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BoxSet…The Tunnel (Stephen Dillane, Clémence Poésy )

24 Jan

It is like BBC4′s Scandinavian hit The Tunnel, except it’s not on a Bridge and not Scandinavian.


The Bridge was a big hit in its twin home countries of Denmark and Sweden and also for BBC4 here in the UK. It therefore comes a no surprise that it has spawned quite  few clones including  The Tunnel a joint production between French media giant Canal Plus and British TV production company Kudos Film and Television.

Like The Bridge, The Tunnel brings together detectives from two nations solving a crime that has inexplicably occurred right on the border, in this case the very point in the Channel Tunnel where the Britain ends and France starts (or indeed where France ends and Britain starts).

The Tunnel stays true to many of the aspects of the The Bridge that made the latter a big hit, including pairing a laid back British detective played by Stephen Dillane with a socially challenged but highly effective French female detective played by Clémence Poésy, echoing the pairing from the Bridge of Kim Bodnia (Martin) and Sofia Helin (Saga) in The Bridge.

In some ways the Anglo-French dialogue plus a different take on the character development makes this significantly different that fans of this genre will enjoy it as a series in its own right. If you missed its showing on Sky Atlantic or love to relive what was a really great series then box set is now available.

BBC4…The Bridge. The second series is the hardest.

9 Jan

Can the second series of the Bridge capture our imaginations?

The Cat Stevens song from the seventies goes “the first cut is the deepest” but if he was a TV executive he would probably have been singing how “the second series is the hardest” because it truely is.

How do you take a great idea, spin in it out into however many episodes that make up the first season, give it an engaging story arc and a  satisfactory conclusion, but still leave just enough untold from the original idea to spin out one or more series. The answer is with a lot of difficulty because often a satisfactory conclusion to the first season often conflicts with have a meaningful second season.

I loved the first season of Danish-Swedish drama co-production The Bridge (Boen / Broen) with the kernel of its storyline focusing on a crime committed at the centre of a bridge that links Copenhagen in Denmark with Malmo in Sweden.  The unusual location of the crime brought together Swedish detective Saga Norén (Sofia Helin) and her Danish counterpart Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) in a gripping series of episodes that saw them track down a serial killer  who turned out to be a former colleague of Martin.

So how do you follow on from that, given that crimes on the bridge that require cross-country investigations are not an every day occurrence?  Well series 2 has created another crime that coincidentally happens again in the middle of the bridge.

In season one it was a dead body found in the middle of the bridge, this time around it is a mystery ship crashing into the pillars of the bridge at its centre. So guess what? Saga and Martin are reunited for series 2.

A bit contrived you might say, weighing in against that is the relationship between Saga and Martin. Saga in particular who is so lacking in social skills to the extent that she may be autistic, although it is never explicitly stated, is the star of the show. The success of season 1 was largely built on this relationship and with both characters reunited in season 2 it gives it a good chance of success.

The Bridge Season 2 is available on BBC iPlayer

Channel 4…Brody is dead. Where does Homeland go from here?

23 Dec

Yesterday we witnessed the shocking finale to the Homeland season 3.

We witnessed the demise of Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), hero, anti-hero, Al Qaeda terrorist, CIA double agent and family man, the man around whom the entire three seasons of Homeland had been written. From the “was he, wasn’t he a terrorist” in season 1, to the Congressman turned double agent in season 2, and it all came to a head in season 3.

In the final episode his fate is sealed when  incoming CIA Director Senator Lockhart (Tracy Letts)  intervenes and overrides the rescue operation put together by Saul (Mandy Pantinkin), Lockhart did this ostensibly to save the newly recruited “asset” Iranian intelligence office Javadi (Shaun Toub), but also Brody returning to the US would give rise to too questions better left unasked.

So far away in Iran at the crack of dawn on the outskirts of Tehran,  Brody is taken out before a mob of braying Iranians and hung to death, dangling from a rope tied to a construction crane. With his death the main storyline that has links all three series ends.

We know there is a  season 4 coming in 2014, but what can it offer. There is almost certainly  no Brody, although the internet is awash with rumours suggesting that he may have somehow survived his hanging, and will be back. Personally I doubt that, I think Season 3 which featured many episodes without Brodie, purposely moved us away from the dying embers of the original stroyline to a new focus of what is becoming a CIA procedural drama.

If Brodie’s gone it is likely so will his daughter, Dana (Morgan Saylor), his wife Jessica (Morena Baccarin), his son (Jackson Pace) and Mike (Diego Klattenhoff) his Marine Buddy and any other characters only close to the Brody storyline.

Abu Nazir (Navid Negahban) went a while a go so we are left with no more prime time baddies from the three seasons, and we never got to find out who was the CIA mole.

We still have Carrie Mathison (Clare Danes) and Saul and all indications is that the new season will be built around them.

Essentially the whole programme is set up for what is typically referred to in the US as a re-boot. An opportunity to reshape the whole focus and dynamics of the programme.  The danger is if it just becomes another procedural drama without a compelling story it could be the beginning of a gradual ratings slump.

Links
Relive the drama with the Homeland – Season 1-2 on DVD and Homeland – Season 3 on DVD from Amazon.co.uk

 

Channel 5…The Bible

1 Dec

As the UK becomes more secular it is increasingly rare to have programmes with overtly religious overtones on mainstream TV, and certainly not in a prime time Saturday slot.

There is still Songs of Praise on BBC1 on Sunday, but this is increasingly just a travelogue of historic churches mixed in with some choir singing (all the rage at the moment thanks to Gareth Malone and his programmes on choirs).

Channel 5 have decided to singlehandedly reverse the trend with their new Saturday night prime time mini-series “The Bible“. What’s even more unusual about this programme is that it is also sponsored by two religious organisations Spring Harvest and WhatIsInTheBible. It is rare seeing religious programmes on mainstream TV but it is even rarer to see overtly religious sponsors. It is also kind of ironic that is all on Channel 5, a channel that was once known to the readers of the Daily Mail as “Channel Filth” for its less than christian programming output.

As a source for epic stories of faith, betrayal, redemption, love and much more there is nothing better than the bible.  From the creation of the earth to the horsemen of Apocalypse, the stories in the Bible would leave seasoned script-writers green with envy. So the series does have potential with tried and tested material available to it.

The first series which took us from Adam and Eve through to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. For a mini-series it did not blow me away but was okay, although I am not sure how easy it would be to follow by people not familiar with the Bible.

There is also bound to be comparisons with some great biblical epics of the past like Cecil B DeMille’s  Ten Commandments and Franco Zeferelli’s Jesus Of Nazareth. The epic confrontation between a passionately enraged Charlton Heston (Moses) and sinewed and obstinate Yul Brynner (Pharaoh) in the Ten Commandments makes the The Bible’s telling of the same story like an amateur dramatic society’s production, a comparison compounded by the The Bible’s casting of a particularly chubby and unthreatening Pharaoh.

All in all  The Bible is a mildly engaging watch more suited as a matinee on a lazy Sunday afternoon when nothing else is on, and not going head with the Saturday night juggernauts of ITV’s X-Factor and BBC’s Casualty, where it is certainly to swept aside like numerous enemies of the Israelites in the ratings war.

If you enjoyed the series, or missed out. The entire mini-series is now available from Amazon.

Homeland Season 3 – Teaser Release…

29 Jul

Homeland is back in September and I believe Channel 4 will be showing season 3.

For all Homeland fans out there here is a teaser released for the next season. Very cryptics so make of it what you will.

Channel 4…The Returned

9 Jun

Just a quick note to say this is brilliant. Yes it is in French and yes it has subtitles but if you can get past that then you are in for a superb Sunday night thriller.

Snyopsis of episode 1 From Channel 4

In a small mountain community, two local people – Camille, a teenager, and Simon – who both died years earlier, suddenly re-appear at their homes. They have not aged, and they are completely unaware of their own deaths.

Camille and Simon assume they can rejoin the world of the living as though nothing has happened, but their return throws their friends and family into a state of turmoil.

Camille’s sister Léna has continued to grow up without her sibling beside her, and Simon’s wife Adèle is just about to get remarried, to Thomas. Meanwhile, lonely nurse Julie receives a visit from a very strange little boy.

Seven years ago, the town was struck by a series of bloody murders. Now it seems the killings have started up again.

Great episode one, there was one flaw though. A pensioner made an out of hours call to his GP and got a home visit by that night by the GP…now that is just unrealistic….

The Americans : ITV shows it has more than reality shows and soaps…

2 Jun

Ok Downton Abbey was a massive worldwide hit for ITV but in recent years the channel seems intent on convincing us that there is nothing “too low brow” for ITV prime time. Granted a lot of the prime time shows are entertaining, but you are often left feeling slightly light-headed at the end of the evening watching ITV as occasionally some of your brain cells lose the will to survive.

So it was a pleasant surprise when after last Saturday’s Britain’s Got Talent ITV decided to go for some radical programme scheduling (for them). No gentle chat show, no light-hearted sitcom instead what we got was a tense, complex political thriller – The Americans.

Take yourself back to the early 80′s and the cold was is still very much alive. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) are undercover Soviet intelligence agents from the secretive Directorate S of the KGB sent to the U.S. 15 years ago to work deep cover in Washington, D.C.

Their assumed identities are a married couple who run a travel agency, and even their own children Paige (Holly Taylor) and Henry (Keidrich Sellati) do not know their secret.

Their seemingly serene life together is put into jeopardy when a KGB defector reveals the existence of the programme, and is further complicated when one of the FBI agents charged with finding Russian sleeper spies Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) moves in a few doors away.

ITV are hoping to recreate the success Channel 4 had with Homeland with this and the opening episode last saturday was very encouraging. We see Philip is struggling to enticement of the American society even as his wife steadfastly remains true to their mission and you feel that rather than any investigative ability of the FBI may be their undoing.

Watch the trailer here

Catch Up with missed episodes of the The Americas on ITV Player

BBC4…Borgen – Has Birgitte Nyborg finally crossed to the dark side?

20 Jan

Ok I am not going to beat around the bush here but last night Borgen was some of the best TV I have watched in a long time, the final scene with Kasper Juul (Pilou Asbæk) was a tour de force, an award-winning portrayal of a man with a deeply scarred soul.

In season One a secret was shared with the viewers about Kasper Juul, a deep dark secret of his sexual abuse by his father. A vile abuse in a lonely home somewhere deep in Denmark. We came to learn that what seemed to be the arrogant swagger of a workaholic Lothario who prowled the corridors of power at the Borgen was a cover to hide a deeply ingrained emotional trauma.

This week more was revealed about the nature of that trauma, we learnt that it wasn’t just his father who had raped him, but he was shared like some weekly prize amongst his father’s peadophiliac poker buddies. We saw the emotional blackmail used by his father to hide his vile crimes from Kasper’s mum. We were however still the only ones who have shared these horrific memories with Kasper. Katrine, Lotte and Birgitte, all the women in his life had no idea till this episode.

Katrine was the closest to the truth but still so far till tonight. In an emotional scene Kasper retrieved the only possession he seemed to have, a collection of bits and pieces from his parents house including a VHS video and newspaper clippings. After a heated argument with Lotte his current girlfriend, as once again Kasper failure to commit unravels a relationship, he storms out of her flat.

It seems at this point he comes to some sort of epiphany, that he needs to share the burden he has carried all his life with some one else. He hands the collection of his memories to Katrine at her flat and walks away. Reading through the clips and watching the video she suddenly begins to understand all the layers Kasper had been hiding behind, the lies about his family in the South of France, the fear of commitment. She sees the pain, loneliness and despair Kasper had lived with.

The moment Kasper and Katrine meet again no words need to be spoken. We now all knew.

While Kasper was unburdening his soul Birgitte burdens were getting heavier and the idealism of season one was being replaced a much darker cynicism. A cynicism which she is quick to embrace but whose outcomes she struggles to control. We see how quickly she throws her long term ally Amir Dwian, the Green Party Leader, to the baying Press hounds when she leaks his love of a petrol guzzling vintage car to press, sparking a frenzy to expose the hypocrisy of his position.

She does this to force his hand into agreeing to some government legislation, but in doing so precipitated the end of Amir’s political career, the Green Party leaving the coalition and transforming her government into a minority one.

One the home front we see that being single mother and Prime Minister of a medium sized western European nation is not a recommended career progression. Her children, especially her daughter Laura are feeling the strain but Birgitte can’t see it.

She believes she is on a mission borne out of idealism but is this still the case or is it as the opening quote suggests “Much that passes as idealism is a disguised love of power. ”

One a side not the deliciously odious Svend Åge Saltum is given a lot of airtime and he rises admirably to his role as the pantomime villain of the piece (at least for now).

BBC4…Borgen gets seriously Machiavellian.

13 Jan

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared” – Machiavelli

This was the opening quote in the credits of the second episode of yesterday’s Borgen double-header but it could apply to either of the two back to back episodes, and really when you think about it to the whole season as Borgen is getting very Machiavellian.

In Season One Birgitte Nyborg was breath of fresh air, a reformer, a political outsider with principled stands seeking to put the good ship SS Denmark back on course. Gradually though the dark princes of political arts began once again to weave their webs of deceit and lies and have begun to ensnare Nyborg. The two episodes contained two coup d’etat’s, one long, drawn out and carefully plotted. The other sharp and instant, with fatal consequences.

On the political front both episodes centred around the Labour Party, Nyborg’s partners in the coalition.

In the first episode we witness the slow lingering political regicide of Bjørn Marrot the Labour Party Leader and Foreign Minister. This tale has echoes of the change the UK’s Labour Party has gone through. Marrot was old school, an apprentice welder who had worked his way to the upper echelon’s of the Labour Party, his failing though was for what he had in political conviction he lacked in political finesse, he could almost have been former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. He simply was not ‘New’ Labour.

The party was being taken over by sharp suited career politicians, symbolised by the justice Minister, Troels Höxenhaven and they were keen for a party in their mold.

The plot started of with a series of leaks to the press about gaffes by Marrot, an interview with the BBC in English where he mixed his metaphors and created a new one – “Don’t shoot the parrot’, not knowing what a black tie dinner meant, and leaks about porn and mini bar drinks charged to the foreign ministry.

The moment of execution was left to the day of a seaside  cabinet summit that Nyborg had called to agree major changes to Denmark’s welfare state. One change in particular, early retirement seemed to be causing dissent in the Labour Party.

Nyborg needed unanimity from the cabinet in order to push through a controversial legislation, but every time Marrot thought he had got a Labour position he was being briefed against by party insiders.

At the summit it came to a head when Höxenhaven and his colleague Pernille Madsen openly disagreed with him. Marrot turned to his long-term ally Defence Minister Hans Christian Thorsen for support, and in a telling moment that support did not come.

Marrot exploded in rage at his supposed colleagues, but the deed was done and  a simple “e tu Thorsen” probably would have served.

The summit was cancelled and out of the embers of Marrot’s Leadership emerged the new Labour  leader a suave, smiling Höxenhaven.

The Princes of political dark arts however were not done. In season one current Ekspres newspaper editor Michael Laugesen was the head of the Labour party and his fall from grace was aided by Höxenhaven, a treachery he had not forgiven or forgotten. Laugesen was also an ally of Marrot all sufficient reason for him to have more than a passing interest in the turmoil in the Labour party.

Laugesen however is not a man who waits for things to happen, he makes things happen. There had long been whispers that Höxenhaven had a penchant for young men despite his marriage of 16 years and this was to prove to be the weapon of choice for Laugesen. He embedded a rent boy in the media team he had sent to cover the cabinet summit with a view to ensnaring Höxenhaven. It worked.

His original plan was to publish an expose written by Katrine Fønsmark in the newspaper, but both her and her editor Hanne Holm had reservations about how relevant an expose on a cabinet minister’s sexuality was. Laugesen argued that the issue was about trust but they remain unconvinced. As the saying goes if you got to do a job properly, you have got to do it yourself.

Cue a late night meeting between Laugesen and Höxenhaven in which copies of the pictures were handed over. I never liked the Höxenhaven character he seemed spineless and untrustworthy but at that moment when he realised everything, his personal and professional life was about to crash down around him, you would have to sympathise.

Shattered, Höxenhaven meets up with Nyborg to tender his resignation and the next day is found dead. He committed suicide using tables Nyborg kept in her office.

In a little moment that again shows the erosion of her wholesomeness, Nyborg agrees to have the source of the tablets covered up. A harmless coverup one might say, but it starts soemwhere.

Outside the political arena Birgitte gets to meet the new woman in ex-husband Philip’s life, Cecile Toft, Amazonian blonde, blue eyes, expert Mexican food cook and a pediatrician what’s not to like if you’re Philip and wants not to dislike if you are Birgitte.

The reality that her marriage is truly over pushes Birgitte into a moment of extreme emotional fragility and straight into the arms and bed of her chauffeur a moment of weakness that would come back to hunt her. I am not sure if it was intentional but the scene where the chauffeur is fixing her plumbing when she entices him is the ultimate parody of a 70′s porn film.

Katrine and Kasper Juul’s never quite ended relationship flickers back into life as they engage in a romantic tryst first at the cabinet summit and later back at Katrine’s flat but there is too much baggage from before and Kasper’s realises (or at least I think he does) that it is not going to work with Katrine. He is not ready to open up to her in the way she wants.

In a desperate move he announces he is cutting off all professional contact with her, but not before Katrine hands him one last bombshell, evidence that Laugesen set Höxenhaven up.

Nyborg confronts Laugesen with the information and demands change in the attitude of his paper to her government, relaxed and smarmy as ever Laugesen brings up ger romantic dalliance with her chauffeur. 1-0 to Laugesen methinks.

Dr Who…Christmas Special “The Snowmen”. Details announced.

17 Nov
English: The current TARDIS seen at BBC TV Centre...

Doctor Who’s Tardis credit © zir.com

Christmas Day TV on the BBC has some certainties, Eastenders will depress us, Strictly Come Dancing will amuse us and the Dr Who Christmas Special will wow us. Just how the latter will wow us has been revealed today. A new look for the Doctor, a new companion and a monster are some of the big changes promised in the Christmas Special.

Matt Smith will be back as the Doctor. Jenna-Louise Coleman will join the show as his new companion Clara, and together with the Doctor will battle to save Christmas from  the villainous Doctor Simeon (Richard E Grant) and his army of icy snowmen.

If Matt Smith’s verdict is anything to go by it sounds like it will be well worth watching

For this year’s Christmas special we have the wonderfully villainous Richard E Grant as Doctor Simeon – as well as lizards, Victorian assassins and deranged warriors from the future, who all return to convince the Doctor that he should board the TARDIS again and save the world. Add to that Jenna-Louise Coleman, and so begins the Christmas Special 2012. I hope everyone enjoys it!