Good for what ails you9/3/2014
Critics have dutifully fallen in line for “The Knick,” an arty period hospital drama that makes its points with buckets of blood (see below). I recommend a more enjoyable period hospital drama: “Breathless” on Masterpiece Mystery! (Sunday, 8 p.m., PBS). It’s set in early 1960s London and, like “Mad Men,” explores the era’s social codes. In this week’s episode, a surgeon harboring a dangerous secret (Jack Davenport) woos a virtuous nurse (Catherine Steadman), while his wife (Natasha Little) comports with a sinister inspector (Iain Glen) who threatens to destroy her family. Other characters struggle with life and love in a time when abortion is illegal but the sexual revolution is revving up.
Where “The Knick” is intentionally ugly, “Breathless” is elegant.
Friday, 9 p.m. (Cinemax)
I recoiled from Steven Soderbergh’s new series about the nastiness of a turn-of-the-century hospital. To me, the storytelling isn’t strong enough to redeem the vile protagonist (Clive Owen as drug-addicted Dr. Thackery), the monstrous surgeries or the relentless racism — the kind of racism that Soderbergh is officially “against” but that he happily wallows in to get a reaction. In fact, last month’s pilot was so sickening that I had to close my eyes and repeat the words “fluffy bunnies” to get it out of my mind.
But other critics have loved “The Knick,” so I thought I’d give it another try. This week’s episode begins with a stringy-haired miscreant emptying a bag of rats for other miscreants to stomp to death.
Sunday, 9 p.m. (CBS)
I’ve been enjoying this sexy soap opera about rival lawyers in Charleston, South Carolina. Jamie (Anna Wood) is a hottie from the North who dresses in tight red skirts; Roy (Cam Gigandet) is a hunk from the South who, one imagines, spends more time at the gym than he does at the law library. In this week’s episode, they prepare for their big trial: Jamie representing a cop who has sued the police department in a case involving sex and corruption; Roy representing the other side.
Don’t expect much in the way of a legal debate when these two encounter one another on the eve of jury selection. Instead, Roy propositions Jamie, speaking of their upcoming courtroom date as if it were a sexual act. “We can either do it tonight in private or we do it tomorrow in court,” he says, leering. Jamie turns him down while one-upping his double entendre. “I’m coming at you with everything I’ve got,” she says. “I just hope you’ll still respect me in the morning.” This might be the first trial in TV history that requires contraceptives.
Monday, 9 p.m. (A&E)
This new reality series finds people who know each other only from online dating, then puts them in a “love prison” (a house on a deserted island) for a week with nothing to do other than relate to each other. That would make for fascinating drama if the couples themselves were fascinating — say, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, or Bill and Hillary Clinton. In the pilot, unfortunately, we’re stuck with Billy and Jeanne. He’s a shallow New York guy with an annoying sense of humor; she’s a shallow California gal with the annoying habit of shrieking at Billy’s jokes. CV
Dean Robbins is a syndicated TV columnist from Madison, Wis. He graduated from Grinnell College. See more of his work at www.thedailypage.com.