Preview: Jericho 2×1-2×3

Jericho 2x1

In the US: Tuesdays, 10pm ET/PT, CBS. Returns February 12th

In the UK: Hallmark, etc, when the time is right

Cast your mind back a while. Jericho was, for a while, one of the big hits of Fall 2006. An odd mix of right-wing lunacy and left-wing lunacy, it asked what would happen if nuclear bombs went off in almost every city in the US. Soap opera for survivalists, it turned out, with our noble survivors planning farming patterns, how to avoid nuclear fallout and how to shoot at anyone from a neighbouring town who moved – while deciding whether to leave their wives for the pregnant mistresses. All this was married with the tale of a cool black undercover CIA guy who knew that wacky people who thought the US should have attacked the USSR in 1962 were behind the bombs.

As I said – you get lunacy from both ends of the political spectrum in Jericho. But it was more entertaining than it sounds. Honest.

Then oops. After running non-stop all Fall, after the Christmas break, ratings fell off because everyone forgot it was on, and the show got cancelled at the end of the first season.

But you know what? If you send truckloads of peanuts to CBS TV executives, it turns out that they’ll revive a show – for seven episodes at least. And in the vacuum left by the writers’ strike, maybe it could get those stellar ratings back again when it airs next month.

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Review: Cashmere Mafia 1×1

Cashmere Mafia

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, ABC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

Trying to get that vital ‘female’ demographic to watch television is tricky. The answer apparently is Sex and the City. You know, a show about women, by women and starring women that women actually wanted to watch. That’s got to be a fluke. A one-off. There’s no way any other plot or situation would work, is there?

Thus we’ve had Women’s Murder Club, Lipstick Jungle and now Cashmere Mafia, all variations on Sex and the City in which varying numbers of women unite together to advance their careers, fend off the evil oppression of men and discuss relationships and stuff.

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Review: The Wire 5×1

The Wire, Season 5

In the US: Sundays, 9pm, HBO
In the UK: FX at some point. Hopefully

Characters re-cast: 0
Major characters gotten rid of: Unknown. Some still MIA
Major new characters: Dozens
Format change percentage: 75%

There was a criminal injustice committed last year. In March’s list of the 50 greatest TV dramas ever, The Wire wasn’t even mentioned. It came nowhere. Something called The Sopranos (sp?) came in at number one. What’s up there?

There are many theories as to why this should have happened. Some say it’s because The Wire is set in a poor city in the US – Baltimore – rather than something a bit more visually arresting and familiar like New York or Los Angeles. Some argue that it’s because the cast is mostly black and filled with unfamiliar faces. Some believe the level of patience required to follow it, picking up small details and touches of character that become important only after episodes or even seasons have gone by, is too much for the average viewer. Others yet claim it’s the fact it’s on a channel like HBO or FX in the UK that reduces the audience to negligible numbers.

Yet, as I’ve been bleating on at you for ages, The Wire is one of the finest TV programmes ever made. A devastatingly realistic look at policing, the underclass, politics, institutions and why meaningful change is almost impossible, it’s back for its last ever season.

Yes, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the end of its run, because it doesn’t look like the show’s creators have reduced the show’s quality one iota.

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Preview: Eli Stone

Jonny Lee Miller and George Michael in Eli Stone

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, ABC. Starts January 31, 2008
In the UK: Not yet acquired

God. He’s a slippery old bugger, particularly when you’re trying to make him a central theme of a mainstream television show.

Do you spend your time trying to prove he doesn’t exist? No, because you’ll be boycotted in minutes by various pressure groups, and it’ll be roughly an hour before a network executive pulls the plug on you, even assuming you didn’t annoy all the God-fearing, red-state audiences into not watching you in the first place.

Or do you come over all fundamentalist (cf Saving Grace), thus annoying the Hell out Muslims, atheists, et al, as well as any other fundamentalists that don’t share your particular view of the Bible?

Eli Stone goes for the much-trodden, wishy washy middle-path. To quote one of the characters, for any event, “there are two interpretations: the scientific and the divine.” Yes, joining Signs and I Am Legend in the exciting world of inoffensive ambiguity is Eli Stone, prophet at large. Or maybe not. It’s up to you. Your decision. We’re not telling you anything.

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Preview: Swingtown


In the US: CBS mid-season replacement. No fixed airdate yet

In the UK: Acquired by ITV1/ITV3. No fixed airdate yet

There’s an odd trend of late on US TV. No, not the hiring of British actors for just about every TV series (are we cheaper than Americans, I wonder?), although you’ll see that on display here, too (Jack Davenport!!!). I mean the recreating of modern times past to examine the change in social attitudes. Whether it’s just that everyone’s been watching Life on Mars or there’s something deeper at work, I don’t know. But what with Journeyman diving off into the 70s and 80s at a moment’s notice, Mad Men recreating the early 60s in minute detail, and now Swingtown trying to capture the magic (?) of the 1970s’ wife-swapping parties, it’s clear a certain amount of historical navel gazing is part of the US networks’ current plans for the world of entertainment.

There are a few problems with Swingtown, however, that separate it from the glorious Mad Men and the thoughtful Journeyman. Not the least of these is the fact it is all about wild, promiscuous sex and yet it’s very, very boring.

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