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March 5, 2014

Review: Janet King 1x1 (ABC1)

Posted on March 5, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Janet King

In Australia: Thursdays, 8.30pm, ABC1

Australia’s ABC1 has been undergoing something of a drama renaissance over the past few years. In between 2005 and 2011, the channel produced absolutely no long form drama at all. Then along came Crownies - essentially an Australian This Life about a group of novice solicitors - and the channel hasn’t looked back, giving us the likes of Serangoon Road, Rake, Redfern Now, and The Doctor Blake Mysteries, to name but a few (or maybe all).

Crownies only lasted for one series though, but even as it aired, the possibility of a spin-off series involving some of the characters was being worked on. Lo-and-behold, we now have Janet King, featuring guess which stand-out Crownies character?

It doesn’t take long for anyone who hasn’t seen Crownies to realise this is a spin-off, since the show delivers on a plate a big set of characters with pre-existing relationships and acts like we’re supposed to understand what’s going on. It does make a few concessions, not least to the question of what King’s been up to since Crownies - she’s been having a baby with her lesbian life-partner - and for a perilously long time, it looks like Janet King is going to be an innovative new format of TV programme, the legal/childcare advice show, telling us how to prosecute paedophiles while trying not to accidentally express breast milk.

However, initial introductions out the way, it does settle down and start to give us some story that doesn’t entirely rely on either other lawyers being miffed that King is back to work and apparently being prioritised over them - the show does do a good job at hinting at less overt forms of sexism, as well as overt - or babies needing looking after. It’s a two-strand piece, with an artist being accused of paedophilia and a top cop accused of murdering rather than euthanising his sick wife. The former has a decent visual payoff that requires the viewer to have paid attention, while the latter is a story set to continue in subsequent episodes.

As with a lot of legal shows, Janet King seems to rely on the police not having done much investigating, leaving it up to the lawyers to do it instead. In Janet King’s case, that’s the same lawyers who didn’t have time to prepare for their trials and missed important legislative changes that would have enabled them to send the accused down, so isn’t a great plan. Indeed, much of the first episode sees King mucking up almost constantly, getting things wrong, over-compensating, and more, making it hard to see why she’s so well regarded.

The show’s much better when it’s in the court room than out, and with the Australian legal system so similar to the UK’s, it’s easier to understand for UK viewers, too. Although the show sometimes feels like someone wanted to make “Julia Gillard: Crown Prosecutor”*, King’s Crownies wow factor isn’t much on display and unless you’re a Crownies fan, you’d be hard pushed to come up with a reason to watch what is a relatively ordinary lawyer show.

Worth a try if you want to see a good collection of female professional characters or you’re a Crownies lover; otherwise, I’d say give this one a miss.

March 5, 2014

Mini-review: Those Who Kill 1x1 (A&E)

Posted on March 5, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Chloe Sevigny on A&E's Those Who Kill

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, A&E

There’s a lot of debate about the purpose of international remakes, particularly in the age of the internet, BBC4 and streaming services that allow you to watch the originals even before the remakes air.

I think there’s a point when

  1. It’s a good show
  2. Not many people will have seen it
  3. You do something good with it

So, for example, there was a point to Showtime’s remake of Prisoners of War/Hatufilm, Homeland, which told a different story from the original, which being on Israeli TV hardly anyone had seen; there was also a point to The Tunnel, Sky Atlantic/Canal+’s remake of Denmark/Sweden's Bron/Broen, since it tied up the narrative considerably and gave it far more local colour and humour, even if the female lead character was nowhere near as good.

I will tell you what there’s is absolutely no point to, though: it’s A&E’s Those Who Kill, which fails on all three counts. Firstly, the original Danish show, Den Som Dræber, which aired on ITV3 in the UK and is available on Netflix in the US, was rubbish - a terrible attempt to make a US serial killer and crime show that treated women terribly and was unremarkable in every way, beyond featuring Lars Mikkelsen.

Neither of those would have been insurmountable issues, had the writers and producers actually done something good with it. But they haven’t. It’s almost exactly the same.

In it, Chloe Sevigny, who was so good in Sky Atlantic’s Hit and Miss but is utterly ignorable in this thanks to having to play a thankless, by the numbers, blank cipher of a rookie detective, goes through exactly the same motions as her Danish predecessor, assisted/hindered by dodgy university professor/potential serial killer James D’Arcy. The big change, if you can call it that, is that while Lars Mikkelsen’s character was a surprisingly supportive and emotive boss, James Morrison's (Space: Above and Beyond, 24) is a surprisingly supportive and growling boss.

It’s clearly got a much bigger budget than the original, has Glen Morgan (Space: Above and Beyond, The X-Files) writing and producing, and Joe Carnahan (The Grey, The A-Team, The Blacklist) directs the pilot at least. But it adds nothing to something that was incredibly derivative and cliched in the first place.

This is rubbish in any language. I don’t need to review it because I’ve reviewed it already and I don’t need to watch any more of it because I’ve watched it already.

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March 5, 2014

Mini-review: Mixology 1x1-1x2 (ABC)

Posted on March 5, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Mixology

In the US: Wednesdays, 9.30/8.30c, ABC

Sometimes, the best ideas get the worse implementations. Rom-coms are generally very predictable. Boy meets girl, boy and girl like each/hate each, obstacles keep them apart/bring them together and then they wind up together. The end.

So you’ve got to hand it to ABC for trying to be a little different with Mixology, a one-season long ‘romantic mystery’ in which a whole group of men and women meet each other in a bar one night and you have to work out who’s going to end up with whom by the end of the season, each episode focusing on a different potential pairing.

Nifty so far, hey? Maybe you’re worried that the ‘one night’ thing will be too limiting? Don’t worry - there’s flashbacks aplenty to give you background story.

Should be a winner, huh?

Unfortunately, this is a show from the writers of The Hangover. Nothing wrong with the first movie, which was a lot funnier and cleverer than you might have expected. However, all that movie’s insight into women (next to none) and general sensitivity (next to none) appears to have been funnelled into this show, too.

Because it’s just horrible. It contains men who really shouldn’t be allowed out of a prison cell, let alone date; its women are basically that same kind of man with breasts. Laughs then revolve around crassness and gross outs, rather than characterisation, clever writing or strong plotting.

Or even - and here’s a thought - romance.

None of the cast redeem themselves with subversive, intelligent or incisive performances. The writing never rises above a level where you want to do anything beyond napalm ABC for making the show. It’s wretched.

Sorry ABC - there’s experimental but sometimes you have to know when your hypothesis is just wrong from the very beginning.

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