Fargo 2 trailers, with Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Kirsten Dunst

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…

CSI series 15, Ted Danson, Elisabeth Shue, George Eads PREVIEW

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Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue in CSI. Pics:C5

★★★ It’s gory and implausible, but why is CSI so popular? JG Ballard thought it was all about our innermost fears…

Channel 5: starts Saturday, 24 January, 10.15pm

WHAT A WEIRD and unsettling series CSI is. A house of horrors for the TV age, delving into nightmares of mortality with detachment and a throbbing rock beat.

Watching the opening episode of the 15th series, I was reminded of a typically provocative feature that JG Ballard wrote about the series 10 years ago in The Guardian. He became hooked on it and stated: ‘The series was original, slick and deeply disturbing, though I wasn’t too keen to find out why.’

But then he goes right ahead and dissects the drama anyway (excuse the pun). As a former medical student with experience in the exploration of corpses before he went on to write unsettling masterpieces such as Crash, The Unlimited Dream Company and High-Rise, his insights were intriguing.

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Bored to Death, Sky Atlantic, PREVIEW

Jonathan (Jason Schwartzman) gets his first client. Pics: BSkyB

Rating ★★★

Sky Atlantic, from Monday, 28 March, 10.15pm

Hats off to Jonathan Ames for convincing HBO’s honchos to green-light a comedy series called, of all things, Bored to Death. Ames, the American author and series creator, must have sweet powers of persuasion.

As the title suggests, this is an off-beat comedy. Which means it is quirky, wry, but does not have many laugh-out-loud moments.

Dumped – Jonathan’s girlfriend moves out

Here’s the deal. Magazine journo Jonathan Ames – Jason Schwartzman playing the on-screen alter-ego of the series’ creator – is dumped by his girl, reads Farewell My Lovely and decides to moonlight as an unlicensed private eye. Why? Hard to say, particularly as Jonathan is a clueless clue hound, a klutz, who bungles his way to solving his cases.

Echoes of Woody Allen in Play It Again, Sam
For his first case, he is asked to track down a young woman’s missing sister. The gag is that when he finds the absentee’s boyfriend, they bond over a joint and Jonathan can start bleating about the fact that he too has been dumped by his girlfriend.

In episode two, when another woman asks him to check out a boyfriend she suspects is cheating on her, Jonathan again goes into self-revelation mode to her – ‘My girlfriend left me.’ And the same when he meets his ex. Asking her to come back, he says, ‘I have no toilet paper, no food, no toothpaste.’ How can she resist?

How can we? All too easily. Bored to Death doesn’t work if you’re not charmed by Jonathan, who is basically a poor man’s Woody Allen, circa Play It Again, Sam. Like Allen, Jonathan is a New York neurotic – ‘I’m not good with anger, I go straight to depression.’

Viagra, booze and pot – George (Ted Danson)

Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis
Allen’s persona of this era was fun and sophisticated, where Jonathan is whiney and unfunny. A scene in episode two where he sidles up to the supposedly unfaithful boyfriend in a gym and quizzes him about whether he picks up women there is stupid. You don’t want to laugh, you want the boyfriend to deck the weirdo.

Laughs are to be had, however, when Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis put in an appearance as Jonathan’s magazine editor, George, and friend, Ray, respectively. Danson is terrific as the past-it man about town, now on heart medicine, Viagra, booze and pot.

And all the best lines go Galifianakis’s way – ‘Leah [his girlfriend] wants me to change my diet, so that when I’m with her I eat healthy, and when I’m not, I eat like an American.’

Mary Steenburgen
Bored to Death‘s first season had mixed reviews in the US, the second fared better, and a third has been commissioned (with Danson’s wife, Mary Steenburgen, joining the cast somewhere along the line, apparently).

So maybe the show will eventually hit its stride. Until it does, Castle over on the Alibi channel is more fun.

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