Brian Donaldson finds alpha males and reconstructed women are running amok in new US dramas
What could the worlds of American contemporary mobsters and 1960s ad men possibly have in common? Actually, more than you’d imagine after you’ve seen a couple of episodes of Mad Men (BBC4, Sun 2 Mar, 10pm •••). Creator Matthew Weiner earned his stripes as one of David Chase’s battery of writing talents, and he hasn’t taken too long to get his first post-Sopranos venture on air. The clammy atmosphere of the Bada Bing! may be a stark contrast to the brilliant sheen of the Sterling Cooper ad agency offices on Madison Avenue but the gender rituals are hauntingly familiar with the shark-like males swimming around the typing pool preparing to strike; the actress formerly known as the President’s daughter in The West Wing has two passes to deal with in the opening episodes.
It’s of little surprise that this drama has at its heart a complex alpha male, so ladies and gentlemen, we present Don Draper, a suave, constantly smoking family man with a moll on the side who has had to crack a few skulls to get where he is today. In his public life, he’s the company’s reative director and junior partner, but has a secretive, explosive past that will slowly be revealed. Oh, and add an ‘e’ to the first word of the title and what have you got?
And add a ‘less’ to the final word of The Kill Point (Bravo, Wed 5 Mar, 10pm ••) and you’ll be getting close to the feeling of despair while watching this hackneyed heist effort. A cast of grizzled males (especially John Leguizamo who heads up a team of caring armed robbers and Donnie Wahlberg as the worst hostage negotiator you’ve ever seen) skulk around this cliché-filled drama in which a bank robbery goes badly wrong leading to a tense siege situation and, well, you know much of the rest. The only twist is the reason why the robbers are doing what they do. Which won’t be enough to keep you watching beyond the opening episode.
Seems that these days, every fictional cop has to have some sort of quirk, whether it’s a cop with obsessive compulsive disorder (Monk), a cop with Tourette’s (Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn) or, as in Moonlight (Living, Tue 4 Mar, 10pm ••) a cop who also happens to be a vampire. We should probably leave that one there. In Dexter (ITV1, Wed 5 Mar, 10.35pm ••••), the twist is that our anti-hero is a police forensics expert during the day and a serial killer by night, torturing and murdering those who have themselves brutalised their innocent victims. The added twist is that the lead role is played by Michael C Hall who we last saw patching up dead bodies as David Fisher in Six Feet Under. There’s a voiceover in Moonlight which is pure hackneyed pulp noir but Hall’s velvety tones are utilised superbly to raise moral questions about his deeds and set the scene for further anarchy. Let’s hope that Dexter, like the blood, will run and run.
And so we come to the remake of Bionic Woman (ITV2, Tue 11 Mar, 9pm •) which initially raised eyebrows for its choice of Michelle Ryan to play the reconstructed Jaime Sommers. Best known for moping through about eight million episodes of EastEnders as the never chipper Zoë Slater, the Americans must have taken to her presumably for showing up in Jekyll last year. If people were amazed that she scooped this role, they’ll be totally bamboozled at how appalling the end result is. Not all of it is Ryan’s fault as she has pulled off a passable US accent (more Albuquerque than Albert Square) but it’s the words that come out of her and anyone’s else’s mouth that really lets this hokum down. We get exchanges such as: ‘Where am I going?’ ‘Rehab.’ ‘What for?’ ‘Rehabilitation.’ While the top line of the opener has to be: ‘Timebombs only matter to those who have time.’ Bionic woman, moronic script.