SoHo Hits Pack Plenty of Heat for Summer
Today’s season two premiere of Banshee launches a sizzling summer schedule on SoHo that this week includes new episodes of Girls and Justified, and the debut of one of the year’s most anticipated dramas, True Detective.
Indeed, with the 20th Century Fox deal for Homeland, which starts next month, The Americans and American Horror Story, 2014 is shaping up to be the strongest year yet for Sky’s premium drama channel.
As galling as it is for subscribers to have to pay an extra $10 a month for the service, merely to receive a calibre of television that the rest of Sky doesn’t deliver, SoHo is worth every resented cent.
It’s also programmed better than the likes of Britain’s Sky Atlantic and Australia’s own SoHo (although these channels don’t cost their subscribers extra and some of the series on SoHo screen free-to-air in those territories).
Banshee may not be among SoHo’s finest hours but its pulpy pleasures resonated enough to make it the channel’s second highest-rating series in 2013 (Game of Thrones wears the crown).
Banshee went to air Saturday NZ time in the US, True Detective will play here within 24 hours of HBO’s premiere, and only three days will separate Girls’ US and NZ screenings (and those of its stablemate, Looking, which starts next week).
There have been notable exceptions to this strategy, such as Ray Donovan (which aired months earlier in the US), and Justified, the third season of which starts here as the fifth season begins in the US.
The latter’s delay is due to SoHo wanting to catch up viewers who missed Justified’s first two seasons on TV One – but a better option would have been the one it adopted for Breaking Bad: screen the new episodes first for fans, then start from the beginning for latecomers.
Sky’s True Blood strategy — letting Prime air it in SD months ahead of SoHo — is even more flawed but with that series having grown too long in the tooth, the slight is no longer as great.
As to what the critics make of this week’s premieres, The Daily Beast said Banshee’s “deliciously over-the-top carnival of sex and violence is must-see TV …
“There’s lots of crazy violence. There’s lots of crazy sex. There are lots of crazy gunfights.”
The Huffington Post’s “affection for this show grows as it pummels its way into a taut, enjoyable second season” but The AV Club argued the opposite: “If Banshee’s first season, at its best, was a gleeful binge on pop storytelling at its most disreputable, the second season feels like the hangover.”
“The grittiness of Girls crossed a line last season into abject disgust,” The Washington Post reckons.
“The show became less about satire and more of an obsessive downer. It’s a lot less fun now.”
Entertainment Weekly’s take: “If season three of Girls proves anything, it’s that Lena Dunham listens to her haters.
“Minutes into the premiere, the season two storylines that pushed the dramedy into some seriously dark territory are walked back.
“Hannah’s (Dunham) crippling OCD: miraculously managed. Self-loathing Adam’s (Adam Driver) degrading sexual humiliation of girlfriend Natalia (Shiri Appleby): sorta apologised for, then awkwardly laughed away.
“I’m not sure what to worry about more — the show’s sudden interest in being slightly more likable, or the lack of vision.”
Slate was more to the point: “The girls of Girls are worse than ever, and the show is funnier than ever.”
There were detractors — “things start to go off track as early as the second episode,” warned the New York Times – but most critics echoed People magazine: “Very little happens in the first three hours of this anthology crime series, yet it’s absolutely riveting.”
Concurred the Los Angeles Times: “True Detective runs slow and steady without ever seeming to drag. Even minor characters get room to breathe, and seem independently alive; the briefest scenes seem to imply life beyond the frame….
“The dance [Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson] do together here is work of a very high order, and all the reason you need to watch.”
“Rich and absorbing, this eight-part drama quickly vaults into elite company, offering a singular voice that’s unlike almost anything else on TV,” was Variety’s verdict.
And trade paper rival The Hollywood Reporter agreed: “True Detective, coming as it does after what was arguably the best year for dramas in at least five years (really saying something in our continued renaissance era), just puts an exclamation point on the topic of excessive quality.
“Who knew the bar would be set so high so early?”