You'll probably know Peter Stormare from somewhere. Maybe it's from the Coen Brothers' Fargo or The Big Lebowski. Maybe it's from Terry Gilliam's The BrothersGrimm orSteven Spielberg's The Lost World: Jurassic Park. If you're a TV fan, you'll probably remember him as John Abruzzi in the first two seasons of Prison Break. But he's been in a lot, lot more than that.
Since he has an accent, naturally he's usually cast as a foreigner to American soils, although such is US TV, he's been able to use pretty much the same accent to play Germans, Russians and Italians, without anyone noticing he's none of those - he's actually Swedish.
And for his latest role, which he co-created with his fellow 'Viking Brother' Glenn Lund, he's even able to play a Swede - or an 'ex-Swede' as his character prefers it, since the former stuntman is now living in LA and working as a private detective. Running his own agency, 'Swedish Dick', he's asked by a new client, a DJ, to track down his laptop, as it's been stolen by a rival DJ and it has all his sick new beats on it. Stormare quickly tracks down the thief, a young fellow Swede (Johans Glans), and retrieves the laptop. However, things aren't quite as they seem and by the end of the episode, the technically literate but fragile Glans has joined the more robust Stormare as a PI in the new retitled agency 'Swedish Dicks'.
The show aired on Swedish Internet channel Viaplay in September and has been picked up for global distribution by Lionsgate, with a US airing promised for early 2017 and maybe a UK Netflix/Amazon pick-up at some point soon after that. This isn't all that surprising, since like TV4 Sweden's Welcome to Sweden, it's clearly been made with a global audience in mind, since half the dialogue is English, half Swedish.
Oh, yes - have I mentioned yet that Stormare's arch-nemesis is his former partner, Keanu Reeves? Yes, Keanu Reeves.
Now that says global, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, the scripts still say 'Swedish', since the show is undoubtedly Swedish in tone: Stormare's gun is actually a hairdryer, the bad guys generally only want to be doing right by their sons and most of the jokes are in that favoured Swedish comedic artform - slapstick. Few of the jokes work in English and I only ever found myself gaffawing at the Swedish jokes. I mean this is the sort of level we're working at most of the time - even regular guest star Traci Lords can't save this:
Swedish Dicks is pretty gentle comedy at best, but it's not awful. Indeed, it's pretty amiable stuff, and Stormare and Glans are a personable, if silly pairing. It's not thrilling, though, and I certainly don't want to watch any more of it after having watched the first episode, not even for Keanu, since you can watch all his appearances in this 12-minute YouTube video.
But if that's whet your appetite, here's a trailer for the whole series and maybe the whole thing will be on your TV screens soon:
We should probably be giving Shut Eye a medal, since it's doing such a public service - revealing all the tricks of the trade used by psychics to fleece their customers. But good thoughts alone aren't enough to make a good TV programme, so unfortunately for Shut Eye, we have to evaluate it on when it's watchable or not.
The first episode set the scene pretty well, with star Jeffrey Donovan playing a former Las Vegas magician now working as a fake psychic in LA under the purview of a bunch of Gypsies, including Isabella Rossellini. Well versed in the arts of cold reading and setting people up, one day he gets a bump on the noggin from a client's disgruntled boyfriend and winds up having proper psychic visions. Will he use his new powers for good or for evil, we wonder at the end of the episode?
Evil, it turns out. Didn't see that coming, did you?
The casting of Donovan as the lead is a genius move, since he's able to recycle two of his old routines for the role. In episode two, the show becomes full on psychic Burn Notice, with Donovan giving us (and his mark) the rundown on the mystic art of psychically stealing people's money. By episode three, he's mining Touching Evil for sympathetic, dazed, brain-damaged and odd, as he starts using his new found powers to tell people the hard truths they probably don't want to hear.
As you might have deduced from that run-down, Shut Eye is as odd a show as its lead character, since it is by turns comedic and then deeply serious and violent. More problematically, it keeps piling more and more details onto to the plot, almost in an apparent attempt to confuse us while it steals our watches. As well as the Gypsies and their bizarre activities - including poetry recitals and love ceremonies - there's Dexter's David Zayas as a gang boss customer of Donovan, who's as quick to throw someone in a deep fat fryer as he is to fix Donovan's floorboards. There's Donovan's hard-edged wife, KaDee Strickland, who wants him to regain his former manhood while she's simultaneously sleeping with another woman. There's Donovan's son, his supposed ADHD and his school issues. There's The Wire's Sonja Sohn as a police officer who's chasing after Donovan. There's thirtysomething's Mel Harris as Donovan's main mark, who sometimes wakes up with a rooster and a tree branch in her bed. There's even a kooky doctor - Susan Misner (Billions, The Americans) - trying to help unclog Donovan's subconsciousness using Mozart and drugs.
And so on.
It makes for a show that says an awful lot without really taking the time to say anything worthwhile, not even about fake psychics because they might be real, it turns out.
I probably won't be bothering with the rest of Shut Eye, despite its funnier and more psychedelic qualities. Donovan's worth his enormous salary for this gig, but the gig itself could probably have done with a rethink about exactly what story it wanted to tell.
Barrometer rating: 4 TMINE's prediction: Unlikely to get a second season
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A UK media blog focusing on the best scripted TV from around the world, with daily news, views, exclusive reviews and good conversation. There's a bit of a bias towards the latest and greatest US TV, but we also cover Scandinavian, Canadian, European and Antipodean TV, as well as UK TV ranging from new Doctor Who to old Z Cars, and BBC4 to S4C.
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"For most of us watching the telly of an evening is a way to wind down and relax, but for Rob Buckley it’s his blogging bread and butter. With reviews of cult classics and up and coming US and Brit television shows, The Medium is Not Enough is fast becoming essential reading for TV buffs, with over 50,000 hits a month."
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I'm Rob Buckley, a freelance journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of, although you might have heard me on Radio 5 Live's Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I've edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for trade magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider and the equally short-lived Death Ray and Filmstar magazines; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it "web site for urban hedonists" The Tribe. I'm freelance now and have contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network and TV Scoop.