This week John Byrne's TV week includes new US drama Limitless, while also taking in two shows that are edging towards TV Heaven
Reviewed: Limitless (Wednesday, Sky Living); The Good Wife (Thursday, RTÉ One); Mr Selfridge (Friday, UTV Ireland)
Sometimes TV adaptations of successful films work. Certainly, there hasn't been a shortage of them, dating back to the early days of television with the likes of Rin Tin Tin. Among the best and most successful are Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Planet of the Apes and London's Burning, right up to current/recent shows such as Fargo and Hannibal.
Limitless (Wednesday, Sky Living) is the latest in a long line, and is based on the 2011 thriller starring Bradley Cooper as a struggling author suffering from writer's block, whose life is transformed when he starts taking an experimental drug called NZT-48.
This time around Jake McDorman stars as Brian Finch, previously not the brightest of blokes, who takes NZT-48 and it opens the full possibility of his brain and gives him perfect recall of everything he has ever read, heard, or seen. He likes the new version of himself.
So far, so similar. Interestingly enough, Bradley Cooper pops up as his Limitless film character Eddie Morra, who's now a US Senator who supplies Finch with a booster drug that nullifies the nasty side effects of NZT-48. It seems the pill poacher has turned gamekeeper.
Before catching a glimpse of this show I thought it had great potential, but after the pilot that hope had dissipated into a fear that Limitless would become just another quirky procedural offering a case of the week and little else.
During the pilot, FBI agent Rebecca Harris (former Dexter star Jennifer Carpenter) offered Finch a consultant position with the Bureau, which is eager to find out who created NZT-48. Before you know it, he's solving murder cases with the aid of the drug.
Now, three episodes in, Limitless already looks as formulaic as Castle, The Mentalist, Elementary or any number of the quirky procedural shows that have littered TV schedules for decades. It'll probably end with Finch and Harris getting hitched.
In the latest episode, Finch helps the Feds investigate the murder of a retired FBI agent, and they find a link to the elusive head of a notorious drug cartel. Meanwhile, in a sub-plot Finch bumps into an old flame, and she's won over by the drugged version of him, but he breaks up with her in order to protect her. The reason being that the aforementioned Eddie Morra sends a stooge (with the obligatory Brit bad guy accent) to tell Finch that everyone he cares for will be killed if he doesn't do his bidding.
Sounds lame? It most certainly is. I've certainly had enough.
Far more satisfying is the latest and unfortunately final season of The Good Wife (Thursday, RTÉ One), inarguably one of the greatest TV shows of the last 20 years. Although it's not as good as it was when Josh Charles was in the middle of things, it still offers a superb cast and entertaining array of characters. The writing's just not as sharp.
The centre of this latest episode was a court case revolving around a sting video of a doctor talking flippantly about harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted foetuses. Diane Lockhart, a self-confessed liberal, ends up defending the pro-lifers, and very smartly manipulates the situation.
Meanwhile, Alicia's fledgling business begins to take shape as daughter Grace takes it upon herself to harvest new clients, with amazing results. Meanwhile, again, Eli Gold's character is played almost strictly for laughs as he ends up romantically involved with Vanessa Williams' Courtney Paige.
The Good Wife is relying more on humour, sleight of hand and its long-serving talent to keep the train in motion, but it's too easy to see the final destination straight ahead and in clear sight.
I've always been a huge fan of this often superb show that mixed court drama with political intrigue, and personal interplay with office politics, but its multi-layered, almost balletic structure (The Good Wife has featured some of the greatest opening scenes I've ever witnessed on TV) now makes way for something a lot less satisfying, if still superior to most shows on the box. I'm glad it's almost done. It won't end up a sad parody of itself like The Simpsons.
The same could be said for another show that's about to close up shop forever. Although at times it makes Downton Abbey look like Breaking Bad, I've been a sucker for Mr Selfridge (Friday, UTV Ireland) since the start. It's like a friendly dog that always licks your hand and wags its tail. You can't help but like it.
Ideal Sunday night viewing, this Angel Delight of a period drama's move to Fridays has jarred a little, and has had a disastrous effect on some of the cast and characters. Not least Harry Selfridge himself, who is played with boundless enthusiasm and a perma-grin by Jeremy Piven, previously the monster agent Ari Gold in Entourage.
He's seen his finances plummet and get himself and the shop targeted by thugs as the result of a substantial gambling debt, but this week Harry, son Gordon and business partner Jimmy announce the purchase of Whiteleys department store.
The excitement of this new venture soon turns to despair when it's discovered that the new acquisition is deep in debt, but Harry's loyal financial whizz Mr Crabb finds a way out of the mire. That's the end of the good news.
Following the recent demise of Victor Colleano, it was the turn of another series regular to bite the dust. A cancer-stricken Mr Grove decided that enough was enough and decided to retire from Selfridges, only to die almost immediately while sitting in the back garden with his beloved wife, Josie. I went to bed wondering: who's next?
Although Mr Selfridge is based on the life of the American businessman who came to London to launch the now world-renowned staple of Oxford Street, this has been a largely unbelievable drama. Oddly enough that hasn't stopped it from being an enjoyable guilty pleasure.
I'll miss ol' Harry when he's gone.