This week John Byrne takes in Josh Charles' departure from The Good Wife, the season finale of US comedy Silicon Valley – and new shows featuring Adrien Brody and Imelda May.
It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is to get attached to TV shows, characters and actors. Over the years I've had many small screen attractions that bordered on, well, the obsessive. Where to begin? Firefly, Seinfeld, Fringe. Veronica Mars, Pushing Daisies, Men of a Certain Age. House, The West Wing, 30 Rock. Parenthood. Oh, stop.
They're just the Americans ones that immediately spring to mind. I could probably rattle off another 20 shows at least. I really should get out a bit more.
In most recent times, the show that has become number one for the missus and myself has been The Good Wife (Thursdays, RTÉ One). It ticks a hell of a lot of boxes. Firstly, it's something we can enjoy together, so that's a big plus in these days of fractured, individual viewing.
But everything's going for this show: it's got a great cast, a wonderful array of characters, some incredible guest stars, and the weekly procedural and ongoing arcs are full of twists and intrigue. There are plenty of laughs, too. It's simply the best mainstream, prime time drama around, and has been since its arrival in 2009.
But nothing prepared Irish fans unaware of what was coming in last Thursday night's episode.
Sure, we've all seen characters killed off in shows, and plenty of them, but the death of Will Gardner – superbly interpreted by Josh Charles – came as a major shock. The way it was played out was genuinely upsetting, as it hit the minor things such as seeing a loose shoe and a stockinged foot in the courtroom. That, along with major matters such as his unfinished voicemail to Alicia just before he went back into the court. That's where he was fatally shot by Jeffrey Grant, the man he was defending. Grant, fearing a guilty verdict, panicked, took a cop's gun and went on a shooting spree. Now Will's gone to TV Heaven.
Josh Charles had asked to be written out of the show so he can concentrate on directing, and has taken on that role in subsequent episodes of The Good Wife. Fans of the show can only wish him well, but there's more than a little sadness in our hearts now that one of modern TV's most compelling characters is no longer with us. Farewell, Will; all the best, Josh.
Another departure in recent days was HBO comedy Silicon Valley (Wednesdays, Sky Atlantic). Over the course of its brief, eight-episode opening season it's been full of laughs, mostly at the expense of the ultra-geeky, faux-philanthropic, mega-wealthy world of California's dotcom industry, where fortunes can be made and lost in moments.
Silicon Valley almost screams for comparisons with Entourage, the HBO comedy that pitted a bunch of scruffs from Queens against the madness that is Hollywood. It's basically a handful of socially inept programmers trying to survive in the ultra-competitive, hyper-greedy world that is Silicon Valley, a veritable Hollywood for techies.
It even has a Jeremy Piven-like scene-stealer in TJ Miller, who plays the mouthy Erlich Bachman, a man so sure of himself that his constant screw-ups never seem to cause him a second thought, or create any lasting problems.He just rides blithely through every crisis he creates.
It's a dreadful shame that Christopher Evan Welch, who played the soft-spoken, genuinely oddball venture capitalist Peter Gregory, died during the filming of season one. He was brilliant in the role and will be a great loss to the show.
But it's all set up for season two as main man Richard Hendriks (Thomas Middleditch) dramatically scrapped the gang's planned presentation in the season one finale, and introduced a new algorithm that sensationally outperforms all others. Can these guys cope with the success and megabucks that seem to be theirs? Well, let's hope creator Mike Judge and company can keep it up. That was a cracking first season.
No sooner does one show disappear, than another new one comes along. Houdini (Sundays, Channel 4) arrived with much promise, but fell flat very quickly. Adrien Brody looked ideal in the lead role of legendary escapologist Harry Houdini, one of the first global stars of the 20th Century, but the script was so dreary and one-dimensional, the two hours of this opening half just dragged on, and on. And on.
I nearly nodded-off once or twice and couldn't believe that anything with the charismatic Brody in it could be so dull. It was like one of those wooden, made-for-TV biopics that are guaranteed cures for insomnia. I'll be performing a disappearing act ahead of next week's concluding part.
Finally, The Imelda May Show (Sundays, RTÉ One). This show might have a lot of people comparing it to the BBC's Later . . . with Jools (which is fair enough, given that it's basically a carbon copy), so it was fitting that Holland was the first guest on this run, which follows in the wake of a successful Saint Patrick's Day special.
But the arrival of this show, and its position on Sunday nights, is also re-establishing an old RTÉ tradition. In the past, the likes of Sandy Kelly and Daniel O'Donnell both fronted their own Sunday night music-based shows with special guests.
Apart from Jools Holland, the opening line-up on The Imelda May Show was all Irish, ranging from Mary Black to The Riptide Movement, as well as a trio of traditional Irish musicians led by Donal Lunny. As she was in the special on Paddy's Day, May is a colourful font of infectious enthusiasm, and that's what makes this show work.
As well as individual performances from each act, and plenty of chat led by Imelda, she also sang with Jools Holland, performed a duet with Mary Black, and even managed a trio with Mary Black and Riptide Movement's Malachy Tuohy. They all got on famously and the audience lapped it up. This looks like being a winner.