Strike Back (Season 1): When he takes the blame for a failed mission, Spec Ops soldier John Porter is kicked out of the SAS, but re-hired seven years later to catch a familiar face. After the briefest of setups Strike Back is pretty much just action-action-action with the odd scrap of plot – it has to be one of the most action-centric, kick ass, blood splattering, neck-snapping, omni-exploding pieces of TV badassery out there. Richard Armitage (as John Porter) holds his own and really makes the show, as the central Damaged Hero, and total badass – channeling guys like Rambo & Mclean – and could probably take on Jack Bauer in a fight; not even kidding! As the series sprints forward, the main backstory becomes more intricate, and interlinked with the current missions. The episodes which are decadently overflowing with set-pieces, deception, betrayal, action, adrenalin and politics – are all surprisingly believable, at least until the Scottish hacker pops up in the final mission. All-in-all Strike Back is like a mythical unicorn hiding in the TV Schedule: an action-heavy, huge-budget, Movie-styled TV show consisting of 3 interlinked adrenaline-soaked 90-minute episodes that truly raise the action bar. Action fans rejoice!
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret: a useless U.S. office temp is mistakenly sent to the UK to shift thousands of cans of potentially toxic Thunder Muscle energy drink. The entire show hangs on the idea of cross-atlantic confusion, and will probably play marginally better to Brits, although not wholly inaccessible to yanks! The humour is ultra black, dry, witty, often-tasteless, cringe-inducing… which I love; and some of the jokes are so ‘wrong’ that if you didn’t laugh it off you’d be writing a letter of complaint to the TV station. There’s some fantastic running gags like Todd pissing himself at the end of each episode, terrorists using him, and the recurring lies about Leeds & The Who – more generally, there’s a lot of well-written, catchy ideas such as Thunder Muscle, £30 note, Bad Sanitation, and Steve Davis (polar opposite of energy, well played by him though). David Cross writes the central character to all of his strengths, and the supporting cast all deliver more laughs, again tailored to their brand of humour; coarse Arnett, Laddish Harrison… All in, something this edgy and crass won’t be for everyone, but if you like the idea of an ignorant American with no business acumen setting up shop in a foreign country, it’s comedy dynamite!