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The Killing hangs by a thread

"THE photograph . . . it was faked . . . I think that Rosie's killer is still alive." With those words, uttered by somewhat shellshocked homicide detective Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos), we're off on the second series of the American version of The Killing.

Except we're not, because this isn't really the second series at all, is it? It's not The Killing II so much as The Killing Part 2, a continuation of the same story from last time after what seems like the longest ad break in television history.

I didn't see all of The Killing's first run but I saw enough at the beginning and the end to know why American viewers, in particular, were ticked off with the anti-climactic climax.

Unlike the Danish original, the final episode of series one failed to reveal the killer's identity but instead turned out to be just another red herring piled on top of the mountain of red herrings that had almost crushed The Killing flat after an excellent few opening episodes.

It's a bit cheeky to string people along for 13 weeks and then say: "Sorry, you were misinformed. That was just half the mystery." The producers seemed to have belatedly realised that too, since they've taken the unprecedented step Stateside of announcing just when the killer finally will be unmasked. This seems a foolish thing to do with a drama that depends on the element of surprise, so I'm not saying when it's going to happen.

But anyway, here we are, for better or worse, back in rainy, gloomy Seattle, the perfect complement to the original's rainy, gloomy Copenhagen, where even daytime looks like dusk. Linden is reeling from the knowledge that her sidekick-cum-replacement, Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman), who she can never trust again, framed the chief suspect, sleazy councilman Richmond (Billy Campbell), for the murder of Rosie Larsen.

She's having to cope, too, with her restless, fed-up teenage son Jack, as their planned journey to California to hook up with Sarah's fiance (who must be the most patient man in the world) has been deferred yet again. I'm sorry," she tells the boy at one point, "sometimes things just don't work out." I think we ALL know how that feels.

Meanwhile, there's another development: Belko Royce, a close friend of the murdered girl's father, Stan, shoots Richmond, paralysing him from the waist down. In custody later, he grabs a cop's gun and puts one in his own head.

The Killing's chief strengths, and perhaps the main reasons for watching, are the strong, utterly convincing performances by Enos -- who as Linden is different to, yet almost the equal of, Sofie Grabol's Sarah Lund in the original -- and Kinnaman, and the complex interplay between their characters.

Will it be enough, though, to reel in disillusioned viewers for a second time? I'm a fan of dramas that take their time telling their story, but there's a perilously thin line between the slow burn and the slow death.

There's something naggingly familiar about RTE2's new American sitcom Happy Endings. Let's see: there's six young, expensively-dressed, impossibly good-looking buddies, three male, three female, including a girl who's a bit ditzy (she pretends to be Jewish to get a birthday date with a chap who's quite possibly a closet gay) and a guy who seems to have a witty comeback for everything.

The live in New York -- sorry, they live in Chicago -- against a backdrop of trendy hangouts and spacious apartments. Got it! It's Friends. Or it tries to be Friends.

If you were to overlook the fact that one of the six is black (not something you saw a lot of in Friends), the guy with the witty comebacks is openly gay and the six of them tend to drink alcohol rather than frothy coffee, you could nearly call it a remake, although I prefer blatant rip-off.

There are two major differences that stop it being Friends, though: a singular lack of charm and a near-absence of decent jokes.

the killing 2/5 happy endings 1/5