Entertainment » TV Highlights

The Televisionist, Oct. 14




6:30 p.m. Sundays in October

BBC America

While some complain that the British lack much of a sense of humor — or at least one we Ugly Americans can understand — I have to take exception. Even if you take "Monty Python's Flying Circus" completely out of the equation, there are still some drop-dead funny shows over on BBC America. Even better, the Brits can even laugh at themselves, which is a quality I admire. Case in point was last month's stellar marathon of films called "The Accent of Evil," which featured just a tiny sample of the platoon of villains in cinematic history who talked like a British earl ("Gladiator" comes to mind, in which the Roman baddie played by thoroughly American Joaquin Phoenix sported a Brit accent, while hero and Aussie Russell Crowe played a Spaniard who seemed to speak bland Midwestern for some reason that was never quite spelled out). This month, in honor of Halloween, the BBC America beat rolls on with "Ghoul Britannia," their salute to English-accented creeps of the more horrific and supernatural variety. Featured are some interesting films, including the original "Clash of the Titans," "Mary Reilly," "Sweeney Todd" with Johnny Depp, and this week's feature "The Silence of the Lambs" (6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 17), which features the so-British-he-ended-up-a-Knight Sir Anthony Hopkins as the iconic Hannibal Lecter. Classy talkin' never sounded so evil.


9:30 p.m. Sundays

BBC America

And speaking of BBC America: While the umpteen American versions of Dick Wolf's mostly-threadbare "Law and Order" franchise are getting a little long in the tooth, one version that is looking fresh as $100 sushi is "Law and Order: UK." The across-the-pond take on the series, featuring the producer behind the BBC's fantastic "Torchwood" series and the stellar writing British dramas are largely known for, is now in its third season and going strong. Strange that it never made the great migration to America until now. What stays is the familiar "DONK-DONK" segue, the crime/investigation/prosecution framework, and the emphasis on homicide — even though Britain's murder rate and America's murder rate have about as much in common as a rowboat and the Queen Mary. What's different is that the lead detective superintendents on the show — Jamie Bamber (of "Battlestar Galactica") and Bradley Walsh (of a bunch of British TV shows you never heard of) — don't carry pistolas they can whip out when somebody decides to keep it real, which lends a nice bit of anxiety to the proceedings. The other very obvious difference is that the Crown prosecutors — Freema Agyeman and Ben Daniels — get to work every morning by slapping on those sweet British barrister's wigs (yes, even Agyeman, who is a woman), which would certainly liven up the courtroom atmosphere here in the states. In short: smart writing and great acting, in a proven format. It's elementary, my dear Watson.


Starts 9 p.m. Oct. 31


I realize I'm a little early on this one, but I've pretty much been the John the Baptist of the new AMC mini-series "The Walking Dead" since I first got wind that it was in production last spring. It's rare that a "television event" — as the TV ad folks are wont to say — gets me pumped enough to start spreading the word about it in advance, but I'm definitely stoked about this one, and you can be sure you'll hear more about it in this space as the beginning of the six-episode miniseries (the centerpiece of AMC's annual "Fearfest") draws nigh. Based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, the show features the trials and travails of a band of survivors trying to find shelter and safety in a post-apocalyptic America, where the virus-infected dead have returned to life and started killing the living for food. Frank Darabont, the oft-Oscar-nominated director behind such excellent flicks as "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile," is helming the project, almost assuring it will be a slam dunk of scary, stylish horror. As someone who has long been captivated with the George Romero-style living dead and what they say about the peculiarities about the American psyche, I'm really pumped to see zombies come to the small screen. That's especially so given that "The Walking Dead" is on AMC, which has proven its creative bravery and dramatic chops through sometimes-controversial faves like "Mad Men" and what is arguably the best show on TV right now, the transcendent ode to making crime pay that is "Breaking Bad." Darabont has promised not to pull any punches, saying that any of the carnage and violence "Breaking Bad" has managed to get away with – and they've done a lot of that – will be fair game for the "The Walking Dead." Given that, and the fact that the previews I've seen have looked amazing, I think we'll all have a lot more than free candy to be thankful for come Halloween.

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