German company who bankrolled Gus. The teaser suggests it was the work of a minority element—headed by taste-testing executive Peter Schuler (Norbert Weisser), who duly commits suicide with a defibrillator in a toilet after noticing police searching his office—but how true can that be? Madrigal's CEO seems to be a decent person when brought in for questioning by the DEA, but then again Breaking Bad villains have a tendency to be masters of disguise. As if to underscore that, we had the scene where Hank (Dean Norris) listened to his boss Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles) chastise himself for failing to notice how Gus, a friend he invited to family barbecues, was actually a master criminal, commenting that he was right under his nose... and the irony, for us the audience, is knowing Hank has the same wool pulled over his eyes regarding brother-in-law Walt...

This episode was actually more of a showcase for Mike (Jonathan Banks), the only remaining key component of Gus Fring's empire, now battling to keep the authorities at arm's length. It's a seemingly impossible task, despite having paid off eleven men who could implicate him as an accessory if they chose to. Mike remains calm, cool and collected; even during an interview with Hank and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), where his knowledge of police procedure helped him avoid probing questions. As of right now, the curtain of silence is working, despite there being major reasons for the cops to suspect him of being involved (such as the fact his daughter Kaylee has a cool $2 million in a bank account under her name). Other difficulties for Mike included the arrival of panicking Madrigal exec Lydia (Laura Fraser), who appears to have dealt directly with Mike and Gus in the past, who's now so desperate to put a lid on things she acted rashly by paying a Los Pollos employee to kill all potential informants—after Mike refused to himself.

My ketchup gun can also reach your Van Gogh
As for Walt (Bryan Cranston), he's still manipulating Jesse (Aaron Paul) to keep the pretence going that he has the boy's best interests at heart—here, making a copy of the Ricin cigarette that went missing in season 4, so Jesse could find a fake and thus end the mystery of what happened to it. The real one remains hidden behind an electrical socket in Walt's bedroom, so I'm certain it'll be coming in handy before too long. This is all a clean-up by Walt, wiping the slate so he can begin his rise to prominence with Jesse and Mike as partners—even if Mike, initially, isn't keen to go into business with his old boss's killer ("You are a time-bomb, tick-tick-ticking, and I have no intention of being around for the boom.")

"Madrigal" was definitely a piece-moving hour, but one we definitely need before the fun begins. Breaking Bad has always worked in this way, of course; steadily building to enormous, thrilling crescendos, that are all the better because you feel the careful preparation that's gone into them. Madrigal were behind Gus Fring's operation, but to what extent? Is the whole company corrupt and involved in the distribution of narcotics worldwide? Or are there just rogue elements like Lydia and Herr Schuler, who found a way to use the conglomerate for illegal, highly profitable, criminal activities? Now that Mike's managed to avoid being killed by Lydia, and has taken pity on her (his weakness is cute kids), he's re-established a link with Madrigal to get Walt up-and-running with a supply of methylamine. But is it wise for Mike to be involving an employee of Madrigal in this? Is he so sure the DEA won't find a way to link the German company to Fring's activities? It felt like a strange decision to me, but Mike isn't a stupid character so I'll see where this leads...

A really good episode; different to the energetic caper of the premiere, but more engrossing in many ways. Jonathan Banks has become a co-lead on the show, now his character's a partner in Walt's fledgling business, and this was a terrific episode for him to play all of Mike's notes: grumpy bastard, world-weary pragmatist, unflappable suspect, and unstoppable assassin. There was even time for a fantastic moment for Aaron Paul, when Jesse broke down after realising he almost killed Walt over nothing. Walt was also noticeably tactile with people he's lying to in this episode: massaging Jesse's shoulders when comforting him over the Ricin mistake; and showering Skyler (Anna Gunn) with kisses as she lay in bed, assuring her that the bad things they're doing are acceptable because they're for good reasons. Walt may have convinced himself, but his wife's not persuaded. I wouldn't be surprised if we're headed for a moment when Skyler cracks and tells the authorities about what her husband's been up to, although that would deny us the more dramatic option of Hank's sleuthing exposing Walt...


  • The famous RV was nicknamed The Crystal Ship by Jesse? I wish we'd known that before it was crushed.
  • Mike was a cop in Philadelphia, who left "somewhat... dramatically". I love the ambiguity, and hope we find out the circumstances of his departure.
written by Vince Gilligan / directed by Michelle MacLaren / 22 July 2012 / AMC

Monday, 23 July 2012

SINBAD, 1.3 - "House of Games"

After three episodes, I'm not sure there's any point continuing weekly reviews of Sinbad, as I'd planned to. Sinbad is one of those shows where my opinion's unlikely to shift, as I just don't derive much pleasure from this show. This week's episode was better than the last, to be fair, with more of a focus on the gang themselves, but there was too much silliness underpinning it. Anwar (Dimitri Leonidas) lost the Providence in a foolish bet with merchant Abdul-Fahim (Ashley Walters with eye shadow), meaning Sinbad (Elliot Knight) and the crew had to try and win it back in an enchanted gaming house. Having Sinbad play cards for wasn't my idea of fun, and the episode slipped into ridiculousness once too often: culminating in Sinbad having to fight Abdul-Fahim inside a shoestring version of Mad Max's Thunderdome (resembling a rotating Atlasphere from Gladiators), before freeing his imprisoned friends by completing a dumb ancient version of The Crystal Maze (with such devious challenges like... well, grabbing a key from some twins).

TV Picks: 23-29 July 2012 (Absolutely Fabulous, The Angel, Bert & Dickie, The Churchills, Come Dine With Me, Olympics 2012, A Year in the Wild, The Zoo, etc.)

During the Olympic period, I won't be noting any of the live coverage during this time, because there's just too much, with the exception of the opening and closing ceremonies.

Megastructures: London's Olympic Stadium (Channel 5, 8pM) Documentary on the making of the 2012 Olympic Stadium in London, which has been built to enable a variety of future uses.
Horizon: The Truth About Looking Younger (BBC2, 9pm) Science documentary exploring why our ski n ages.
PICK OF THE DAY Absolutely Fabulous (BBC1, 9.30pm) Olympic-themed special of the smash-hit sitcom. Starring Jennifer Saunders & Joanna Lumley.
Ruby Wax's Mad Confessions (Channel 4, 10pm) Documentary on the comedian and her experiences of clinical depression.
Arena: Amy Winehouse – The Day She Came To Dingle (BBC4, 10pm) Profile of the late singer.
Tom Daley: Diving For Britain (BBC1, 10.35pm) Profile of the 18-year-old diver, who's going for gold at the London Olympics.
The Daily Show (Comedy Central, 10.30pm) Return of the popular US satirical show to UK airwaves, airing 24-hours after its American premiere.
A Running Jump (Channel 4, 11.10pm) Short film comedy directed by Mike Leigh, about the complications of a man's attempt to buy a second-hand car. Starring Lee Ingleby, Eddie Marsan, Samantha Spiro, Robert Putt & Sam Kelly.

PICK OF THE DAY The Angel (Sky1, 8pm) Brand new business gameshow with billionaire John Caudwell looking to invest £100,000 into successful entrepreneurs. Presented by Amanda Byram. (1/5)
The Bad Boy Olympian (BBC3, 9pm) Profile of Ashley McKenzie, a British model hopeful with ADHD.
Girl Power: Going For Gold (BBC3, 9pm) Documentary on three young female weight-lifters vying for a spot on the British Olympic team.
Jon Richardson: A Little Bit OCD (Channel 4, 10pm) Documentary on obsessive compulsive order, presented by comedian Jon Richardson.

Superscrimpers (Channel 4, 8pm) Series where FT columnist Mrs Moneypenny gives the audience cash-saving tips. (1/6)
PICK OF THE DAY Bert & Dickie (BBC1, 8.30pm) Biopic of rowers Bert Bushnell and Dickie Burnell, who won gold in the double sculls rowing at the 1948 London Olympics. Starring Matt Smith, Sam Hoare, Geoffrey Palmer, Douglas Hodge, Thomas Arnold, John Bird, Ron Cook, Don Cotter & Matt Barber.
Totally Bonkers Guinness World Records (ITV2, 9pm) Compilation of memorable and bizarre world record-breaking attempts. Narrated by Adrian Edmondson.
A History Of Art In Three Colours (BBC4, 9pm) Art series examining colour in art. Presented by art historian James Fox. (1/3)
World's Maddest Job Interview (Channel 4, 10pm) Series where eight volunteers with psychological disorders are tested to assess their leadership skills. Featuring Claude Littner, Elaine Holt & Austin Gayer. (1/2)

PICK OF THE DAY The Churchills (Channel 4, 8pm) Profile of Winston Churchill, whose knowledge and insight into a 17th-century ancestor perhaps helped him as Prime Minister during WWII. Presented by David Starkey. (1/3)
The Big Sports Quiz – Boys vs Girls (ITV1, 9pm) Comedy quiz show hosted by Stephen Mulhern, with captains Paddy McGuinness & Charlotte Jackson. Guests are Joe Hart, Kriss Akabusi, Mark Foster, Amy Williams, Karen Pickering & Louise Hazel.

Cowboy Builders (Channel 5, 7pm) Series 6 of the show investigating dodgy builders. Hosted by Dominic Littlewood & Melinda Messenger. (1/6)
PICK OF THE DAY A Year In The Wild (BBC2, 9pm) New series exploring some of the UK's national parks, beginning with a look at Snowdonia in Wales. Narrated by Hermione Norris.

PICK OF THE DAY Olympics 2012 (BBC1, 7pm) Live coverage of the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012.

Royal Greenwich (ITV1, 7pm) Documentary on Greenwich, the south-east London royal suburb. Presented by John Sergeant.
PICK OF THE DAY Come Dine With Me (Channel 4, 8pm) Olympic special of the culinary gameshow. Starring Tasha Danvers, Mark Foster, Louise Hazel & Derek Redmond.
The Zoo (ITV1, 8pm) Follow-up to the 2010 series looking at London Zoo in Regent's Park. Narrated by Sarah Lancashire. (1/2)
The Dark: Nature's Nighttime World (BBC2, 9pm) Wildlife series looking at South and Central American during the night. (1/3)
Sex Story: Fifty Shades Of Grey (Channel 4, 10pm) Documentary on the phenomenal success of E.L James's erotic novel Fifty Shades Of Grey. Contributions from Pamela Stephenson, Belle de Jour and Brooke Magnanti.
MotoGP (BBC2, 10pm) Live coverage of the 10th round of the MotoGP season at Laguna Seca in California.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

WILL BILL signed T-shirt winner!

Earlier this week I held a competition to win a Wild Bill T-shirt signed by actor Dexter Fletcher, who made his directorial debut on that movie. The question I asked was very simple:

In Wild Bill, Will Poulter plays Bill's son Dean, but in which movie did Poulter play a schoolboy called Lee Carter?

The answer was: Son of Rambow.

Of the correct entries received (and there were some incorrect ones!), the randomly chosen winner was: Grant Martin from Essex. Congratulations, Grant! I'll be in touch soon to confirm your win, and the signed T-shirt will hopefully be with you later this week.

Thanks for everyone who entered this contest. Better luck next time!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

What else am I watching?

The TV shows I review aren't all I watch. Oh no. My TiVo is full of many things, which I don't have the time to write about, so here's a brief insight into my DVR's weekly recordings...

The Midnight Beast (E4, Thursdays). I reviewed the pilot, which was promising, and have stuck with E4's Flight Of The Conchords-esque teen comedy. I still wish it was better written, have to say. The trio are very likeable and most of their songs are fun (if getting slightly repetitive in style), but each episode's story and the jokes haven't grabbed me. It's a pleasant diversion, but nothing I'm in a rush to watch.

The Ricky Gervais Show (E4, Wednesdays). I often watch this when I have a half-hour to fill, and it makes me chuckle. Karl Pilkington works better in an audio or animated context than live-action (An Idiot Abroad), although the quality of his anecdotes and left-field thinking has taken a dip this series. You have to wonder how many times they can pick his brains before, well, he runs out of brains worth picking.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (LoveFilm streaming). I was planning to watch Veronica Mars this summer, but then I noticed that LoveFilm have every season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer available on streaming. So rather than fork out for a Mars box-set (which are oddly expensive at £25 each, considering it was a little-known show in the UK), I decided to watch Buffy online. I'm only a few episodes into season 1 and, yeah, it's bringing back memories of why I stopped watching in 1997. The difference now is this: I know it gets a LOT better, or so I've always been told by Whedonites.

Revenge (E4, Mondays). I enjoyed the pilot (but only on second viewing), and thus series-linked this on my TiVo. But to be honest, I'm getting a little bored now. I was about to stop watching recently, but then a good episode gave me pause. I'll persevere, for now. It's alright, just not as juicy and gripping as I was expecting it to be, and Emily Van Camp's becoming so wooden she's starting to grow acorns. Please let her loosen up. I know she's out for revenge, which is a nasty business, but she just looks so damned suspicious all of the time. Learn some misdirection skills, girl.

Line of Duty (BBC1, Tuesdays). This BBC1 cop drama gives Lennie James (Jericho) a chance for Luther-style glory now he's back on home turf, and he's certainly the main reason to watch. The problem with LoD, beyond the usual BBC irritation of episodes being far too long at a full HOUR, is that I find the "good cop" hero a vacuum of charisma. So I'm on the side of "bad cop" James, which I didn't think was intended. But maybe it is, as the plot thickens and we learn more about the characters. I have a feeling my opinion will change once the final episode airs, but as of right now... I just wish this show was a more clear-cut case of Vicky McClure vs Lennie James, because that would be 100x more exciting to me than watching Captain Charisma-less every week.

Big Brother (Channel 5, nightly). Yeah, I'm still watching this show, for my sins. It hasn't been a good year, admittedly. There are no outright monsters (although Caroline comes close at times), a few of the best housemates have been evicted too early, another tedious "bullying" controversy is brewing over nothing, the big "showmance" of Pob-like Ashleigh and Max Beesley clone Luke S is tedious, and nothing has really developed between the housemates that means you want to keep tuning in. It hasn't been particularly funny or cringe-making. I'd rather it be over and we move onto the celebrity version.

The Bachelor (Channel 5, Fridays). I know! It's a very lowbrow show, but this is trash TV done in style. Everything about it makes me giggle, because it's a show where everyone involved is deluded and blissfully unaware the audience is laughing at them. Made In Chelsea prat Spencer Matthews isn't as famous as last year's metrosexual rugby player Gavin Henson, unfortunately, but it helps the show that he's more forthcoming and less shy. The potential girlfriends are the usual mix of bimbos, bitches, and busty wannabes. It's all good fun, capped off with a pitch-perfect faux-serious narration by Hugo Speer. (Yes, that guy from The Full Monty.)

Louie (FX, Thursdays). See, I still find time for quality. Think of Big Brother and The Bachelor as sorbets. I reviewed the season 3 premiere, and have been watching the episodes since. It hasn't really tickled my funnybone much this year, although I enjoyed the Miami episode and episode 2's oral sex scene with Melissa Leo. The recent episode with Parker Posey was also really nice, but it's yet to really hit its stride. I sure hope Louie C.K hasn't used up all his best material for series 1 and 2, meaning this third year's only going to have a few diamonds in the rough.

Continuum (Showcase, Sundays). I surprised myself by really enjoying the first few episodes of this Canadian sci-fi drama, but I've cooled now. (Much like the ratings, which have halved.) It's alright, but it's starting to feel like the concept's too narrow. I think I'd like future-cop Cameron to fight other crimes occasionally, without so much focus on the Liber8 baddies from the future. It kind of makes sense that she's more concerned about them, but from a viewer perspective I'm getting a little bored with that group now. I also wish they'd hurry up and make it clearer that the baddies have principles that aren't crazy-sounding to people in the present, and only Cameron thinks what they believe in is strange (as a brainwashed citizen of a future state run by conglomerates). The show dances around this issue so much that I sometimes think I've misunderstood the subtext.

The Newsroom (Sky Atlantic, Tuesdays). It's split opinion in the US, and I can see the show's flaws regarding its retrospective storytelling and female characters, but the dialogue still has sparkle and the performances are very committed. A fascinating failure in some ways, but I don't think it's fair to write Aaron Sorkin's latest show off just yet. Maybe it's a good sign he's fired all the writing staff? A similar move helped The Walking Dead in series 2, after all.

Dynamo: Magician Impossible (Watch, Thursdays). Series 2 has featured a lot of routine street magic and simple tricks in fancy new clothing, but there has also been some truly mind-boggling moments. Dynamo himself remains the main reason to watch, mainly because he's basically a scrawny geek who's getting away with ripping off David Blaine. His patter even steals the same phrases, like "I want to try something..." But it's glossy to look at, and every episode is almost guaranteed to have three tricks that make you reconsider the existence of witchcraft. He vanished while walking through HMV! He flew over a nightclub crowd! He walked down the side of an L.A building, horizontally!

Falling Skies (FX UK, Tuesdays). I like some of the improvements they've made in season 2, but I'm finding it hard to care about anything at this point. Maybe the whole alien invasion subgenre is just too overplayed? I don't like most of the characters, which doesn't help. It's just hard to see what the point is, because they're obviously not going to defeat the aliens for a long time yet, and watching the daily survival of a group I don't much like isn't fun. Brilliant CGI and alien creatures, though.

Parents (Fridays, Sky1) A very enjoyable family sitcom that's already my favourite Sky comedy. Good performances, regular laughs, and a very pleasant atmosphere. It's nothing radical that I'm desperate for others to discover, but it's a nice half-hour of easygoing laughs and the occasional twist of emotion. Maybe the conceptual joke of a career-minded mum being forced to move back in with her old-fashioned parents, family in tow, will start to flag after awhile... but for now, this is working a treat.

So that's what I've been watching, in addition to Sinbad, True Blood and Breaking Bad--what about you?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Trailer: RED DWARF X

Dave have released a tease of Red Dwarf X, which returns for a six-episode series later this year, following the success of those atrocious "Back to Earth" specials three years ago. As a lapsed fan of Red Dwarf (which was one of my favourite sitcoms as a teenager), I was braced for the worst... but this wasn't so bad. It immediately helps that you can hear a live studio audience laughing along, and the middle-aged cast don't look as ridiculous as I was imagining they might. Chris Barrie's the only one to have noticeably aged, while Danny John-Jules may have cracked the secret of immortality. I'm at a loss to explain why Kryten looks like he's had a nose job, though! And it suits the show that Lister's getting older, as that could lend a greater sense of melancholy to his situation.

This isn't really a trailer, more a selection of random and very short clips, but I liked the opening joke of Kryten unwittingly aggravating Lister about being the last man alive, and it looks and feels more like the show I loved in its heyday. I hope this will finally help erase very bad memories of late-'90s and '00s Red Dwarf. A friend of mine attended one of the studio recordings earlier this year, and gave this opinion: "it's better than anything we've seen in Series VI onwards, but isn't up to the standards of early-'90s Dwarf."

At this stage in the show's remarkable 24-year history, I'll take that. How about you?

Sponsored Video: TED trailer

I have a love-hate attitude towards Seth MacFarlane, creator of popular adult-skewing cartoons Family Guy, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show. He's clearly a talented man with multiple strings to his bow, but his style of comedy is something I have mixed feelings about. I often find that a compilation of Family Guy clips on YouTube is preferable to actually watching a single episode, because the show doesn't have good stories--and therefore context isn't that necessary for most of the jokes. It's almost entirely built on one-liners, non sequiturs, spoofs, in-jokes, swearing, and crazy visuals. That can be fun to watch, of course, but the stories and characters never engage me in the same way The Simpsons did in its '90s heyday--and those are the crucial things lacking from much of his work.

News MacFarlane is making a live-action movie didn't fill me with too much optimism earlier this year, but I have to admit the concept of Ted has me giggling already. In the movie, Mark Wahlberg plays John Bennett—a man whose childhood wish for his teddy bear to come to life was miraculously granted—but now, many years later, "Ted" (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) has grown into a drunken, bad-mannered comrade who gets in the way of John's adult relationships and prevents him from growing up.

The "red band" trailer is embedded above (NSFW), and it's interesting to see MacFarlane transfer his comedy style to a mainstream movie. In particular, what is it with MacFarlane and talking animals or inanimate objects? One features in everything he's ever done—from talking babies and dogs, to aliens and bears—which is an unusual signature to have.

Ted opened in the US on 29 June, making an impressive $20.2 million over its first weekend (making it the best R-rated comedy debut since The Hangover), and has currently earned $190m around the world. It's definitely a big hit, meaning MacFarlane's found movie success easier than fellow animator Mike Judge (Beavis & Butthead, King of the Hill)—whose movies Office Space and Idiocracy both had troubled theatrical runs and only really found audiences on DVD.

I don't know if Ted's close to being as interesting as Judge's ill-fated flops, but at least the healthy takings will ensure more projects from the writer-director-actor-singer-producer. Is there nothing he can't do?

TED opens nationwide in the UK on 1 August 2012.

Sponsored by Universal.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Primetime Emmy Awards 2012: Nominees

The nominations have been announced for the Primetime Emmy Awards 2012, and it makes for interesting reading. Below is a list of the major nominees, together with thoughts from my good self under each category. Obviously, I don't watch everything on US TV, so some of this is down to gut instinct and wishful thinking...

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Girls
  • Modern Family
  • 30 Rock
  • Veep
Thoughts: I'd like Girls to win because it's new and, to be frank, most US awards show are tedious because a good 90% of the nominees are cut-and-paste from last year.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Lena Dunham – Girls
  • Melissa McCarthy – Mike & Molly
  • Zooey Deschanel – New Girl
  • Edie Falco – Nurse Jackie
  • Amy Poehler – Parks & Recreation
  • Tina Fey – 30 Rock
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
Thoughts: Claiming Nurse Jackie's a comedy is one thing, but claiming Edie Falco's in any way funny on that show is another thing entirely. I can envisage Julia Louis-Dreyfus winning, because of residual Seinfeld love, despite the fact she was the fourth funniest person on Veep.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
  • Larry David – Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Don Cheadle – House of Lies
  • Louis C.K – Louis
  • Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock
  • Jon Cryer – Two & A Half Men
Thoughts: Louis C.K should win, obviously, but Jim Parsons probably will because more people watch Big Bang Theory and it's easier to laugh at geek stereotypes.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

  • Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory
  • Kathryn Joosten – Desperate Housewives
  • Julie Bowen – Modern Family
  • Sofia Vergara – Modern Family
  • Merritt Weaver – Nurse Jackie
  • Kristen Wiig – Saturday Night Live
Thoughts: I'm not best placed to say, but Merritt Weaver is the only thing that even makes me understand why Nurse Jackie gets nominated in comedy categories, so give it to her. She's fun.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

  • Ed O'Neill – Modern Family
  • Jesse Tyler Ferguson – Modern Family
  • Ty Burrell – Modern Family
  • Eric Stonestreet – Modern Family
  • Max Greenfield – New Girl
  • Bill Hader – Saturday Night Live
Thoughts: The Modern Family award will most likely go to... oh, throw a dart.

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Breaking Bad
  • Downton Abbey
  • Game Of Thrones
  • Homeland
  • Mad Men
Thoughts: Finally! Americans have woken up and realized Downton Abbey is a TV series, not a miniseries. This has huge repercussions, as you'll see later. Breaking Bad is the best show on TV, so one hopes this is a no-brainer. Interesting that none of these dramas are on mainstream networks.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

  • Glenn Close – Damages
  • Michelle Dockery – Downton Abbey
  • Julianna Margulies – The Good Wife
  • Kathy Bates – Harry's Law
  • Claire Danes – Homeland
  • Elisabeth Moss – Mad Men
Thoughts: Oh, Claire Danes, for sure. Michelle Dockery? America really needs to get over its UK period drama fetish. She's fine, but... God.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

  • Steve Buscemi – Boardwalk Empire
  • Bryan Cranston – Breaking Bad
  • Michael C. Hall – Dexter
  • Hugh Bonneville – Downton Abbey
  • Damian Lewis – Homeland
  • Jon Hamm – Mad Men
Thoughts: Bryan Cranston, duh. How is Michael C. Hall still getting nominated for Dexter? Hugh Bonneville? Oh, Lord. Jon Hamm's my #2.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  • Anna Gunn – Breaking Bad
  • Maggie Smith – Downton Abbey
  • Joanne Froggatt – Downton Abbey
  • Archie Panjabi – The Good Wife
  • Christine Baranski – The Good Wife
  • Christina Hendricks – Mad Men
Thoughts: See, they've gone Downton crazy this year! I'm going to say Christine Baranski, because I've seen her play drama and comedy and she's terrific at both. Christina Hendricks is lovely, but I don't see why she gets nominated. Unless Emmy voters just want to see her on the red carpet.

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

  • Aaron Paul – Breaking Bad
  • Giancarlo Esposito – Breaking Bad
  • Brendan Coyle – Downton Abbey
  • Jim Carter – Downton Abbey
  • Peter Dinklage – Game Of Thrones
  • Jared Harris – Mad Men
Thoughts: Ordinarily, Peter Dinklage would be my pick, but the Emmy's have come good and given Giancarlo Esposito a nomination. So he's my pick, because he was absolutely astonishingly good in Breaking Bad's fourth season.

Outstanding Guest Actor in Comedy

  • Michael J. Fox - Curb Your Enthusiasm
  • Greg Kinnear - Modern Family
  • Bobby Cannavale - Nurse Jackie
  • Jimmy Fallon - Saturday Night Live
  • Will Arnett - 30 Rock
  • Jon Hamm - 30 Rock
Thoughts: I can't judge this one, sorry...

Outstanding Guest Actress in Comedy

  • Dot-Marie Jones - Glee
  • Maya Rudolph - Saturday Night Live
  • Melissa McCarthy - Saturday Night Live
  • Elizabeth Banks - 30 Rock
  • Margaret Cho - 30 Rock
  • Kathy Bates - Two and a Half Men
Thoughts: Or this one.

Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series

  • Mark Margolis, Breaking Bad
  • Dylan Baker, The Good Wife
  • Michael J. Fox, The Good Wife
  • Jeremy Davies, Justified
  • Ben Feldman, Mad Men
  • Jason Ritter, Parenthood
Thoughts: Excellent category. I'd love for Mark Margolis to win, considering his performance was 99% communicated with a glare because his character in Breaking Bad could't talk. But I'd be happy with anyone else, except for Jason Ritter in Parenthood (which I haven't seen).

Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series

  • Martha Plimpton, The Good Wife
  • Loretta Devine, Grey's Anatomy
  • Jean Smart, Harry's Law
  • Julia Ormond, Mad Men
  • Joan Cusack, Shameless
  • Uma Thurman, Smash
Thoughts: I can only really comment on Martha Plimpton and Julia Ormond here, who were fine but nothing Emmy-worthy. Was Uma Thurman worth the nomination for Smash?

Outstanding Reality Show Host

  • Tom Bergeron - Dancing With the Stars
  • Cat Deeley - So You Think You Can Dance
  • Phil Keoghan - The Amazing Race
  • Ryan Seacrest - American Idol
  • Betty White - Betty White's Off Their Rockers
Thoughts: This is a genuine category? Oh. Umm, Cat Deeley to win. I like her.

Outstanding Reality Series Competition

  • The Amazing Race
  • Dancing With the Stars
  • Project Runway
  • So You Think You Can Dance
  • Top Chef
  • The Voice
Thoughts: From what I hear, The Voice or Dancing With The Stars have this sewn up.

Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

  • The Colbert Report
  • The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live
  • Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
  • Real Time With Bill Maher
  • Saturday Night Live
Thoughts: I don't watch any of these regularly, but tend to find The Colbert Report funniest.

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie

  • American Horror Story
  • Game Change
  • Hatfields & McCoys
  • Hemingway & Gellhorn
  • Luther
  • Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia
Thoughts: Oh, now the Emmy's think Sherlock isn't a TV series. Give it a few years and they'll learn – but, okay, the paucity of episodes means it's a hard one to categorize. I'd pick Sherlock here because it's more fun and creative, but wouldn't mind Luther winning.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

  • Connie Britton – American Horror Story
  • Julianne Moore – Game Change
  • Nicole Kidman - Hemingway & Gellhorn
  • Ashley Judd – Missing
  • Emma Thompson - The Song Of Lunch
Thoughts: I can't judge this one, but my gut says Julianne Moore.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

  • Woody Harrelson – Game Change
  • Kevin Costner - Hatfields & McCoys
  • Bill Paxton - Hatfields & McCoys
  • Clive Owen - Hemingway & Gellhorn
  • Idris Elba – Luther
  • Benedict Cumberbatch - Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia
Thoughts: It has to be Cumberbatch, followed by Elba. Patriotism, see.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie

  • Frances Conroy - American Horror Story
  • Jessica Lange - American Horror Story
  • Sarah Paulson – Game Change
  • Mare Winningham - Hatfields & McCoys
  • Judy Davis – Page Eight
Thoughts: Jessica Lange was the standout of American Horror Story, in a role that's practically revived her career. Disliked the show, by and large, but she was great.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie

  • Denis O'Hare - American Horror Story
  • Ed Harris - Game Change
  • Tom Berenger - Hatfields & McCoys
  • David Strathairn - Hemingway & Gellhorn
  • Martin Freeman - Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia
Thoughts: Denis O'Hare? He's great, but his role on American Horror Story was negligible. I actually thought Watson's role in series 2 of Sherlock was noticeably weaker, but I haven't seen the others, so will have to go with Martin Freeman.

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

  • Tim Van Patten - Boardwalk Empire
  • Vince Gilligan - Breaking Bad
  • Brian Percival - Downton Abbey
  • Michael Cuesta - Homeland
  • Phil Abraham - Mad Men
Thoughts: Hmmm, tricky. I think there's more involved with directing Boardwalk Empire, so Tim Van Patten gets my hypothetical vote.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

  • Julian Fellowes - Downton Abbey
  • Alex Gansa, Howard Gordon & Gideon Raff - Homeland
  • Semi Chellas & Matthew Weiner - Mad Men
  • Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton - Mad Men
  • Erin Lev & Matthew Weiner - Mad Men
Thoughts: Julian Fellowes? Haha. He had terrible problems with Downton Abbey series 2. Just give it to one of the Mad Men posse.

Overall thoughts
A strong showing for British shows (Luther, Downton Abbey, Sherlock) and the actors involved in them (but not the writers?), plus some love shown for excellent dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad. It's just a tragedy Community doesn't feature anywhere—being not only the funniest show on TV, but one with the best comedy ensemble I've seen in years.

The Emmy 2012 winners will be announced on 23 September at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, with host Jimmy Kimmel. The complete list of nominees can be read here.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Competition: win a WILD BILL T-shirt signed by Dexter Fletcher

Wild Bill is a British drama about Bill Hayward (Charlie Creed-Miles), a parolee who returns to his home in East London after 8 years in prison, only to discover his two teenage sons have been abandoned by their mother and are living on the street. Bill's eldest, 15-year-old Dean (Will Poulter), is doing his best to provide for his younger brother, but it's not long before Bill's forced back into a fatherly role, just as his youngest son gets involved with some of his drug-dealing associates...

The movie marks the directorial debut of Dexter Fletcher (Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, Kick-Ass), starring Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), Jason Flemyng (Snatch), Jaime Winstone (Donkey Punch) and Olivia Williams (The Sixth Sense)... and I have a signed piece of merchandise for you to win, courtesy of Universal Pictures.

If you'd like to win this Wild Bill T-shirt, signed by Dexter Fletcher himself, just answer the following question:

In Wild Bill, Will Poulter plays Bill's son Dean, but in which movie did Poulter play a schoolboy called Lee Carter?

(a) Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader
(b) St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold
(c) Son of Rambow

To win, simply e-mail your answer to me, remembering to put "Wild Bill" in your subject header. Please also include a delivery address to send the T-shirt to, should you be lucky enough to win it.

The competition is only open to people with a valid UK or Ireland address to enable a successful delivery of this prize. The closing date for entries is Saturday 21 July 2012 @5PM (GMT). The winner will be announced on Sunday and contacted by e-mail.

WILD BILL is released on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download this Monday 23 July in the UK.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Trailer: FRINGE, season 5

Here's another trailer from the San Diego Comic-Con, this one previewing the final season of Fringe. As expected, it looks like the show will be entirely set in the future glimpsed in season 4's "Letters of Transit", with Fringe Division trying to rid the world of the conquering Observers. One would assume this leaves little room for freak-of-the-week investigations, being more of a serialised action-adventure with freaky science as the freedom-fighter's weapon of choice. A change of pace, perhaps, but one that should be a great deal of fun. Much of this preview is comprised of footage from the previous seasons, but there's enough new material to raise eyebrows and anticipation levels—such as the apparent return of William Bell (again) to help Walter defeat The Observers.

As a fan of the show, it's just great to be reminded that we're lucky enough to be getting closure—although it could be argued season 4 already provided that. I just hope this final season won't feel like an unnecessary addendum, once it's over, but I have faith in the writers—despite some of last season's storytelling decisions splitting opinion amongst the fan-base.

FRINGE returns to Fox for a final season of 13 episodes on 28 September, taking the series to a grand total of 100. There's something very satisfying about that, isn't there.

TRUE BLOOD, 5.6 – "Hopeless"

We're halfway through season 5 already, and I'm aware my reviews will soon slip into repetition—if they haven't done so already. The show's problems are its problems, and they're clearly not going to be fixed soon (or ever). There's a chance for reinvention next season, without Alan Ball's involvement, but even then I don't see HBO allowing True Blood's recipe to be altered too much. Unless the ratings flat line, there's most likely no chance of this show ever clawing back its early form. Millions or people have to stop watching for changes to be enforced by the network, but that also risks cancellation at this stage in a show's life, so it's a Catch-22. Anyway, rather than laboriously try and make sense of this episode as an hour's entertainment (which is very difficult because it's just random subplots occurring simultaneously), I'm just going to bullet-point the disorder:

Review: BREAKING BAD, 5.1 – "Live Free or Die"

"We're done when I say we're done." – Walter White

The first half of Breaking Bad's concluding season begins, and there are big changes in the wake of Gus Fring's shocking death and the dismantling of the Mexican cartel. A power vacuum's opened up in Albuquerque, and the victorious Walter White (Bryan Cranston) probably has ambitions to fill the void. Where once he was a desperate chemistry teacher using his underestimated talents to make and sell drugs to provide for his family after his probable death from cancer, Walt's tumour's in remission, he has no enemies left to fight, and a confidence has suddenly enveloped him. He's now taking firm steps towards becoming the Scarface-style villain creator Vince Gilligan always said Breaking Bad would chronicle the rise of. But before that happens, there are loose ends to tie up from season 4...

Monday, 16 July 2012

SINBAD, 1.2 – "Queen of the Water-Thieves"

Sky1's new fantasy drama looks terrific, but Sinbad isn't engaging us with the lead character and his shipmates. I don't actually recall anyone's name beyond the hero (without looking up the credits), and it confuses me that episode 2 largely kept Sinbad (Elliot Knight) away from the rest of the regulars. This week, Sinbad and the crew of The Providence were captured by an island tribe of Water-Thieves, with Sinbad taking a liking to their autocratic leader Razia (Sophie Okonedo) while his friends were imprisoned and forced into a duel to the death. So it was down to Sinbad to try and win Razia's affections, while perhaps freeing the giant vulture she keeps locked up inside her lair. A decent enough basis for a story, but it all fell rather flat for me. There just isn't much spark to any of the dialogue, and the storyline did very little that hasn't been seen before. And why did Sinbad tell Razia about his grandmother's curse? If he's going to willingly tell the villains about his fatal weakness, he won't last long in this buccaneering lark!

TV Picks: 16-22 July 2012 (Dancing On Ice Goes Gold, How the Universe Works, Phil Spencer: Secret Agent, Suburgatory, Usain Bolt: the Fastest Man Alive, etc.)

Babies In The Office (BBC2, 7pm) Series where a London minicab firm allow their workers to bring their babies into work with them, which has proven a success in America. (1/2)
PICK OF THE DAY Britain's Secret Treasures (ITV1, 8pm) Series exploring the amazing archaelogical finds by ordinary members of the public. Hosted by Michael Buerke & Bettany Hughes. Continues until Saturday. (1/6)
Nature's Microworlds (BBC4, 8.30pm) Documentary series exploring some of the world's most amazing ecosystems, starting with a look at the Galapagos islands. (1/6)
The Riots: In Their Own Words (BBC2, 9pm) Documentary series reconstructing the nationwide UK riots of August 2011. Concludes tomorrow. (1/2)
Is Football Racist? (BBC3, 9pm) Documentary looking at racism in the national game. Presented by Clarke Carlise, the Chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association.
The Toilet: An Unspoken History (BBC4, 9pm) Documentary on the history and evolution of the humble toilet. Presented by Welsh poet Ifor ap Glyn.
Usain Bolt: The Fastest Man Alive (BBC1, 10.35pm) Documentary on the Jamaican sprinter who's currently dominating the 100m event with a time of 9.4 seconds.

Can Anyone Beat Bolt? (BBC3, 9pm) Documentary on the 100m sprinter and his five closest competitors, ahead of the London Olympics. Narrated by Reggie Yates.
Immortal: An Horizon Guide To Ageing (BBC4, 9pm) Science documentary looking back on 45 years of history, seeing what has been learned about how and why people grow old. Presented by Johnny Ball.
PICK OF THE DAY Suburgatory (E4, 9.30pm) Season 1 of the US sitco about a single father who moves out of New York with his teenage daughter to the suburbs. Starring Jeremy Sisto, Jane Levy, Alan Tudyk, Maestro Harrell, Arden Myrin, Carly Chaikin, Ana Gasteyer & Parker Young. (1/22)

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park 2012 (BBC2, 7.30pm) Coverage of this year's flower festival in Tatton Park, Cheshire. Concludes on Friday. (1/2)
Restoration Home (BBC2, 8pm) Series 2 of the show where people try to convert historic buildings into homes. Presented by Caroline Quentin. (1/6)
Victoria Pendleton: Cycling's Golden Girl (BBC1, 9pm) Profile of the world and Olympic champion cyclist Victoria Pendleton.
PICK OF THE DAY The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family (Channel 4, 10pm) Fly-on-the-wall documentary following the Knight family, who are all professional wrestlers.
Olympics' Most Amazing Moments (BBC3, 10pm) Countdown of the 50 most memorable moments from previous Olympic Games. Presented by Richard Bacon & ex-sprinter/hurdler Colin Jackson.

The Truth About Sports Products (BBC1, 8pm) Documentary that tries to uncover the truth about the claims of various sports products, from trainers to energy drinks.
Natural World (BBC2, 8pm) Wildlife documentary about Mat Pines's five-year study of the hamadryas baboons in Ethiopia. Narrated by David Attenborough.
Crimewatch (BBC1, 9pm) Appeal for help solving the crime of a hitman who targeted a wealthy Russian banker in London's Docklands. Presented by Sophie Raworth.
PICK OF THE DAY How The Universe Works (Discovery Channel, 9pm) Series 2 of the science documentary series, starting with a look at Venus. (1/8)
The Special Olympics (BBC4, 9.30pm) Documentary following four participants of the Special Olympics from 2008, held in Leicester.

PICK OF THE DAY Phil Spencer: Secret Agent (Channel 4, 8pm) Series 3 of the show where Phil Spencer tries to help people buy properties. (1/5)

PICK OF THE DAY TV's Biggest Blockbusters (ITV1, 8.35pm) Countdown of the most-watched TV shows in British history. Narrated by Fay Ripley.
Shakespeare From Kabul (BBC HD, 10.15pm) Documentary about Afghan actors preparing to perform The Comedy Of Errors at London's Globe theatre.

PICK OF THE DAY Dancing On Ice Goes Gold (ITV1, 8pm) Special edition of Dancing On Ice, featuring Olympic gold medalists Colin Jackson, Olga Korbut, Tessa Sanderson, Pippa Wilson, Jamie Baulch, Steve Williams & Gail Emms. Hosted by Philip Schofield & Christine Bleakley.