HD Heads-Up: May 31 – June 6

Mad Men meets Call the Midwife in TV One’s new 9.30 Sunday drama, Breathless, which starts on June 1.

The 1960s hospital drama was praised for its authentic period trappings but earned mixed reviews for its dramatics.

One critic dubbed it “the lovechild of Jon Hamm and Miranda Hart” and “a curious cocktail” while another thought it “highly watchable” but wasn’t sure after the premiere “whether Breathless is merely nonsense or shaping up into something substantial”.

“Lack of plot aside, it was very pleasant to watch,” The Telegraph said.

“Writer and director Paul Unwin (whose 27-year stint on Casualty proves his medical credentials) gave us a drama perfectly pitched between Mad Men and Call the Midwife, from the characters’ permanently rouged lips to the opulent décor, old London street scenes and mournful saxophone solos.

“The dialogue was witty, historically accurate (peppered with talk of V2 bombers and Lyons Tea Shops) and hinted at just enough repressed emotion that something explosive is sure to go off in the next instalment.”

“What’s beneath the gloss of Breathless?” asked The Guardian.

“I’m talking about the drama part of period drama – its ability to get a hold of you so you become emotionally tangled up, go on thinking about it and the characters, new people in your life, after the credits roll. And I’m not getting that.

“Perhaps it doesn’t matter – you can admire the shine, without worrying about what is – or isn’t – underneath.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The script, which bounced around the various BBC channels before landing at UK commercial network ITV, centres around the complicated personal and professional lives of a hospital staff in a London on the brink of the sexual revolution in 1961.

“It’s a pre-Beatles Britain, where the pill hasn’t been introduced yet, abortion is outlawed and it’s illegal to be gay.”

THR says the political perspective made it palatable for both Unwin and star Jack Davenport.

“‘I don’t actually like period drama,’ admitted Unwin, while Davenport diagnoses himself as ‘allergic’ to medical procedurals.”

In other HD programming news of note for the week starting May 31:

  • The Voice Australia switches nights from Saturday to Sunday (TV2, 7.00), where it will air weekly opposite TV3’s House Rules and be of more commercial value to the network
  • Agent Anna returns Thursday (TV One, 8.30) on a double-bill with Mrs Brown’s Boys’ 2013 Christmas special following the 7.30 season premiere of RPA
  • Jimmy Buffett guest stars on Sunday’s Hawaii Five-O (TV3, 9.35), and Brenda Blethyn, Stephen Mangan, Jean Paul Gaultier and Barry Manilow on Friday’s The Graham Norton Show (TV3, 8.35)
  • Movies include Bewitched (TV2, 7.00 Saturday), Water for Elephants (TV3, 8.30 Saturday),  Due Date (TV2, 9.05 Saturday), Crazy On the Outside (TV2, 11.05 Saturday), Win Win (TV3, 11.05 Saturday), Last Chance Harvey (TV One, 11.25 Saturday), Resident Evil: Retribution (TV2, 10.35 Sunday), Fast Five (TV3, 8.30 Monday) and Real Steel (TV2, 9.10 Friday).
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