Catch Up TV reviews: No Offence S3, Strangers, Fresh Off the Boat S3, Krypton
Ivan Radford | On 16, Sep 2018
Strangers (ITV Hub)
Is she dead? That’s the headline question for this ITV series, which is having its thunder stolen somewhat by Bodyguard on BBC One. Fortunately, the debuting drama boasts another hook that’s enough to tune in: John Simm. He’s on typically brilliant form as Jonah, an academic whose world is turned upside down when he hears that his wife, Megan, has died in a car crash. And so he heads to Hong Kong to identify her body – and uncover the truth behind the voicemail on his phone apologising for what he’ll discover when he gets there. Simm’s vulnerable, earnest grief makes for compelling viewing, while the stunning location helps bring a fresh sense of alienation to the age-old question of how well you really know your partner. By prioritising emotional confrontations over conspiracies and other such twists, Strangers promises something more moving than your typical mystery.
No Offence (All 4)
Channel 4’s darkly hilarious cop thriller has always stood out from the crime TV pack by bringing a frank sense of humour to its procedural thrills. This third season, though, starts with a shocking bang and uses that to propel Joanna Scanlan’s DI Viv and the Friday Street team into a surprising heartbreaking story. Fusing that emotional intensity with a fiercely topical plot surrounding mayoral hustings, a nasty alt-right movement (led by the always-excellent Neil Maskell) and the need for police independence in a politically fragile time. The result is gripping, excellently performed and is already shaping up to be the best season of No Offence yet. (Can’t wait for weekly episodes? A new deal with Sky means that the whole thing is already on Sky Box Sets and NOW TV.)
Fresh Off the Boat: Season 3 (My5)
“Oh my god. We are Patrick Swayze in ghost. Stuck between two worlds, part of both, belonging to neither.” “Dammit. It is the best movie ever.” That’s the sound of a TV show hitting inspired heights, as Fresh Off the Boat returns for a third season, and continues to find fresh ways to express and explore its central theme of Asian American identity within modern American society. The show’s writing is wonderfully specific and yet entirely universal, balancing characters and cultural details with the relatable growing pains of adolescents and the familiar format of a TV comedy.
With several seasons under their belts, the cast are now wonderfully at home in the characters, which only makes the whole thing funnier. Randall Park is MVP of the series as put-upon father Louis, whose earnest attempts to keep the household together are increasingly hysterical – especially when he gets the chance to spar with Ken Jeong as his brother, Gene, who invites them to Taiwan for Gene’s wedding. (Their opening exchange about how expensive their journey was is laugh-out-loud funny.) He’s supported sublimely by Constance Wu as his wife, Jessica, as their bond moves from the joint realisation of their relation to Patrick Swayze’s iconic romance to their nuanced disagreement over hiring a cleaner to look after their home – a role that she feels should be hers.
Equally great, though, are the young cast; even with the focus moving to a wide scope that allows the parents time to shine, the Huang’s three sons (Eddie – Hudson Yang, Emery – Forest Wheeler, and Evan – Ian Chen) are a delight. Emery’s the one shining the most, as he moves to middle school and finds himself having to deal with the lies made up by his brother to make life as lazy as possible. “They’re ignorant about our culture, why shouldn’t we take advantage?” his sibling argues back. As the farcical laughs and sharp commentary continue to collide, Fresh Off the Boat just gets better with every season. We’re now a long way behind the US broadcast, with Channel 5’s 5Star only just showing the third run (in the US, it’s about to start its fifth), but when the laughs are this big, who’s complaining?
Krypton (All 4)
With Henry Cavill reportedly departing the Superman suit, the future of DC’s big screen productions is only looking shakier. The arrival of Krypton on UK shores, then, is a likely port of call for DC fans needing a comic book fix – especially with new streaming service DC Universe only existing in the USA for now. The spin-off series, set years before Superman becomes Superman, is certainly an attempt at wiping the slate clean, making sure that we’re firmly away from the Earthbound days of Man of Steel, or the journalistic thrills of Lois & Clark. The problem is, though, that Superman’s legacy is the selling point for the whole project, which leaves the series in a strange kind of limbo.
Our starting point is Krypton, Kal-El’s home planet, two generations before it’s destroyed. Cameron Cuffe stars as Seg-El, a teen whose life is up-ended by the arrival of Adam Strange (Shaun Sipos) who has time-travelled from the present to warn him of a sinister plot – a plot to change the past and prevent the birth of Kal-El – who, just to be clear, would be Seg-El’s grandson. The problem is that Seg-El is growing up as something of an exile, after the House of El is ostracised following the execution of his rebellious grandfather (Game of Thrones’ Ian McElhinney). And so he finds himself trying to fit in with the ruling family, while still getting vital dumps of exposition from a holographic McElhinney.
There’s intrigue aplenty, as leader Daron-Vex (the hammyElliot Cowan) arranges a marraige between Seg and his daughter Nyssa (the enjoyably enigmatic Wallis Day), but it’s telling that there’s more promise in Georgina Campbell’s Lyta-Zod, a commander in the Kryptonian army who proves her physical mettle early on. While the characters struggle to be all that compelling, though, Krypton does succeed in building a convincing world with an alien backdrop and political tension. The question remains whether the series can do anything distinctive with it.