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Review: The Red Road 1x1 (Sundance TV)

Posted on March 6, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Redroad

In the US: Thursdays, 9pm, Sundance TV

Sometimes, as I watch global TV from the vantage point of my extinct undersea volcano, I begin to feel a bit like Russell Crowe. Not good Russell Crowe like in Gladiator or Master and Commander but Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.

Making connections. Making connections everywhere. That’s me.

Case in point – yesterday, we had a look at Australian TV series Secrets and Lies, which stars Kiwi actor Martin Henderson as an everyday guy whose life takes an extraordinary turn for the worse when he comes across the dead body of a child while out running.

You might think the fact that it’s being remade by ABC in the US is the global connection. But no, because at precisely the same time, in the US, Martin Henderson is an everyday guy whose life takes an extraordinary turn for the worse when someone else comes across the body of a child. The only difference in this regard between Secrets and Lies and Sundance TV’s The Red Road is that Henderson is a house painter in the first story, a cop in the second.

But that’s not connection enough. Because in Secrets and Lies, Henderson takes his top off – a lot. Which would be nothing except for the fact that in The Red Road, which is set in the Ramapo Mountains in New Jersey and involves the Ramapough Mountain Indians, Jason Mamao is an ex-con Indian who knows about the kid. Jason Mamao, as we all know, started his career on Baywatch: Hawaii and Stargate: Atlantis, before achieving greater fame on Game of Thrones and from there, Conan. And he’s very famous for taking his top off – in fact, he’s so well known for it, he’s actually sick of it and turned down a lead role in Guardians of the Galaxy because he’d have to take his top off a lot in it.

Coincidence? I think not. It’s all part of some greater puzzle I can’t quite see yet.

As for the show itself, The Red Road, like Sundance first’s scripted effort Rectify before it, is a slow burn. A very slow burn. It takes an awful long time before anything happens in it, instead largely consisting of Henderson dealing with his alcoholic almost ex-wife and his teenage daughter, who’s taken up with Mamoa’s teenage brother, something Mrs Henderson doesn’t like at all.

Mamoa drives around a lot, growls a lot and is actually surprisingly good for someone who normally just has to take his top off; meanwhile, Henderson just has to look pained a lot and upset that everyone is being a colossal dick to him while he tidies up their messes. His accent’s a bit wobbly, too.

However, once ’the incident’ occurs, the show does pick up considerably, and the relationship between Mamoa and Henderson, which doesn’t exist until the end, is likely to prove the lynchpin of the whole piece. I’m going to hold off until episode two before saying whether it’s more than just a slightly more realistic depiction of modern Native American life than Banshee offers. It’s certainly got potential and it goes along a greater clip than Rectify did (thankfully).

Does it really do anything new or take us to any good places? Not yet. But it might.

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Review: Atlantis 1x1 (BBC1/BBC America)

Posted on September 30, 2013 | comments | Bookmark and Share

BBC1's Atlantis

In the UK: Saturdays, 8.25pm, BBC1. Available on the iPlayer
In the US: Saturdays, BBC America. Starts November 23
In Canada: Space. Starts October 12

Ever since Plato first mentioned it (and perhaps even before that), people have been fascinated by the story of Atlantis, a fabulous city that eventually sunk beneath the waves at the behest of Poseidon. Depending on who you talk to (and leaving aside some of the more exciting and loonier of theories), it was either a morality tale that Plato entirely fabricated or a memory of a genuine place, possibly even the Minoan colony on Santorini, which was destroyed c1600BC. Finding, locating and exploring it have been dreams of men and women ever since.

Equally, TV has been fascinated by both Atlantis (witness BBC1's recent drama-documentary Atlantis, Stargate: Atlantis, Aquaman, The Man From Atlantis et al) and Greek myth (I ran down a big list of them a while back, if you're interested), so it seemed natural that sooner or later there would be a show that united the two*: in this case, Atlantis from the producers of Merlin and the creator of, surprisingly enough, Misfits.  

However, as we discovered with Xena: Warrior Princess, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans et al, there is something of a temptation as soon as the setting is 'BC' and Greek myth and/or history is involved to take 2,000 years of history and countless cultures from across the Mediterranean and squish them all into one big lump.

So brace yourself purists, because here we find a (seemingly) modern day guy called Jason (possibly of the Argonauts) sent back in time to Atlantis, a city that looks very craggy and North African and almost everyone dresses like they're in a Sinbad movie (or even Prince of Persia or Sky1's Sinbad). There he meets Pythagoras (sixth century Greek philosopher and mathematician from the island of Samos) and Hercules (Roman name for the Greek hero Herakles, who in myth lived around the 14th and 13th century BC and pretty much everywhere in Greece except Atlantis).

Surprisingly, Atlantis is ruled by King Minos (13th or 16th century BC ruler of the island of Crete) and he has to preside over a tribute of Atlantean victims (originally, victims demanded in tribute from Athens by Minos in return for continued peace) to a half-man, half-bull creature called the Minotaur, who was a man cursed by the gods for some reason (actually, the son of Minos' wife Pasiphaë, who had a passion for bulls, after Minos decided to keep the bull Poseidon had given to him especially to sacrifice). Guess who's going to have to kill it? I'll give you a clue - it's not Theseus, future king of Athens.

Sigh.

Nevertheless, for all that messing around with myth, Atlantis is a relatively fun but flawed piece of Saturday night family entertainment that'll probably keep me watching for a while, at least. Here's a trailer - minor spoilers ahoy after the jump:

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Review: Motive 1x1 (CTV)

Posted on February 5, 2013 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Motive CTV

In Canada: Sundays, 9pm, CTV
In the US: Acquired by ABC for summer 2013
In the UK: Not yet acquired

In the never-ending struggle to come up with new crime drama formats, there are generally two methods of differentiation used by writers: character and gimmick. If you differentiate by character, you end up with shows such as Monk, Elementary, The Mentalist or Psych, in which someone over-laden with personality has to solve crimes while less interesting, more plodding individuals stand around filling up dialogue time and generally failing to solve crimes.

If you differentiate by gimmick, you end up with shows like Justice, Murder One, and The Whole Truth, in which quite dull characters stand around filling out plot time while the gimmicky plot mechanism that drives the show plays itself out.

In both cases, I should point out, you still need to have involving crimes and investigations or both techniques will be for naught.

Now Motive wants to have its cake and eat it, attempting to stand out from the crowd with both gimmick and character. The gimmick here is that as the show's title suggests, it's all about the motive: as much time is dedicated to why the crime was committed as to solving it, with huge chunks of the story told in flashback. But it also has character: no special character ticks here but cool, over-acting, intensely irritating detective-mom Angie Flynn, who's just so down with her kid.

Does it work? Well, it stands out, but it's forgotten that golden rule and as a result is still a very boring show that makes Cracked look like The Shield in comparison. Here's a trailer: note, as with all Canadian TV shows, the contractually obligated appearance of at least one person from Stargate as well as Roger Cross from 24 (okay, he isn't in the trailer but he's in the show).

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