I’ve never claimed to be a trendsetter or a trailblazer or an early adopter with anything. I do not lead, I follow, for the most part. So I accept, on behalf of Telly Addict, that I am woefully late on Gogglebox, the C4 show whose second series is already partway through and to which I am a tardy convert. It sort of makes all of this redundant but I’ll soldier on: so, the mighty sociological experiment and armchair wisdom goldmine Gogglebox on C4; the final Poirot on ITV; more Sky Arts’ Portait Artist Of The Year; the return of Borgen to BBC4; the awful Killing Kennedy on the National Geographic Channel; The Newsroom on Sky Atlantic; Yonderland on Sky1; oh, and the Christmas adverts, which had to be done. (New producer/editor this week, so say hello to Tim.)
Wanna see something really scary? You kind of will, and you kind of won’t in my Halloween week Telly Addict, as I’ve been careful not to put in scenes of too much violence and horror that some viewers may find upsetting, from the start. There will be blood, though, with the choleric return of Ripper Street to BBC1, the nightmarish return of American Horror Story to Sky Atlantic, the imminent conclusion of Bates Motel on Universal, and the blood-sucking debut of NBC’s Dracula on Sky Living (if you can call it living etc.); also, a celebration of screwball dialogue on Veep on Sky Atlantic and some frankly terrifying lady-in-peril thriller cliches on The Escape Artist on BBC1. Don’t submerge your head in that bath!
It should, by right, be all about the weather on this week’s Telly Addict, as that has dominated our screens since Sunday, but I’m more interested in fictional death and destruction, in the form of: Boardwalk Empire, which returned for its opulent fourth season on Saturday to Sky Atlantic and proved another masterclass in class; Poirot, the pre-afore-penultimate mystery on ITV ie. there are three more to go (featuring the return of Philip Jackson’s Assistant Commissioner Japp!); and a brand new, horribly-titled surgical drama, Monday Mornings on TNT (showing here on Fox), which has already been cancelled, so enjoy its finite ten episodes while you can. Also, on a non-fictional front, Iceland Foods: Life In The Freezer Cabinet on BBC2 (already reviewed, by me, in print, at length, in the Guardian Guide), and on the comedy front, my close showbiz pal Matt Berry’s new vehicle, the very silly Toast Of London on C4. Be careful out there.
We must sit on our hands and address the return of The X-Factor to ITV this week on Telly Addict, the Roman Empire of TV formats – even though I only managed to sit through ten minutes of it; on a more progressive note, HBO’s The Newsroom also returns to Sky Atlantic; the houseshare whodunit What Remains proves a welcome addition to Sunday nights on BBC1; Celebrity Masterchef goes synch crazy with the music and the cookery; Ben Miller meets His Hero Tony Hancock in My Hero on BBC2; and Chickens on Sky1 gets a quick mention because I rather like it.
It is with some solemnity on Telly Addict that we reach the end of Friday Night Lights, which Sky Atlantic have very kindly shown from the start on a weekly, box-set basis, over the preceding 76 weeks; Peter Berg and his dedicated team certainly knew how to end the saga of a high-school football team (or two high school football teams), which wasn’t about high school football. Also, a new beginning for BBC1′s That Puppet Game Show (and hopefully a swift end); a return for the excellent, 80s-set The Field Of Blood to BBC2; part three of the temporally fractured Southcliffe on C4; and Jacques Peretti’s revealing The Men Who Made Us Thin on BBC2. Next week: Breaking Bad. Oh yes.
We apologise for the late arrival of this week’s Telly Addict; this is because the Guardian staff are on “Glastonbury time”. They’re the sunburnt ones, wandering about the corridors, looking lost and prodding the coffee machines, wondering what they could be. As it happens, I cover the Glastonbury coverage this week, or bits of it, on BBC2 and BBC3 (with special commendation to Lauren Laverne, Mark Radcliffe and Jen Long); also, the soapy season one finale of Nashville on More4; the supreme season six finale of Mad Men on Sky Atlantic; HBO’s Phil Spector TV movie on Sky Atlantic, in which Al Pacino atones for those awful Sky Broadband ads (can he need the money that badly?); and my new favourite documentary series, The Route Masters on BBC2.
In this week’s Telly Addict, I find myself returning to a number of shows I’ve previously assessed at the outset: The Returned on C4, which is proving to be the best thing currently on TV, now at Episode 3; The Americans on ITV, which hit a post-pilot dip but has found its feet again at Episode 4; and Oliver Stone’s Untold History of The United States, which reached a new pitch of alternative-narrative chest-beating in the final of its ten episodes on Sky Atlantic. Also, a new season of The Borgias on Sky Atlantic, a dip into Question Time, aka #bbcqt, on BBC1 to see how Russell Brand fares, and a nice moment from the new run of Marple on ITV, involving Ian Fleming and Charlie Higson.
Who’s in here? Well, if you watch this week’s Telly Addict, which avoids spoilers for the final episodes of The Fall on BBC2 and Game Of Thrones on Sky Atlantic (mainly because I hadn’t seen either when I filmed this yesterday), you’ll see clip evidence of at least two supporting actors who are in both shows. Also, new on BBC3, docucircus The Call Centre, and new on C4, the terrific, glacially-paced French “zombie” drama The Returned. And congratulations and clubbable banter all round for the 500th episode of Pointless on BBC1.
OK, I’ll put my cards on the table and confess that this week’s Telly Addict was written on Thursday and shot on Friday, in order to combat the lack of available production staff on Bank Holiday Monday. As a result, as well as looking at the return of Edinburgh-based detective franchise Case Histories to Sunday-night BBC1 and the season three finale of HBO’s Treme on Sky Atlantic, I called upon a couple of bankers to help tide us over until normal service is resumed next week: Game Of Thrones, and Mad Men, both on Sky Atlantic but both rich for discussion, so it seems. Also, the episode of Mad Men is the maddest ever, and worthy of assessment. There are so many new arrivals already in a holding pattern for next week: Five Years, Horrible Histories, Springwatch …
Taking my cue from a remark made by Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan in the final episode of the excellent PBS documentary The United States Of Television (re-framed and shown here with added Yentob on BBC2), this week’s Telly Addict sets out to prove that the best TV drama is better than Hollywood movies, with specific reference to Game Of Thrones and Mad Men, both at episode seven in their respective seasons on Sky Atlantic at time of writing; also, a tiny leap from Oliver Stone’s Untold History of America, also on Sky Atlantic, to The 80s: The Decade That Made Us on National Geographic (first time on Telly Addict for the channel – ripple of welcoming applause); plus, The Fall, on BBC2, an excellent new police drama from BBC Northern Ireland that punches it weight with the American occupiers; and a strange signal from Hannibal on Sky Living. A packed programme tonight, as the Ronnies used to say. And better than The Great Gatsby, for sure.