Thursday, 27 October 2011


Death in Paradise - Episode One. The Brit chief of the police force on the Caribbean island of Saint Marie is found dead in mysterious circumstances. Detective Inspector Richard Poole arrives from London to investigate.

He's the best for the job except he hates sun, sea, sand and can't stand heat. And the airline has lost his luggage

« French, great. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse. »

Created by Red Planet Prize finalist Robert Thorogood, Death in Paradise is the writer's first television screen credit and stars Ben Miller (The Armstrong and Miller Show, Primeval). This new procedural is set in a fictional Caribbean island and actually filmed in Guadeloupe. It is a co-production between Red Planet Pictures and Atlantique Productions (a Lagardère Entertainment company) in association with Kudos Film and Television, for the BBC and French pubcaster group France Télévisions. BBC One aired on tuesday the premiere of this 8 X 60-minute series.

Written by Robert Thorogood and directed by Charles Palmer (Doctor Who), the first episode of Death in Paradise introduces Miller's character, Metropolitan Police DI Richard Poole. London assigns him the case of DI Charlie Hulme (Hugo Speer), the beloved chief of the Saint Marie police, found dead in the locked panic room of a mansion belonging to the wealthy James Lavender (Rupert Graves). As brilliant as Poole is, the island is the last place on Earth where he wants to be: literally "unsuited" to the Caribbean way of life, he hates the sun, sea and beaches, and his methods are incompatible with the local style of policing.

« This is not going to go well. »

The cops of the resourceless Honoré Police station are laid-back and clueless beyond cliché, with the exception of Sergeant Lily Thomson (Lenora Crichlow with her best Rihanna accent) and Commissioner Selwyn Patterson (Don Warrington). Dwayne Myers (Danny John-Jules, the legendary Cat from Red Dwarf) fraternizes with suspects and Fidel Best (Gary Carr) shows his expertise in goats - the animal ends in a cell. Think Cascara, the island in the 1985 comedy Water, but without the singing rebel. Not the ideal workplace when you rely heavily on computer equipment, forensics and a laser tape measure for your investigation.

Ben Miller plays a Doc Martin version of Primeval's James Lester, CGI lizard included. With his homeland bins problem Poole could even easily fit in Armstrong & Miller. The "quintessential English" detective needs urgently to evolve outside of the patronizing idiot abroad he looks like. Also he can't stretch his aversion to "paradise" eternally, now that he must stay and team up with French undercover cop Camille Bordey (French actress Sara Martins). And to avoid flirting with embarassment Saint Marie should be more Portwenn or Jersey and less Cascara or San Pietro. Remains a light-hearted old school crime mystery; people like classic whodunnits with seemingly annoying sleuths - this episode attracted nearly 6m viewers.

Death in Paradise (Meurtre au Paradis in French) is certainly not original but neither was Murder, She Wrote. It sails in the Midsomer Murders comfort zone minus the gruesome, and tourists will helpfully contribute to the body count while citizens of Saint-Marie kill each other. Please spare the goat and the lizard.

Next week: Give him a cup of tea, for God's sake!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Doctor Who - The Wedding of River Song (Series Six, Episode Thirteen). Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Jeremy Webb.

On the 13th of September 1999 the Moon didn't leave Earth's orbit - or someone would surely have noticed. And on the 22nd of April 2011 nothing happened either.

« If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to his face?
If you were faced with him
In all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question? »
(Joan Osborne - One Of Us)

One day... No one dies. And London goes nuts. The sky looks like a Ford Mondeo advert, parks go Primeval, Charles Dickens (Simon Callow) is asked about his Christmas special on BBC Breakfast, and Bert Large - or is it Winston Churchill? (Ian McNeice) - is the Holy Roman Emperor. It's always two minutes past five in the afternoon and Silurian doctor Malokeh (Richard Hope), Caesar's personal medic, sees nothing wrong with that. Something has happened to time and the Doctor (Matt Smith) does the "It's" man from Monty Python's Flying Circus. Why can't he just be a good boy and die on this 22nd of April? Because of a woman, says our favourite time lord although we can suspect there's far more behind this mess than "hell in high heels".

« This is absurd. Other worlds, carnivorous skulls. Talking heads. I don't know why I'm listening to you. » (Emperor Bert Large)

The Doctor "marries" River Song (Alex Kingston), the daughter of Amy Pond agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Karen Gillan), and cheats death by pulling a Meet Dave in the finale of Doctor Who's sixth series. There's a Dalek... Oops, sorry! There was. There's also a viking who dies in an 80s Italian horror movie, Dorium Maldovar (Simon Fisher-Becker) as Alfredo Garcia, trains, pyramids, Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) as ARC's Captain Becker. And poor Frances Barber covering for Joan Collins as the queen of panto villains Madame Kovarian - whose only goal in life just to p**s off everyone. Oh, almost forgot Meredith Vieira (Hello, lovely American viewers!) and Roger from American Dad plus some pals all dressed to kill for the occasion.

« Oh... that man. He's always one step ahead of everyone. Always a plan. »

Another series of Steven Moffat's big Timey-Wimey scheme is finished and aspirins will not be included in the DVD boxset. Series six was uneven, often talkative, looking overinvested in terms of production values at some points and the contrary at some others. « Budget cuts are tough: I don't like them, but they force you to be creative, » said the Great Moff in 2010. And budget arbitration forces you to manage. Who cares anyway? Most fans love Moffat's Doctor Who and the work of his fellow writers is unreservedly hailed as genius. Rating panels love it too and so does the American market (Matt Smith was again a guest on Craig Ferguson's show this monday). And BBC Worldwide adores it (the brand is commercially at the top globally).

« Those reports of the sun spots and the solar flares. They're wrong. They're aren't any. It's not the sun. It's you. The sky is full of a million million voices, saying, "Yes of course. We'll help." » And yeah, yeah, God is great. Yeah, yeah, God is good, says the song. In an aborted timeline, in a world that never was, nothing happened. The Brigadier is gone; Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith; Torchwood has become a global laughing stock. « On the Fields of Trensimore, on the Fall of the Eleventh, when no living creature can speak falsely or fail to answer, a question will be asked. A question that must never ever be answered. »

Doctor What?

Friday, 14 October 2011


It's October and the US Network 2011 Fall season has now another major casualty. As we did last year, we'll note the cancellations as they arrive but we don't do sitcoms. Net dramas can be a laughing stock in their own right.

Most of the new shows announced last May seemed excellent candidates for our "countdown".

- The Playboy Club (NBC)

- Charlie's Angels (ABC) - The unnecessary remake/reboot (or whatever you call it) of the 1970s hit series was doomed right from the "ABC orders a new Charlie's Angels" bit. Cancelled after 8 episodes (pilot included).

See also:

Wednesday, 12 October 2011


The advert for yogurt brand Müller's Wünderful Stuff, their new advertising UK campaign, is the coolest animation-related thing since Peter Kay's Animated All Star Band.

The new 90-second ad, aired for the first time last saturday during The X Factor on ITV1, is from the TBWA\London advertising agency. It stars KITT from the 80s Knight Rider series, Yogi Bear, some Mr Men characters, Muttley - the dog from Hanna-Barbera's Dastardly and Muttley in their Flying Machines, a robot, unicorns, and some severe employees who look like they work for the banking or finance sector. Oh, there's a ant too.

This amazing commercial, central to a £20m integrated advertising campaign, is directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet. It mixes live-action, traditional hand-drawn 2D and digital 3D animation. Partizan Lab is the production company and The Mill (Doctor Who) is behind the post-production. The superb epic piece of music is composed by Guy Farley.


See also:

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Hidden started last thursday. This four-part conspiracy thriller brings back Philip Glenister to BBC One after Ashes to Ashes and Life on Mars, where he played of course Gene Hunt.

"Original British Drama", the BBC tagline, is hackneyed these days. Even the laughable Torchwood: Miracle Day was introduced as such in a promo. Directed by Niall MacCormick, Hidden is written by Northern Irish novelist and screenwriter Ronan Bennett (Public Enemies, Face) and was created by Bennett with veteran American screenwriter Walter Bernstein (The Magnificent Seven, The Money Trap, Fail Safe). Strictly on paper it appears like another thriller about a jurist, journo or politician with a shadowy past who unveils a conspiracy. But the premiere has enough qualities to make viewers spend a good hour of television and wish for more.

Harry Venn (Glenister), a small-time solicitor, is approached by the mysterious Gina Hawkes (Thekla Reuten). She claims to be a lawyer and wants his help finding an alibi witness for one of her clients. As London - actually Belfast! - is torn by riots and a crisis in Westminster, the job forces Harry to delve into his murky past. The writers succeed in creating an atmosphere of film noir and Philip Glenister finds the right tone as a chandleresque anti-hero. A flawed but likeable character, sleepwalking into his chaotic personal life and career, womanizing and coke-snorting until he meets the quintessential femme fatale.

Less convincing in this first episode is the political subplot, mainly seen through news bulletins (Adam Boulton, Nina Hossain and Kirsty Wark appear as themselves). Too many elements are squeezed into 58 minutes of a four-episode drama which looks like it would have needed two more hours. And the Beeb is making the conspiracy thriller genre commonplace, chasing the glorious memory of State of Play. Amusingly Glenister played a cop facing John Simm in the six-part 2003 serial written by Paul Abbott.

Anna Chancellor, Richard Dormer, Peter Guinness, Matthew Marsh and Thomas Craig are among the cast. Hidden is produced by Origin Pictures (The Crimson Petal and the White) for BBC Northern Ireland. Christopher Hall produces, David M. Thompson and Ed Rubin exec produce, and Stephen Wright is executive producer for the BBC. Jan Jonaeus (Identity) is the director of photography and Rob Lane is the composer.

For now Harry Venn and his troubled world are more interesting than the baguette and the predictable explosion. But Hidden seems rather compelling and in the next episode the great David Suchet arrives as Sir Nigel Fountain (!) There's undoubtedly far more than a Gene Genie in Philip Glenister, and Thekla Reuten is excellent.

Friday, 7 October 2011


HBO's sister pay-cable channel Cinemax has picked up a 10-episode new season of the action series Strike Back to air next year.

Based originally on the best-selling book by former SAS man Chris Ryan, Strike Back first starred Richard Armitage (Spooks) as ex-British Special Forces soldier John Porter. In May 2010, Brit satcaster Sky aired the 6 X 60-minute drama, produced by Left Bank Pictures for Sky1 HD and Sky1, and distributed by BBC Worldwide. In January 2011, German channel RTL II aired it in a 3 X 90-minute version, and Canal Plus will air this version in France.

Following the success of this initial series, a second season was commissioned by Sky jointly with the Americans of HBO/Cinemax. Retooled for Cinemax's original programming, this new 10-part series (known as Strike Back: Project Dawn in the United Kingdom) has American scriptwriter Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files) among its writers. It stars Sullivan Stappleton as Damien Scott, a former U.S. Special Forces operative who joins Section 20 - a secret branch of MI6. He works with Section 20 agent Michael Stonebridge, played by Philip Winchester (Camelot, Crusoe).

Cinemax announced yesterday that it has renewed Strike Back for another 10-part series. Past the fact that the first series seems disregarded in America as shown only in an alternate universe (Project Dawn is introduced as "Season One"), the result of this U.S. co-production is actually very good. The revamped Strike Back is a cross between a Tom Clancy under acid and a comic book, an ultra cool action/adventure old school show. Cinemax, Sky and Left Bank have clearly succeeded where Starz and the BBC have failed with Torchwood: Miracle Day, done on the same programming model.

The excellent title song of the current series, Short Change Hero, is performed by The Heavy. And the absolutely superb title sequence is designed by the very talented folks of Momoco (Luther, Zen, Silk, Injustice, etc.)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


It's October and the US Network 2011 Fall season has its first casualty. As we did last year, we'll note the cancellations as they arrive.

Most of the new shows announced last May seemed excellent candidates for our "countdown".

- The Playboy Club (NBC) - Gets the honour of being the first cancelled show of the season after only three episodes. Produced by Brian Grazer's Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television, it was set in 1963 in Chicago around the first Playboy Club.

Preceded by an aura of fantasies attributed to the Playboy name, the cast's nudity contract clause, and a climate of so-called controversy, this drama focused on Nick Dalton (Eddie Cibrian), a high-profile attorney with ties to the mob and a Playboy Club Keyholder.

The Peacock network wanted its Mad Men and a net can't match cable drama production. Also, as we wrote in May, you had to buy the idea of Eddie Cibrian as Mr Lucky's brother.