Welcome to 2012. New year’s resolution – to write regularly. I’m going to focus on television but we might encompass some other things too. For starters how about a preview of some of the upcoming television I hope to watch in January.
According to my ever growing TV spreadsheet we have a fair amount to look forward to this month what with American mid-season premieres and British just plain old turnover. I’m already a little late with this one; it is the 12th as I’m typing. Things I’m looking forward to watching that have actually already started include: Sherlock Season 2 (prerequisite being that I catch up with season 1), Eternal Law Season 1, Stella Season 1, The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret Season 2, Above Suspicion: Silent Scream (Season 4) and Cloudstreet Season 1.
Sherlock is the widely acclaimed modernisation of the well known detective novels by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle written by Steven Moffatt, Mark Gatiss and Stephen Thompson. Moffatt is well known as a previous Doctor Who show runner and his work there has him overseeing scripts by both of the other writers. Gatiss is an affable presence in his own right and recognisable as an actor but has proven his writing skill on Crooked House and The First Men in the Moon. I’m less familiar with Thompson but cursory research suggests he is no slouch having won awards for his playwriting. I’m sure I won’t be informing anyone here but nevertheless I should note that the cast is also enticing; Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson. I’m shamed by my failure to have seen the first season and pledge to catch up by the end of the month; perhaps somewhat contributing to my avoidance is that I couldn’t finish the Hound of the Baskervilles when I was a teenager. Even worse is that I have seen the first Robert Downey Jr. film adaptation! Anyway I hope to rectify this situation soon. For other latecomers the second season will conclude with the third episode this Sunday (15 January) and the second part is still up on the BBC iPlayer.
Stella is an hour long comedy drama written by and starring Ruth Jones, widely recognised from her work in the same capacities on Gavin & Stacey. The pilot has already aired but should be available on sky’s anytime service for the remainder of this week. I enjoyed the first episode, it was well observed if broad. More importantly for a slice of life show it was funny, something that Sky’s similar commissioning formula for The Cafe sometimes did not achieve. Jones is an engaging and endearing actress and I have no doubt she can carry a series on her own. Stella is frequently repeated and the first episode is on again tonight but will premiere new episodes every Friday on Sky 1, with episode 2 airing on 13 January.
Eternal Law has also already aired its pilot, but this one is sat on my DVR waiting to be watched. Its a legal drama from the team behind Life on Mars; Ashley Pharoah and Matthew Graham. It slipped under my radar somewhat but the past record of these writers is enough to make me want to check it out. The six episode first season debuted on 5 January and the second episode airs tonight on ITV.
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret is another comedy show that I checked out on the basis that it featured some cast members from Arrested Development in this case David Cross (in the title role) and Will Arnett. It doesn’t manage to put that show’s lightning back in a bottle but it is highly successful nonetheless and surprisingly British. Margaret plays an American temp who has the position of UK chief of marketing for an energy drink thrust upon him. Farcical hilarity follows. The first season was thoroughly enjoyable and I’d highly recommend catching up and then getting on board for the new one. The show airs on IFC in the states and the second season began on January 6 2012. It should be on Channel 4 later this year.
ITV’s Above Suspicion is something I’m more reluctant to recommend. The previous three entries have been fairly average cop drama but I like Ciaran Hinds and am not averse to cop drama no matter its quality so I expect to keep watching the fourth sometime after I have it all taped. The three part miniseries began on Monday 9 January and the first part will be available on demand through ITV until 16 Janaury.
Like Eternal Law I have been unaware of Cloudstreet until it popped up on the TV schedules. This is an Australian drama that has been picked up by Sky Atlantic. Of course Sky Atlantic have fooled me into watching rubbish by showing it alongside the output of HBO before (I’m looking at you Blue Bloods) but they generally have a high bar. I liked the look of the advert and have read a positive review in the Radio Times so I will probably check this out. Cloudstreet started in the UK on Wednesday 11 January but has already aired its first season in Australia.
The American broadcasters seem less keen to capture the eyes of their audience over Christmas so the majority of this first part of the list is all airing on British television. Later on in the month a number of promising programmes are due to start across the pond.
Tonight (12th January) 30 Rock starts its sixth season on NBC. Comedy Central will presumably pick up the rights to these episodes later in the year. NBC is struggling manfully to produce anything worth watching on the drama side since losing aging warhorses like ER and Law and Order but remains a purveyor of some decent half hours of comedy including this, The Office and Parks and Rec. I tend to prioritise my dramas and am quite far behind on all three but will catch up eventually.
On 17th January FX begins the third season of the excellent crime drama Justified. The show is based on Raylan Givens, a character created by one of my favourite authors Elmore Leonard, and Leonard has a new book about Raylan out this month too. Justified started off as a good show by capturing Leonard’s atmosphere, great dialogue and strong characterisation on both sides of the law. It became a great show with its second season by devoting energy to serialised plots that gave us unforgettable season long antagonists. I cannot wait to see if they can sustain that quality for a third season. I’m currently introducing my dad to the show and am relishing the re-watch.
On the same night (in the same time slot in America) TNT begins the fourth season of Southland. This cop drama is well worth watching but has a chequered history and is lucky to still be in production. It has moved from NBC to TNT and had its budget cut worse than British libraries in the process. The show had to drop several recurring and some main cast members to accommodate the cuts and while their absence bothers me I’m glad the show is still around and hope it can settle into a new rhythm in its second run of original episodes on TNT. The show has found a home on Channel 4 in the UK and they finished off the third season just before Christmas – no date scheduled for the fourth so far.
JJ Abram’s brings us another new TV show in the form of Alcatraz. Lost fans should find plenty to appeal to them with this one: it has an overarching mythology with prisoners from the rock’s past appearing in the present day; it has an episodic structure revolving around flashbacks; it features Jorge Garcia (who played Hurley on Lost) and it also has much of Abram’s reliable television crew aboard. I’ve soured on science fiction mystery driven shows but I suppose Abram’s own Fringe is one of the better ones of the post-Lost era and will therefore happily try this one out with my wife (who is an even bigger Lost fan than I am). Apparently the show has been picked up by Watch in the UK and is set to air in March; can’t say I’m familiar with the channel but I’m guessing it is a free-view serial rebranding victim.
Back to Britain briefly for the fourth season of Being Human which also starts on the 23 January, this one on BBC Three. I’m way behind with the show but plan to catch up eventually. Also beginning on the 23 January is the sixth season of Skins. I’m probably getting a bit old for this one but I’ll stick with it as long as it remains an enjoyable watch and have invested enough in this year group (they change the cast every two seasons) to make it worth watching the second half of their story.
Back to the US for the cable channels; HBO is properly beginning David Milch’s new series Luck on 29 January. I really liked the pilot preview they showed at the end of Boardwalk Empire season 2. I’m going to be writing about this one for wikia at luck.wikia.com and hope to be posting weekly episode reviews. Milch is of course famous for Deadwood, which remains in my top five series of all time (at number three). The show features Dustin Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Dennis Farina, Jill Hennessy, Jason Gedrick, Kevin Dunn and Kerry Condon among others. It is focused on the Santa Anita Park horse racing track and the characters cross the worlds of horse training, organised crime and compulsive gambling. This is being advertised on Sky Atlantic already but I don't think the premiere date has been scheduled.
Starz returns with a third entry for its breakout hit Spartacus, this time the season is subtitled Vengeance. I have to catch up with the prequel miniseries that aired early last year. I fully expect over the top gore, frequent nudity and surprisingly good writing from Stephen S. DeKnight (Angel) and Daniel Knauf (Carnivale). Since I started watching the series lead Andy Whitfield sadly passed away (from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September last year), I hope the series provides him with a fitting legacy. He was excellent in the role and equally strong with action and dialogue. This one begins on the 27 January and should be shown on Sky 1 later this year. Starz itself is worth keeping an eye on as they will continue to produce new series and now have ex-HBO bigiwig Chris Albrecht on staff. I’m also looking forward to seeing Da Vinci’s Demons and Magic City later this year on the network.
Is anyone else going to be watching any of these shows? Is there anything I’ve missed that you would recommend?