'Wheel' series have just about disappeared now. What's a 'wheel' series? Well, imagine a series with some high-profile stars, but they're so high-profile, there's not room for them in each episode. So each week, you have an episode that invariably features only one of those stars.
One of the pioneers of wheel series was NBC's The Name of the Game, which starred Tony Franciosa, Gene Barry and Robert Stack. Running for 76 episodes, it was based on the TV movie Fame is the Name of the Game and looked at three characters working at Howard Publications, a large magazine company. Franciosa played Jeff Dillon, a crusading reporting with People magazine; Gene Barry played Glenn Howard, the company's owner and publisher; and Robert Stack played Dan Farrell, the editor of Crime magazine.
Here's the ever-so-60s title sequence. Well, one of them. I'll explain after the jump.
There's been a lot of talk this season about AMC's Mad Men. The Playboy Club and Pan Am have both supposedly been trying to emulate the success of Mad Man by both being set in the 60s and allegedly glorifying sexism, racism, et al. The parallels are relatively few and often spurious but what people have latched onto in this 60s setting. Apparently, until Mad Men, period drama didn't happen on US TV so clearly anything period must owe a debt to Mad Men.
Now overlooking the quasi-period (e.g. Quantum Leap, New Amsterdam, Journeyman, That 70s Show, Life on Mars) as well as actually period (e.g. Glory Daze, Swingtown) is one thing. But to overlook the western? That's downright ridiculous.
The western was once the mainstay of US TV: Bonanza ran for 13 years, Gunsmoke ran for 20 years and there were countless others. Modern day TV networks also haven't forgotten the western: HBO had Deadwood while FX's Justified is essentially a western set in modern times; and even as I type, the development slates at various US networks are already filling up with a whole new batch of westerns, ready to be unleashed on us next September, including a remake of the classic TV western The Rifleman.
But now look. While everyone's been fixated on the 60s as the Mad Men USP, AMC - the home of Mad Men - is trying its hardest to cash in on the success of its own, currently absent show (as well as its first ever original mini-series, Broken Trail) with another period piece that relishes the mores and prejudices of a rapidly changing American society. Can you guess when it's set?
In the UK: Sundays, 10pm, FX UK In France: Canal+. First broadcast 2009
Once upon a time - i.e. five or six years ago - FX was the place to go to if you wanted to watch the best, most niche US TV shows. The Wire was on FX years before DVD and BBC2 showings made it nearly a household name, while Dexter and numerous other top-quality shows aired only on FX or aired on it first.
Then along came Sky Atlantic and screwed all that up. Have a look at the roster now and yes, there's The Walking Dead,True Blood and American Horror Story, but that's three horror shows, only one of which is any good and everything else is just re-runs. And let's not start on the fact The Defenders is on there. That's just embarrassing.
So FX came up with a cunning idea: let's see what countries other than the US have to offer. So it started with Canadian TV. Along came The Border, which wasn't half bad, The Listener, which was, and ReGenesis and The Booth At The End, which I admit I've never seen but which I also admit I don't feel inspired to watch, either.
But hunting for good quality Canadian TV can be tricky. For every, The Border, jPod,Being Erica or Endgame, there's a The Line, Men With Brooms, InSecurity, Good Dog or XIII waiting to make you regret your TV-watching decision. FX can't exactly pack its schedules to the rafters with Canadian TV, particularly since E4's started nicking Canadian shows as well.
So FX has cunningly decided, just as BBC4 is cutting back on its acquisition budgets and focusing on Scandinavian shows, to capitalise on one of that channel's other innovations and look close to home for its shows. To France, in fact.
So not only has it been showing the two-part movie Mesrine, starring Vincent Cassel as the eponymous gangster, it's also acquired Spiral/Engrenages's sibling show at Canal+ Braquo, a dark policier about a cop with broad definitions of legality and what he's allowed to do.
The question is - has FX found the new The Killing or is it about to discover what those of us who have watched French TV for some time now have found: that French TV drama, by and large, sucks?
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A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
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"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
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I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.