Playwright Joe Orton
BFI events

What TV’s on at the BFI in August 2017? Including What the Butler Saw and Strike: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Every month, TMINE lets you know what TV the BFI will be presenting at the South Bank in London

August is normally a quiet time for the BFI, as it gambles that everyone’s probably on holiday. Maybe this year it’s gambling that Brexit means we’ll not be able to afford to go on holiday, because there’s actually a surprisingly full schedule. Most of this comes from a season of works by playwright Joe Orton, but there’s also a preview of BBC One’s adaptation of Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)’s first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and a showing of ITV’s seminal The Naked Civil Servant.

Purely by coincidence, The Weekly Play this week is an adaptation of Orton’s final play, What the Butler Saw, which was broadcast as part of BBC Two’s Theatre Night in 1987. The play is a farce in two acts and revolves around Dr Prentice (Dinsdale Landen), a psychiatrist attempting to seduce his attractive prospective secretary, Geraldine Barclay (Tessa Peake-Jones). Also along for the ride are Mrs Prentice (Prunella Scales), her lover/blackmailer Tyler Butterworth, government inspector Timothy West and cross-dressing police officer Bryan Pringle.

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Cardinal
Canadian TV

Review: Cardinal 1×1 (Canada: CTV/Super Écran; UK: BBC Four)

In Canada: Wednesdays, 10 pm ET/PT, CTV
In Canada (en Français): Thursdays, 10pm, Super Écran
In the UK: Acquired by BBC Four for broadcast in 2017

Nordic Noir has been a staple of our airwaves for almost exactly a decade now  – ever since Forbydelsen (The Killing) hit our screens in 2007, in fact. What exactly makes something a Nordic Noir? It seems an obvious question – a Noir-esque drama made in the Nordic regions – but if you Theseus paradox the whole situation, suddenly it’s not quite as clear.

For example, can a country outside the Nordic regions make a Nordic Noir? It seems so. After all, UK made its own version of the Wallander stories, and we’ve gone on to make Fortitude, The Tunnel (Tunnel) and Y Gwyll (Hinterland), all of which seem to be as close to Nordic Noir as you can get without everyone speaking a Scandinavian language – at least before Fortitude went a bit bonkers and sci-fi.

However, The Killing (US), Those Who Kill and The Bridge (US) were almost identikit versions of the originals yet still didn’t have the feel of Nordic Noir, so clearly there’s something in the country of origin and the US doesn’t seem to have it. But how about Canada, which like the UK and the Scandinavian countries seems so lovely and calm and dull on the exterior but is possibly a seething mass of darkness underneath all the bad weather? 

Enter Cardinal to help us test the paradox further.

Based on the first of Giles Blunt’s six ‘John Cardinal Mysteries’, Forty Words For Sorrow, the series stars Billy Campbell (Helix, The Killing (US), The Rocketeer) as the eponymous Cardinal, a Canadian police detective in the fictional Algonquin Bay, who investigates the disappearance of a young girl. Unable to find her, he goes off the rails and is demoted, but a year later, the body of the girl turns up and he is reassigned to what is now a murder case, working alongside new recruit Karine Vanasse (Pan Am, Revenge).

It would be tempting to think of this as a Canadian version of Forbydelsen (The Killing) and the rest of its ilk, since many of the hallmarks of the genre are all present and correct: troubled investigator; cunning serial killer; general sadness, isolation, coldness and gloominess; and a thorough mining of the emotions of death, particularly the death of a child, and its effects on a community.

But I think comparisons would be misleading since although it is still a Nordic Noir, this is very much a show creating its own sub-genre: Canadian Noir. Beautifully shot in the Ontario winter, this is clearly a Canadian show with Canadian concerns. The police are obviously Canadians, not Americans in disguise, right down to the RCMPs. The Québécoise Vanasse not only is allowed to keep her accent, she is actually playing a Québécoise rather than a French woman for a change. The missing girl is a First Nation child and some of the first episode is dedicated to whether she receive a traditional First Nation or a Christian funeral or not.

The show’s attempts at accurate depiction of Canadian police work also place it in the same court as the outstanding 19-2, which might now perhaps be considered a prototype of Canadian Noir. As well as being directed by Podz, who directed both the French version of the show, as well as the outstanding single-take tracking shot in the English-language version…

…19-2 has a similar, major theme: (spoiler) an internal investigation of the lead character by the partner. Whether that’ll become a defining feature of Canadian Noir remains to be seen.

The show’s high production values, general timbre, decent acting, beautiful direction and beautiful location filming do go a long way to cover up the fact that the plot itself is a bit hackneyed. Sure, there are variations from the standard clichés, with Cardinal’s deep dark secret involving his wife turning out to be unique for a detective show. But it’s a serial killer being chased by an obsessed, unhappy cop, rather than a content family man tracking down a white-collar fraudster between the hours of nine to five on weekdays. It’s not that innovative.

All the same, Cardinal is the best new drama out of Canada since 19-2 and a worthy addition to the Nordic Noir catalogue. Fingers crossed for a UK airing.

News: more Cameron Terminator; more The Tunnel; new Witchblade; Raised by Wolves US; + more

Film

  • James Cameron and Tim Miller to conclude The Terminator franchise

Film trailers

  • Trailer for Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur

UK TV shows

New UK TV shows

US TV

US TV show casting

New US TV shows

  • History developing: anti-heroes anthology series, Travis Fimmel to play Wyatt Earp
  • NBC developing: adaptation of Witchblade
  • green lights: pilot of mixed-race, coming-of-age 1980s comedy, with Isabella Russo
  • CBS green lights: pilot of 50-year-life comedy Me, Myself and I
  • Jaunt developing: The Lawnmower Man TV series; abandoned lunar base action-thriller Luna; politics and immortality series The Enlightened Ones; stoner comedy Bad Trip; and robot hero quest Miss Gloria
  • ABC developing: adaptation of Channel 4’s Raised by Wolves

New US TV show casting

Question of the year: what were your favourite new shows of 2016? Here’s my Top 13!

TMINE’s about to take its traditional Christmas and New Year break. I’ll be back tomorrow but after that, normal business won’t resume until January 3rd or 4th with the Daily News et al. But a new tradition I started last year was to leave you with a specific question to keep you occupied: what were your favourite new shows of the year? As always, let everyone know your choices and the reasons below or on your own blog.

For the record, after the jump are my Top 1213 from all the countries around the world, as well as that new-fangled Internet thing, in no particular order, with the addition of one I mysteriously left off this morning. Merry Grafelnik, everyone!

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What have you been watching? Including Deadpool, The Americans and The Tunnel (Tunnel)

It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.

The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever. 

Well would you look at that – back as scheduled. Miracles will never cease.

As usual, though, the networks have carefully timed a batch of new shows to start airing while I’ve been away. I’ll be reviewing them in the next few days, but hold your horses on discussing Animal Kingdom (US: TNT), Private Eyes (Canada: CBC), Feed The Beast (US: AMC; UK: BT Vision) and Cleverman (Australia: ABC; UK: BBC Four) until then, if you’ve seen them.

After the jump, I’ll be looking at the season/series finales of Arrow, The Flash and The Tunnel (Tunnel), as well as the dwindling regulars (won’t someone give us some good new TV, please?): 12 Monkeys, The Americans, Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley. Surprisingly, despite my reduced viewing list, one of these is for the chop because I can’t even.

Before that, though, I’ve seen not one, but two superhero movies!

Deadpool (2015) (iTunes)
Ryan Reynolds in the first of Marvel’s adult-oriented superhero movies, here playing a mercenary who gets given mutant powers at the cost of his good looks, so tries to get the Brit scientist/kickboxer who experimented on him (Ed Skrein from The Transporter Refueled and Game of Thrones) to undo the damage so he can get back his girl (Morena Baccarin from Firefly and Homeland). But as well as his looks, the newly-christened Deadpool also loses his sanity – for some reason, he thinks he’s in a superhero movie and chooses to satirise anything and everything about it, as well as talk to the audience he thinks is watching him…

Although not as funny or as daring as it thinks it is and saddled with a conventional revenge plot that all the storytelling tricks in the world can’t cover up, Deadpool has a lot going for it, particularly its potty mouth, and meta jibes at Ryan Reynolds and the X-men. You’ll laugh at about half the jokes and there are scenes that will stick with you for days afterwards. But its own critiques (“It’s almost like the studio couldn’t afford more famous stars”) reveal the film’s biggest problem – it’s subversive enough that the studio wants to keep it safely confined in a box away from the rest of the franchise, unable to play with the big boys. Also, Gina Carano is wasted in a small role, which makes me sad. 

But you can’t really knock a superhero movie that has its lead masturbating with a toy unicorn, now can you?

Spider-Man 3 (2007) (iTunes)
Somehow I missed/couldn’t be bothered to watch the third of the previous (but one) Spider-Man movie franchises, but with another on the way, I figured I’d watch all the old ones (not including the Nicholas Hammond 70s TV show) just to see how they compare. Here we get Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man finding (yet again) it’s hard achieving a work-life-superhero balance, and despite wanting to marry girlfriend Mary-Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), ends up neglecting her. Then, he discovers that the man (Thomas Haden Church) who really killed Uncle Ben has escaped from prison and acquired the power to turn into and shape sand. And best friend James Franco has discovered Peter Parker is Spider-Man and wants to get revenge for the supposed murder of his father (aka The Green Goblin). Just as Peter’s at his lowest ebb, he attracts the attention of an alien symbiote who turns his costume – as well as his soul – black…

Weirdly, despite its rep, I found this to be the best of the lot – Spider-Man 1 & 2 do not bear up well, despite my having found them reasonably good at the time, and The Amazing Spider-Man is astonishingly dreary and uncompelling. While the ‘Venom’ subtext is a little clunky and the character itself a bit rubbish, the story actually takes novel turns, with forgiveness and doing good lorded over violence and darkness (take note, DC Comics). 

Utterly meaningless if you haven’t seen the first two movies, mind.

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