‘Midnight Sun’

If you trust my recommendations dear reader, stop reading right now and just watch this. If you need a little more convincing, read on. It’s only March and Midnight Sun has quite possibly staked the claim for most gripping episode 1 of a drama series this year. It’s an hour of tv that’s up there with The Killing and The Bridge. All the praise to Sky Atlantic for serving up this slice of stunning high-end noir. My only criticism is they’re portioning it out into weekly helpings, and I can’t bosh the lot in a weekend. Because I very definitely would.

This is a French-Swedish coproduction (yes, it has the Canal+ mark of quality) which follows Kahina Zadi (Leila Bekhti), a French police officer, as she heads to a small mining community in remote northern Sweden to lead an investigation into the spectacularly grisly murder of a French citizen. Her Swedish sidekick is local DA Anders Harnesk (Gustaf Hammarsten) and his rather more jaded boss Rutgar (Peter Stormare). Even with just a few minutes under the belt we can see that all of these characters are fully fledged with their own particular quirks and histories just beginning to be hinted at.

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‘Delicious’

There’s something about a flirty Dawn French pouting at Emilia Fox over a chopping block with a massive shiny cleaver sticking out of it that cannot be ignored. And that’s precisely why Sky 1 covered massive billboards with their likenesses. Mmmm delicious, I thought to myself, I wonder what that’s about. And then I thought about dinner, because obviously.

Well, episode one was at great pains to tell us, unfortunately via the means of a lengthy and extremely dull exposition not even saved by Iain Glen’s mellifluous tones. Yes, that’s another Game of Thrones graduate, more recognisable as Ser Jorah Mormont getting sunburnt and heartbroken in the desert with his Khaleesi. Mate, she’s just not into you. In Delicious he plays Leo, head chef at a fancy hotel in Cornwall. Beautiful skinny current wife is Sam (Emilia Fox) and his ex-wife who strangely seems to live in the exact same tiny village is Gina (Dawn French), the only person in it who actually looks like food is a pleasure not a burden.

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‘The Last Dragonslayer’

The Last Dragonslayer on Sky 1 was a proper Christmas treat and should have been on everyone’s list to watch instead of the Doctor Who christmas episode, shown at the same time. In this reviewer’s opinion Doctor Who has been limping along since the unfortunate Peter Capaldi took over. The sooner we see new showrunner Chris Chibnall’s work in 2017 the better, although it’d take a miracle to lure me back. Anyway I digress…

This much more satisfying slice of fantasy was served up by novelist Jasper Fforde. I’ve read quite a few of Fforde’s weird postmodern literary stories but never realised he’d branched out into young adult fiction. Happy to report that while retaining his own odd identity (more on that later) this shared elements with classic YA stuff like the Harry Potter series, Rincewind’s adventures in the Discworld and the magnificent His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman.

This is a full review, so if you want to avoid spoilers go watch it now and come back later.

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Ordinary Lies: Series 2, Ep 2 – On the Box

Ordinary Lies is a BBC drama now in its second series made up of interconnecting stories about colleagues in a workplace who all have dark secrets set to be revealed.  Series 1 starred Max Beesley in a car dealership in Warrington and series 2 is set in a Sports Direct style clothing company warehouse in Cardiff.

Episode 2 looked most interesting, as it deals with very topical issues of catfishing and editing your life to show they very best bits only on social media. It’s all an illusion because real life is so boring.

This is bright and funky drama, and feels very daytime like it should be in an early afternoon Doctors slot. Not a bad thing, just a sightly unusual tone for a drama broadcast at 9pm. Although I feel I must complain about one thing – the  unrealistic sunshine. This is not usually available in South Wales, even at the height of summer.

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Beck – ‘On the Box’

Well this is a bit risky. I’m diving in to a series at episode number 31. But Beck is special. It turns out we don’t have very many episodes available with English subtitles. BBC4 only started showing it from last year at around the episode 25 mark. This is a Swedish series that has been running since 1997 so there must be a big back catalogue. And with all the Euro dramas available on BBC4 I wonder, have we reached saturation point already? Or was this my mistake, overlooking a classic.

Beck is based on a number of much-loved books by  Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö written in the 1960s. The excellent Mrs Peabody Investigates says they are recognised as the forerunners to Henning Mankell’s ‘Wallander’ novels and therefore countless other Scandi police procedurals. Beck is the daddy of the genre. So even if this isn’t Episode 01, Series 01 we ought to sit down and take notice.

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BBC Sitcom Season – ‘Are You Being Served’, ‘Porridge’ and ‘Young Hyacinth’

In the gloomy lab of a crazed scientist’s lair the spooky organ music rises to a crescendo. The thunder cracks and the lightening flashes. The hand-stitched body-parts on the gurney start to twitch and there’s no longer any doubt. “It’s alive” yells Dr Frankenstein, “it’s alive!”.

This is exactly what happened in the mind of head comedy commissioner Shane Allen when he decided to launch the BBC Sitcom Season, reviving comedy classics from the last 60 years, to mark the anniversary of the first broadcast of Hancock’s Half Hour arguably the originator of all tv sitcoms. It’s up to us to decide if these unnatural creations are monstrous, or if like the good Doctor’s best known creation, they’ll have us in stitches.

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‘Outlander’ – On the Box

Outlander has been winning fans on Amazon since March 2015, but it’s all new to me, so allow me a recap. This is a historical romance with sci-fi time travel elements based on novels by Diana Gabaldon and set in the highlands of Scotland in 1743. Safe to say this is absolutely not my usual fare. I tend to run a mile at the word ‘romance’ but I’d heard great things about this show, and props to them; they’re clearly not afraid to chart their own course. Mr H reminds me frequently that I’d do a better job of blogging about telly if I nudge myself out of my comfort zone more often. So I don my silky negligee, pink fluffy kitten-heel slippers – which I understand is the uniform for all women who love romance – and armed only with a padded box of soft-center chocolates (the customary accessory) here I go.

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