Warmer weather no longer brings cold front to TV scene
Three more fine new summer TV series to enjoy.
While so far it hasn’t been much of a summer for weather, the summer of 2015 will go down in the books as one of the better off-seasons in recent years for decent new television.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve has stumbled across no less than three new TV shows that, to varying degrees, are worth spending some time with.
In the usual Proper Channels fashion, here they are, from (relatively, in this case) worst to first:
••• “ANOTHER PERIOD” (Comedy Central): This half-hour comedy (it’s on the speciality channel Much on Tuesday nights in Canada) is a sly little satire that does a pretty good job of simultaneously mocking reality TV of the “Housewives of (insert name of large American city here)” variety, as well as period dramas like “Downton Abbey” and “Upstairs Downstairs.” Only two of the season’s 10 episodes have aired so far, but if the quality is as good the rest of the way, “Another Period” is easily deserving of a second season.
The storyline is a standard one for fans of Kardashian silliness: It’s about 1900 or thereabouts, and the nouveau riche Bellacourt sisters of Newport, Rhode Island, are fiercely determined to become famous, much like the reality stars that have overrun our television networks today. Well-known standup comedienne Natasha Leggero is in fine form as snooty Lillian Bellacourt and Riki Lindhome (the Garfunkel half of the music/TV duo, “Garfunkel and Oates”) matches her as the somewhat dim-witted younger sister, Beatrice Bellacourt.
The eye-rolling shenanigans the sisters get themselves into is helped out considerably by a great cast that includes such top-drawer talents as Paget Brewster (“Community”), Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) and Jason Ritter (“Parenthood”).
While no word has has come down yet on a second season, series creators Leggero and Lindhome deserve a big thumbs-up for dreaming up a concept that’s as fresh as it is funny.
••• “DEUTSCHLAND 83” (Sundance): The first-ever German language series broadcast on an American network, Deutschland 83 is yet another example of why TV with subtitles is becoming a more viable option for discerning viewers these days.
Good on Sundance to air the original rather than doing an English-language copy that sucked all the life out if the forerunner, like A&E did with its version of the fabulous French TV series, “Les Revenants.”
Deutschland 83 tells a simple, straightforward story, but the steady rise of the stakes with each passing episode ratchets up the tension quite nicely.
Created by the GermanAmerican husband-and-wife team of Anna and Jörg Winger for the German broadcaster RTL, Deutschland 83 is an eightpart miniseries set in 1983, just when United States President Ronald Reagan was starting to feel his oats and figured he had a decent shot at tipping the balance of the Cold War in America’s favour.
Onto the scene comes an idealistic young East German solider named Moritz Stamm ( Jonas Nay), who is blackmailed by his cold-blooded Aunt Lenora (Maria Schrader), a high-ranking East German spymaster, into taking on the identity of a West German officer attached to an important NATO general in West Germany, with the object being to steal as many secrets as he can before he gets caught
Nay is quite believable as the resourceful but inexperienced young spy who is tested to his limits, but it’s the lighter moments — his inexperience leads to some unexpected and nervewracking gaffes — that give a nice edge to the tension-packed storylines. CATASTROPHE (Channel 4): A modest hit when its sixepisode run aired in the UK in January, Canadians have been able to see what the fuss was all about since since May 10, when “Catastrophe” began airing on the streaming service Shomi.
The premise to the the halfhour comedy is simple but brutally effective — forty-ish London single Sharon Morris (Sharon Horgan) has a weeklong fling with a harmoniously named visiting American businessman named Ron Norris (Ron Delaney) and, a few short weeks later, discovers she’s pregnant. As soon as Ron gets the overseas call from a panicky Sharon, he’s off to England, determined to do the right thing, come hell or high water.
Of course, nothing ever runs smooth in sitcom land, and there are more than a few ups and downs over the course of the season, but the two leads are nothing short of marvellous in convincingly portraying two people who barely know each other, while at the same time delighting in the slow but sure discovery that they have a lot more in common than they had at first imagined.
Horgan, one of the funniest comic actors alive, is her usual magnificant self, but the real surprise for me was how well Delaney works opposite her. People have been telling me about his standup work for a while now, but this was the first time I had the chance to see him as an actor and he’s a fair match for the Horgan, who made great series like “Pulling” and “Fair Game” such addictive viewing.
And more good news: Channel 4 is making a second series that should air next winter.
Sharon Horgan and Ron Delaney star in Channel 4’s hit comedy, “Catastrophe.” The six-episode, half-hour British comedy has been available in Canada since May 10 on the streaming service Shomi.