Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Square-Eyed Couch Potato: October-December 2014

As I failed miserably to post my telly reviews over the last couple of months I'm just going to wrap up Q4 of 2014 with some of my telly highlights, the first two of which have a very definite Nordic Noir influence....

BBC4's latest international import wasn't Danish, or Swedish, or French, but Australian.  And it was excellent.  "THE CODE" was a high quality and gripping 'Aussie Noir' series, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's answer to all our favourite Nordic dramas.  A complex and gripping mix of murder, secrets, lies and computer hacking.  Perhaps the strongest element of the series was the relationship between the 2 brothers, investigative journalist Ned and computer hacker Jesse.  This was an absolute cracker of a series - can we have another one please?

After the much talked about "Broadchurch" borrowed from the best bits of Nordic Noir (and the long-awaited 2nd series starts this week) the latest series to get the nation talking and speculating was "THE MISSING" (BBC1).  Set in northern France but filmed (as I guessed correctly) in Belgium, the series focused on a couple whose son goes missing during a family holiday in 2006 at the time of the World Cup.  During this series the internet speculation on messageboards and Twitter went through the roof and I couldn't wait to read the latest theories.  Indeed at times all the speculation was even more entertaining than the programme itself!  Not everyone was happy with how it ended, but there you go,  There will be a 2nd series, with a different story and cast. 

By the way, it was quite notable that some people who don't understand my obsession with subtitled foreign dramas, were themselves gripped by Broadchurch and The Missing, which owed a huge debt to those foreign dramas.....

I have a huge backlog of telly to watch so here's what I haven't seen yet....
  • "THE LEGACY" (Sky Arts) - latest Danish import although I'm reading that it maybe hasn't caught the imagination of the public in the same way as its predecessors, purely because it's on a more obscure satellite channel?
  • "GREY'S ANATOMY" (Sky Living) - season 11 already!  I haven't even seen all of season 10 so it'll be a while until I can review this one!
  • "HOMELAND" (Channel 4) - reviewers called season 4 a return to form.  I've a lot to catch up on....

Something new on Sky Living from Kevin Williamson who was the guy behind "The Following".  "STALKER" can also be rather unpleasant and unsettling at times, however not yet as gratuitously gruesome as "The Following".  This new series is about a police unit investigating stalking crimes, and I've stuck with it so far.

After "CORONATION STREET" (ITV) brought its main story of the year to a close - the murder of Tina McIntyre/Peter Barlow wrongfully accused and locked up/Rob Donovan eventually arrested and jailed for life - the show has continued on a downward spiral under its producer Stuart Blackburn, with a number of unbelievable plot lines, dark stories and a complete lack of heart and humour.  Poor scripts, storylines, characters and acting - something has to be done very soon before this programme is abandoned by its long-suffering loyal fans. 

The 5th series of "DOWNTON ABBEY" (ITV) wasn't quite as bad as series 4, although it still had many irritating aspects - Lady Mary leading her suitors a merry dance and Lady Edith concealing the identity of her child, to name 2 - and a further series is promised.  Let's hope it's the last one, although the way ITV likes to flog all its other long-running dead horses, I'm not so sure.

Travelogue time.  I may not be a fan of Michael Portillo as a politician, but as a TV presenter he makes an engaging and quite likeable host of "GREAT CONTINENTAL RAILWAY JOURNEYS" (BBC2).  With several garish jackets and trousers in his suitcase, and his Bradshaw's under his arm, this year he explored the various railway routes which were all the thing back in 1913 before the onset of World War 1.  France, Portugal, Italy and Israel were among the destinations this time round.  I look forward to another series: this is a TV franchise which definitely shows no sign of running out of steam (sorry!).

Over on Channel 5 meanwhile, former Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi took us back to the land of her ancestors in "ALEX POLIZZI'S SECRET ITALY".  Apart from giving us lots of beautiful landscapes to look at, the programme also managed to genuinely convey Alex's love of her ancestral homeland and show a different side to her.

"TOP OF THE POPS" continues to entertain us over on BBC4, having worked its way through the diverse musical year of 1979, with its usual run interrupted by missing episodes presented by certain DJs of course.  It could be argued that the Mike Read episodes should be pulled for his crimes against music -  anyone responsible for that "UKIP calypso" should be banished from our screens for ever, methinks!  I used to really like him too....the very good news is that we're on for a 1980 run although if I remember correctly there was a long blackout due to the TV strike that year so between that and the Yewtree omissions I'm guessing there will be quite a few interruptions in 2015?

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