#telosvision: 2011 in telly

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it’s more than high time we all had a little look together at what kind of telly-based treats will be coming our way this year.

remember, sensible TV fiends always live by the motto of both the scouting movement and, somewhat less congruously, Aston Villa FC – Be Prepared.

as such, here is a little run-down of some things that are already on our screens/internet catchup facilities, and some others than are worth planning ahead to catch later on:

☆ now and next

>Penn & Teller: Fool Us [ITV Player (first broadcast 07/01/11)]
we start with the ghost of Christmas past as celebrity atheists Penn & Teller – the fat one and the silent one from gruesome magicland – held a competition which they kept saying wasn’t a competition to see if anyone could fool them with a magic trick. whoever could fool them, would get to go to Vegas and open P&T’s show at the Rio – but that wasn’t a prize, ‘cos it’s wasn’t a competition. anyway, when i watched it, i assumed it was a new series, but in fact it was a one-off, which, actually, on reflection, makes it quite a lot worse. however, it’s worth a look on ITV Player, even if it’s just to see how well a man with a wandering (neigh, intrepidly exploring) eye can shuffle-about some cards.

>10 O’Clock Live [Thursdays, Channel 4, 10pm]
this has been getting me excited for quite a while now, so much so that i erroneously announced to my tweeps that it started last Thursday. in fact, it starts tonight. incase you’ve not read about it or seen the adverts, it’s got Charlie Brooker, David Mitchell, Lauren Laverne and Jimmy Carr and is going to consist of live satirical reflection on the news.

it’s an interesting proposition in many respects. usually satire enjoys the liberty of prerecorded polish and deliberately shies away from confrontation with its targets, preferring to sling funny mud from a distance. herein, however, the 10 O’Clock team are not only going for a live performance, but are also planning interviews with politicians and the like. it sort of sounds like a comic relief night version of The Day Today. if it works, it could be brilliant. if it doesn’t, well, it’ll still have the lovely Lauren Laverne on it, so i’ll keep watching.

>The Brain: A Secret History [Thursdays, BBC4, 9pm]
staying with tonight, i’ve been rather enjoying Michael Moseley mumbling his way through the history of experimental psychology, the third part of which goes out at 9. while he’s been knocking about for a while, all of a sudden Moseley seems to have become the BBC’s top go-to-guy for biological science, which makes sense given that he’s a doctor turned presenter. this series, however, has been a significant cut above other stuff i’ve seen him do, perhaps because it touches on some really meaningful issues for him – apparently it was the nature of psychiatric practice that made him turn his back on medicine.

>The Killing [Saturdays, BBC4, 9pm]
no, not Kubrick’s classic film, but a police drama that’s taken a few years to work its way from Denmark around to the rest of the world and has been garnering all sorts of compliments on the way, even comparisons to The Wire. the Americans have remade it (of course) so that their people won’t have to sit through images of places outside of America, or get to grips with reading, but for those of us on this side of the pond, this is our chance to see the proper thing. it’s twenty episodes (two ten episode seasons) and they’re showing them on Saturday nights in double bills – no doubt with several repeats in between. i’ve been told by friends in the know to get very excited and not to dare miss it.

>The Justice Season [starts Sunday, 9pm, BBC4]
BBC4 has a season of programmes examining notions of justice in the modern world which seem as though they might be quite interesting. the season begins with a debate about the role and nature of fairness, liberty and rights.

>How TV Ruined Your Life [Tuesdays, BBC2, 10pm]
as of this coming Tuesday, the above mentioned moan-faced whingebag, Brooker returns to BBC2 following his Channel 4 exile with a 6 part series about how the conceptions of the world we find in film and TV are so wildly different to the drab reality of actual existence. given that it’s Brooker, it’ll probably be worth watching, but i can’t help feel that, conceptually, it seems like the weakest of all his vehicles so far.

the segment ‘If Pens Got Hot’ from the first episode – focussing on fear – bodes fairly well, with a nice line or two from the actor Kevin Eldon, but it does seem high-maintenance. also, if, in the in-between bits, he’s persisted with the same ‘my fake shitty flat’ set and has regular annoying contributions from Barry Shitpeas, i might not be able to stand it. if we must have talking heads – then more Stanhope, less Dent and no Shitpeas, please.

☆ for your diary

>Twenty Twelve [TBA, BBC4]
we were promised this six-part mockumentary about the London Olympics as part of BBC4’s autumn/winter schedule, but as far as i can see, no start date has yet emerged. given that it’s from John Morton, the writer and director of People Like Us and stars, among others, Jessica Hynes, Olivia Colman and Hugh Bonneville, i’m very keen to check it out. whatever happens, it certainly can’t be worse than BBC2’s witless Episodes with the off-form Stephen Mangan, Tamsin Grieg and Matt ‘I’m Not Actually A-List So It Doesn’t Make Sense’ LeBlanc.

>Archer (Season 2) [starts 27th Jan, FX]
dry your eyes fans of funny, all is not lost, laughs are on their way. as long-standing readers will know, here at RQT we loved Adam Reed’s ironic, post-feminist spy cartoon from the first time we clamped eyes on it. while it airs on FX in the U.S., last year’s first season was quite quickly picked up over here by Five. whether or not they plan to show season 2, i do not know, but if not, then those of you who are sensible enough to have a U.S. based VPN will be able to watch it on Hulu like me. in order to whet your appetites, i created a little video made up of all the short promo clips they’ve released – enjoy.


>The Bible’s Buried Secrets [TBA, BBC2]
another series that is definitely due late winter/early spring (March?) sees real-life’s answer to Lara Croft, and my former PhD supervisor, Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou drawing on her textual and archeological expertise to unveil some controversial truths about the Bible. undeterred by having been slagged-off by Ann Widdecombe for pointing out the rather trivial fact that it’s unlikely that Moses ever existed, on last year’s The Bible: A History, this year Dr Stavrakopoulou is back to reveal that King David is probably a fictive character too, that the God of Israel once had a wife, and several other juicy tidbits of biblical scholarship. incidentally, you might also want to watch out for her near-accidentally making one of the most important ancient near eastern archeological discoveries of modern times.

>Mildred Pierce
[starts 27th March, HBO]
Kate Winslet heads up a quality cast for what looks set to be one of the best mini-series of the last few years. this adaptation of Cain’s classic novel, set as it is during the Great Depression, seems a timely, if somewhat clichéd choice. however, given how much raving and praise has followed the series about since it was commissioned, i for one am not only expecting the political overtones to be sensitively handled, but also the performances to be something rather special. Mildred could well end up being this year’s Boardwalk Empire.

>Game of Thrones [starts 17th April, HBO]
another heavily anticipated series from the-almost-always-makes-brilliant-shows network HBO, GoT is based on some books i’ve not read by fantasy George R. R. Martin, who i’ve not heard of. apparently, however, it’s a dark, medieval-esque fantasy saga starring a majority British cast including Sean Bean, Mark Addy and Michelle Fairley. i’m not sure what to expect, but i’m hoping for something perhaps a bit like the brilliant BBC Gormenghast adaptation from yesteryear which starred Jonathan Rhys Meyes and Christopher Lee. we’ll see.

☆ a word about Sky Atlantic

for those of you who never put any hard yards searching for ways to watch all the great U.S. TV that doesn’t get shown over here, and who already have a Sky subscription, then Sky Atlantic is good news. it’s a new channel which launches on the 1st February and promises to bring you the best of American TV (so basically HBO plus a few extras).

soon enough, without doing anything, you’ll be getting treats like Boardwalk Empire (Martin Scorsese’s slow-burning, twenties gangster series, which was one of my favourites from last year), Treme (the utterly brilliant show from the makers of The Wire, all about post-Katrina New Orleans and how through all its loss, it kept its soul, just) and (at some point) season 5 of Mad Men (which y’all know all about – or should).

for those of us who don’t like to give Mr Murdoch any money, i imagine it will still turn out well, as i imagine webstreams on Veetle, Justin TV or via sopcast will be easy to find.

and finally …
☆ three things to remember to look out for in the summer

>How To Make It In America (Season 2)
>Entourage (Season 8)
>Louis (Season 2)

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