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Television 2010: Looking Ahead | reviews, news & interviews

Television 2010: Looking Ahead

Television 2010: Looking Ahead

Fresh angles from BBC3 and C4, same old from the others

All the other big ones – Jungle, Strictly, X Factor – are beginning to seem so last decade, as repetition sets in and an increasingly empowered-feeling public wants more of a real say in making (Susan Boyle) or breaking (Katie Price) celebrities.

Something else will come along, something more responsive to increasingly distracted and digitalised viewers, but in the meantime (just as ghost-written celebrity tomes are giving way to popular fiction in the bookshops) it would seem that the death of TV drama has been prematurely announced. 2010 looks promising on several fronts.

From across the Atlantic, Mad Men returns with a third series at the end of January, and it’s comforting to know that a fourth series of Matthew Weiner’s sublime ad-men saga is already in front of the cameras. And a personal favourite from 2009, Hung, with Thomas Jane bringing just the right note of bemusement to his midlife-crisis-stricken Rust Belt gigolo, is also set to return. God bless HBO. BBC Two has meanwhile purchased the dark comedy drama Nurse Jackie, with the wonderful Edie Falco, Carmela from The Sopranos, as a pill-popping New York emergency room sister (starts 4 January). And E4 has the all-singing, all dancing teen talent saga Glee (starting in January), which can be safely watched by older viewers without that nagging feeling that you’re gate crashing the kids’ party.

It’s a trend that started in 2009, but expect to see more and more actors who’ve excelled in US dramas, trickling over to this side of the pond. Both Goran Visnjic from ER and Minnie Driver (The Riches) are starring in BBC One’s submarine drama The Deep, while Idris Elba from The Wire is the latest detective on the block in Luther, in which the identity of the killer will be known from the start – less a whodunit than a will-they-catch-him-or-her-in-time?

In fact the search is on for detective dramas with a fresh angle. ITV’s ID, starring Aidan Gillen from The Wire and Keeley Hawes from Ashes to Ashes, will look at the various forms of identity crime, while BBC One’s The Silence will star a hearing impaired actress, Genevieve Barr, as TV’s first deaf detective. In general expect more dramas to run over five consecutive nights, in the style of Criminal Justice, Collision and so forth. Supposed to make a drama stand out from the crowd, it’s a gimmick that’s soon going to become devalued by over use.

Fashion and music have been revisiting the 1980s for a while now, but the sluggish TV commissioning process has finally caught up with the retro-trend, and BBC Two is having an Eighties season in the spring. Sex Traffic writer Abi Morgan revisits the wedding of Charles and Di in Royal Wedding, while Shaun of the Dead star Nick Frost plays John Self in an adaptation of Martin Amis’s Money, co-starring Eighties icon Jerry Hall. A very different sort of 1980s icon, playwright Alan Bleasdale, also returns to our screens, with the true-life wartime story of The Sinking of The Laconia. It sounds an innocuous enough story, but has Bleasdale retained his knack of finding the controversial in unexpected places?

There’s the usual haul of BBC Four biopics, including Sophie Okonedo as Winnie Mandela, Julie Walters as Mo Mowlam, and Christopher Ecclestone as yet another John Lennon. Anna Maxwell Martin meanwhile is playing Heather Brooke, the journalist and campaigner whose disclosures led to the MPs expenses scandal (Brian Cox plays Speaker Michael Martin). Predictably there are more remakes, from The Prisoner (South Africa standing in for Portmeirion) to Upstairs Downstairs, but potentially more interesting is what’s happening over on Channel 4, where This Is England auteur Shane Meadows makes his (as yet unnamed) TV drama debut, as does Sebastian Faulks.

And what of the much (and often justly) maligned BBC Three? The channel gets off to a cracking start with the return of Being Human, my favourite new British comedy-drama-whatever of last year. About a flat sharing werewolf, vampire and ghost (Russell Tovey, Lenora Crichlow and Aidan Turner), this dark and funny series knocks spots off the over-hyped and increasingly self-regarding Doctor Who. It's a very British Buffy.

BBC Three is also encouraging new documentary-making talent by extending its Fresh initiative – something Channel 4 has been doing for a while with its First Cut strand. On the grown-up channels, the modern family continues to be the dominant theme – motherhood on BBC One, with Being Mum, and fatherhood on BBC Four. I wonder what that says about the aims and demographics of the two channels?

Interesting new comedy shows include the wonderfully sly Tom Hollander as an inner-city vicar in Handle With Prayer, and Simon Amstall making his acting and writing debut, Grandma’s House. Paul Whitehouse reunites with Charlie Higson for a television version of their Radio 4 comedy Bellamy’s Kingdom, while gay black stand-up Stephen K Amos gets his own sketch show.

But it's not just the chaps hogging the comedy limelight, and Miranda Hart deservedly gets another series of her sleeper comedy hit, Miranda, while comedy duo Lorna Watson and Ingrid Oliver get their chance to fill the long-standing vacuum left by French Saunders. Does that all add up to a happy new year? I think so.

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can anyone tell me when the sinking of the laconia is bwing screened - i really want to know as my uncle was in the raf and died on this ship

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