US TV

Review: Brotherhood

Jason Isaacs in Brotherhood

In the US: Sunday, 10 pm ET/PT, Showtime

In the UK: Not acquired yet

Jason Isaacs likes to do hard. His first big UK role was in Civvies, Lynda La Plante’s everyday story of former paratroopers trying to get jobs that don’t involve breaking and entering. He’s over in the US now in Brotherhood, a Showtime drama about two brothers, one on the right side of the law, the other on the wrong side.

Guess which side Jason’s on.

At first glance, Brotherhood isn’t particularly inspiring. Isaacs is a serious crim who’s been missing for seven years. Australian actor Jason Clarke plays his brother, who’s now a respectable politician. Brotherhood ostensibly looks at how you can have a family member you want to love but who will ruin everything you’ve done if you allow them to get close to you.

But there is a slight twist to this. Clarke isn’t actually very respectable. His vote is buyable, he’s in league with all sorts of bad elements, including corrupt unions (oh what a surprise. A US drama series where a union is corrupt). He only wants Isaacs out of his life so that people don’t realise he’s actually about as criminal as they come, too. The show’s most interesting moments deal with the corruption of the political process.

Isaacs’ character isn’t as evil as everyone thinks though. Although a ‘three-in-one’ hit man (judge, jury and executioner), not adverse to extreme amounts of brutality and mutilation, he’s all doing it with the best intents: he takes action against a man who threatens to rape a woman by cutting of the man’s ear and sending it to her as a gift along with some new earrings (it’s supposed to reassure her); instead of killing people, he pays them to disappear so he won’t have to.

And the ‘brotherhood’ of the title doesn’t just mean the two Jasons’ brotherhood; it also means the brotherhood between criminals in the same gang.

At the moment though, Brotherhood is pretty unappetising. There’s none of the great writing of The Sopranos. There’s no character – major or minor – who isn’t criminal or unpleasant in one way or another, right down to Clarke’s nine-year-old daughter.

It’s heavy going and not especially enjoyable. The strength of Isaacs’ and Clarke’s performances make it an interesting character piece, but there’s going to need to be more plot and development to make it more than just a tale of two brothers – something we’ve seen many times before.

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US TV

Review: Psych 1×1

Psych

In the US: USA Network, Fridays, 10/9C

In the UK: Acquired by Hallmark and the BBC. Hallmark has the first-run rights, the Beeb second-run. No air date yet.

There’s something a little eerie about the USA Network’s new series Psych. I’m not talking about the fact the main character is a psychic with an uncanny gift for solving crimes. For one thing, Shawn Spencer (James Roday) isn’t a psychic. He was just raised by his cop father (Corbin Bernsen) from a very early age to be extremely observant. Every time they’d go into a diner, his father would make his shut his eyes and answer questions about things he’d seen (‘How many people are wearing hats?’ ‘What’s the manageress’s name? She greeted you on the way in and it was on her name tag’). Now Shawn just has to observe a crime scene and the behaviour of the suspects to know exactly what’s been happening.

No, the eerie thing is James Roday: he is a homeopathic Will Ferrell.

Continue reading “Review: Psych 1×1”

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US TV

Third-episode verdict: Kyle XY

Kyle XY at home with the non-AspiesAs is tradition round here, once they’ve reached the third-episode stage, I report back again on shows whose first episodes didn’t totally suck. Kyle XY showed quite some promise, so I’ve stuck with it and here’s how it’s going.

After the promising start, we’ve continued to have more mysteries throw at us, with precious little extra information – ‘Did you miss any clues?’ the continual pop-ups demand. Clearly, I have.

How did Kyle manage to go for two weeks without sleep? How can he jump from the roof of a house and land unharmed? Why can he only sleep in a bath tub? How come a teenager has completely perfect teeth, like they’ve never been used? Why does Nicholas Lea from The X-Files keep stalking Kyle in a battered pick-up truck? And why did Lea murder that man yet leave the body lying around in the middle of nowhere, right where Kyle was found, with an odd playing card by his side? Who is that man Lea keeps phoning?

No answers yet, although I’m heading towards the ‘genetically engineered super-soldier, grown in a vat’ theory of Kyle’s existence.

We’ve also started veering into heart-weaming morals territory. This week, the lesson was “lying is bad”, although there was enough nuance in it that any grown adult watching didn’t laugh their socks off.

But, I’m prepared to wait and put up with the morals. It’s not quite as intriguing as it was, but I can understand why they wouldn’t want to divulge all the secrets just yet. It’s got just enough mystery to make you want more, but not so much that you’re wanting to throw a rock at the tele and shout, “Just tell me something, will you!”

Since this is airing on the ABC Family channel, I’m also wondering if perhaps Kyle XY is Asperger’s/autistic propaganda:

“Hey, shallow stupid high school kids! You’re dumb and malicious aren’t you? But you know that guy at school who acts a bit odd and you all take the piss out of? You know, the one who likes maths and computers? Really smart, bit child-like and naive, has a monotone voice, muted emotional reaction, doesn’t know how to act in social situations, intense stare? Well, isn’t that exactly like that really hot Kyle XY guy? Accept him and his gifts for he has much to offer. Plus he could be a genetically engineered super-solider. Or an alien.”

Which sounds like an admirable thing to me. So along with supporting the return of John Doe in teenage form and family programming that doesn’t suck totally, you can help Aspie kids get accepted by society by watching Kyle XY.

Here’s a clip from this week’s episode, presented in association with my sponsor Sour Patch Kids.

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UK TV

Review: Doctor Who – 2×13 – Doomsday

Doomsday

Cyberman: Dalek?

Dalek: Cyberman?

Cyberman: Did your sensors detect the fluid that I just expelled from my right lateral articulator joint?

Dalek: My probes observed the phenomenon

Cyberman: Are they able to analyse it?

Dalek: They report it is composed of waste oil and grease and certain biochemical solutions

Cyberman: Where is it now?

Dalek: It is sinking into the floor where it is being absorbed by human excretions such as dandruff and hair

Cyberman: That’s your void ship that is. Your mum made that. It’s like the best thing she’s ever done.

Dialogue from Doctor Who episode Doomsday.

So it’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for. The Daleks and the Cybermen had a great big fight and Rose is stuck in another universe. And it was all just so mediocre.

I wanted to like this. I really really wanted to like this. But I was bored. I may reconsider if I ever get round to watching the episode again. Already, my brain is trying its hardest to filter out the dross and crud surrounding the few good things in the episode.

But nothing can alter the fact that from about 7.20pm on Saturday night I was clock-watching.

Continue reading “Review: Doctor Who – 2×13 – Doomsday”

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Preview: Hidden Palms

Hidden Palms

INT. OFFICE – DAY

We are in the office of a PRODUCER. He’s in his late twenties and full of coke and gym-induced energy. It’s sunny outside – it’s LA after all – but there’s the faint sound of a breeze. As the producer happily plays with his A-Team action figures, we slowly realise that the breeze is actually a whistling noise coming from between his ears.

There is a knock at the door.

PRODUCER

Come!

He giggles. He said come. That one always cracks him up. He returns to playing with Mr T.

Enter JUNIOR WRITER excitedly. Junior Writer is even younger than the Producer, Harvard-educated and has wanted to work in television his whole life. He hasn’t been paid in two years, even though his internship only lasted six months. But that’s all right: his trust fund is extensive.

The notepaper he carries in his hand contains The Idea.

JUNIOR WRITER

I have it! I have an idea for a new show.

Producer looks up. There’s only a slight glassiness to his eye from the coke. Slowly, he realises what this means.

Continue reading “Preview: Hidden Palms”