Stan Lee’s Lucky Man hits audience jackpot

James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton and Sienna Guillory as Eve in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Twist of fate: James Nesbitt and Sienna Guillory in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

SKY1 HONCHOS certainly feel like winners right now as their gambling-themed thriller Stan Lee’s Lucky Man has been getting hefty backing from viewers.

Sienna Guillory as Eve in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Sienna Guillory as Eve

Starring James Nesbitt, the 10-parter (Fridays, 9pm on Sky1) saw its viewing figures jump after the first episode from 1.14m to a consolidated audience  of 1.74m. This is the biggest increase in viewing figures that the first episode of any Sky original drama series has ever achieved in the week after transmission. It also makes it the best performing original drama series launch on Sky1 for nearly four years (see our preview of the show here).

Adam MacDonald, Director of Sky 1, said: ‘I’m thrilled that our customers are enjoying the show as much as we are.

‘This record increase in viewing figures shows that they continue to value the flexibility that we offer them, to watch their favourite shows wherever and whenever they want.’

The series is the idea of comic legend Stan Lee and plays with themes of gambling and fate.

It sees DI Harry Clayton (Nesbitt), a cop from Central London’s Murder Squad, being given a mysterious bracelet that is said to endow the wearer with immense luck.

Roulette wheel at the Green Dragon Casino in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode One - behind-the-scenes Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

The Green Dragon Casino in Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

The story exudes a glamorous side of London, the characters are familiar with the kind of high-adrenaline leisure found on sites such as Casino UK, and the show has panache, mixing an off-beat crime tale with spectacular depictions of the night-time capital with terrific action scenes.

However, Harry’s luck comes with a price and soon he finds himself at the heart of a sinister crime wave hitting town. The series also stars Amara Karan (The Darjeeling Limited), Sienna Guillory (Fortitude), Eve Best (Nurse Jackie), Steven Mackintosh (Inside Men), Darren Boyd (Spy) and Omid Djalili (Moonfleet).

This Friday the intrigue continues as Harry makes a wrong move that lands him in a life or death situation…

James Nesbitt as DI Harry Clayton in Stan Lee's Lucky Man (an original British drama for SKY 1) Episode Three Photographer: Steffan Hill / © 2015 Carnival Films

Life or death: DI Harry Clayton

 

5 hopes for Stan Lee’s Lucky Man

Stan Lee’s Lucky Man started this weekend on Sky1, and anticipation has been building nicely. It’s certainly an intriguing side project from the man behind the bulk of Marvel’s creative genius, and early looks at the show have been promising. You can read CrimeTimePreview’s own review of the action here, but in the meantime here are some general hopes for what we’ll see in the show.

1. London as it is

There’s a tendency in Marvel films and shows to depict fictionalised versions of major urban areas (usually New York). The cities might appear to be relatively normal, but there’s always a sort of pageantry to how civilians roam the background while heroes take center stage. For lack of a better term, the resulting atmosphere can feel cheesy. For this reason it would be nice to see Lucky Man show off modern London in a realistic manner. This trailer certainly seems to do as much. It even closes with a stark but very real vision of the skyline, so there are positive indications in this regard.

2. A starring turn for James Nesbitt

James Nesbitt is a familiar actor to a lot of people, having done fine work on The Missing and Babylon, among other television projects, along with the role of Bofur in the Hobbit film series. But Lucky Man certainly looks as if it could be his most significant role to date, so here’s hoping for a starring turn that shows his full range of talents.

3. Clear manipulation of luck

Going by the early description of the show, Nesbitt’s character (a detective named Harry) will gain the ability to control his own luck by way of using a mystical, ancient bracelet. That’s an interesting premise to be sure, but if there’s one recurring flaw in Marvel’s cinematic projects, it may just be that powers are too often defined loosely and conveniently. Strength and powers tend to meet or exceed their limits only as dictated by the needs of the story.

For instance, Iron Man’s suit can withstand incredible force, but it proves to be no match for the Hulk; Captain America’s shield is indestructible but suddenly gets scratched and scuffed up when the character needs to appear battle-worn; the abilities of Thor’s hammer seem to change each time he throws it. This time around, it would be nice to see a source of power—evidently, an ancient bracelet—used within clear limitations. We should know how, when, and to what extent Harry can use it.

4. Appropriate hobbies

Nesbitt’s character is meant to be a gambler, though presumably once he learns to control his own luck he’ll make what money he needs and focus on his detective/hero work. But the foundation of a superhero character as a fortune-seeking gambler is an interesting one, so it would be nice to see this aspect of the character continue to exist throughout the show. Furthermore, this is an increasingly easy hobby to work into a show.

Even if an ordinary casino might not be a fitting environment for a detective, the popular online casino market is an option, and has yet to be covered in satisfying detail in fiction. At this site, a player (Nesbitt, perhaps?) can jump into pretty much any game that exists at a real casino, playing with real money against actual opponents. There are even live dealers who work through the site to control games. Seeing Nesbitt’s character spending his free time holed up in an apartment with a hobby like this would be an interesting twist away from the standard bottle of scotch or home workout routine.

5. A lone-wolf hero

Finally, let’s hope this is a one-off, lone-wolf hero rather than yet another addition to the massive universe of Marvel film and television content. It’s widely expected that even the characters from the recent Netflix shows added to Marvel’s empire will ultimately be brought into the films. Lucky Man certainly seems different, largely because it’s not being produced by Marvel. However, it’s not a huge reach to imagine that it could be welcomed into the fold if it’s successful. Instead, it might be nice to see this one run its own course.

Any way you cut it, Lucky Man is certainly intriguing. Let’s hope it winds up being just the latest work of genius from the now 93-year-old Stan Lee.

Lucky Man is on Sky1 on Fridays at 9pm

Major new crime dramas for autumn

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.IMG_0844

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.IMG_0841

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.

Agatha Raisin: The Quiche of Death, Sky1, with Ashley Jensen, PREVIEW

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death
Ashley Jensen and the cast of Agatha Raisin The Quiche of Death. Pics: BSkyB

Rating: ★★★

Sky1: Boxing Day, 8.30pm

Story: After a high-flying career as a PR in London, Agatha Raisin decamps for an idyllic life in the country. However, events take a tragic turn when a judge in the village quiche contest dies after sampling her quiche.

‘TIS THE SEASON for jolly family dramas, so if you’re hoping for something bloodcurdling and dark you’ll have to wait till next month when the likes of Broadchurch 2 and Fortitude arrive.

In the meantime, Sky1 is wheeling out this slice of festive flan, based on the bestseller by MC Beaton

Matthew McCooey as DC Bill Wong & Jason Barnett as DI Wilkes
The old bill, played by Matthew McCooey and Jason Barnett 

(of Hamish Macbeth fame). Ashley Jensen heads a nice cast as Agatha, a PR whizz who is
escaping life as a publicist for cretinous boy bands and heading in her Porsche for a new life in the Cotswolds.

Mathew Horne, Robert Bathurst and Hermione Norris are all on parade here, in a light-hearted crime drama full of comedy sex, buffonish cops and oddball country nimbys. First up is Robert Bathurst as the village lothario, Andy, a reactionary sort constantly on the hunt for new conquests.

Murder at the village fete

Hermione Norris is his snooty wife and Mathew Horne is Agatha’s work colleague. Trying to

Ashley Jensen as Agatha Raisin
Agatha goes snooping

immerse herself into village life, the competitive Agatha enters the local quiche contest. When one of the judges snuffs it after eating her quiche, the newcomer finds herself in a spot of serious bother.

The two-hour production has that prerequisite for most Brit TV dramas these days – a pretty twee setting. So it looks good, moves at a slick pace and the actors look like they’re enjoying themselves.

The comedy is about a subtle as a pantomime, with the cops in particular being too annoying to be funny. But Ashley Jensen as the dressed-to-the-nines city slicker is a charming character, and it certainly tickles the odd ho-ho-ho out of you.

In fact, once the crime is committed the whole show becomes a lot more savoury, particularly when Mathew Horne reappears, trying at one point to console number-one suspect Agatha – ‘What did the Boston Strangler say? It’s better to be wanted for murder than not to be wanted at all.’

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Legends, Sky1, with Sean Bean PREVIEW


Rating: ★★★½

Sky1: starts Wednesday, 17 September, 10pm

Story: Martin Odum is a troubled deep-cover operative working for the FBI. He has infiltrated the violent Citizens’ Army of Virginia pretending to be a stuttering demolition man called Lincoln Dittmann when the operation takes a nasty turn…

GETTING BEHEADED in Game of Thrones seems to have added a few worry lines to Sean Bean’s chiselled features. However, the on-edge, lived-in look suits the part he plays as a stressed FBI undercover man in this explosive new series.

He is Martin Odum, inevitably a maverick, definitely not a team player, who gets up the nose of his

fellow agents. And it’s not just his Yorkshire accent that bugs them.

Who knew the FBI allowed Yorkshire men into their most secret ranks? But then again, when your CV includes Sharpe, Lord of the Rings, Troy and playing GoT‘s Ned Stark, you’ve clearly got enough grit and bottle for the Feds.

Sean Bean shows his versatility as Odum

So, Martin likes to do things his own way. We first meet him on a six-month undercover gig during which he has not bothered to contact his colleagues once to let them know what he’s up to.

He’s immersed himself in a group of dangerous nutjobs called the Citizens’ Army of Virginia, having taken on the persona of stammering Lincoln Dittmann, a former construction worker who’s been dumped by his wife and who now wants to join some domestic terrorists in making his mark.

This has been part of the attraction of the series for Bean, because to take on his ‘legends’ – spook Accused series, he’s not scared to take a walk on the vulnerable side.

speak for fabricated identities – he gets to show another side to his tough-guy image. As he showed in his moving portrayal of the transvestite Tracey in the BBC’s excellent

From the makers of 24 and Homeland

If there is one major reason for watching this action show, which is based on Robert Littell’s bestseller, then it is Sean Bean’s presence. He has taken the trouble to get under the skin of oddballs such as Dittmann, and his switch between the stammering wannabe to action man is electric.

The action is pounding and the storytelling done in broad strokes. We glimpse Odum’s broken marriage to Sonya and his neglect of his son, Aiden. There is also the friction with colleagues such as Troy, and his corny on-off thing with Crystal (who at one point must pretend to perform a lap dance for Martin to pass a message to him).

The 10-parter is exec-produced by Howard Gordon, who was also behind 24 and Homeland, and Legends is pitched somewhere between that reactionary actioner and the more subtle psycho-drama.

Just who is Martin Odum?

It’s certainly worth a viewing for Bean’s presence and its intriguing theme of identity. In his danger-filled world, chameleon Martin Odum seems to be losing a grip on his own personality, even absent-

mindedly signing a cheque to his wife in the name of Dittmann.

And he is really unnerved when an apparently homeless man tells him, ‘You don’t know where your life begins and you legend ends.’

The opener finishes with a terrific twist as Odum tracks the mysterious vagrant…

Cast: Sean Bean Martin Odum, Ali Larter Crystal McGuire, Tina Majorino Maggie Harris, Steve Harris Director Nelson Gates, Amber Valletta Sonya Odum, Mason Cook Aiden Odum, Rob Mayes Troy Buchannan

Check out this link…
Legends on Sky1

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A Touch of Cloth 3, Sky1, John Hannah, Suranne Jones, Karen Gillan PREVIEW

A Touch of Cloth Season 3..(L-R) DC QURESHI (NAVIN CHOWDHRY) DR SACHET(DAISY BEAUMONT)DC HAIRIHAN(ADRIAN BOWER) DI CLOTH (JOHN HANNAH) DC OLDMAN (SURANNE JONES) KERRY (KAREN GILLAN)
Guilty party – Cloth and the gang. Pics: Sky1

Rating: ★★★½

Sky1: starts Saturday, 9 August, 9pm

Story: It took DCI Jack Cloth a while to come to terms with his wife’s murder – he barely remembers her name these days – and now he’s hit with the news that his brother, Terry, has been killed.

A TOUCH OF CLOTH has everything you could want from a gritty crime drama – tortured maverick cop, gruesome forensics, twisting plot. And a town called Funtcuck.

Charlie Brooker’s criminally stupid piss-take returns to truncheon the genre into submission again with ridiculous cases, silly gags and wickedly straight performances.

Subtle and suave it ain’t – more a shotgun blast of every cop procedural cliche and suspect gag the writers could round up.

Too Cloth for Comfort

A Touch of Cloth Season 3.BEHIND THE SCENES WITH DI JACK CLOTH (JOHN HANNAH) AND KERRY NEWBLOOD (KAREN GILLAN)
Cloth finds his long lost brother

Many jokes escape without detection, but a lot are guilty of inducing a spluttered chortle – and then making you feel guilty that you could be so puerile.

Crime shows are this site’s bread and butter, of course, but even we think there are an awful lot of rubbish cop series around. You know the ones – grumpy detective with a sidekick, silly tracking shots, wild deductions that solve the crime, forensic nonsense, ham-fisted plot recaps.

All these get worked over in this two-parter, Too Cloth for Comfort, along with some other well-deserving targets (Piers Morgan in particular).

Karen Gillan as Kerry Newblood

John Hannah and Suranne Jones as DCI John Cloth and DI Anne Oldman (pronounced Old-Man, of course) both do a fine job of snitching on the conventions of the straight cop beats they’ve worked in recent years. Hannah was seen recently in ITV’s The Widower and Rebus before that, and Jones will soon be back in the excellent Scott & Bailey.

Doctor Who‘s ex Karen Gillan joins the carry-on as new recruit Kerry Newblood (see what I mean about unsubtle).

‘Welcome to the rest of your life, welcome to hell,’ the hardbitten Cloth tells her.

And Adrian Dunbar – a refugee from another cop series, Line of Duty – also turns up as a suspect.

Danes and pathology

A Touch of Cloth Season 3..DC OLMAN (SURANNE JONES) AND KERRY (KARNE GILLAN)
Oldman (Suranne Jones) and Newblood (Karen Gillan)

The plot? Cloth’s brother is found murdered in a forest. But that’s just an excuse for lines such as, ‘He was the best lover I ever had – until it went pair-shaped.’ Or some very sharp scenes in a country pub in Funtcuck and the pathologist’s mortuary.

The crime genre badly needs cleaning up, and it’s good to Jack Cloth and his squad of cliche-busters are back on the scene.

Cast: John Hannah DCI Jack Cloth, Suranne Jones DI Anne Oldman, Julian Rhind-Tutt ACC Tom Boss, Navin Chowdhry DC Asap Qureshi, Adrian Bower DC Des Hairihan, Daisy Beaumont Dr Natasha Sachet, Karen Gillan Kerry Newblood, Adrian Dunbar Damien Vull

Check out this link…
A Touch of Cloth on Facebook
A Touch of Cloth on Sky1

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24: Live Another Day – Jack’s back in action in London

JACK is back after a four-year break to get his breath back. Let’s face it, the counter terrorist had some fairly rubbish outings after he broke onto the scene in rip-roaring style back in 2001 – the last season, number eight, in particular felt too slow and as if it had lost the will to live.

But after the failure of efforts to turn 24 into a film, here it is, back and feisty, and in London. Jack (Kiefer Sutherland) is now ‘the former CTU’ agent who comes out of exile/retirement after the US President, James Heller (William Devane), is threatened with assassination. Not in dear old London, surely! No wonder Prime Minister Stephen Fry is all a-dither.

The 12-parter kicks off with a double bill on Sky1 tonight (Monday, 5 May, 1am).

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A Touch of Cloth II, Sky1, with John Hannah, Suranne Jones, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Dillane PREVIEW

A Touch of Cloth Series 2.Episode Number and Name..NAvin Chowdhry, Adrian Bowher, John Hannah, Suranne Jones & Julian Rhind-Tutt...© Endemol UK LTD.
Cop this – Navin Chowdhry, Adrian Bowher, John Hannah, Suranne Jones and Julian Rhind-Tutt. Pic: BSkyB

Rating: ★★★★

Sky1: start Sunday, 25 August, 9pm

Story: Cloth is done. The brilliant but tortured detective has quit the force, never to return, completely out of the game. Well, until a bank robbery-gone-wrong brings him back into play.

IT WILL BE HARD for British TV to dream up another series about an embittered, hard-drinking maverick detective after Cloth. This goes into every crack of the hackneyed cop procedural genre and wipes the cliches off with aplomb.

Charlie Brooker and co-writers Jason Hazeley, Joel Morris and Ben Caudell have brought back their

A Touch of Cloth Series 2.Episode Number and Name..Macratty (Stephen Dillan) and Jill Titts (Susy Kane)..© Endemol UK LTD.
Jill Titts (Susy Kane) and Macratty (Stephen Dillan) 

wacky lone-wolf cop for a second series, and once again a terrific cast keeps a straight face while playing silly buggers with our most revered TV archetype.

Predatory lesbian and a whisky optic

How John Hannah as Cloth and Suranne Jones as his partner Oldman (pronounced Old-man) keep a straight face is a model of disciplined acting in the face of terrible provocation (though the out-takes must be interesting).

They’re joined by Julian Rhind-Tutt as senior cop Tom Boss (‘I want them caught and caught hard’), with Anna Chancellor in fruity form as predatory lesbian and mayoral candidate Hope Goodgirl, along with Game of Thrones‘ Stephen Dillane as gangster Macratty.

Cloth, of course, has left the force after his boss, Tom Boss, killed his wife, and he is now driving a taxi, which is fitted out with a whisky optic on the front dash board for the drowning of sorrows and bitterness. That is until a bank robbery results in the death of former EastEnder-turned-cop Todd Carty, and Cloth makes a comeback.

Policing on the edge

‘Jack, don’t forget which side you’re on,’ says Old-man.

A Touch of Cloth Series 2.Episode Number and Name..Todd Carty 2...© Endemol UK LTD.
Todd Carty to the rescue

‘I’m not on a side,’ Cloth replies. ‘I’m on the edge.’

Smutty, silly, and full of sight gags, A Touch of Cloth gives the cop-show cliches a good truncheon battering. And while not every joke hits home, the laughs out-weigh the duds.

‘You can tell your grandkids about this,’ a bank robber says to a bank customer whom he is holding hostage.

‘I’m gay,’ says the hostage.

‘Well… you can turn it into a musical.’

Cast: John Hannah DI Jack Cloth, Suranne Jones DI Anne Oldman, Navin Chowdhry DC Asap Qureshi, Adrian Bower DC Des Hairihan, Julian Rhind-Tutt ACC Tom Boss, Daisy Beaumont Dr Natasha Suchet, Anna Chancellor Hope Goodgirl, Stephen Dillane Macratty, Todd Carty Todd Carty

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