Donal O'Donoghue picks the five dramas of early 2012 that he's most looking forward to
New Year’s Day, BBC One
When it premiered in August 2010 this 21st Century take take on Conan Doyle’s super sleuth was a critical and popular hit - and rightly so. Benedict Cumberbatch’s fiendishly clever, oddly beautiful and brilliantly unpredictable Holmes is half the reason this audacious update works. The other is Martin Freeman as Holmes’ bluecollar underling, the hardworking John Watson. The writing succeeds in giving us modern day London with a peculiarly Victorian twist and even if the plot sometimes have more holes than a swiss cheese, the style carries us through. First up tomorrow night is A Scandal in Belgravia but the one I’m really anticipating is The Hounds of Baskervilles (January 8)
January 13, RTÉ Two
Most American TV critics – and President Obama – rated Homeland as the best drama of last year with the prestigious American Film Institute including it in their Top Ten US dramas of 2011. This psychological thriller, with its shades of The Manchurian Candidate, was based on an Israeli series. It stars the superb Damian Lewis (Keane) in the lead role of a former US marine who may have been converted into a sleeper agent. But even better than Lewis is co-star Claires Danes as a CIA agent who suspects that the returning soldier is a ticking timebomb after his time as an Al-Qaeda hostage in Afghanistan. Does he pose a significant risk to national security or is Danes agent overly paranoid? Let the cat-and-mouse games begin.
On paper this new show has a number of things going for it. First it comes out of the HBO stable. Secondly it is penned by David Milch of NYPD Blue and Deadwood fame. And thirdly it stars a brace of irresistible actors, Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte. Set against an unusual backdrop – the murky world of horse racing – Luck promises an uncompromising look at the industry from a man who knows his way about a racetrack (Milch owned two Breeders Cup winners). “The Western town and the track are both frontiers,” he said, comparing Luck with the wild west of Deadwood. “They’re on the margins of society. And the margin is an interesting place to look at a society from.” Set to debut in the US at the end of January.
Titanic: Blood & Steel
This twelve-part series, shot on location in Dublin and from the makers of The Tudors and Camelot, will launch on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. But unlike most other Titanic dramas, this is not about the last days of the infamous passenger liner but its very beginnings. The ‘unsinkable’ Titanic was built in Belfast, in the world’s largest shipyards of Harland and Wolff between 1907 and 1912. Mixing historical characters (including ship’s owner, financier J P Morgan, and its builder Lord William Pirrie) with fictional ones, Blood & Steel promises to construct a tale of passion, politics and blind ambition every bit as titanic as the ship itself. Ciaran Donnelly directs a cast that includes Chris Noth, Neve Campbell and Derek Jacobi. Here’s hoping it’s more in the line of the admirable A Night to Remember than that monstrous cliché of James Cameron’s Oscar magnet.
Game of Thrones
Those familiar with HBO’s adaptation of George R R Martin’s fantasy epic will need little convincing to tune into season two. ‘The Sopranos in Middle-Earth’ was the tagline suggested by Executive Producer David Benioff ahead of the show’s debut and that was pretty much on the money. Now with season two imminent – April is the date apparently – and some main characters gone to meet their maker, the second instalment (based on Martin’s volume two, A Clash of Kings) is once again the most talked-about TV event of 2012. New cast members include Irish actors Liam Cunningham and Michael McElhatton and principal photography was shot in Northern Ireland with Dubrovnik (as King’s Landing) and Iceland doubling for the frozen wastes north of the Wall.