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October 8, 2013

Preview: Y Gwyll (Hinterland) (UK: S4C/BBC Wales/BBC Four)

Posted on October 8, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Hinterland/Y Gwyll

In the UK (in Welsh): S4C. Starts 29 October.
In the UK (English/Welsh): BBC Wales in early 2014. Then BBC4

TV is getting more and more international. Not only are different countries remaking other countries' shows, more and more are willing to show the originals, even if they were shot in a different language.

Here in the UK, we have BBC4 and its foreign TV slot of Wallander, Spiral, The Killing, The Bridge, Inspector Montalbano et al; meanwhile, Sky Arts has given us Prisoners of War, Isabel, In Treatment, Grand Hotel, Maison Close, Hard and their like, while Channel 4 has made its first foray into French in years with Canal+'s The Returned.

But it's easy to forget (well, if you live in England it is) that English isn't the only native language still spoken in the UK. Although the likes of Manx and Cornish are confined to relatively few speakers, both Scots Gaelic and Welsh not only have thousands of speakers who regard them as their first languages, there are entire TV channels dedicated to programming in these languages: BBC Alba and S4C respectively.

While BBC Alba is a relatively new phenomenon, the output of which is largely confined to dubbed English-language programming, sport and factual programmes, S4C is over 30 years old and has produced everything from soap operas (Pobol Y Cwm) to comedy (Dim Byd) and drama (Caerdydd).

And yet, despite this new keenness for multi-lingual, global programming, you'd be hard-pressed to find any of this home-grown, Welsh language programming on the BBC or Sky Arts, not even in the foreign language slots.

Until now.

Because for the first time since A Mind To Kill 20 years ago, S4C has made a cop show. Not only that, it's made it simultaneously in both English and Welsh. Airing first on S4C this month and then in the rest of Britain next year on BBC Wales and BBC4, Hinterland/Y Gwyll* follows the investigations of DCI Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington from Lark Rise to Candleford), who's newly arrived in Aberystwyth from London. Partnered with DI Mared Rhys (Mali Harris from Caerdydd), Mathias has to investigate four dark and disturbing, 120m cases against the backdrop of the Welsh landscape in a way that should appeal to the rest of the world. In fact, Denmark's already bought it.

Here's the trailer. A preview with minor spoilers of the first episode after the jump, together with some more information from a Q&A that I attended at BAFTA last week.

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October 7, 2013

Mini-review: The Millers 1x1 (CBS/Comedy Central)

Posted on October 7, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Millers on CBS, with Will Arnett

In the US: Thursdays, 8.30/7.30c, CBS
In the UK: Mondays, 9.30pm, Comedy Central. Starts October 14

This season in the US appears to be one for great casts and great creative talents turning in comedies that are more than a little short on actual laughs. We've already suffered through Dads and Mom, and now we have CBS's The Millers, starring Will Arnett, Beau Bridges, Jayma Mays and Margot Martindale, and written by My Name is Earl's Greg Garcia. Arnett and Mays are brother and sister, Bridges and Martindale their parents. Arnett gets a divorce and when his father finds out, he's inspired to do the same. Cue hilarity as old people try to cope with the single life, fulfil supressed ambitions, and mess around in their kids' lives and 'over share'.

Now there is at least the germ of a comedic idea in there and although it's CBS, the home of mean-spirited comedy, Greg Garcia is a far more amiable writer. Unfortunately, that means Arnett, who is always fabulous as pampered, spoiled and slightly evil characters, is here playing second-fiddle to Bridges and Martindale, their comedic foil who has to bounce off them, rather than vice versa. Despite being a TV reporter, he's shown to quite nice: a generous brother who helps support Mays and her husband's struggling business.

Meanwhile, Bridges and Martindale dominate the action, shouting at one another. Bridges, however, is a buffoon verging on the senile, a source of fart gags and a man incapable of using a microwave without his soon-to-be-ex-wife's help. Martindale, by contrast, is a controlling nightmare, picking away at her entire family, oblivious to her faults. Mays just gets to be the glue that joins everything together, with barely a joke headed her way the entire episode.

And if you find befuddled, farting old men and old women critcising everyone they come across, while Arnett mugs for all he's worth, you might well like The Millers. But unfortunately, that's really the extent of the comedy in the show, so if your tastes are a little more discerning, look elsewhere for laughs because you won't find them here.

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September 30, 2013

Mini-review: The Crazy Ones 1x1 (CBS)

Posted on September 30, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Crazy Ones

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, CBS

There will come a point when you're watching The Crazy Ones, some time quite early on in the episode, where you'll begin to wish for the sweet release of death. Anything to avoid having to watch the rest of the horror. And given the episode is only half an hour long and you could naturally just turn off the TV, to make the viewer wish for death that quickly is an impressive feat.

The Crazy Ones is a great example of how not to do an advertising show. Mad Men has already shown us how to do one well; Trust Me was fine if not brilliant; this monstrosity gives us Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle-Gellar as father and daughter advertising executives 'humorously' trying to come up with ideas for inspiring adverts.

Except the writer isn't one of the many talented individuals behind Mad Men, it's David E Kelley, whose talent appears to have shrivelled up of late, giving us saccharine-coated, misogyny-laden war crime after war crime in the form of The Wedding Bells, Harry's Law, Wonder Woman, Monday Mornings and now this.

The result is we have to endure Williams riffing on old McDonald's adverts using material that was out-of-date 20 years ago while Gellar just fusses around like she has no personality beyond 'daughter of Robin Williams'. She does get to punch something and hurt herself, just to show symbolically that she may have been Buffy Summers once, but you don't have to worry about her being a strong woman in anything Kelley puts together.

Oh yes, there's Kelly Clarkson singing about meat and sex. No, really, they got Kelly Clarkson in to twerk about beef patties. She agreed to that, too.

The show's got 15.5m viewers, which shows that you can pretty much put hate crimes, pictures of goldfish or soothing images of pine trees on CBS and people will still watch it in droves. But for the sake of your sanity and your family, do not watch this. Even this trailer is a threat to your life and it's all the best bits from the pilot.

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