Being a collection of quick thoughts concerning some programmes I’ve watched using legal means and without paid-for cable/satellite channels.
Virgin recently showed the (appropriately) 13 episodes of the first season of this fun little series, which can be seen as The X-Files with humour: a male Secret Service agent who gets ‘vibes’ and a female Secret Service agent who is more by the book are sequestered to a secret government agency who track down dangerous supernatural objects and house them in Warehouse 13 (basically, the place from the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark). In charge of Warehouse 13 is Artie (Saul Rubinek), who has a past that impacts on the story, and he also sends our two agents on their assignments and providing them with Intel during their missions. There is a lightness and sense of fun to proceedings, although there is an element of danger to the missions, with an overall arc of a rogue agent of Warehouse 13, who was Artie’s partner, but it’s more about the characters, which makes it more enjoyable. The first season ended on a huge cliffhanger, so I was very glad that SyFy renewed the show for a second season, even though I don’t know when I will actually see it.
Created by Graham Yost (screenwriter of Speed, Broken Arrow and Hard Rain, among other things) from a short story by Elmore Leonard, Justified is about Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), a US Marshall who is reassigned to the Eastern Kentucky hill country where he grew up after killing a fugitive in Miami in a ‘justified’ shooting. Back in his home area, he comes into contact with his ex-wife, an old flame (who has killed her husband because of the beatings he gave her) and his best friend (Walton Goggins, playing an intelligent but psychopathic redneck), who now robs banks and anything else. Givens is effectively a sheriff from the 19th century in a modern setting, and it’s a very intriguing premise for the show, watching him dispense justice in an old-fashioned way but having to deal with the modern repercussions of these actions. Olyphant is really good in the lead role, a handsome, soft-spoken, smart but highly principled man out of time, and he anchors the whole show yet still manages to make wearing a cowboy hat look good in a modern setting. The only qualm I have with the show is that they didn’t kill off his best friend when Givens had to shoot him from about six feet away, with a bullet to the chest missing the heart but allowing for Goggin’s character to survive to become a troublesome thorn throughout the series; it felt wrong somehow, and is only a minor complaint in an otherwise enjoyable and gripping series. It has also made me glad that I only drove through Kentucky when I lived in the US and never stopped, because they make it look like a scary place …
Even though I am a lapsed Catholic and therefore find organised religion innately humorous, I didn’t think there would be much mileage in a sitcom about a reverend, especially after the popularity of The Vicar Of Dibley had soaked up all church comedy for the mainstream. I was glad to be proven wrong – Rev is a very good sitcom that finds lots to provide laughs. The Rev in question is Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander, who co-created the show), an Anglican vicar from Suffolk who has been given a church in Shoreditch, London; he has a slightly annoying junior vicar to deal with, a media-savvy archdeacon patronising him on a regular basis, a small congregation and a rundown church and no funds. He also has a loving solicitor wife (Olivia Coleman) and a dedication to his duty that doesn’t come across as excessively pious or outdated. It’s a nice balance, especially mixing it with topical storylines – the first episode had a sudden influx of local parishioners because they wanted to get their children into the church school because of a recent good report (‘On your knees, avoid the fees’). The acting is good, and the show has attracted a good cast, even the one-off performances, such as Hugh Bonneville as Adam’s college friend who has become a famous and much-loved vicar on television and radio. Hollander does a very good job of holding it all together, and it’s good to see him in a lead role that makes best use of his talents. The other important factor is that the show is very funny – they haven’t forgotten that, apart from having an interesting premise, the point of a sitcom is to make people laugh. Clever jokes, silly jokes, dirty jokes, funny jokes – they are all there, making Rev an enjoyable sitcom. Thanks, BBC2.