2013 has seen many great shows end but even though the new TV season is months away the first half of the year has seen a collection of new series which give me a lot of hope for the future.
With summer approaching now is the best time to check out some shows you may have missed
The Americans (FX / ITV in the UK from 01 June at 22:00)
FX continue to make a case for being the best channel for dramas, after Justified and Sons of Anarchy comes this series which hooked me from the start. Russian spies posing as an American couple during the 1980s is an different take on the spy shows of late. I’m sure many will jump to compare it to Homeland but besides both shows being well written, well acted series with stunning leads I think they are quite different.
Keri Russell’s Elizabeth Jenkins is as cold as the Motherland she hails from and husband Philip Jenkins (Matthew Rhys) is perhaps enjoying the life they have made in the US a little too much. Then we have FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich) who has recently moved into the Jenkins neighborhood but perhaps the break out role for me has been that the Russian Embassy worker Nina (Annet Mahendru) recruited by Stan, I won’t spoil anything but I love what happens with her character. Oh and the always wonderful Margo Martindale reoccurs as the Jenkins handler Claudia, she pretty much steals every scene she is in which Justified fans will know is just something Martindale does.
What makes The Americans interesting though is its time period, there are no fancy gadgets and computer hacking, instead we have a series of wigs and some good old fashioned spy work. Also the audience knows who wins the Cold War which could make many of the storylines feel redundant but so often I find myself rooting for both sides of the story and even if history tells me who has won I can’t help but hope the Jenkins might triumph.
Rectify (Sundance Channel also available on ITunes / UK channel TBA)
S1 of Sundance Channel’s thoughtful and wonderfully acted drama recently concluded. I found myself incredibly caught up in the life of Daniel Holden (Aden Young) and his return to society after 19 years on death row. Though the question remains whether Holden did indeed rape and kill his girlfriend all those years ago the real heart of the story is how he adapts to the modern world and the impact it has on his family and home town. Young is mesmerizing in the main role with great supporting work from Abigail Spencer as sister Amantha and Adelaide Clemens as sister-in-law Tawney. Delighted that it has been renewed for another season to air in 2014.
I previously wrote about Rectify here
Orphan Black (BBC America / BBC 3 in the UK date TBA)
This is the best new sci-fi show in quite some time and has been consuming my life these last two months. Tatiana Maslany is doing award winning work here playing 4 main characters and several others in this story about clones which may sound silly but is so much fun that it is impossible not to fall in love with it. Watching her interact with well herself every week is pretty incredible, every clone is different from uptight Soccer Mom Alison to unhinged Helena.
BBC America are showing a marathon of the first 9 episodes in time for the finale on Saturday 01 June.
I previously wrote about the first couple of episodes of Orphan Black here
Hannibal (NBC / Sky Living in the UK)
I wanted this to be good, I needed it to be good, it ended up being fantastic and the best drama on broadcast TV this year. Bryan Fuller moves away from the quirky comedy/drama of his previous works (Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls & Pushing Daisies) into serious creepy territory. Serial killers are all the rage these days but unlike the ridiculous The Following this one works.
Partly this is down to just how beautifully filmed the show is, crime scenes are horrifying but displayed as works of art. The central performances of Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) needed to be spot on well they are, Dancy’s Graham is unstable, always on edge, close to cracking up but unable to walk away from his work with the FBI because he can help. Lecter of course is a well known character, Mikkelsen does a fantastic job though, he brings an elegance to the man audiences have known for so long.
Fuller’s adaptation choices have been good decisions, making both journalist Freddie Lounds (Lara Jean Chorostecki) and psychiatrist Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) female roles and also making the true nature of Lecter known to the audience – it would have been redundant to try and hide who he is.
Also have to mention Laurence Fishburne as Jack Crawford, he often comes to blows with Bloom and Lecter over the well being of Will but also has his own damaged past and present. I love the dynamic between Crawford/Lecter/Bloom/Graham as they attempt to track down killers with the help and hindrance of Lecter.
In The Flesh (BBC 3 / BBC America from 06 June at 22:00/21:00 C)
BBC have been on a role with supernatural horror shows over the course of the last few years with both Being Human and The Fades. In The Flesh is well worth checking out, you may think you are tired of zombies but this is a very different, very British take on the genre. Dealing with issues of homosexuality, family, depression and prejudice. Can be bleak at times but I came away satisfied with the ending. It has since been commissioned for a second season and there is still plenty to explore.
Top of the Lake (Sundance Channel, also available on ITunes and Netflix / BBC 2 in the UK date TBA)
A one of mini-series from The Piano director Jane Campion, this story is set in a New Zealand community with some truly dark secrets. Elisabeth Moss really impresses in the role of Robin Griffin a detective brought in when 12 year old Tui Mitcham (Jacqueline Joe) is found to be pregnant. The mystery of who raped her becomes something more when Tui goes missing. Is she dead? Is she somewhere out in the vast wilderness? Who was so scared of?
Robin has her own demon and past to deal with whilst battling a police force and community which has its own way of dealing with things. The conclusion may not be satisfactory for some but I liked how everything wasn’t wrapped up nicely and how you can draw your own conclusions to just what happened.