January 12-18: Including Banshee and Girls

by Fiona Rae / 03 January, 2013
Kiwi Antony Starr lands the lead part in a new HBO series and Kevin McCloud builds himself a cabin the woods.


Kevin McCloud
Kevin McCloud’s Man-Made Home, Sunday

Kevin McCloud’s Man-Made Home (TV1, 7.30pm). Architecture guru Kevin McCloud builds himself a cabin the woods, although this is more a humble design than a grand one. He sets out to construct it by hand from materials found in the rural Somerset location of the cabin, or from discarded items. Consequently, the cabin’s exterior is made from two ancient oaks, and over the four episodes (which take in the year it took to build the cabin), a chair is constructed from tractor parts, a bath from a jet engine and a stove from an old jewellery safe. The undercarriage of a former army truck forms the base of the house. “I’ve been involved in a lot of grand projects in my time,” he told the Telegraph. “But I think this is the grandest.”

Sunday Theatre: Appropriate Adult (TV1, 8.30pm). TV1 rolls out a Bafta-winning two-parter about Britain’s most notorious serial killer in the middle of summer. Seems wrong, somehow. Perhaps record it and wait for a rainy night? Dominic West and Emily Watson won Baftas for their roles as Fred West and Janet Leach, the social worker brought in to assist the police as they questioned West (the “appropriate adult” of the title). Monica Dolan, who plays Fred’s equally depraved wife Rose, also won a Bafta. By all accounts, West (the actor) gives an extraordinary performance; the Telegraph’sSerena Davies predicted a Bafta, saying, “so life-like was the interpretation that that look of evil, from deep within liquid black eyes, created a shocking sense of meeting the killer himself.”


70th Annual Golden Globe Awards (Vibe, Sky 007, 2.00pm). The film nominations for this year’s Golden Globes aren’t much of a surprise – Lincoln, Life of Pi, Argoand Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty figure strongly – but there are some strange picks and omissions in television. Why is The Newsroom nominated and Mad Men omitted? Why is Smash there at all? After just eight episodes, isn’t it a bit soon for Nashville actresses Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere to be getting Globes love? Ah well, at least Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are the hosts. That’s twice the awesomeness.

Shortland Street (TV2, 7.00pm). Summer must be over – it’s the return of Shortie. It ended last year with a wedding and a car smash – and the continued torture of Bella. Not only is her one true love dying from a brain tumour, but her mum and dad were squashed by TK on her wedding day, just after they had reconciled. NCIS (TV3, 8.30pm). The inexplicably popular series returns: the first episode of its 10th season was watched by more than 20 million US viewers, who were no doubt tuning in to see who survived, or didn’t, a bomb blast at the end of season nine. Richard Schiff, formerly Toby Ziegler on The West Wing, was revealed to be the bad guy, and the inevitable confrontation between him and Gibbs (Mark Harmon) is coming. Executive producer Gary Glasberg has said that the season’s theme is fallen heroes, and the post-traumatic stress of the explosion.

NCIS: Los Angeles (TV3, 9.30pm). It’s Naval Criminal Investigative Service madness! The cooler of the two NCISesreturns for a fourth season; its cliffhanger involved Callen (Chris O’Donnell) shooting his arch-enemy the Chameleon (Christopher Lambert) in front of police, civilians and television cameras. Roh-roh. The ballyhooed guest appearance by Kiwi actor Kimberly Crossman comes in episode four: her role is described as “barista”.


Banshee, Tuesday

He’s had a lip split so badly it needed stitches. He’s torn a hamstring, and had “lots of bumps and knocks and scrapes” in the course of 100-move fight sequences. Getting a big break in US television is hard. Not that Antony Starr is complaining. “It was a toughening up process,” he says of the physical training required for Banshee (SoHo, Sky 010, Tuesday, 8.30pm), a new series executive-produced by True Blood creator Alan Ball. “I just had to get used to it really.” Of course, we know Starr as twins Van and Jethro West, the two-for-the-price-of-one roles he occupied for six years on Outrageous Fortune. But he’s not in West Auckland any more. Banshee is set in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, and is mostly filmed in North Carolina.

The series’ creators are novelists David Schickler and Jonathan Tropper, which is perhaps why it has the feel of a pulp paperback. It could even be Southern gothic, if Pennsylvania were in the South. Starr plays a career thief just out of jail who goes looking for his girl, Ann (Ivana Milicevic) and the money they stole from a Ukrainian gangster called Rabbit. But (wouldn’t you know it?) it’s not that simple. Ann is hiding out in the small town of Banshee. She is married to the District Attorney and has two kids. The money is gone. “I don’t get the girl, I don’t get the money … this is not how I saw it playing out,” says our anti-hero. So before long, he is kicking butts and taking the name of the recently deceased sheriff, Lucas Hood. His principal foe, in Banshee anyway, is the proverbial sociopathic guy who runs everything, Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen).

The Ukrainians are on their way. Banshee is action-packed and fairly brutal. In the first episode there’s a car chase in New York, at least two fights, a beating and several shootings. There’s also an explosion and, this being an HBO/Cinemax production, verging-on-porn sex scenes. It has its own version of True Blood’sLafayette: Job (Hoon Lee), a flamboyant transgender hairdresser with a sideline in identity forgery. Starr thinks being relatively unknown in the US helped him get the job. You can still carry your weight on a film set, he says, without having the international exposure. “Part of me went, ‘this is a great opportunity’, but it did feel like a natural progression going over there. Ultimately I found it very similar: the job is still the job, the work’s still the work.”


Bones (TV3, 8.30pm). Another old favourite comes around, regular as clockwork. Season eight of the forensic procedural will be a full 26-episode season, since Emily Deschanel is not pregnant this year. Her character, Temperance Brennan, was framed for murder last year and went on the run with her baby, so the fi rst order of business for the team from the Jeffersonian Institute is to clear her name and get her back. Gosh, viewers, do you think they will?

Girls, Thursday

Girls (SoHo, Sky 010, 8.30pm). The funny, absurd, brave and self-absorbed adventures of four girls in New York City return for a second season. What relevance it has to us is a mystery, but somehow writer-director Lena Dunham describes a period of insecurity and searching that many people – mostly young women, granted – can relate to. Modern life’s weird, isn’t it?

Project Runway (TV3, 9.30pm).Forward into the fashion future. Novelty is everything in fashion, but less so in television, so it’s the same format, different design divas. Guest judges include Lauren Graham, Zoe Saldana and Krysten Ritter, and the challenges include outfits using candy, outfits for dance company the Rockettes and outfits for children.


666 Park Avenue (TV2, 8.30pm). Mixed reviews, as they say, for this new US supernatural drama, and it’s been cancelled already, so don’t get too attached. It does star Lost’s Terry O’Quinn and Ugly Betty’s Vanessa Williams, two actors you can watch in just about anything. They’re a devilish couple who own an apartment building in which it is possible to lose your soul. Enter innocent couple Rachael Taylor and Dave Annable, who should have known something was up when they got a cheap apartment on Park Avenue.

Beauty and the Beast (Prime, 9.30pm). Antony Starr isn’t the only Kiwi actor getting a break in US television; Go Girls’ Jay Ryan is the co-star of this re-imagined version of the 80s series that starred Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, although it’s a very different, ah, beast. The CW network is known for its teen fare, and this series is aimed squarely at the Vampire Diaries demographic. Smallville’s Kristin Kreuk plays Catherine Chandler, who, despite her tiny size and immaculate hair, is a homicide detective in New York. She tracks down Vincent Keller (Ryan), whose Bourne-like super-soldier tendencies with added animal DNA are tied up with her mother’s killers. Initial US reviews were pretty terrible (“overheated, badly written, wretchedly acted,” said the SF Chronicle) but ratings are decent and CW picked it up for a full season.


Louis Theroux
Louis Theroux, Monday

Ross Kemp pulls back the focus from gangs to general crime in Ross Kemp Extreme World (Prime, Wednesday, 9.45pm). Kemp visits some of the most lawless places on Earth and investigates some of the worst wrongdoing. He begins in Chicago, the heroin capital of America. There are 100,000 gang members and 50,000 addicts and Kemp, in his no-nonsense style, interviews junkies, dealers, prostitutes and police. He gains access to a “chop house” where people in masks are cutting heroin with Actifed. He interviews a gang kingpin: “Sometimes people get hurt really badly,” says the guy. One UK reviewer thought the documentary had the air of The Wire, the gritty TV series about Baltimore drug dealers and police: housing projects, street corners, night-time rides in police cars. With his vaguely Jason Statham tough-guy air, Kemp communicates in a direct, manly way; he’s Louis Theroux’s opposite, in other words, although the results are the same. The rest of the series takes in the Congo, Mexico, Haiti and, ah, London. Speaking of Kemp’s opposite, in Louis Theroux: Twilight of the Porn Stars (TV1, Monday, 9.30pm), the documentary-maker revisits the California porn industry 15 years on from his Weird Weekends exposé. It seems that, as with the mainstream media, the internet has done damage to the porn industry and the days of big paydays are gone. Theroux finds the sad side – a male performer who has appeared in more than 1000 movies believes his own capacity for love and intimacy has been sacrificed, and Theroux discovers that an actor who appeared in Weird Weekends committed suicide. Three documentaries on free-to-air telly. It must be a record. Extraordinary Storm Chaser (TV1, Thursday, 8.30pm) features a young woman from the UK who is obsessed with extreme weather. Sam Hall, from Warrington, takes regular stormchasing trips to the US despite having the debilitating skin condition epidermolysis bullosa (EB).
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