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4/14/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

Murder Prevention Unit

BBC America Monday, April 17 (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT)

From the narrative mix of sleuthing, surveillance and forensics to the lineup of stock character types, it’s hard to watch Murder Prevention Unit without thinking of countless other small-screen crime dramas. But behind its stylized grittiness, MPU has some unsettling things to say about modern policing.

Based on a real unit of London’s Metropolitan Police, the fictional MPU uses undercover work, criminal profiling and some ethically questionable tactics to gather enough evidence to arrest would-be offenders before any crime is committed.

The series gives BBC America’s core Anglophile viewers another British actioner that will keep them coming back for more, but it should also attract a broader audience of fans of CSI-type police dramas.—George Vernadakis

Too Hot Not To Handle

Home Box Office Saturday, April 22 (7 p.m. ET/PT)

HBO’s global warming documentary Too Hot Not To Handle opens with actress Angela Lansbury singing to an ailing “Dear World” to get well soon. While the hour’s expert commentary from leading scientists provides food for serious thought, it’s that opening song’s rallying cry to the planet as a wounded friend that packs the most indelible emotional punch.

The film delivers a litany of evidence that the rise in consumption of fossil fuels has set the earth on a dangerous climatic course. The hour works well as both a primer and a cautionary reminder.

Fans of HBO docs, not to mention environmentalists and extreme weather aficionados, will not be disappointed; and audience size should be bolstered by its Earth Day premiere.—George Vernadakis

Elizabeth I

Home Box Office April 22, 24 (8 p.m. ET/PT)

HBO Films and Channel 4’s Elizabeth I strips away many of the emotional layers that intersected within the maiden queen’s private and political personages during the second half of her reign.

Filled with poetic language, it’s a history lesson come to life, told against the backdrop of “Bess” (Helen Mirren) trying to balance responsibilities of the monarchy and her needs as a woman.

Mirren gives a tour de force performance, interspersing rage and regret with more magisterial and coquettish airs. Ornate costumes, beheadings, swordplay and a graphic disembowelment scene also provoke interest.

The second half drags in parts and the character ultimately is not fully revealed — the answer to her late-life lament about having loved one man proves as inscrutable as the woman herself — but Mirren’s performance is well worth the vantage. —Mike Reynolds

 

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