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June 12, 2015

Preview: Proof 1x1 (US: TNT)

Posted on June 12, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Jennifer Beals in TNT's Proof

In the US: Tuesdays, 10/9c, TNT. Starts June 16

The procedural is killing mainstream US TV. It really is. On the face of it, there’s nothing wrong with a procedural, whether it’s cops, doctors, firefighters or soldiers. As a format, the procedural is versatile since if you’re going to produce 13-24 episodes of something that doesn’t necessarily have a linking narrative, you’re going to want to have a reason for things to happen - and if your characters’ job is to go and find things, that really does help.

Trouble is when everything has to be crowbarred into that format, even when there’s really no good reason for it. You can just about forgive something like Stitchers - who else would bother trying to insert themselves into dead people’s fading consciousnesses every week apart from a shadowy government agency? Once would be enough for most people and you’d probably pick people who hadn’t died traumatically, which would be dramatically dull, of course.

But now we have the ludicrous Proof on TNT, a network that I thought was trying to get away from the fact that 90% of its content is procedural but here are showing that like some teenager after a break-up, they can’t quite get over their first love.

Jennifer Beals (Flashdance, The Chicago Code) is a powerful, high flying surgeon who is a sceptical woman of science. However, following the death of her teenage son, her family isn’t quite so happy, with Beals and husband David Sutcliffe (Cracked) getting divorced and her teenager daughter being none too happy with her either.

Then one day, tech billionaire Matthew Modine (Full Metal Jacket, Weeds) bribes hospital administrator Joe Morton (Terminator 2, Grace and Frankie) into ordering Beals to meet him. Modine is dying and hasn’t long to live, but being the prepared type, he wants to know exactly what’s going to happen to him afterwards. So he offers to give Beals his entire fortune on the event of his death - provided she can bring him proof of what happens, be that ascent to Heaven, everlasting blackness or partying in Valhalla until Ragnarok. And rather than investigate plausible cases in a long-drawn out research project, she's going to look at a different phenomenon every week.

Yes, that’s right, we have the first ever ‘investigate the afterlife’ procedural. That’s… plausible.

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June 4, 2015

Review: Westside 1x1 (New Zealand: TV3)

Posted on June 4, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Westside

In New Zealand: Sundays, 8.30pm, TV3

As we saw recently with AMC's Better Call Saul, prequels can be tricky things. You typically only get a prequel to a show if it’s been popular and has a strong fan base, and those fans are going to want everything to line up nicely with whatever’s already been established in the original story. However, unless you want ever-reducing audience numbers, you have to ensure that the prequel is of interest to a wider circle than just the fans.

The show formerly and cleverly known as Westside Story, but which is now presumably for copyright reasons simply Westside, has these two issues to juggle. Now, I’ve already gone into the history of its progenitor Outrageous Fortune elsewhere, so I won’t bother here but suffice it to say, as esteemed New Zealand shows with a huge fan base go, you couldn’t find a bigger one than Outrageous Fortune. All the same, that finished five years ago and wasn’t widely known in its original form overseas - indeed, these days it’s perhaps better known as the show that the creators of The Almighty Johnsons ran before venturing into matters more fantastical and theological. As a result, there’s a potential new audience for Westside that never saw the original and who might be looking forward to Rachel Lang and James Griffin’s latest production.

So will the story of safecracker Ted West, his wife Rita and their son Wolf, the future prison-bound patriarch of Outrageous Fortune's West family, stand on its own two feet or will it simply be a piece of fan service from a creatively bankrupt team that have run out of ideas?

I’ll tell you after the jump.

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June 2, 2015

Preview: Stitchers 1x1 (US: ABC Family)

Posted on June 2, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Stitchers

In the US: Tuesdays, 9/8c, ABC Family. Starts tonight

Usually, there’s nothing quite like the word ‘family’ in the description of something televisual to guarantee its general shoddiness. But over the years, ABC Family has been a notable exception. I stopped watching the network’s output a while back when it started producing things like Bunheads: it may have been the best show in the world, but when you’re a 40-something male, you probably shouldn’t be watching TV dramas about female teenage gymnasts. - that’s just creepy. However, over the years, the network has produced some generally decent shows, including Kyle XY, Three Moons Over Milford, Lincoln Heights, 10 Things I Hate About You and Pretty Little Liars.

As you may have noticed from that list, the network has been moving from genre shows towards more conventional fare generally aimed at teenage girls and young women. But it apparently hasn’t escaped the network’s bosses that what teenage girls want to watch is changing - we’re living in a post-Twilight, post-Hunger Games world. So the network’s decided to take some baby steps back into genre TV. This autumn, we can see the continuation of the Mortal Instruments film franchise in Shadowhunters and now we have Stitchers, a hybrid sci-fi/procedural drama that’s part CSI, part Inception.

Emma Ishta is Kirsten, a technically gifted PhD student who has a rare brain condition that makes her unaware of passing time. This makes her aloof, rude, generally unloved and unable to feel emotions in the same ways as the rest of us - when her adopted father commits suicide she’s unmoved because it feels to her exactly the same as if he’d died years ago.

She's also willing to break whatever rules she wants to get what she wants. While this gets her kicked out of Caltech, her condition does mean that she’s uniquely suited for the top secret ‘Stichers’ programme into which she’s quickly recruited following the washing out of the previous ’Stitcher'. The programme not only allows the brains of the recently deceased to be preserved for much longer than normal, it allows the ‘Stitcher’ to enter their memories as though they were the real world, in order to solve crimes. And in this first case, she must enter the mind of a man killed in a bomb explosion, because he’s stashed two other bombs around LA and they’re set to go off soon.

And while it’s as stupid as bag full of spanners wearing toupees, it’s at least a good deal more fun than CSI: Cyber. Here, have a rather good, Inception-like trailer that belies the show’s essentially cheap silliness and another trailer that’s a little bit less deceptive.

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