Tag Archive | The West Wing

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Ron Swanson's wolf highway

Posted on September 29, 2014 | comments | Bookmark and Share

The wisdom of Ron Swanson is legendary, of course, as are his politics. A confirmed small government Republican/Libertarian, he believes that government should have as little to do as possible.

So imagine my surprise when re-watching an early West Wing episode to see a young Ron Swanson petitioning the White House for a billion dollar wolf highway. I imagine his bitter disappointment when his scheme was rejected was one of the reasons why he began to believe the government was ultimately impotent.

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Review: Murder In The First 1x1 (TNT)

Posted on June 13, 2014 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Murder In The First

In the US: Mondays, 10pm (ET/PT), TNT

TNT’s an odd network, a sort of in-between house on basic cable between regular old vanilla, commercial, network TV and the no-holds-barred, challenging world of premium cable. With no real identity of its own, it churns out shows that would largely sit very happily on any broadcast network were it not for the occasional swear word: Falling Skies, King & Maxwell, Perception, Memphis Beat, Dark Blue, Leverage, Saving Grace, Trust Me, Rizzoli & Isles, Franklin and Bash, The Closer, Major Crimes - the list goes on and assuming you hadn’t forgotten that pretty much all of those shows ever existed, you’d have been hard-pushed to remember they were on TNT and perhaps even cable. The network’s one truly good show was Southland… which it picked up from NBC then slashed its budget.

At most, you might think of TNT as 'The Crime Channel', because of the 13 shows listed above, 11 involve cops, lawyers and/or robbers, and the rest of the time, it’s broadcasting reruns of Law & Order. But you don’t. It’s just TNT. It’s just… there.

I don’t think it’s escaped TNT’s notice that it’s not very noticeable, either. It’s got an ambitious summer schedule of dramas lined up that includes spy thriller Legends, for example. But it’s starting us off gently with another crime drama, except to make it a bit more memorable, it’s gone once again to Steve Bochco, who previously gave the network Raising the Bar (make that 12 out of 14 shows).

Young people might not have heard of Steve Bochco (and let’s face it, they're probably not going to be watching TNT, since it leans towards a much older demographic, anyway), but together with Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM Enterprises, he was pretty much responsible for launching the second wave of great American television that began in the 80s. He started it off with the innovative Hill Street Blues before giving us LA Law, Doogie Howser MD, Hooperman, NYPD Blue and (oh horror) Cop Rock, which I guess was innovative, too, given it was as the name suggests, a musical drama about cops:

Possibly Bochco's greatest creative achievement, even if it wasn’t a ratings success, was the almost-theatrical Murder One. As with Hill Street Blues, Murder One was unusual for its time in having story arcs - a season-long high-profile criminal case in Murder One’s case. It was filled with a fantastic cast that included Patricia Clarkson, Mary McCormack and the magnificent Stanley Tucci and Daniel Benzali, who presided like a Renaissance Pope over his cadre of lawyers:

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that for his latest show, Murder In The First, Bochco has pitched at that older demographic who liked his previous shows. Giving Murder One a slight Law & Order twist, Murder In The First follows a criminal investigation by San Francisco police into two murders linked to a celebrity all the way through to the trial and (presumably) conviction of the killer. It also adds in a dash of Hill Street Blues, with its focus on the domestic lives and working relationships of the cops.

Starring Taye Diggs (Day Break), Kathleen Robertson (Boss), Richard Schiff (The West Wing), Steven Weber (Studio 60), Nicole Ari Parker (The Deep End) and Draco Malfoy himself - Tom Felton from the Harry Potter movies - it’s not exactly what you’d call ground-breaking, but is probably going to be a passable piece of summer viewing. Well, better than everything else on TNT, anyway.

Here’s a trailer:

Continue reading "Review: Murder In The First 1x1 (TNT)"

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What did you watch this fortnight? Including Banshee, The Americans, Mr Selfridge, Hitchcock and Silver Linings Playbook

Posted on March 18, 2013 | comments | Bookmark and Share

It's "What did you watch this week fortnight?", my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I've watched this week fortnight that I haven't already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I've missed them.

First, the usual recommendations:

  • The Americans (FX/ITV)
  • Archer (FX, 5USA)
  • Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic)
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy)
  • The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV)
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living)
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
  • Go On (NBC)
  • House of Cards (Netflix)
  • Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS)
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4)
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4)
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1)
  • Engrenages/Spiral (BBC4/Netflix)
  • Top Gear (BBC2/BBC America)
  • Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic).

These are all going to be on in either the UK or the US, perhaps even both, but I can't be sure which.

Surprising, despite my time away, I've actually managed to get my viewing queue down to more or less nothing: last night's Shameless (US) and This Is Kevin. I've even found time to watch some more House of Cards, which I note is now available to buy on DVD and Blu-Ray. Buy it, it's really good. 

Admittedly, to get back on track, I've had to drop Red Widow (ABC), Lightfields (ITV) and Broadchurch (ITV) from the viewing queue before I'd even started watching them, and Shetland (BBC) didn't even get a look-in, but such is life.

Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars (fingers crossed, reviews of the final four episodes of Spiral - bloody BBC4 - tomorrow):

  • The Americans (FX/ITV): The first of the two episodes since last entry was actually the first rubbish one so far: it was entirely obvious what the twist was and the counter-trap laid by the FBI was clumsy. The second was much better, showing us for the first time what Matthew Rhys' character gave up and that no spy can truly be trusted to tell the truth. The Russian dubbing was a bit poor, though.  
  • Banshee (Cinemax/Sky Atlantic): A strong finish to the season with the typical violence we've come to expect and virtually all the loose plot threads brought together at the end. Add on some creepy Amish incest and Banshee season two (coming 2014) looks like it'll be worth watching. Not quite sure why that video didn't go viral, though.
  • Being Human (US) (SyFy): Zombies are so hot right now. But I think it's a misstep. Plus that vaccine was remarkably easy to come by.
  • Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): Good to see the Travis/Lori relationship being developed. And the Alanis Morisette episode was a nice callback to the cast's previous work and the Cox/Springsteen episode.
  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries (ABC1/ITV): Two eps, the second of which was a little bit blah, beyond the continuing development of Blake's moving relationship with his housekeeper. The first was a more intriguing piece dealing with the death penalty and featured some early forensic science. I like how Blake isn't afraid to proclaim himself a scientist, a period statement if ever there was one.
  • Elementary (CBS/Sky Living): Features a The Wire reunion. Otherwise, same old, same old.
  • Mr Selfridge (ITV/PBS): A slightly limp ending to the season, with Jeremy Piven not proving up to the challenge of delivering lines in anything less than a Barnum style and far too much time spent over the season on soap opera intrigues. All the same, the play at the end was a welcome bit of acid to the normal proceedings and David Calder, whom I almost didn't recognise, was fantastic as the King. Will I watch if Gregory Fitoussi isn't back next year, though? I think not.  
  • Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): Fiona's speech last week was a powerful moment, whereas this week's episode is far more comedic (in a good way). 
  • Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Odd how unlikable Sherman has become. That's good character development for you. Mind you, my mother in law has given up watching it now because it's making her sad to see what's happening to all the characters she liked.
  • Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1):Tying into history well and good to see Romans who aren't complete idiots for a change, particularly Caesar. Not long to go now, but we all know where it's heading, so it should be an interesting few episodes. Hopefully, not more 'rape as a character point', though, please?

And in movies, which I saw a few of on a teeny tiny screen in the back of a chair:

  • Lincoln: Essentially two and half hours of historical talking that's less exciting than an episode of The West Wing. A brilliant performance from Daniel Day Lewis and eye-opening in terms of the legal manoeuvers that Lincoln and others used to indulge in back then, but not as involving as it should be.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Good central performances from everyone (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles and even Chris Rock), with Cooper and Lawrence two mentally damaged people who offer to help each other on the road to recovery. But it's an unempathising, predictable movie with the standard message that crazy is more interesting than normal and that leaves you cold beyond the normal romcom parameters. Plus Cooper and Lawrence is a little bit too May to December to avoid a certain amount of queasiness.
  • Hitchcock: Surprisingly jaunty for a movie about the true story of the making of a movie based on a real-life serial killer and in which the director has a peep hole into his leading ladies' dressing rooms. Anthony Hopkins is surprisingly light as Hitch compared to Toby Jones in The Girl, Scarlett Johansson is aces but perhaps a little too self-possessed as Janet Leigh while Helen Mirren is great as Hitchcock's real-life partner in crime Alma, who was as much responsible for the success and quality of his movies as her husband was. Nice touch to have it book-ended in the style of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, too. 
  • Van Helsing: Possibly the worst movie ever made

"What did you watch this week?" is your chance to recommend to friends and fellow blog readers the TV and films that they might be missing or should avoid - and for me to do mini-reviews of everything I've watched. Since we live in the fabulous world of Internet catch-up services like the iPlayer and Hulu, why not tell your fellow readers what you've seen so they can see the good stuff they might have missed?

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