A TV Review by Tim Riley


Every summer the nation’s television critics gather at a press tour for a preview of what networks and cable channels have to offer for the fall season. This year it is a virtual experience, but the major networks opted out of presenting fall programs for interviews. A consortium of cable channels, along with PBS, has no problem stepping up to showcase programs from basic cable channels such as AMC Networks and Lifetime to subscription streaming services that include Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

Then there are what might be called, for lack of a better term, “boutique” subscription services that highlight programs from Great Britain and other nations. One of them is BritBox, created by British networks BBC and ITV, while Acorn TV is another option for British shows. Waiting until the fall won’t be necessary to enjoy BritBox’s “McDonald & Dodds,” a British crime series with the ambitious DCI McDonald (Tala Gouveia) and the older, shy DS Dodds (Jason Watkins) teamed as mismatched detectives taking on puzzling cases.

In British police ranks, the DCI is a Detective Chief Inspector and the DS is a Detective Sergeant. The younger, female DCI McDonald is the superior officer, which seems fitting because it appears DS Dodds has not been on a crime scene in forever. As they might say in Britain, when considering whether to watch “McDonald & Dodds,” give it a go. After all, the scenery is lovely because the show is set in scenic Bath, where my sister lives now and which I enjoyed on a visit last year. For a different take on a show located in Britain, AMC will offer limited drama series “The Salisbury Poisonings,” based on the incredible true story of an assassination attempt on double agent and spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Within three days of the deadly plot, key government agencies discovered that a lethal nerve agent called Novichok was used, just half a teaspoon of which could kill 20,000 people.

In March 2018, the British city of Salisbury became the epicenter of an unprecedented national emergency, and “The Salisbury Poisonings” tells the remarkable story of how ordinary people and public services reacted to a crisis on their doorstep. As if there is not enough British programming, AMC will also debut in the fall the drama series “Gangs of London,” which has already been critically acclaimed for its successful first season in the United Kingdom. The 10-episode series tells the story of the multicultural city being torn apart by the turbulent power struggles of the international gangs that control it and the sudden power vacuum that’s created when the head of the most powerful crime family is slain. Award-winning filmmaker and show co-creator Gareth Evans observed during the panel discussion that “Gangs of London” was influenced by “all crime television and film” with a particular emphasis on the Asian cinema of “Triad movies and Yakuza movies.”

“Gangs of London” explores a dark world of action-packed thrills and violence, and if the pub fight scene in the first episode is any indication, the series looks like it will be a wild ride. AMC’s first-ever anthology series “Soulmates,” set fifteen years in the future, when science has made a discovery that changes lives by a test that unequivocally tells you who your soulmate is. Each episode features a different cast and explores an entirely new story around discovering, or opting not to discover, the results of this new test and the impact of those results on a myriad of relationships. If you are already happily married with kids you adore, why would anyone tempt fate to discover someone else should be your life partner. But if you are single and never married, would you give it a try? “Soulmates” may provide some answers.

Inspired by the iconic and unforgettable character of Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched in the 1975 Oscar-award winning film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Netflix debuts in September the suspenseful drama series “Ratched.” The setting is 1947 and Sarah Paulson has large shoes to fill in Mildred Ratched, who arrives in Northern California to seek employment at a leading psychiatric hospital where unsettling experiments have begun on the human mind. On a clandestine mission, Nurse Ratched presents herself as the perfect image of what a dedicated nurse should be, but the wheels are always turning and as she infiltrates the mental health care system, a growing darkness becomes readily evident.

From the clips made available, Sarah Paulson’s take on the evil nurse is truly unnerving, and while Louise Fletcher’s archetypal performance could never be duplicated, “Ratched” looks to showcase a nonetheless disturbing character.  A little-known fun fact is that is that the filming of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” took place at the Oregon State Hospital in the state’s capital city of Salem, which has a Museum of Mental Health on the premises that offers insight into primitive treatment methods of the past.