John Byrne’s TV choices for the week ahead (July 12-18)
Loads of new and returning shows this week, so get your remote ready for a hop, skip and jump through the crowded schedules . . .
Pick of the week
Person of Interest (Monday, RTÉ Two)
This show was one of the surprises of last year’s newcomers. Its Minority Report-like premise (a computer programme called The Machine predicts crimes before they happen) was hugely ho-hum but the remarkable chemistry between Jim Caviezel‘s former CIA operative John Reese and Michael Emerson’s somewhat spooky billionaire Harold Finch makes this procedural hugely enjoyable.
Season two begins with a double-bill, and in the first episode Finch is still missing – he was kidnapped in last season’s cliff-hanging finale - so Reese enlists Detectives Carter and Fusco to join the search for his friend. Later, with the Machine’s help, Reese closes in on finding Finch as he uncovers shocking details of Root’s former life. Delivering the phone number of a cold case, The Machine leads Reese ever closer to catching up with Finch and his kidnapper. The great Margo Martindale (The Americans, Justified, The Millers) guest stars as a woman from Root’s past.
Star of the week
The FIFA World Cup Final 2014 (Sunday, RTÉ Two)
‘Okey doke’ will never sound the same again. There are middle-aged football fans who were in primary school when Bill O’Herlihy first hosted World Cup coverage on RTÉ television back in 1978, so Bill’s retirement after Sunday’s World Cup Final will be quite an emotional moment for many more than the man himself, his family and long-time panellists John Giles and Eamon Dunphy. Almost 50 years after his first TV appearance (he reported on the 40th anniversary of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1965), he’s going to close the lid on his broadcasting career after Sunday’s Argentina-Germany decider.
Is he Irish TV’s most-loved broadcaster? Well, let’s see how we all feel on Sunday night.
Cheers, Bill. And thanks.
Here's Bill, Eamo and John during Italia 90:
Starting this week
Ray Donovan (Tuesday, Sky Atlantic)
After a tasty first season it’s that awkward sophomore moment as Liev Schreiber returns to play the lead in this hard-boiled drama about a Boston thug-turned-fixer for Hollywood’s rich and famous. Veteran actor Jon Voight was a delight as Donovan’s amoral and murderous father Mickey, so here's to more of the same.
The death toll in the first run was impressive, if low compared to Game of Thrones, but what carries this show is that the often deeply-flawed characters are also quite frail and human, in a show that’s clearly following in the footsteps of The Sopranos, the template for guys 'n' guns TV drama.
Season two begins in the aftermath of the shooting on the dock at the end of the first run, as head of the Los Angeles FBI agent Ed Cochran (Hank Azaria – yep, from The Simpsons) starts asking questions. Ray is losing control of the situation and needs his dad’s help. But Mickey’s in Mexico.
Also starting this week:
Devious Maids (Tuesday, RTÉ Two)
Marc Cherry’s follow-up to Desperate Housewives, with the wonderful Ana Oritz (Ugly Betty) playing lead in a fun show about four Latina maids working for the wealthy and powerful residents of Beverly Hills.
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (Wednesday, RTÉ Two)
Blimey. 14 seasons on the go and there’s no sign of slowing down for (relative newcomer) Ted Danson and crew as they solve murders in the most methodical manner imaginable.
Utopia (Monday, Channel 4)
This hugely impressive conspiracy thriller has also been yellow-carded for what many see as excessive and quite gruesome scenes of violence. Season two’s opener covers 1974-1979 when young scientific genius Carvel meets Milner, an idealistic security services agent.
Silicon Valley ((Wednesday, Sky Atlantic)
Mike Judge of Beavis and Butt-head and King of the Hill fame sets his sights on the high-tech money river that is Silicon Valley in this new HBO comedy about a socially-awkward computer programmer who lives with his pals in the home of an eccentric dotcom millionaire.
Warning! Contains language that may cause offence
The Mimic (Wednesday, Channel 4)
The quirky comedy about Martin Hurdle (Terry Mynott), a maintenance man who’s a great mimic, returns for a second run. Work is becoming hard to find, so Martin gets an agent to raise his impressionist profile.
Veep (Wednesday, Sky Atlantic)
The magnificent Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is back as the eponymous US VP and as season three opens Vice President Selina Meyer is on the road in Iowa on a book signing tour for her new autobiography. Selina soon grows tired of the repetitive signings and pleasantries, which don't come naturally to her.
Warning! There's the odd expletive in this video
Falling Skies ((Tuesday, Fox UK)
Former ER star Noah Wyle is back for a fourth season of this patchy, post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama. The story picks up with the remaining 2nd Mass outside of Charleston and coming under attack from a new and more dangerous alien threat.
Ending this week
How I Met You Mother (Thursday, E4)
At long last, the final episode of this well-worn sitcom about a bunch of friends and two kids hearing how their Da met the Ma. The gang reunite one more time for Ted's wedding, while a huge event in his personal life leads Barney to change his ways.
Here's the cast on Letterman with the Top Ten surprises in the HIMYM finale:
Also ending this week:
24: Live Another Day (Wednesday, Sky 1)
It may have been half of the usual 24-episode run, but it’s been another adrenaline rush for fans of this gung-ho drama. But is this a final goodbye to Jack Bauer? I wouldn't bet on it.
Ireland’s Ocean (Sunday, RTÉ One)
This absorbing look at the life aquatic finishes with fish and crustaceans and shows how they've adapted to living in different marine habitats around Ireland.
Drama of the week
Justified (Saturday, TG4)
One of the best shows on TV, Justified returns for a fourth season with Marshall Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant - no one's ever looked better in a stetson) mulling over a cold case that’s been dormant for 30 years - unravelling a riddle that goes back to his childhood and his criminal father’s chequered past.
Comedy of the week
Mom (Tuesday, RTÉ Two)
Yet another Chuck Lorre comedy (he’s the guy behind Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and that’s just for starters), Anna Faris stars as Christy, a single mother and waitress at a posh Napa Valley restaurant who is four months on the wagon. Her sobriety is severely tested when her recovering alcoholic mother Bonnie, played by former West Wing star Allison Janney, reappears. Dysfunction’s a family trait, as Christy's 17-year old daughter Violet (Sadie Calvano), who was born when Christy was 16, has herself become a teen mother by her boyfriend Luke. Christy also has a younger son Roscoe by her ex-husband Baxter, an utterly useless but likeable pot-head.
The Sopranos (Sky Atlantic, from July 14)
Available from Monday, you can watch the entire six-season run of David Chase’s TV masterpiece about the complicated life of a New Jersey mafia boss. The late James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were superb as Tony and Carmela Soprano – as were most of the show’s cast in this dramatic masterclass. Absolutely essential.
Documentary of the week
The Shelbourne (Thursday, RTÉ One)
A six-part documentary series following the inner workings of one of Ireland’s most iconic hotels, the Shelbourne on Dublin’s Saint Stephen’s Green. For the first time, the hotel has opened its doors to TV cameras and here's the result. In the first episode, the Shelbourne staff receive training in etiquette and grooming, there’s a celebrity arrival and the kitchen prepare a fine dining banquet for 120 food experts.
Film of the Week
Revolutionary Road (Sunday, RTÉ Two)
A more-than-decent alternative to the World Cup Final (unthinkable though that is) and based on the novel of the same name by Richard Yates. Set in the 1950s, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the story focuses on the hopes and aspirations of Frank and April Wheeler, self-assured Connecticut suburbanites who see themselves as very different from their neighbours in the Revolutionary Hill Estates.