This Week’s TV Highlights: The Voice UK, Britain’s Got Talent 2012, Titanic, Mad Men, The Syndicate & Twenty Twelve

by Matt D

The Voice UK/Britain’s Got Talent (Sat, BBC1, 7pm/ITV1 8pm)
It almost feels like these shows have already started because we seem to have heard so much about both of them. A lot has already been written on this site about the pros and cons of The Voice but I’m always up for something new in the talent show contest genre. For those of you who have been living under a rock The Voice will star Jessie J, Sir Tom Jones, Will.i.am and that bloke from The Script as ‘coaches’ rather than judges to would-be singing stars. The Voice’s major gimmick is that these coaches will not be able to see the contestants while they are singing so can only hear their voice and if they want to be their coach they can swing their chair around to see the rest of the performance. The BBC are certainly banking on this being a hit as they have sunk many millions of pounds into buying the format which has already been successful in America.

Over on the other side ITV1 are hoping that a freshening up of the judging panel alongside the return of Simon Cowell will be the way to attract viewers to a new series of Britain’s Got Talent. Controversially the show’s debut has been moved up to start the same night as The Voice and there is a tricky twenty minute overlap between the two shows in this first week but depending on the ratings this could well change as the weeks go on. As well as Cowell’s return we have fellow original judge Amanda Holden on board with newbies David Walliams and Alesha Dixon to critique the weird and wonderful acts who want to perform at the year’s Royal Variety event. Though most of us will find some way to watch both of them I do think that those twenty minutes will be the marker to see who has won this first week of the spring talent show wars.

Titanic (Sun, ITV1, 9pm)
After creating Downton Abbey, which is ITV’s biggest drama hit in years, Julian Fellowes has been tasked with recreating the sinking of the Titanic in the most expensive British drama ever. The majority of people have seen the Titanic story thanks to James Cameron but Fellowes wants to change people’s perceptions of some of the crew members and create a balanced story about those above and below deck. Every episode introduces us to a new group of characters as we see their Titanic tale told pre-iceberg disaster and then we start afresh the next week with the whole thing culminating in the inevitable. With a cast including Toby Jones, Linus Roache, Geraldine Somerville, Celia Imrie and new Doctor Who companion Jenna-Louise Colman you know that this will certainly be a well-acted affair and due to the massive budget everything also looks spectacular so it does look like ITV will have another hit on their hands providing people don’t mind waiting a few for the boat to be completely demolished at the end of the series.

Mad Men (Tues, Sky Atlantic, 9pm)
With their acquisition of Mad Men from the BBC it seems that Sky Atlantic now air 90% of the best TV shows ever. I do feel it would be good for Sky Atlantic to air the show up to this point for people, like myself, who didn’t stay with it when it aired on the BBC. However for those who have kept up you will know that this slick 1960s-set advertising drama is a well-written affair that has some splendid period detail. In addition the show also boasts the brilliant Jon Hamm as handsome and debonair ad exec Don Draper who in the last series proposed to his secretary and essentially scorning market researcher Dr Faye Miller in the process. This is a brilliant show that is well-worth watching however I would recommend at least renting the DVDs first so you can catch up on the characters and storylines. Fans of the show will be pleased to know that Sky Atlantic will be airing this episode only a couple of days after AMC have showed it in the US so essentially the only way to find out what happens next is tune in on Tuesday.

The Syndicate (Tues, BBC1, 9pm)
As an alternative to the American advertising world how about a cut-price store in Leeds? That’s what Kay Mellor’s new drama offers us as we follow five employees from a discount supermarket who are facing redundancy but as luck would have it they win the lottery and their lives change forever. Mellor is known for dramas, such as Fat Friends and Playing the Field, that are about groups of people fighting against adversity together. In the case of The Syndicate she has assembled a strong cast headed up by Timothy Spall and including Matthew McNulty and Gavin and Stacey’s Joanna Page. The premise is essentially can lottery winners truly be happy and in that case it strikes me as a more Northern version of At Home with the Braithwaites but as long as this is a well-written, well-played piece then it could be an enjoyable piece of feel-good drama and lord knows we’ve been crying out for one for a while now.

Twenty Twelve (Fri, BBC2, 10pm)
Looking for a laugh on a Friday night? Then look no further than Twenty Twelve the sitcom about the Olympic Deliverance Committee which became a cult hit on BBC4 before gaining popularity with a repeat run on BBC2. The second series has been promoted to a prime-time slot on a major channel and slimmed down slightly to only four episodes. The great cast are all back with Hugh Bonneville taking the lead as the David Cameron-esque Ian Fletcher head of the committee who has problems both at work and at home. This week the committee have to deal with a group of Algerians who are unhappy that the shared faith centre isn’t facing Mecca while Ian’s faithful secretary Sally also sees red when she spots a rival. This is a great mockumentary made all the better by the fact that the cast downplays every line and also by the dry narration from David Tennant. This is a really funny, clever show that really deserves to get a large audience now it is being shown on BBC2.

What programmes are you looking forward to this week? Leave your comments below.