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Review: Rush 1x1 (USA)

Posted on July 18, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

USA Network's Rush

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, USA Network

A while ago, I remarked that of all the people from Coupling whom you might have expected to see as a US action hero, Englishman Richard Coyle was probably at the bottom of the list, since he played poor old put-upon, terminally unconfident Welshman Jeff.

Well, it seems the season for such surprises because over on basic cable, USA has decided that absolutely the best person to head up its new dark, gritty – well, darker, grittier – medical show Rush is Welshman Tom Ellis. From Miranda. Yes, Miranda.

Here, let Blog Goddess and Welshwoman Joanna Page talk you through Tom Ellis’s Miranda highlights.

As Ellis himself remarks, "If Rush was a show in the UK, I don't think that they would think of me to play that part."

All power to him, though, because despite being forced to play American, Tom Ellis is actually very good in Rush. Tom Ellis is not Rush’s problem.

And Rush does have problems. Many of them. The most obvious of these is it’s basically Royal Pains crossed with the anaemic US version of Rake. Just like Dr Hank, Ellis’s eponymous Rush is a concierge doctor to the rich and famous, rushing to their side whenever they’re in medical trouble and using his ingenuity and network of connections to solve the trickiest of medical concerns.

But just like Rake’s Cleaver Greene, Rush is in it for himself and is a drug-taking, near moral vacuum who likes to screw around, smoke at his godson’s party, sabotages his relationships, exploits his female assistant and will take the worst scum of humanity as his clients, as long as they pay cash up front or hold a gun to his head.

Except this is basic cable so Rush has a heart. And it’s the USA Network, where characters are welcome and dark and gritty aren’t. Which means if you’re expecting a rush from Rush, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Here’s a trailer:

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Review: Black Box 1x1 (ABC)

Posted on April 30, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Kelly Reilly in Black Box

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, ABC

Mental health is so hot right now. I don’t mean that in the sense that it’s a subject for serious examination in drama or that it’s something that is thoughtfully used in characterisation. I mean it’s a great gimmick.

Time was when dramas would have set-ups like “two brothers are private detectives”, “he’s a Vietnam vet with a super helicopter”, “he’s an angel wandering the Earth helping people” and the like. But you can only have so many of those unique set-ups before you start to repeat yourself.

Mental health issues, by contrast, used to be the motivations for crimes, not something that could affect a hero, because it was unmanly. Well, maybe PTSD so they could have really manly flashbacks to Nam.

Thankfully, those times are gone and it’s all change. With first Monk giving us the OCD detective and then Touching Evil giving us the slightly lobotomised detective, TV has worked out how valuable these personality quirks can be. Why, right now, on TV we’ve got Asperger’s aplenty (Community, The Bridge, Hannibal, Parenthood) and the new top, post-Silver Linings Playbook condition, bipolar disorder, has been jaunting around both Homeland and Mind Games, giving them all sorts of entirely medically accurate depictions of how helpful mental health issues can be.

Producers have also worked out thanks to medical shows such as House, Mental and 3lbs that 'brain weirdness’, to use it its technical definition, can be really entertaining in guest characters as well. So what better than a show that features not just lots of supporting cast weirdness but also a central character who has the bipolar, hey?

Black Box is such a show – and it turns out that despite its having not just the delightful Kelly Reilly as the lead as well as no lesser actress than Vanessa Redgrave as her psychiatrist, a whole lot of things could be better.

Reilly, putting on her best US accents, is a talented neurologist/doctor who is also bipolar. As long as she’s on her meds, she’s fine, but believing that medication stops those with mental health issues from achieving their true potential or even being truly happy by coming to accept themselves, she has a history of ‘non-compliance’. The result is that sometimes she’s manic and productive, other times she’s crazy, hallucinating, doing all kinds of bad things, including almost committing suicide. Yet somehow it makes her a better doctor.

Gosh, how quirky and interesting. Gosh how almost unwatchable.

Here’s a trailer.

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Mini-review: Rake (US) 1x1 (Fox)

Posted on January 27, 2014 | comments | 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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