Catch up TV review: The Good Fight, Travel Man, Vera
Ivan Radford | On 02, Apr 2017
The Good Fight (All 4)
How do you follow a show like The Good Wife? Take one character and give her a spin-off series all of her own. That’s the formula used by CBS to launch its new streaming service in the USA, CBS All-Access. And, with More4 once again the home of The Good Wife’s latest incarnation, one thing is obvious immediately: they’ve struck gold once again.
From The Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King, The Good Fight picks up one year after the events of the original show’s final episode, with Christine Baranski reprising her role as Diane Lockhart. Planning to retire, she instead finds herself the victim of financial fraud, leaving her stranded between the law firm where she was guiding a young mentee – her goddaughter, Maia (Rose Leslie) – and, well, the door.
It’s a fantastic, whip-smart opener for a new season, one that brings with it all the catty competition and veteran knowledge of The Good Wife’s seven seasons, but still makes things completely accessible to newcomers. Baranski is lip-smackingly tart as Diane, all sharp teeth and no sympathy (she spits out a carefully chosen swear word before the gorgeous opening credits) – until she’s conned by Henry (Paul Guilfoyle), opening up a gaping wound that, in the cutthroat world of Chicago law, nobody rushes to help close. It’s an equally bruising blow to Maia, and Rose Leslie expertly steps out of Game of Thrones’ shadow to deliver a winning performance as a young go-getter who’s already more of an underdog than convention would normally dictate.
Unfolding against the background of Trump’s inauguration, the stage is set for a David and Goliath-style battle between the wealthy and the not – a battle balanced with just enough soap operatics to be fun, without detract from the classy, precise storytelling. And with the troops including Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo, also reprising her role from The Good Wife) and a wonderfully slick Delroy Lindo as shrewd heavyweight Adrian Boseman, this promises to be one heck of a good fight. Get ready to be hooked – and to start wanting to watch, or re-watch, the whole of The Good Wife immediately afterwards.
The Good Fight is on Thursdays on More4 at 9pm.
Travel Man: 48 Hours in Tenerife (All 4)
The celebrity travelogue is one of the most tired TV formats around today. Richard Ayoade, though, is no ordinary celebrity. Alongside Matt Berry, he belongs to that rare group of humans whose voices alone are enough to make you laugh out loud. He puts it to good use as he trots the globe with a different companion every week, discovering things about familiar tourist traps around the world. This time, it’s Tenerife, and he takes audible delight in saying “Guachinches” as many time as possible, whenever the subject of restaurants comes up. That excitement spreads into his evident enthusiasm for learning new cultures and facts – and his companion Lena Dunham joins in that eagerness, as they go stargazing to look at light from centuries ago (“That’s Jacobean light. Light with ruffs on.”) and clamber over sculptures. Ayoade confidently rattles off trivia like a seasoned TV presenter, always a little over-the-top to undermine the whole thing – but that positive, charismatic presence is balanced with a delicious line in bitter cynicism, as he quickly changes moods into someone who doesn’t like travel at all. “Pilot whales are over there,” says Lena. “I don’t care,” comes his blunt reply, before musing that they could have done all of this by staying home and watching YouTube. He’s sarcastic, ironic, infectious fun. And best of all? It’s all wrapped up in under 30 minutes (a refreshing change from the usual hour-long travelogues), so you can’t get tired of his company. Although with this now in fifth season, that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
Travel Man is on Mondays on Channel 4 at 8.30pm.
Vera: Season 7 (ITV Hub)
Sunday night routines across the UK were hit by a bombshell last week with the return of Jed Mercurio’s Line of Duty, but the Beeb’s long-running police thriller failed to topple another mainstay of Sunday evening telly from the top spot in the ratings: ITV’s Vera. Back for a seventh season, can the detective series still deduce the secret of keeping an audience hooked?
Judging by the first of this four-part run, the mystery to Vera’s success may be somewhat baffling, as it serves up the same old detective cliches in an undemanding fashion. But that’s the secret to the ITV show’s appeal, which no doubt brings in the older half of British viewers, who want little more than a Mrs. Marple repeat. And Vera is unabashedly in that same vein as Agatha Christie’s tough elderly cookie of old, as she trundles off to an island off the Northumberland coast to investigate the corpse of a wildlife ranger discovered there.
Did Gemma take her own life? Or was it something more sinister? Evidence points to a drowning, thanks to hand marks on her body, but it’s inevitably a little more complicated than that, from past secrets to a supporting cast comprised almost solely of suspicious suspects acted suspiciously. But 30 minutes in, you can guess the killer without much trouble, and despite the show’s best efforts to be gritty, there’s not enough forensic police-work to really impress, with the answer instead falling down to women’s intuition, the timings of the moon and other such natural things. If the plot is hardly inspiring, though, it’s all made rather watchable by dear Brenda Blethyn in the lead. If you need a comfortingly familiar face to look dramatically off-screen and announce the name of the latest suspect just before the ad breaks, you can’t get much better. Well, apart from Line of Duty, of course.
Vera is on Sundays on ITV at 9pm.