New British TV Show
September 6, 2016
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The Aliens (9/16)
Michael Socha stars as Lewis in this E4 series that is similar to 90s
series "Alien Nation" about off-world immigrants trying to assimilate
into modern Britain. However, due to the fact the alien's hair
can be burned to produce an addictive narcotic, the aliens are all
forced to live in a walled-off ghetto called Troy and only allowed out
on day passes. Lewis works the checkpoint the aliens must pass
through daily (shades of Palestinians working in Israel) who then
discovers that he is half-alien himself (his mum once got on with an
alien gangster now serving time). Lewis is quite possibly the dumbest
protagonist ever to star in a television series, he constantly makes
unforced errors. But Socha specializes that sort of lovable idiot, and
keeps you rooting for him even as you slap your face each time he
does something stupid.
Ben Miller is
the Edward Snowden-like whistle-blower who is trapped in the London
embassy of a South American country in this three-part comedy. As is
usually the case, Miller is a bit of a blow-hard who quickly wears out
his welcome, yet he has no where else to run. So he and his reluctant hosts
are stuck with each other.
Ballot Monkeys (9/16)
comedy series timed with the 2015 General Election and focused on the
four main handling teams for each party. Everyone gets equal abuse,
usually set aboard their color-coded buses.
Spin-off series to Russell T. Davies Cucumber
with one-off vignettes that take a short scene from that week's episode
and show you it from the perspective of minor characters who then have
their own little drama separate from the main action. It's a clever
conceit and allows Davies to do more world building and character
development without slowing down the focus over on Cucumber.
in Australia in the 18th Century was not a very hospitable place,
particularly when you are an English prisoner who will be spending the
rest of your life at the penal colony there. This series, by Jimmy
McGovern, shows the lives of both the prisoners (including Russell
Tovey, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Joanna Vanderham), as well as their
British wardens (who effectively were just as isolated from
civilization as they knew it) and the local clergy in this BBC serial.
The Casual Vacancy (9/16)
The novel that turned out to be written by JK Rowling is adapted by the
BBC about the machinations in a small English village. Plans for
development that will aid the well-connected, but displace a community
center used by the less fortunate, are imperiled when an election to
fill a spot on the parish council puts both sides against each other.
Michael Gambon and Julia McKenzie play an older couple who think they
run the village and attempt to install their feckless son in the
position. We see the positive effect of the community center for
those who need it, but Rowling cynically shows what happens when the
good guys don't always come out on top.
twentysomethings are making out in their parent's basement when nuclear
war breaks out and they spend the next 10 years in the fall-out shelter
raising their daughter. This is all before the opening titles, the
series is about when they finally crawl out and discover what
post-apocalyptic Britain is like -- and the fact they might want to see
other people now. They discover a motley band of survivors who are all
a bit unhinged in this BBC-3 comedy. It's a low-rent series with
amazing guest actors including Jack Whitehall, Nigel Planer (!), and
Robert Bathurst as the former Prime Minister!
T. Davies returns to writing series TV in this Channel 4 drama about
the lives of middle-aged gay men in Manchester (something I'm sure he
can relate too). The focus is on Henry Best (Vincent Franklin) who's
been living with his boyfriend Lance for years even though they've
never had sex. After a fight, Lance throws Henry out who moves in to a
loft occupied by twentysomething squatters. At first they treat him
with contempt as "the old man," but he makes himself useful at least
until he loses his job. Minor characters got spun off into their own
stories on Banana which ran concurrently each week with Cucumber. The actors also talked about the series on Tofu.
Doctor Thorne (9/16)
At the exact same time as he was appearing as the creepy sidekick in The Night Manager,
over on ITV Tom Hollander played the nice-as-pie title character in
this adaptation of the Anthony Trollope novel by Julian Fellowes.
Thorne is raising his "niece" who attracts the attention of the heir of
the local estate--much to the horror of his status-conscious parents
(Rebecca Front is hilarious as his mum). Can Thorne put all to rights
by the end?
series about a teenage female android who escapes from the high-tech
corporation that built her, and hides out with a family with school-age
kids who know her secret. It follows the usual "What is it like to be
human?" tropes of android sci-fi, although the little brother of the
girl next door is like a mini-me version of Donald Trump: he'll do
ANYTHING in pursuit of making a quid, including exploiting Eve. Two
seasons have aired so far.
Sky TV produced this ambitious drama set in a town in the Arctic Circle
where various human vices (greed, murder, infidelity) are all trapped
in the same place where everybody knows everybody else.
Christopher Eccleston is the Laura Palmer of the series, dead before
the end of the first episode, which then sets up the mystery of who
killed him and why. Various story plots include the mayor who
runs the local hotel hoping to do an expansion, an archeological
discovery that might upset the apple cart, and a mysterious disease
that causes its victims to behave in a very strange way.
The Frankenstein Chronicles (9/16)
Bean stars as a policeman in this period drama where a mysterious body
washes up on the shores of The Thames just as a bill is going through
parliament that would allow surgery on corpses. Is there a connection?
Will Bean make it all the way to the end of the series without dying?
Allusions to Frankenstein abound, including having Mary Shelley (Anna
Maxwell Martin) be a character with a secret of her own in this
six-part ITV series. Incredibly, a second series has been commissioned.
Incredible Adventures of Prof Branestraum (9/16)
Harry Hill stars in this TV Movie as a very absent-minded English
scientist and his wacky inventions. Adapted by Charlie Higson
from the Norman Hunter novel, Branestraum is the bane of his small
village, particularly when his inventions go awry. Miranda
Richardson, Adrian Scarborough and Ben Miller play less-than-amused
villagers to his antics.
of a 19th Century railroad viaduct in rural Yorkshire and the shanty
town that houses the navvies who are contracted to build it are the
focus in this ITV drama series. Young penniless widow Annie (Jessica
Raine) brings her two small children to the town and sets up lodging
and gets involved with the mysterious Johnny Jackson (Hans Matheson).
The foreman dies in an accident (Annie's son was responsible, but she
and Johnny bury the body), so an American (Clarke Peters) takes over.
Financing problems threaten the project, the dream of Charles Blackwood
(Daniel Rigby), but then it turns out that Johnny is his long-lost
brother and the rightful heir. It's not Downton Abbey, but I enjoy these costume serials.
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jeffries (9/16)
Jason Watkins plays this real-life person who was wrongly accused of
murder and then vilified by the press in a rush to judgment. It doesn't
help that his personal grooming made him a target of derision until
friends intervened, and finally he is able to hold the media
accountable after his ordeal, in this two-part mini-series.
Mapp and Lucia (9/16)
Richardson is Elizabeth Mapp, Queen Bee in her small English village,
but her carefully controlled apple cart is about to be upset when she
rents her cottage to Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas (Anna Chancellor) for the
summer who proceeds to be much more popular socially. Lucia isn't mean
but Mapp is really asking for it sometimes with her schemes to outdo
Lucia at some village function or another. A remake of a 1980s
The Night Manager (9/16)
Tom Hiddleston is practically auditioning for James Bond in this John
Le Carre story about Jonathan Pine, a former special forces soldier who
gets drafted by an MI-5 operative (Olivia Colman) to infiltrate
supposedly untouchable arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie). Tom
Hollander plays Roper's unctuous aide-de-camp who doesn't trust Pine (a
real contrast to the sweet character he was playing over on ITV at the
same time in Doctor Thorne).
Just like Bond, Pine gets to sleep with a number of ladies including
Roper's main squeeze (Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki) and avoid
narrow escapes. Laurie is awesome as the charming but snake-like
Roper, and also not ashamed to be shot visibly balding on top.
Puppy Love (9/16)
Low-key but funny series about the relationship between a coarse
caravan-living dog trainer (Joanna Scanlan) and a posh dog owner (Vicki
Pepperdine) who gets no respect from her dog. Scanlan and Pepperdine
also wrote the series and delight in getting the two character's lives
entangled as much as possible and (pardon the expression) watching the
Remember Me (9/16)
Spooky three-part mystery starring Michael Palin, Mark Addy and Julia
Sawalha. OAP Tom Parfitt (Palin) moves into a retirement home where a
mysterious death occurs in the same room he was in. Certain horror
elements get introduced as we learn more about Tom's past history.
Rik Mayall Lord of Misrule (9/16)
The late Rik Mayall is remembered in this documentary that interviews
-- with one major exception -- everyone who worked with Rik, including
an extensive one with Rik himself who talks about mortality and what it
will be like after he's gone! He was very matter of fact about
the whole business, probably a perspective gained after a quad-bike
accident nearly killed him several years earlier. But the one major
collaborator in his life, in fact arguably THE largest, Adrian
Edmundson, is curiously absent from the tributes and reminiscences in
this show. A strange omission.
Thunderbirds Are Go (9/16)
ITV lovingly recreates one of the greatest children's series ever for
the 21st Century and generally pull it off. They eschew puppets
for the characters, they are all done with CGI, but the exteriors and
ships are pure model work executed by Peter Jackson's WETA
company. There are so many great touches including the palm trees
that crash to the sides to allow Thunderbird 2 to slide past, and even
the slight hesitation in the ramp that slides the character into a
secret passage, just like in the old show! I am very biased
because I grew up on Thunderbirds, so this remake is pure nostalgia for me, even though it is very much still a kids show.
Another spin-off from Cucumber
where the actors discuss the issues about each week's episode in this
series of 10-minute episodes that ran online concurrent with the series.
Upstart Crow (9/16)
Ben Elton goes back to multi-camera sitcom writing in this BBC comedy
about William Shakespeare (David Mitchell) who is vexed by all manner
of family, friends, and theatrical hangers-on. Knowledge of Shakespeare
is helpful but not essential to get the jokes, even the Bard himself
was not above a certainly low-grade comedy to assume the masses, and
neither is Elton.
ITV & PBS's answer to Downton Abbey
is this lush production about the life of Queen Victoria. Jenna
Coleman is more than up for the role (I expect BAFTA and Emmy
nominations next year), beginning with the day she becomes Queen at the
age of 18. Her mother and her creepy advisor want to form a
regency so they can rule, but Victoria is willful enough to avoid their
machinations. Instead, she relies on the Prime Minister, the
widower Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell, still dreamy after all these
years), but he is too duty-bound to entertain getting into a
relationship with her. Based on the pacing of the first few episodes, I
expect the producers hope this series will run a long, long time and
will take their time aging Coleman over Victoria's 82 year reign over
Wolf Hall (9/16)
and times of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance) who was advisor to the
mercurial Henry VIII (Damian Lewis). Everyone is jealous of Cromwell's
chameleon-like ability to survive the changing winds of politics and
remain on top. But finding a suitable wife for the hard-to-please
Henry (who desperately needs an heir) is his biggest problem. Rylance
is the master of the deadpan look, particular when someone asks him to
do the impossible. His hangdog eyes and bushy eyebrows speak volumes
about what he's thinking in this lavish BBC costume drama.
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Written and maintained by Ryan K. Johnson (email@example.com).
September 6, 2016