In the US: Wednesdays, 9pm/8c, The CW In the UK: Acquired by E4
As we all know, US TV is prone to remaking other countries’ TV shows, but if you’d asked me a year what the most likely remake of a UK TV show would be this season, never in my wildest dreams would I have suggested 1970s sci-fi gay metaphor and excuse for borderline S&M paedophilia The Tomorrow People. Yet here it is. Do they have no shame?
Amazingly, although I tend to prefer remakes that are faithful to the original, in this case, the lack of fidelity is an improvement. The original show was dreadful. Just dreadful. Although possessed of one of the best and most disturbing title sequences in TV history, it had numerous faults, most of which I’ve spelt out over here. Or you could watch this brief clip, which should show you what you’ve been missing all these years.
Yet here, although we don’t have something that’s much above “not bad”, we don’t have something outrageously terrible. What we do have is, however, is also a bit more mundane. Following on from the original, the story posits that all over the world, a new race of human beings called Homo Superior or The Tomorrow People is ‘comingbreaking out’. Able to teleport, read minds and move objects with their thoughts, unlike the nasty new humans of Prey, these genetic mutations can’t kill and just want to be left alone to lead normal lives like anyone else.
Unlike the 1970s Tomorrow People, there are some complete TP spanners ruining for it everyone by breaking into bank vaults and the like, so a government scientist called Jedekiah who definitely isn’t a fierce, shapechanging, alien robot is out to stop these new Tomorrow People and give them genetic therapy to make them normal ‘saps’ (Home Sapiens) – assuming he can’t get them to join his team of black-suited TPs.
With new and super-powerful mutation Stephen (Robbie Amell – cousin of Arrow‘s Stephen Amell) just breaking out and teleporting into people’s bedrooms while he’s asleep, both sides in the war are looking to recruit. Which side will he join? Well, that would be telling, so maybe you’ll just have to read my mind to find out. Or watch it.
In the US: Wednesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC. Starts 24th September
After the past couple of years’ disastrous attempts by ABC to try to get men to watch its shows – bizarrely, through terrible programmes like Work It and Zero Hour – ABC is this year once more reverting to its two core strengths: female viewers and luke-warm comedies.
This year, apparently, women who appreciate luke-warm comedies are into domesticity. We’ve already had a look at The Trophy Wife, in which a former party girl settles down to a life of comparative drudgery, tending to the needs of three step-children; now we’re going to have a look at Back In The Game, starring Psych‘s Maggie Lawson as a woman who gets divorced from her cheating husband and together with her son Donny, move back in with her father (James Caan from Elf. Yes, that’s the credit I’m going to list him with). Caan is a former pro baseball player who ruined Lawson’s life with perpetual baseball practice and indoctrination after her mother died, so Lawson has decided never to bother teaching Donny baseball.
But now Donny wants to impress girls, so it’s time for Lawson to bite the bullet and teach him – and since the current little league coach Dick (Ben Koldyke from… shudders… Work It) thinks Donny sucks, Lawson decides to run her own team full of no-hopers (fat kids, weird kids, gay kids, etc) rejected from the main team.
And like The Trophy Wife, it’s okay. Caan’s not really trying but is fine nevertheless, funniest when he’s proposing some ridiculous piece of over-the-top violence to wrongdoers; Lawson is trying for all she’s worth and doing a good job of it. The writing plays with gender and other stereotypes and subverts them, it has a good line in putdowns and is occasionally smart. Mandatory Brit Lenora Crichlow (Being Human) hams along nicely as Lawson’s rich new best friend; Koldyke hams along more entertainingly than he did in Work It.
It’s “What did you watch this weekfortnight?”, my chance to tell you what I movies and TV I’ve watched this weekfortnight 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)
Arrow (The CW/Sky 1)
Being Human (US) (SyFy)
The Daily Show (Comedy Central)
Doctor Who (BBC1/BBC America)
Elementary (CBS/Sky Living)
Go On (NBC)
Hannibal (NBC/Sky Living)
Modern Family (ABC/Sky 1)
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. Continuum returns in Canada tonight, so I’d suggest tuning in for that, too.
Still in the viewing queue: Friday night’s Las Vegas and last night’s Doctor Who (review tomorrow when I’ve seen it), as well as Netflix’s new release, Hemlock Grove. But I’ve tried a few new shows in the past couple of weeks:
Arne Dahl (BBC4)
Basically – as Stu_N put it – The Professionals with pilchards. Dreadful.
Thandie Newton is a very implausible, undercover cop whose son gets killed and she blames herself. Despite the decent cast, which includes Martin Csokas from Falcón and Ian Hart, an incredibly forgettable, derivative show.
I also watched the Easter Jonathan Creek special, which despite a whole lot of merits (the cast, the changes in format), was absolute ridiculous and bore no resemblance to reality. Plus how do you cast both Rik Mayall and Nigel Planer in a show and not have them meet?
Now, some thoughts on some of the regulars and some of the shows I’m still trying:
The Americans (FX/ITV): The usual problem that when show runner Joe Weisberg isn’t involved in the scripting, the episode just isn’t as authentic-feeling as the other episodes. The developments between the two Russians feel a little padded out, and I’m not sure they would have been quite so merciful this week, given their need to preserve their identities.
Bates Motel (A&E/Universal): Quite tedious now, and in no sense really related to Psycho, beyond names and presumably the eventual conclusion. Despite those blips of interest in the first three episodes, the show’s settled on a very dull formula now, with only Vera Farmiga’s character offering any real reason to watch.
Being Human (US) (SyFy): Another show that finished, leaving a lot of hanging storyline threads. The revelations haven’t been as impressive or as interesting as you might have hoped, and as I said last night, it does feel like the whole of this season could have been covered in just an episode or two.
Cougar Town (TBS/Sky Living): A somewhat uninteresting way to end the season, but also slightly deeper than normal. The writers didn’t take the show anywhere especially new, but having Tippi Hedren show up for the finale was worth watching it for anyway.
Endeavour (ITV1): Inspector Morse, back in its natural period – the 1950s. Nowhere near as impressive as its pilot episode, boiling down to an ability to solve crossword puzzles rather than make deductions, but Anton Lessing was perfect as the new superintendent.
Plebs (ITV2): More ahistorical than normal, with the arrival of bananas and a Thracian with a Russian accent (Anna Skellern from Big Finish’s Sapphire and Steel range), but still good fun, surprisingly historical in other ways and Bryan Murphy (George from George and Mildred) showed up as an old soldier.
Shameless (US) (Showtime/More4): A good and surprisingly optimistic finale that felt almost like a series finale. Where does the show go next?
Southland (TNT/Channel 4): Two episodes to finish off the season and perhaps the series. The first was a very hard and traumatic episode that unfortunately crossed the Southland line – despite being based on a real-life incident, didn’t feel like a Southland episode because it stopped being able the everyday life of cops. Thankfully, the final episode was more of a return to normal. It finished off a number of plot threads and left several hanging, in a way both satisfying a season-finale and a series-finale. And, of course, for one character, a shocking but entirely plausible end (?). If it is the series finale, that would be a shame for probably the best and most realistic cop show since The Wire.
Spartacus (Starz/Sky 1): And so it ends. Probably the most surprising bit of quality TV, given its graphic novel violence, sex and swearing (and Starz network home), Spartacus has continued to make Roman history interesting and Machiavellian fun. The finale was just about as good as it ever could be, given Spartacus has to disappear or die, the revolution has to fail, and Caesar and Crassus have to go on to rule Rome. Perhaps a little too anti-Roman, but it was still as intriguing as ever.
Vegas (CBS/Sky Atlantic): Michael Chiklis’s direction somehow made the usual sets look cheap and like a backlot, but the show is clearly struggling now to expand its format. I’m hoping that Carrie-Anne Moss gets a promotion now, since she’s had so precious little to do. Nevertheless, the show does look like it’s limping towards cancellation.
And in movies:
Danny Boyle directing, Joe Ahearne writing, Rosario Dawson, James McAvoy and Vince Cassel starring in a semi-Inception-like story about an art dealer who steals a painting with the help of a gang, but when he gets hit on the head, forgets where he hid the painting. So Cassel takes McAvoy to see hypnotherapist Dawson in an effort to recover its location, and she takes McAvoy (and the audience) through several levels of reality. While it does interesting things in terms of flipping notions of who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist in the narrative, has some shocking full-frontal nudity and violence, and says some interesting things about gender in thriller narrative, if you pay attention, you’ll have guessed most of the story’s secrets and revelations ages before the end.
“What did you watch this weekfortnight?” 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?