The return of Blade to TV screens?

Blade TV series

At the sharp end – the cast of Blade

ALTHOUGH WE usually prefer to cover crime TV series that are rooted in the here and now, one of our favourite fantasy crime series looks like it could be making a comeback.

This is because Marvel have reportedly regained the rights to the Blade franchise. Already the internet is awash with rumours that the vampire-hunting crime drama could be making a return to our screens.

Blade: The Series originally ran on the Spike TV network for just 13 episodes in 2006. It wasn’t perfect, but it did provide a new aesthetic for our television screens with the desolate backdrop of Detroit providing a template for future TV hits such as The Walking Dead.

Wesley Snipes

Flagging audience numbers were the main reason why the network decided not to renew the series. It had always faced a struggle as it followed on from the trilogy of Blade movies that saw Wesley Snipes making the role of half-blood vampire hunter his own.

And while the casting of Kirk ‘Sticky Fingaz’ Jones, from the hip-hop group Onyx, may have been a bold move, there were plenty of critics who blamed his uninspired acting as one of the reasons for the TV series’ failure.

Despite the demise of Blade: The Series, there’s been an endless range of vampiric themes in popular culture that suggest the time could be ripe for the show’s rebirth.

The Vampire Diaries

The wildly successful The Vampire Diaries has been one of the biggest hits for teen audiences of recent times. And when you realise that the Bloodsuckers slots game at the MrSmithCasino website has revealed the public has an unfailing fascination for these ghoulish creatures, it seems as though the time could be right for a return of the Blade TV series. [Read more…]

Better Call Saul 3 trailer

Breaking Bad fans will love this trailer for the spin-off Better Call Saul, which returns to Netflix this spring. Who could forget Gus Fring?

Dirk Gently, Netflix, Elijah Wood, Samuel Barnett

In case you haven’t caught it yet, there’s a new version of Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency just started on Netflix. Watch this trailer to get a taste of the off-kilter crime show, starring Samuel Barnett (Penny Dreadful), Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) and Hannah Marks (The Amazing Spiderman). BBC4 did a version starring Stephen Mangan back in 2010. It was OK and ran for two series. Crime-comedy rarely works well, but this new US update looks like it has plenty of energy…

New Crime Series 2017

Here is our annual preview of new crime series and thrillers coming up. Most will be on next year, but some will feature in the autumn of 2016, including…

Programme Name: Rillington Place - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: **FIRST LOOK** John Christie (TIM ROTH) - (C) BBC - Photographer: BBC

Notting Kill: notorious serial murderer John Christie (Tim Roth)

Rillington Place, BBC1, Tuesday, 29 November, 9pm

Tim Roth, Samantha Morton, Nico Mirallegro

The Beeb revisits one of the most chilling true crimes in British criminal history. The multiple murders of ex-copper John Christie in Notting Hill in the 1940s and 50s – and the hanging of innocent man Timothy Evans on Christie’s testimony – was a case that haunted the justice system and one that provokes controversy still. It will star Tim Roth as the creepy killer and Samantha Morton as his wife (and one of his victims, of which there were probably eight in all). Writers Ed Whitmore and Tracey Malone say: ‘This is a story you just can’t look away from: an unlikely serial killer who orchestrated a devastating miscarriage of justice. It has drawn us in at every turn and has attracted an incredibly exciting level of talent who are as committed as we are to bringing it to life.’

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

Rillington Place Ethel Christie (SAMANTHA MORTON) - (C) BBC - Photographer: BBC

Wife: Ethel Christie (Samantha Morton)

Innocent, ITV

Hermione Norris, Lee Ingleby

Four-part drama telling the story of David Collier (Lee Ingleby) who is living a nightmare. Convicted of murdering his wife Tara, David has served seven years in prison. He’s lost everything he held dear: his wife, his two children and even the house he owned. He’s always protested his innocence and faces the rest of his life behind bars. Convinced of his guilt, Tara’s childless sister Alice (Hemione Norris) and her husband Rob (Adrian Rowlins) are now parents to David’s children. His situation couldn’t be more desperate. Then David’s case comes up on appeal…

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Fortitude - Series 02 First look images from series two of Sky Atlantic’s arctic thriller, Fortitude, from the set in Iceland. The Sky original drama, co-produced by Pivot, stars Dennis Quaid, Sofie Gråbøl and Richard Dormer.

Chilling out: Dennis Quaid in Fortitude 2

Fortitude 2, Sky Atlantic

Dennis Quaid, Sofie Gråbøl, Sienna Guillory, Parminder Nagra, Michelle Fairley, Ken Stott

Hollywood star Dennis Quaid turns up in the ‘cosy, twisted world of’ Fortitude in the Arctic Circle for another tense mystery. There is little on the story right now, but the setting is spectacular and so is the cast.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Fortitude - Series 02 First look images from series two of Sky Atlantic’s arctic thriller, Fortitude, from the set in Iceland. The Sky original drama, co-produced by Pivot, stars Dennis Quaid, Sofie Gråbøl and Richard Dormer.

Ice day for a murder – Fortitude 2‘s stunning setting

Kiss Me First, C4 and Netflix

Cast: details to be announced

An adaptation of Lottie Moggach’s best-selling young adult novel of the same name, telling the story of Leila, a lonely 17-year-old girl who is addicted to a fictional online gaming site called Agora. While in Agora, Leila meets Tess, a cool and confident party girl who harbours a dark secret…

Anticipation factor ★★★★

From Warner Bros Lethal Weapon on ITV Pictured: Roger Murtaugh [Damon Wayans] and Martin Riggs [Clayne Crawford]. This photograph is (C) Warner Bros and can only be reproduced for editorial purposes directly in connection with the programme or event mentioned above, or ITV plc. Once made available by ITV plc Picture Desk, this photograph can be reproduced once only up until the transmission [TX] date and no reproduction fee will be charged. Any subsequent usage may incur a fee. This photograph must not be manipulated [excluding basic cropping] in a manner which alters the visual appearance of the person photographed deemed detrimental or inappropriate by ITV plc Picture Desk. This photograph must not be syndicated to any other company, publication or website, or permanently archived, without the express written permission of ITV Plc Picture Desk. Full Terms and conditions are available on the website

Roger Murtaugh (Damon Wayans) and Martin Riggs (Clayne Crawford)

Lethal Weapon, ITV

Clayne Crawford, Damon Wayans

Spin-off from the hit movie franchise, we join Riggs and Murtaugh as they confront the criminals of Los Angeles. Family man and by-the-book LAPD Detective Roger Murtaugh (Wayans) is back to work after a near fatal heart attack – and his doctor has told him he needs to keep his stress levels under control. Easier said than done given that he’s been paired with ex-Navy SEAL-turned-detective Martin Riggs (Crawford), who has moved to California for a new start at the LAPD.

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Loch Ness

Siobhan Finneran, John Sessions

No, it’s not about the hunt for a mysterious dinosaur, but rather the efforts to catch a serial killer plaguing the beautiful, haunting shores of Scotland’s most iconic Loch. Happy Valley‘s Siobhan Finneran teams up with John Sessions for this six-parter featuring detective Annie Cathro as she tries to cope with her first murder case. Written by Stephen Brady (Fortitude, Vera, Silent Witness).

Anticipation factor ★★★★

Riviera, Sky Atlantic

Wish you were here? Julia Stiles in Riviera

Riviera, Sky Atlantic

Julia Stiles

This South of France-set thriller really does look like a gripper. It’s a 10-parter based on an idea by former U2 manager Paul McGuinness, directed by Neil Jordan and co-written by Booker Prize-winner John Banville. Georgina (Julia Stiles) is newly married to billionaire Constantine Clios, when he is killed in a yacht explosion. She is shocked to discover the fortune that maintained his immaculate, tasteful lifestyle is tainted with dishonesty, double-dealing, crime – and murder. Julia Stiles, star of the Bourne movies, said: ‘What attracted me to Riviera is the setting, a romantic and glamorous world where not everything is as it seems, and the opportunity to explore a character who is also not as she appears. Georgina is the classic anti-hero, ultimately a good person, but compromised by the corruption around her.’

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

Maigret 2, ITV

Rowan Atkinson, Shaun Dingwall, Lucy Cohu

This really felt like a failed attempt to bring the much-loved Parisian detective to the small screen when the first instalment went out last Easter, but ITV looked at consolidated viewing figures of 7.2 million and hit the green light. There will be two new mysteries, Night at the Crossroads – which just started filming this week – and Maigret in Montmartre. Well, author Georges Simenon wrote 75 Maigret novels, so the channel has plenty of attempts to inject its adaptations with some passion and edge.

Anticipation factor ★★★

In Plain Sight, ITV

Douglas Henshall, Martin Compston

True-crime three-parter recounting the rather scary Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel and the attempt to snare him during the 1950s. What was chilling about Manuel, who was actually born in New York to Scottish parents, was that he callously committed a range of horrible crimes, including property and sexual crimes, then he killed those whom he robbed or raped. His spree claimed eight lives in the close-knit communities of South Lanarkshire.

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

Prime Suspect – 1973, ITV

Stefanie Martini, Sam Reid, Blake Harrison, Alun Armstrong

A prequel to the hugely popular and influential ITV series Prime Suspect, this is adapted from a novel by the show’s creator Lynda La Plante. Stefanie Martini, who may be familiar from Doctor Thorne, will play the young Jane Tennison. The six-parter has completed filming in London, and will explore what made Tennison such a formidable and complex character.

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

penned by acclaimed screenwriter Rowan Joffe. Tin Star follows Jim Worth (Tim Roth), an ex-pat British police officer who becomes obsessed with revenge when his small town in the Rockies is overrun by workers from a massive new oil refinery - and the wave of drugs, prostitution and organised crime that follows them. Riding the crime wave is a mysterious gang of killers who murder a member of Jim’s family, in a botched assassination attempt on Jim’s own life. We follow Jim as he deals with his tremendous guilt and attempts to uncover who is responsible.

Dust-up in Canada – Tim Roth in Sky Atlantic’s revenge thriller Tin Star

Tin Star, Sky Atlantic

Tim Roth, Christina Hendricks

Tim Roth – again – teams up with Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks for this contemporary take on the Western genre, set in the Canadian Rockies. Tin Star tells the story of Jim Worth, an ex-Metropolitan police detective who has moved with his family to the Rocky Mountains to start a new life as a local police chief in an idyllic rural community. When his small town is overrun by migrant workers from a massive new oil refinery – the wave of drugs, prostitution and organised crime that follows them threatens to sweep away everything in its wake.

Anticipation factor ★★★★★

Tim Roth and Christina Hendricks star in this Sky Atlantic revenge thriller penned by acclaimed screenwriter Rowan Joffe. Tin Star follows Jim Worth (Tim Roth), an ex-pat British police officer who becomes obsessed with revenge when his small town in the Rockies is overrun by workers from a massive new oil refinery - and the wave of drugs, prostitution and organised crime that follows them. Riding the crime wave is a mysterious gang of killers who murder a member of Jim’s family, in a botched assassination attempt on Jim’s own life. We follow Jim as he deals with his tremendous guilt and attempts to uncover who is responsible.

Christina Hendricks in Tin Star

[Read more…]

Narcos 2 featurette: Pablo killed

Narcos fans will want to check this out. It’s a featurette from Netflix about the climax of the latest series of Narcos, the tense drama about Pablo Escobar and the gruesome, gruelling hunt for him. In the second season, notorious drug kingpin Escobar, played by Golden Globe nominee Wagner Moura, is on the run, with the Colombian authorities and the Americans in relentless pursuit – and determined to put an end to his illegal activities. However, the story doesn’t end there. Despite the demise of Escobar, there will be two further series of Narcos. Watch this space…

Narcos 2 on Netflix

The end: law enforcement catches up with Escobar

Breaking Bad — Killer TV No 1

Here is the final entry in our Killer TV top 50. It's been fun revisiting favourite series.

Below is the full list of 50. Are any of your favourites not here? Leave a comment and let us know…


AMC, 2008-2013

'Nah, come on, man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass at like what, 60, he's just gonna break bad?' – Jesse Pinkman

Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk

Identikit: A humdrum chemistry teacher turns to crime to provide for his family when he is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer.

WHAT an unlikely premise it must have appeared to US cable network AMC! A low-grade chemistry teacher in dullsville Albuquerque discovers he has cancer and decides to make and sell methamphetamine to provide for his family (his wife's pregnant with their second child). From that idea came one of the most dazzling, profound and blackly funny TV dramas ever. Through five seasons creator Vince Gilligan (once of The X Files) offered a compelling portrait of a man, Walter White, going bad and giving in to his dark side. This journey from decent man to criminal radically subverted TV's traditional formula of flawed characters learning life lessons. Gilligan summed it up: "The goal was to turn him from Mr Chips into Scarface." Walter's transformation is wild but convincing, with the teacher having missed out on making a fortune earlier in life, so that when he faces death he's determined to use his talents to cash in before it's too late. Bursting with superb, three-dimensional characters, sublime acting and bravura visual storytelling, Breaking Bad rarely failed to pack an emotional punch. Sometimes it was bleakly violent, sometimes heartrending. An episode in series three called One Minute was breathlessly suspenseful and moving at the same time, a typical powerhouse piece of drama with Dean Norris (as Hank) putting in an affecting performance as the shaken DEA man, unknowingly facing assassination and confessing to his wife that he may not be the man she thought he was. This coupled with a gallery of nightmarish psychos (Tuco, Gus Fring, the Cartel's hit-men cousins) and memorable characters (such as lawyer Saul 'Better Call Saul!' Goodman) makes Breaking Bad an undeniable modern classic. It's unlikely AMC could out-resource the BBC or ITV, but the (comparatively) fledgling network produced an unforgettable series with a scope and ambition UK channel honchos can't even dream of.

Classic episode: Grilled – crazed Tuco takes Walter and Jesse prisoner in the desert. Tense, with a bloody finale.

Music: Main theme by composer Dave Porter. Fine music throughout the five series, with The Ballard of Heisenberg by Negro y Azul particularly fun.

Watercooler fact: The pink, burnt teddy bear, which is seen throughout series two as a harbinger of the plane crash at the end of the season, appears in black-and-white flash forwards. Only the bear appears in colour, in tribute to the little girl in a red coat in Schindler's List.

Cagney and Lacey — Killer TV No 15

cagneylacey8CBS, 1982-86

‘You feel like a little girl. What I see is a woman of great courage.’ – Mary Beth Lacey

Tyne Daly, Sharon Gless, Al Waxman, John Karlen

Identikit: Two women show their strength and vulnerabilities dealing with their private lives and careers as New York detectives.

The TV landscape is awash with formulaic police procedurals. Cagney and Lacey was one that lifted the genre above the norm, for the first time depicting women as buddies in a tough job. Christine Cagney was the career woman, Mary Beth Lacey was the working mother, and here was a drama that cut away a lot of guff usually seen in hero cop shows. Cagney and Lacey did rough police jobs in brutal New York to make a living, usually close and mutually supportive but occasionally dishing out home truths to each other, often in the privacy of the Ladies. The weekly stories had the usual chases and shootouts, along with the odd corny routine for light relief, but what made it distinctive was the human side of the characters – Mary Beth’s breast cancer, her pregnancy; Chris getting shot, being raped, her failed relationships and dread of ending up alone. It also never shied away from the bleak side of policing, such as Chris’s occasional lapses into booze dependancy (like her cop dad before her). The cases they dealt with exposed the underbelly of grimy Gotham – abandoned children, victims of the pornography industry, sexual abuse – some based on true events. And real issues were confronted – abortion, nuclear weapons (Mary Beth was arrested on an anti-nuke demo), date rape. But in addition to its strength as a crime drama, its depiction of working women in a male environment certainly spoke to women holding down jobs in the real world. It was Christine’s boyfriends and frustrations, and Mary Beth’s family crises that always chimed with fans, rather than unravelling the whodunit. Despite early misgivings by some execs in CBS that the characters would be perceived as ‘dykes’, or at least as too unfeminine, executive producer Barney Rozenzweig steered the show through two cancellations. Sharon Gless was brought in to replace Meg Foster as Cagney after the first series to reduce the character’s aggression a bit. When the show was cancelled at the end of the 82-83 season, it was brought back by popular demand when viewers (many of whom were women) wrote to CBS to complain. It became one of the most cherished series of the 1980s, with Daly and Gless going on to share best actress Emmys for six years on the trot – a unique achievement.

Classic episode: Turn, Turn, Turn, the two-part conclusion to season 6. Christine’s dad dies after a drunken fall, and Mary Beth confronts her about her own disastrous boozing, eventually dragging her to AA. ‘My name is Christine, and I’m an alcoholic.’

Watercooler fact: Barbara Avedon and Barbara Corday actually developed an outline for the series in 1974, but it was turned down by all the networks, none of whom thought a series about women cops would succeed.

Westworld, Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores in Westworld

Who am I? Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores

Holidays from hell in this imaginative update of the 1973 movie

★★★★ HBO and Sky Atlantic, starts October

OK, it’s science fiction and this is a crime site – but Westworld is also a thriller. We don’t often stray from the beat of cops and criminals, but occasionally there’s an intrigue with speculative elements such as Utopia or The Frankenstein Chronicles that we need to investigate.

'Westworld' is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin. The one-hour drama features actors Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Angela Sarafyan, and Simon Quarterman.

Playing god – Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright as Dr Robert Ford and Bernard Lowe

And having seen a couple of episodes of Westworld, it’s been a delight to get away from the more mundane fare (Lewis, DCI Banks, anyone?) for something this absorbing.

Westworld is based, in case you didn’t know, on the fondly remembered 1973 Michael Crichton movie, which starred Yul Brynner. Like Crichton’s blockbuster Jurassic Park, this was a yarn about a futuristic theme park gone lethally haywire.

Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood and Ed Harris

Westworld is the western-themed virtual-reality holiday camp where the rich go to indulge their dark desires, such as shooting villains or bedding prostitutes. This new TV version from HBO is much more sophisticated and beautifully realised than the original (watch a trailer for the movie here).

Thandie Newton as Maeve

Thandie Newton as Maeve

On top of that it has attracted the kind of brilliant cast even the movie could not (Brynner was on the wane in 1973 and Richard Benjamin was not quite A-list). Now we have Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright and Borgen‘s Sidse Babett Knudsen.

Where the movie was told from the vantage point of the two average joes on holiday in Westworld, the series focuses on the scientists and the artificial beings who populate the theme park. We first encounter Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), who wakes everyday and goes through the same narrative for the guests, or town ‘newcomers’ as she believes they are.

Who – or what – is the Man in Black?

Dolores’s life is on a Groundhog Day loop, only when she wakes every day and greets her homesteader father, she has no recollection of the day before. When she sleeps, her dreams are probed by the boffins – ‘Ever feel inconsistencies in your world?’

'Westworld' is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin. The one-hour drama features actors Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Angela Sarafyan, and Simon Quarterman.

Off script – the Man in Black

In 30 years there have been no critical failures at Westworld. Until now.

One cowboy, Walter, seems to have got tired of ‘buying it’ – or getting shot by the guests. And when Dolores’s father finds a discarded photo of a guest in modern-day New York, the image does not compute and sends him into meltdown.

Dolores herself even seems to finally be picking up on ‘inconsistencies’ in her reality. As for Ed Harris’s menacing Man in Black, he’s totally off script.

It’s a bold idea to take us into the minds of artificial beings who seem on the dawn of breaking free of their bonds, and adds a fascinating dimension to the original story. The story also breathes modern norms of computer technology, talking the language of program updates, new builds and system bugs.

Artificial Intelligence, sex tourism and sin

Which could be behind the malfunction. Anthony Hopkins plays the equivalent of Jurassic Park‘s Richard Attenborough character, Hammond, the brains behind the games. He’s been perfecting the software, which seems to be allowing the artificial beings to retain some memories.

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores

Memories are made of this – Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores

Is he playing a dangerous private game? Or is he and his team just not as ahead of the curve as they have always thought?

The movie was certainly ahead of its time and today the ideas behind it are even more resonant. It looks into the worlds of artificial intelligence, sex tourism (with fembots), consciousness and even the idea of sin. It’s going to be intriguing to watch this unfold over 10 episodes.

There are even reports that HBO is already planning five series of Westworld, according to The Verge. With Game of Thrones reaching a conclusion, Westworld is apparently being lined up as heir apparent.

In a shootout between the two, I think Westworld looks the more provocative and engrossing.

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