Television and Miniseries

House of Cards, season 2: The American politician as conspirator and murderer

By Joanne Laurier, 21 February 2014

The second season of House of Cards, the series produced by Netflix, reveals more of the exploits of Frank Underwood, Democratic Party vice president and chief conspirator.

The Blacklist and White Collar: Once again, excusing the inexcusable

By Christine Schofelt, 17 January 2014

With varying levels of style and blood-thirstiness, two more US television series seek to excuse the ongoing attacks on constitutional rights.

Homeland, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: US television increasingly jettisons democratic rights

By Christine Schofelt, 8 November 2013

Television programming in the US is currently and disturbingly dominated by the presence of series featuring the police, intelligence and military.

TV Review

Sleepy Hollow: A mix of legends and myths punctuated by gunfire

By Christine Schofelt, 21 October 2013

The scattershot approach of the writers in an effort to cover as many bases as possible leaves Fox Television’s Sleepy Hollow a mess.

A Murderous Decision: Television docudrama about German army massacre of Afghan civilians

By Verena Nees, 19 September 2013

The Kunduz massacre four years ago was a baptism by fire for Germany as it returned to the world stage as an aggressive military power.

New on US television: Arrested Development (again), Behind the Candelabra and Family Tree

By Joanne Laurier, 1 June 2013

The much anticipated new season of Arrested Development was released last week. Steven Soderbergh’s biography of Liberace also aired on HBO. Christopher Guest’s Family Tree is a new and promising series.

PBS Frontline’s “The Retirement Gamble”

By Fred Mazelis, 29 April 2013

A television broadcast examines the crisis facing American workers as pensions disappear and Social Security comes under attack.

PBS’s The Abolitionists: Remembering the political struggle against slavery

By Tom Mackaman, 31 January 2013

The Public Broadcasting System’s The Abolitionists is a reminder that the fight against slavery in the US was a hard-fought political struggle.

Andrew Marr’s History of the World: A slur against revolution

By Thomas Scripps, 19 December 2012

Media slurs against socialism are commonplace, but rarely are they as pointed and mired in historical distortions as those advanced in the recent BBC series.

CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviews Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky

By Fred Mazelis, 1 May 2012

Dr. Nora Volkow appeared on the “60 Minutes” television program to discuss not only her work as the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), but also her family background as the great-granddaughter of Leon Trotsky.

A return to Sri Lanka’s killing fields by Channel 4

By Barry Mason, 21 March 2012

Sri Lanka's Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished shows horrific scenes of the closing days of the campaign against the LTTE and the thousands of civilians caught up in it.

Channel 4 programme highlights crisis conditions on London Underground

By Paul Bond, 15 February 2012

Confessions from the Underground on Channel 4 made for striking viewing. Actors relayed comments and thoughts documented from workers across London Underground.

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields

British television documents Sri Lankan war crimes

By Paul Bond, 22 June 2011

Channel 4 News has amassed mobile phone footage exposing the Sri Lankan military’s war crime against Tamil refugees.

Poor Kids: A devastating indictment of Britain’s Labour government

By Liz Smith, 18 June 2011

Poor Kids, a new documentary broadcast on the BBC, highlights the plight of some of Britain’s 3.5 million children who live in poverty.

HBO’s Too Big to Fail: Propaganda aimed at the US population

By Charles Bogle, 1 June 2011

This HBO production wastes a fine cast in its dramatization of New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book on the 2008 financial crisis.

HBO’s Mildred Pierce: A Depression-era drama aimed at a contemporary audience

By Joanne Laurier, 29 April 2011

Based on the novel by James M. Cain, director Todd Haynes’s five-part miniseries is an account of an unhealthy mother-daughter relationship in 1930s southern California.

100 years since tragic blaze killed 146 garment workers

Triangle Fire on PBS’s “American Experience”: compelling documentary marred by liberal perspective

By Charles Bogle, 12 March 2011

Triangle Fire recreates one of the truly tragic workplace disasters in US history. Producer-director Jamila Wignot offers a compelling portrayal of the inhuman conditions that led to the fire and the loss of 146 lives.

Martin Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire: a gangster series too much about gangster movies

By Charles Bogle, 3 January 2011

HBO’s Boardwalk Empire contains several superior performances, but the series suffers from numerous stereotypes and the Martin Scorsese imprint of paying homage to previous gangster movies.

The cancellation of AMC series Rubicon: Too close to home?

By James Brewer, 2 December 2010

US television series about the intelligence apparatus has been cancelled after only one season.

“Reality television”

Top Chef: Is real drama so hard to find?

By Ed Hightower, 5 November 2010

Top Chef D.C. is the seventh installment of the Top Chef reality television series, which features chefs competing for various prizes and avoiding the weekly elimination, roughly following the format of American Idol.

New US television series

Rubicon: On the other side of the secret door

By James Brewer and J. Cooper, 4 October 2010

The spy thriller Rubicon recently debuted on cable network channel AMC. It is a further sign of intelligent life on US television, although the program’s assumptions and trajectory need to be scrutinized carefully.

True Blood: “Popcorn TV” for a generation that needs so much more

By Charles Bogle, 13 September 2010

True Blood buries several good performances and southern Louisiana humor under the weight of sex, violence, and a condescending attitude toward its audience.

A somber look back: Mad Men, Season 4

By James Brookfield, 29 July 2010

AMC’s Mad Men, whose fourth season premiered on Sunday night, stands out as one of the more interesting and well-written US television series at present.

HBO’s Hung: Exploring social desperation, among other things

By James Brewer, 17 July 2010

The devastation of Detroit is the backdrop for HBO’s series Hung, which examines, semi-comically, how far people will go in the face of dire circumstances.

The Story of Us on History channel—an attempt to revive the myths of American capitalism

By William Moore and Fred Mazelis, 28 June 2010

History (the cable television channel) recently presented a 12-hour series entitled “America: The Story of Us.” The ambitious project spanned the history of the United States from the first European settlements of North America until the present day.

The Pacific offers character and emotions but little understanding

The Pacific (2010), HBO miniseries, ten episodes

By Charles Bogle, 6 May 2010

HBO has aired seven of the ten episodes of the Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg production of the miniseries The Pacific, which focuses on the Pacific theater during World War II.

The Criterion Collection’s The Golden Age of Television

Not quite golden, but still valuable

By Charles Bogle, 2 March 2010

The Criterion Collection has released a boxed set of eight teleplays from the “golden age of American television” in the 1950s. The dramas (and comedies) have distinct limitations, but there are some remarkable pieces and performances.

The Twilight Saga: Shimmering vampires who drive Volvos

By Alfonso Santana, 24 June 2009

The entertainment media in the US is in the process of fattening up its new golden goose: New Moon, the next installment of The Twilight Saga series about vampires living in small-town America, set for a November 2009 release.

John Adams: A serious rendering of the American Revolution

By Charles Bogle, 8 January 2009

John Adams, first aired on HBO in early 2008 and now released on DVD, is the latest and in some ways most satisfying rendering of the American Revolution on film. The television series covers the last 56 years of Adams’ 90-year life.

Films on US television this week

By David Walsh, 24 March 1998

A weekly guide to some of the more interesting films on basic cable television networks. The vast majority of what appears on American television screens is not worth watching. The purpose of this listing is to direct attention to those televised films that possess some aesthetic and social value.