Bob on the Box: 4 new TV seriesBob Eveleigh
Bob Eveleigh: This week the focus is very much on four new drama series and the final hurrah for a 20-year veteran, Law & Order 4.
But, first, a genuine complaint for M-Net.
On Saturday night a week ago, after scheduling the excellent US legal drama, Suits, at its up-till-then usual time of 7.30pm, M-Net had The American X-Factor programme over-running by some 20 minutes before Suits got on the air.
Last Saturday, it got worse, with X-Factor running to 8.30pm - and casually promoting Suits as starting "after The X-Factor!" – so the legal eagles were seen an hour later than initially scheduled.
Now reference to the on-screen programme schedule did indicate the talent show as running to 8.30pm but when one is accustomed to a particular time-slot - and the PRINTED official programme guide from DStv indicates that regular time as well, it can be more than a little upsetting.
Especially, if a subscriber was out on Saturday night and set their VCR or PVR to record Suits - even with slight margin allowed, as usual, they would probably have caught only a couple of minutes of it.
I know that the show gets repeats but, all in all, this is not cricket, M-Net, and I can imagine several irate viewers really steaming about this, especially as X-Factor and Suits probably appeal to vastly different audiences.
This episode put me in mind of the memorable occasion in the old "only SABC channels" days of TV, when one officially scheduled the Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, with a duration of 95 minutes, when it was actually 196 minutes!
Without being boastful, I think I was probably the only TV writer in the country who warned viewers about the error, so at least a few got the recording right - you needed a 240-minute tape to catch it in those days – but there must have been hundreds of disappointed viewers.
The Suits situation wasn't quite as bad - but the principle is the same....
Now to the new series this week, in screening sequence:
Tonight's new arrival is on Sony Entertainment (Channel 127) at 8.30pm:
This is Prisoners Wives, a BBC drama series, created and written by Julie Gearey and starring Emma Rigby, Polly Walker (best-known for her nude scenes in Rome), Pippa Haywood and Natalie Gavin, which revolves around four very different women, each with a significant man in her life who is behind bars for some years.
Set in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, the show premiered on BBC1 in March this year, running for six one-hour episodes and has been renewed for 2013, for a second similar run.
Emma Rigby plays Gemma, whose life is changed forever when armed police arrive at her home and arrest her husband on suspicion of murder, while Polly Walker is Francesca, the glamorous wife of a career criminal.
Pippa Haywood portrays Harriet, whose son is in jail - a situation that does not sit well with her image as a middle-aged pinnacle of the local community.
Completing the quartet is Natalie Gavin as Lou, whose boyfriend is serving time - on her behalf......
Prisoners Wives will be repeated at 2.05am on Tuesday.
If Polly Walker is familiar to viewers from Rome then Kelsey Grammer is even better-known for his lengthy, award-winning sojourns as Dr Frasier Crane in Cheers and Frasier.
Since then he has unsuccessfully tried sitcom comebacks in Back to You and Hank , both which failed in short order, but now he has yet another vehicle - his first in the drama field - in Boss, which starts on M-Net Series (Channel 114) at 8.30pm on Wednesday.
This is yet another politically-backgrounded serial which has Grammer portraying Tom Kane, the mayor of Chicago, with the plot twist that his character has been diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder, which he must keep secret from everyone except his personal physician.
It is not that difficult, as all around him, including his wife, Meredith, and personal aide, Kitty O'Neill, are busy with their own lives, careers and ambitions.
Connie Nielsen and Kathleen Robertson, both familiar to viewers from past series, play these two roles.
The show was first broadcast in the US on a premium cable service called Starz and this initial season of nine one-hours ran from October 11, 2011.
The series has a solid pedigree since it is co-produced by the star's Grammert Productions and Britain's prominent Lion's Gate Television and received two nominations in this year's Golden Globe Awards, with Kelsey Grammer winning Best TV Actor in a Drama Series, although the show lost out to Homeland as best drama.
Boss will have repeats at 2.30 and 8.30am and 2.30pm on Thursday.
Now for a newie that, if you are as into musical theatre as I am, will probably become a must-watch.
This is Smash, a musical drama, with plot arcs playing out around the creations of new musical productions for the Broadway stage.
The series, which premieres on M-Net Series at 7.30pm on Thursday, comes from Dreamworks and has Steven Spielberg as one of its executive producers.
The cast is headed by Debra Messing, another star returning from a long-run hit (in her case Will & Grace) and movie star Anjelica Huston, as top female producers and also boasts A-list guest stars in recurring roles such as Uma Thurman, Bernadette Peters, Jennifer Hudson, Harvey Fierstein, songwriter Marc Shaiman (who wrote Hairspray's score) and even such luminaries as New York newspaper columnist Michael Riedel.
There will be 15 episodes in this opening run, which began in America on NBC in March this year.
A second season has been commissioned to run as a midseason replacement early next year on the same network.
As usual on this DStv channel, Smash had three repeats - at 1.30 and 7.30am and 1.30pm on Friday.
SABC3 (Channel 193) also has a new offering on Thursday night but sadly, it is yet another medical drama that failed in the US.
The show is titled Three Rivers, and dates from the 2009/10 US autumn season, when it ran for just 13 one-hour episodes.
Set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at a fictional hospital specialising in transplants, it stars an actor named Alex O'Loughlin as a famous transplant surgeon.
With much of the action revolving around donor and recipient dramas, the subject matter seemed too serious for primetime TV and the series was cancelled after this initial season.
There are no repeats scheduled by SABC3 for this series.
If you like your small screen action comic book style, then Arrow, starting on M-Net at 8.30pm on Friday, will be for you.
This show is based on the fictional character, Green Arrow, who appears in publications by DC Comics.
A Canadian production, it is absolutely brand-new, having premiered in North America only last Wednesday.
The series follows the adventures of billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, played by Stephen Armell, who returns home to main-stream America - a place named Starling City - to fight crime and corruption as the vigilante "Arrow", after being stranded on a deserted island for five years.
The series will also feature appearances by other DC Comics characters.
There are only nine programmes in this initial series, which is scheduled to air in South Africa in the same week as the UK, Ireland and Australia.
Because of its origins, its cast members will probably be unknown to South African viewers, although Britain's John Barrowman has a recurring role.
Arrow will repeat at 10.55pm on Saturday.
This week also features the start of the final series of Dick Wolf's enduring police procedural drama, Law & Order, which opens on the Universal Channel (Channel 117) at 8pm on Wednesday.
With this season, Law & Order tied Gunsmoke's record as the longest running drama on US TV, with both reaching the 20-season milestone.
At the same time, Sam Waterston tied with Gunsmoke's star, James Arness, and Cheers and Frasier's Kelsey Grammer, for playing the same character in a total of 20 seasons.
By now, however, Waterstom had moved to District Attorney level from his earlier Assistant DA title, as part of the "Order" half of the cast.
In this final run, Jeremy Sisto and Anthony Anderson, commanded by S Epatha Merkerson, comprise the "Law" officers, while Canada's Linus Roache and Alana de la Garza complete the DA's team.
The importance of the 23 one-hours in this final run is emphasised by the high level of familiar acting talent assembled to guest as victims and villains.
This list includes Richard Thomas, Elliot Gould, Debra Winger, Tony Roberts, Mark Linn-Baker, Doug E Doug, Kathy Baker, Amy Madigan, Ernie Hudson, the inevitable Kate Burton and past Law & Order star, Benjamin Bratt.
Law & Order, season 20, will repeat at 1.05pm on Thursday.