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December 1, 2014

Review: The Legacy (Arvingerne) 1x1 (UK: Sky Arts 1; Denmark: DR1)

Posted on December 1, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share


In the UK: Wednesdays, 10pm, Sky Arts 1
In Denmark: Aired on DR1 in January 2014. Season two starts January 2015

The Danes are apparently the happiest people in the world (okay, third happiest, having dropped off the top spot this year). You wouldn’t know this from their TV, of course, which is full of serial killers and murderers (The Killing, Those Who Kill) and political intrigue (Borgen), as well as sometimes a mix of the two (The Bridge).

Even their family dramas are a bit gloomy, it turns out. A case in point is the ten-part The Legacy (Arvingerne), which like Those Who Kill has been poached away from its natural Scandi home of BBC4 in favour of AN Other Channel (Sky Arts 1 this time). The series, which comes from the same production company as The Killing, follows noted artist, free spirit and multiple-partnered Veronika Grønnegaard (Kirsten Olesen), who has a less than happy relationship with her three children, who pretty much all hate her guts, but for entirely different reasons: daughter Gro (Trine Dryholm) is miffed at being judged for ‘only’ being a secretary at Grønnegaard’s own firm and for not having any kids; Frederik (Carsten Bjørnlund) has had a bust-up so epic that he hasn’t spoken with Veronika for a year and actively tries to stop his own son from seeing her; and Emil (Mikkel Følsgaard) is off on another continent altogether.

Then there’s Signe (Marie Bach Hansen) who doesn’t even know she’s Veronika’s daughter, despite Veronika dropping into her flower shop and giving her free paintings for no well explained reasons.

But Veronika, being an artistic type, decides to screw the whole lot of them over by failing to mention she has breast cancer and then promptly dying of a stroke, leaving her much sought after house and estate to Signe to divide up between herself and her newfound siblings. That’s going to end well, isn’t it?

The extent you’re going to find The Legacy tolerable is how much you can tolerate both happiness and sadness. Despite their bad relationships with Veronika, all the families seem to be largely happy and enjoying Christmas, dressing up as Santa, having family meals together and losing track of time as they play percussion instruments together out in huts. No one’s poor and even when revelations about infidelities, bad parenting, different parentage et al crop up, no one’s dischuffed enough to even raise their voice much.

True, in case Frederik’s case, that might well be because he’s a closet psychopath whose wife is intensely freaked out by his behaviour, but he’s still a psychopath who continues joking around in his Santa outfit after getting the bad news about his mum, just to make sure his son has a nice time.

If you find all that happiness and luxury nauseating and weird, steer clear of The Legacy. Equally, if you fear family strife, dying parents, illness, old people looking like they’re dementing, upset children, will contention and slightly psychopathic sons who really want the family home, steer clear.

There’s not much by way action, which I’m sure will change with episode two, as upset siblings glare at each other and talk in hushed tones when they’re really angry (okay, maybe not psycho Frederik). But it’s a good start with different characters from the usual set you’re probably used to in such family dramas. It’ll probably be a bit ‘eat your greens’, and I suspect I’ll have to force myself to watch these, even though I did quite enjoy the first episode, but we’ll see if the show manages to up the ante in subsequent weeks. Simple scheduling maths should tell you that people should be at each other’s throats at this rate by, ooh, round about Christmas. That’ll be something to look forward to, won’t it?

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Preview: Space: 1999 - The Bringers of Wonder (Special Edition)

Posted on December 1, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Space: 1999 - Bringers of Wonder

Space: 1999 - Bringers of Wonder

Starring: Barbara Bain, Martin Landau
Price: £13
Released: December 8 2014

Today is a day of firsts. Not only is it December 1st, the first day of Advent, it’s also the first time since I started this blog up way back in 2005 (gosh, nearly 10 years ago!) that I’ve published a guest post. Isn’t that amazing?

This first guest post is by noted author and critic Mr James Cooray Smith, who has bitten the bullet and done something I could never do: watch Space: 1999 again. In this case, he’s watched the forthcoming limited edition Blu-ray release of the show’s only ever two-part episode, The Bringers of Wonder, as well as the cinema version of said two-parter, Destination Moonbase Alpha - get it while it’s hot, because only 1,999 copies of this are being produced.

After the jump, Jim will let you know what he thinks and reveals that the show is officially considered a form of torture in the US. Before then, here’s a trailer, and if you’re feeling brave, I’ve also provided the two episodes in question, so you can see what you’re going to get (NB: watching the episodes may be considered illegal under Geneva conventions of all kinds):

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November 19, 2014

Review: State of Affairs 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on November 19, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

State of Affairs

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, NBC

Katherine Heigl has been a movie star for so long, it’s hard to remember that she made it big on TV first. Sure, she was something of a teen movie doyenne, playing both Steven Seagal and Gerard Depardieu’s daughters in Under Siege 2 and My Father, The Hero respectively, but it was in first Roswell and then Grey’s Anatomy that she really got noticed, before eventually hitting the big time in Knocked Up.

Unlike most of the world, tired of the endless series of identikit rom-coms that have characterised her career since and aware of her ‘difficult’ reputation, I have a lot of time for Heigl. She’s done her best to change the rom-com dynamic, trying to inject some feminism and even some swearing so that women aren’t continually gentrified and oppressed by the genre. But she could certainly do better than 27 Dresses for starters.

Apparently, she thinks so, too, which is why she’s returned to TV to do something completely different: playing a gun-toting CIA analyst in State of Affairs. Something of a melange of everything from Homeland through The Threat Matrix (bet you thought no one would mention that show again), it sees Heigl advising her former mother-in-law-to-be - the US president (Alfre Woodard) - about the top threats facing the United States’ interests around the world, be it abducted doctors in Africa or Islamist terrorists… in Africa. And along the way, she’ll have to face politics, in-fighting, special forces, psychiatrists, security teams and someone who knows her dirty little secret.

And although pretty much every aspect of the show has been put through the NBC low-quality “generification machine”, if you were expecting it to be an epic disaster that would maintain Heigl’s status as a hate figure in the entertainment industry, you’d be surprised, since it’s okay. It’s not great, but compared to what it could have been, it’s a slight eye-opener.

Here’s a trailer.

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