Saturday 23 September 2017

What to watch: Television

Penny Dreadful
Penny Dreadful

Doug Whelan

Penny Dreadful

Tuesday, 9pm, Sky Atlantic

On paper, there are lots of reasons to watch Penny Dreadful. For one, it was shot in Ireland – in Bray's Ardmore Studios and various other locations around town doubling as Victorian London.

The fact that it was shot here makes it feel like it's been on the way forever, and we suspect the decision to shoot here wasn't only a financial and aesthetic one.

There's a good chance that this series was shot in Dublin in order to generate a bit of interest on this side of the Irish Sea as well as save a few shekels on that all-important tax bill. Anyway, the presence of the Dublin's fair city; there's reason number one.

Reason number two is the impressive cast and crew. Behind the camera we've got Sam Mendes, Oscar-winning director of American Beauty, Skyfall (the upcoming Bond movie too), Revolutionary Road and lots more.

Sam Mendes isn't the only Bond connection either: former 007 and super-cool Timothy Dalton and former Bond girl Eva Green head up the impressive cast of this horror drama.

Sold yet? We haven't even gotten to what it's all about. Here it goes: Penny Dreadful weaves together some of literature's most iconic figures (Mary Shelley's tortured inventor Victor Frankenstein and Oscar Wilde's tortured dreamboat Dorian Grey, to name but two) in this chilling adventure.

As the police are flummoxed by a series of brutal murders, fearless explorer Sir Malcolm Murray (Dalton) and mysterious femme fatale Vanessa Ives (Green) know there's something darker at play than a plain old serial killer.

They're on the hunt for someone close to them who has disappeared, and recruit a sharpshooter (Josh Hartnett) and Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) to aid them in their quest.

"To describe what it's all about is really difficult," according to Timothy Dalton. "It's like describing Moby Dick. It's about a sea captain chasing a whale, but simplifying it like that is really missing the point."

There's sex, violence, mystery, horror and lots of really, really, ridiculously good looking people in Penny Dreadful, but beneath the surface there's quite a high brow story about guilt and redemption. Tuesday's episode is the first of eight, so get in on the ground floor.

WATCH IT

Imagine... Rio 50° – Carry on Carioca

Sunday, 10.30pm, BBC One

What have the FIFA World Cup 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games got in common? Plenty actually, the most glaring similarity being the host nation – Brazil. As the nation prepares to host the world's two biggest sporting events in quick succession, acclaimed filmmaker Julien Temple presents this exhilarating look at Brazil's second city Rio de Janeiro.

It's still seen around the world as a tropical paradise, an unending party town where sun, sex and samba never stops. But behind the steamy weather and recent economic boom there's a much darker reality.

The city has almost been in a state of civil war since the 1980s, as police and drug lords battle for control of the city. Widespread criticism of the upcoming events exists, while the music and art of the region reflects this social and cultural upheaval. This portrait of the city at a pivotal moment in its history promises to be quite mesmerising.

RECORD IT

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday’s Irish Independent

The Story of Women and Art

Friday, 9pm, BBC Two

We're being very cerebral in the TV stakes this week, with Julien Temple documentaries and this quite highbrow documentary, but it's good for you to switch over from Graham Norton and the Kardashians every now and again, right?

Throughout history there have been countless mind-opening and world-changing works of art, but until the harsh beginnings of the 20th Century, when things began to change, art history has been dominated by males.

In this three-part series, Professor Amanda Vickery takes us through the incredible stories of talented and tenacious women who have overcome unimaginable obstacles to fulfil their artistic ambitions. Along the way she answers the glaring question: why have so many female practitioners remained unrecognised and unsung for their achievements.

STREAM IT

Rome

Seasons 1 & 2 available on Netflix

Everyone is mad for Game of Thrones at the moment, and rightly so. If you consider what a wild success it has been for HBO, there's a sneaking sense that Rome, which ran for two seasons from 2005 to 2007, was somewhat ahead of its time. It was cancelled due to be being 'notoriously expensive', so we wonder if the bosses look at the money being flung in the direction of George RR Martin's epic adaptation with envy and think 'if only'.

Rome is sent in the 1st Century BC, during Ancient Rome's transition from a republic to an empire, and follows an ensemble cast in the various political and social conflicts that ensued as a result. Sound familiar?

Like Game of Thrones, the money is on the screen in Rome, with spectacular production design and costumes bolstering gripping performances and an engaging, sprawling plot, and that's what makes it worth going back to.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent
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