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February 4, 2013

Review: Do No Harm 1x1 (NBC)

Posted on February 4, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Do No Harm

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC
In Canada: Thursdays, 10pm ET, CTV
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Seeing as the first episode of NBC's new show has the lowest ever ratings for a mid-season show, I'm not sure I needed to have bothered with a full review for this boy - it's not long for this world. But I will and I'm going to take the opportunity to wonder exactly how short-term broadcast networks' memories are.

See, on the one hand, I'm impressed by their commitment to trying to make an idea work. ABC has just greenlit a pilot based on The Syndicate, a UK show about Lottery winners with secrets and how they're affected by their win. Thing is, NBC did that not so long ago as Windfall.

Maybe that's okay, given the show was on another network: one US network is rarely bothered if they make an almost identical show to another's within a year of it airing - indeed, that's often the point.

But how about when it's remaking its own shows, shows that flopped. Do No Harm is a take on the story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in which a brilliant neurosurgeon (aren't they always? Aren't there ever really rubbish neurosurgeons? Under-achieving neurosurgeons? After all, it's not exactly rocket science is it?) has multiple personality disorder. Every night at 8.25pm, his other, sociopathic personality takes over and tries to screw up his life and possibly mutilate and rape anyone he comes across. Then the nice surgeon wakes up again at 8.25am, trying to work out what the bad guy did.

Thing is, we've already had Awake just a year ago, which had the two different lives, one inside dreams, one outside (or maybe they're both dreams). That at least had the virtue of being pretty good.

But before that, also on NBC, we had My Own Worst Enemy, in which mild-mannered Christian Slater discovered that he was really an implanted personality and that his real, nasty, more interesting secret agent self came out at night when he was asleep. In that show as well, the nice guy decides enough is enough and decides to take revenge against himself - as does the bad guy - while they try to come to some kind of working arrangement in the interim.

Sounds great, doesn't it? No, wait. It's the opposite of that. This was not an idea that needed exploring again.

And the ratings have shown it. Here's a trailer.

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February 4, 2013

Review: The Americans 1x1 (FX/FX Canada/ITV)

Posted on February 4, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

FX - The Americans

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, FX
In Canada: Wednesdays,10pm ET/PT 8pm MT, FX Canada
In the UK: Acquired by ITV

There's a lot of nostalgia for the 80s at the moment. Okay, so the 60s and 70s have largely been done to death on TV now thanks to Mad Men, That 70s Show et al and the population is ageing, but right now, it's the 80s that have all the buzz. Maybe it's those conservatives and their love of Ronald Reagan. Maybe it's the fashionistas. Certainly, The Carrie Diaries is giving teenagers who weren't even alive back then a chance to indulge in the decade of crazy fashions, MTV and Ferris Bueller.

What The Carrie Diaries doesn't give anyone is a good old nostalgic feeling for the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the possible imminent death of everyone on the planet in a nuclear war. It won't even include the Twin Towers in the Manhattan skyline in case it bums anyone out.

But The Americans, FX's latest wander down the path of darkness, dares to love the Cold War, when times were simpler and you largely knew where the enemy was: either the Soviet Union or the Soviet embassy down the block - certainly not in a cave somewhere. Well, except for those sleeper agents, of course…

But it goes one step further still and dares to love the Soviets. Because The Americans, set in 1981, follows Keri Russell (last seen on Running Wilde) and Wales' own Matthew Rhys (a Brothers and Sisters alum, so well versed in the art of faking an American accent) as a pair of Soviet sleeper agents who have spent 15 years in the US pretending to be an everyday couple next door. Trained to blend in with suburbia, they even have two kids, although whether those kids were conceived out of love or a desire to convert the American populace to socialism is a thorny subject.

Yes, after 15 years of living like Americans, our undercover couple - who are still spying, seducing and killing for the Soviets - are starting to wonder if the Yanks are really as bad as all that. Have they been changed? Is their will breaking? Or are they still good comrades? At the very least, they're hoping that the FBI agent who's moved in next door doesn't discover who they are before they've decided for themselves…

Here's a trailer:

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February 1, 2013

Review: Vince Cosmos, Glam Rock Detective

Posted on February 1, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Vince Cosmos, Glam Rock DetectivePaul Magrs is a very clever chap. He's a lecturer in creative writing, and has written numerous books and audio plays. Not all of them are about Doctor Who, but quite a lot of them are. Indeed, he's written a few Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, including my favourite ever, the insanely clever Ringpullworld. He was even the author who managed to lure Tom Baker back to Doctor Who for a series of BBC audio plays, starting with The Hornets' Nest.

Largely, if Magrs has a theme, it's to deconstruct Doctor Who, not just as a show but how it's written. Indeed, his most famous creation is Iris Wildthyme, a perpetually drunk, lying, sexually active Time Lady (the clue is in the name) with her own range of books from Obverse Books and a range of Big Finish audio plays that stars former Doctor Who companion Katy Manning. Iris, who travels the universe in a double-decker bus with a talking panda for a companion, originally started as a way to subvert Doctor Who, the Doctor and science-fiction conventions - she did what the Doctor doesn't and that illuminated the nature of the Doctor in various ways.

All this is by way of introduction to Magrs' latest creations, 70s glam rock star Vince Cosmos and his biggest fan Poppy Munday, who feature in a new series of audio plays from Bafflegab Productions, which is best known for producing The Scarifyers on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Starring Julian Rhind-Tutt of Green Wing, Hippies et al, Vince Cosmos: Glam Rock Detective is an origin story that sees Munday moving down to London from Sunderland and meeting her idol, Vince Cosmos… who for some reason seems to think the Martians are intent on invading the Earth. Is he mad? Will the Martians, if they exist be stopped? And will Munday manage to get her end away with Cosmos before the end of the play?

Sound a bit like it might be subverting and deconstructing Doctor Who? You'd not be wrong.

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