Archive | International TV

An archive of blog entries about international TV programmes and production.


September 12, 2014

Preview: Red Band Society 1x1 (Fox)

Posted on September 12, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Red Band Society

In the US: Wednesdays, Fox. Starts 17th September

It’s not exactly news that US TV is a vast, sprawling mass that churns through shows with unrelenting speed, requiring it to look around wherever it can for potential new sources of ideas. It’s been mining books, films and comics with increasing regularity, as well as the rest of the world’s TV. For decades now, it’s been working its way through the best (and sometimes worst) ideas that UK TV has had to offer, and has since spread out to other countries including Canada, Israel, Scandinavia and Mexico.

But it seems like it’s well and truly sucked the life out of those countries, because now it’s working its way down to some much less well travelled. Right now, the new hot country is Turkey, whose Son (currently available on Netflix, in case you’re interested), The End and The Edge are being worked into US shows as we speak. But just about to hit the airwaves over on Fox is Red Band Society, an adaptation of Catalonia’s Polseres vermelles. Yes, Catalonia. That’s not even a proper country (yet).

Quite why Fox had to go all the way to Catalonia, though, isn’t clear because thanks to a few changes made to the original show, as the name suggests, this is now essentially The Breakfast Club, the only difference being that the show is set in the paediatric ward of a hospital and all the kids are severely sick. Nevertheless, this group of kids who would normally all be at odds with one another in their respective cliques at school are all going to be forced to socialise with one another, make friends and perhaps learn a little about life and each other at the same time.

The changes are at least instructive. While most of the characters are the same - for example, we have a smart kid who’s been in hospital for a while, a handsome kid who’s just turned up, a girl with anorexia who might be into both of them and a kid who narrates the whole show but who is in a coma and can only communicate with one other character - we have an attempt at greater diversity that paradoxically reduces everyone down to stereotypes. There’s no kid with Asperger’s but we do have a streetwise black kid; the main nurse is now sassy and black (Octavia Spencer); and the handsome kid who doesn’t want to make friends is now a mean girl cheerleader, who of course has to have fights for male attention with the only other girl in the group.

But despite these efforts this is really no Breakfast Club. There's no Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald or Ally Sheedy among its cast members (even if anorexic girl does dress like Sheedy) to lift the show to new heights. The adult likes of Spencer, doctors Dave Annable and Griffin Dunne, and nurse Rebecca Rittenhouse have little to do beyond be the teachers of the piece that the kids must obey, abuse or run ring rounds, rather than have anything to do in and of themselves. And despite the constant threat of deaths, amputations and more, there’s no real emotional depth to the show and even within the space of the first episode, suggestions of any real conflict and edge are carefully sanded off before the final credits.

It’s not without its charms and some of the kids are even likeable. But ultimately, how much you’re going to enjoy Red Band Society is really down to how much time you have for teen angst and standard indie set-pieces, such as precocious kids trying to show how intellectual they are by reducing Shakespeare down to little more than textese to demonstrate his continuing relevance and how smart they are. Which ain’t really my thing - but it might be yours.

September 2, 2014

News: new Greatest American Hero, US Jack Irish, Lars von Trier returns to TV + more

Posted on September 2, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

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Incorporating just a few of the stories I missed yesterday…

International TV

US TV

New US TV shows

New US TV show casting

July 25, 2014

Third-episode verdict: Welcome To Sweden (TV4/NBC)

Posted on July 25, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

BarrometerWelcomeToSweden.jpgA Barrometer rating of 3

In Sweden: Aired starting in March on TV4 in Sweden
In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC

Three episodes into the TV4-NBC English language co-production, Welcome To Sweden, and the big problem I had with the first episode is still true: it’s just not as funny as it should be.

The show does pretty much everything right in terms of production in this romcom based on American Greg Poehler’s real-life attempts to adapt to life in Sweden when he emigrates there to be with his girlfriend. It’s shot in Sweden, has Swedish writers and has Swedish actors. It’s got a decent array of characters. It has a bevy of guest stars, from both sides of the Atlantic, including Will Ferrell and most of the cast of Parks and Recreation. It plays with stereotypes but knows enough to transcend them. It’s not afraid to have half the show in Swedish, half in English. There aren’t even any male-female stereotypes to deal with, despite its being a romcom.

But the joke count in both Swedish and English is remarkably low, and most of the situations on the show can be found in any romcom, whether it’s “having sex in the room next to the parents” to “passing the immigration department’s tests”, without really doing anything innovative with one. Each episode gives perhaps one or two laughs at most, usually from the Swedish side rather than the American side, although episode two saw Poehler having to pretend to be Canadian when some American-hating Iraq war refugees turn up at his language class. And when the laughs aren't coming from the Swedes joking about Poehler’s height, it's from the guest stars playing versions of themselves, whether it’s Will Ferrell’s hopelessly well adjusted, Swedophile who learnt Swedish by listening to husky-toned language tapes, or Parks and Recreation’s Amy “Greg’s sister” Poehler and Audrey Plaza playing themselves as self-centred, vapid druggies.

In other words, the central set-up isn’t that great; it’s the few things in each episode other than that that actually provide the very gentle comedy.

If you like Parks and Recreation’s first season, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. If you speak Swedish, you’ll probably love Welcome To Sweden. Otherwise, you’ll almost certainly want to love Welcome To Sweden, but you just won’t find it that funny.

Rating: 3
Rob’s prediction: Unlikely to get a second season, but funnier things have happened

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