Brian Donaldson finds some dramas are better at handling a crisis than others.
While Channel 4 may have uncovered its new West Wing with Commander in Chief, and Sky One thinks that Bones has exorcised its X-Files ghost, every network on the radar is after its own 24. The State Within (BBC1, Thu 2 Nov, 9pm - 4 stars) is the closest anyone’s come yet to replicating the high voltage, low-trust aesthetic moulded by Kiefer and co. As conspiracy thrillers go, this joint US/UK production could be the daddy of them all as a flight bound for London goes down over American soil and with West Virginia’s Muslims being summarily rounded-up, it transpires that the alleged bomber was British-born.
None of which pleases the US secretary of defence played by Sharon Gless and the British ambassador to Washington (Jason Isaacs), while you just know that some diplomats on show are not to be trusted. Meanwhile, a Falklands hero (Lennie James) is languishing on Death Row and resisting all attempts to have his case revisited. Are these disparate events in any way connected? What do you think?
If you’re looking for more easy comparisons, then The Innocence Project (BBC2, Thu 9 Nov, 8pm - 2 stars) is very similar to Hustle. We have a bunch of disparate folks brought together for a cause they believe in (this time it’s overturning wrong convictions instead of turning over rich folk) and they’ve borrowed the same smoky blues soundtrack. But it’s hard to have faith in a show which looks like some Big Brother housemates have been let loose on a Scooby Doo script, while I’m not sure that finger-clicking hepcat sounds are really justified in a show about miscarriages of justice.
They’re equally young and beautiful in Tripping Over (Five, Mon 6 Nov, 10pm - 3 stars) but this is one show which has quickly claimed an identity all of its own. A couple of episodes in and it’s achieved an unsettling and odd atmosphere initially triggered when Ramon Tikaram met a dastardly end on a freak boating accident in Thailand. Before then, we were threatened with the all-too familiar sight of some travellers indulging in bog standard backpackery leisure attractions. Suddenly, it was something much bigger and much darker as friendships ruptured and futures (and pasts) are cast into murky doubt.
There’s little doubt about the way Standoff (Sky One, Thu 16 Nov, 10pm - 2 stars) will go every single week. A male and female hostage negotiation double act will swap between bickering and bedding while still getting the job done despite the reservations of their snooty boss and the FBI’s more gun totin’ employees. In the opener, our man succeeds in calming down a trigger-caressing guy in a traffic jam while she gains the confidence of a suicide bomber who wants revenge because his mommy didn’t love him enough. Tedious and predictable.
While previous series of The Sopranos (E4, Thu 16 Nov, 10pm - 5 stars) have concentrated on the colour of money or the commitment to family/Family, this one has been all about escaping. Way back in episode one, Tony’s refusal to allow Eugene’s relocation to Florida resulted in a horrifically realistic suicide scene while the boss’ own coma dreams hinted at a wish for a less mob-like identity. We’ve had Vito the gay captain bolting for the New Hampshire antiques fairs while Christopher’s distancing from the memory of Adriana has led him into a quickie marriage and on to a reckless affair and drug relapse with Julianna Margulies. Quite what the grand finale of eight episodes next year will bring is anyone’s guess. But it surely won’t end well.