Review of US Drama on British television Part 2 – Channel 4

Review of US Drama on British television Part 2 – Channel 4

This article follows on from Part 1 which can be found in the Television archives and covers BBC and ITV. I am reviewing where each UK broadcaster stands as far as US TV drama is concerned now that the ‘Upfronts’ have been completed and the US primetime schedule for the upcoming 2001 season has been announced.

This article covers Channel 4 and it’s ‘satellites’ E4 and More 4.

Channel 4 has a lot of  US dramas on its schedule but has quite a few shows coming to the end of their natural life and has received some bad news on cancellations and the ’defection ‘ of one their major acquisitions.

Lets take the bad news first, starting with one of its most popular shows ‘Glee’ (FOX) for which they have been outbid by Sky for Season 3 onwards. Echoes of what happened on ‘Lost’ definitely resonate here. The other channels cannot compete financially when Sky decide to move in when a show is due for renewal.

‘The Event’ (NBC) has proven to be a failure, rather like ‘Flashforward’ was last year for Channel 5 and has been cancelled after one series. ‘Glory Daze’ (TBS) was also cancelled after one series but I doubt they spent much money on it. Similarly ‘Life Unexpected’ (CW) lasted two seasons but was not one of their more important shows. ‘Smallville’ (CW) will end after season 10 but has had a great run but rather surprisingly the long running ‘Brothers and Sisters’ (ABC) was cancelled after Season 5. I feel that Channel 4 made a mistake here in not going for ‘Parenthood’ (NBC) as a potential replacement ‘family’ style drama and this has been picked up and broadcast by the 5* channel.

Renewals include ‘Desperate Housewives’ (ABC) which will end after series 8; ‘The Good Wife’ (CBS) and 90210 (CW) which were given a third and fourth series respectively and ‘One Tree Hill’ (CW) which will end with Series 9 in a shortened 13 episode finale.

Comedy Dramas like ‘Hung’ (HBO) have been given a third series and ‘The Big C’ (Showtime) has been renewed for a second series. Meanwhile ‘Southland ‘(TNT) has been given a fourth series whilst ‘The Closer’ (TNT) will end after Series 7 now that Kyra Sedgwick has decided to leave the show.

A lot of these dramas have delayed airing dates so there is time for them to plug the holes if they intend to show as muchUSdrama as they are currently doing. Even so there will be large gaps in the schedules that need to be filled in 2011 and 2012.

A start has made with ‘Camelot’ (Starz) which began on June 11th and ‘The Killing’ (AMC) which is the remake of the classy Danish drama shown originally on BBC4 and is due to be screened this summer but it’s not nearly enough.

Let’s take a look at some of the new shows that should be no-brainers first:

They should pick up ‘Major Crimes’ (TNT) for More 4 which is a spinoff from ‘The Closer’ starring Mary McDonnell in her pre-established role as Captain Raydor. Set in the same Los Angeles Police Department, the show is produced by the same people and with probably some of the cast as well.

‘Revenge’ (ABC) is another show that has E4 written all over it. Emily Thorne (played by Emily Van Camp from the E4 shows ‘Everwood’ and  ‘Brothers & Sisters’) returns to the wealthy ‘Hamptons’ to wreak revenge for events that happened to her there as a child. Looks slightly dark and also stars Madeline Stowe.

‘Jane By Design’ (ABC) could be a replacement for the ‘Ugly Betty’ brigade. A teenage girl lands a job meant for an adult at a ‘hip’ retail company. It’s a cutthroat fashion world story and looks suitably light. The show stars Erica Dasher as the teenager and Andie MacDowell (‘Groundhog Day’) as her boss.

‘Good Christian Belles’ (ABC) looks like it could become ABC’s replacement for Desperate Housewives if things work out. A woman returns home in disgrace after her marriage ends in scandal and attempts to adjust to life in her old home town (Dallas) with her teenage children in tow. Lots of women in this one!!

It would not be a surprise if Channel 4 dipped into the CW network for a couple of new shows given the success they have had with ‘Smallville’, ‘90210’ and ‘One Tree Hill’.

‘Secret Circle’ (CW) has producer Kevin Williamson (‘Scream’, ‘The Faculty’, ‘Dawson’s Creek’ and ‘Vampire Diaries’) in charge and I imagine E4 and ITV2 will be fighting over this show. Cassie Blake is a happy teenage girl until her mother dies in a tragic accident. Cassie moves in with her grandmother and starts a new life in a new high school with lots of weird students who it turns out are descended from powerful witches. It is based on the books by L.J Smith (who wrote ‘The Vampire Diaries’).

‘Hart of Dixie’ (CW) features New York doctor Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson from ‘The OC’) who graduates top of her class but her dreams fall apart and she ends up accepting an offer to work in a small practice in Alabama. Snubbed by the locals, she ends up having to take over half the practice and she finds it tough going The show is driven by Josh Schwartz (‘The OC’) and this is his exit strategy from ‘Chuck’ which is finishing after Season 5.

‘Boss’ (STARZ) features Kelsey Grammer (‘Frasier’) as the powerful mayor ofChicagowho has a dark secret. Gus Van Sant (‘Good Will Hunting’ and ‘Milk’) will be directing this one.

I am also wondering if they go after ‘Covert Affairs’ (USA Network) which is now in its second season and is still waiting for a UK pickup. Piper Perabo stars as Annie Walker, a young CIA operative with fantastic linguistic skills who undertakes missions all around the world. The usual problems of balancing a personal life with undercover work feature heavily in this one.

Now let’s take a look at some the other shows which may cost more, may attract other bids and that also may have risks attached:

‘Once Upon A Time’ (ABC) is a show made by some of the producers from ‘Lost’ and from the descriptions and trailers looks like it could fall in the ‘Boom or Bust’ category. Bail Bonds collector Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison from ‘House’) is found by the 10 year old son she gave up. Her son believes in a world of magic and she ends up getting sucked into a world where fairytales are real. Also stars Robert Carlyle (‘Stargate Universe’). This looks quite bizarre and will be tough to get right.

‘Ringer’ (CW) is Sarah Michelle Gellar’s (Buffy) return to the TV screens. Bridget (Gellar) is a recovering alcoholic who is a witness to a murder and ends up going on the run after deciding not to trust the FBI. She ends up inNew Yorkand reunites with her twin sister, who subsequently disappears. Gellar decides to take her place (as you would!!) and ends up getting into even more trouble. There is a lot going on in the plot which means there is a lot that could go wrong. Gellar is also one of the executive producers on the show and will be keen for it to work.

We all know the story behind ‘Charlie’s Angels’ (ABC), originally made for TV and then shown on the big screen and now ready (apparently) for a remake. The advantage is that we will all be familiar with the story but can they bring anything fresh to the story? The actresses are all fairly new, although Minka Kelly was in ‘Friday Night Lights’ and ‘Parenthood’. This looks fluffy, brash and action packed.

The same thing can be said for ‘Prime Suspect’ (NBC) which is a remake of the long running Helen MirrenUKdrama. Maria Bello is the female police detective trying to make her way in a police precinct dominated by testosterone. This also stars Kirk Acevado (‘Fringe’) and has lots of police procedural work, autopsies and white boards. I have to say that the previews of this show look good but how will a British audience react?

Here are some other new shows that could attract attention as lower priority shows:

E4 viewers might like ‘The Nine Lives of Chloe King’ and ‘Switched At Birth’ which are two new shows made by ABC. The former looks like a remake of Buffy as Chloe King reaches 16 and discovers she has heightened powers and is pursued by a mysterious figure. Dying doesn’t stop her!! The latter features two teenage girls who discover they were switched at birth. One girl is poor and one is wealthy. I think the second show looks better.

‘Franklin & Bash’ (TNT) is a light-hearted legal drama about two make-it-up-as-you-go-along lawyers working for a button-down law firm run by Malcom McDowell. This is another legal buddy drama that is extremely light and does look funny. This is a comedy that is dressed up as a drama and suits E4’s style.

There are quite a few new shows out there that look a good fit for More 4:

‘Unforgettable’ (CBS) stars Poppy Montgomery (‘Without A Trace’) as Carrie Wells a cop who has perfect recall and is a great crime solver. Unfortunately she cannot work out who killed her sister a long time ago.New Yorkdetective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tuck) is her ex boyfriend and she ends up working for his team and begins to unravel the truth behind her sister’s death. This has a good looking cast.

‘Against The Wall’ (Lifetime) stars Rachael Carpani (‘The Glades’ and ‘ NCIS:Los Angeles’) as aChicagopolice detective who brings friction to her close knit family of cops when she decides to join the Internal Affairs division.

‘Homeland’ (Showtime) is a show that I mentioned in the BBC article and stars Claire Danes as a CIA office investigating the circumstances of the rescue of aUSsoldier (played by Damian Lewis). Her boss is played by Mandy Pantinkin, playing his first major part in a TV drama since he walked out of ‘Criminal Minds’. It looks like a slow moving political and spy drama.

Rather like ‘Covert Affairs’, ‘The Glades’ (A&E) is into a second series and stars Aussie Matt Passmore (‘Underbelly’) as homicide detective Jim Longworth fromChicagowho is shipped off to ‘Palm Glade’ which is outside the Florida Everglades. Jim is a savvy cop with great instincts. Although this show is not as dark as some would like, it has a good cast that fit well together.

Click here for Part 1

In Part 3, I will take a look at Channel 5.


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