Sunday 25 June 2017

Rebellion or X Files? Here's 2016's must-see (and must-avoid) TV

Rebellion
Rebellion

Pat Stacey

If this was a big year for television, next year is likely to be bigger still, with countless series - new and returning - heading our way. Some will click, some won't stick and quite a few will suck.

Here are five series to look forward to:

BETTER CALL SAUL

The Breaking Bad spin-off was one of the most anticipated series of 2015. A terrific first season imbued what had essentially been a comic-relief character - shady lawyer Saul Goodman (played with revelatory brilliance by Bob Odenkirk) - with real depth and turned him from a clown into a tragic and pitiable anti-hero. It's one of the most anticipated series of 2016 as well.

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Licence to fill: Bob Odenkirk in Better Call Saul, which offered something interesting beyond the diet of lifestyle programmes on RTE

REBELLION

Any homegrown drama is always going to be a big deal, but RTE's five-parter set during the Easter Rising carries significant expectations, along with a €4m price tag.

The cast is strong - Brian Gleeson, Charlie Murphy, Ruth Bradley, Ian McElhinney, Michelle Fairley (the latter two both from Game of Thrones) - and the trailer promises, at the very least, a convincing period setting. A whisper of warning, though: it's written by the man who penned the riot of risible dialogue, hammy acting and joke shop wigs that was the awful Charlie.

'Downton does Dublin' in RTÉ's terrific 1916 yarn Rebellion 

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Ruth Bradley as Frances and Barry Ward as Arthur in Rebellion

THE MISSING II

The marvellous Tcheky Karyo, as veteran detective Julien Baptiste, is the only original cast member returning for the second season of the BBC's gripping abduction drama. Now the focus turns to a brand new case with brand new characters. It will take some doing to top last year's haunting final scene of a crazed, tortured James Nesbitt being dragged away by the police, still believing his son is alive.

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The Missing - Julien (TCHEKY KARYO) - (C) New Pictures 2014 - Photographer: Jules Heath

WESTWORLD

The late Michael Crichton's terrific 1973 cult science-fiction movie about robots turning murderous in a Wild West theme park has long cried out for a big budget remake with the benefits of modern special effects.

It gets it in this HBO series, which is described as "a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin". Phew! Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Harris lead a glittering cast.

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Westworld - Anthony Hopkins

22.11.63

Television hasn't always been kind to the works of Stephen King, but this miniseries adaptation of his brick-sized bestseller could be the real deal. In the present day, a teacher (James Franco) discovers a time portal that leads to 1958 and decides to try to prevent the assassination of John F Kennedy. But his quest is complicated by the presence of Lee Harvey Oswald and the fact that he's falling in love with the past itself. The book was a remarkable read - gripping and utterly persuasive. Can this live up to it? Millions of readers will hope so.

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11.22.63 James Franco

And here are five shows to approach with caution:

BROADCHURCH III

The first season of the murder mystery set in a tight-knit coastal town received rave reviews and picked up awards the way a black sweater picks up lint. The second was a jumble of ridiculous plot developments, seemingly put there just to move an idiotic story forward, and absurd characters spouting awful dialogue.

It tumbled off its own picturesque cliff-top setting and onto the rocks below. It deserved to lie there - and die there. The cast members should have done what half the audience did and run a mile from it.

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Not even David Tennant could save the 'boredchurch' Broadchurch season 2 finale

TWIN PEAKS

Do we really need a continuation of the frequently enigmatic, but sometimes just plain infuriating, cult series after a gap of 25 years? No, we don't.

Television has moved on and so should writer-director David Lynch, whose "I'm definitely doing it - no, I'm not doing it - yes, I'm really definitely doing it this time!" routine doesn't exactly inspire confidence. If he's not wholly committed to the project, why should anyone else be?

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Michael J Anderson as Man From Another Place in new Twin Peaks teaser

THE X-FILES

Still very much on the theme of pointless resuscitations of long-dead franchises, David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson (who clearly learned nothing from the second season of The Fall about the perils of pushing your luck) return as Mulder and Scully, this time shining their skinny FBI torches around a miniseries.

The truth is out there, and the truth is: IT'S OVER! In fact, it was over long before the two awful film spin-offs came out.

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Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in The X-Files

ROOTS

What's the most ridiculous idea you can think of? How about remaking a 1977 miniseries about slavery that won nine Emmy awards, was nominated for a further 20, picked up numerous other accolades the world over, and is regarded as one of the finest achievements in the history of television?

Anyone who would even contemplate such a thing is surely in need of a humility transfusion. But someone did contemplate it. Now someone is making it.

It stars Forest Whitaker, Anna Paquin and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. I was going to say it will be on our screens next autumn ... except I'm pretty sure it won't be on mine.

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Forest Whitaker could be joining Liam Neeson in Taken 3

LEGENDS OF TOMORROW

The Flash is a spin-off of Arrow. This is a spin-off of the both of them, featuring a group of even lesser-known - at least to the average person - DC Comics characters (Rip Hunter, anyone?) zipping through time.

Frankly, there are only so many of these things television can handle.

It's already begun to feel like being trapped in a branch of Forbidden Planet, surrounded by a bunch of nerds all shouting at you at the same time.

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Legends of Tomorrow

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