New Year 2013 TV highlights

TV drama in January featuring Borgen, Ripper Street and Mr Selfridge

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New Year 2013 TV highlights

Ripper Street

While all Scandicphiles will be mourning the death of The Killing, relief is at hand with the return of Borgen (BBC Four, Sat 5 Jan, 9pm). In the spate of publicity about the recent rash of dramas from Scandinavia, much has been made of the seemingly small pool of actors that producers have at their disposal. Remember your surprise at the hawkish defence minister in Borgen who had also been the gentle grieving giant of the first Killing? And how we chuckled to see The Killing’s chiselled DCI turning up as a kidnapped homeless guy in The Bridge.

But it doesn’t get much more postmodern than to have two fictional Prime Ministers (or Statsministers, as many of us can’t stop calling them nowadays) coming face to face in the opening episode of Borgen’s second season. This time, though, The Killing’s Kristian Kamper (Olaf Johannessen) is an anti-war dad struggling to come to terms with his son’s death in Helmand.

Meanwhile, spin doctor Kasper’s flourishing romance seems horribly ill-fated given that he’s started to call his new partner ‘Katrine’ after one daytime vino too many. The actual real Katrine is letting her principles get in the way of writing a needlessly negative newspaper story about Birgitte’s policy on Afghanistan as the Danish war dead suddenly starts to pile up. And away from the public glare, Birgitte continues to put off signing the divorce papers despite the persistence of pushy hubbie Phillip (remember him: he was the nasty sidekick of Lund in the second Killing, which also had a ‘War on Terror’ backdrop). Borgen proves that you don’t need a murder mystery to keep people glued to a subtitled show. That said, The Bridge can’t return quick enough.

Bloody murder and shrouded mystery are the potent ingredients which fuel Ripper Street (BBC One, Sun 30 Dec, 9pm), a drama about life in the Victorian East End six months after Jack the Ripper’s fifth and (we think) final victim had been unspeakably dispatched. The cops are happy to put his memory behind them, but some elements of the press are all-too willing to swoop on a murdered woman and dress her up as the next Ripper slaying: even adding some florid touches of their own to the crime scene. You could call it the first ever hacking scandal.

Our investigating trio is an effective screen crew. Matthew Macfadyen plays a diligent DI with a penchant for new technology (even complimenting a snuff movie director on his equipment) while Jerome Flynn has never looked more like Bruce Morton in his role as an earthy sort who goes undercover as a bare-knuckled boxer to get their man. And Adam Rothenberg is the former Pinkerton ‘tec and US Army surgeon Captain Homer Jackson whose mercurial forensic skill gives the show a touch of CSI Whitechapel while the era’s police interrogation techniques make Gene Hunt look like PC Plum.

An American in London stranger-in-a-strange-land motif is also at the heart of Mr Selfridge (ITV1, Sun 6 Jan, 9pm). Jeremy Piven puts in an excellently flamboyant performance as Harry Gordon Selfridge, the entrepreneur often credited with coining the phrase ‘the customer is always right’, and who brought a new kind of department store to the UK in 1909. Selfridge may have seemed pioneering and modern in his thinking (a teetotal, gun-loathing American can’t have been too common then as now), but he was still a man of his times, laying down a law that all female assistants would be dismissed should they wish to be married.

The only thing that Mr Selfridge has in common with Great Night Out (ITV1, Tue 11 Jan, 9pm) is the sign that says ‘Sellfridges’ during an opening shot. Had Cold Feet featured loud and lewd Lancastrians rather than slightly uptight northern-based metropolitan types, it would have looked and felt a lot like this. Despite the presence of Ricky Tomlinson, the first episode is both funny and fresh, with a series of pleasingly over-the-top cameos (the inauthentic salsa teacher and the camp train conductor whose dreams of the stage have been shattered) aiding rather than hindering the general jollification.

‘I can’t take much more weird’ announces Kristin Kreuk early on in Beauty and the Beast (Watch, Wed 16 Jan, 9pm), a new show based very, very loosely on the late 80s cult drama. If any viewer can take much more than one episode of this drivel, good luck to them. This time around, the ‘beast’ is an ex-US military hunk who was part of an experiment to produce an artificially-created supersoldier and the ‘beauty’ is a ball-busting detective whose mother was murdered in front of her nine years previously. Only the mysterious intervention of a ‘beastly’ figure prevented her own slaughter, but she has recovered admirably to go hunting the baddies of New York, karateing the hell out of three assailants on the subway for example. It’s as awful and pointless as it sounds with everyone involved looking like they just stepped off a Sports Illustrated shoot.

Mr Selfridge

Beauty and the Beast Extended Trailer (CW 2012)

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