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October 20, 2015

Review: The Romeo Section 1x1 (Canada: CBC)

Posted on October 20, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Romeo Section

In Canada: Wednesdays, 9pm, CBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

If there's one thing Canadians can't seem to get enough of, it seems to be spy shows. Whether it's as a stupid comedy (Insecurity), a reasonably smart cross-border politicking drama (The Border), or as a very smart undercover cop show (Intelligence), sneakiness and lies have been a mainstay of Canada's TV output for the best part of a decade. 

In part, that's down to Chris Haddock, the Canadian writer/producer behind cop shows Da Vinci's Inquest, Da Vinci's Town Hall and CBS's The Handler, who first launched the genre in Canada with the slow-moving Intelligence. He's now back in the game with The Romeo Section, an even slower-moving spy show. 

It stars the inexplicably Glaswegian Andrew Airlie as the equally inexplicably named Wolfgang McGee, a globe-trotting Vancouver university professor who runs 'the Romeo Section' - a group of male and female undercover spies involved in sexy time with various intelligence targets, international and domestic. It's their job to inflitrate the Triads, crime rings, cartels and other criminal groups, to get the information Canada needs to destroy them.

To get them to do this, Airlie goes around Hong Kong and Vancouver, visiting shops, libraries, dark gloomy places, racetracks and numerous other places, where he has mumbly, Glaswegian-accented conversations with people that are so arch, you can't tell if it's bad writing or some kind of spy code. Then he goes away again, information gathered, so he can brood back in his office or mumble with his handler (Eugene Lipinski from Intelligence, Da Vinci's Town Hall et al, but also the original BBC Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), while his assets go off and have more sexy times. Main asset is the conflicted and bearded Juan Riedinger (Narcos), who spends a lot of his time shagging mental mob wife Stephanie Bennett (UnREAL, iZombie).

The whole show has the veneer of quality and intelligence, except it's one of those veneers where you assume that it's good and intelligent because nothing much happens for great long chunks of time and no one talks above a whisper, not because it's telling you anything you don't know or because of the gripping plot and characters. Not by a long chalk is this another Rubicon. You want it to be Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, but I'm about 90% sure it's actually A Bit of Fry & Laurie.

It's not badly written, it does avoid the excesses of a lot of spy shows, it does have some smarts to it and I'm sure it'll have its proponents and fans, who'll be addicted by episode eight, when something might actually have happened. But I won't be sticking around until then, I'm afraid.

 

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October 19, 2015

Review: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend 1x1 (US: The CW)

Posted on October 19, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

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

Each year, as the Upfronts season comes round, I post all the summaries and trailers for the new shows set to appear on our screens in the new season. Usually, these trailers have been pretty reliable indicators of the quality of shows, with sucky shows having sucky trailers and good shows having good trailers. Sucky shows appeal to people with sucky taste, good shows appeal to people with good taste - this is how trailers should work.

This year, however, it's all gone a bit Pete Tong. When CBS rolled out its trailers for the new season, a groan could be heard around the world as millions of people saw the trailer from Supergirl and thought, "WTF?"

Except, of course, the trailer was misleading, and while not perfect, Supergirl is really a whole load of fun.

Meanwhile, despite it being a musical, I was looking forward to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: 

Coming from the director of 500 Days of Summer and with animated sequences, musical numbers and more, this is actually quite a funny, innovative-looking little piece that could go pretty much anywhere, so I’m certainly going to be giving it a try.

But now I've seen it and all I can say now is "Oh, arse. Bloody trailers."

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October 19, 2015

Review: Truth Be Told 1x1 (US: NBC)

Posted on October 19, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Truth Be Told

In the US: Fridays, 8.30/7.30c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

We recently discussed Buckley's 'All producers live in Islington' Hypothesis, which suggests that TV producers don't actually watch TV shows. They may have heard of them, but they don't watch them.

The latest piece of proof for this hypothesis - we're dangerously close to calling it a theory now - is Truth Be Told. To show you how weak from the outset the whole idea for the show is, I'll tell you that the working title for the show was People Are Talking. That's not a proper name for a TV show - that's a name for a reality show mockumentary.

Anyway, it's fair to say that despite allegedly being based on the life of show producer and general death knell for quality and humour, DJ Nash (Hank, Accidentally On Purpose, Til Death, Traffic Light, Bent, Up All Night, Guys With Kids- is there a producer with a worse track record?), whose last sitcom, Growing Up Fisher, was also allegedly semi-autobiographical, Truth Be Told is basically the result of someone having heard about Black-ish and deciding to do their own version. Except badly.

It stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar (Raising the Bar, Franklin and Bash, but mainly Saved By The Bell) as a professor of ethics. Yes, Mark-Paul Gosselaar. As a professor of ethics.

Seeing any problems yet? At the very least with the US education system?

Well, stick with me anyway. Gosselaar's married to Filipina Vanessa Lachey (Dads), while his best friend and neighbour Tone Bell (Bad Judge) is a black standup comic newly married to Bresha Webb (ER, Grey's Anatomy). Ooh, how diverse.

So guess what. They're going to talk about modern ethical dilemmas to do with race, sex, gender, politics and more. You know, the things that people can't talk about in real life, but which a daring modern sitcom can. You know, one like Black-ish.

Oh yes.

So what's Truth Be Told going to go with? Well - prepare yourself for the controversy - it's going to talk about whether it's racist for someone to assume a car driver is white because he has a Jonathan Meyer CD in his car. Or whether it's okay to ask the hot babysitter whether she's done porn. How about whether you should hide the fact you have tickets to the Adult Film Awards from your wife or just tell her?

Typical modern day ethical dilemmas, hey? How could even the highly developed ethical mind of Professor Mark-Paul Gosselaar deal with these sort of issues, which we face every day but to which until now no one has developed adequate moral frameworks in response? Thank the gods for Truth Be Told, hey?

Alternatively, encase it in concrete, bury beneath the ocean floor and pray no one opens it for a thousand years. Or better still, never, in case future archaeologists think this is our equivalent of Aristotle.

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