Remote Control - TV round-up

Remote Control

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Brian Donaldson ponders the sad state of American and British dramas.

So British dramas don’t hold a candle to their American counterparts, huh? We may have taken this as read for years but could a seismic shift be happening. Not that our home-grown shows are lifting themselves up to a higher plane, but our pals across the pond are going through a dip. The gaps left by The West Wing and Six Feet Under are larger than first anticipated and won’t be helped when Tony Soprano finally has his moment with the fishes later this year.

And they just can’t quite get a spooky series to hold a light to the X-Files, and the latest travesty of that ilk is The Lost Room (Sky One, Wed 24 Jan, 9pm - 2 stars) which appears to unite the dream team of SFU’s Peter Krause and ER’s Julianne Margulies but is hopeless in the extreme. He plays Joe Miller, a cop whose daughter is trapped in ‘the lost room’ which exists in some black pocket ‘out there’ and which can be accessed by a key. Everyone is after this object but Miller’s torment is only heightened by some appalling scenes, dreadful dialogue and failed comic interludes.

Far more reliable is Jack Bauer, who’s back with season six of 24 (Sky One, Sun 21 Jan, 9pm - 4 stars). You might think that it will take him all day to get rid of that beard which makes him look like the soundcheck guy for Grandaddy, but he has other concerns on his mind. Such as how he will escape from his Chinese captors who remain miffed that he was involved in the death of one of their agents on US soil while Jack was trying to save the world from biological obliteration or something. A scary ten-minute prequel was all Sky One was willing to send out while they tried to track down the DVD which has been used to leak the first four episodes onto the net. The appetite is duly whetted.

Unfortunately, Prison Break (Five, Mon 22 Jan, 10pm - 3 stars) has contracted Lost disease, and looks like being another series that just didn’t know when to stop. One season might well have been enough, with the cons now on the loose and racing to get away from the various agencies (good and bad) in hot pursuit. Repetitive storylines and the desperate hunt for the perfect cliffhanger might be this show’s worst enemies.

Down the UK way, Robert Lindsay’s political journey from Tooting revolutionary to New Labour PM via his GBH ‘Derek Hatton’ figure is complete with The Trial of Tony Blair (Channel 4, Thu 18 Jan, 10pm - 2 stars) as we speculate on our beloved leader being charged with war crimes. Again, it’s unclear whether this is being pitched as slapstick comedy or psychological horror but the debate is over when Peter Mullan totters in as a finger-chewing indecisive Gordon Brown.

The short series of hour-long daily dramas in The Afternoon Play (BBC1, Mon 22 Jan, 2.05pm - 3 stars) kicks off amiably enough with Greta Scacchi coming over all dowdy to help out a young stud whose acting talent is stunted by the fact he can’t read. The heartstrings might have been pulled tighter had this been trimmed by half an hour, leaving you less time to await the inevitable happy ending. A pleasing denouement is surely not on the cards in the tense and highly emotional Five Days (BBC1, Tue 23 Jan, 9pm - 4 stars) when a young mum goes missing, and fingers are pointed in a host of different directions. It’s as close as we’re ever going to get to a UK 24.

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