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22 January ‘12

TV Critics: Great Houses; Louie; The Following

“Fellowes inadvertently digs a hole for his fictional creation - because this is so much more exciting.” Read on for the verdict on last night’s TV.

Great Houses with Julian Fellowes, ITV

“There are stories of infidelity. Of bigamy and of getting hitched above/below one’s station. Some of this kind of thing came into Downton, but it’s not so much fun, no curates involved… It’s as if, as Fellowes digs, he inadvertently digs a hole for his fictional creation, because this is so much more exciting.”
Sam Wollaston, The Guardian

“An aristocrat showing us round the huge properties of aristocratic chums does not sound like the most promising of formats. I think Fellowes is a rather brilliant man, though, when he can be bothered, and here he works hard to ensure his love of history comes through.”
Matt Baylis, Daily Express

“In the first of his serviceable Great Houses documentaries, Lord Fellowes of Downton became distraught by how the servants of Burghley House had been treated historically. ‘Dear me,’ he exclaimed of a wronged kitchen cook. ‘I’m not much of a revolutionary, but every now and again, you do see their point.’”
Andrew Billen, The Times

Louie, Fox

“It may be a bit of a disappointment to find that the first episode of a show that has now reached its third series in the States looks at first a good deal more conventional than you might expect. Bear with it. It really isn’t… Although the core material of this first episode, a chaotic school trip and disastrous blind date, are hardly groundbreaking as situations, Louie’s treatment of them is never quite what you may expect…You get boiler plate stuff… but you also get fine visual comedy. It obeys no standard playbook of comic construction, but it works.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

“Louis/Louie’s sorrowful, truth-telling stand-up, which links the show, is blissful. His semi-improvised excursions into New York are, at this stage, less certain, but it is, at least, the recognisable rotten Apple of obesity, old age, big noses and short tempers.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

The Following, Sky Atlantic

“Kevin Williamson has produced something ripe for undermining parody but forgotten to add the face-saving wink… It’s blood-spattered trash from start to finish.”
Tom Sutcliffe, The Independent

“Even if the ideas were not old and the premise ridiculous, the production’s oily smoothness makes it hard to feel anyone’s pain. As Hardy, the alcoholic maverick in love with his ex-wife, Kevin Bacon is particularly unconvincing. With his narrow tie and open neck, he looks constantly in search of a mirror to check out his harrowed look.”
Andrew Billen, The Times

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