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Channel hop

Mark Peters

 

In the quest for love we've all had those first dates that turn out to be a hellish nightmare. Awkward conversations and uncomfortable silences abound as you attempt to impress each other with clever witticisms to mask your desperation. Her stifled yawns point to your impending walk home along the avenue of lovelessness. Or maybe these are just my own memories. However heartbreaking such evenings may have been, though, thankfully I never had to spend a first date constructing a raft and paddling across crocodile-infested waters.

This is exactly the type of task the contestants in Love in the Wild (TVB Pearl, Thursday at 9pm) must grapple with, however. A cross between Survivor and The Bachelor (and its sister show, The Bachelorette), this new reality show pairs up 10 single men and 10 single women to compete in absurd (and actually rather easy) adventure challenges, a la The Amazing Race, in the Costa Rican jungle. All-American hunks - who boast gladiatorial names such as Steele, Skip and Storm (I only made one of those up) are chosen in order of "hotness" by young women (pictured) with superficial checklists and who are, at first glance inexplicably, desperate for love.

These missions in the wilderness are designed to forge intimate bonds between the prospective couples but, this being reality - and with a little encouragement from the programme makers in the interest of compelling viewing - they're soon bickering like middle-aged married couples stuck in traffic. After a day of petty squabbling, each couple spends the night together, usually preceded by a communal jacuzzi that facilitates flirting and bitchiness, before being given the chance to ditch their partner and pick another one the next day.

Welcome to Swinging In The Wild. The last man and woman left on the ugly shelf each week are sent packing by host Darren McMullen, knowing full well that being eliminated from this pool of last-chance easy targets means they will likely die alone, despite being only in their 20s. This is rejection voyeurism, as the remaining desperados unceremoniously transition from first-glance sexual attraction to disgust and loathing within 24 hours. As with most shows of this ilk, it's never going to end with true love. We all know you can only buy that over the internet.

Another day, another moody American crime drama. The Bridge (Fox, tomorrow at 9.50pm) stars Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) as uptight detective Sonya Cross, who polices the US-Mexican border town of El Paso. When a serial killer with a political agenda murders a US anti-immigration judge and leaves her bisected corpse on a bridge leading over the border, Cross is forced to work alongside nonchalant, laid-back detective Marco Ruiz (Demian Bichir) from the fantastically named and clearly corrupt Chihuahua State Police. The coppers each have their own approach to policing, which highlights the differences between the two countries and makes The Bridge (which is adapted from Scandinavian series Bron) much more than a simple killer-on-the-loose drama. Unfortunately the matter-of-fact Cross is devoid of empathy and social skills, making her difficult to work with and, for the viewer certainly, hard to love. This surliness goes unexplained and until I read the press release I just assumed it was due to poor acting by Kruger. As it turns out, Cross (spoiler alert!) has Asperger's syndrome.

It's all very gritty and grim and the subplots focusing on class and social issues as well as on US border-control and immigration policies, only add to the absorbing puzzle. This is definitely one to stick with.

From a slow-burning, intense cop drama to one that plods along: Unforgettable (pictured), which premieres on the new female-oriented Lifetime channel tomorrow at 9pm, stars Poppy Montgomery (Without a Trace) as mopey former detective Carrie Wells. As with most cops these days, she also has a special skill to aid her crime-solving: hyperthymesia, a rare condition that gives her total recall of past events. Montgomery puts in a sturdy performance, as does Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck), who provides the will-they-won't-they romance factor as Wells' former flame and partner detective; but the script gives them nothing much to chew on. It all looks wonderful thanks to director Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) but you'll find you will have made the connections long before they're spelt out in the slo-mo flashbacks from Wells' memory. Unforgettable? Unmemorable, more like.

 

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