British TV has been awash with American imports for as long as I can remember. I am currently enjoying The second season of Sons of Anarchy and am looking forward The Walking Dead and the second season of Justified. But what of our own home-grown programming? Since its reboot in 2005, the real success story has been Doctor Who, Downton Abbey also is proving very popular (I have only seen one episode) but what else has there been to watch recently?
Two new series recently debuted on The BBC: Outcasts and Silk. Outcasts is a Sci-Fi show with a fantastic premise and a great cast. Set on the fictional planet Carpathia (named after the ship that came to the rescue of survivors from Titanic) in the year 2040 after Earth has become uninhabitable. Sadly the great premise is wasted on a dull and tedious story. Undergoing numerous rewrites (it shows) before entering production the show lacks focus and direction with episodes having vastly differing tones. What could have been the BBC’s Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 (on a smaller scale/budget) turned out to be an incoherent mess. After a few episodes the show lost its primetime slot and was eventually cancelled. As such it may gain a cult following, it doesn’t deserve one!
Starting around the same time and coming to the end of its six episode run in Silk. A British legal drama set around a London barristers chambers. The story follows two rival barristers who have both recently taken on pupils and who are both in competition to “take silk” (the act of attain the rank of Queen’s Counsel). With interesting characters and believable stories the show makes compelling viewing. The real success of the show is the casting: Maxine Peake and Rupert Penry-Jones as the rivals for Silk, Tom Hughes and Natalie Dormer as their respective pupils and Neil Stuke as the wheeler-dealer head clerk. The realism is enhanced by the knowledge that the shows creator and writer Peter Moffat was himself a barrister. Hopefully a second (longer) series will follow.
Another recent show that I would like to see get a second season is Zen. Produced by Left Bank Pictures for the BBC in association with the German ZDF and American WGBH-TV networks the series consisted of just three, ninety minute episodes based on the Aurelio Zen detective novels by Michael Dibdin. Shot and set in Italy the show looked stunning and featured a great cast lead by Rufus Sewell in the title role. Each episode had a standalone main plot but also contained an ongoing story. Containing an interesting mix and a perfect balance between gritty and glossy it offers something a little different to the usual British TV drama. It doesn’t look like the BBC will pick up the show for a second season but it has been suggested that another network may do, I certainly hope they do.