Poor old Atlanta gets hammered again in Containment (second episode tomorrow, Fox, at 9pm). As if floods and an invasion of Hurricane Katrina evacuees weren't enough, now a rampant virus is being spread by touch, sneeze, kiss … all of which are shown a number of times to drive the point home.
The first episode introduced us to the apparent victim zero, a Middle-Eastern refugee, and the fact he appears to have brought a vial of pathogen with him in his hand luggage only heightens the need for a wall to be built around Atlanta, at Atlanta's cost! No, hang on … I'm getting confused.
This rather lacklustre scare-series follows in the footsteps of zombie-virus movie thrillers 28 Weeks Later and World War Z, both of which had an element of urgency that is missing in the television show. Lex Carnahan (David Gyasi, Cloud Atlas) and Sabine Lommers (Claudia Black; Stargate SG-1) have been established as potential heroes, with the heavy-handed tension between their characters suggesting something more will develop between them. Oh, and there's already a love-interest angle, between a policeman and a teacher, to keep things interesting.
Perhaps the subject matter isn't as fresh as it was when Danny Boyle's zombie virus thrillers burst and splattered their way onto cinema screens - the viral evolution isn't new to an audience that has become well educated in how these television epidemics manifest. In the pilot episode, a predictability follows sneezes, coughs and, in one scene, contact with a pen. So far, so pedestrian. What it lacks is sharp editing while the script feels as if more research is needed into the reality of a cordon lockdown. And the suggestion of romance is getting in the way of authenticity. So let's see where this takes us, as future episodes unravel the slightly clumsy grouping of virus, refugee and terrorist. No doubt all will not be as it seems.
Meanwhile, in a parallel universe somewhere close by, the Game of Thrones is being played again (series six continues tomorrow on HBO, at 9pm). It's easy to get lost in the incredible visual fantasy world of Westeros and Essos and look past the numerous nods to real historical events in what is one of HBO's most successful drama series. From the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, in Paris, in 1572, referenced by the destruction of the House of Stark in series three, to the War of the Roses, Game of Thrones derives many aspects of its plots from events in European history. This has allowed it a level of authentic political sophistication reminiscent of American science-fiction franchise Battlestar Galactica, with its intricate analysis of presidential politics and intrigue. However, it's not been without criticism, due to its depiction of nudity and sex, although that need not upset prudish Hong Kong audiences, who are shown a censored version.
Based on George R.R. Martin's epic fantasy novels A Song of Ice and Fire, the first five series stuck closely to their literary roots. However, the new series is based on plots not found in the books and it seems HBO is holding out for Martin's final instalment, which is not expected for some time. So how to manage a break in original material?
According to season six director Jeremy Podeswa, this series is based on "discussions" with Martin, which, hopefully, means there will be a good level of continuity with the yet-to-be-written book. And that winter is still coming …