Bitchin' Channels

A blog about television and radio with Paul Casserly

Paul Casserly: Is Soho the best channel ever?

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One of the best TV shows ever made is screening again on Soho. Photo / Supplied
One of the best TV shows ever made is screening again on Soho. Photo / Supplied

I must stop going on about this, but I heard another prominent Wellington-based commentator having a moan on National Radio about how TV is rubbish these days before bragging about the amazing new shows that she had cleverly watched on DVD.

I smugly noted to myself that two of the shows, The Hour and The Killing, had already screened on what is fast becoming the best channel in the history of television, namely Soho, so I would argue that they are on TV.

But I take the point that it's pay TV and not free to air, but so too in a way is a DVD, which to those of you under 30 are things that people used to watch TV shows on before Kim Dotcom and his mates let you watch stuff for free.

(DVDs do have other uses too, I currently have one hanging on string from a cabbage tree and it's doing a fine job of keeping the Tuis from landing and defecating on the glass balustrades on my deck. Just one of the many first-world problems I face each day.)*

But, just as I was starting to cuss at the radio, bad-mouthing the aforementioned paua-wearing, prominent Wellington-based commentator (PWPWBC for short) she mentioned a show I hadn't heard off, a French police procedural/thriller called Braquo, which sounds very good indeed.

I hate it when people who are pissing you off actually know more than you do. It happens way too often.

The purists among you will be disappointed to hear that like The Killing the Americans are going to remake Braquo as well, presumably because sub-titled shows just don't wash in the land of the free.

To be honest, outside of the movie theatre, I struggle a little with subtitles myself, mostly because it makes surfing the net or cutting your toenails problematic.

However I will concede that the original, Danish version of The Killing has more depth, subtlety and texture than the remake we watched on Soho. The good news is that Soho will screen the original later in the year, once the American version had completed its run (season two of the US version starts April 25).

The PWPWBC's other pick, Braquo is not likely to get a local outing, so I too will be will tracking down the DVD which I will smugly refer to at dinner parties.

"Oh so you haven't you seen Braquo yet? And your homebrew tastes yeasty."

But the PWPWBC has missed some other brilliant shows, mostly on Soho (she's probably at book-club when Homeland is on). There's Boss, for instance, which recently finished its intensely satisfying run in a glorious, twitching heap on the floor.

What a killer show that was, and how deserving of that Golden Globe was Kelsey Grammer? Very I would say. Who knew local body politics could be so brutal and so softly pornographic.

Horse racing drama Luck has also been immensely satisfying, although sadly the show's own good fortune has come to an end and there will be no season two.

The PR line is that too many horses died making it (two apparently) but low ratings and high costs are also probable factors.

Regardless, Dustin Hoffman, and the rest of the killer cast (Nick Nolte especially, even though it was hard to understand him through the mumble) have delivered some first rate drama. I'll freely admit that this smorgasbord of visual num nums has turned me into the televisual version of the fat uncle going back for extra helpings at Valentines.

I also found myself wolfing down The Shadow Line. It delivered in a way that The Hour promised to but never quite did. Then there was season two of In Treatment, and what is effectively The Wire set to music: Treme (season two).

Post-flood New Orleans is a great place to hang out when David Simon is telling the story. I particularly love how much I hated Steve Zahn's character Davis and his constant battles with 'the man' in the early episodes and now he's now a favourite. Like that friend we all have who we thought a complete dick when we first met.

The channel had us with Game of Thrones (new season starts April 16), then it nailed us with Boardwalk Empire.

It even tells us the episode number and series of each show we're watching via the info function. That's something all channels should copy immediately. (Interestingly, it's the sort of info you find when you illegally download shows.)

Soho may have even rekindled your appreciation of Rescue Me, and you might even be finding it hard to turn off reruns of The Sopranos. And I haven't even mentioned Mad Men, season five of which is only weeks away (April 14).

The Wire, considered by many to be the best TV show ever, begins on the channel April 3 at 9.40pm, from the very beginning so if you haven't yet, this is your moment.

What we won't see on Soho, I suspect, are any NZ programmes. I feel for local drama producers whose work is often, unfairly, compared to these high budget and high concept shows. In New Zealand we make entire series or even movies for the amount of money that these shows blow on an episode or just to cover the catering.

That said, it's only a matter of time before someone here pulls off something that's in this league. If not we'll have to call a moratorium on using the phrase, "punching above our weight".

Negatives? Making the Sky bill even bigger, that's lame. Also I'm not down with promos for other shows that pop up mi- show, that's an intrusion we could do without. It can kill the moment, the same goes for the stupid interruption of the closing credits with promos, this can scuttle the rhythm that is carefully created when a show is edited.

We're used to that on free-to-air TV (Coronation Street fans will know what I mean) but we don't want to pay for the privilege of being reminded that DVDs are still the better medium.

Perhaps the PWPWBC has a point after all.

*Seriously this works. Not so sure about the bottles of water that my mum uses to stop the dogs pissing in her garden.

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