Thursday, 28 February 2013


Today over at MSN: a double-bill of reviews from last night on ITV; the Simon Cowell-produced cookery series FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD and supernatural drama LIGHTFIELDS.
Simon Cowell's production company is behind Food Glorious Food, which explains why it feels very much like X Factor for amateur chefs. The pacing and editing evoked memories of X Factor audition episodes, but instead of self-deluded, tone-deaf fools murdering I Believe I Can Fly, viewers were treated to dotty women crushing cabbages with their bare feet. Presented by Countdown's Carol Vorderman (who's only counting the money these days), Food Glorious Food kicked off in the pretty spa town of Malvern in Worcestershire. It was obvious from the start that the show intends to play on an audience's sense of cultural idealism.

Continue reading 'Food Glorious Food' at MSN TV...

The most interesting thing about Marchlands was how it was a rare thing in television; a UK remake of a US pilot that didn't go to series. The concept is definitely suited to the British drama model, which means the story doesn't outstay its welcome across five episodes, and yet the show can return as different incarnations. The triptych of tales woven together for Lightfields takes place in 1944, 1975 and 2012.

Continue reading 'Lightfields' at MSN TV...

Wednesday, 27 February 2013


Over at MSN today: I reviewed the premiere of BBC Two's new sitcom HEADING OUT, written by and starring comedian/presenter Sue Perkins as a middle-aged lesbian vet.
Sue Perkins' career has yo-yoed since she achieved cult stardom as part of a double-act with Mel Giedroyc on Light Lunch in the 1990s. She practically vanished for most of the 2000s, but her comeback's been going for a while, thanks to successful appearances on Have I Got News For You? and QI. This led to the unexpected success of cooking show The Great British Bake Off (reuniting her with comedy partner Mel). And now she's been given arguably the BBC's biggest show of support: the opportunity to write and star in her own sitcom. But will Sue Perkins echo the success of fellow female comic, Miranda Hart? Or does her forte lie in impromptu presenting?

Continue reading at MSN TV...


clockwise: Tom Burke, Luke Pasqualino,
Howard Charles & Santiago Cabrera
The BBC have already started work on their replacement for Merlin, the adventure series Atlantis, but they're also working on The Musketeers—a ten-part drama based on Alexandre Dumas's classic novel The Three Musketeers, adapted by Primeval creator Adrian Hodges.

The casting's already started coming together, with the musketeers played by Merlin's Santiago Cabrera (Aramis), The Hour's Tom Burke (Athos) and Howard Charles (Porthos). They're be joined by hero D'Artagnan (Skins's Luke Pasqualino), creepy Cardinal Richlieu (The Thick of It's Peter Capaldi), and actors such as Tamla Kari (Cuckoo), Maimie McCoy (Wallander) and Hugo Speer (Bedlam).

Speaking about his new show, Hodges said he's "thrilled to be working with such a dynamic, talented and attractive ensemble cast" and that the show is "all about passion, romance, heroism and action, and I can't think of a better group of actors to embody those diverse qualities."

BBC Drama Controller Ben Stephenson added that "the ambition of this drama is clearly illustrated with such a world class mix of talent—the perfect team to take the audience on thrilling action adventures every week."

The Musketeers will broadcast in 2014, with filming beginning this April. I'm guessing it will plug the Saturday night gap when Doctor Who and Atlantis are off-air, so perhaps next winter or summer?

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

BLACK MIRROR – 'The Waldo Moment'

Interesting to note that series 2 of Black Mirror has reversed the style of series 1's episodes; beginning with the "emotive hard sci-fi" one, continuing with the "scary high-concept" one, and now ending with the "blackly satirical" one. "The Waldo Moment" was unfortunately the weakest of this year's triptych, and perhaps the worst episode of Black Mirror yet made, but that's not to say it wasn't enjoyable and though-provoking. I just think the concept wasn't presented in a manner that made it feel believable, and didn't soar high enough—ignoring the divisive end credits footage, which felt like a thin attempt to make the preceding hour feel more important in retrospect.

Sky Living take a bite of HANNIBAL

Sky Living have picked up the UK rights to NBC's impending crime drama Hannibal, about a FBI profiler (Hugh Dancy) tasked with catching serial killers, aided by his therapist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelson)—who's secretly rather partial to human flesh.

I wouldn't have expected Sky Living to get their mitts on this show, given how the channel still has a female-skewing vibe. But maybe this is part of Sky's plan to make it more appealing to men, who usually find the schedule filled with Ghost Whisperer, America's Next Top Model and Grey's Anatomy repeats. If you ask me Hannibal should be on Sky1 or Sky Atlantic instead of The Following, but what do I know. Maybe the name-recognition will succeed in drawing more male eyeballs Living's way.

Antonia Hurford-Jones, the channel's director, has this to say about their acquisition: "we are delighted to be adding Hannibal to our line-up of quality US drama on Sky Living. This series is perfect for Sky Living because it will appeal not only to our core female audience, but to a shared one too. Plus, it will complement our new original commissions which are starting to come through."

Oh, right—so that's definitely their plan then. Will it work?

Hannibal will premiere on 4 April in the US, but a UK airdate hasn't been announced yet.

Monday, 25 February 2013

BEING HUMAN, 5.4 – 'The Greater Good'

One thing that's becoming clear about Being Human is that I'm completely bored of the central theme of monsters feeling guilty about their true natures, and whether or not they can live as "humans" in polite society. After five series the idea feels completely exhausted, so for that reason alone I'm glad the show is drawing to a close. It hasn't helped that we have three new characters in Hal (Damien Molony), Tom (Michael Socha) and Alex (Kate Bracken), because their general concerns and issues are largely the same as Mitchell, George and Annie's were. What's left to really say about three creatures of the night sharing a house together?

MSN TV: Fox's DEXTER - season 7

Today over at MSN: I've reviewed the season 7 premiere of Showtime's DEXTER, which finally made its UK debut on Fox last night. This is a rewritten and condensed version of my original review from last September, so don't worry if you're already well aware of my thoughts about Dexter's brilliant seventh season...
It's a relief to feel passionate about Dexter again, following a two-season run of wasted opportunities. Season five has admirers, but most agree the sixth was a creative quagmire, complete with a largely obvious mid-year twist. I was reluctant to get excited about Debra seeing Dexter kill someone, but this premiere earned my respect by refusing to backtrack. The bulk of Are You..? was taken up with the fallout from Deb witnessing her brother stick a knife through the heart of religious zealot Travis. It was especially fun to see the episode tease the audience with the possibility of Debra believing Dexter's lies, or for Dexter to scarper now his secret is exposed to someone he can't keep quiet by killing them.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

TV Picks: 25 February – 3 March 2013 (Alan Carr: Chatty Man, Celebrity Juice, CSI, Cube, Heading Out, Lightfields, Mary & Martha, Oscars 2013, Shameless, etc.)

Below are my weekly picks of the most notable TV shows premiering/returning to UK screens...

Sunday, 24 February 2013

10 Things People in TV & Film Never Do

They may look like you and I, but characters on TV and at the movies are a very different species. Below are 10 things fictional people never do, which flies in the face of normal everyday experiences.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Trailer: GAME OF THRONES – season 3

HBO has released a one-minute trailer for the third season of Game of Thrones, which looks mightily impressive. I'm glad I stuck with this show through a dense and occasionally plodding first season, because it's really turned into something very impressive and remarkable. I don't read George R.R Martin's books, but I hear the third is widely considered the best (and season 3 will be tackling the first half of "A Storm of Swords"), so it's time to get excited for the return of Westeros. New faces appearing include Mackenzie Crook (The Office), Tara Fitzgerald, Ciarán Hinds (Munich), Paul Kaye (Dennis Pennis), Anton Lesser (Primeval), Tobiaz Menzies (Rome), Diana Rigg (The Avengers), Iwan Rheon (Misfits), Clive Russell (Sherlock Holmes) and Thomas Sangster (Love Actually).

Update: 03/03/13 - the extended trailer contains even better footage...

GAME OF THRONES returns 31 March 2013 on HBO, and 1 April 2013 on Sky Atlantic.

COMMUNITY, 4.3 – 'Conventions of Space and Time'

The idea of Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi) attending a convention for their favourite sci-fi show (Doctor Who pastiche Inspector Spacetime) offers so much potential for geek-friendly references and pop-culture lampoonery, but "Conventions of Space and Time" didn't make good on its promises. There was a mildly enjoyable storyline about Troy's friendship with Abed having to overcome fresh obstacles—after Abed revealed he knows Troy's dating Britta (Gillian Jacobs), before making a new friend in British fan-boy Toby (Little Britain's Matt Lucas)—but it wasn't enough. I also quite enjoyed the subplot with Pierce (Chevy Chase) becoming part of a focus group on a US Inspector Spacetime remake, and using the fawning attention to make all manner of stupid suggestions—although quite why a modern-day TV exec would hire Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210) as the eponymous time-traveller is anyone's guess.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 3.21 & 3.22 – 'Graduation Day: Part 1 & 2'

Mayor: Mmm. My God, what a feeling. The power of these creatures. It suffuses my being. I can feel the changes begin. My organs are shifting, changing, making ready for the Ascension. Plus these babies are high in fibre. And what's the fun in becoming an immortal demon if you're not regular, am I right?

The two-part conclusion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's third season begins with an episode of piece-moving; some of which felt like it should have been dealt with many episodes ago. I'm a little alarmed that after almost a whole season, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the gang are still mostly clueless about the Mayor's (Harry Groener) planned "Ascension"—other than it will coincide with their Graduation Day, appropriately. I still don't like how this season's on-going concerns were handled, so I'm torn with this season overall. The show definitely has more confidence and ambitiousness, together with characters that are being written better, but the long-term planning feels quite haphazard by modern standards.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

BLACK MIRROR – 'White Bear'

The following review contains major spoilers, so please don't read unless you've seen the episode in question, or spent 1999 screaming "Bruce Willis is a ghost!" in shopping malls...

Last week's premiere "Be Right Back", while emotionally rich, didn't take its overused sci-fi concepts anywhere new. Black Mirror's second episode, "White Bear", was also a bit of a hodgepodge of ideas, although the narrative felt more gripping and propulsive. And the trump card resolution added some deliciously dark and satirical flavours that elevated the whole episode in retrospect.

Monday, 18 February 2013

BEING HUMAN, 5.3 – 'Pie & Prejudice'

The midway point of series 5 arrived with a largely non-mytharc storyline from Jamie Mathieson, which felt more like your typical episode of Being Human. There wasn't much that felt particularly new here, but it was efficiently put together and ended on an effective oh-shit moment for the character of Hal (Damien Molony)—but even its predicament of a vampire having a relapse has been done before, to far grander effect with Mitchell back in series 2. Still, thanks to total absence of Crumb and a limited storyline for Mr Rook (Steven Robertson), together with more of a focus on telling a strange supernatural yarn, "Pie & Prejudice" went down quite nicely...

TV Picks: 18-24 February 2013 (666 Park Avenue, Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway, Brit Awards 2013, Dexter, Jack Taylor, Piers Morgan's Life Stories, etc.)

Below are my picks of the most notable TV shows premiering/returning on UK screens this week...

Sunday, 17 February 2013


NBC have finally released a trailer for their TV series based on characters created by author Thomas Harris, popularised in movies like Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon. (We'll forget the atrocious prequel Hannibal Rising.)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

MSN TV: Fox's THE WALKING DEAD, 3.9 - 'The Suicide King'

Over at MSN today: I've reviewed the mid-season 3 premiere of AMC's THE WALKING DEAD, which had its UK premiere on Fox last night.
There's almost no point being critical about The Walking Dead, because it continues to be a ratings juggernaut that can't be killed. This mid-season premiere entertained 12.3 million cable subscribers in the US, which is mind-blowing considering AMC would be overjoyed with three or four. The show isn't close to being as well-written or performed as AMC's other award-winning combination of Mad Men and Breaking Bad. However, it has clearly captured the mass attention and loyalty of a viewing television audience, something neither of the aforementioned shows have quite achieved.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Friday, 15 February 2013

COMMUNITY, 4.2 – 'Paranormal Parentage'

After last week's worrying premiere, Megan Ganz's "Paranormal Parentage" was a very good return to form that has me more optimistic about Community's future without Dan Harmon around—well, creatively, as this episode registered a drop in overnight ratings from 3.8m to 2.75m. But if the show's on its way out, hopefully the majority of episodes will be of this one's quality.

MSN TV: Sky Atlantic's VEGAS

Over at MSN today: I've reviewed VEGAS, which had its UK premiere on Sky Atlantic last night. Regular readers probably don't need to read it, as it's a reworking of the original review I wrote for its US premiere last September on CBS. Unless you want to help the page-hit stats, of course...
I was looking forward to Vegas on account of its arresting premise (outmoded cowboy takes on smooth mob boss), its beautiful setting (1960s Las Vegas), and the fact that The Shield's Michael Chiklis will be locking horns with The Right Stuff's Dennis Quaid. However, this well-made pilot didn't grab me as strongly as I'd hoped. It certainly wasn't bad; oozing style in James Mangold's (3:10 to Yuma) direction, while trying to do something different to other shows of its ilk. However, ultimately the opener just tweaked things we've seen time and time again.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Thursday, 14 February 2013

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 3.19 & 3.20 - 'Choices' & 'The Prom'

Willow: Actually this isn't about you--although I'm fond, don't get me wrong, of you. The other night, you know being captured and all, facing off with Faith, things just kind of got clear. I mean you've been fighting evil here for three.. years, and I've helped some, and now we're supposed to decide what we want to do with our lives and I just realized that's what I wanna do, fight evil, help people. I think it's worth doing and I don't think you do it 'cause you have to. It's a good fight, Buffy, and I want in!

While I don't really believe in Faith's (Eliza Dushku) decision to ally herself with the villainous Mayor (Harry Groener), I do like their dynamic together. Mayor Wilkins is the father figure Faith never had, so even when he infantilises her (like offering her cookies) she's charmed by his supportive and affable nature. He even buys her cool presents like a particularly baroque knife. Their relationship also works as the flipside of Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) close bond with her kind-hearted mother, which befits the character of Faith as the anti-Buffy in many ways.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013


Unsurprisingly, the BBC have announced their intention to replace Merlin with another family-friendly fantasy series: Atlantis.

They've even hired one of that show's better writers, Howard Overman (who later created Misfits, Vexed and adapted Dirk Gently), to take charge of this new thirteen-part series. Atlantis takes place in the titular mythical city, described as being a "strange, compelling realm" where "snake-haired goddesses" roam, containing "palaces so vast it was said they were built by giants".

The hero will be a character called Jason (of Argonauts fame) and the show will essentially rework many of the enduring Greek myths and legends. Atlantis will begin filming in Morrocco and Wales this April, scheduled to fill Merlin's timeslot this autumn. But will it manage to dent ITV's X Factor ratings in a similar fashion?

It's far too early to say much about this show, but I'm glad Howard Overman's in charge of things. He was a stand-out writer on Merlin from way back, and it's been great to see his career blossom in unusual ways: from the great (Misfits), to the problematic (Dirk Gently) and the ugly (Vexed). Atlantis will most likely follow the example set by Merlin in execution and style, because it's executive-produced by that show's creators Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy, but with Overman's stronger influence I suspect the quality of writing will be much sharper. Anyone else excited? Or should we perhaps brace ourselves for a Sinbad-style misfire?

Review: SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED – 'Enemies of Rome'

This review is a number of weeks behind the US broadcast on Starz, so please be mindful of spoilers in any discussion below.

I stopped reviewing Spartacus last season because the show, while still very enjoyable and made with bloodthirsty zest, had drifted away from some of the things I most responded to in its Blood & Sand and Gods of the Arena years. The scope widened and the ambition grew as rebel gladiator Spartacus (Liam McIntyre) ventured out beyond his ludus, but I think I started to realise the show spoke to me more in its tighter focus on the everyday running of a gladiator training camp. Given its clear master and servant backdrop, it was essentially a blood-spattered version of Downton Abbey—only with more bodily mutilation. A lot more, let's be honest.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

BEING HUMAN, 5.2 – 'Sticks & Rope'

If this wasn't the last series of Being Human (coupled with the fact I've reviewed every episode so far) I would give serious thought to dropping weekly reviews. It's lost its freshness. I quite like fastidious Hal (Damien Molony), but sleepy-eyed Tom (Michael Socha) leaves me cold, and Alex (Kate Bracken) has yet to grab my attention. When the show is trying to be funny and relying on the chemistry of the three leads, I find it a little unbearable. They're just not very compelling as a trio, which makes me realise just how much their predecessors worked as a dynamic threesome. Where the show still manages to come alive is whenever it's being dark and creepy, with a handful of spooky scenes towards the end going some way to rescuing the whole hour.

MSN TV: Channel 4's BLACK MIRROR - 'Be Right Back'

Today over at MSN: I've reviewed the first instalment of Charlie Brooker's BLACK MIRROR, which returned for a second series with a story about a widow (Hayley Atwell) who resurrects her dead boyfriend using cutting-edge technology...
Charlie Brooker's best known for his savage criticism and misanthropic analysis of junk TV and current events, but Black Mirror sees him in a more contemplative and imaginative gear. The first batch of Black Mirror episodes were of high quality, and Be Right Back, the second series opener, certainly doesn't let the standard slip. However, rather than echo series one's shocking premiere (where a prime minister was forced to have sex with a pig on live TV), this episode was comparatively sedate - perhaps intending to draw in viewers who may have been put off with last year's controversial premiere.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Review: COMMUNITY, 4.1 – 'History 101'

Creators of many TV shows lose their position of power, for one reason or another, all the time. Most viewers don't notice, unless the show in question went through one person's filter as "showrunner" to a far greater extent than usual. Dan Harmon was one such person, having extensive input on every script for NBC's low-rated but highly-regarded Community—which means the show is intrinsically the product of his unique imagination. That's not to discredit the many talented writers who have worked on Community, but now that Harmon's been fired by NBC (amidst all manner of behind-the-scenes tittle-tattle), the fourth season of the show is in a distinctly precarious position. Can the remaining writers and directors keep the show's unique voice alive (perhaps even taking it to inspired new places), or are they doomed to crank out a weak imitation?

TV Picks: 11-17 February 2013 (Big Fat Gypsy Valentine, Black Mirror, Spartacus: War of the Damned, Vegas, The Walking Dead, etc.)

Below are my picks of this week's most notable TV shows, premiering/returning to UK screens...

Friday, 8 February 2013

The long weekend

Family commitments mean I won't be blogging until after the weekend, which makes it difficult to review the return of Community until then. But next week should be better, with reviews for Black Mirror, Spartacus, The Walking Dead and Zero Hour. Sorry it's been so fragmented here recently, and somewhat focused on my MSN work, but these things happen. Still mulling over making The Americans a weekly thing, too. As before, this is the ideal place to leave a random comment, start an off-topic discussion, or suggest items for DMD.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

BBC stakes BEING HUMAN dead

BBC Three's highly successful supernatural drama Being Human has been cancelled by the BBC, after five series of 37 episodes and one popular North American remake. A few novels have even been published. That's an impressive feat for a relatively low-budget TV show that started life as a backdoor 2008 pilot, which only Russell Tovey survived when it became a full-blown series. The show even shed actors after three years, leading to a new trio of characters headlining the current final series.

Being Human's creator Toby Whithouse has written a blog about the demise of the show, which echoes much of my own thoughts. I think its time was up. The idea just isn't as fresh as it once was; and while I think the new characters have plenty of positives, you can't shake the feeling the show ended once the original line-up were gone. Indeed, part of me thinks Being Human sort of ended once Lenora Crichlow was the only leftover face from series 1. Everything since has been a strange kind of canonical reboot.

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 3.17 & 3.18 – 'Enemies' & 'Earshot'

Faith: No one can stop the Ascension. Mayor's got it wired, B. He built this town for demons to feed on, and come Graduation Day, he's gettin' paid. And I'll be sittin' at his right hand -- assuming he has hands after the transformation, I'm not too clear on that part. And all your little lame-ass friends are gonna be kibbles 'n' bits.

The end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's third season is in sight, and I must admit I'm getting a little restless. Half this season felt like an addendum to the second, and while the quality of each episode has generally improved... I just can't shake the feeling season 3's wasted a lot of time and hasn't found a Big Bad half as enjoyable as Spike, Drusilla and Angelus (David Boreanaz) were before. The Mayor's (Harry Groener) masterplan is intentionally kept vague, but the mystery is more frustrating than pleasing. "ENEMIES" was a curious installment, in that I had two distinct reactions to it...

Tuesday, 5 February 2013


Over on MSN today: I've reviewed the feature-length opener of Stephen Poliakoff's five-part miniseries DANCING ON THE EDGE, about a black jazz band trying to breakthrough in 1930s London; starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew Goode, Janet Montgomery, John Goodman, Anthony Head & Angel Coulby.
The best period dramas reveal something to the modern-day viewer, often involving cultural differences. I must admit the idea of a mini-series about the fortunes of a London jazz band isn't something with inherent appeal, but Stephen Poliakoff's script was more entertaining and involving than expected. What's more, who could fail to be impressed by the cast assembled for this production? In addition to Chiwetel Ejiofor, there's Matthew Goode, the aforementioned John Goodman, screen veterans Jacqueline Bisset and Jane Asher, comedian Mel Smith, Buffy and Merlin star Anthony Head, Merlin's Angel Coulby and Doctor Who's Jenna-Louise Coleman. I liked how the story was very straightforward at heart, as this allowed for interesting character moments and a narrative with time to breathe.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Monday, 4 February 2013

MSN TV: BBC3's BEING HUMAN (series 5)

Over on MSN today: I've reviewed the fifth series premiere of BBC Three's BEING HUMAN, which is the first with none of the original actors involved. Has this rejuvenated the supernatural drama completely, or is it the same old thing with different faces?
I was a huge fan of Being Human's first few series, and mostly enjoyed the third that concluded with Aidan Turner's departure. Last year was an important transitional period as Russell Tovey and Lenora Crichlow also left. Michael Socha's werewolf Tom was promoted to a regular character and Damien Molony's vampire Hal was introduced alongside Kate Bracken's ghost Alex. Ironically, The Trinity - the series five opener - marks the first episode with no connection to the original triumvirate, so I was interested to see if they would breathe new life into an ageing show. This premiere wasn't bad, but I think a good deal of fans will concede that Being Human's past its prime. It doesn't help that the original actors have departed, but a bigger problem is how the concept doesn't appear to have much juice left.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

TV Picks: 4-10 February 2013 (BAFTA 2012, Common Ground, Dancing on the Edge, Nashville, The Spa, Spiral, etc.)

Below are my picks of the week's most notable TV shows, premiering/returning to UK television screens. Feel free to leave a comment about what you will be watching, or if I've missed anything worth watching...

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Twitter'd: THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

It's the latest in my occasional series of live-tweeted quips about a movie I'm not passionate about reviewing properly. Click below if you'd like to read some random thoughts and jokes about THE EXPENDABLES 2, starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, et al...


Over on MSN today: I review the final of ITV's celebrity diving series SPLASH!, having missed the semi-final the week before. (Don't worry, it still made perfect nonsense to me.) I'm so relieved this Saturday night water torture's over...
You have to give Splash! credit for maintaining an audience of over five million viewers, although it's perhaps less of a statement on the show's quality and more the lack of family-friendly entertainment in general. In the wake of the BBC axing Total Wipeout and Harry Hill's TV Burp ending, Splash! is the only Saturday night show you can plonk an eight-year-old and 80-year-old in front of without anxiety. That's not quite true of crude dating gameshow Take Me Out, let's be frank.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Netflix's HOUSE OF CARDS (2013)

written by Beau Willimon (based on the miniseries by Andrew Davies and the novel by Michael Dobbs) / directed by David Fincher

There's two conversations to be had about House of Cards: the content of the show itself, and the unusual way it's been distributed. We'll start with the actual drama, which is a 13-part political thriller based on Andrew Davies' 1990 British miniseries that starred Ian Richardson as a devious Conservative trying to become Prime Minister—which was itself adapted from a novel by Michael Dobbs. In the US remake, Kevin Spacey (something of an Anglophile) takes the lead as Francis Underwood, the House of Representative's Majority Whip, who is unhappy when his efforts to install the next President go unrewarded with the promise of being made Secretary of State. Consequently, the ruthless Democrat plots revenge against President Walker (Michael Gill), Chief of Staff Linda Vasquez (Sakina Jaffrey) and the man who usurped him, Michael Kern—aided and abetted by his equally ambitious wife Claire (Robin Wright).

Despite being bankrolled by a company that make their money distributing other people's content, Netflix have sunk $100m into House of Cards and it's indistinguishable from prestigious dramas you'd expect from the likes of HBO. Anyone expecting a shoestring budget will be delighted by the production values, and it's clear that "Chapter One" benefits from having renowned director David Fincher behind the camera. He brings his gift for composition to the show and makes the camera-work look effortless, while imbuing it with an atmosphere and look comparable to The Social Network. I haven't seen beyond this episode at time of writing, but it'll be interesting to see if Fincher's standard-setting hour is maintained by some of the less feted directors involved—like James Foley (Glengarry Glenross) and Carl Franklin (Devil In A Blue Dress). I'm also looking forward to seeing if Joel Schumacher brings something different to the mix, or is happy to follow Fincher's example for the sake of continuity.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Yes, it's been a slow blogging week

Hello, dear reader.

I just wanted to fill people in on what's happening here at Dan's Media Digest. I haven't had much time to watch anything this week (poor me), which is why a number of things haven't materialised. Given the muted response to my first few reviews of Utopia, I've decided to keep that show as something to watch and NOT write about. For reasons of awfulness, I also won't bother trying to squeeze words out about The Following. I've also decided to watch Spartacus: War of the Damned at UK-pace for reasons of HD-ness (it begins 11 Feb on Sky1), and haven't had time to watch more Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately—so I'm going to have to take a short break from those season 3 catch-ups (a fortnight at the most).

But there is good news! I will definitely be covering Being Human again when it starts this Sunday (initially with the premiere for MSN), and might add FX's The Americans to my weekly rota if reader response is favourable. I will also try to review the pilot of House of Cards, directed by David Fincher, if I can get my hands on it (the whole first season is available simultaneously on Netflix today), and will be writing about the Dan Harmon-less Community and The Walking Dead whenever an episode inspires me. Looking a little further ahead, the pilot of ABC's Zero Hour and series 2 of Black Mirror will also be reviewed.

So, my apologies for the slow week in blogging, but these things happen. In the meantime... um, how about Merlin's Katie McGrath playing Lucy in the NBC/Sky Dracula TV show? Awesome. Oh, and if you have anything else to ask or suggest, this is probably the ideal place to do it below. Thank you!


If Showtime's Homeland had been made 30 years ago, chances are it would resemble FX's The Americans. This new spy drama also leans on the recent US cable trend for anti-heroes (Dexter, Breaking Bad), asking us to invest sympathy in the double lives of Phillip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) Jennings—an apparently normal couple with two kids, who are actually KGB sleeper agents tasked to help defeat the United States from within. The Jenning's own children aren't aware of their parent's true identity, and behind closed doors Phillip and Elizabeth's marriage isn't even real—although Phillip would like it to be, given half the chance. It's a fascinating set-up for a drama, imbued with period details from 1981 (soon after Ronald Reagan became President and rolled up his sleeves over Cold War issues), but does The Americans have what it takes to become a long-running hit?