Reviewed: Stalker (Mondays, Sky Living); Two and a Half Men (Wednesdays, Comedy Central); Blue Bloods (Wednesday, Sky Atlantic); Modern Family (Mondays, Sky 1)
There are no wedding bells in this week's TV Review, but John Byrne does takes in something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue . . .
Sometimes it's easy to pigeonhole a show: that doesn't mean it's good or bad, just that you can spot its target audience straight away and almost hear the pitch when the show was first presented to the Hollywood suits.
Stalker (Mondays, Sky Living) is, without any doubt, aimed almost exclusively at the kind of people who have been lapping up Criminal Minds for about a decade. It's for people – mostly female - who like being scared, feel the world is full of very dodgy and violent people, but who are comforted by the villain of the week aspect of a TV procedural where the bad guy gets caught or killed in the end.
With Stalker there are no subtleties. The opening line to the show, “Over 6 million people are stalked each year in the United States,” sets the agenda straight away, and there's a lot of stalking going on in this show.
For starters there's former Nikita star Maggie Q playing Beth Davis, the head of an elite anti-stalker unit based in Los Angeles. She gets a new member on the team in the smart-ass shape of Detective Jack Larsen (Dylan McDermott, just over his stint on Hostages), who also happens to be a stalker in his own right, as she seems to be in LA purely to snoop on his ex and their child.
The initially frosty relationship between Davis and Larsen, plus his own stalking issues, will form the overriding arcs of this show, but after this pilot it's pretty obvious that Stalker will primarily focus on the case of the week. And that's where this show gets a little uncomfortable.
The stalker in this episode is pretty hardcore, even by stalker standards. We're talking psycho killer here. Early on a woman has her car set alight by this crazy, and perishes, with the scene played out like something from a horror film. Not surprising, then, to learn that Kevin Williamson, the brains behind the Scream franchise, I know What You Did Last Summer and blood-soaked psycho-drama The Following, is also pulling the strings here.
Ultimately, Stalker is a primetime procedural that is meant to scare viewers just a little but ultimately make them feel at ease. If you want your head messed with, and have your stomach turned, try Hannibal. Now that's a freaky TV show.
Comedy is possibly a more subjective and divisive matter than politics and I draw the line at Two and a Half Men (Wednesdays, Comedy Central). Back for what is thankfully a final season, I decided to have a look through gritted teeth for the first time since Charlie Sheen got red-carded and replaced by Ashton Kutcher.
While this show at least had something going for it back in its early days – Charlie's boorishness juxtaposed with Alan's anal tendencies was a pale imitation of The Odd Couple - it stopped being funny and became morally ambivalent when it appeared that there was little difference between the real-life Sheen and his Two and a Half Men character.
But now it's like seeing one of those bands that has lost or replaced so many original members that it's a pretty pointless exercise. It's also devoid of anything even remotely funny.
There's always been something likeable about Jon Cryer's character, Alan Harper. However, without Charlie's womanising booze-hound, or even the now departed 'half' that was his son Jake, played by Angus T Jones – too old anyway for the part after ten years - he seems lost.
Kutcher's Walden Schmidt hasn't much to offer either, and in this season-opener he suffers a mild heart attack that makes him consider his lifestyle and decide that he wants a child. Needing to be married to jump up the adoption queue, he proposes to Alan. Hilarious, eh? This show will not be missed.
Equally unimpressive was Blue Bloods (Wednesday, Sky Atlantic), back for a fifth season. I'd given up on this show during season two, as it was so predictable and self-righteous I just couldn't take it any more. There's the odd new partner for a member of the Reagan clan, a family of law 'n' order types from New York, but very little else has changed. It's still the Reagan cop clan against a world full of crooks and limp-wristed liberals.
In the season opener, Detective Danny Reagan's partner gets injured while they were escorting confiscated drugs, so Danny goes after the drug cartel responsible. Elsewhere, a lieutenant with a commendable record controversially causes a man with mental problems to get killed, which puts Commissioner Frank Reagan in a difficult situation.
I can see the attraction of a show like this, which is a throwback to the 1960s or '70s with its old skool episodic storylines and almost frontiersman approach to crime-fighting. But Tom Selleck's Frank Reagan is quite an unbearably pompous figure, while Donnie Wahlberg's macho hothead Danny runs him a close second. That's a combination that really puts me off this show.
It's almost like The Wire, Homicide: Life on the Street, or the last 50 years, never happened.
Thankfully, Modern Family (Mondays, Sky 1) restored my faith in TV this week. While it's got a couple of very modern hooks, such as the faux-documentary style and the gay couple, it's very much a traditional family sitcom and borrows from its many great predecessors. Most important of all, though, it's got an excellent cast and some funny lines. And the great Ty Burrell.
This week's episode, the second of the sixth season, was almost Modern Family by numbers. It was Jay and Gloria's wedding anniversary, Mitch and Tyler were updating their family portrait by including Lily this time around, while the Dunphy clan checked out a college with Alex.
Typically, Jay is soul-searching with Manny over his choice of gift for Gloria (a duck he made himself in pottery class), while Lily is being typically awkward by continually making odd smiley faces when the family photo is being taken. As ever, most of the best fun occurs with Ty Burrell, as his Phil gets sidetracked with Luke and Haley at a college experiment and, in typical Dunphy style, it all unravels between them.
Modern Family rarely surprises, but always entertains. Six seasons in, these characters haven't really diverted from their original, well-defined selves, and that's why a) it's such a hit and b) it will jump the shark pretty soon.
So let's enjoy it while it's still fun, eh?