HD Feed: September 18

The first reviews are in for the next series of Downton Abbey. Expect Prime to screen it within weeks of the UK broadcasts – which means that even though it will be in SD, at least the series should be out on Blu-ray in time for Christmas. It opened to an average audience of 8.6 million, which was down slightly on the nine million it averaged last year. But it was still ITV’s highest-rated drama of the year, with The Daily Telegraph welcoming its return to form: “This felt like a programme back to its best, the one we fell in love with back in 2010. The script was tight; the detail was there.” But other critics weren’t as enthusiastic. The Guardian thought the premiere “seductive, because it’s so well done, but you never really get the sense that it’s going anywhere, or telling you anything.” The Daily Express wasn’t impressed, either: “It felt like, having built an imposing house of cards, scriptwriter Julian Fellowes could not be bothered to blow it all down. Instead he just let little bits flutter off in a most unsatisfying manner.”

Weeds ended its eight-season run on Showtime this week. Fittingly, the series finale, which SoHo will air on October 11, went out on a season high ratings-wise, although viewership was still down on earlier seasons. Few critics were left wanting more. “Weeds took what can generously be called a meandering path to that finale — a path that had more detours and dead ends than any reasonable show should be able to pull off,” New York magazine argued. Indeed, as Entertainment Weekly observed before season eight even started, Nancy Botwin should have called it quits after season six. “Though season seven was an improvement, largely because the show returned to some of its roots — drug gang rivalries, Heylia’s return — Nancy became harder to root for, and the plot twists were too easily resolved.”

Watch out for more idiots abroad – but not on TV3. Britain’s Sky 1 has just commissioned the three-part An Idiot Abroad: The Short Way Round, in which Karl Pilkington and Warwick Davis (Harry Potter’s Filius Flitwick) will retrace the footsteps of Marco Polo. Ricky Gervais, who is directing the pair, quipped in the press release: “Karl once said to me that opposites attract. Warwick Davis is sociable, hardworking and never complains. They should get along fine.” Pilkington’s not so sure: “I don’t know how it will work out. Honestly. Edmund Hillary had that Tenzing fella, Ben Fogle had James Cracknell. I’ve been given an Ewok.” TV3 recently repeated the first series in HD but doesn’t plan to screen the second. A Blu-ray release isn’t likely here, either — just DVD (although it’s on Blu-ray in the UK).

TV3’s HD re-run of X-Men Origins: Wolverine on Monday proved competitive against TV2’s medics combo in the 25-54 demographic, making it more popular than the previous weeks’ X-Men movies. It averaged 9.9% over two hours compared to Grey’s Anatomy’s 10.9% and Private Practice’s 6.4%. But the dramas were easily ahead in the other key demos while TV One’s Unforgettable averaged 3.1% – 4.0%. The season premiere of Border Patrol averaged an impressive 10.5% – 13.9% but was no match for the second half of My Kitchen Rules.

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