The world of television never ceases to amaze. For every original, well-scripted show, there is a flood of clunkers slipping through the quality-control net, each of which leaves us to wonder, aghast: "How on Earth did this pile of #@*%* make it off the drawing board?"
It seems that if you're a commissioner scraping the television barrel of fresh ideas (and you can't get away with another mockumentary cooking show) all you need to do is greenlight a medi-ocre sitcom. Failing that, dig out the dog-eared folder marked "Spy Spoof" and apply that genre's well-worn tem-plate. Unfortunately for us, Spy (beTV, 8.30pm, Wednesday) offers the worst of both worlds; with one of the most precocious children in the history of television thrown in for good measure.
Darren Boyd ( Dirk Gently) plays bumbling nice guy Tim Elliot, a middle-aged single father who strives to win back the love and respect of his disapproving and uber-intelligent nine-year-old son. In an effort to impress the brat, Tim quits his dead-end job and interviews for a position in the civil service, as a data processor. Unwittingly, he takes the exam to become an MI5 spy instead and is recruited by top espionage honcho The Examiner (played by light entertainment legend Robert Lindsay, looking freakily like The Apprentice's Alan Sugar). As you'd expect, much fish-out-of water hilarity ensues. It's a combination of Johnny English awkwardness and Chuck implausibility, mixed in with the slapstick comedy of a poor man's Mr Bean. In fact, one scene characterised by an extra-cringeworthy degree of physical awkwardness has been blatantly stolen from the Rowan Atkinson comedy. Spy aims to win us over with lovable silliness but its charm has no genuine warmth and it misses by a mile.
Life can be tough without pretentious offspring dragging you down, too, of course, and it's not all plain sailing even for rich and famous Americans living it up in the Hamptons. As we rejoin the HankMed crew in a new season of Royal Pains (above; Star World, Wednesday, 7.50pm), Evan (Paulo Costanzo; Joey) and his older brother, Hank (Mark Feuerstein, The Hustler) have decided to dissolve their medical partnership.
Just because they're going their separate ways, amid the same old family bickering, however, doesn't mean the bold and the beautiful aren't choking on their profiteroles and requiring emergency health care. This show may not be as medically engaging as House but the new dynamic to the brothers' relationship does bring a fresh breeze to rarefied Hamptons air that was becoming a little stale. Let's hope they don't resolve their differences any time soon.
From the seriously affluent to the seriously deranged. If you're not one for strawberries and champagne, and prefer a little more grease and grime under your fingernails, then you won't need reminding that it's the season finale this week of the gloriously rebellious Sons of Anarchy (below; FX, Thursday 11pm). The fifth has continued the high-revving anguish of previous seasons, with Jimmy Smits proving a terrific addition to an already stellar cast, and I'd feel just a tiny bit remiss if I didn't doff my cap to one of the best shows on television right now as it reaches another denouement. No spoilers, of course. Roll on season six.