This week plenty of drama, the return of a comedy classic and a tearful goodbye to two companions
We start this week with BBC1′s obvious replacement for Spooks in the spy thriller Hunted. Hunted stars Melissa George as Sam Hunter, a private security operative who disappears after she was ambushed during a mission in Morocco. This ambush happened just as she was about to inform her colleague and lover Aidan that she was pregnant, however she lost the baby after she was shot. Sam returns to her childhood home where she runs on a beach and eats tins of spam while having flashbacks of watching her mother’s death. However Sam eventually returns to work at Byzantium Corp but is now unsure which of her colleagues she can trust. Sam is immediately given a new task involving Byzantium’s mission to stop evil tycoon Jack Turner from buying a dam in Pakistan. Sam’s job is to seduce Jack’s widower son Stephen and she meets him after saving his son Edward from being run over by the Byzantium crew. Sam introduces herself as American teacher Alex Kent and she bonds with both Stephen and Edward as the former begins to fall for her. Though there may be danger ahead for Sam when the man attempting to track her down in Morocco turns up at the Turner home posing as a Dutch engineer. It appears to me as if production company Kudos want us to see Hunted as the new Spooks with a breathtaking opening sequence in Morocco and plenty more violence later in the show. But my personal favourite part of this first episode had to be the scenes in which Sam was hiding out in the Scottish Highlands. I thought Melissa George did a good job at making Sam likeable, despite her stand-offish nature, and she handled the different characteristics of Sam very well. I feel the weakness of Hunted is in the script, by former X-Files Frank Spotniz, as it contains some very clunky lines and long sections of expositional dialogue. Spotniz really hasn’t made me interested in whether or not Byzantium will stop Jack Turner from buying the dam, nor has he made me care about Sam and Aiden’s relationship. However, thanks mainly to George’s performance, I’m at least interested in the character of Sam and to a lesser extent the mystery surrounding her mother’s death. I feel that Hunted needs to calm down if it really wants to have as long a run as Spooks did. However, I have a feeling that we’ve got more explosions and less quiet time ahead which will probably mean that Hunted will just turn into a noisy mess of a series, and I think that’s a bit of a shame.
From spies we turn to doctors as we see the return of James Nesbitt as the brilliant yet anti-social neurosurgeon Gabriel Monroe. On its debut the majority of critics compared it to House however it proved itself to be more of a general hospital drama also focusing on the relationship between cardiothoracic surgeon Jenny Bremner and Monroe’s anaesthetist Lawrence Shepherd. The second series sees Bremner returning from maternity leave while Monroe finds his power tested by Neil Pearson’s Head of Clinical Service Alistair Gillespie. This is particularly troublesome for Monroe as he has promised a young man, played by former Shameless actor Jody Latham, that he’ll try to remove a tumour despite two doctors already turning him down. Though Gillespie doesn’t doubt Monroe’s abilities he’s worried what will happen if he fails and the young man dies however he does relent eventually allowing him to carry out the surgery. The relationship between Bremner and Shepherd is also stretched after the former doesn’t consult the latter on any decision relating to their son often changing their nanny without telling him first with the impression being that they could well separate as the series continues. Monroe’s personal problems also continue as his ex-wife, played by Susan Lynch, has found a new man while his son has announced that he’s getting married something Monroe isn’t exactly positive about. It seems though that Monroe may have a new love interest in the hospital’s clinical nurse specialist, played by the fabulous Tracey-Ann Oberman, who helps him get rid of a patient who wants to repay him for curing his Parkinson’s. Though I thought the first series of Monroe was enjoyable enough this second series seems a lot more energetic thanks to the inclusion of Pearson and Oberman both of whom instantly settle into the cast. Peter Bowker also seems to have become a lot more comfortable with his characters and the dialogue is more playful especially relating to Bremner readjusting to hospital life following her maternity leave. Though there are a lot of predictable elements, especially regarding the operation on Latham’s character, overall this is enjoyable populist programme and another entry into ITV’s expanding drama line-up.
Our third piece of drama takes us over to BBC4 as the channel creates yet another biopic about the turbulent life of a popular comedian. Following their Curse of Comedy season in 2008 the channel has specialised in telling interesting stories including that of Hattie Jacques and Kenneth Williams. Best Possible Taste tells the story of Kenny Everett which mixes traditional biopic and narration of Everett’s life by his most famous characters including Sid Snot and Cupid Stunt. The programme covered Everett’s life from his days in Liverpool growing up as Maurice Cole before finally getting snapped up as a DJ for the BBC and eventually as a star with his own TV show. The programme’s main focus though is Everett’s relationship with Lee who was his best friend and who eventually married despite the fact that she knew he was gay it seems that their marriage was stronger than this. Everett’s sexuality is a big feature here as his head is constantly turned by men, most of them straight, while Lee feels abandoned eventually finding love with the actor John Alkin. Kenny’s friendship with Freddie Mercury eventually helps him find the confidence to come out however as we know now he tragically died of AIDS several years later. From beginning to end I absolutely adored Best Possible Taste which is another example of a great BBC4 biopic as it mixes comedy and drama with brilliant performances in a tale which has its ups and downs. If I were to compare the drama to any of BBC4′s former efforts then it would be last year’s Holy Flying Circus as both combined story with asides from the characters that the subjects are both known for. As Everett was also a massive music fan the soundtrack is also fantastic going from the 1960s to the 1980s and it seems as if director James Strong paid as much attention to this as he did every other detail of the drama. First time TV writer Tim Whitnall has written a brilliant script with the characters of both Kenny and Lee feeling incredibly real which can probably put down to the fact that several of Kenny’s nearest and dearest, including Barry Cryer and Lee herself, were bought on as script consultants. Oliver Lansley is absolutely fantastic as Kenny nailing every one of his mannerisms and is even believable when dressing up as all of Ev’s most famous creations. Former Coronation Street actress Katherine Kelly is also great as Lee sharing great chemistry with Lansley and really putting the character of Becky McDonald behind her. If there’s one criticism it’s that the programme probably focused a bit much on Everett’s sexuality but then I suppose as it was such a big part of his tale it needed exploring in detail. Overall The Best Possible Taste is one of my favourite single dramas of 2012 as it tells the full and frank story of a much-loved icon with plenty of wit, warmth and controversy with some brilliant music to boot.
Next we head to Channel 4′s week long event – Hotel GB in which a bunch of out-of-work youngsters are given the chance to earn jobs by working at a faux luxury Hotel. The premise of the programme is that ‘popular’ Channel 4 personalities front a hotel employing out of work youngsters as volunteers who will then get the chance to gain fulltime employment from hotel bosses Gordon Ramsay and Mary Portas. Ramsay and Portas each comprise teams who her aiming to raise the most money from their respective zones with all the cash raised going to unemployment charities. Ramsay’s team of male celebs sees himself as head chef, Phil Spencer as the Maitre D of the restaurant, Gok Wan as the barman and Dr Christian as gym coordinator. Mary’s team features Kim Woodburn as head of housekeeping, Katie Piper running the spa and Kirstie Allsop also doing something while Hilary Devey runs the shop however I’m not sure if she’s on either team. Personally I believe the most pointless element of Hotel GB is having Paddy McGuinness as host as I don’t feel the programme particularly needed anyone delivering links to camera as I think the edited footage would’ve been enough. Though the celebrities are an important element of the success of Hotel GB at the end of the day it’s all about the success of the volunteers as ultimately it is a potential job at the end of this. So we see Mary and Gordon carrying out a multitude of interviews which includes them asking the mature Anthony how he’d feel about being a chambermaid while kooky Welsh Thomas is given the task of being a waiter and offers everything for free. It was clear to me that Thomas would be the biggest character of the bunch even before we discovered who’d been offered the jobs so I wasn’t surprised when he was hired. Obviously the hiring process was treated like a reality TV results show as the successful contestants spouted clichés such as ‘this is the first day of the rest of my life’ with the bosses telling them that ‘this is where the hard work starts’.
It’s hard to be cynical about a programme like Hotel GB, which is trying to help the unemployed back to work, however I will do it nonetheless. One issue that I will bring up again is Paddy McGuiness who I have no problem with as a presenter however here I feel he’s wasted spouting obvious lines and innuendo which feels out of place in a programme such as this. The other main problem is that the majority of the people here are putting on an act essentially playing the roles we best know them for which is especially true of Gordon, Gok and Kim with only Phil Spencer coming across as a genuine human being as we see him completely mortified after being chastised by Gordon. It is also good to see Hilary Devey in dress down mood however I think when her shop gets started up she’ll be the Dragon we all know and occasionally love. At the end of the day though Hotel GB showed promise especially in some of the filmed segments where the celebrities were just shooting the breeze with my particular favourite involving the shocked expression on Dr Christian’s face when Kim tried it on with him. I also respect Channel 4 for trying to give youngsters a break and I expect a fair few of them to get employment of some kind following this programme even if it isn’t as entertaining as it could’ve been.
2009 saw Dave revive the legendary Red Dwarf with a three part special entitled Back to Earth. This special basically went down like a lead balloon as it was terribly self-referential and had lost a lot of the charm of the original series. Despite the Back to Earth backlash, Dave has recommissioned Red Dwarf for a six episode series and thankfully this time there are hints that the Red Dwarf magic may have returned. The main story of this first episode, entitled Trojan, sees the hapless Rimmer once again try to better himself by studying for his astronavigational exams that he has failed eleven times in the past. The Red Dwarf gang later find an abandoned ship and, while aboard, receive a stress signal that turns out to be from Rimmer’s brother Howard. Howard is of course very successful so Rimmer lies and tells him that the ship they’re currently on belongs to him. Of course Rimmer’s need to seem more superior than he is has been one of Red Dwarf’s recurring themes and I’m glad to see it back here. Lister also has his own storyline in which he is trying to buy a stir-master coffee stirrer but is being kept on hold by the all-droid shopping channel line. This story may seem a little basic but it provided some of the best jokes for me and of course Craig Charles hammed it up big style. While the 2009 incarnation of Red Dwarf was entitled ‘Back to Earth’ this series should’ve been dubbed ‘Back to Basics’ as everything that made the sitcom great is here again. Most notably the returning laughter track makes everything seem a little livelier and was sorely missed back in 2009. Red Dwarf’s biggest themes about isolation and the witty banter between the characters also make a return here. The characters are back to their best while all four actors have slipped back into them nicely and the chemistry they once had has been revived. While Trojan may not be up their with any of Red Dwarf’s classic episodes it still was packed full of laughs and simple stories. Doug Naylor’s script really explored the isolation that the Red Dwarf crew feel while all four actors appear to be having a whale of a time. Based on this episode I think Dave made the right choice bringing back and I think that I’ll be hopping on Red Dwarf once again over the next five weeks.
Finally this week it was time for the last Doctor Who of this short run and that meant saying goodbye to companions Rory and Amy. The Angels Take Manhattan, saw The Doctor and the Ponds in New York, however Rory took some missteps and ended up in 1938 where he reunited with his daughter River Song. The two are soon captured by mobster Grayle who has bought several of the Weeping Angel statues and now wants River’s help in disposing of them. Meanwhile The Doctor and Amy are desperate to get to 1938 in order to save Rory form being caught by the angels but it could be too late. Events come to a head and an apartment block in Battery Park where Rory sees an elderly version of himself and realises that he needs to try and alter time in some way. He and Amy eventually decide to go together and jump off the apartment block only to end up in a mysterious graveyard. Though the friends are briefly reunited, Rory spots his grave and is sucked back into the vortex. Amy realises she needs to be with the love of her life, so joins him and essentially fixes time meaning that The Doctor will never see her again. In terms of the episode itself, I really enjoyed the transportation of the Weeping Angels to the City that Never Sleeps. The Film Noir aspect of the episode was well-delivered and in some ways I felt Steven Moffatt did a good job at saying goodbye to the Ponds. However my main issue with this finale was that Amy and Rory left The Doctor twice so their final departure didn’t seem as dramatic as it could have. Overall though Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill’s departures were treated with the respect they deserved and they have offered a new dimension to the show as Amy and Roy. There departure has also seen The Doctor become incredibly distraught for now I’m soon he’ll perk up again when he runs into Clara Oswin Osgood in the upcoming Christmas Special.
That’s your lot guys, I’ll see you next week.