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Channel hop: Vikings, The Apartment

Mark Peters

 

Fans of blood, sweat and big hairy men are in for a treat tonight as Vikings, a new miniseries from the History Channel, comes marauding onto our screens (at 10pm). The Viking period is one era that has been neglected by television execs, surprisingly considering the plundering possibilities and the success of Game of Thrones and the like.

Set in AD793, on the corpse-strewn battlefields of the Baltics, the show follows a young warrior, Ragnar Lothbrok (former Calvin Klein model Travis Fimmel; The Beast), who is bored with the daily grind of scrapping and robbing, and dreams of sailing uncharted waters to the west, where untold riches lie. Defying the orders of iron-fisted chieftain Earl Haraldson (Gabriel Byrne; What's On cover, right, with Fimmel), Lothbrok sets sail with his brother and a slightly deranged boatbuilder. Upon returning from the jolly with a shipload of treasure, Lothbrok and the ruthless clan leader become embroiled in a power struggle.

Created by Michael Hirst (The Tudors) and filmed mainly in the lush landscapes of Ireland, Vikings has all the trappings of the next big hit. Sex and violence, of course, are plentiful, but the programme is not as gruesome and gratuitous as, say, Spartacus - this is the History Channel after all, not Cinemax - and if you give it time, Vikings will grow on you, much like a thick Nordic beard.

If the questionably handsome Fimmel doesn't rock your longboat then maybe the rather more flamboyant Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen will tickle your fancy, as The Apartment: Design Your Destiny (pictured) returns to Star World tonight (at 9.40pm). "Lord" Laurence, interior designer to the British royal family, heads the judging panel as nine teams of aspiring amateur designers compete to win a grand two-storey home in Malaysia. Each team has an identical apartment to design from scratch and each week they are given a budget with which to create an innovative and fashionable room, which they must complete in less than 15 hours. Cue fraying nerves and inflating egos.

Mentored by celebrity designer and Oprah Winfrey regular Jamie Durie, The Apartment is bedecked in the typical decor of reality-show histrionics, albeit with a slightly different lick of paint, and if you're already a fan of the genre you'll no doubt appreciate the stylings of this programme a little more than I do.

While winning widespread critical acclaim and numerous awards, Prohibition-era gangland drama Boardwalk Empire has never really grabbed a hold of me, either. Written by Sopranos scribe Terence Winter and starring the wonderfully strange, and strangely wonderful, Steve Buscemi alongside a highly accomplished ensemble cast, Boardwalk Empire is deeply rich in both character and story, and I undoubtedly owe it to myself to give it another try. Tomorrow at 10pm would be a good time to do so, for that is when the fourth season begins, on HBO.

Despite taking back control of Atlantic City in last season's bloodbath of a finale, Buscemi's Enoch "Nucky" Thompson was left lonely and depressed by the end of his relationship with Margaret. The narrative in season four begins around the club now owned and operated by Chalky White and, without giving too much away, it's shady business as usual - and business, it appears, is rather good.

Thankfully for Chalky, he doesn't have to pay for protection against horn-helmeted Norsemen on the pillage.

 

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