Thursday 18 January 2018

Outside the box - ones to watch on TV

Good cop, eccentric cop: ‘Crossing Lines’ is set in Europe and features quirky performances from Donald Sutherland.
Good cop, eccentric cop: ‘Crossing Lines’ is set in Europe and features quirky performances from Donald Sutherland.
Back to the TV: Michael J Fox will play a character with Parkinson's Disease, like the actor himself, in 'The Michael J Fox Show'.
Desperate: 'Devious Maids', based on a Mexican telenovela, has drawn criticism for racial bias, among other complaints.
Doom and Domes: Stephen King's 'Under the Dome' has been turned into a TV series of the same name, following the trend for apocalyptic dramas.

Paul Whitington

A couple of weeks back we briefly mentioned 'Devious Maids', Marc Cherry's follow-up to 'Desperate Housewives' – the wildly successful comic soap opera which ended last year.

Produced by Cherry and Eva Longoria, 'Devious Maids' started in the US on the Lifetime Channel last Sunday, but not everyone has been impressed.

The show could be seen as a recession-era corollary to its illustrious predecessor, because while 'Desperate Housewives' told the stories of women so pampered and affluent that they invented intrigues in order to amuse themselves, 'Devious Maids' focuses on a hardy band of Hispanic domestics who toil under the yoke of high-handed Beverly Hills employers.

One of the poor women even gets murdered in the opening episode, and the other maids must resort to all sorts of dirty tricks in order to survive.

Ana Ortiz from 'Ugly Betty' and Judy Reyes from 'Scrubs' star, and the show's tone is decidedly camp and tongue-in-cheek; an approach that seemed fresh and interesting when 'Desperate Housewives' started way back in 2004, but is possibly less so now.

And before 'Devious Maids' had even begun, some commentators were accusing it of racial bias.

The show is based on a Mexican telenovela called 'They Are The Home's Joy', but while both the employers and the maids on that show were Hispanic – for obvious reasons, one would have thought, given that it's set in Mexico – on Marc Cherry's show the domestics are Hispanic and all the employers are Caucasian.

This fact prompted a scathing attack by Tanisha Ramirez in the 'Huffington Post', who described the show's lead characters as "hypersexual, nosy, scheming servants" with "pushed-up breasts".

Eva Longoria angrily retorted, all of which helped spark greater interest in the show. I have no doubt it will appear in these parts later in the year, probably on Channel 4, which screened 'Desperate Housewives', and possibly on RTE.

More than 50 feature films and 30 TV series have thus far been inspired by the writings of Stephen King, and yet another TV drama kicked off last week on CBS. 'Under the Dome', which is based on King's formidable 1,000-page 2009 novel of the same name, is set in the near future in a small American town.

The residents of Chester's Mill are going about their daily business when a giant, transparent and impenetrable dome descends on them abruptly from above, cutting them off from the outside world and leading to a breakdown in law and order.

The show follows a recent trend in apocalyptic dramas, from 'Revolution' to 'The Walking Dead', and big things are expected of it.

The last time Robin Williams worked regularly on television, Ronald Reagan had just moved into the White House. But 31 years after 'Mork & Mindy' ended, Williams is returning to the small screen in a new sitcom.

'The Crazy Ones' is created by David E Kelley, the man behind 'Boston Legal' and 'Ally McBeal', and is set in the offices of a top Chicago advertising agency. Williams is Simon Roberts, the brilliant but unpredictable founder of the Roberts & Roberts agency, and Sarah Michelle Gellar plays Sydney, his more reasonable and pragmatic daughter. It's being heavily touted by CBS and will screen in America this autumn.

Another highly anticipated upcoming sitcom is 'The Michael J Fox Show', which starts on NBC later this year. Created by Sam Laybourne and Will Gluck, the show seems to echo Fox's personal experiences as his character, Mike Henry, suffers with Parkinson's disease.

Mike had to give up his lucrative career as a news anchor after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's but, five years later, he decides to resume his career, causing chaos at work and at home.

Fox himself semi-retired from acting in the year 2000, not long after he'd announced he was suffering from the disease.

While he was most famous for the 'Back to the Future' films, Fox had started out on television in the hit 1980s sitcom 'Family Ties'. And it's on the small screen that he's made a tentative but impressive recent comeback, guest-starring on shows such as David E Kelley's 'Boston Legal' and Larry David's 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'.

Fox was fantastic in a recurring role on 'The Good Wife' – he played Louis Canning, a lawyer suffering from dyskinesia (a movement disorder) who shamelessly hams up his ailment in order to curry favour with judges and juries. And his new sitcom is the latest step in a remarkable resurrection.

Some of you may have enjoyed the first series of 'Scandal', a slick and cynical drama set among the king-makers and fixers in Washington DC.

Kerry Washington stars as Olivia Pope, a former White House communications director who now works as an image consultant to the high and mighty. As a former lover of the current president, Pope knows where all the bodies are buried, and is well able to defend herself.

The first series had a sharpness and pace that reminded me of shows such as 'The Good Wife', and the second season will premiere on More4 this Thursday at 9pm. In the opening episode Pope is faced with a scandal of her own to manage, and the president gets blackmailed on live television.

And finally, fans of the ghoulish but enter-taining procedural drama 'Criminal Minds' will be pleased to hear that executive producer Ed Bernero has just released a similar series set in Europe. The first episode of 'Crossing Lines' was broadcast in America, France and Italy last week, and sounds like a bit of a laugh.

Character actor William Fichtner stars as a former NYPD officer who's fallen on hard times and is working as a morphine-addicted bin-man in Holland when he's recruited by a special task force working with the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

They hunt bad guys, and borders are no obstacle, which means lots of nice location shoots and an eccentric performance from Fichtner's co-star Donald Sutherland – apparently, he starts cross-examining pigeons in one episode.

Irish Independent

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