Canadian TV

Review: The Border 2×1

The Border

In Canada: Mondays, 9pm, CBC

Not so long ago, there was a writers’ strike in the US. Faced with the unthinkable prospect of watching British television, I decided to have a look at some of the programmes available from other countries – in particular, Canada. CBC’s The Border was one such programme and to my incredible surprise, it turned out not just to be a good programme “by Canadian standards”* but a good programme, full stop.

Seemingly intended not just to demonstrate that Canadians easily have what it takes to make good TV but to show that they’re not all the liberals stereotypes would have us believe, The Border is a cross between Spooks and 24, right down to the shaky cam, with Canada’s heroic Immigration and Customs Service (ICS) defending the country against all kinds of threats – all of which seem to be American or Muslim.

Although by no means the best action-thriller series ever made, it was reasonably clever, albeit a touch low budget, and didn’t dumb itself down like Flashpoint did to attract an international audience. The inter-departmental conflict with Canada’s CSIS – the country’s equivalent of MI6 and the CIA – was interesting, even if it was cast in strictly black and white terms, with CSIS boss John Bennett (Forever Knight) almost twirling a moustache during every appearance. And the usual conclusions to stories were a touch, ahem, Canadian, with the villains either misunderstood or American.

But now it’s back after just six month’s absence – it was that popular – and changes are afoot.

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Review: Chuck 2×1


In the US: Mondays, 8/7c, NBC
In the UK: Probably Virgin One again

Chuck was a show that had a lot of initial promise that it never quite managed to live up to. Chuck (Zachery Levi), a tech support guy for a consumer goods superstore, accidentally gets all the CIA’s and NSA’s intelligence data dumped into his brain and so gets thrown into the deep end of spy work. Assigned to protect him are the NSA’s John Casey (DanielAdam Baldwin), a Reagan-loving, gun-worshipping hard man; and the CIA’s Sarah Walker (Yvonne Stahovski), an aggressive-passive high-kicker whom Chuck would quite like to date (and vice versa) and not just for their cover story, if only it weren’t for the rules of the job.

Anyway, despite the fun premise of spies working undercover down at the local shops among all the IT slackers and fast food flippers, the show never really grabbed me. It was always close to being very good, but never quite made it. There wasn’t a whole lot of chemistry between Levi and Stahovski, both of whose characters are quite dull, despite all plot indications to the contrary, and I gave up after three episodes – only for my wife to start loving it on Virgin 1 and so I ended up watching the rest anyway.

So with a good few months to think about the show and how to fix it, have the producers managed to tinker enough with the format to make it more appealing?

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Review: Life 2×1


In the US: Mondays and Fridays, 10/9c, NBC. Moving to just Fridays from the 3rd.
In the UK: Still not yet acquired, unless Hallmark hasn’t told me something

There are so many cop shows out there that each needs its own gimmick to differentiate itself from the other. The traditional way of doing this is with the lead cop – Columbo, the down-at-heel, working class detective; Ironside, the detective in a wheelchair; Raines, the detective who imagines he can see dead people; and so on.

Life is no different, although it’s always had a confusing focus. On the one hand, Damian Lewis’s Charlie Crews could be ‘the Buddhist detective’, following some intensive reading of Zen books on enlightenment.

“Have you ever shot anyone?” a kid asks him on the subway when he sees Crews’ gun.

“Why would I do that? Violence against another is violence against everyone. Violence against everyone is violence against the self,” replies Crews.

But Crews was framed for a murder he didn’t commit and spent over a decade in jail. He’s picked up some odd skills and tendencies inside; he’s missed out on the Internet and other modern inventions; he’s also a multi-millionaire and a cop again after the lawsuit for wrongful imprisonment was settled. And now he’s out, he wants to find out who framed him then punish them.

“Yes, I have. And they all had it coming,” Crews further explains to the kid.

The ‘Buddhist, ex-con, multi-millionaire, out-of-time detective”? That’s not easy to get a handle on.

With that schizoid attitude, Life has always had a tricky time working out what to do with its life. Should it focus on the cases that Crews solves with his Buddhist insights? Should it focus on Crews or build up the supporting cast of not quite so interesting regular-type people? Should it stick with the general story arc of who framed Crews?

Lots of questions – has it worked out its happy place in the second season, and what is the sound of one hand pressing the buttons on a Nielsen box?

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Thursday’s female point of view news


  • Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro to work on mafia movie I Heard You Paint Houses
  • Hayden Christensen signs three-picture deal with Screen Gems



British TV


Wednesday’s big cuts news

Doctor Who


British TV