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Review: Ransom 1x1 (US: CBS)

Posted on January 3, 2017 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Ransom

In the US: Saturdays, 8/7c, CBS

Canada has spent more than a quarter of century doubling for "Washington State" and other woody parts of the US in countless primetime American TV shows, but the number of such shows that are actually set in Canada is actually perilously small. But following the likes of Flashpoint and Rookie Blue on this largely untrodden path is Ransom, a CBS procedural that's almost indistinguishable from any other CBS procedural bar the fact it's set in Montreal.

The show is actually a heinous co-production between CBS, Canada's Global, France TF1 and Germany's RTL that follows the golden rule that the more co-production members you have from this international team of banality, the worse your show will be (cf Transporter: The Series). Indeed, the show is produced by the king of the bad international co-production Frank Spotnitz (HuntedStrike Back). Transporter: The Series was one of his, too, and this is almost as bad, albeit a lot duller.

Supposedly based on the experiences of real life negotiators Laurent Combalbert and Marwan Mery, Ransom stars secretly British actor Luke Roberts (Black Sails, Wolf Hall, Taxi Brooklyn, Holby City) as the head of a private sector firm of negotiators, who use their awesome negotiating powers to help rich people recover their children from greedy foreign kidnappers. Oh, but if only he could have used his powers to save his wife…

Nothing quite says "filmed in Canada" like the presence of Nazneen Contractor (The Border, 24, Covert Affairs, Heroes: Reborn) or Brandon Jay McLaren (SlasherGracelandThe Killing (US), Being Erica, Falling Skies) in your cast list, so kudos to Ransom for getting both of them in the credits to make up the show's now-traditional procedural ensemble, with McLaren playing a psychological profiler and Contractor playing Roberts' deputy. Or stooge. Or something. At least, she gets to explain the plot to McLaren when Roberts isn't around.

When Roberts is around, he gets to explain the plot to newbie Sarah Greene (no, not that one - the one from Penny Dreadful and Rebellion), a job applicant whom McLaren has rejected for A Dark Reason That Will Be Revealed At The End of The Episode But Which Will Show How Tormented Roberts Is.

And it's all bobbins. Everything is completed half-arsed. The show wants to be Canadian, but is so bad at even something so simple that despite being set in Montreal (56.9% French speakers, 18.6% English speakers), no one speaks French or has a French accent and there was only one piece of writing actually in French. And that's despite being filmed in Canada - I shudder to think what level of authenticity the show will stoop to when it starts going on its promised globe-trotting.

Ransom also wants to be about crises while still being different to Flashpoint so makes its crisis people private sector. Except it still wants to be a procedural, so everyone still goes round interviewing people, finding dead bodies, doing DNA analysis et al like they're the police, except without warrants et al. It all actually gets a bit creepy when they're snooping around schools trying to extract pupils' home addresses from unsuspecting teachers by pretending to be famous soccer players.

On top of that, they have to sort out the affected rich family of the week's marital/parenting problems ("You need to tell her about this"), while still being terribly nice when it turns out that the rich family aren't rich enough any more to pay their bills. Because we all know how well that usually works out in the US.

The show is stupid enough it makes Criminal Minds look genuinely smart. As well as constantly having to explain basic human social interactions to the audience ("If you offer them something, they might offer us something in return"), the show also gives us Greene explaining that judging from a kidnapper's accent, he's "Mediterranean, probably Greek". Because Spanish, French, Italian and Greek accents are all very similar, aren't they? Almost indistinguishable. To be fair, the actor is Greek-Canadian and does speak some passable Greek; to be less fair, his accent sounds like a Canadian putting on a Greek accent and he's also supposed to have been born in Yugoslavia.

If you've seen any other CBS procedural, you'll have almost certainly seen something much better, from its CSI: Miami-style sci-fi screenless computer displays through to its NCIS-grade inept fight scenes. Did they really drop Limitless for this mildly blander Crossing Lines?

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Review: Notorious 1x1 (US: ABC)

Posted on September 27, 2016 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Notorious

In the US: Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC

TV news producer - sexy job? Probably not. Mainly just people sitting down, looking at spreadsheets, working horrible hours and getting an ulcer while trying to work out where today's top story could come from.

Criminal defence attorney - sexy job? Probably not. Mainly just people sitting down, looking at abstruse papers, working horrible hours and getting an ulcer while trying to work out where an obviously guilty client's defence is going to come from.

But when you stick them together, hey? Sexy, right?

Nope. Two ulcers, that's what. Duh. But Notorious nevertheless tries to convince of the two careers' combined sexiness by using the simple tactic of removing reality from the equation altogether.

Like CBS's Bull, Notorious is 'inspired' by real people's lives - in this case, those of criminal defence attorney Mark Geragos and Larry King Live news producer Wendy Walker. Like Bull, that means it's almost certainly nothing like their lives, but a big fat development check will still be heading their way.

The lovely Piper Perabo (Covert Affairs) plays the top news producer who's also best friends with top defence attorney Daniel Sunjata (Graceland). He gives her scoops with all his most media-worthy clients, she gives him the heads up when sh*t starts heading their way - it's all win-win for them both.

Then Sunjata's top billionaire client, who coincidentally happens to be married to Sunjata's ex-girlfriend, appears to wrap his car around a person and Perabo and Sunjata are having to help each other out without ruining their friendship. Except things aren't quite as they seem and before you know it, Perabo and Sunjata are investigating the crime themselves - and each other.

Even without clients claiming they'd taken pain medication that caused them to 'sleep drive', this is nonsense of the highest order. Improbably, Perabo's assistant happens to be a former escort, a handy former career that helps her to secure all manner of scoops and is in no sense stigmatised. And maybe life on Larry King Live was a lot stranger than we imagine, but Perabo's star anchor (Kate Jennings Grant) spends most of her time in her underwear, shagging rappers before she's due to be on-screen. Oh yes, shagging rappers who organise indoor barbecues in her dressing room. That's not unlikely, is it?

Sunjata presides over a slightly more plausible firm that includes the likes of J August Richards (Angel), except he's the kind of go-to top attorney who'll go to a car impound lot at night so he can extract a great big bag of cocaine and dispose of it, rather than get someone else to do it. I wonder if that'll look a bit encriminating?

There is struggling in Notorious something interesting being said about the interplay between the media and the law when it comes to celebrities and how the truth is a rapidly diminishing aspect of cable news that the quest for ratings is obscuring. Unfortunately, said message is struggling beneath a layer of absurdity that makes Scandal look like a documentary about the Eisenhower White House years. 

I wish the cast well in their future careers, but you should try to help speed them on their way, by not watching this Notorious and watching the rather marvellous Cary Grant/Ingrid Bergman thriller instead.

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News: Ant-Man trailer, Covert Affairs cancelled, two new ABC Family shows, Felix Faust on Constantine + more

Posted on January 7, 2015 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Film casting

Trailers

  • Teaser trailer for Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man, with Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly et al
  • Trailer for Andrew Niccol’s Good Kill, with Ethan Hawke
  • Trailer for The Lazarus Effect, with Olivia Wilde, Donald Glover et al
  • Trailer for David O Russell’s Accidental Love with Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Tracy Morgan et al
Internet TV

UK TV

US TV US TV show casting

New US TV shows


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