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January 11, 2016

Preview: Second Chance 1x1 (US: Fox)

Posted on January 11, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Second Chance

In the US: Wednesdays, 9/8c, Fox. Starts January 13
In the UK: Not yet acquired

What's in a name, you might ask. Quite a lot, it seems, in the case of Second Chance, given the contortions it's gone through in its brief life.

The show stars Robert Kazinsky (Dream Team, EastEnders, Pacific Rim) and Philip Michael Hall (The Loop) as Jimmy Pritchard, a retired disgraced sheriff who consorts with prostitutes and has a 'problematic' relationship with his FBI son widower Tim DeKay (White Collar) and granddaughter Ciara Bravo (Red Band Society).

You might have noticed that I said that both Hall and Kazinsky play Jimmy Pritchard. For a change, that's not a grammatical mistake on my part. You see, there's a brilliant pair of rich twins (Dilshad Vadsaria from Greek and Adhir Kalyan from Rules of Engagement). Vadsaria is dying of a rare form of cancer and so Kalyan invents a process that could save her, provided they find someone genetically compatible and a bit dead. Because Kalyan can bring the right person back from the dead and in considerably improved condition - as a better version of themselves, stronger, faster and even younger. And then they can milk him for his curative white blood cells.

When the 70-something Hall finds DeKay's office being broken into, the perps end up throwing him off a bridge. Kalyan brings him back as Kazinsky, who's offered not just a second chance at stopping the perps, but also doing good and perhaps even improving his relationship with his family.

Now, originally, this was called The Frankenstein Code. Whether it's because it had almost nothing to do with Mary Shelley's original book or whether it was because ITV had The Frankenstein Chronicles coming out at roughly the same time, I don't know. But the show soon got renamed Looking Glass - the name of Vadsaria and Kalyan's social media company - and the only vestige of the original name is now Vadsaria's name, 'Mary Godwin' (Godwin being Shelley's maiden name). Apparently, though, Looking Glass was too cryptic and perhaps even too suggestive of Lewis Carroll, because the show was soon renamed Second Chance, which at least is a bit closer to what the show's about.

However, I wonder how much of this name-changing is to distract us all from the fact that Second Chance is basically Now and Again, in which Eric Close plays a genetically perfect reincarnation of the dead John Goodman who's created to solve crimes and do espionage, but spends all his time wanting to fix things with his family, now he can't be with them.

Second Chance has rather a lot in common with Now and Again - a similar plot, similar concerns, better when dealing with family matters than with cops and spies. It's different enough that lawsuits probably won't be flying, but similar enough that you'll feel like you're watching a rerun when you watch it.

It's not without a few saving graces. The idea that youth is wasted on the youthful and the idea of a 'do over' are timelessly appealing. This also isn't 'single point' sci-fi, with the twin's ability to resurrect the dead coming ex nihilo and everything else remaining the same. Instead, it's set in the near future, where everyone's house has computer displays in the windows and a portable of army of UAVs is available when you need it. The show also channels 'superbeing shows' of the 70s and 80s, such as The Gemini Man and Northstar, by giving our hero a time limit each day before he has to be returned to a tank to stop his super-powerful new body rejecting his enhancements and dying permanently.

But it's still not great. Hall's a more interesting character than Kazinsky, just as Goodman was better than Close, inviting his frequent return, I suspect. DeKay is either studiously doing serious acting or has lost the will to live, knowing he's always going to be playing the FBI straight man to someone more interesting - I can't tell which. The rest of the cast aren't great shakes and the cop plots are pretty perfunctory and solved with a couple of punches.

Nevertheless, there's at least potential here and the chance for the show to grow in interesting directions, since there's no obvious fixed format for it. Maybe he'll go off solving crimes; maybe he'll try to bond with his family; maybe he'll be the subject of scientific research every week.

At best, it'll probably be easy viewing on an unchallenging Monday. But that's still better than pretty much any other recent Fox sci-fi show.

January 7, 2016

Review: Byw Celwydd/Living A Lie 1x1 (UK: S4C)

Posted on January 7, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Living A Lie

In the UK: Sundays, 9pm, S4C. Available on iPlayer

The last time S4C decided to do a glamorous, exciting drama set in Cardiff Bay, it gave us the much-missed Caerdydd, a shiny, exciting, mind-blowingly Welsh soap full of hip young Welsh-speaking media types, entrepreneurs and politicians staying at the St David's Hotel & Spa, going to all the best pubs and generally enjoying everything cool and hip Mermaid Quay has to offer, apart from the Harry Ramsden's.

It launched the career of many a Welsh-speaking actor, but it's gone now. Sigh. We've still got the last series on the Sky box and we live for the day that S4C might eventually get round to putting it out on DVD. It was top. RIP Caerdydd.

Of course, almost no one outside of Wales had ever heard of Caerdydd until it started filming sex scenes in the Senedd, so it seems appropriate that following the success of Y Gwyll/Hinterland in the rest of the world, S4C's latest attempt to create a world-class drama follows largely in the footsteps of Caerdydd by being set in the Welsh Assembly and featuring bright young things having sex, albeit everywhere except the Senedd toilets.

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January 7, 2016

Review: The Shannara Chronicles 1x1-1x3 (US: MTV)

Posted on January 7, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Shannara Chronicles

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, MTV
In the UK: Not yet acquired

When Into The Badlands arrived on our screens the other side of Christmas, I tried very hard to work out why it wasn't any good. After all, it had impeccable source material to work with and a decent cast, and it had imported Hong Kong martial arts stars and choreographers to jazz up the fights. Except it was hackneyed and dull.

Was it because it was on AMC, famed for almost fetishing slow storytelling? Or was it simply because it was from Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, who perhaps aren't up to post-apocalyptic quest dramas?

It turns out it's probably a bit of both, but perhaps not for the reasons I was thinking of. I think it's because Gough and Millar were putting all their effort into the rather similar The Shannara Chronicles.

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