What interesting connections we can make on this week’s telly on Telly Addict. Brushing Up On … British Tunnels with Danny Baker on BBC4 is essentially a middle-aged man reading out words he has written between some archive clips; Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States on Sky Atlantic (from Showtime in the US) is essentially a middle-aged man reading out words he has written between some archive clips; in Panorama: North Korea Undercover, easily the most talked about TV show of last week, reporter John Sweeney attempts, as does Stone, to get under the skin of a country whose propaganda is all-powerful (and in both cases, Stone and Sweeney risk excommunication from the nation which they criticise); 30 Rock‘s Season 6 finale, on Comedy Central, includes jokes – aired in May 2012 on NBC – about the totalitarian quirks of the North Korean regime; Modern Family, an imported US comedy not given to inter-textual cross-media jokes that are the stock-in-trade of 30 Rock, tries one on for size with a coda based on The Godfather on Sky1; and I also review new ITV three-parter The Ice Cream Girls, which has no link whatsoever with the other shows. Ah well. You can’t join everything up.
A mere 58,000 viewers tuned in to Sky Atlantic overnight on Wednesday to watch the majestic return of Mad Men, which is down even from the channel’s 98,000 for the start of Season Five last year. It really is one of the least-watched pieces of genius on TV, and it’s the lead review on this week’s Telly Addict, so the Murdoch-intolerant and/or surcharge-averse will at least get to see some majestic clips from its December 1967 incarnation. I also check back in with Game Of Thrones on the same channel (which gets more like 710,000 viewers, by comparison); welcome the first full series of Morse prequel Endeavour to ITV; warm to Victoria Wood’s Nice Cup Of Tea on BBC1; mark the upward turning point of Season 2 of Parks & Rec on BBC4; and applaud Mark Gatiss’s latest period Doctor Who on BBC1.
On this week’s Telly Addict, a clash of the Kudos-produced titans: the eight-part Broadchurch on ITV and the five-part Mayday on BBC1. It’s an unfair fight, as previously established, as I’m reviewing one episode of the former (I hadn’t seen the second when I filmed this, yesterday) and the entirety of the latter, but I hope I have given both a fair crack of the whip in difficult circumstances. Also, on a lighter note: bomb disposal in Afghanistan in new BBC3 comedy Bluestone 42. And, on an actually lighter note, local government in the where-have-you-been? US legend Parks & Recreation, finally arriving on BBC4 after four years on NBC and at least that long on the lips of international comedy aficionados with Region 1 players or no compunction about illegal filesharing. (I have a Region 2 player, a vastly reduced budget for DVDs in any case, and a total aversion to illegal downloading.)
And if you missed my chin-stroking essay on Broadchurch, Mayday and the new film Broken, you may read it here. (There was a time when I was paid for writing such essays, but now I do them for free, which makes them purer, in some ways.)
Last week’s Telly Addict broke box office records at the Guardian website – I believe I am right in saying that it was the most viewed of all my little, ten-minute TV reviews since April 2011. This week’s Telly Addict can only take a concomitant ratings dive, as it contains no full review of Mrs Brown’s Boys. I fully intended to assess the final episode of series three – the one with the gay wedding – on BBC1, but BBC1 forgot that it’s the most successful comedy on television and bumped the Saturday night repeat for the rugby, failing to find another home for it on any of its other BBC channels. (Let us not forget that the repeat was pulling four million viewers. Who needs ‘em, eh?) Instead – apart from a couple of spare clips from last week’s Mrs Brown’s Boys – it’s all about Dancing On The Edge, Stephen Poliakoff’s latest glacial masterpiece, on BBC2; Stewart Lee’s Alternative Comedy Experience vehicle on Comedy Central; Danny Baker’s magnificent Great Album Showdown on BBC4; and a little nod to what might be the final mystery for Lewis on ITV. Perhaps I should have reviewed the rugby. (Oh, by the way, I shall be passing judgement on Louie, belatedly, and Nashville, next week.)
I apologise for the late running of the plug for this week’s Telly Addict. I’ve been busy. At any rate, it’s been up all day, and within it, you will see my nice new haircut, a shirt I haven’t worn very often and some considered, erudite, witty reviews of – plus some controversially throwaway remarks about – the adorable 1973 John Betjeman documentary Metro-land, shown again last week on BBC4; the similarly locomotive Great British Railway Journeys with Michael Portillo on BBC2; the perhaps unfairly maligned Mr Selfridge on ITV1; the quite horrible World Without End on C4; and the return of Silent Witness to BBC1 for its 16th series! I’ve already found myself in a titanic struggle with a persistent man over at the Guardian website, should you have more time on your hands than sense. You’re more than welcome to discuss these shows here, in a friendlier environment. I always reply.
We’re back, for Year 3 of Telly Addict, and, after an unprecedented two-week break, during which I allowed all the germs of the season to infect me while my immune system was off guard, my voice is on the way out. Thankfully, we managed to squeeze the last few drops out of my larynx before silence set in, and thus, here is an unplanned BBC-only review, with Borgen‘s welcome return to BBC4; the arrival of Ripper Street to BBC1; a very good documentary series, Queen Victoria’s Children, on BBC2; and finally, the latest Attenborough epic, Africa, on BBC1. I accuse Sir David of “husky hyperbole”, but wrote that, during the day, when I had no idea how husky my own voice would turn out to be. I hope you can hear the words I am saying, and that you feel my pain. Normal service will be resumed next week. And a haircut, I think.
(My full review of Seasons Three and Four of Breaking Bad will follow separately.)
In this week’s Telly Addict, I sign off on season three of Downton Abbey on ITV1; ask what kind of coup Secret State on C4 is; finally take my medicine with Getting On on BBC4; and sneak a look at a young person’s comedy that isn’t aimed at me, Some Girls, on BBC3. (We apologise for the late arrival this blog alert; I’ve been on a train from Manchester with what can only be described as intermittent wi-fi.)
Nice little grab of the Capitol building there, but nothing to do with today’s US Presidential Election. Rather, while negotiating the minefield of spoilers, this week’s Telly Addict tries to discuss the other burning question, “Has Homeland jumped the shark or not?”; also, a horror double-bill from Halloween week, the gothic return of American Horror Story to FX, and BBC4′s Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss; just enough time, too, to consider another rare US drama import – this time from the History Channel – that’s showing on terrestrial television over here: post-Civil War feud saga Hatfields & McCoys, on Channel Five. (I have finally caught up with hospital comedy-drama Getting On, by the way, and I’ll be reviewing that next week.)
No Euro 2012 on this week’s Telly Addict, even though, in actuality, that’s what I have mainly been addicted to on my telly. Between games, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing both Punk Britannia on BBC4 and All In The Best Possible Taste on C4 through to their respective three-part conclusions; also, a curiosity, True Love, which BBC1 ran across five nights, except it was really four as they chucked the last two out back-to-back, despite the top-drawer cast, as if perhaps trying to get rid of this original drama series, part-improvised, by Dominic Savage. You decide.
Hey, at last, the new Telly Addict, which took its time going up today, don’t know why. In it, we will be told what to think about Phil Spencer: Secret Agent on C4; nearly the end of The Bridge on BBC4; 56 Up on ITV1; Episodes on BBC2; and, less pressingly you might think, Dad’s Army on BBC2 (which is, to be fair, a repeat from 1970, but you have to see this clip, you really do). Have a look. Comment. Etc.