Thursday, July 17, 2008

TV: Summertime's Swell in British TV

To spoil an old saying, summertime TV in Britain has brought us something old, something new, something between old and new and nothing to make me feel blue.

Within the last two weeks, the fine folks that have brought us Doctor Who these last four years, have debuted the fifth season of New Tricks, the debut serial of Bonekickers and the second season of Would I Lie to You? And there's not a single failure in the lot.

New Tricks is a turn on the cold-case police squad show that has run successfully in Canada (Cold Squad) and is still running in the US (Cold Case). The British variation takes the usual sexy female lead, Amanda Redman in this case, but pairs her up with a bunch of washed up wily old veterans. Alun Armstrong's Brian Lane went bonkers, earning retirement. He's a little obsessively compulsive. Brilliant, but batty. And he's the only one with a spouse, a deliciously understanding wife played by Susan Jameson. James Bolam's Jack Halford HAD a wife, but she was murdered and the elderly grieving Halford had to end his long and distinguished career as a detective. Dennis Waterman's Gerry Standing's had a few wives. A little rule-forgetful, a little too much boozing and carousing and an inability to play politics forced Standing into retirement too early.

But four years ago, Redman's Sandra Pullman made a few political mistakes herself and got sequestered off into a corner with the cold cases. Her solution? Find the brightest and the best of the coppers who weren't coppers anymore. The result has been a great series that gets better each year. Halford's AWOL right now, and the other two stooges need his calming influence around, but I don't expect that situation to last much longer.

Oh, and by the way, Waterman's theme song for the show, "It's All Right" is an insanely catchy ditty.

I was going to pass Bonekickers by, by the way. But Adrian Lester (Mickey Stone from the first three seasons of Hustle) was in it. Couldn't say no to that. Julie Graham was in it too, WITH hair (that's a shutout to an insanely awful movie she was in last century). Completely the archaeological crew that move this TV drama around are always entertaining Hugh Bonneville and relative newcomer Gugu Mbatha-Raw, last seen in the Doctor Who universe.

What they are doing is a TV-takeoff on The DaVinci Code, replete with 2000 year-old crosses, old English churches and religious zealots. If you enjoyed the book (or heaven forbid, the movie), you'll enjoy this show. I liked the book enough to give it a positive review over at PDA 24/7, so I found myself enjoying the first of the six-episode run. Can it maintain that level? Don't know. But I'm looking forward to the remaining episodes.

And that brings us to the chat show/comedy game show amalgam called Would I Like to You? And the answer, apparently is sometimes yes, sometimes no. The premise is shockingly loose. It's a game show that keeps score, declares winners, and pays no attention whatsoever in trying to be fair. Plus, winning doesn't accomplish much, besides evading a sharp end of show putdown from emcee Angus Deayton. It features two teams of 'celebrities' captained by David Mitchell and the truly funny quipster Lee Mack. Members of each team get to tell a potentially funny fact about themselves, then try to convince their opponents that it is the absolute truth. When the opposing captain finally deems the truthfulness of the story, it's revealed whether the story is true or false. There are slight variations of that through the show, involving one person who each of the members of one team claims is his or her friend/acquaintance, and watching video clips that lead to outrageous claims of dubious authenticity. But that's it. Simple.

And very funny, despite me not knowing most of the 'celebrities,' what with being from the colonies over here in North America. Mack I know from the very funny Not Going Out. Mitchell? I gather he's an actor/comedian of some note 'over there, but he comes across as a funny Tucker Carlson, or maybe a funny, younger George Will. If you know what I mean. All in all, this is the show I'd actually like to see borrowed. But only if they keep the same political uncorrectness that permeates the show.

Dealy's role would fall to Bill Maher, who specializes in snide asides. Dennis Miller, who's fallen mightily since renouncing comedic pounding on all, to write republican-biased material only, could start the road to comeback to the comedic centre, by taking on the Mitchell role. He could still spout right-wing nonsense, while trying to be actually funny once in a while. The Lee Mack role would go to Lewis Black, who could then give up that awful Lewis Black's Root of All Evil. (in reality, I'd like Jon Stewart as the moderator and Maher in the Mitchell role, but then there would be no stick-in-the-mud right-winger to take shots and hand the odd ones out)

If you get a chance to see these shows, through DVD, BBC Canada or even downloading, go ahead. You will be entertained. Guarantee it.

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