The Past Month on TV #8

With lots of stuff still on a summer break, the last month has proven a handy time to catch up on things I’ve been meaning to get round to.

24: Live Another Day
24: Live Another DayThe “event miniseries” short-lived revival of a once-popular TV series is all the rage these days, with 24, Heroes, and The X-Files all trying it out in the past couple of years, Gilmore Girls doing essentially the same thing on Netflix in a couple of months, and Twin Peaks at it sometime next year. The thing that seems to have defined these revivals so far is that time has made no difference: none of them have come back radically new or changed, but have just been “more of the same” as the series they’re resuming, for good or ill. 24: Live Another Day is absolutely an example of this. It may be four years on, set in London, and only 12 episodes long, but if you didn’t know the circumstances behind production you’d be unlikely to think this was anything other than season 9 — after all, the show has always had years-long in-universe time jumps between seasons, and the last few have varied the location also (after seasons 1-6 were set in LA, season 7 was relocated to Washington, DC, and season 8 to New York). On top of that, the way the storyline drags back old characters who hadn’t been in the series for years cements the assumption that it’s a for-the-fans bonus run rather than a fresh-start relaunch attempt (which I guess next year’s spin-off, 24: Legacy, is hoping to be). All of this means that it has its good points, especially the action scenes, but some of the storytelling is overfamiliar, the dialogue at times terribly clunky, and there’s a continued half-arsed application of the real-time concept (which has been a bugbear of mine since season four or five). The fact it ends without really resolving the on-going story of Jack Bauer also feels like a daft mistake.

Doctor Foster (Series 1)
Doctor FosterFinally got round to this popular series (from a year ago! Time, where do you go?). I was pleasantly surprised by the plot. The setup was sold as a woman (the titular GP) becoming suspicious her husband was cheating on her — is he, or is she imagining things? For whatever reason I’d presumed that would be the mystery of the entire series, and it would inevitably turn out he was cheating because there’s not much story otherwise. But actually, that’s kind of dealt with in the first episode, and then it spins off in various twists and turns. It’s exciting and unpredictable without quite descending into the easy trap of having characters make completely ridiculous decisions or take extreme actions. It’s a pretty finite story, though, so quite where the commissioned second series is going is anyone’s guess.

One of Us
A new miniseries (it only finished on Tuesday — get me, watching something when it’s actually on!) from writers Harry and Jack Williams, who penned 2014’s excellent James Nesbitt drama The Missing (which, like Doctor Foster, has an unexpected second series in production). This is a slighter affair: essentially a murder mystery, but with a few well-executed twists along the way. It starts with the murder of a young couple whose families are neighbours on isolated farms in Scotland. When the suspected murderer turns up injured at those farms on the storm-afflicted night after the murder, they lock him in the barn while they await an ambulance… and then one of them murders him. Whodunnit? And what will they tell the police? And why the hell did he kill the couple, anyway? It’s funny to think of a four-hour drama as slight — imagine thinking a four-hour film was a bit short and lacking incident — but at least it’s not slow with it, somehow. A subplot about the investigating officer’s home life has no relevance to the main story and could’ve been cut, and the final revelations are somewhat farfetched, but other than that it’s a decent little thriller.

The Tick (Pilot)
I’ve never read any Tick comics, nor seen the ’90s animated series, nor the short-lived ’00s live-action series, but I am vaguely aware of it, so was somewhat looking forward to this Amazon pilot. For those not in the know, it’s basically a spoof of superheroes — what better time than right now to launch a show like that? Amazon should be chuffed to be hitting the zeitgeist on the head with this one. Unfortunately, on the evidence of this pilot, The Tick isn’t quite all it could be. It comes alive a bit whenever Peter Serafinowicz’s eponymous hero is on screen, but the rest of the plot is too serious — the central character (who’s not The Tick, incidentally) is a young man who has mental health problems after watching his father be killed during a supervillain attack! Unsurprisingly, this leaves it a little short on laughs for a half-hour comedy. Indeed, it finishes just as it seems to be getting going. They either need to extend it to 45 minutes, or get a wriggle on and squeeze more into the half-hour. If it manages to get the full series commission then I’ll probably give it a go to see if they can improve these aspects, but, on the strength of the pilot, I won’t be too upset if they don’t bother. Shame.

Also watched…
  • Castle Season 6 Episodes 1-7 — got fed up of waiting for Channel 5 to screen this, so I acquired it by other means… then they started it last week, buried on 5USA. Hey-ho. It’s always a fun time filler.
  • Friday Night Dinner Series 4 Episodes 4-6 — this does such a good job of mixing a plausible family dynamics sitcom with deeply silly storylines. Love it.
  • The Great British Bake Off Series 7 Episodes 1-4 — this is proving a tough series of GBBO, both in the tent (Paul Hollywood seemed to be in a particularly harsh mood during bread week) and out of it (“they sold it to Channel 4?!”, “Mel and Sue are leaving?!”)
  • Miranda Series 3 Episode 3-Series 4 Episode 2 — I do love Miranda, but the finale is a bit messy. The first two series are definitely the high point.
  • The Musketeers Season 2 Episodes 4-5Musketeers does Seven Samurai! Feels like an appropriate time to happen to reach that episode.
  • Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs Series 5 Episodes 1-2 — aww, look at all the doggies!

    Things to Catch Up On
    This month, I have mostly been missing Poldark and Victoria, respectively the BBC’s big period drama hit and ITV’s big period drama hope, which are currently going head-to-head on Sunday nights. For some reason I find myself not caring one iota about the latter (has it gone down well, or not? I don’t even know), but will get round to Poldark eventually.

    Next month… Netflix time! Definitely Marvel’s Luke Cage; probably Stranger Things, to see who’s right: the fuss or the backlash.

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