Tuesday, 30 April 2013

MSN TV reviews: Sky Atlantic's BANSHEE, ITV's THE JOB LOT and VICIOUS


Over at MSN TV today: it's a triple-bill of reviews, starting with Sky Atlantic's US import BANSHEE about a jewel thief posing as a small-town's sheriff; continuing with ITV's new sitcom VICIOUS about an ageing gay couple played by Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi; and concluding with ITV's other new sitcom THE JOB LOT, about the employees of a city job centre...
Banshee is executive-produced by Alan Ball (Six Feet Under, True Blood) and airs on male-skewing Cinemax in the US, which sets up all kinds of contradictory expectations. Cinemax's existing hit Strike Back (a co-production with Sky, who originated the franchise) is arguably the best action series on-air, so I was interested to see what the channel could do with something with more substance and levels.

Continue reading 'Banshee' at MSN TV... (You can also listen to my audioboo.)

Vicious has already been given the accolade of a Christmas special by ITV, so expectations were perhaps unreasonably high. ITV isn't revered for its sitcoms (which have been stuck in the doldrums for the past few decades), so perhaps they just got overexcited by the fact Vicious isn't deplorable.

Continue reading 'Vicious' at MSN TV...

Airing immediately after 1970s-style sitcom Vicious on Monday evenings, I was amused to find The Job Lot's theme tune also evoking memories of that bygone era; Bring Me Sunshine will forever be synonymous with Morecambe & Wise. Similarly to Vicious, The Job Lot feels outmoded and creatively predictable, but my guess is ITV are trying to woo an older audience who don't have much time for modern sensibilities.

Continue reading 'The Job Lot' at MSN TV...

Monday, 29 April 2013

Competition: win ITV2's PLEBS on DVD!

ITV2's hit comedy Plebs arrives on DVD and Blu-ray today, and I have three DVDs to give away to lucky readers, courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The six-part comedy is set in Ancient Rome and follows the exploits of three ordinary young men from the suburbs (Tom Rosenthal, Joel Fry, Ryan Sampson), as they try to find employment, have sex, and climb the social ladder.

To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the following question:

In Plebs, what is the name of the gormless slave character?

(a) Stylax
(b) Grumio
(c) Obelix

To enter, e-mail me your answer, remembering to include 'Plebs' in the subject header and your full name and address (so your DVD can be dispatched if you win).

This competition ends on 3 May 2013 @5PM (GMT) and is only open to citizens of the UK and Ireland. Full Terms & Conditions can be read here. The three winners will be chosen at random from all of the correct entries. Good luck!

TV Picks: 29 April - 5 May 2013 (Banshee, Community, Four Rooms, The Job Lot, Vicious, Would I Lie To You?, etc.)


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

Sunday, 28 April 2013

DOCTOR WHO, 7.10 - 'Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS'


It has a title that evokes a thrilling Jules Verne adventure, and that's mostly what we got with Stephen Thompson's "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" (hereafter "Journey"); an eagerly anticipated episode because it promised to show us areas of the TARDIS beyond the console room. Most people know a thrifty BBC budget is what originally constrained Doctor Who's iconic time machine, leading to the master-stroke of it appearing outwardly smaller, but it became something of a running joke that you rarely see much of the interior, either--most notably with the frequent mentions of it having a swimming pool during Steven Moffat's era. And while there have been occasions where ancillary rooms or corridors were glimpsed (most notably during 'The Doctor's Wife' last series), "Journey" finally took viewers deep into the TARDIS, with The Doctor as a quasi-Willy Wonka guide and rescuer, and it was mostly worth the wait after half a century.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

HANNIBAL, 1.5 - 'Coquilles'


If you didn't choose to watch episode 4 in its webisode form, I'm pleased to report 'Coquilles' still makes perfect sense, although skipping episode 4 completely may impact the next episode dealing with Abigail Hobbs's character (which made up the bulk of the webisode's content). This fifth instalment of Hannibal was more of a 'killer of the week' storyline, although it contained momentous moments for Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) as his character's biggest contribution to the series so far. I know a few people grumpily assumed Fishburne had been given a stock 'boss character', but 'Conquilles' gave Crawford some details and subtleties I suspected were always there. Fishburne's a great actor and I doubt he'd have come aboard Hannibal if he knew it was going to be just another variation on his three-year stint on CSI. (Amusing to note he took over from William Petersen on that show, who originally played Hannibal's Will Graham character in Manhunter, too.)

HANNIBAL, 1.4 - 'Œuf'


As you're probably aware, the fourth episode of Hannibal was pulled from NBC's schedule because of unease about the Boston Marathon bombings (from creator Bryan Fuller) and the Newtown massacre from last December. The episode centred on a character played by Molly Shannon who was training children to kill other children. The uncut episode will likely air in he UK once Hannibal begins on 7 May, so I'll catch-up with the episode in its entirety next month. Meanwhile, I caved in and watched NBC's six-part "webisode" they released online--which essentially contains all of episode 4's serialized scenes, unrelated to that week's individual story, but helpful to understand the episode 'Coquilles' that aired in its place. So here are some very brief thoughts about 20-minutes of 'Œuf':

Friday, 26 April 2013

MSN TV: BBC2's THE POLITICIAN'S HUSBAND


Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed the first episode of BBC2's three-part political drama THE POLITICIAN'S HUSBAND, starring David Tennant and Emily Watson as a married couple whose careers in Westminster start going in opposite directions...
A spiritual sequel to Paula Milne's award-winning drama The Politician's Wife from 1995, The Politician's Husband is considerably less compelling and entertaining on the evidence of this first part. That's not to say it's entirely devoid of merit, although I doubt it'll be troubling Bafta and Emmy voters come awards season. The Politician's Husband concerns the repercussions of MP Aiden Hoynes (David Tennant) resigning from office over a heartfelt disagreement with the Prime Minister's immigration policy. This shock move is misinterpreted by the media as a bid for leadership. Aiden's career is dealt a crushing blow when his closest supporter Bruce Babbish (Ed Stoppard) goes against him in public, forcing Aiden into political obscurity... listening to elderly constituents' trivial gripes.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

HBO option Guillermo Del Toro-produced horror drama MONSTER and 'The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death'

Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy) has attached himself to the potential HBO series Monster, based on the Manga comics created by Naoki Urasawa published between 1994 and 2001. Monster concerns a doctor on a search for the world's most evil sociopath (possibly the Antichrist), who is inhabiting the body of a 12-year-old boy the doctor saved from death, and now threatens the safety of billions.

The comic-books were originally going to be adapted into a movie written by Josh Olson (A History of Violence), but it proved too difficult because of the story's complexity. Del Toro will now co-write the TV pilot with Steven Thompson, and likely direct if HBO take it to series.

In related news, Del Toro is also producing a TV adaptation of Corinne May Botz's 2004 non-fiction book The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, about Frances Glessner Lee; a man who recreated macabre crime scenes using doll houses and thus influenced modern forensic investigations.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

MSN TV: Channel 4's 10 O'CLOCK LIVE


Today over at MSN TV: my review of Channel 4's satirical comedy 10 O'CLOCK LIVE, presented by Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell and Lauren Laverne.
It's considered to be the UK's answers to America's The Daily Show; or rather it aspires to be, but falls short of the target. 10 O'Clock Live launched in 2011 to widespread derision, and yet the formula's barely changed in the two years since - beyond the loss of segments like David Mitchell's one-on-one political interviews. However, I personally don't think 10 O'Clock Live's that bad when you consider the horrendousness of its forbearers. Who remember's Tonightly with Jason Manford? Now that was painful. It helps that this show's four presenters are funny people in their respective jobs, although there's a continuing problem with Lauren Laverne; she doesn't really fit.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

MAD MEN, 6.4 - 'To Have and to Hold'


A rare episode not written or co-written by creator Matthew Weiner, and a very interesting one because of its focus on woman (mostly ex-secretaries) that are part of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce's history. I particularly liked getting some insight into Dawn (Teyonah Parris), the agency's first black secretary, who got into trouble with Joan (Christina Hendrick) and almost got Scarlett (Sadie Alexandru) fired until Harry (Rich Somner) stepped in to save his cherished secretary from unemployment. It's easy to assume Dawn must love being part of this world as racial integration takes a tentative foothold on society, but instead she makes it very clear that her working day offers nothing but isolation and affirming an opinion that her colleagues and bosses are "scared" all the time.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

HANNIBAL, 1.3 - 'Potage'


I'm still trying to get a firm grasp on what Hannibal's going to be as a first season, but after three episodes it seems to be a dissection of the repercussions following a notorious serial killer's death; most notably on the surviving daughter of the culprit, Abigail Hobbs (Kacey Rohl), in regard to her community's response to this evil having existed in their midst. That's a fascinating thing to explore over multiple episodes, although I'm still not sure it justifies a whole season yet. Maybe the 'serial killer of the week' element will become more prominent soon, but it seems ongoing strand is Garrett Jacob Hobbs and the existence of a cleverer copycat--whom the audience know is Dr Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) himself, in an effort to tease and mentally cajole lead investigator Will Graham (Hugh Dancy).

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

DOCTOR WHO, 7.9 - 'Hide'


After Neil Cross's disappointing "The Rings of Akhaten" (although I know it has its fans), he bounced back with this quasi-haunted house story "Hide". It was the first episode he wrote for Doctor Who, so perhaps this was an idea closest to his heart. I love it when the show scratches its horror itches, so really enjoyed how this episode evoked the mid-'70s Tom Baker era--in Hammer-influenced episodes like "Pyramids of Mars". There was also a dash of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass in Professor Palmer's character, and I later discovered Cross's original intention was for "Hide" to be an official crossover of the two classic British sci-fi shows. Shame that didn't happen.

MSN TV: ITV's BROADCHURCH - finale


Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed the finale of ITV's murder-mystery drama BROADCHURCH, starring David Tennant and Olivia Colman. Did you guess who killed Danny Latimer?
It could have been a diluted version of The Killing, but Broadchurch crafted its own identity to charm nine million loyal viewers. Much of that is down to the difference in approach, as this was a less depressing affair, despite the child-killing subject matter. Maybe that's partly down to its idyllic seaside locale, but Broadchurch also embraced the British tradition of a good murder-mystery. It also didn't outstay its welcome over a lean eight weeks. A good murder-mystery's only as good as its final chapter.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Monday, 22 April 2013

The hectic weekend

Sorry, life got in the way of a few things I was intending to blog about over the weekend. Rest assured that reviews for Hannibal and Doctor Who will be along before their next episodes air. Things should be back to normal by tomorrow or Wednesday. I guess this is a good place to ask any questions, or pass on some recommendations. Is there anything it's a shame I'm not covering? How are people enjoying my occasional audioboos? You may also like to know my annual 'TV Pilots I Want To See' feature is being compiled for publication very soon.

TV Picks: 22-28 April 2013 (10 O'Clock Live, Ben Earl: Trick Artist, The Politician's Husband, Russell Howard's Good News, Watson & Oliver, etc.)


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

Friday, 19 April 2013

TV Review: DA VINCI'S DEMONS, 1.1 - 'The Hanged Man'


Warning: this episode doesn't air in the UK until tonight, so beware of minor spoilers...

David Goyer has Blade and The Dark Knight trilogies on his résumé, but it's notable both were based on existing material and achieved transcendence thanks to gifted filmmakers like Guillermo Del Toro and Christopher Nolan. Indeed, when Goyer takes full control of something the result is the franchise-killing Blade Trinity, and when he collaborates on a more equal footing we get small-screen turkeys Threshold and FlashForward. I don't dislike Goyer's work; I just think his skill lies in tailoring existing ideas for easier mass consumption, ideally as the 'middle man' for someone with a more varied skill-set and greater vision.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Trailer: R.I.P.D (2013)

Trailer: Starz's BLACK SAILS


Now that its unequivocal hit Spartacus has been laid to rest, Starz are desperate for another success story to keep them in the minds of audiences. Magic City's still on the air (anyone watching that?), Da Vinci's Demons is now airing in Spartacus's timeslot, and here comes our first taste of Black Sails--the Treasure Island prequel produced by Michael Bay (Bad Boys, Transformers).

The trailer's embedded above and it does enough to grab your interest, although it doesn't contain an indelible image or idea to make the wait painful. Strangely, you can barely tell this is a prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel. It just looks like a grittier version of Pirates of the Caribbean, only less expensive looking. Britain's own Toby Stephens (Die Another Day, Vexed) is playing Captain Flint, and the show is created by Jon Steinberg (Jericho).

Black Sails is expected to air early next year.

Will Microsoft reboot HEROES?

There are reports suggesting MSN may revive axed NBC superhero drama Heroes, to help launch its Xbox entertainment studio with original content. A new series would likely focus on new characters, with the potential for original stars like Hayden Panettiere and Masi Oka to guest-star or make cameos.

Will this happen? I somehow doubt it, but that probably means it will be officially announced as happening by the weekend. Heroes' creator Tim Kring is now working on Fox's Touch, but that show's days appear to be numbered, which would allow him to revive his biggest hit after a three or four year absence.

Obviously Microsoft are a wealthy company, so it's not unfathomable they could finance a fullblown season of Heroes that doesn't cut any corners. Netflix spent around $100m on House of Cards, and that would cover the cost of a Heroes season back in the days when it was going over budget at $4m per episode. But would Microsoft spend that amount of money on a show that even fans admit struggled creatively after season 1, and is perhaps seen as a tarnished property by the wider public? I'd expect them to spend more in the region of $30-50m for a 10-episode run.

Is anyone clamouring for more Heroes?

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Universal check into BATES MOTEL

The UK's Universal Channel have purchased the rights to A&E's Bates Motel; the Psycho-inspired TV drama starring Freddie Highmore as infamous would-be serial killer Norman Bates, alongside Vera Farmiga as his kooky mother. The show debuted in the US to 3 million viewers, and has already been renewed for a second season.

This is a good purchase for Universal, joining its US line-up of Law & Order, CSI and Major Crimes. It should help draw more viewers their way, but this likely means the chances of Bates Motel finding a big British audience just decreased. I guess this is what happens when there are so many potential imports and only a finite number of channels. On the upside, lesser-known channels like Universal can get their hands on a decent TV show; but the downside is those shows tend to escape mainstream attention. To an extent this also happens to bigger players like subscription-only Sky Atlantic, but Sky have enough budget to make everyone aware they have Mad Men, Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire on their books. Hopefully Universal will put some marketing muscle behind Bates Motel.

MAD MEN, 6.3 - 'Collaborators'


Infidelity's been a big part of Mad Men, and this episode saw both Don (Jon Hamm) and Pete (Vince Karthesier) get pricked by its many barbs. Don's obviously moved on from Megan (Jessica Paré) without her even realising their relationship's over, to have an affair with his doctor friend's wife Sylvia (Linda Cardellini). It's a situation made worse by the fact Megan's suffered a miscarriage and kept it to herself, although she confides in Sylvia without realising she's opening her heart to the third person in her marriage. It's all very awkward and even Sylvia seems less sure of the path she's on, although she just can't resist Don when he turns on the charm. Their uncomfortable dinner date was nicely interspliced with a flashforward of them having passionate sex soon afterwards.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Trailer: Netflix's HEMLOCK GROVE (NSFW)


It's a big year for Netflix as they try to alter public perceptions about how content can be delivered. It began in earnest with their original drama Lilyhammer, but made headlines with their David Fincher-produced political drama House of Cards earlier this year. It's all leading up to their long-awaited revival of Arrested Development on 26 May, of course, but for now we have Netflix's supernatural horror Hemlock Grove...

Video: BEING HUMAN - the last scene


Being Human's fifth series hasn't aired everywhere around the world yet, so I'll be careful about spoilers (for now). But if you have seen the end of the BBC show, you may be interested in clicking the embedded video above. It's a DVD-exclusive scene that takes place after the series finale's ambiguous ending. Please avoid watching if you've yet to finish series 5, but spoilers follow for those who have...

Monday, 15 April 2013

MSN TV: ITV's ENDEAVOUR


Today over at MSN TV: I've reviewed ITV's Inspector Morse prequel ENDEAVOUR, starring Shaun Evans as a younger version of the iconic detective, here working in the 1960s...
I have to question the creativity behind extending the Inspector Morse brand; there was a spin-off for loyal partner Lewis (2006-13) and now, a 1960s-set prequel following Morse as a young Detective Constable. I'd rather something new be created, although I understand the marketing sense in giving audiences something to which they already feel an attachment. Of the two Inspector Morse successors, I am more inclined to favour Endeavour because it stars the Morse character (memorably played by the great John Thaw from 1987 to 2000). Shaun Evans steps into the role with an agreeable sense of calm and a slightly alien aura; rather like Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock on valium.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

TV Picks: 15-21 April 2013 (America in Primetime, Da Vinci's Demons, Defiance, Ice Cream Girls, Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States, etc.)


Below are my picks of the most notable TV shows premiering/returning to UK screens this week, which includes the global Netflix release of Eli Roth's Hemlock Grove webseries. The time are a-changing! The title 'TV Picks' isn't technically correct now...

Sunday, 14 April 2013

MSN TV: ITV's BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT


Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed the return of ITV's BRITAIN'S GOT TALENT, which is going up against BBC1's The Voice in a Saturday night light entertainment battle...
In a crowded marketplace of reality competitions, Britain's Got Talent finds itself at the top of the pile ever since the X Factor started floundering. It helps that it's chiefly designed to be fun and entertaining for viewers. It has a less pervasive feeling of audience manipulation, or Simon Cowell making decisions based on who will line his pockets the quickest. Maybe the show is just better at hiding the business side of itself, but there is a much nicer vibe to proceedings. This premiere didn't even verbally eviscerate the no-hopers who turned up to the Birmingham auditions. I'm also glad the judging panel hasn't changed because the mix was almost perfect last year.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

TV Finale: SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED - 'Victory'


Warning: the following review contains MAJOR SPOILERS for the Spartacus: War of the Damned finale, which hasn't aired in the UK at time of writing.

As I've mentioned before, the only reason I stopped reviewing Spartacus halfway into its 'Vengeance' season is that the show had evolved into more of a straightforward action-adventure drama with lashings of blood and rampant sex. There's nothing wrong with that, but the first two seasons ('Blood & Sand' and 'Gods of the Arena') were, to me, more interesting because of a narrower focus and smarter political elements. I just wasn't sure what purpose my reviews were serving beyond putting into words a sense of weekly excitement, shock and awe. So I stopped writing about Spartacus, but I never stopped watching. And while the later 'Vengeance' and 'War of the Damned' seasons probably aren't my favourites, they were astonishing spectacles that never forgot to balance character with action.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

DOCTOR WHO, 7.8 - 'Cold War'


Considering he's one of the biggest Whovians amongst the show's new crop of writers, Mark Gatiss's scripts have been something of a disappointment--never living up to the promise of his series 1 highlight "The Unquiet Dead". There was "The Idiot's Lantern" (awful), "Victory of the Daleks" (flawed) and "Night Terrors" (mediocre). So I was just pleased "Cold War" was a mostly successful episode, despite pushing lots of over-familiar dramatic buttons, while reintroducing Classic Who fans to a familiar villain in Skaldak; an Ice Warrior, of the type encountered by Jon Pertwee's Doctor back in 1974.

HANNIBAL, 1.2 - 'Amuse-Bouche'


I thought Hannibal's pilot was terrific (one of the best I've seen in years), and I'm so relieved this second episode was almost as brilliant. In fact, aspects of it were indeed better. I had assumed Hannibal would operate as a case-of-the-week procedural, enlivened by the eponymous doctor's lurking presence and clandestine activities, but "Amuse-Bouche" suggested otherwise.

Friday, 12 April 2013

COMMUNITY, 4.9 - 'Intro to Felt Surrogacy'


I stopped reviewing Community earlier this year because there hasn't been much to say about each new episode lately. They're marginally entertaining and contain the odd excellent line of dialogue, and I still really love the cast, but this isn't the show I fell in love with. I thought "Intro to Felt Surrogacy" stood a chance of turning things around, and it started promisingly with a clever way of transforming the characters into puppets (being part of experimental therapy to aide group communication), but the actual episode itself failed to get off the ground.

TV Ratings: MAD MEN's season 6 premiere fails to attract Sky Atlantic viewers

Sky Atlantic outbid the BBC for the rights to show Mad Men, and it launched to an unsurprisingly weak 98,000 last season. Now the ratings are in for its sixth season premiere, and that audience has fallen to 58,000. (That's a loss of 40,000 viewers, if maths isn't your strong suit.) I know ratings ultimately don't matter in Sky's case, because they're into the idea of building a brand and a collective reason for people to subscribe to them, but that's a really bad number. Their recent Game of Thrones premiere attracted 700,000 viewers.

What's going on? Only 58,000 people? Admittedly you can't just start watching Mad Men in its sixth season, and its premise and setting only appeals to a certain type of viewer, but it was getting around 355,000 on the BBC between season 1-4. Where have those viewers gone? Do only around 100,000 of them have Sky and almost half have stopped watching? Are people buying the DVD box-sets later on? Has it become a show people download instead? It didn't break into TorrentFreak's Top 10 of 2012, so perhaps not...

I don't know. I have no explanation. Maybe it wasn't promoted as much and 40,000 people just didn't realise it was back? I tend to skip ad breaks these days, so does that seem like a valid theory? (Update: I'm aware there was a streaming issue with SkyGo on Wednesday, but I'm not sure if those online figures would have been added to BARB's overnight ratings.)

THE SHINING getting a prequel in THE OVERLOOK HOTEL?

Uh-oh. It looks like someone's been impressed by what A&E have done with Bates Motel, the TV prequel to Psycho. Warner Bros are apparently very keen to make a prequel to their own classic movie, The Shining. It's early days, but producers Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island), James Vanderbilt (Zodiac) and Bradley Fischer (Shutter Island, Zodiac) are apparently in talks with Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) to write The Overlook Hotel.

It all sounds very worrying to me. I'm not even very keen on Stephen King writing an unnecessary sequel to The Shining, entitled Doctor Sleep. If they're going to cash-in on The Shining name, why not just make King's own sequel into a movie?

As a massive fan of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror (it's my favourite movie), the idea of a prequel sounds ludicrous. I don't see any other option available to the makers of The Overlook Hotel, beyond doing a "haunted hotel" 1920s drama (the era of the people who were haunting Jack Nicholson's character). I understand some things have a pop-culture cachet that helps sell them (and you need all the help you can get in today's crowded marketplace), but you risk tarnishing a legendary movie by proxy with this. Oh well.

To be positive, the listed producers are behind some good movies and Mazzara's a decent choice to write something like this, so maybe something good will come of it.

Audioboo: DALLAS - season 2

I may stop blogging about every new Audioboo I record soon, so please keep that in mind. The latest instalment will be embedded in the right-hand sidebar, and uploads are immediately tweeted to my feed. You can also subscribe to my boos with iTunes.

But for now, embedded below is my quick appraisal of TNT's DALLAS, which is approaching the end of its manic season in the UK. Has the show weakened since its surprisingly good returning season? Has Larry Hagman's death caused irreparable damage? Does too much happen to the Ewings? Find out after the jump!

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Trailer: THE HANGOVER - PART III

MSN TV: Sky Atlantic's MAD MEN, 6.1-2 - 'The Doorway'


Over at MSN TV today: I review the feature-length season 6 premiere of AMC's MAD MEN, which made its UK debut on Sky Atlantic last night. This an incredibly difficult show to review with an imposed word-limit, but I hope you enjoy it.
"The Doorway", Mad Men's sixth season opener, continued last year's key theme with Don increasingly aware of his mortality and inability to mend his ways. A Hawaiian vacation with beautiful wife Megan (Jessica Paré), as part of research for a Sheraton Hotels campaign, only served to remind him that she's a bad match; too young and too happy-go-lucky. And then there was the chance meeting with a soldier who'd willingly trade places with him - an unsettling echo of his own identity-switch from Dick Whitman to Don Draper (he even accidentally took the man's lighter; a device responsible for killing the real Don Draper in Korea many years ago).

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Video: THE WALKING DEAD - Season 3 Visual Effects Reel (NSFW)


I sometimes post videos that visualize how a TV show managed to pull off its impressive visual effects, usually focused on the imperceptible trickery of Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire. But this one focuses on AMC's zombie drama The Walking Dead, revealing in a gruesome three-minutes how Stargate Studios pulled off the show's many, many, many zombie kills. Seriously, if you were disappointed by the lack of heads and arms being chopped off in previous years, they were clearly saving all that for the third season. Away from the zombies, it also reminds you just how much the show relies on digital buildings and landscapes to bring its apocalyptic world to vivid life.

(Warning: the above video contains non-stop scenes of graphic violence, potential spoilers for UK viewers, and loud music to wake grandad up.)

Chloe Sevigny in THOSE WHO KILL remake

The brilliant Chloe Sevigny (Big Love, Hit & Miss) is taking the lead in A&E's Those Who Kill, adapted from the 2011 Danish series Den som dræber by Glen Morgan (The X Files, Millennium); a show originally inspired by the crime novels of Elsebeth Egholm. The US pilot will be directed by Joe Carnahan (Narc, The Grey).

Those Who Kill centres on a crime unit specialising in serial murder, with Sevigny playing a workaholic detective with an "innate understanding of the mind of a killer", driven by a suspicion her stepfather killed her missing 16-year-old brother. She'll be joined by James D'Arcy (Secret Diary of a Call Girl), playing a forensic psychiatrist who helps her with murder cases, but finds himself dragged into her own personal investigation.

I haven't seen the Danish original, but some of this sounds intriguing. Hopefully it will do better than AMC's remake of The Killing, which replicated the look and feel of the Danish series extremely well... but never got a firm grasp of the plotting. I'll be watching Those Who Kill, if only because Sevigny's a very interesting screen presence. What about you?

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Audioboo: BATES MOTEL - episode 1-4

Embedded below is my latest boo, this one offering brief thoughts on A&E's Psycho prequel BATES MOTEL (having now watched the first four episodes). I think these recordings are getting better as I get more confident with them, but it could be my imagination.

Some people appear to enjoy them anyway, and have been very encouraging. The fact they're easy to do has a definite appeal, too. I'm still contemplating exactly how best to use them, but it's likely they'll be embedded in my Doctor Who reviews, and used to briefly cover TV shows I struggle to find time to write about, but am watching weekly.

(I'm also going to buy a proper microphone.)

Monday, 8 April 2013

Saturday, 6 April 2013

DOCTOR WHO, 7.7 - 'The Rings of Akhaten'


Neil Cross is a new writer to the Doctor Who family, having made his name with Spooks before establishing it thanks to the runaway success of Luther. I was rather looking forward to seeing what a writer with his dark and twisted sensibilities would bring to the show, but "The Rings of Akhaten" delivered very little beyond unconvincing alien mythology, melodramatics, and more than its fair share of nonsense.

ARGUMENTELLY: movie-to-TV adaptations

Dirty Dancing: but which one's dirtier?
Apologies for the fortnight's delay, but I did say this Argumentelly would only be semi-recurring.

If you recall, the last instalment asked 'Are television adverts good or bad?'

Rob D Webster argued for their greatness and 27.2% of you agreed with him. I argued the opposite and the majority 72.7% sided with me. So I won! I will crack open a bottle of champagne this afternoon.

This week, there's a new topic up for discussion. 'Are movies adapted into television shows a good idea?' First up, making the case that they're most definitely NOT, is prolific freelance writer Daniel Bettridge:


Friday, 5 April 2013

TV Review: NBC's HANNIBAL - 'Apéritif'

Thomas Harris is largely responsible for creating modern serial killer fiction with his 1981 novel Red Dragon, later turned into the Michael Mann movie Manhunter. His 1988 follow-up, The Silence of the Lambs, made that belief unquestionable after Jonathan Demme adapted it into an Oscar-winning movie. From then, the pop-culture dominance of serial killers being cruel and unstoppable forces of nature (Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Halloween) took a back-seat, as audiences were suddenly bewitched by the dichotomy of killers demonstrating sharp intelligence and sophisticated tastes. Lecter was a modern-day Dracula.

TV didn't ignore this trend, most notably in the 1990s work of Chris Carter: Harris's books were undoubtedly an influence on the FBI backdrop for The X Files, although it was the less-successful Millennium that was more indebted to Red Dragon (both in its focus on 'human monsters' and the quasi-psychic gift of its lead investigator).

Thursday, 4 April 2013

MSN TV: ITV's SCOTT & BAILEY (Series 3)


Over at MSN TV today: I've reviewed the third series premiere of ITV's detective drama SCOTT & BAILEY, starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharp.
These days viewers are bombarded with glossy crime dramas of amazing narrative complexity and visual panache; from the various CSI spin-offs, to home-grown hits like Sherlock, or European favourites such as The Killing. Scott & Bailey takes an entirely different approach, with screenwriter Sally Wainwright choosing to emphasise the less "juicier" aspects of a procedural format. In this episode you'd have expected to see a bloody crime scene and perhaps a glimpse of an old lady's severed head, but audiences were denied such shallow pleasures.

Continue reading at MSN TV...

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Audioboo: THE WALKING DEAD (season 3)

Enough people responded with encouraging thoughts and advice about my first Audioboo, so I thought I'd give it another go...

This one covers The Walking Dead's third season, which finished on AMC last Friday. (There are no spoilers for UK viewers, don't worry.) It was impossible to cover everything in three-minutes, obviously, but there you have it. I'm still trying to work out exactly how these 'boos work best for me, too -- maybe only to cover things I don't write about? Or for big premieres and finales?

It's all a learning process right now, but I think this second one's slightly better. I've started to think it may be an idea to work from some notes, as this is all very impromptu at the moment!