April 29, 2016

News: an Omen prequel; Sylvester Stallone's first TV series; + more

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The Daily News will return on Tuesday

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April 28, 2016

Third-episode verdict: Game of Silence (US: NBC)

Posted 2 days ago at 20:04 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerGameOfSilence.jpgA Barrometer rating of 2

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Does a show have to be miserable to be good? Some people, usually quite pretentious/depressed/Buddhist ones, will argue that all life is suffering and therefore to depict life correctly, you must depict suffering. Always.

Whether that's true or not, if a TV show is good but miserable, will you still want to watch it?

Game of Silence, NBC's remake of Turkey's Suskunlar, is prime misery, with a bunch of childhood friends finding their past catching up with them decades later, when one of their number bumps into one of the men who abused him in prison and kills him. The gang the dead man was with - largely composed of people who were also in prison - end up killing him and before you know it, there's a mounting war as the remaining friends try to find evidence that will put the baddies in prison, and the baddies try to stop them.

Just like ABC's American CrimeGame of Silence is surprisingly grown-up and well made for network TV. While it's nowhere near as realistic as that show and is often downright unbelievable, it's surprisingly nuanced. Rather than simply go in all guns blazing, our heroes try to put together a legal case, collecting evidence along the way. And rather than paint the abusers as nothing but monsters, the show is at pains to show that it's the penal system that caused the problems - both the heroes and the abusers did terrible things because of the nature of prison life, becoming hardened and inhuman. There are frequent flashbacks not just to the heroes' childhood and what happened to them, but also to the abusers', and there are side plots that illuminate this central thesis and argue that prison should be the last possible punishment for crimes, as it makes people more likely to become worse versions of themselves, not better.

The show is also, while unwilling to actually show anything happening, more than happy to describe and imply paedophile parties, repeated raped, physical abuse and more, as well as depict all the traumatic effects that can have on the psyche.

The trouble is that none of this is fun to watch. It's not helped by the lack of humour, any real human warmth, or decent acting. To be fair, the show does try hard to depict some real camaraderie between the friends, but everyone's so traumatised and/or soon-to-be-dead, that it doesn't work. The fact, as the title suggests, that no one's talking about this with anyone except each other, means that everyone else in the show is an outsider to this group of not especially joyful people.

Game of Silence is a good show, not a great one, and it would really have benefited from better casting and a bit of humour from time to time. I'll probably stick with it for a couple more episodes, but I'm not expecting to be enjoying myself as I do.

Barrometer rating: 2
Would it be better with female leads? Yes, although might be a bit exploitative
TMINE's prediction: With bad ratings, this is unlikely to last more than a season, if that.

News: new 24 series; ITV's Courtney Cox comedy; The Windsors trailer; Brits join Wolverine 3; + more

Posted 3 days ago at 06:18 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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  • ITV developing: developing Courtney Cox personal growth comedy Truthing
  • Trailer for Channel 4's The Windsors

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April 27, 2016

The Wednesday Play/Kneale Before Nigel: Murrain (1975)

Posted 3 days ago at 19:42 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Murrain

Any TV buff worth their salt can name at least one or two of the most famous play series: The Wednesday Play, The Play For Today, Armchair Theatre - these were all justifiably famous thanks to the quantity of classics they produced.

However, the annals of TV history are littered with failed TV play series that almost no one can remember, usually because they never yielded a single great piece of work, even when they had great authors writing for them. Indeed, whenever I'm combing YouTube and the Internet for plays for this strand of the blog, I'm usually coming across one or two new ones each time that I've never heard of before.

ATV's 1975 series Against The Crowd - an annoyingly self-consciously titled show if ever there was one - is one such unmemorable series. Heard of Against The Crowd? Neither had I and neither has the Internet, it turns out. It's not been released by Network, the home of obscure TV that only seven people will buy on DVD. It doesn't have a Wikipedia page. Its IMDB page is sketchy at best and even lists it under "partially lost", since two of its seven episodes, Tell It To The Chancellor and Blind Man's Buff, are both missing from the archives, probably having been wiped by ATV/ITV. Even the BFI offers nothing beyond "anthology drama" in its database of TV shows. 

I did discover that:

  1. It may have aired in the afternoons
  2. Dennis Potter resented the name of the series, since that imposed a house style, and he didn't like that.

So why mention it at all? Well, it did have some very famous names writing for it, including Fay Weldon (Poor Baby); Howard Schuman (Carbon Copy); and Kingsley Amis (We Are All Guilty). But no one, it seems, is interested in carrying a torch for their lost works, though. No. You have to have a specific kind of nerdy motivation to dredge up old TV from 40 years ago, and that usually means a love of sci-fi, fantasy or horror.

Don't be surprised then that the only episode of Against The Crowd that anyone is interested in is Murrain, written by a certain Nigel Kneale, after he fell out with the BBC after they abandoned Quatermass. That's the one everyone cares about and that's the only one that's been released on DVD, bundled with Beasts, Kneale's subsequent ITV anthology series that he wrote for Against The Crowd writer/producer Roger Marshall. It's also the only one the BFI has shown in the past decade or perhaps ever, as far as I know.

Murrain, named after an antiquated term for various infectious diseases affecting cattle and sheep, is a standard piece of Kneale fare in which superstition (in the form of a pig farmer who thinks a local woman is really a witch) meets science (a vet who wants to protect the little old lady from him and the other nasty bumpkins who believe). Who's right, who's wrong or are they both right? Everything's an option with Kneale…

Shot on location on the then in-vogue cheap-as-chips video, it lacks the atmosphere of Kneale's BBC plays and proves that DoPs in the 70s shouldn't have got ambitions above their stations so many years before the invention of the Steadicam. All the same, a decent cast, including Bernard Lee (M from the early Bond movies) and Una Brandon-Jones (Withnail & I), and Kneale's dialogue and gift for ideas means it's not a total loss. 

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News: Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell guest on When We Rise; new Midsomer Murders sidekick; + more

Posted 4 days ago at 06:24 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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New US TV show casting

  • Michael K Williams and Ivory Aquino join ABC's When We Rise; Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell, David Hyde Pierce et al to guest

April 26, 2016

I've just invented the 'Containment moment'

Posted 4 days ago at 21:07 | comments | Bookmark and Share

You will, of course, recall Containment, America/The CW's remake of Belgium's Cordon. Episode two was on last night and within the first few seconds I was laughing.

Containment quotes Socrates

Oh dear. Quoting Socrates. Well, to be exact quoting a slightly loose translation of section 42a of Plato's Apology, which is an account of Socrates' trial, in which Plato says Socrates said:

ἀλλὰ γὰρ ἤδη ὥρα ἀπιέναι, ἐμοὶ μὲν ἀποθανουμένῳ, ὑμῖν δὲ βιωσομένοις: ὁπότεροι δὲ ἡμῶν ἔρχονται ἐπὶ ἄμεινον πρᾶγμα, ἄδηλον παντὶ πλὴν ἢ τῷ θεῷ.

θεῷ, there, referring to Zeus, of course, but I guess the all-American Containment wasn't going there.

So why was I laughing? Because it reminds me of Joe Queenan's America (aka Red Lobster, White Trash, & the Blue Lagoon), in which he deliberately decides to read all the worst books, watch the worst movies, eat the worst food, attend the worst events, etc that America and Americana have to offer.

This includes reading Tom Clancy novels. He notes that Clancy and similarly bad authors all have a habit of quoting much better authors at the beginning of books and even chapters of books in order to give their sub-standard works an intellectual veneer that makes them seem better than they are.

I'm going to start calling these quotes 'Containment moments' from now on.

As a brief aside, Queenan suggests it might be an idea to return the favour of the 'Containment moment' and preface classic works of literature with quotes from lesser authors, imagining, for example, what would happen if a play of Shakespeare's was preceded with:

The Hughes 500D is an extremely quiet helicopter due to sound baffles in the Allison 250-C20B engine. 

Tom Clancy

That would be aces.

Batman's problems at Ikea

Posted 4 days ago at 20:45 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Now only has his bat cape been recalled for causing marks and scratches on the neck…

Ikea wants its bat capes back

…it also wants its Gothem* lamps back. How will they light the bat signal at an affordable price now?

Gothem lamp recalled

* Yes, I know that it's Gotham city.

News: Indian Summers cancelled; Underground renewed; the Twin Peaks 217; + more

Posted 5 days ago at 06:23 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

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April 25, 2016

What have you been watching? Including Bridge of Spies, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley

Posted 5 days ago at 19:53 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What have you been watching?", my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

The usual "TMINE recommends" page features links to reviews of all the shows I've ever recommended, and there's also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I've reviewed ever. 

I spent most of the weekend not watching a lot of things I was supposed to be watching, instead watching season one of Daredevil again - it's so much better than the second season, which is starting to feel more disappointing with every passing day. But that doesn't mean I'm not up to date. It just means I still haven't watched Ófærð (Trapped) yet.

Elsewhere, I've reviewed Containment (US: The CW; UK: E4) and passed a third-episode verdict on The Detour (US: TBS). I'll be passing a third-episode verdict on Game on Silence either tomorrow or Wednesday. That means that after the jump, we'll have a look at the latest episodes of The Americans, Banshee, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Limitless, Lopez, Lucifer and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the season finale of Supergirl. HBO's also just brought back Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley , so I'll be looking over them, too.

But first, a movie:

Bridge of Spies (2015) (iTunes)
Slightly soporific Spielberg biopic of Cold War lawyer James B Donovan (Tom Hanks), who defended notorious spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance), and ended up helping in negotiations in Berlin to exchange Abel for U2 pilot Gary Powers. He does that by talking about the Constitution and what it is to be American. All solidly made but that summary is really all you need to know, in what is basically a not very subtle commentary on post-9/11 US attitudes to human rights, treating enemy combatants civilly, etc. If you do watch it, don't be surprised that there's a chunk in the middle in German without subtitles, as that's deliberate. Don't worry - they're just talking about how expensive his coat is.

Continue reading "What have you been watching? Including Bridge of Spies, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley"

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US TV series distribution: a two-speed market

Posted 6 days ago at 15:39 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Normally, I wouldn't subject you to the full horror of an analyst's press release, but for once - I don't know what the cause is, but it could be the dawning of the Age of Aquarius or something - it's actually almost interesting and relevant:

US TV series distribution: a two-speed market
Tim Westcott, Senior Principal Analyst at IHS Technology

Key points: 

  • Production of original scripted series is continuing to grow in in the US. IHS Technology noted 324 drama and comedy (scripted) series produced by the big five networks, basic and pay cable, and online platforms in 2015, compared to 297 in 2014.
  • More than three quarters of new and returning shows launched in the latest network season (2015/2016) had sold to one or more of the key international territories at the time we closed our research.
  • The increasing roll out of online platforms, combined with the strategy of pay TV platforms to migrate US series quickly to their home markets, have led to a dramatic shortening of international release windows. In the UK, the average window was 37 days, down from 102 days.

Analysis: 

A key focus for our research is to track the distribution of original US series to the international market, by analysing how quickly US series migrate to four key territories: the UK, Australia, France and Germany. Those series that have sold internationally are migrating much more quickly that they did even than last year.

In this year’s report, we note a pronounced change in the timing between US and international release. The biggest change is France, where the average window from US release was only 32 days, compared to 159 in 2014/2015. In the UK, the average window was 37 days, down from 102 days, while in Australia—another country where US series do not need to go through the time-consuming process of being dubbed—the window was 37 days compared to 120 in 2014/2015. In Germany, the average window was 61 days, down from 170 the season before.

Research clearly indicates that ‘the Netflix effect’—the policy of the streaming service to launch its originals simultaneously across all of its territories—has transformed the TV distribution business over the last couple of years.

However, in a market like France, where viewers are accustomed to watching US series dubbed rather than subtitled, programmes can still take many months to make the transition. French viewers may even be a whole season behind the US for established shows like CSI or Castle, and furthermore many of the US series aired by linear TV networks in France are second runs of shows that have made a debut elsewhere.

For this reason we see France as a two-speed distribution market—with US series moving quickly to online and premium pay but more slowly to other networks. The same is true of Germany; other than on Netflix, few US series make a fast transition.

UK: Sky indulges its appetite for US acquisitions with HBO and Showtime

In the UK, pay TV remains much more likely to air US series than free TV networks. Pay TV accounted for 49% of US acquisitions in 2015/16, compared to 17% for free-to-air and 34% for online. This is partly a matter of programming policy—the two top-rated channels BBC1 and ITV generally only broadcast home-grown programming in prime time, apart from the occasional film—but it’s also because pay TV tends to outbid free TV for the most popular programming.

Sky has so far scheduled a total of 30 US series from the 2015/2016 season across its networks. Sky Atlantic, which has become an increasingly important part of its overall offering, airs HBO series under an output deal and will become the home of all Showtime series under the new multi-territory agreement closed in January this year. New seasons of Game of Thrones, Girls and Togetherness all aired within at least one day of the US.

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News: new Doctor Who companion; BBC budget switches; less Grimm; M6's Frozen Dead; + more

Posted 6 days ago at 06:13 | comments | Bookmark and Share

Doctor Who

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  • ABC green lights: adaptation of Elliot Perlman's psychological mystery Seven Types of Ambiguity, with Hugo Weaving et al

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