TV: Great Expectations; six four; succession; The Dog Academy

The advance publicity got godly people and literary purists braced for Steven Knight’s interpretation of Dickens’ story. With the creator of Peaky Blinders at the helm, who knew what to expect.

Would it turn out that there was a razor blade hidden in Miss Havisham’s bonnet? We knew Pip probably wouldn’t have a drug problem because Olivia Colman’s Miss H wrapped that up. There was even talk of anti-colonial tirades, class warfare, and endless effing and jeffing.

What a disappointment. It took a full 29 minutes for young Pip, who was late for church on Christmas Day, to come out with “S***!” After his bully from a sister mentioned the pork pie the lad had recently stolen, he let it rip again with “s***, s***, s***!”

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Aside from an impressive opening scene and some original casts (Matt “Toast of London” Berry as Mr. Pumblechook: nice), everything was as usual. Scenes known from any other adaptation, now officially too many to count, were acted out. The haunting marshes of Kent, Magwitch taking hold of Pip, the boy meeting Miss Havisham… all there. The episode had a chance to pick itself up with the first look at Miss H, but even then, Colman’s dumped bride paled in comparison to Gillian Anderson’s 2011 model.

I’ll be sticking with the second episode because it’s Knight, but for now the pre-screening hoo-ha looks like it’ll draw viewers’ attention away from the new version’s likeness (and the big bucks spent on it will) distract.

If it was colorful language, they were after the only show in town Succession (Sky Atlantic/Now, Monday), back for a fourth and final series. Jesse Armstrong’s brutally funny portrayal of media mogul Logan Roy (Brian Cox) and his useless offspring remains a masterclass in characterization and dialogue. It’s the only show I know of that people admit to watching twice or more just to make sure they didn’t miss a moment.

Cox’ Logan remains king of his castle, but watch out for the skidding Tom (Matthew Macfadyen plays a blind man). Tom’s analysis of Greg’s date was cruel but funny and so poignant (I don’t know about you, but I will never bring a large purse to a party again).

six four (STV Player, Thursday) wasn’t in the same league as Succession – few productions are – but this tough conspiracy thriller had a lot going for it, not least its Glasgow setting. London and Edinburgh had look-ins but Glasgow dominated. As many a film crew has noted, it doesn’t take too much to make the dear green place resemble a Manhattan-esque concrete jungle, and Six Four owes it a due.

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Another bonus was a convincingly wrinkled Kevin McKidd playing a detective constable whose daughter had disappeared. While this was going on in another missing persons case dating back 16 years, he reared his head and threatened branches near his home.

Both Six Four and Great Expectations fell victim to the new fashion of gloom. I like atmosphere and a touch of goth (in the case of Great Expectations) or a touch of noir (Six Four), but some scenes looked like they were shot in a whale’s belly. Put a brighter bulb in the big light people or the mumbling as a pet nuisance of viewers takes over the grubbyness.

A hearty farewell this week to Paul O’Grady, whose For the Love of Dogs was always welcome on this site. What would O’Grady have thought of that The Dog Academy (Channel 4, Thursday)? The new show, made by the same people behind The Dog House, addressed problems that can arise once a dog has entered the house (and heart).

Bear the Cockapoo was the apple of his “father’ Paul’s eye, but his aggressive behavior put everyone else’s spirits, especially his wife Louise. Teeth were involved, which is always bad news. Things had gotten to the point that the couple’s marriage was on the line.

As is so often the case, the owners of the Cherchez les were at the root of the problems. Bear walked away with a trainer while Paul and Louise sat on a couch and poured out their hearts to another academy staff member. As did the owner of Gina, a Chihuahua/Tasmanian Devil mix, who had a big problem with being around other dogs.

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The people spoke and the dogs, through the therapist, explained what might be going on between the dog’s ears. It was like couples therapy where Dr. Orna’s dog played along.

With expert behavioral advice and training, everything turned out well. Between this program and the good old reliable Dogs misbehave (very) badly on channel 5, the demand for training proves as insatiable as a lab’s appetite. O’Grady, while fond of a little anarchy, would have approved of television doing its bit to help. TV: Great Expectations; six four; succession; The Dog Academy

Grace Reader

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