The Last Panthers, Hand of God, Narcos, Lucky Man, The Five
THE SETTING at the exclusive top-floor club of London’s Gherkin was swanky enough to impress to the shady ‘banksters’ featured in Sky Atlantic‘s ambitious new Euro-thriller The Last Panthers.
The channel had taken over the glass eyrie with its mesmerising views of the capital, pictured right, to treat journalists from Britain and France to a glimpse of the work in progress. TV critics from The Times, The Guardian and Heat, along with CrimeTimePreview, mingled with Sky’s MD of Content Gary Davey before viewing selected scenes from the multi-lingual crime drama, starring Samantha Morton, Tahar Rahim and John Hurt.
The dinner event and wonderful location were a sign that Sky Atlantic has high hopes for this sophisticated series. It’s a partnership production between Sky Atlantic, Canal + and Sky Deutschland and is filmed in London, Marseille, Belgrade and Montenegro.
The story is based on an idea by French journalist Jerome Pierrat, an expert on Europe-wide crime. It is inspired by the Pink Panthers, Interpol’s name for a real gang of Serbs and Montenegrins, several of them former soldiers, who performed audacious jewel heists, targeting several countries.
The drama begins with a tense jewel robbery, but the story also shifts the narrative back to 1995 and traces the roots of the gang. It looks like a big, sweeping thriller. Samantha Morton glams down for the role of the loss adjustor sent to Balkans, while John Hurt is the seasoned honcho who’s her boss. In English, French and Serbian, The Last Panthers looks to have a lot more going on in it than your average episode of Lewis.
It’s scheduled for November…
Moving on, just take a look at this new series coming from Amazon Prime on 4 September. Hand of God! starring Golden Globe winner Ron Perlman, fresh from Sons of Anarchy, looks just a little unhinged. He’s playing a bent judge in a bind who seems to think he’s been chosen by God himself to seek vengeance. It’s certainly off-kilter enough to be worth a gander.
Netflix also has a major new crime drama streaming soon. Narcos is a big show telling the story of US and Colombian efforts during the 1980s to take on the mega-powerful Medellin drug cartel. The trailer makes what is a complex and bloody story look like a rollicking good action series, but trailers can be misleading. It will be interesting to see if Netflix can do this huge story justice.
Finally, Sky1 also has two intriguing series looming. Lucky Man stars James Nesbitt in a high-concept series created by comic-book legend Stan Lee (co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk etc). Nesbitt plays a cop from London’s Murder Squad who is given an ancient bracelet that gives him the ability to control luck. This has an attractive cast, including Eve Best, Sienna Guillory and Darren Boyd, and what could be a fascinating premise.
Co-creator Neil Biswas says: ‘Is the bracelet really bringing him luck, or is it just another manifestation of the gambling addiction that has always plagued him?’
There is also a lot of buzz around The Five, bestselling thriller author Harlan Coben‘s first original story for TV. Created by Coben, writer of novels such as Tell No One and Gone for Good, and scripted by Bafta-winner Danny Brocklehurst, this 10-parter follows a group of friends haunted by a terrible incident in their childhood. It stars Tom Cullen, O-T Fagbenle, Lee Ingleby and Geraldine James.
QUITE like these trailers for Fargo series 2, coming in September to FX. Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson turn up this time, now that Martin Freeman and Billy Bob Thornton have been dispatched. They’ve got a nicely black edge to them, in keeping with this TV descendant of the Coen brothers’ classic off-beat thriller movie. Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst and Ted Danson join the crew. See what you think…
‘I’ll be seeing you in my dreams.’ – Bobby Briggs
‘Not if I see you first.’ – Norma Jennings
Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, Piper Laurie, Sheryl Lee, Joan Chen, Russ Tamblyn
Identikit: FBI agent Dale Cooper investigates the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer in the town of Twin Peaks.
Classic episode: The feature-length pilot is a beautiful image of a lost America. Though set in 1989, it feels like a vision of the 1950s, with lonesome highways running through forests east of Seattle, leather-jacketed biker gangs, roadside diners, check shirts and jeans – the sheriff’s even called Harry Truman. Few TV series have ever had this visual panache.
Theme music: Falling, by Angelo Badalamenti
Watercooler fact: Owing to the tight budget, local girl Sheryl Lee was hired to play the corpse of Laura Palmer. However, while filming scenes of Laura in a home video, David Lynch was struck by her ability in front of camera, and Sheryl became a semi-regular cast member, playing Laura in flashbacks and recurring character Maddy Ferguson. She’s hardly been off the TV since, appearing in LA Doctors, One Tree Hill, Dirty Sexy Money and most recently Perception.
Second water cooler fact: David Lynch and Mark Frost are revisiting Twin Peaks for a third series in 2016. It’s being made by Showtime, and after contractual wrangles, has now been expanded from nine to 18 episodes. Most intriguingly, in series one Agent Cooper had a dream/premonition in which murder victim Laura Palmer told him, ‘I’ll see you in 25 years…’ Well, next year the 25 years is up. Oo-er.
US soldier Anna Friel goes on the run when she learns explosive secrets in this sprawling, convoluted thriller
★★★ BBC2, Sunday, 28 June, 9.15pm
NEXT TO SERIAL KILLERS, perhaps the biggest scare figures in modern thrillers must be corporations. In fact, the 2003 documentary The Corporation made a good case for modern corporations having all the traits of a psycho – being cruel, ruthless and without feelings.
This new American 13-part thriller, made by NBC, has its own ominous psycho-corp called SOC, which our heroine, US Army sergeant Odelle Ballard, discovers is secretly funding terrorists.
Played by British actress Anna Friel – in a fresh attempt to break into US television following the demise of Pushing Daisies – Ballard is the heart of a complicated story. We first see her during a raid in Mali in which an Osama Bin Laden-type leader is killed, and she stumbles on a computer showing that the US company has been sending millions to terrorists.
Odyssey v Homeland
The plot thickens when privately contracted military group OSELA turns up and betrays Ballard and her team. She is reported dead but has escaped with her damaging evidence against SOC. She hides amid Tuareg desert nomads, hunted by OSELA.
They’re mean, have unhealthy addictions and they’re scary – and that’s just the cops in the all-new True Detective
★★★★Sky Atlantic, starts Monday, 22 June, 9pm
SO, AS EXPECTED, it’s all change in True Detective. No more Woody Harrelson, Matthew McConaughey or director Cary Joji Fukunaga framing his unsettling bayou backwaters.
Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto is back, however, and the big question for anyone who was transfixed and disturbed by series one is, how will the wholly made-over crime drama match-up?
The first episode is complex, introducing many new faces in a rush. We have Colin Farrell as cop-on-edge Ray Velcoro, who is in debt to criminal Frank Semyon, played by Vince Vaughn.
Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch
Rachel McAdams is Ani Bezzerides, a dedicated detective with screwed-up personal life. And the cop triumvirate is completed by Taylor Kitsch as highway patrolman Paul Woodrugh, whose problems range from erectile dysfunction to a suicidal motorcycling habit.
Oh, and Brit actress Kelly Reilly turns up as Frank Semyon’s wife, Jordan, no doubt relieved to have escaped ITV’s rather dull Above Suspicion.
The clever shifting time frames of series one are also gone, no doubt because so many characters need an overall linear storyline. This time it hangs on the construction of a new rail line and the incumbent corruption that goes with it.
A town called Vinci
The gothic mood of series one is replaced by Californian sprawl centred on an ugly place called Vinci, an industrial hell of cement mixers and factories, the biggest polluter in the state. As one character says, ‘What the fuck is Vinci?’ To which Ray Velcoro replies, ‘City, supposedly.’
You could probably devote the whole series to Velcoro, Bezzerides or Woodrugh, such is the airport-carousel of baggage each one is carrying. We first encounter Velcoro, who, naturally, is separated from his wife, as he tries to cheer his chubby son outside the school gates. When he later learns that the boy has been bullied, the fallout for the bully and his father at the hands of the flaky cop is chilling to behold.
As Velcoro sees it, ‘Sometimes a beating promotes personal growth.’
Twin Peaks meets The Prisoner in M Night Shyamalan’s off-kilter mystery thriller.
★★★ Fox, Thursday, 14 May, 9pm
M NIGHT SHYAMALAN’S output is full of disorientating twists – such as how did he go from making crowd-pleaser The Sixth Sense to bilge like the $200m-plus cringe-fest After Earth?
When audiences scarred by that movie hear that he is behind Wayward Pines – exec producer and he directs the opener – they may want to go hide in a pine forest rather than set the TiVo.
However, for a high-concept thriller, Wayward Pines is worth a gander. It’s based on Blake Crouch’s trilogy of top-selling books, and the cast – Matt Dillon, Juliette Lewis, Toby Jones, Terrence Howard – are always good to watch.
The 10-parter certainly starts in gripping style, with Dillon as Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke surviving a car smash while investigating the disappearance of two agents in a small Idaho town, Wayward Pines.
Wayward Pines is coming to Fox on 14 May. It’s based on Blake Crouch’s books, exec produced by M Night Shyamalan, and stars Matt Dillon, Carla Gugino, Toby Jones, Juliette Lewis and Terrence Howard. What’s the 10-parter like? A mystery-thriller with overtones of Twin Peaks and a pinch of pulp horror thrown in. We’ll have a review this weekend…