Two things to tell you about today. But, first, a clarification.
Monday's column on seven shows you should be watching on Netflix Canada was inaccurate. This column is mortified.
Corrected subsequently online, the full list of seven shows is this: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (a new Netflix production); Huff (made for Showtime in 2004, this is a laconic but sometimes intense – in an off-kilter way – drama about psychiatrist Craig "Huff" Huffstodt, played by Hank Azaria, and his troubled personal life); Ripper Street (this good, gruesome Brit drama is set in 1889 and yet feels both contemporary and very familiar; it's rather like Murdoch Mysteries on acid); Being Human (the original British version with a vampire, werewolf and ghost as people trying to cope and fit into contemporary life). Also there's The Riches (made for FX in 2007, it's about the Malloys, who are "Travellers," a large, connected clan of grifters and con artists who exist outside normal society and travel the United States in their RVs, with Dad Wayne played by Eddie Izzard); The Hour (wrongly promoted as "the British Mad Men" when launched, it idealizes TV journalism but turns into a fine, stylish conspiracy drama); and Undeclared (the Fox series from 2001 starring Jay Baruchel, Charlie Hunnam and Seth Rogen).
Now, moving along. … The Great Fire (Vision TV, 9 p.m.) is tip-top, over-the-top British period-piece drama. And about a disaster too. It's 1666 in London. In Pudding Lane, geese waddle about, urchins make mischief and there's a bakery. Chap from the bakery delivers bread to the navy and then says, "The payment is overdue." Snooty fella from the navy says, "So is the second coming of Christ!"
Meanwhile, at Court, Charles II (Jack Huston, from Boardwalk Empire, who is excellent as the foolhardy but conniving monarch) is busy. Dancing, sorting out his sampling-the-mistresses schedule and, it seems, arranging for a ménage-à-trois. Like you do when you're the King. He is thus oblivious to the war against the Dutch that is bankrupting his country and causing Catholic rebels to conspire to unseat him. Yep, revolution and disaster are looming.
There are fine, deft character portrayals. Along comes Samuel Pepys (Daniel Mays) of Diary fame. He remarks, "Without London, we're nothing but a nation of sheep farmers." Which sounds like a very contemporary snark, actually. To nobody's surprise, a bread oven causes a fire and much, much damage and panic ensue. But there's another plot that's ongoing – young and comely Sarah (Game of Thrones's Rose Leslie) from the bakery is grabbed by secret-service types because she is seen as a Catholic sympathizer.
It's all good entertainment, spiky in places. It's a sort of hybrid of Upstairs, Downstairs, disaster drama and spy thriller, all set in Restoration London, where great costumes and oddballs abound. Charles Dance is great as the menacing Lord Denton. In four parts, it continues next week.
Dig (Showcase, 10 p.m.) is a new big-ticket, 10-part drama made for the USA Network cable outfit. It comes from Tim Kring, who created Heroes and Touch, and it is as intriguing and maddening as those shows. All sorts of elements are in the stew – biblical prophecy, the occult, political conspiracy and people with special powers.
Things start with a group of Orthodox Jews in Norway inspecting a red calf. "The prophecy has begun," one says, and a young man is sent in a mission which is, of course, unclear.
Then we're in Jerusalem, where U.S. FBI agent Peter Connelly (Jason Isaacs) is investigating something-or-other with a local detective (Ori Pfeffer), and having a torrid affair with his boss (Anne Heche). Meanwhile in New Mexico, a young woman, Debbie (Lauren Ambrose), is looking after a strange young boy who has people muttering about "destiny" in the local community. Also, there is something about rendition of a suspected terrorist going on.
There's an impressive cast – Ambrose is good and Richard E. Grant turns up – and a lot going on, obviously. It's difficult to tell if there is more to it than meets the eye, but it's slick, fast drama and, yes, intriguing.