Including City Of Angels and Celebrity Snoop Dogs
From graffiti gurus to canine spies, here are new shows for your small screens
Keith Haring: Street Art Boy ★★★★☆
Like an attention-seeking Banksy, Pennsylvania boy Keith Haring was a street artist whose immediately recognisable work changed the face of 1980s New York. As this Arena special details, contrary to the fly-by-night tactics of his spiritual successor, Haring would merrily court public opinion and eventually find himself hanging out with heady icons of US culture (Madonna, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones and Michael Jackson were all considered pals at some point). But for the artist, his main aim was constant: to show that art could be for everyone, whether that was in consuming or by creating.
As his most productive decade progressed, Haring's graffiti-style work eventually became more aligned with social activism and AIDS awareness, a tragic foreshadowing of his own death just as the 90s opened. Street Art Boy tries hard to find a negative counterweight to the general positivity that surrounded his life: one of his long-standing friends gets quite pouty over Haring's disappointment that Brooke Shields failed to attend one of his parties, and some grumpiness is expressed that he was suddenly making lots of money from his art (the outrage!).
But the Keith Haring story is overwhelmingly cloaked in love. Perhaps the main clue comes near the end of this 90-minute film as we see his elderly parents proudly wearing colourful shoes adorned with his designs. Given Haring's roots in a staunchly Christian environment, you could imagine a very different outcome where he is shunned by his community. Here, he was clearly encouraged and loved, and provided with a support system which he passed on to aspiring artists through various programmes and events.
BBC Two, Saturday 4 July, 9.15pm.
The Secrets She Keeps ★★★☆☆
Earlier this year, the nation was enrapt by convoluted surrogacy drama The Nest. An equally entangled pregnancy six-parter arrives now in the shape of Australia's The Secrets She Keeps. Successful media exec Jack (Michael Dorman) and Mumsnet-style blogger phenomenon Meghan (Jessica De Gouw) are about to add to their family with a third child, though some doubt is cast on whether he was ever that keen. And what's the deal with the mysterious, nervy Aggie (Laura Carmichael) who is similarly expecting and goes out of her way to befriend Meghan around the same time the latter is receiving vicious threats on her blog? Is she and her soon-to-born child in danger?
The Secrets She Keeps initially has the air of a lesser drama from the popular Channel 4 European strand which is introduced with unfailing enthusiasm by that nice bespectacled gentleman (maybe this series could kick off Bruce Presents?). But it soon gets into its stride and, despite a couple of plot missteps (and yet another crime series whose opening credits 'pays homage' to True Detective, it delivers a genuinely tense and occasionally worrying final couple of episodes.
BBC One, starts Monday 6 July, 9pm.
Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels ★★★☆☆
It's 1930s Los Angeles. A gruesome crime has been committed, a case which the LAPD is keen to close as quickly as possible by pinning the blame on an easy target. There's some inevitable corruption going on at the highest levels and, equally predictable, a flawed investigator is at the core of the drama, while a radio evangelist is thrown into this delirious mix. This could very easily be the synopsis of the just-launched Perry Mason, but it is in fact the set-up of another Sky Atlantic crime affair, City Of Angels, a sort-of follow up to three seasons of Penny Dreadful.
For this drama, though, there are added elements of nattily-dressed demonic forces spreading chaos and death wherever they go, German Nazis infiltrating the city, and Natalie Dormer doing a Peter Sellers by playing several characters. Among them she is a bespectacled librarian type who is chief advisor to LA's conflicted mayor (Michael Gladis); a German housewife whose young son appears to be some sort of paranormal being; and a member of a Mexican street gang trying to stand up to the destruction of their community (a road rather than a wall is being planned to enforce social and cultural division).
There are some decent performances throughout, mainly from Nathan Lane as a Jewish cop concerned with the rise of fascism and who has a catty remark on hand for every encounter, while Daniel Zovatto has a fine stab as a Latino detective who gets hate from all sides (though his crying scenes are less than convincing) and Rory Kinnear is as enjoyable as ever, this time as a 'nice' swastika-wearing doctor. If you can get over the fact that these proud Germans and Mexicans all talk to each other in English rather than with their mother tongues, beneath it all lies a solid fantasy drama with some points to make about prejudice and pride.
Sky Atlantic, starts Wednesday 1 July, 9pm.
Unsolved Mysteries ★★★☆☆
Back in the 1980s, NBC launched Unsolved Mysteries, featuring the likes of Karl Malden and Raymond Burr introducing terrible crime cases that had yet to be cracked and paranormal incidents which remained unexplained. As well as using reconstructed footage and real interviews, an appeal went out at the end for information leading to the solving of these mysteries.
Having formally ended in 2010, the show's format stands intact (minus the celeb voiceovers) upon its return. Five instalments of the series are stories straight out of the dark side of America: a hate crime, alien abduction and possible prolicide. The sixth is the tale of a failing member of French nobility who, it is claimed, fled to South America after slaughtering his wife and four children before burying their bodies ceremonially under the patio.
Told in a short, sharp 45-50 minutes, none of them feel as though they've been crudely trimmed to fit the airtime. But the series taken as a whole does make you wonder if those true crime docu-series we all get addicted to really do require so many episodes or are their tales unnecessarily stretched out? Next up on Unsolved Mysteries: why wasn't The Staircase over and done with in 90 minutes tops?
Netflix, Wednesday 1 July.
Celebrity Snoop Dogs ★☆☆☆☆
If you turn the volume up just loud enough on Celebrity Snoop Dogs, there's the audible and ominous sound of a barrel being thoroughly scraped. Lots of TV shows are being called 'ideal lockdown viewing', and no doubt someone will claim the same of this, a positive dog's dinner of a programme in which cameras are strapped to the back of a pooch as it careens through the lavish home of its owner as we try to guess who resides there.
Asides from the issue of how uncomfortable the Go-Pro attachment is for the dog, it produces a sense of nausea in the viewer when we get the camera's POV shot, shaking around at high speed through lounges, kitchens and games rooms. All the while, Kevin McCloud provides a narration of this 'action' which straddles the line of boredom and bemusement as he pretends to get excited upon spotting a possible clue to the celeb's identity. The only true blessing is the brevity of each episode (there are two houses and a pair of canines featured each week) with the one star only really warranted for its smirk-inducing title. Celebrity Snoop Dogs is an idea that should have been discarded after the lengthy liquid lunch from which it surely originated.
Channel 4, Fridays, 8.30pm.
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