Insider Guide: What to watch in the coming week
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Tuesday, 10pm, Sky Atlantic
Like The Shield (see below), Ray Donovan is another series that is not (yet?) at the top tier of must see dramas but, after its well received first season and undeniable star power cast, is something we should all sit up and take note of.
After all, one of the biggest mistakes we make these days with our TV watching is that, a lot of the time, if something isn't breathlessly reviewed as the best thing ever, we may overlook it. That would be a mistake with Ray Donovan, which returns for its second series this week on Sky Atlantic. Another flaw in our viewing? Waiting until its "finished" so we can binge, instead of watching week to week. Try this on for size so.
Liev Schreiber plays the titular thug-turned-Hollywood fixer, who rubs shoulders with LA's rich and famous, with his reputation for making problems go away. No problem is too small for Donovan, except when it comes to his own personal life. Life in the hills got messy when his criminal father Mickey (Jon Voight) was released from prison and hit the west coast for a little family reunion. Mickey's not a bad guy deep down, but wherever he goes, trouble follows very closely behind, and Ray learned that the hard way in the season one finale with the death of Mickey's former partner.
This season kicks off in the aftermath of that shooting as FBI agent Ed Cochran (The Simpsons' Hank Azaria, who should be in more things) starts asking questions. Ray is usually cool and collected but this situation is dangerous and he's at risk of losing his grip. His dad got him in to this mess, and he's going to need his dad's help to get out of it.
Ray's wife and children are feeling the effects of his dangerous lifestyle too. Ray Donovan was well received by critics last season and we suspect the only way is up from here as the cast and crew find their feet in their carefully honed, darkly satirical world. Also joining the cast this time out is Wendell Pierce (The Wire's fan favourite, Bunk Moreland) as a probation officer keeping an eye on Mickey.
2014 World Cup Final
Sunday, 7pm, RTE One
What a tournament this has been already. The holders Spain crashed out in the first round, along with supposed heavyweights Italy, England and Portugal; then there was the underdog heroics of USA, Australia and Algeria, not to mention Luis Suarez's antics that made headlines around the world AND the underlying controversy of Brazil hosting the tournament to begin with.
It's definitely been a vintage year but it's got to come to an end this Sunday as the 2014 World Champions take their place in history.
At the time of writing, the Semi finals are yet to play, so by the time you read this there's sure to have been yet more drama. But even if you've avoided the World Cup so far, you need to get involved with the Final; it's the greatest show on earth, after all. It's also the last time you're likely to see Bill O'Herlihy introduce a match. That's history right there.
Operation Cloud Lab
Wednesday, 8pm, BBC Two
They might have come up with a better name, but Operation Cloud Lab is documentary the way only the BBC can do it. David Attenborough explored the wild, Brian Cox then explored the Solar System and now, meteorologist Felicity Ashton is set to explore the skies and the weather systems which impact on us all.
Travelling in one of the world's largest airships, basically a flying laboratory, Ashton and her crew are flying across the USA to undertake a series of experiments shedding light on the causes of wild weather, how life exploits the atmosphere, and the human impact upon the weather.
In one particularly interesting experiment, former paratrooper Andy Torbet will parachute through a cloud in an attempt to understand these strange phenomena.
It's thought one typical cumulus cloud contains enough potential energy to heat the home for up to 17 years. How about that.
All shot in glorious HD (of course).
Seasons 1 – 7 available now on Netflix
A confession: I've never actually seen The Shield. In the boxset / streaming / downloading, etc. revolution of the past number of years, there has been kind of a top tier of shows, then a second division.
If HBO's game-changing police drama The Wire was the premier league, then there's no denying similarly-themed The Shield resides a few rungs below in terms of popularity and impact. That said, anyone who is an aficionado of both insists that The Shield is right up there as one of the all-time great cop shows.
Set in Los Angeles, The Shield follows the exploits of an LAPD anti-gang division that is not above using illegal methods to keep the streets safe. But, as their methods begin to spin out of control, the lines between law and chaos blur and the detectives, led by supercop Vic Mackey (Michael Chicklis), struggle to remember which side of the law they're on.
The Shield ran for seven seasons until 2008 and received universal acclaim along the way.
All seven seasons are on Netflix now.
I'm starting it on Saturday.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent