ON PEA­COCK, THE NEW SHOWS ARE OK AND THE OLD SHOWS ARE MANY

Chicago Sun-Times - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - BY RICHARD ROEPER, MOVIE COLUM­NIST rroeper@sun­times.com | @RichardERo­eper

The ques­tion I used to hear all the time: What’s good in the­aters right now? What should I see this week­end?

The ques­tion I now get all the time: WHERE DO I FIND THAT MOVIE (OR SHOW) YOU LIKED SO MUCH?

A rea­son­able query. Af­ter all, there’s Net­flix, Hulu, Ama­zon Prime Video, Ap­ple TV+, Dis­ney+, CBS All Ac­cess, HBO Max and HBO Go, Quibi, Show­time, Epix Now, BET+, Starz, Kweli TV, PBS Pass­port, MUBI, OVID, et al. There’s an enor­mous amount of stream­ing con­tent avail­able for home view­ing (which could lead to an as­tro­nom­i­cal monthly bill if you’re not care­ful), and it can be over­whelm­ing.

The lat­est en­try in the stream­ing game: NB­CU­ni­ver­sal’s Pea­cock, with some 20,000 hours of con­tent — every­thing from cur­rent NBC sta­ples such as “Law & Or­der: SUV” and “Satur­day Night Live” to li­braries of “30 Rock,” “Frasier,” “The Rock­ford Files” and “Columbo,” to hun­dreds of movies in­clud­ing the “Juras­sic Park” fran­chise, to Tele­mu­ndo con­tent and orig­i­nal, big-bud­get movies and se­ries. Pea­cock is spread­ing its wings with a free one-week trial, af­ter which you can opt for a free tier, in which you’ll re­ceive about half of the avail­able con­tent, or pre­mium pack­ages at $4.99 or $9.99 a month, with ac­cess to all of the ma­te­rial and ei­ther a lim­ited amount of ads or none at all.

Here’s a look at two of the high-pro­file orig­i­nal se­ries de­but­ing on Pea­cock on Wed­nes­day:

‘IN­TEL­LI­GENCE’ ★★½

Some 16 years af­ter the “Friends” shared one last group hug and headed off into the syn­di­ca­tion sun­set, David Sch­wim­mer returns to episodic comedic TV with “In­tel­li­gence,” a spo­rad­i­cally funny but rud­der­less work­place com­edy in which Sch­wim­mer’s Jerry Bernstein is half nerdy Ross, half Michael Scott. Jerry is a so­cially in­ap­pro­pri­ate, un­duly over­con­fi­dent Amer­i­can NSA of­fi­cer who has been sent across the pond to act as li­ai­son with a Bri­tish cy­ber­crime unit. “I think we could learn a lot from each other, es­pe­cially from me,” Jerry an­nounces upon his ar­rival. He thinks he’s in charge. He’s not.

As is the case with work­place sit­coms from “Taxi” to “Cheers” to “The Of­fice” to “Brook­lyn Nine-Nine” to “Su­per­store,” we’re in­tro­duced to the os­ten­si­bly col­or­ful cast of core char­ac­ters — in this case, a cu­ri­ously small and not par­tic­u­larly well-de­vel­oped group that in­cludes the geeky Joseph (Nick Mo­hammed, who cre­ated the show); the Dame Judi Dench-ish, no-non­sense head of oper­a­tions Christine (Sylves­tra Le Touzel), and the hip­ster hacker Tuva (Gana Ba­yar­saikhan), who ob­serves every­thing with de­tached irony.

Through six episodes, “In­tel­li­gence” re­lies on fa­mil­iar and easy set­ups such as ev­ery­one in the of­fice hav­ing to take a lie de­tec­tor test (ooh, won­der if we’ll learn some per­sonal se­crets about the gang!) and is more con­cerned with some ad­mit­tedly clever and po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect one-lin­ers than char­ac­ter devel­op­ment. (Upon meet­ing the rel­a­tively diminu­tive Joseph, Jerry calls him “John” and says, “Do you mind me ask­ing if you have dwarfism in your fam­ily?”) Each 22-minute episode de­liv­ers a few chuck­les — but is al­most in­stantly for­get­table.

‘THE CAP­TURE’ ★★★

The lim­ited dra­matic se­ries “The Cap­ture,” which orig­i­nally aired on BBC One last year, is a much more im­pres­sive and time-wor­thy ve­hi­cle. This is a slick and en­ter­tain­ing if some­times overly com­pli­cated con­spir­acy thriller in the vein of “24” that takes the con­cept of Fake News to mind­bend­ing lev­els.

Cal­lum Turner is out­stand­ing as Shaun Emery, a Bri­tish sol­dier who has been con­victed of mur­der­ing an un­armed Tal­iban in­sur­gent in Afghanista­n — but on the day of his sen­tenc­ing, his bril­liant de­fense bar­ris­ter, Hannah Roberts (Laura Had­dock), in­tro­duces ev­i­dence in­di­cat­ing a tech­ni­cal mal­func­tion in the hel­met-cam footage and “prov­ing” Shaun’s ac­tions were jus­ti­fied. That night, CCTV cam­eras catch Shaun and Hannah kiss­ing at a bus stop — and then Shaun vi­o­lently drags Hannah away, and she goes miss­ing.

At least that’s what the footage shows. As we soon learn, “deep­fake tech­nol­ogy” al­lows var­i­ous or­ga­ni­za­tions with sep­a­rate agen­das to doc­tor vir­tu­ally any recorded footage to “cor­rect” events, to charge the in­no­cent with crimes they didn’t com­mit, to fab­ri­cate mur­ders, to bend re­al­ity to their some­times ne­far­i­ous needs. Shaun is the anti-hero of the story, but it’s Hol­l­i­day Grainger’s De­tec­tive Rachel Carey who be­comes the main pro­tag­o­nist, as she works tire­lessly to un­peel seem­ingly end­less lay­ers of trick­ery and de­ceit and dou­ble-crosses and triple­crosses. This is a great-look­ing, well-paced, timely thriller, with ex­cel­lent work by Turner, Had­dock and Grainger, and scene­grab­bing sup­port­ing work from Ron Perl­man and Famke Janssen. Even the watch­ers and the watch­ers watch­ing the watch­ers in “Cap­ture” are be­ing watched, a nifty trick that keeps us in­volved through­out.

SKY UK

Nick Mo­hammed (left) cre­ated and co-stars on the Pea­cock com­edy se­ries “In­tel­li­gence,” about an Amer­i­can NSA of­fi­cer (David Sch­wim­mer) work­ing with a Bri­tish cy­ber­crime unit.

BBC/HEY­DAY FILMS/NICK WALL

A Bri­tish sol­dier con­victed of mur­der (Cal­lum Turner) is sus­pected of ab­duct­ing his de­fense lawyer on “The Cap­ture.”

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