It's the time of year when U.S shows have their mid-season or seasonal finales, and UK shows have Christmas specials that occasionally act as series-enders. So I just thought I would briefly cover three shows I've been watching, that ended very recently...
THE AFFAIR (Showtime)
It was primed to be a critical hit, having started in such a fantastically intriguing way with a clever use of split-narrative, but despite the best efforts of Dominic West and Ruth Wilson (as the extra-marital lovers at the heart of the story) THE AFFAIR never really came together. The performances remained strong and it had its moments, but I think the narrative device became a hindrance. Noah and Alison's perspectives on the same story remained so different that it was hard to get fully involved with either, which meant the story quickly lost a sense of focus. And now the finale's aired, I'm still unclear about why Noah and Alison were remembering things so differently. The backbone of a murder being investigated also became increasingly dull (did anyone care about that layer?), and actively dragged things to a standstill. Worse, it's another show where the writers have unwisely decided to continue this same story into another season, with a rote cliffhanger ending, when it makes more sense to begin afresh next year—with a different affair and actors. It's hard to imagine anyone being genuinely excited to see more of The Affair next year, alas. ★★☆☆
DEREK (Channel 4/Netflix)
There are people who defend this mockumentary to the death, egged on by Ricky Gervais on his Twitter account, but it doesn't wash with me. It has amusing moments, but the show's always at its best when Gervais's insufferable Derek Noakes is off-screen. Lord knows why this performance earns Golden Globe nominations in the U.S, because it's a cringe-worthy mix of tic's and cartoonish body language. DEREK's finale revolved around the wedding of saintly nursing home worker Hannah (Kerry Godliman) to her underwritten bin man boyfriend, which intersected with the expulsion of gross Kev (David Earl). Wisely, Derek's actual role was largely limited to a fairly sweet date with an unconvincingly adoring woman. One gets the sense Gervais, deep down, knows the multitude of ways this show and his character is flawed (he's not an idiot), but despite the fact the finale's a big improvement from the show's first series, it could never overcome the awkward mix of lowbrow gags and unearned sentimentality. ★★☆☆
THE WRONG MANS (BBC Two/Hulu)
The best finale undoubtedly belonged to this ambitious mix of action, comedy and espionage. THE WRONG MANS was an unexpected blast of brilliance in its first series, so it's unfortunate that James Corden's imminent U.S fame (as new host of The Late Late Show) has apparently curbed any longterm ambitions for this show. Instead, we now only get a two-hour Christmas special, which I like to consider an unofficial four-part second series. Far surpassing series 1 in terms of production values and confidence, this saw Sam Pinkett (Baynton) and Phil Bourne (Corden) in witness protection as factory workers in America, before another combination of bad luck and mistaken identity found them imprisoned with hardened criminals, working as bomb-makers for a gang of terrorists, and pursued across Europe as they doggedly attempted to get back home for Christmas. Not always as laugh-out-loud funny as you want it to be, The Wrong Mans is nevertheless hugely entertaining and takes such obvious delight in playing with genre conventions and clichés. It's a shame there won't be more, but to be honest it would be ridiculous if Sam and Phil kept finding themselves in vaguely similar predicaments again and again. Great to see the show end on a high. ★★★☆