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The TV Set: Nicki Minaj Makes Idol A Viewing Highlight

Nicki Minaj - more insane than a Mark Wahlberg appearance on Graham Norton
Feb 18th 2013 | Andrew Mast
Nicki Minaj could turn out to be 2013's most insane TV viewing (yep, even more insane than Mark Wahlberg on Graham Norton).

Minaj Is Piloting Starship Idol

Forget the beat-up beef between judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj that American Idol PR folk want us to believe and be invested in. Minaj is the only reason to watch Idol. No beef required. So what if Carey and Minaj butt heads occasionally? The real showdown between the two is in the who-is-crazier stakes. But for all of Carey's past butterfly-and-rainbow-induced meltdowns and that alter ego period as Mimi, she doesn't stand a chance against the no-filter flow of Minaj. Every time the bewigged and beweaved R&B upstart opens her mouth to deliver a judgment, it is a bizarre mix of motivational advice and blunt critique that meanders endlessly in that entrancing Queens drawl.

"We are willing to bake you cupcakes," she tells one contestant who has no idea whether that means she is in or out. But when she delivers good news in the form of statements like, "I enjoyed you messing up all the words", "You're a crazy psycho"  and "Mama, look at me. You don't fit in, you don't belong. That's what makes you." It's no wonder that when she exclaims, "What was that!?!" to a wannabe she didn't enjoy, they thought she was being nice. But when she scrawls "they suck" in texta on her hand, you get where she's coming from. All the while, Carey sits nearby looking so lifeless it's quite possible they sometimes fill her seat with one of her old promotional cardboard cut-outs. Never before has the Idol franchise been of interest - but for now, Minaj is the most insane presence on TV and that makes her a must-see of 2013.


Elementary, My Dear. What's On?

Unlike "proper" TV critics, I harbour no problem with Americans remaking other countries' TV shows. Looking at the practice minus the snobbery, the hit and miss ratio of good American remakes is on a par with the hit and miss ratio of quality US TV overall compared to bad US TV overall. So they get an adaptation wrong, they can do awful original projects as well (have you seen 1600 Penn?). So the thought of CBS cashing in on the success of the BBC's Sherlock revamp didn't have me recoiling in horror. Hey, I still believe that Molly Shannon and Selma Blair were fun as Kath & Kim. But Elementary creator Robert Doherty has an interesting, if under-recognised, track record. As producer/writer on Medium, Tru Calling and Ringer he has proved himself willing to pursue complicated and emotionally-involving genre TV. So when Doherty decided to tweak the formula beyond the modern setting of the BBC version and transport Sherlock Holmes to Girlsville (New York) and rewrite Watson as female, it was kinda like... oh yeah, show us what else you got. But what Doherty has shown us in not a new Sherlock but rather the latest in sexual-tension police procedurals. Elementary is the new Castle which was the new Bones which was a revival of the once-popular genre that gave us Moonlighting.

Lucy Liu is fine, and engaging, as sidekick Joan Watson. However Johnny Lee Miller's Holmes does suffer from the fresh-in-our-minds take on the character by Benedict Poshname. Miller exaggerates the Holmes' quirks and plays it all contrary, hot-headed and really fucking annoying. There's nothing wrong with dislikeable lead characters but the writing has to be able to support it. However, Elementary is stock-standard whodunnit with ridiculously stumbled-upon clues leading to a turned-around-in-41-minutes resolution of the crime-(with-a-twist)-of-the-week. Sherlock UK's 90 minute telemovie format allows the clues to accumulate at a less frantic pace, making it more immersive for the viewer.

But you can tell the time is right for Elementary, or more specifically, its stars and their onscreen 'sexual chemistry'. We are ready to allow Miller to be a star again, having cold-shouldered him following his Trainspotting rise to tabloid notoriety. His first attempt at US TV (Eli Stone) was seen as a fall-from-grace for the former big screen mug, but since then the TV actor has become the new movie star. So Miller gained kudos as a Dexter villain in 2010. An underdog star was rebooted. [If you can bring yourself to sit through Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, you will also see that Miller was the best thing going there.] Pair him with Liu, another fallen movie star saved by the right TV moves (that would be the robotic Lucy Liu army in Futurama), and you have a team perfect to settle in with on a Sunday night.

But did Elementary need to be based on the Sherlock Holmes story? Why not just pitch us two new mismatched crime-fighting partners who may or may not end up banging each other (usually once in season one or two and before being torn apart until a ratings dip around season five, followed by a season seven wedding, season eight baby and season nine axing)? When The Office was remade, it had to be The Office as there was no workplace mockumentary genre to mimic at that stage. But Elementary could just as easily been Hardcastle & McBones: New York and that would have brought a lot less baggage with it.

The Hour

The Hour Clocks Off

The axing of BBC's The Hour leaves its series two cliffhanger unresolved. Freddie's dead? Well, that's up to us to decide now.

While series one of the '50s newsroom drama, starring The Wire's Dominic West, was a tad convoluted, series two found its way. The plots were more believable (series one involved global espionage; series two flirted with a global nuclear conspiracy but grounded it in a tale of London vice), the art direction was immaculate (it lost its dowdy BBC period drama vibe and got all stylised without aping Mad Men, the now standard reference point for '50s period dramas), introduced Peter Capaldi in a non-sweary role and allowed Oona Chapman to command the screen with a fleshed-out subplot where cooking became a sex surrogate.

To make the news of the axing even harder to take, BBC has said it will bring back shouty, over-acted police drama Luther, another BBC project for a former star of The Wire - in this case, Idris Elba. Luther has been granted a third series after a year's hiatus. At least fellow BBC axe victim, Ricky Gervais' Life's Too Short is being allowed to tie up its storyline in a one-hour special finale.




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