Saturday, January 21, 2017

TV Series in January 2017

It's been two months since I last wrote about the TV series which I watch; during that time, almost all of the series which I mentioned then have finished, being replaced by a motley selection.

One series, 'Unforgotten', started being broadcast just after that blog entry. This is basically a police procedural, but it's more about the people involved in the crime (the death of a 17 year old boy, 30 years ago) than it is about how the police solve the crime. In other words, it's much more a drama than it is a procedural. In a strange piece of casting, Nicola Walker, otherwise known as Ruth from 'Spooks' plays the senior detective; the initial episodes were broadcast here at the same time as series 3 of 'Scott and Bailey', in which Walker plays a somewhat deranged character. Here, Walker plays a slightly hesitant detective, which seems somewhat unlikely: surely someone at the rank of DCI would be much more self confident and decisive.

'Madam Secretary', as befits an American series which has about 22 episodes per season, is still being broadcast. Episode 12 of season 3 was shown on Thursday night; this means that we are seeing the episodes only a few days after their broadcast in USA, according to IMDB (this link probably will change in the future). They show episode 12 being broadcast on 15 January and episode 13 on 27 January, although no indication is given as to which country those broadcast dates refer. This programme is consistently good (but not excellent), even though its stories are somewhat facile.

With no advanced warning, I discovered that Sherlock season 4 is being broadcast in Israel! We're about two weeks behind Britain, which is also not bad. The first episode ('The six Thatchers') seems to contain more action and is less cerebral than the earlier episodes; still outstanding, but less groundbreaking. I watched the program yesterday when something strange happened: the transition from one specific scene to another seemed very strange - I thought that this might be some kind of dream sequence, but it still didn't seem right. Fortunately, the episode is broadcast several times during the week, so I recorded it again today and discovered that there was a whole ten minutes missing from the version which I had watched the first time.

Another British series which I'm watching is called 'In the club', which follows the lives of six very pregnant women (one gives birth every week). It's a 'bunker' series: dependable, but too much happens per episode to be realistic. This series dates from 2014 so we most certainly are not watching it concurrently. Hermione Norris (Cold Feet, Spooks) appears in this, as does Sacha Dhawan, who is a new name to me, but coincidentally appears in the above episode of 'Sherlock'. I'm not recording this.

Last night I recorded a new - to me - American series called 'Mind Games'; this too dates from 2014. Although thirteen episodes were recorded, apparently only about six were broadcast before the series was cancelled: it will be interesting to see how many episodes are broadcast here. I didn't see the first episode, so the beginning of the second was quite bewildering. Most of the actors spoke too fast so I had difficulty understanding what was happening. So why did I watch (and record) this? Because the theme of the programme seems to be industrial psychology - a strange basis for prime time television (probably the reason why it had low ratings) but definitely up my street. Starring are Steve Zahn (who always seems to play manic people) as an academic psychologist, and Christian Slater as Zahn's brother, who is more of a 'folk psychologist'. In the episode which I saw, they dramatised a psychological experiment straight out of Dan Ariely (this is a true experiment): sometimes it can be very hard to make a choice between two alternatives (let's call them A and B), but if one adds a third alternative - a demonstrably inferior version of one of the original two alternatives (let's say C is comparable to B, but worse) - then choosing becomes easier: it will be the superior version of the third alternative (ie B). A few other psychological techniques also got some air-time. It will be interesting to see what the following episodes are like: whether it calms down, whether we get more real psychological techniques and whether the back story - one brother (Slater) apparently hires a girl to fall in love with the other brother (Zahn) - makes any real sense.

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