Cuffs: First Impressions

A police-based drama finally returns to BBC One after HolbyBlue eight years ago.

The opening episode of the BBC series Cuffs proved to be a bad day at the office for rookie cop and main protagonist, PC Jake Vickers (played by newcomer Jacob Ifan).

By Jake’s own admission, being bled on and spat on (among other things) was not his idea of a great first day on the job.

However, a bad day at the office promises what I hope will be a great series, despite its cancellation by the BBC.

Cuffs follows the on-and-off-the-job lives of several front-line police officers and detectives with the fictional South Sussex Police service, as they deal with everything from harassment on a nudist beach to race-hate motivated crimes.

Although I’ve seen plenty of cop dramas before, my favourite being Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty, it appears Cuffs will offer a fresh perspective on the genre, and not just because it’s based by the Brighton sea.

Already after one episode, the series has delved into the lives of the characters, not only revealing a lot of what they’re like on the job, but also at home.

Viewers have already gathered that Jake wants to move out of his father’s shadow and make something of himself, on his own two feet.

From Chief Superintendent Robert Vickers’ (Peter Sullivan) words with Jake’s mentor, PC Ryan Draper (Ashley Walters), I can already tell that this will prove to be difficult.

Viewers also have the not-quite-so-inkling suspicion that “politician” daddy may be being unfaithful to his sick wife (played by The Bill‘s Clare Burt) with DS Jo Moffat (Amanda Abbington), who already seems like she’s more invested in the relationship than he is.

And finally, viewers have glimpsed that underneath PC Draper’s tough exterior is a loving father who clearly wants what’s best for his children, albeit juggling work with home life.

But Cuffs doesn’t stop there.

The series, so far, has not flinched away from showing the highs with the lows.

Although it does not appear to explore darker ‘taboo’ themes in the same nitty-gritty, dark and brooding fashion of Line of Duty, the series has already adeptly explored suicide, child abduction, racism, and infidelity, all in the first episode.

So stay tuned, I’ll be back for my final review in seven weeks.

But in the meantime, you can catch the trailer below.

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The Player: First Impressions

NBC series The Player looks like it will prove to be a bit of a hit-and-miss with the gamblers (pardon the pun).

Having already been reduced from a thirteen-episode run to only nine episodes, things are not looking good for Philip Winchester a.k.a. Alex Kane in what I thought would be a great action-packed series after Winchester’s stellar performance in Strike Back. However, looks can, after all, be deceiving.

The Player follows former security expert Alex Kane as he navigates his role as ‘The Player’ for ‘The House’, a shady Las Vegas organisation with a Person of Interest-type artificial intelligence computer that predicts crime before it happens. Kane’s role? To stop the crime before it happens,  whilst pleasing a plethora of wealthy clientele who ‘bet’ on whether he beats the odds and takes out the bad guys, before they take out him. But Kane is not alone, helping him his ‘dealer’ Cassandra (Charity Wakefield), a British bombshell who is also a tech-wiz. And breathing down both their necks is ‘pit boss’ Mr Johnson (Wesley Snipes) whose role it appears is to be as equally condescending as shady.

But just as marital woes proved to be a problem for Winchester’s character Michael Stonebridge in Strike Back, it looks like the same thing has come back to plague Winchester in The Player, with Kane’s wife supposedly knocked-off in the first episode.

For a former FBI agent I believe, Kane’s performance as ‘The Player’ is awfully underwhelming. He ran his own security business, but can’t seem to break away from his reliance on dealer and tech-wiz Cassandra. Quite pathetic, really.

The only thing that’s keeping me tuned in every Tuesday evening is the mystery surrounding Ginny’s ‘death’. It’s intriguing she may still be alive, and perhaps even more intriguing is Cassandra’s relation to Ginny.

Formerly titled Endgame, ratings may prove to be the endgame for this disappointing NBC series, that also makes me question Winchester’s versatility as an actor.

It seems Winchester has had a bad deal as former Strike Back co-stars Sullivan Stapleton and Rhona Mitra enjoy ratings success with their new shows Blindspot and The Last Ship.

But stay tuned, I’ll be back with my final review soon.

Humans: First Impressions

Gemma Chan as conscious synth Anita/Mia in the sci-fi series, Humans.

We’ve explored the benefits and dangers that machines present in such Hollywood films as Bicentennial Man and The Terminator Franchise, but after watching the series premiere of Humans Tuesday night, I feel that this series will do so much more – it will bridge the benefit/danger element and delve into the debate of not only what it means to be human, but the giving of rights to things we do not necessarily deem human. Deep, I know.

Based on the Swedish series Real Humans, Humans is framed around the five-strong Hawkins family and their varying relationships with synth, Anita. Of course, it’s not as simple as this, with the shady government (and its equally shady characters) hunting down four sentient or conscious ‘synths’ deemed to be a threat to the future of humankind, of which Anita is one.

In a society where you can buy a synth with a 30 day return policy, programme it to act (or should I say serve?) in any way you see fit as a primary or secondary user, it is nice to see that there are conscious synths who are human in almost every way – they can think and feel – and were built by a Dr. David Elster (Stephen Boxer).

It is also nice to see that synths have developed relationships with humans. William Hurt’s character Dr. George Millican comes to mind with his caregiver synth Odi. Outdated junk that needs to be recycled according to the health service lady, Millican is not prepared to give Odi up and has embraced him glitches and all. But I wonder how he’ll get on when the NHS rocks up with his new six-years-overdue “D series model”.

The same goes for The Adventures of Merlin‘s Colin Morgan, who plays Leo Elster, the son of Dr David Elster, who built the conscious synths. He’s looking out for the conscious synths and by the looks of it seemed to have a bit of a thing going with Anita.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the conscious synths will fair throughout the series, so stay tuned, I’ll be back with a final review in seven weeks!

American Odyssey: First Impressions

Anna Friel as U.S. Army Sergeant Odelle Ballard in the NBC thriller American Odyssey.

I saw the trailer for the NBC thriller American Odyssey on YouTube a while back and took note to watch it when it eventually made its way to New Zealand shores.

Well, four months behind its premiere in the U.S., American Odyssey premiered here in New Zealand last night.

And what a premiere it was, getting straight into the story of U.S. Army Sergeant Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) and her journey to stay alive after her team is murdered whilst on a secret mission in Mali, following their discovery that major U.S. company, SOC, has been funding Islamist terror groups.

The premiere unveiled a web of lies and corruption high up in the U.S. Army and business world that is sure to unravel as the series continues. The ‘good guys’ were separated from the ‘bad guys’ almost from the word go, and it’s clear that Ballard and her allies back home – former U.S. State Attorney Peter Decker (Peter Facinelli) and G8 protest organiser Harrison Walters, played by Jake Robinson, are in for a conspiracy-filled ride.

And let’s not forget about Aslam and the news team at Al Jazeera.

From watching the first episode, it appears as if the world is against Ballard and her allies, with high-ups in the U.S. Army and SOC spinning a web of lies about the demise of Ballard and Task Force 24 on the homefront.

This makes for a promising watch (yes, I know, things don’t bode well because the series has been cancelled) so stay tuned, I’ll be back at the end of the series with a review.

In the meantime, I hope she guards that pen drive!

 

 

 

 

 

First Impressions: Indian Summers

Indian Summers may be three episodes in on TVNZ’s One, but so far it hasn’t wowed me. There may be political intrigue and equally intriguing relationships, but I’m not totally hooked – yet. The first episode definitely well established the plot and characters and in the second the plot thickened and characters true motivations were revealed, to a certain extent (I haven’t watched the third :P). So far the political intrigue/India’s push for independence is definitely what’s keeping me watching.

The 10-part series follows a number of British socialites as they enjoy, and ultimately rule, India during the summer of 1932, as all the while India pushes for independence.

However, only two episodes in I know who I like, who I don’t and who I can’t stand.

Who I like:

77944d44-68b7-4462-9ca4-eaf6c83d389b_625x352Alice Whelan (Jemima West) – The younger sister of Ralph Whelan, Private Secretary to the Viceroy of India, she’s returned to India as a single mother. However, a mystery clearly surrounds her return. She warns her husband not to follow them and tells others that she’s a widow, so there’s definitely a lot of intrigue there.

Who I can’t stand:

indian_summers_20140523-141-EditSarah Raworth (Fiona Glascott) – I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone whine so much. Sure, your husband (Dougie Raworth, played by Craig Parkinson) isn’t home that much, but he’s doing something amazing with the mission school and she should appreciate his commitment. Plus, she’s so nosy.

Madeleine Mathers (Olivia Grant) – I can think of plenty of other ways of 1) getting a guy’s attention and 2) securing yourself a respectable position than spreading your legs. Stupid red head.

Ralph Whelan (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) – Although I can’t quite put my finger on him, Mr Whelan has, and is, definitely up to something bad and fishy. Don’t like him one bit. Plus, using the shooting of one of your workers, who, I might add, took a bullet for him, and using him for propaganda is not, in any way, shape or form, endearing! 69706

I know I haven’t included all of the characters, simply because there are a few I can’t put my finger on or seen enough of them yet.

If I stick with this series (purely for the political intrigue thus far), you’ll be sure to see my review of the rest of the series in another 7 episodes.

In the meantime, here’s the trailer:

First Impressions: Our Girl

Lacey Turner as Molly Dawes in the BBC drama Our Girl.

BBC drama Our Girl aired on TVNZ here in New Zealand last Sunday and since then I’ve been hooked on the 6-episode series, after only watching the pilot over two weekends. Our Girl follows 18-year-old Molly Dawes (Lacey Turner) and her journey to become a Combat Medical Technician in the British Army, to escape her dead-end job, father and cheating boyfriend.

I think what has me hooked on this series is Molly’s character. She’s feisty, courageous and doesn’t take s**** from anybody and to me that’s a powerful woman. But she’s not without her vulnerabilities and that’s what makes her so endearing and more importantly that’s what makes her human and relatable. She loves her family and battles with leaving them behind to find her own purpose in life and she ultimately wants to be loved. Molly’s determination to make her life better and her strength not to give up in the face of diversity really drive her story and coupled with the fact that the narrative is centered around the military really makes this series a winner for me (so far anyway).

It’s also nice to see a strong female character at the center of the militarized narrative for a change. I’ve watched series like Strike Back where there’s been strong female leads, but they didn’t drive and dominate the narrative, so I found I couldn’t engage and relate with the narrative as well as I am with Our Girl. I’m also enjoying the fact that Molly is an army medic, so there’s also that side I haven’t seen before in my television viewing.

Stay tuned, I’ll be back with all of my thoughts on Our Girl in a few weeks.

If you haven’t seen the series, you can check out the trailer for the special and the series below.

 

First Impressions: Gallipoli

The first episode of Gallipoli definitely lived up to the powerful and haunting nature of its trailer, albeit a little slowly. The story seemed to drag in places when the men weren’t fighting the Turks, and even then, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat. I hope the story finds its feet in the next 6 episodes.

However, it was still a powerful episode, filled with a few surprising moments. For one, I definitely wasn’t expecting Jeremy Lindsay Taylor’s character, Captain Eric Taylor, to be killed off in the first episode, let alone by a Turkish sniper. Kind of hoping he might just be severely injured? I thought Sergeant Harry Perceval had joined Taylor for a few minutes after he collapsed on the shore, but he managed to pull himself up again, thank goodness. I don’t think I could have handled two!

The flashbacks to Johnson’s life back home were jarring and a disappointment. The narrative kept jumping quite rapidly into them during the action at Gallipoli and it was hard to see how it fit, apart from the obvious fact that Johnson was trying to escape. All we really know from these flashbacks is that Johnson has a crush on his older brother’s girl Celia, played by Ashleigh Cummings and that his brother knows it.

It was good to see that at least the reporter has a good head on his shoulders, compared to all of the officers. The men needed honesty and he gave it. Good sport. Speaking of the officers, a bunch of men standing around a table arguing gets nowhere, men die, and they wonder how they got there? Honestly. However, on that note, it’s nice to see that the show is being honest and not glorifying Gallipoli by dressing up all of the tactical bungles. At least this far, anyway.

On a positive note, the narration by central character Thomas Johnson (Kodi Smit-McPhee) was so compelling and truthful. Lines that have stuck with me are “So many men went up into that gully and were never seen again” and “that’s as far as we ever got.” Goosebumps.

I’ll be back later with my thoughts on the rest of the season, so stay tuned!