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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


February 3, 2014

Review: 19-2 (Bravo)

Posted on February 3, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

19-2

In Canada: Wednesdays, 9e/6p, Bravo

Canada is, of course, a country of two languages: English and French. Now, while English-language TV in Canada underwent something of a renaissance in recent years, quickly followed by a dip as a cut in government funding for the CBC killed off a number of more expensive shows, French-Canadian shows continued to do well. In fact, they’ve been proving a valuable source of material for the English-language networks, which have been adapting some of the more popular shows: Sophie and Rumours have already hit the airwaves, Unité 9 is on the way on CBC, and now we have 19-2, based on the original 19-2. Easy to translate that one.

It’s certainly a good choice for a remake, easily one of the best cop dramas English-language Canada has produced, recently - although that’s not hard, admittedly, given competition such as Motive and Cracked. In a lot of ways, it’s Canada’s answer to Southland, with 19-2 the call sign of the cop car driven by our heroes - a ‘rookie’ (he’s not really, but everyone calls him that) and a grizzled veteran - exploring the streets of Montreal and coming across gritty, real-life problems both big and small, action-packed and funny, that they have to solve, before coming back to the precinct to face the admin, politics and their fellow cops.

Here’s a trailer, followed by the first five minutes or so.

Continue reading "Review: 19-2 (Bravo)"

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January 27, 2014

Mini-review: Rake (US) 1x1 (Fox)

Posted on January 27, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Rake, with Greg Kinnear

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, Fox
In the UK: The Universal Channel

Normally, TV producers try to do something clever with their shows' titles. Even if they just name their show after the lead character, there's normally a double meaning to it: think Hunter, House (a pun on Holmes), Ironside or Magnum.

Certainly, the producers of Australia's Rake had that in mind when they named their show after the lead character, lawyer Rake Cleaver Greene, who's also something of a rake. Not especially clever, but there was a point to it.

But it shows just how much in two minds the producers of the US adaptation are about the programme that it's still called Rake, even though the lead character is now called Keegan Deane. Indeed, they reshot the pilot after it showed Deane as a bit 'sadder' than they'd wanted, that's how much they're not sure what to do with this.

The US version sees Greg Kinnear return to TV to play Deane, a narcissistic disaster area of a lawyer who womanises, gambles, treats everyone appallingly and generally ruins other people's lives as well. Even his clients are mostly guilty of their crimes, something that Deane doesn't really care much about, provided they can pay him, either in cash or giant tuna fish (don't ask).

Deane lurches from one situation to another in a way that's supposed to be lovable (and definitely not 'sad') and Houseian, but is largely just unpleasant, somewhat like watching a very small series of car crashes. He doesn't have the genius of House and he doesn't really have any redeeming qualities to make you want to forgive him or like him. And Kinnear, kind of like one of those spooky, almost-human Japanese robots, is close enough to Rob Lowe that he's almost likeable, but far enough off that you just want Rob Lowe to be starring instead.

With the wrong lead, wrong scripts and even wrong character names, this is very much a missable show. But here's a trailer so you can decide for yourselves if you at least want to give it a try.

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January 23, 2014

The Wednesday Play (on Thursday): Fable (1965)

Posted on January 23, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Fable

Sometimes, plays can be used to illustrate a societal or political problem, through allegory or even fable. Sometimes, though, they can be too subtle for their own.

Fable, John Hopkins' 1965 The Wednesday Play, was actually a rather daring piece - a commentary on race relations in the UK and South Africa that inverts the two countries' societies to imagine a British racial apartheid, but one in which whites are the brutally oppressed, blacks the authoritarians running the system. Narrated by Keith Barron, the play contrasts the experiences of an oppressed white couple, Joan (Eileen Atkins) and Len (Ronald Lacey), with the middle-class, black, liberal writer Mark (Thomas Baptiste) living under house arrest with his wife Francesca (Barbara Assoon). As well as showing by analogy just how poorly black people were then treated by white people, it also castigated the efforts of white liberals in South Africa to challenge the regime, arguing that they showed little interest in doing anything except being self-righteous.

The play, which was also interspersed with stills and documentary footage of conflicts in South Africa, Vietnam and elsewhere, was powerful enough that its broadcast was initially postponed by several weeks because of fears that it would raise racial tensions in a forthcoming by-election in Leyton, East London, that involved a candidate who had previously lost his seat following a notoriously racist campaign in Birmingham. 

Disappointingly, however, the audience at the time didn't quite understand Hopkins' message. "I got a letter from a viewer which said 'I really enjoyed that play. Boy, you showed them what would happen if they came to power, if they had the authority.' He didn't even need to specify who 'they' were."

You can watch the play below, although unfortunately, this copy is from BBC4's 2005 'TV on trial' season, so involves a certain amount of on-screen 'grafitti'. 

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