In the US: Fridays, Cinemax. Starts June 3 In the UK: Tuesdays, 10pm, Fox UK. Starts June 7
The Exorcist was justifiably proclaimed as one of the best movies of the 70s and perhaps the scariest movie of all time. Despite being about demonic possession of a young girl, its horror comes from the crisis of faith of a young priest who at first tries to explain the possession rationally, before the slow accumulation of facts and his partnership with an older, self-assured priest (Max Von Sydow) on an exorcism force him to acknowledge that the Devil - and God - exists.
This year, we're facing not one but two TV versions of The Exorcist, both of them airing on a Fox of one kind or another. The first, airing on Fox in the US, is explicitly a remake of the movie:
The second, airing on Cinemax in the US but Fox UK in the UK, is Outcast. Although based on Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead)'s comic of the same name, it's basically a remake of The Exorcist, with a young man (Patrick Fugit) gradually coming to accept the truth of demonic possession thanks to the sights he beholds while working with an older priest on an exorcism of a child.
Surprisingly, of the two shows, Outcast looks like it's by far the better remake. Even more surprisingly, Outcast is also a partial remake of 2008 ITV Buffy knock-off shitfest Demons. Because who should be playing the older American demon-hunter of the piece? Why it's none other than Life on Mars' Philip Glenister again.
In the US: Sundays, 9pm (8c), AMC In the UK: Episodes available on Amazon Prime the day after US airing
Maybe I just found Garth Ennis at the wrong time. Hellblazer had been one of my favourite comics at university, thanks to Jamie Delano's unique blend of horror, politics and a UK setting. When he left the title, I expected more of the same. Instead, I got Garth Ennis.
For many, Ennis was the best writer of John Constantine, combining horror with a knowing playfulness that undercut the action. For me, I was losing amoral tussles with hunger demons as a metaphor for Western consumption and Ethiopia in favour of tricks on the Devil involving transmuted holy water. Horses for courses, but Ennis was definitely not my 3.15 from Aintree.
That's probably why I never read Preacher, Ennis' magnum opus. Even to tell you what it was about, I'd have to look at Wikipedia. To a lot of comics fans, that's tantamount to not being able to explain the plot of Hamlet, but I don't care - Garth Ennis stole my student Constantine, wah, wah, it's not fair.
So is AMC's Preacher, written and exec-produced by (of all people) Seth Rogen and his childhood pal Evan Goldberg, a faithful adaptation of this esteemed comic? Don't know and don't care, either. Ennis - pphhtt. Wah.
What I can tell you is that it stars Dominic Cooper (Captain America, Fleming) as the improbably named Texan, Jessie Custer, a bad-as-they-come criminal who returns to become the preacher in his home town when his father dies. Trouble is he's a very bad preacher who's not really convinced there is a God. Then one day, just as he's planning to give it all up and return to his bad, bad ways, he asks one last time for a sign from God of His existence… and, surprisingly, he receives it. And now, whenever he tells someone to do something, they do it - often more literally than Jessie intended. It's almost like the Preacher now speaks the very word of God.
And that's basically episode one, which you might have already seen. I've left out Tulip (Ruth Negga from Marvel's Agents of SHIELD), Jessie's former partner-in-crime, who's got 'one last job for him' and isn't going to take no for an answer. I've also left out Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun from This is England and Misfits), the century-old Irish vampire who's being chased by a group of religious fanatics.
We can talk about them and the next two episodes after the jump.
Some shows just invite you to slate them, simply by their names. Remember Bonekickers? Even if it hadn't been absolutely dreadful in and of itself, there was that name, begging for me to hate the show.
Raising Expectations isn't in Bonekickers' league, in that sense, but it's definitely an invitation to pre-emptively reply "Yes, but you're still absolute sh*te. Who told you you were above average?" After all, most Canadian comedies are dreadful. There's about one good one a decade.
Yet here's one that stars, wait for it, not just Jason Priestley from Beverly Hills 90210 andTru Calling but also Molly Ringwald. Yes, Molly Pretty in Pink Ringwald.
We're talkin' 'bout my generation here - raising expectations indeed.
So I was prepared to give Raising Expectations the benefit of the doubt, despite airing on Canada's Family channel and having the following plot:
The Wayneys are an amazing family. They’re good looking, smart, talented, athletic, and popular. Paige Wayney is a best-selling author, and her husband Wayne is an architect. They have worked hard at raising their five children to be “multi-exceptional”, and they succeeded… four times. Adam is an honours students and football quarterback. Bentley is a brilliant poet and cellist. Conner is a gifted dancer and actress. Derek is a master of gadgets. Their youngest son, Emmett, is a work in progress. Emmett may not be the most academic, athletic, or artistic of the Wayneys, but he makes up for that with his “street smarts”.
If I could punch a plot, I would. But I really wanted to like it, all the same.
Unfortunately, the show isn't funny. There's a mild titter every so often and the show saves its sole actual laugh for literally the final line of dialogue, but the humour's generally of the order of background radiation, rather than Silicon Valley.
In part, that's because it's Canadian intended for a family/young audience, and the show isn't pushing any boundaries. It's not even aware there are boundaries to be pushed, it's so young and innocent. It's coming to this humour thing as though its audience is as equally young and innocent that they've never heard any jokes before and so all the old ones can still be used. You might as well be watching early 90s Canadian-British co-production Spatz for all the differences:
Perhaps that's a little unfair, since so much of this first episode is as down with modern kids' social media obsession as The CW's Containment, with Ringwald's online lecture garnering troll comments that not only are mean about Ringwald, but expose Priestley as having lied to her on one of their first dates. The children then use their 'unique, character-defining, all other characteristics-excluding' skillsets to organise a SWATing (well, pizza- and poo-ing) the trolls in revenge, while Priestley has to re-retroactively disprove the lie by climbing up a rope with an egg in his pocket (don't ask).
It's a bit hard to like any of the kids, though. Apart from the odd choice of three sons, one daughter, all with stereotypical interests and abilities, it's hard not to look at both Priestley and Ringwald and think "These look like normal people" and then to look at the kids and think, "These look like they're made of plastic." Times have changed and standards of on-screen pulchritude have unfortunately increased, but I was genuinely surprised when any of them managed to have a facial expression.
If you've got to watch something with your kids, Priestley and Ringwald are a sufficient draw in themselves - and, in fact, toghether - that you could probably make your way through an episode or two without your brain revolting.
Otherwise, stear clear of Raising Expectations and always remember: Caroline laughs and it's raining all day, she loves to be one of the girls, she lives in the place in the side of our lives, where nothing is ever put straight. She turns herself round and she smiles and she says, "This is it that's the end of the joke," and loses herself in her dreaming and sleep, and her lovers walk through in their coaches.
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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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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.