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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


January 24, 2013

Review: Banshee 1x1-1x2 (Cinemax)

Posted on January 24, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Banshee

In the US: Fridays, 10/9c, Cinemax

Once upon a time, TV regarded cops as unimpeachable examples of morality. Whether it was Dragnet in the US or Dixon of Dock Green in the UK, cops did their jobs, stuck to the rules and never did anything bad.

Times changed, of course, albeit slowly. When writer GF Newman was pitching ideas to the script editor of Z Cars in the 70s, he suggested that one of the detectives be offered a bribe - and that the detective accept it. Newman was told: "Maybe this isn't the show for you." The script editor was right, because Newman went off and created his own show, the ground-breaking Law and Order (no, not that one), which depicted cops as corrupt, willing to bend and even break the law, and sometimes little more than criminals with badges.

This ambiguity continued through the 70s in the UK and into the 90s with the likes of Between The Lines all the way through to the present day with Luther.

In the US, while pretty much every cop show from the 80s onwards showed police who were 'mavericks who didn't play by the rules', the police largely stuck to the rules. But again times changed, giving us first The Wire and then eventually The Shield, in which the corrupt cops committed almost as many crimes as the criminals they were supposed to be investigating.

Cinemax's new show, Banshee, however, goes one further. All the shows I've mentioned are about cops who become criminals. But what if a criminal became a cop?

The show, exec produced by True Blood's Alan Ball, sees Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), one of the most notorious thieves in the US, get out of jail after a 15-year sentence for a diamond robbery. When he goes looking for his share of the diamonds from his former girlfriend and partner Anastasia Hopewell (Ivana Miličević), he ends up in the ultra-corrupt Pennsylvania town of Banshee, which coincidentally is expecting a new sheriff. When the sheriff is killed in a fight, Hood assumes his identity and becomes the new sheriff of Banshee, so that he can win Hopewell back, watch over the daughter he never knew he had and earn some money in the process, all while trying to evade Mr Rabbit (Ben Cross), a New York crime boss and Hopewell's father, who's been looking for her for 15 years.

Anyway, as you might expect, Hood uses criminal methods to do his job and the result is… interesting. Here's a trailer.

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January 23, 2013

Review: The Following 1x1 (Fox/Sky Atlantic)

Posted on January 23, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Following

In the US: Mondays, 9/8c, Fox
In Canada: Mondays, 9/8c, CTV
In the UK: Tuesdays, 10pm, Sky Atlantic

Serial killers. Aren't we done with them yet? Haven't Silence of the Lambs, Saw I-XXV, four seasons of Profiler, and 2,435 seasons of Criminal Minds and its spin-off mined everything this group of particularly sick and crazy people of all they could contribute to narrative?

Apparently not, because Kevin Williamson (yes, the creator of Dawson Creek and the TV version of The Vampire Diaries, but also of the Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer film franchises) has decided that enough isn't enough, and we need another serial killer, preferably smart (not average IQ like most real serial killers), British (like Anthony Hopkins but unlike practically every real serial killer in the US) and merely sadistic (unlike most serial killers, who have sexual motivations for their crimes). And what better than to have a law enforcement operative, preferably with their own problems, trying to catch him with the help of less-inspired police-type people (cf Will Graham, Clarice Starling, Samantha Waters, Patrick Jane et al)?

So far, so entirely derivative. In fact, it was originally the script for Scream 3. So what, if anything, does Williamson's reheated new show, The Following, have to offer? Well, it's got the rather marvellous James Purefoy from Rome, Camelot and The Philanthropist, as the Edgar Allen Poe-obsessed killer, and the return of Kevin "centre of the universe" Bacon to network TV after 30 years (or something) away. It's also got another innovation - a cult of serial killers that Purefoy has been nurturing over the Internet from jail for all this time, a cult the members of which are prepared to lie in wait for years, getting close to people, until Purefoy tells them to leap into action as part of his new, sinister plan.

But apart from that, it's exactly what you might be expecting of a serial killer show: lots of incredibly nasty violence and women being victimised while a lone investigator and his band of dull assistants try to stop the worst from happening (usually not in time). Here's a trailer:

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January 21, 2013

Reviews: The Carrie Diaries (The CW) 1x1

Posted on January 21, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Young Carrie Bradshaw from The Carrie Diaries

In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, The CW

Sex and the City? Remember that? It's a little known HBO show that's practically vanished into obscurity now, so just in case you need reminding, it featured four female 30/40-something best friends, including one Carrie Bradshaw, a columnist for a New York tabloid who writes about sex, dating and relationships in that city. Hence the title.

Based on the books of Candace Bushnell, it was notable for its giving a women a rare forum of their own to discuss their attitudes towards sex, men, relationships, shopping, jobs, family, friendships, social occasions, vacations… Life basically.

It was also notable for being if not always massively explicit with its sex, at least being explicit with its dialogue about sex.

So what should we make of The Carrie Diaries on The CW? Yes, it's again based on books by Candace Bushnell, but since her books never resembled Sex and the City too much, that's not much of a recommendation.

It also features a 16-year old Carrie Bradshaw so is set during the mid-80s - horrifyingly enough, that's over 20 years ago now and yes, the maths on that do not add up in the slightest - making it less relevant to the typical audience of The CW, who are in their mid-to-late teens and early 20s.

There's also no Miranda, no Samantha, no Charlotte - yet - just Carrie, so perhaps the most important group of female friends in TV history isn't going to make an appearance or have much to do with the show.

And just to reiterate some of those facts again for a final point, it's on The CW, it's going to be watched by teenagers, it features a 16-year-old girl as its lead - exactly how sexually explicit in thought, word and deed do you think it's going to be?

In short, just how much of a pale shadow of Sex and the City is this show going to be?

The quick answer is very pale, with little that's remarkable or interesting to draw you in. Even the Twin Towers have been erased from the 1980s New York skyline just in case they upset anyone.

Having said that, despite all the worst fears you might have had about it, The Carrie Diaries is still perfectly acceptable fare. Here's a trailer. You may notice Freema Agyeman from Doctor Who in it. You may also notice she's lost all trace of acting ability since.

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