The Street, BBC America, Oct. 3, 10 p.m. MAGGIE: Six poignant episodes of everyday life with everyday people in northern England. Doesn’t sound like much, but the actors are gifted and the dialogue is wonderful. In the first episode, a wife and mother of three in a boring marriage gets some fun with an obliging neighbor. What starts as a sassy session in love and extramarital bliss ends in destruction and devastation. Ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations, and worth the watch.
SETH: Jimmy McGovern insists on writing about England’s north. He does so beautifully in this series about commoners on a Manchester street whose lives change instantly. Like his gritty characters, McGovern’s dialogue doesn’t waste a word. This spare style is best in episode five (Oct. 31, 10 p.m.), where the excellent Timothy Spall is a cabbie who befriends an African refugee. NAMIC couldn’t have written a more insightful story about diversity.
Grade: B+ Battlestar Galactica, Sci Fi, Oct. 6, 9 p.m. MAGGIE: As you know, the Cylons were created by man, morphed into 12 different people models and are wreaking havoc on the few humans left on New Caprica. Riveting stuff, and this year it’s better than ever. It’s like watching a movie in a theater with every episode gripping and putting you on the edge of your seat. Throughout each season, character development has gotten richer and can be raw at the same time. I loved it—you will, too.
SETH: Sorry if you haven’t been keeping up with this hit series. The plotline’s complex enough without having to worry about cloned robots, which means several versions of the same robot are trotting about; get a road map. While the sci-fi-based plot elements are important, like Star Trek, the strength of the series resides in its interesting characters. We tested that by viewing this season’s initial episodes sans the special effects that Sci Fi will add later. Didn’t matter.
Grade: B+ I Pity the Fool, TV Land, Oct. 11, 10 p.m. MAGGIE: Mr. T takes his “major business sense” and applies it to those in need. The first episode is about motivation, so he’s teaching “fools some basic rules.” Mr. T goes to a car dealership and evaluates the relationship of the owner and his manager son-in law, the sales team and staff. They’re all “fools,” and Mr. T fixes them. It’s so ridiculous it’s silly, and you can’t help but laugh. Gee, Mr. T looks old, the bulk is gone, but he’ll crush the foo’ that doesn’t get his drift.
SETH: Is Mr. T giving life lessons a sign that the apocolypse is near? Perhaps, but that anyone would be making important decisions based on what they watch on TV Land also is cause for much concern. Speaking plainly, which he abhors, Mr. T is entertaining, although his attempts at poetry aren’t. And, we’re sorry to say, he makes sense most of the time. Behind his gruff exterior and bad grammar, he’s laughing inside. He’s found another vehicle for his shtick.
Grade: B Top Chef, Bravo, Oct. 18, 11 p.m. MAGGIE: The Apprentice meets Hell’s Kitchen, really—15 chefs living together and competing for $100K. The chefs are up-and-comers and start out nice but wary, so you know the competitive knives will be out along with the culinary ones. There are challenges and immunity, with one chef a week having to “pack their knives and go.” Nothing too original here, but fun to watch people in basic reality form—stressing out, fighting and being jealous of each other constantly. Bananas and avocado flambé? Whew!
SETH: Aspiring chefs won’t get many culinary insights by watching season two of this reality/competition food fight. Better to catch chef Gordon Ramsay spewing advice on BBC America. Heck, even new host Padma Lakshmi, who had a show on Food Network and writes cookbooks, is only eye candy here (but as India’s first supermodel, she’s delicious candy). Yet Bravo’s formula—combine a sexy host with diverse contestants and a minimum of silliness—sets the bar in this genre. Now that’s food for thought.