There are a whole score of new and returning shows on TV this month and next. I thought it might be a good time to discuss them.
First of all, the end of March marked the return of Doctor Who!
And there’s a new outfit, a new TARDIS, and a new companion. If you watched season 7, you already know Oswin. Can I say already that I love her? I love her. She is super smart, she is a conundrum, and she is simultaneously friendly, playful, and not afraid to stand up to the Doctor. Add to the wonderfulness of her character, she is a real enigma. The Doctor doesn’t understand her, and he finds anything he doesn’t understand really mesmerizing. It’s a totally different dynamic than the big brother relationship he had with Amy and Rory. And I really like his new coat. I feel like maybe I’m getting my expectations up too high. Last season was a little disappointing for me, and I don’t want to get too excited and then be disappointed again. But…it’s probably too late. I’ve seen the first episode and I really liked it, and I love their dynamic, and I’m really excited for what’s coming next. Dr. Who is on BBC America on Saturday nights at 8 Eastern.
Premiering that same night was the new series, Orphan Black. Although this is on BBC America, it doesn’t actually seem to be a British show. It is set in Canada, I believe, though it is never explicitly stated. The ‘main’ character, Sarah, is British, as is her best friend Paul. Only the actors aren’t actually British, but whatever. The show seems interesting; I haven’t made my mind up about it yet. It begins with Sarah (a woman with questionable morals and a shady background) seeing a woman, Beth, who looks exactly like her, jump in front of a train. She takes over Beth’s seemingly swanky life (wasn’t this the plot to that Sarah Michelle Gellar show, Ringer?), mostly based on the fact that the woman had money and nice clothes. Remind me to never take over my dead clone’s life based on her clothing quality, because it just doesn’t turn out well. She has to get to know Beth’s boyfriend (including possibly the most graphic sex scene I’ve ever seen on a non-premium channel), deal with a police inquest over a shooting in the line of duty (oh, Beth was a cop?) and a mysterious safety deposit box full of birth certificates. Sarah proves herself to be pretty stupid in this first episode. Her goal is to get her daughter back from whomever is caring for her, and to start a new life. Her first plan is to steal heroin from her ex and sell it for $20k. Her next plan is to have her best friend identify Beth’s mangled body as Sarah, and steal all of Beth’s savings. It never occurs to her that her daughter might find out that Sarah has been declared dead, but of course that is what happens. She seems to really lack the ability to think about consequences, but we know very little about her back story, except that she is an orphan.
This show is iffy. Could turn out well, could be implausible and ridiculous. I’m going to give it a few more episodes before I make a verdict. It’s on after Doctor Who, Saturdays on BBC America at 9 Eastern.
The last weekend in March was a big one for me! Also premiering, on PBS this time, was Mr. Selfridge, a proper British period drama about Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of the eponymous store on Oxford Street. I had no idea he was American, but apparently he emigrated from Chicago to open the world’s best department store in London. It just finished airing in England, so kudos to PBS for getting it over here in less than 6 months. They’re getting better!
Jeremy Piven plays a non-douchebag, which I didn’t approve of at first. Have they seen Entourage? I haven’t, I’ll admit, but his suits were too shiny for me to see him as a non-douche. Right? Look at this picture and then argue with me:
So, I’ll reiterate that I wasn’t sure about all this, but Jeremy Piven is really good! It helps that the character is bombastic and grandiose. He needs to act that way because, as we learn in the very first episode, he is in deep trouble with money. He needs a lot of money, press, and publicity to make his store a hit, so he has to be more confident than he is.
The show follows Mr. Selfridge, obviously, but it is also a Downton-esque ensemble cast of high- and low-class characters. There are: his wife, who meets a (very) handsome artist at the National Gallery; the shopgirl Agnes Towler who works in the accessories department and her struggles with her brother, her father, and her suitor; other employees in the store both friendly and not; Miss Love, the actress and potential mistress for Mr. Selfridge; ruthless investors in the store; and I’m sure there will be more in later episodes.
There were a lot of interesting dynamics between classes, like any British drama worth its name. Add to that, the genuinely interesting concept of the first true department store. Most shops prior to this time period, especially in England, did not have displays as we do now. There were counters, and you would go up and ask to see a specific type of glove or hat, etc. Or, if you were wealthy, you would have a dressmaker, milliner, etc., come to your house for a fitting in your own home. The art and hobby of shopping wasn’t the same. Ready-to-wear clothing wasn’t the same, either. So seeing this revolution happen in the show is intriguing. I found the first episode really entertaining and cannot wait for the next episode. Hopefully the quality stays the same throughout. My only complaint is that in the intro on PBS, Laura Linney was talking about the show and described it using the following words about Mr. Selfridge: “He was the first person to know what women really want. They want to go shopping.”
Oh, Laura Linney. Why? Why would you say that? Who wrote that? Blech.
Attention all Doctor Who fans! David Tennant is returning to our TV screens! For a limited time only! This is a two-part mini-series on BBC America, about a WWII era spy. It begins in 1937, in Poland, France, and Germany. David Tennant stars as Col. Mercier, a French ‘military attaché stationed in Poland. He alone sees the war coming, where his comrades don’t want to admit what is happening in Europe. I don’t know much about the plot yet, but the NY Times called describes it almost as a whodunnit, more like a Christie novel than Casablanca, which it seems to want to be. There is a love triangle, but the upcoming War is the real story of the mini-series. Also according to the Times, despite the weaknesses in Spies of Warsaw, “there is nothing more satisfying than a prewar espionage story that shows, up close and told-you-so, how most of Europe slept through Hitler’s rise.”
It’s playing on BBC America on April 3rd and 10th, but I’m quite certain they will replay it several times over the next month or two.
Although I didn’t watch it, I should mention that the second season of Call the Midwife also premiered at the end of March. It airs every Sunday night on PBS, and is also available on their website.
Also coming soon on PBS is something I’m really excited to see: The Bletchley Circle
This aired last year in the UK. Set in 1952, it follows four women who worked as code breakers at Bletchley Park (the main center for decryption/codebreaking in the UK during WWII). If that wasn’t bad ass enough, it’s also a murder mystery. Police are overlooking a pattern in the killings, but these code-breaking badass ladies in their cardigans are smart enough to see it. It’s only a 3 part mini-series, but it sounds awesome. I love to see women in period pieces that have more to do than just swoon and get married. The Bletchley Circle premieres on PBS on April 21st.
Looks like it’s going to be a great spring for us anglophiles!