Buying a house not challenging enough? Why not build one!
What’s The Show? Grand Designs
What’s It All About, JG? Middle-class tosspots with too much time and/or cash spend vast sums of money self-building houses, either from scratch or restoring old buildings that have fallen to wrack and ruin, while host Kevin McCloud sneers at their attempts until The Big Reveal, when it turns out he liked it all along. Every. Time. To describe Grand Designs as repetitive would be something of an understatement, but it would also completely miss the point. In a sense the whole purpose is repetition, watching different people and buildings emerge from similar circumstances and assessing the results. This could have been made into some ghastly “reality TV competition” type thing, but instead it’s one man (McCloud) expressing a genuine passion for all things architectural and his absolute love and joy for what he’s doing radiating off the screen all while just letting people who want to undertake these projects get on with it. The show has been running since 1999 and is still going strong – it’s just kicked off its 19th season at time of writing.
What’s It All About, JG? The Rock Punches a Building. Repeatedly. For a couple of hours. He’s playing a security consultant, Will Sawyer, who lost a leg in a mission gone wrong and who’s now hired to check out the security in the world’s tallest building. It all goes wrong, the building ends up on fire, his family are trapped inside and… wait, wasn’t this made in the ’70’s? Repeatedly? Yes, this is an attempt to resurrect the deservedly-moribund disaster movie for reasons that, beyond box office, remain thoroughly mystifying. It’s not like any of these movies were decent the first time round…
What’s It All About, JG? Having Tom Cruise be manly in manly ways which involve being manly in the service of IMF and/or the United States. In this one… well, you know. There’s lots of running and explosions and the spy stuff takes a back seat to seeing what ludicrously over-the-top shenanigans Tom Cruise can get up to / humblebrag about on chat shows. It’s a Mission: Impossible film, in other words. Like the last one, but with slightly different locations.
What’s It All About, JG? Hard sci-fi for the Asimov and Clarke crowd who find the likes of Star Trek too silly and unrealistic, the likes of Doctor Who too fantastical, the likes of Dark Matter to soapy, but who want to spend some time above the clouds nevertheless. Set in the near future, The Expanse gives us a vision where humanity has spread out among the solar system and split into, essentially, three power blocks, Earth, Mars and “The Belt”, the latter being a group of largely disenfranchised peoples who live and work in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
A host of problems on this family-drama-meets-alien-invasion series
What’s The Show? Colony
What’s It All About, JG? At some point in the near future, Earth is invaded by largely-unseen aliens, referred to as “hosts”, who have taken over the planet for nefarious but obscure reasons. After their arrival, cities are completely enclosed in via massive metallic “walls”, turning them into the “colonies” of the title. Our story starts in LA, where a cookie-cutter family have cookie-cutter rebellions against cookie-cutter collaborators in cookie-cutter situations. There are quislings, rebels, people just trying to get on with their lives who get swept up in events… you know, the kind of thing that lots of dystopian near-future fiction tend to go in for. Who will live? Who will die? Who will care? That’s the trick with these kinds of stories – there are so many dystopian near-future TV shows, movies and books that they all kind of blur into one, so to make yours stand out you really need some memorable characters to anchor familiar plot beats around.
It would be too easy to type Batman begins, with this prequel series… but you know. That.
What’s The Show? Gotham
What’s It All About, JG? Bat-boy. Basically this is Batman Before Batman. That means we get to spend a lot (and I mean a lot) of time with the freaks and weirdos of Gotham city who will go on to become Batman’s most feared adversaries – the Joker, the Penguin, Two-Face, Scarecrow and many more are all present and correct. Plus we get R’as Al Ghul, played with appropriately sleazy charm by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s Alexander Siddig, The League Of Assassins, and (for the first few seasons anyway) an original construct in the shape of Fish Mooney, also known as Jada Pinkett Smith. She’s a gift to the show – ridiculously camp, yet never quite screamingly over the top, and blessed with the ability to deliver utterly preposterous dialogue in the most disarmingly mannered and ostentatious fashion possible. She is glorious. On the good guys’ side, we have Bruce Wayne himself, a mere slip of a lad, Jim Gordon working his way up through the ranks of a corrupt Gotham PD, and Alfred, played with over-emphasised Englishness by Sean Pertwee. All these forces collide together to produce some that is both beholden to various different version of Batman (most obviously, Year One), yet never quite like any other version either.
What’s It All About, JG?“Crime fighting devil, it all makes sense, don’t overthink it”. The Devil gets fed up running Hell, feeling it to be a job imposed on him by God, so quits and moves to LA, where he becomes a consultant for the LAPD while running a luxurious night club. Like you do. There he becomes partners with Detective Chloe Decker and ends up in a cop procedural, whereby each week they get a murder case to solve – like any procedural – while the more religious and serialised aspects tick away in the background. Things are complicated by the presence of Dan, Chole’s ex-husband, and the fact that she’s now a single mother. And, you know, her partner’s literally the Devil.
Can one of the stronger sitcoms of the 80’s make it in the 2010’s? Yes, but also, very much no.
What’s The Show?Roseanne (Slight Return)
What’s It All About, JG? Well, ostensibly it’s about a working class family in the fictional town of Lanford, IL struggling to make ends meet and dealing with the family, loves, successes and failures of everyday life. That may not be what it’s remembered for now though… The revived Roseanne is part of the pattern of dragging old properties from the past and giving them another season years after the original bowed out, and everything from The X-Files to Will & Grace have been reanimated in the hopes of hitting that ratings magic again. The surprise is that Roseanne actually managed it, proving to be a big hit and getting a near-instant second season renewal. That’s all fallen by the wayside now, thanks to Ms. Barr’s ability – like the president she so admires – to be racist on Twitter, a move which got the show cancelled just as swiftly as it got its initial renewal (and, though it’s understandably and correctly not what people are focussing on, all credit to the network, ABC, for not fannying about and just canning the show straight up despite its success).
Spooky goings-on and more Mario van Peebles that any one series can contain.
What’s The Show? Superstition
What’s It All About, JG?Black Supernatural, essentially. But with about a tenth of the budget, and instead of having two hot boys fighting monsters, they have one hot boy fighting monsters, and also Mario van Peebles for some reason. Actually the reason is very clear if you watch the credits, because he seems to have done everything on this show, including writing, acting and directing. The show is set in a funeral home in Georgia because Georgia has lots of film subsidies that’s a spooky location, and every week something of a supernatural occult nature will turn up to threaten or engage the central family in some way. Also Peebles’s character, Isaac Hastings, is sort-of immortal and knows more than he’s letting on… But basically it’s just an excuse to dick about with ghosts and demons and the like on next-to-no money.
All that time in the West Country and not one reference to The Worzels? Colour me disappointed.
What’s The Show? Broadchurch
What’s It All About, JG? That nice David Tennant and Olivia Coleman off the telly get to have slow-moving crime adventures in a picturesque part of the West Country. There’s been a death in the village – the titular Broadchurch – and lots of famous or soon-to-be-famous character actors are in the frame for it, many of whom fans of Doctor Who will instantly recognise (putting Tennant and Coleman aside, there’s David Bradley, Eve Myles and Arthur Darvill, and naturally we now have to add Jodie Whittaker to that list, as well as the fact that Broadchurch’s creator, Chris Chibnall, is Doctor Who‘s latest showrunner). This means lots of tension, just about every inhabitant of the village having some possible motive and/or secret, and it all leads to a big reveal in the final episode of the first season. Can you guess who did it? (hint: no)