Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

What’s on the TV?

In last Friday’s paper, I had a piece about Spike Lee’s brace of New Orleans’ documentaries, which reminded me that it’s been a while since OTR has written about the telly so it’s time to make amends. Actually, if you …

Tue, Jun 14, 2011, 09:39


In last Friday’s paper, I had a piece about Spike Lee’s brace of New Orleans’ documentaries, which reminded me that it’s been a while since OTR has written about the telly so it’s time to make amends. Actually, if you haven’t done so already, those DVDs are well worth checking out. I’ve written before about Lee’s post-Katrina doc When the Levees Broke, but his latest series, If God Is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise, which sees him returning to the Crescent City five years later, is even better as it digs beneath the skin of that great soulful city.

It’s a given that many of you are also following The Shadow Line, which concludes on BBC 2 this week. It’s one of the finest drama series I’ve ever seen on the Beeb and not just because we have someone finally recognising that Stephen Rea could be ideally cast as the creepiest, eeriest mofo on the box (espcially in that hat and long coat combo). It’s a show which is very happy to throw your expectations out the window (or just knife them in the ribs) as it sets out to confuse and lead you down another dark alley. Every single aspect of The Shadow Line, from those intricate storylines and superb twists to the casting (including Christopher Eccleston and Sean “Paddy Maguiure from Shameless” Gilder) and cinematography, are top-notch.

I’ve become quite enamoured with Detroit 1-8-7, which is currently running on RTE 2. A police procedural set in the Detroit police department’s homicide unit with Michael “Christopher from The Sopranos” Imperioli in the spotlight as one of the characters, it makes great use of Motor City music and Detroit locations (there was even a character giving out about people coming into the city looking for “ruin porn” in one of the episodes). Sadly, the show has been canned by ABC in the United States so there’s unlikely to be a second series.

No such problems for Justified or White Collar, both of which have got additional seasons away after strong debuts. Justified is the tale of US marshall Raylan Givens bringing old-school charm, strong-armed justice and a spiffing stetson to the wilds of Kentucky. Memorable turns from Timothy Olyphant as Givens and especially Walton Goggins (from The Shield) putting in a bravado performance as white supremacist/vigilante/preacher man Boyd Crowder. In a nutshell, White Collar pairs a con-man with a FBI agent to solve a series of white collar crimes. There’s one season-long thread pulling the series together, but most of the episodes revolve around one case. Solid, entertaining brain-candy fare.

One of the best DVD discoveries for me over the last while has been Brooklyn hipster detective series (you read that right) Bored to Death. When he’s not trying to finish a novel or write magazine articles, Jonathan Ames advertises his services on Craigslist as an amateur sleuth and attempts to solve the cases which come his way. More a member of Vampire Weekend than Columbo, Ames is a fantastic character, well played by Jason Schwartzman. But the real star turns come from Zach Galifianakis (Ames’ best mate) and Ted Danson (magazine editor and would-be playboy) and the scenes with all three of them simply zing. Danson has been on a damn good TV run in recent years, with his protrayal of Arthur Frobisher in Damages a significant notch on his belt.

On the home front, I was impressed by Trivia which screened earlier in the year and which I finally caught up with recently, though it seems to have had rather an underwhelming reaction all round. A six-parter about a weekly pub quiz in a small town in Monaghan, Damien Owens’ series was well-written and observed and I really liked David Pearse as introverted team captain Lawrence. It’s not available on the RTE player but if RTE re-show it, check it out.

Next on the OTR to-see list: Blue Boods (Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg star in a series about a family of Irish-American cops – by the way, Mick Heaney had a great piece in the paper recently about Irish-American cop shows), Treme (I loved David Simon’s first series about New Orleans’ life), Terriers (although I’m not sure if the fact that the series about idiosyncratic private eyes in a Californian town got canned after the first season is a recommendation) and The Killing (US take on a Danish TV series with Seattle cops investigating the homicide of a young girl).