Strange Angel
US TV

Review: Strange Angel 1×1 (US: CBS All Access)

In the US: Thursdays, CBS All Access

Aleister Crowley’s one of those people who you assume must be fictional. Just take this sentence from the opening paragraph of his Wikipedia entry:

An English occultist, ceremonial magician, poet, painter, novelist, and mountaineer, he founded the religion of Thelema, identifying himself as the prophet entrusted with guiding humanity into the Æon of Horus in the early 20th century.

Bonkers, hey? Yet this Satanist-magician was real and if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” you’ve heard the words of Crowley.

Also real was Jack Parsons, a US rocket scientist who helped to found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and invented the first rocket engine to use a castable, composite rocket propellant. So far, so plausible, too. However, Parsons met Crowley in the late 30s and joined Thelema. He even ended up hanging around with L Ron Hubbard.

Bonkers, hey?

And now we have a biopic of Parsons that is actually all too easy to believe.

Bella Heathcote, Jack Reynor and Rupert Friend in Strange Angel
Bella Heathcote, Jack Reynor and Rupert Friend in Strange Angel

Do what thou wilt

The first episode introduces us to Parsons, who’s played with a certain glee by Sing Street‘s Jack Reynor – one of many members of an almost exclusively non-US cast. Parsons didn’t graduate college, as he needed a job during the Depression to look after his wife (Neighbours’ Bella Heathcote), so has been working in a chemicals factory instead. Nevertheless, he and buttoned-down Caltech student Peter Mark Kendall (Chicago Med, The Americans) have been working together to create a new kind of rocket that might even take man into space.

As we quickly find out, Parsons is something of a dreamer, being a reader of lurid stories that typically involve a Chinese, harem-owning, tiger-fighting king, although Heathcote isn’t quite so approving of his reading matter. Then into their lives comes furtive new neighbour Rupert Friend (Homeland). He encourages Reynor to live a little, “Do what thou wilt” being the only law that really counts. Before you know it, Reynor’s burgling houses, nearly drowning in a swimming pool, coming up with exciting new ideas for rocket propulsion, taking all kinds of risks, and nearly blowing up Caltech professors (Rade Šerbedžija) in an effort to get much-needed funding.

Then one night he follows Reynor to a local church and discovers him in a congregation, watching while Aleister Crowley (The Crown‘s Greg Wise) is busily sacrificing a naked virgin. Soon, stabbed to his and Heathcote’s door, is a satanic symbol. Are they in danger? Might they even want to join in?

Jack Reynor, Rade Šerbedžija and Peter Mark Kendall in Strange Angel
Jack Reynor, Rade Šerbedžija and Peter Mark Kendall in Strange Angel

Happy satanists

For such a potentially exciting and lurid subject matter, this sure is tame stuff. Exploding mini-rockets are the most exciting parts of something that could have been a Satanic sexfest on AMC where it was originally pitched, but here feels like it’s a group of neighbours in a gated community getting shocked by an Ann Summers party.

There is some great attention to period detail, as well as rocket science, surprisingly enough. The cast fit their parts well, even if Wise is vastly too handsome to be Crowley. But if you were expecting something a bit more exotic, the first episode avoids every opportunity presented to it and the trailer for the rest of the season suggests two women kissing is about as exciting as it’s going to get.

All of which means that this is going to be at most a vaguely interesting biopic about a probably far more interesting man. I’d give it a miss if I were you.

Vanity Fair
News

Serinda Swan is the Coroner; Vanity Fair teaser; Ben Daniels is the new Lord Snowden; + more

Every weekday, TMINE brings you the latest TV news from around the world

Internet TV

Canadian TV

UK TV

  • Teaser for ITV’s Vanity Fair

US TV

New US TV shows

  • Molly McCook and Josh Pence to recur on Freeform’s Good Trouble
  • Andrew Caldwell, Jade Pettyjohn and Anthony Keyvan join Hulu’s Kansas City
  • Desmond Chiam and Taylor Hart to recur on Starz’s Now Apocalypse
Safe
Internet TV

Review: Safe (season one) (Netflix)

In the UK: Available on Netflix

Sometimes, you really can get the wrong end of the stick with these international productions. When I first heard about Safe, it was via an article in Le Figaro. Audrey Fleurot from Engrenages (Spiral), Michael C Hall from Dexter, in a Netflix drama written by US thriller writer Harlan Coben and set inside a gated community? Brilliant! It’ll be like Sky Atlantic’s Riviera – except good.

Sure, it was also going to feature the likes of Marc Warren (Mad Dogs) and Amanda Abbington (Sherlock), and at least some of it was going to be filmed in Britain, but I mentally glossed over that. Audrey, Michael, Harlan, all that talk by Le Figaro of Harlan’s obsession with French actresses – it was going to be exotic, wasn’t it? Maybe a bit in the UK, but mostly it would be in France, right? Or maybe 50/50? Why else cast Fleurot?

Then I saw the trailer.

Wait. That was all Britain. Nothing but Britain. No sunshine, no France, no French. Just Britain. Not even a good bit of Britain at that, but Manchester.

And what was that accent, Michael? Why haven’t they allowed you to be American? And have you been watching The Only Way is Essex with Chris Pratt?

Then I remembered – Harlan Coben had co-written that Sky1 show The Five with Danny Brocklehurst, hadn’t he? And Brocklehurst was one of the writers for Safe, too.

Oh dear God. This was actually a British show. It was basically a Sky1 show with a slightly more international cast than usual, but on Netflix. Oh the horror!

So that was the stick I incorrectly grasped with Safe. Although we in the UK obviously associate Netflix with bringing us both their own programmes made overseas and other country’s programmes that they’ve bought up, that’s something they do for everyone else, too, and this was going to be like The Crown – another entry in the ‘international TV that we made in the UK for everyone else’ category. We would be the rest of the world’s ‘exotic’.

However, there was a second stick. My assumption was that because it was UK TV made in the UK by a UK production company and written by UK writers, it was going to be unwatchable rubbish. Just dreadful, I thought.

Surprise! It’s not. Indeed, Safe isn’t half bad. A bit silly and even comedic in places – and not just Hall’s accent – with episode endings that push the boundaries of plausibility to their limits, but actually halfway decent. I even watched it all the way through to the end. That’s a first for me and a British TV drama in rather a long time…

Continue reading “Review: Safe (season one) (Netflix)”

The Crown
BAFTA events

What (more) TV’s on at BAFTA in February/March 2018? Including The Crown and Kay Mellor masterclasses

Every couple of weeks, TMINE flags up what new TV events BAFTA is holding around the UK

A couple of new TV events have been announced by BAFTA this week, one in February, one in March, both ‘Masterclasses’.

The Crown

Masterclass: The Crown

Monday, 26 February 2018 – 7:00pm
Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH

The team behind the BAFTA-winning Netflix series will discuss bringing the historical drama to our screens.

The Crown chronicles the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the major historical events that defined the second half of the 20th Century.

Join creator Peter Morgan, Executive Producer Suzanne Mackie, Director Ben Caron and actress Vanessa Kirby (Princess Margaret) as they reflect and discuss the story behind first two seasons.

Book tickets

Kay Mellor

Masterclass: Kay Mellor on Screenwriting

Monday, 19 March 2018 – 7:00pm
Princess Anne Theatre, BAFTA, 195 Piccadilly

The BAFTA-winning writer will share her inspirations and insights into her craft.

Kay’s credits include Band of Gold, Fat Friends and the recent dramas Love, Lies & Records and Girlfriends.

Kay will be in conversation with Kate Rowland.

Book tickets

Le bureau des légendes (Le Bureau)
Totally Serialized

Totally Serialized: Le bureau des légendes (The Bureau) – saison 3

Although I’m not 100% sure it’s still running its Totally Serialized events, the Institut français du Royaume-Uni is still being very marvellous and running French TV events in London. To save me some hassle, let’s pretend it’s still called Totally Serialized so I don’t have to rename this section.

Office admin out the way, appropriately enough, the first ‘Totally Serialized’ of 2018 is a showing of the first two episodes of the third season of Le bureau des légendes (The Bureau) (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon), as well as a Q&A with producer Alex Berger.

Le Bureau des Légendes

FRA | 2014 | Series 3, episodes 1&2 | 2×52 mins | showrunner Eric Rochant | directed by Samuel Collardey | with Mathieu Kassovitz, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Léa Drucker cert. tbc | in French with EN subs | UK Premiere

If you were hooked by The Bureau, rejoice, here comes the UK premiere of the new season! Based on real-life accounts by former spies, this French addictive series depicts a branch of clandestine undercover agents, dispatched in key and hostile locations around the world. Offering a new perspective on intelligence agencies and intricate geopolitical issues, this third season centres on “Malotru” (Mathieu Kassovitz), who is taken hostage by ISIS.

Followed by a Q&A with Alex Berger, Producer of The Bureau

It’s taking place on Wednesday 24th January at 8.30pm at the Institut in London and you can book tickets online – seats are still available.

Incidentally, I don’t know if the Institut is misspeaking or not, but the Tweet I spotted about the event talks about it being a preview, suggesting that the full season might finally be coming to Amazon…

UPDATE: Turns out there’s also a debate the next day about politics on TV, chaired by Walter of Walter Presents fame:

Power and Politics: The Hottest Genre in TV Drama

22:45-23:45

Chaired by Walter Iuzzolino, the curator behind global drama channel, Walter Presents, ‘Power and Politics: The Hottest Genre in TV drama’ will lift the lid on some of the most popular recent hit thrillers and royal dramas. Why have they struck such a chord with international audiences, and what successful formulae do they share? Meet the producers, writers and actors behind blockbuster hits like Spin, The Crown, Victoria, and The Bureau, and explore the line where fiction and reality meet. Who is manipulating whom, and to what extent is fiction shaping real life politics and public opinion? Mathieu Sapin, author of comic books on politics will also join the debate.

Speakers
  • Alex Berger, Producer of The Bureau
  • Gregory Fitoussi, Actor in Spin series
  • Daisy Goodwin, Creator and Writer of Victoria
  • Andy Harries, Executive Producer of The Crown (season 2)
  • Mathieu Sapin, Political Comic Book Author and Illustrator
Chair
  • Walter Iuzzolino, Global Drama Curator

Tickets available here