Tag Archives: Broadchurch

Holy smoke! Delightful Rev. is back with new episodes

'Rev.' returns to Hulu and Hulu Plus.

Inner-city vicar Adam Smallbone (Tom Hollander, second from right) faces challenges from both church officials as well as his fussy lay reader, Nigel (Miles Jupp, far right) in Season 3 of ‘Rev.,’ which begins streaming Sunday on Hulu and Hulu Plus.


It’s been nearly two years since U.S. audiences have enjoyed new episodes of Rev., the hilarious, award-winning Britcom starring the fantastic Tom Hollander as a stressed-out vicar trying to keep his struggling church afloat in inner-city East London.
That extended hiatus wasn’t due to any quality concerns at its home channel in the UK (BBC2), where Rev. is revered as the highest-rated comedy series (it’s also carried in more than 140 channels worldwide). No, we haven’t seen Rev. for awhile simply because Hollander, its executive producer, co-creator and co-writer as well as star, is simply one of the busiest British actors working today, as is his leading lady, Olivia Colman, who was David Tennant’s detective partner in the shattering murder mystery Broadchurch.
As Rev. belatedly returns with six new episodes Sunday on Hulu Plus, time clearly hasn’t stood still in the neighborhood surrounding St. Saviour in the Marshes. For one thing, at the tiny vicarage, the Rev. Adam Smallbone (Hollander) and his patient wife, Alex (Colman), have welcomed their first child, daughter Katie, now approaching her first birthday (we see the frenzied circumstances of Katie’s birth in the opening moments of the season premiere).
What that means, most pertinently, is that Adam and Alex are dealing with the same stresses they’ve endured before, only with exponentially less sleep, especially now that Katie is going through a bout of explosive diarrhea. “Perhaps Satan is in charge of her bottom because you haven’t baptized her yet,” offers Archdeacon Robert (Simon McBurney) during one of his frequent visits to remind Adam that the size of both his congregation and his church coffers is a matter of growing concern among church officials.
In fact, two such officials – Area Dean Jill Mallory and Diocesan Secretary Geri Tennison (Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine, respectively, both of the Britcom Getting On) – also have stopped by to remind Adam passive-aggressively that, with the larger neighborhood now experiencing a sharp decline in its Christian populations as more Muslim residents move in, some old, high-maintenance churches such as St. Saviour may have to be shuttered.
That motivates Adam to collaborate with local Imam Yussef Hasan (guest star Kayvan Novak) on a fund-raiser to renovate a rusty and dog poo-choked playground in the season premiere. The event is a rousing success, although Adam and his flock are able to contribute only an embarrassingly tiny portion.
Episode two finds Adam on the horns of a different dilemma when two close gay friends of his ask him to officiate at their wedding. That being a no-no for the Church of England, Adam offers instead to lead a prayer for them at the regular Wednesday Eucharist gathering, but that event quickly spirals out of control.
Also returning to their occasional guest roles this season are Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) as cleric and motivational speaker Roland Wise and Ralph Fiennes as the Bishop of London.
Rev. is the kind of rich, character-driven comedy that rewards faithful viewing, so if you are joining the series in progress, be sure to take advantage of the fact that Hulu Plus is streaming Seasons 1 and 2 as well. Hollander recently has said that he’s not sure whether he’s up for a fourth season as Adam Smallbone, so by all means enjoy the myriad delights of Rev. while you can.
Olivia Colman in 'Rev.'

Vicar’s wife Alex Smallbone (Olivia Colman) unexpectedly goes into labor while her husband is officiating at a wedding in the season premiere of ‘Rev.’ on Hulu.

Tennant plays a courtroom Houdini in Escape Artist

'Masterpiece Mystery!' returns Sunday on PBS.

From left),acquitted murder suspect Liam Foyle (Tony Kebbell) thanks his defense team (Roy Marsden and David Tennant) in ‘The Escape Artist,’ a taut, two-part thriller premiering Sunday on PBS’ ‘Masterpiece Mystery!’


Masterpiece Mystery! gets its summer season off to a white-knuckle start Sunday night with The Escape Artist, a two-part thriller (concluding on June 22) about a brilliant defense attorney whose life and career go off the rails. David Tennant (Broadchurch) stars as Will Burton, the top criminal lawyer in the UK, whose perfect record of courtroom wins has put him on the fast track to ‘’take the silk” as Queen’s Counsel. He even has a perfect family – vivacious wife Kate (Ashley Jensen, Ugly Betty) and young son Jamie (Gus Barry) — to round out the idyllic portrait.
Will’s cases often find him sparring with legal adversary Maggie Gardner (Sophie Okonedo), who is fed up with always coming in second to Will. What seems to be lost on both of them is that their cerebral legal games in the courtroom usually take a heavy toll on the victims, defendants and their loved ones.
Invariably, Will often winds up defending and getting off some characters who most likely should be behind bars (hence his nickname of “the escape artist”), but as he somewhat idealistically explains to anyone who questions him, “Everyone deserves a defense.”
Then, just as Will and his family are heading out of town to their vacation getaway, his bosses hand him the case file on Liam Foyle (Toby Kebbell), a reclusive bird lover who stands accused of the horrific torture-killing of a young female medical student. Liam is a self-confessed misanthrope, but he adamantly insists that he is innocent. As Will, on vacation, studies the file, he can’t help seeing that there’s a ton of compelling circumstantial evidence against Liam, such as how his credit card statements reflect that he was a frequent user of “extreme porn” websites featuring the kind of activity that figured in the gruesome and extended killing of the victim.
Once in court, however, Will grows convinced that Liam is being rushed to judgment, especially after the judge refuses to grant a continuance to allow Will’s DNA expert to complete his research. Based partly on that, Will is able to get the judge, in effect, to declare a mistrial on the basis of procedural error. Chalk up another win in Will’s column.
And then Will makes a tiny error in judgment, a small yet crucial misstep that sets into motion a series of tragic, violent events. Even worse, he finds himself compromised by the very trial strategies that once stood him in good stead.
That’s all I’ll reveal about this edge-of-your-seat suspense drama, which has a very satisfying quota of twists and even shocks. Tennant is sensationally good in a role that forces him to play things straight, with none of his trademark Doctor Who twinkle. Okenodo, who picked up a Tony Award just last Sunday night for her performance in the current Broadway revival of A Raisin in the Sun, is also good in a role that could read as a one-dimensional villainess with a different actress.
Among the other recognizable faces in the large ensemble of The Escape Artist are veteran Masterpiece character actor Roy Marsden as another member of Foyle’s defense team and Kate Dickie (Sansa Stark’s mad aunt Lysa in Game of Thrones) as a Scottish barrister trying to offer Will some urgently needed legal advice in next week’s conclusion.
It’s easy to see why The Escape Artist earned rave reviews when it aired recently in the UK, and the two 90-minute episodes should whet viewers’ appetites for more mysteries to follow under the Masterpiece Mystery! banner.
David Tennant and Ashley Jensen star in 'Masterpiece Mystery!' Sunday on PBS.

Brilliant defense attorney Will Burton (David Tennant) watches helplessly as his happy marriage to wife Kate (Ashley Jensen, ‘Ugly Betty’) is destroyed in Part One of ‘The Escape Artist,’ premiering Sunday on the PBS series ‘Masterpiece Mystery!’

Pick up for Hulu’s loopy new ‘Strange Calls’

'The offbeat Aussie comedy 'The Strange Calls' is now streaming on Hulu.

Barry Crocker and Toby Truslove star as Gregor and Officer Toby Banks in ‘The Strange Calls,’ a new Hulu Exclusive Series.


The Strange Calls, a loopy six-part Australian sitcom that began streaming this weekend on Hulu, opens as Officer Toby Banks (Toby Truslove) arrives in the small Aussie coastal community of Coolum. Still reeling from a painful romantic break-up, Toby has moved here from a larger city, looking to start over in his new capacity as the night shift officer for the Coolum Beach Police Department. Had he done his homework, he would have discovered this job has a suspiciously high turnover rate.
Toby isn’t encouraged by how things start out for him in his new locale. His testy superior, Sgt. Neil Lloyd (Patrick Brammall), can’t even remember Toby’s name properly and seems to take a mildly sadistic glee in showing Toby his new “office,” a dilapidated RV with only a battered bicycle available as his night-shift police vehicle.
And then the calls start coming in. One man reports his intense fear of a giant squid to whom the caller owes several million dollars. A woman asks for assistance in removing a tall tree that has gotten stuck up her cat (that’s not a typo). Understandably, Toby thinks he somehow has landed in the crank-call capital of the world.
Then he meets Gregor (Barry Crocker), the elderly (he admits to 47) eccentric who functions as the town’s unofficial nighttime security officer. Gregor knows Coolum inside and out, and he tells Toby the place is an epicenter of eeriness.
“It can be pretty weird around here once the sun goes down,” he cautions Toby. “Some of those cries for help are more real than you can possibly imagine.”
Almost immediately, Gregor begins driving Toby around as he investigates a series of increasingly bizarre cases involving werechickens, zombie cats, a theater ghost and much more. Toby also begins to learn that Gregor enjoys a personal life that seems to be, um, unusually full (he may or may not be the star attraction on an erotic webcam for senior women).
Created and directed by Daley Pearson, who also wrote some of the episodes, The Strange Calls is a very funny, off-kilter and distinctly original comedy series that looks like what you might get if you crossed Broadchurch with the old 1991-92 comedy-fantasy series Eerie, Indiana. Katherine Hicks has a recurring featured role as Kath, a pretty caterer who strikes some romantic sparks with Toby, but the show’s focus wisely stays on Toby and Gregor, an inspired comic odd couple. The Strange Calls is so delightful and unpredictable that I happily binge-watched all six half-hour episodes in one sitting and was left wanting even more.
Highly recommended for fans of unconventional adult(ish) comedy.
'The Strange Calls' is now streaming on Hulu Plus.

Barry Crocker, Patrick Brammall, Katherine Hicks and Toby Truslove star in ‘The Strange Calls.’

Four degrees of desperation

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Olivia Colman
If you’ve been watching BBC America’s gripping new murder mystery Broadchurch, I’m guessing that you’re falling in love with Olivia Colman, who stars as nurturing police detective Ellie Miller. This astonishingly versatile actress seems to be popping up everywhere these days, most recently in the United States on Run, a four-part miniseries that started streaming today on Hulu.
Colman, best known for playing warm, self-effacing characters, is decidedly cast against type here as Carol, an exhausted single mother with mousy brown hair streaked with blonde highlights that are less self-applied than self-inflicted. She shares her cramped council flat in London with her teenage sons, a couple of mouth-breathers who drift from one short-term job to another, filling in their frequent downtime with pot-enhanced video games and beer, pilfered from their mum’s refrigerator.
While her sons are spending their days in varying degrees of incoherence, Carol struggles to pay their rent and board with a soul-killing job at a characterless retail warehouse, where she helps stock the aluminum shelves with items sold by the case.
At the end of the day, Carol is so tired she barely can drag herself to the corner store to pick up more beer and liquor, then head home to cook a meal for her boys, who more often than not turn up their noses and lurch out for a night at the pub.
Things manage to get even worse on My Two Thugs, Carol’s life if it were a TV series, when she finds a bloodstain on one of her son’s clothing and eventually realizes they may well be behind a recent and savage homicide not far from their home. And while her first instinct is to protect her delinquents, their semi-casual dismissal of the crime makes her realize they are heading down the same dangerous path as their father, an abusive lout who walked out on them years ago.
That’s just in Episode One. Which lasts just over 40 minutes.
The concept behind this miniseries is to follow the ripples of an action from its point of occurrence to the seemingly disconnected lives it affects. The points of connection in Run are somewhat tenuous and occasionally not very compelling, but at least two of the episodes are well worth your attention.
In the first episode, we learn that Carol is augmenting her meager warehouse salary by stealing small electronics, ideally cell phones, and fencing them to Ying (Katie Leung, Cho Chang from the Harry Potter movies), an illegal Chinese immigrant who is selling them, and bootleg DVDs, to pay off a gangster. (Stay with me here, folks, I am not making this stuff up). One of those sales inadvertently causes some heartbreaking complications for Richard (Lennie James, AMC’s new Low Winter Sun series), a recovering heroin addict trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter. His travails lead us, in turn, to Kasia (Katharina Schuttler), a young Polish cleaning woman who – forgive me, I do not know the Polish equivalent of quelle surprise – was the girlfriend of the murder victim in Episode One.
Complications ensue, not all of them credible. In fact, as all the social horrors kept piling up – drugs, white slavery, larceny, immigration fraud, black market piracy, et al. – I started to wonder whether I was watching some contemporary variant on Reefer Madness. Stay out of wicked London Town, kids. It gets badder.
That said, I don’t especially regret watching all four episodes this morning, since each had its arresting moments, but if you’re strapped for time, I would recommend checking out Episodes One (Colman) and Three (James), both of which deliver powerhouse performances. The other two episodes aren’t bad, but they do traffic mainly in complex issues that have been tackled elsewhere more effectively, and frankly, I had hoped Episode Four was going to tie up all the narratives in a powerful bow.
It doesn’t.
Still, I’m glad that Hulu – which keeps getting publicly trumped by its streaming rival Netflix when it comes to high-profile events – remains a go-to service for people who want to explore more of the work of rising stars like Colman that isn’t otherwise available.
Run Episode 3 Lennie James as Richard
Lennie James