Saturday, May 9, 2015

May Day May Day - US TV's Seasonal Cull

Would Amanda/Emily (Emily VanCamp) ever get to smile for longer than five seconds without resorting to jaw reconstructive surgery? 

Would Nolan (Gabriel Mann) ever meet a man who knew how to take his underpants off? 

Would Margaux (Karine Vanasse) ever meet more than one journalist in her media empire? 

Would Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) totally morph into The Addams Family’s Morticia?
These, and many other questions, occupied me throughout the four seasons of Revenge, which has finally succumbed to the cruel world of broadcasting euthanasia.
The writing was on the cards for the ABC show halfway through season three, when the actors started to appear as confused as viewers were as to what the hell was going on. One could only imagine the horror they felt when their eyes first alighted upon each new script, wondering how many more expressions of staring into the middle distance they could muster, while their brains tried to compute the machinations of the plot.
The last episode airs tomorrow night in the US (the UK has five weeks to go), and I have to confess that, for all its silliness, I’ll miss it.
ABC has also cancelled Forever, starring my fellow Welshman Ioan Gruffudd. I’ll miss that, too, but it’s not hard to see where it went wrong as viewing figures tumbled.
The basis premise was that Dr Henry Morgan solves crimes using medical knowledge he has gleaned over 200 years. Each time he dies, for some never quite explained reason he turns up in water, only to start life all over again – hence his living forever.
The series fell apart when they dropped the explanation from the start of each episode. If you didn’t know the basic premise, you would have been baffled as to why Abe (Judd Hirsch) was calling Henry “Dad” (Henry was his father in another life), or, even, what the flashbacks were to a young Henry. Revenge always set out its stall at the start of each episode, whereas Forever ignored a really important piece of dramatic advice – Don’t hide the ball.
May is a difficult time for US shows as they wait to hear whether the axe is going to fall. I’m sorry to see NBC’s Bad Judge go, because I found Kate Walsh in the lead very funny. It was a neat script, but I suspect caved in to complaints from the legal profession that it portrayed judges in a bad light. Hey, it’s a comedy, guys!
The Mysteries of Laura, another NBC show and an adaptation of the Spanish drama Los misterios de Laura, has survived. After a brief shaky start, when it didn’t seem to know quite what it was, it quickly settled into a very funny, quirky, feel-good, must-see show, in no small part down to the always compelling Debra Messing as Detective Laura Diamond.
NBC has also saved The Blacklist. I have no idea what is going on anymore, but I could watch James Spader turning up in a hat with no explanation whatsoever for the rest of my life. He is one of my favourite actors of all time.
Raymond “Red” Reddington is a fine creation, and viewers root for him no matter whose brains, or how many brains, he blows out (again, for seemingly no reason whatsoever). All you need to know is that there are a lot of bad people in the world who are afraid of Mr Spader in a hat and he wipes them out in order to help the FBI. 

Oh, yes. And he has some connection to the only officer he will work with, Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), whose job it is to stare quizzically at Mr Spader in a hat and save him from the bad people as well. Maybe all we’ll ultimately discover is that she is his milliner and has just been trying to pin him down for a fitting for new head attire.
The Americans will be returning to FX for a fourth season – another must-see show starring Matthew Rhys (fellow Welshman, also – we are coming, people, and are already among you!) and Keri Russell as two Soviet Intelligence agents seemingly living a normal suburban life in the USA as Philip and Elizabeth Jennings.
It’s an extraordinary show (created and produced by former CIA officer Joe Weisberg), with even more twists and turns than Revenge, but all of them totally believable. The wigs bother me a little because, in a dim light, you could be forgiven for thinking you had alighted upon a canine rescue centre. 

It’s hard to concentrate on the sex scenes when Philip is required to sleep with other women when under cover, as I just fear for the poor pooch falling from his head into the woman’s foo foo. How either of them would emerge looking half decent without engaging the help of a topiarist is anybody’s guess.
The jury’s still out on CBS’s The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies as lawyer Alicia Florrick, but with slipping viewing figures, I am a little nervous. It’s still a great show, but it hasn’t been the same since the death of Will Gardner (Josh Charles). The Will they/Won’t they get together? that was so central to the plot, was removed in an instant and left a hole they still haven’t quite been able to fill. A bit like . . . No, no jokes, please.
But it still has the extraordinary Christine Baranski (Diane Lockhart) and, at its heart, a moral core that, every week (as well as overall), delivers a valuable message without being patronising or preachy.
If, with Revenge, it’s axed, Sunday nights as I know them will be over. I might have to start going to church. Or the pub. 

Funnily enough, the jury’s not out on that score.  


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