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Small ScreenBoardwalk Empire: When alcohol was outlawed, outlaws became kings

Posted on Sunday September 19, 2010, 20:33 by James White in Small Screen
Boardwalk Empire: When alcohol was outlawed, outlaws became kings

If the latest show to saunter down the pipeline from US network HBO had an actual canine pedigree, it would probably be strutting around the show ring at Crufts, lumbered with a name like Prince Masterson Von Bonio, known to his over-enthusiastic owners as Matty. You want to talk pedigree? How about the fact that Boardwalk Empire comes from the brain of Terence Winter, one of the select few that Sopranos creator David Chase treated as one of his capos. More? Try the fact that the show has recruited a cast that includes the likes of Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Michael Shannon, Michael Stuhlbarg and Kelly Macdonald, not to mention a roll call of actors from other great shows such as The Wire (OMAR!)

But above all else, surely the biggest fish hooked on this particular line is Martin Scorsese. Returning to television in a directorial (and non-documentary) position for the first time since a 1986 episode of Amazing Stories, Scorsese agreed to produce the show and step behind the camera for the pilot, ...

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Small ScreenNikita: The Premiere

Posted on Wednesday September 15, 2010, 17:46 by Phil de Semlyen in Small Screen
Nikita: The Premiere

When a dossier thumps onto your desk last week with the word ‘confidential’ embossed across the front and an unusual request within, your interest is bound to be piqued. “I have recently escaped from a secret organisation that brainwashed me and trained me to become an assassin,” read the dodgy dossier. “I need you to help me bring down this corrupt organisation.” Hmmm, curious. What organisation could I, a humble hack who often struggles to tie his own shoelaces unassisted, possibly bring down?

As it turned out, my reverse-Apprentice skills weren’t called on. The reality – the world’s first iPad premiere, showing off the first episode of CW’s new miniseries Nikita – was no less exciting, not least for the possibility that they might forget to collect the iPads afterwards*. Held in the kind of cavernous, brick-walled edifice Jack Bauer would feel at home being tortured in, magically comfy-ed up, the event was like the TV equivalent ...

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Small ScreenSons Of Anarchy: Season Three Rides In

Posted on Wednesday September 8, 2010, 05:15 by James White in Small Screen
Sons Of Anarchy: Season Three Rides In

Apologies to anyone seething in the UK, where the second season has only just finished, but the bikes of SAMCRO roared back on to America's airwaves on Tuesday night, which can only mean one thing: Sons of Anarchy has returned.

Kurt Sutter’s blacktop Shakespeare tale of a motorcycle gang and the various shifting allegiances as they smuggle drugs, run weapons and rule their small California town has grown into one of the best dramas to come out of the US. The emotions run high, the violence is brutal but the characterisation is sharp and this is the most charismatic bunch of criminals since The Sopranos left the air. Even if they can’t swear like them…

I came late to the Anarchy party. After sampling the pilot and one or two episodes of the first season, I decided I simply couldn’t connect with these lawless bikers. But sheer pressure from people whose opinions I respect led me back this summer, and I binged on both seasons in a fortnight’s marathon. I&rsquo...

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Small ScreenEmmys 2010: Something Old, But Something New Too

Posted on Monday August 30, 2010, 07:17 by James White in Small Screen
Emmys 2010: Something Old, But Something New Too

The Emmy Awards rolled around again in the States on Sunday and there were actually a few surprises dotted among the expected winners and repeat… well, I wouldn’t call them offenders, since there were some deserving choices.

The biggest news is that media sensation Glee and big US comedy hit Modern Family did decent business, with Modern Family scoring Comedy Series and the Writing for a Comedy Series award, plus a Supporting Actor win for the always funny Eric Stonestreet. Glee, meanwhile, walked away with a well-deserved win for Jane Lynch (who is one of the few characters to really bring the funny on the series) and a Directing for a Comedy Series gong that went to the show’s co-creator, Ryan Murphy.

The surprises also came from elsewhere, with Kyra Sedgwick snatching an unexpected first award as Lead Actress in a Drama for cop show The Closer. And there was a rousing cheer when Jim Parsons scooped his first win as Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for The Big Bang The...

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Small ScreenSherlock Holmes And The Curious Case Of The Princess Bride

Posted on Monday July 26, 2010, 10:10 by Helen O'Hara in Small Screen
Sherlock Holmes And The Curious Case Of The Princess Bride

So I rather enjoyed the first episode of Sherlock last night on BBC1, the Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman-starring update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective stories. And that, for those of you who didn't see it, doesn't mean a Guy Ritchie-style all-boxing, all-running about style take on the 19th century. It means that this Sherlock comes all the way forward to the 21st, with a Dr Watson who was wounded in Afghanistan and a Sherlock who's an expert phone hacker.

Let's start with the non-spoilerific stuff: returning veteran John Watson (Freeman) is wounded in body and mind and less than convinced that writing a blog about his experiences, as his therapist suggests, is the way to get his life back on track. Sherlock Holmes (Cumberbatch) is a flamboyant criminal expert, developer of the "science of deduction" who is never happier than when called in by the police to solve the cases that they can't. In the words of one policewoman, he's ...

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Small ScreenTrue Blood: Bad Blood

Posted on Monday June 14, 2010, 05:21 by James White in Small Screen
True Blood: Bad Blood

“This episode contains violence, nudity, language and adult content. Viewer discretion is advised.” Welcome back True Blood… I’ve missed you.

The title card that US cable channel HBO throws up before screenings of the show to warn unsuspecting parents and, one suspects, to entice entirely suspecting teens into watch the thing is usually viewed as a gauntlet by show runner Alan Ball, who likes to take the Southern Gothic flavour of writer Charlaine Harris and add in a liberal sprinkling of extra gore, skin, sizzle and sin. Not that the books necessarily went wanting in that department, but the TV series has ramped everything up.

I’ve always wavered back and forth in my appreciation for the show. I nearly gave up early on, turned off by the overwrought turns of Anna Paquin as Sookie and Stephen Moyer as Bill. And while I still find their story of love across the boundaries of death and slightly wonky Southern accents frustrating at times, they’ve slowly...

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Small ScreenLost: The End

Posted on Monday May 24, 2010, 01:12 by James White in Small Screen
Lost: The End

“Endings are hard. Any chapped-ass monkey with a keyboard can poop out a beginning, but endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch. There's always gonna be holes. And since it's the ending, it's all supposed to add up to something. I'm telling you, they're a raging pain in the ass…” No, that’s not Dickens or Shakespeare (or even the Earl of Oxford) writing about how it’s difficult to end a story, but Chuck Shurley, the meta-comment prophet who writes up the adventures of the Winchester brothers on Supernatural.

But it’s a sentiment that Lost’s key creative torchbearers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse would surely empathise with right now. After all, they’ve been charged with the responsibility of landing the multi-tonne mythology aircraft th...

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Small ScreenJustified: Fire In The Hole

Posted on Wednesday May 5, 2010, 00:01 by James White in Small Screen
Justified: Fire In The Hole

One of the many pleasures of frontier series Deadwood – besides creator David Milch’s poetic blend of Shakespearian-toned patter and expletive-laden outbursts – was Timothy Olyphant’s performance as the clenched, conflicted Seth Bullock. As the frustrated law keeper of a chaotic, evolving chunk of the Old West, Olyphant brought a particular charm to the man.

If you’ve been missing his style, and disappointed with his recent film choices (Hitman? Die Hard 4.0?), then might I recommend checking out his new series, Justified? Created by writer/producer Graham Yost and adapted from the meaty crime fiction of Elmore Leonard, it follows the work of Raylan Givens, a 21st century US marshal, whose anachronistic style and penchant for leaving dead bodies in his wake becomes a headache for his bosses.

We’re introduced to Givens at the end of his previous tenure based in Miami. As the story opens, he’s shooting a criminal poo...

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Small ScreenTreme: Won’t Bow, Don’t Know How

Posted on Tuesday April 13, 2010, 23:29 by James White in Small Screen
Treme: Won’t Bow, Don’t Know How

There are always mixed emotions when the creator behind one of the best shows – if not the best – on television, and a personal favourite of many at Empire Towers, produces something new. Can it live up to the crushing weight of expectations? Will it wither when compared to the other series? It’s like a new relationship where someone fresh will be measured against that one true love of your life.

Fortunately in this case, the creator is David Simon, who brought the world The Wire and, after a brief detour into Gulf War miniseries Generation Kill, is back with this new labour of love. Treme is set three months after Hurricane Katrina and a raging storm of water tore through New Orleans and wrecked many of the city’s neighbourhoods. Working with Wire writer Eric Overmyer and late, lamented colleague David Mills (another Wire vet who died a few days before the new show aired in the US), Simon has brewed up another quality produ...

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Small ScreenCan Claudia Winkleman Save Film 2010?

Posted on Monday March 29, 2010, 18:05 by Damon Wise in Small Screen
Can Claudia Winkleman Save Film 2010?

In a year that saw Hollywood present the Best Director Oscar to a woman for the first time ever, the news that Claudia Winkleman is to replace Jonathan Ross as presenter of the BBC's Film 2010 show didn't exactly send out the shockwave the producers were perhaps expecting. But the truth is, I don't think too many people really care; all the story really boiled down to was this: New Presenter To Present TV Show. For a while, the joke about Film 2010 (as we shall call it) is that the title (which should be pretty easy to remember if you, like, remember what year it is), was always stuck in the year you first became aware of it. I've always called it Film 77. But I can't imagine there's been a new generation of viewers added since Jonathan Ross took over in 1999, and it boils down to two reasons. One is that the show hasn't strayed very far at all from its original format in nearly 38 years, the other is that the one way it has diverged could end up being its downfall. It went from being a TV show ...

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