We are living in a post-The Wire, post-The Shield age. You can't get much grittier than those two police shows did. Cops are one of the staples of US television, so it's telling that most cop shows have stopped trying to be gritty since they know they can't match them. Hence, we have The Mentalist, Numb3rs, The Unusuals et al, whose proximity to gritty is measurable in light years rather than centimetres.
So it's a brave show that tries to do gritty right now. Then again, what choice does a programme have on TNT - the home of dark, gritty TV that couldn't quite make it on FX or HBO?
Dark Blue stars that lovely Dylan McDermott - you know, from The Practice and Miracle on 34th Street - as a dark, gritty undercover cop who handles even darker, grittier undercover cops in an off-the-books, top-secret unit way. It's not a bad attempt at gritty and it's not without merit, but it's very hard to believe that this is anywhere close to cinema verité for two reasons.
The first is that it's a Jerry Bruckheimer production and pretty much follows the standard queues of any police drama, from long-suffering wives to cops who give up everything for the job. The second is that it stars that lovely Dylan McDermott.
Here's a sneak preview. See if you can avoid laughing at him being dark and brooding.
In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, TNT In the UK: No one's bought it. Seriously, what's keeping you guys?
Leverage is one of those shows that's there purely to entertain. It's kind of smart, but not brainy. It's kind of funny, but not laugh out loud funny. It's action-packed, but not adrenaline-pumping.
Despite its grifter credentials, it won't convince you it's the best show in the world, but it's personable, it's fun, the characters are enjoyable: it's an hour of entertainment that won't make you feel like you've left your brain at the door, and it's clear everyone making it is having a whale of a time.
Like Ocean's 11 and Hustle, it's about a group of criminals who pull off confidence tricks; however, these guys do it to help the little people fight the rich corporations. At the end of last season, the gang split up to go their separate ways, but since then, there's become a whole load more little people, and a whole load of corporations doing suspiciously well during an economic meltdown.
There was a time when every kid with an imagination and who read books would have known about those young detectives the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. If you were a boy, you read about brothers Frank and Joe Hardy and their intrepid investigations; if you were a girl (or called Rob Buckley), you read about Nancy Drew and her equally intrepid investigations.
And when I say was 'there was a time', it was a very long time indeed, since the original books came out in the 1920s and continued to be must-reads into the 90s.
Times have moved on, and there have been attempts to update the books, and dramatise them on TV or even in the movies - Nancy Drew getting the latest movie treatment, a slight pisstake with Nancy as a goody twoshoes struggling with modern teens; Ben Stiller and Tom Cruise are still working on a movie with them as the grown-up Hardy Boys. These updates haven't been totally successful and the characters are fading somewhat into history.
Back in the 70s, though, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew Mysteries was the Saturday night show to watch. The show starred teen heart-throb (and future TV show writer) Shaun Cassidy as Joe Hardy, Parker Stevenson (future star of Baywatch and Isaac Asimov's P.R.O.B.E.) as Frank Hardy and Pamela Sue-Martin (future Fallon on Dynasty) as Nancy Drew (she was replaced towards the end of the second season by Janet Louise Johnson).
The format of the Mysteries was a bit weird. In the first of the show's three seasons, it alternated each week between the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. By the second season, only three episodes featured Nancy Drew by herself and the rest had her as a 'guest star' in the Hardy Boys' episodes. And by the third season, Nancy Drew was gone altogether, and the show became The Hardy Boys Mysteries.
Whatever you think of the show itself - and you can still catch an episode or two on YouTube (look, here's one with Melanie Griffiths) - the opening titles for the second two seasons were weird and creepy, as was the theme music. They also quite cleverly managed to add the members of the cast to the then-famous book covers. Over to you weird old title sequence:
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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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Praise for the blog Cision: fourth most important UK TV blog Blogging Edge: Blogger running Britain 2013
"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."
"The Medium Is Not Enough is a light-hearted look at TV, often from the US, but also from the UK. With varied, well-written content, the blog features healthy engagement and features well in search engines."
"Billing itself as 'officially the fourth most popular UK TV blog', there are several whimsical regulars here that could help it climb as high as number three…"
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.