When I was growing up in the 80’s, I remember when my family first got cable. To start, it was just one HBO channel and one Showtime channel. In the town I grew up in, our cable provider didn’t offer The Movie Channel, but we did eventually get HBO’s version, called Cinemax. It was another channel that showed nothing but movies with some random goodies sprinkled in between. As time passed, Cinemax garnered a bit of a reputation with their propensity to air shows and movies that showed a whole lot of skin, and earned the nickname Skinemax.
Cinemax has evolved over the 30+ years it’s been on the air and now they are finally jumping on the original scripted series bandwagon. The format has worked incredibly well for both HBO and Showtime, so naturally, being an HBO affiliate, it was natural course of action. While Cinemax has about a dozen original series, 10 of them are part of their “after dark” programming and the other three are nothing but action, action and more action. Which is right up my alley.
Back in 2011, Cinemax launched a new scripted series called Strike Back. I saw the ads for this show and thought “explosions, hot guys, and lots of action…..I’m in.” It’s the simple things that make me happy. So when the show aired, I figured I’d watch the pilot and do a quick review of it…which ended up turning into weekly recaps of each episode that still continue well into the second season. If you haven’t heard of it, the show focuses on the exploits of a British covert special forces team and their efforts to stop all sorts of bad guys/gals from unleashing their evil upon the world. I can’t say it enough. I. Love. This. Show. It’s got everything. Explosions, hot guys blowing stuff up, and an abundance of action. All of which look great because the show has a very high production value. It also has an American playing a British guy (Phillip Winchester as Michael Stonebridge) and an Australian playing an American (Sullivan Stapleton as Damien Scott). The accents are spot on and I was shocked when I found out they weren’t real. The action was the big draw, but as the show found its footing, I have to say the biggest draw now is the chemistry between the two leads. Winchester and Stapleton have their characters, as well as each other, dialed in and give solid performances in every single episode.
The interesting thing about this show is that it’s actually an extension of a British series that aired on BBC. Cinemax’s first season, is technically the show’s second, however that original series never aired in the US to my knowledge. I’ve tried to get my mitts on it, but I can’t find it anywhere. One doesn’t need to view the BBC series in order to follow along, which was nice. I have been told however, that it does shed more light on the events of the “second” season. My one complaint about this show is the fact that it feels like an eternity between seasons. The seasons are short with 10-12 episodes per season. This is becoming the norm these days, but it’s makes for a long wait until the next season starts. Word on a third season hasn’t been made public yet, but my fingers and toes are crossed that Cinemax will give the green light.
Hopefully the wait between the second and third (hopefully) seasons of Strike Back won’t seem so long, because right after the season ends, Cinemax is premiering another new scripted series called Hunted. Hunted is another show that was created for both the BBC and Cinemax by Frank Spotnitz. Spotnitz has a solid resume with titles like Strike Back, Millennium and The X-files which means he’s no stranger to writing compelling characters and intrigue. Hunted stars Melissa George (Alias) as an agent who works for an extremely covert private intelligence agency called Byzantium. After surviving an attempt on her life, Samantha sets out to uncover the truth behind the hit on her life.
After watching the ads for Hunted, I’ll definitely check it out and just may end up adding it to my weekly recap list. Spy dramas are pretty common, but from what I can tell, this one will definitely have something to offer. It’s set in London, which is a nice change from American locations like New York or Los Angeles. While both cities have many offerings, there are so many shows based in those cities, it’s nice to mix it up for a change. There is also a viral marketing campaign going on right now to raise awareness about the show. The campaign is a test that a user can take to see if they have the makings of a good operative. I took it and have to say that it may seem random, but the results nailed my personality to the letter. It was almost creepy. Check out the trailer below, but also be sure to check out the viral campaign too. Report back to me how it turned out in the comments. The only other name in the cast that I recognized was Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, which is a huge bonus because I really like him. You may not know him by name, but you’ll definitely recognize him when you see him. As a hint, he played Mr. Echo on Lost. Hunted premiers on Friday October 19th at 10pm PST.
The third show that Cinemax is offering that’s on my radar is a show called Banshee. There isn’t a lot of information about this one yet, aside from a brief synopsis and an incredibly short teaser trailer. This one stars Anthony Starr as an ex-convict who assumes the identity of a small town Sheriff, while still living his convict life and trying not to get caught by those he betrayed. Now you know just as much as I do. Cinemax is promoting the crap out of this on Twitter and after seeing the super short teaser, I’ll admit….I’m interested. Banshee doesn’t premier until 2013, but the site doesn’t say when exactly. Check out the teaser below, or head over to the show’s page on the Cinemax website.
One of the things I love most about both HBO and Cinemax is the fact that they both stream their content online. Sure a ton of other networks do that as well, but with HBOGO and MaxGo, the content is available on streaming and mobile devices. The streaming device I use at home is the Roku and while there is an HBOGo Roku channel, MaxGo doesn’t yet have one. I’ve tried contacting Cinemax via Twitter, but haven’t received a response as to when the Roku might see a MaxGo channel. However, both apps are only available to current channel subscribers, which is a bummer for those who don’t subscribe to either through their cable provider.
What I love most about Cinemax’s series is the fact that they don’t sacrifice the material of the shows in order to get viewers. Strike Back is not a family friendly show. There is a lot of blood, beatings, and sex and they make no apologies for it. Some may say that those elements aren’t necessary to tell a good story, but I say that it doesn’t hurt. You know, sometimes I want my R rated material damn it, and that’s what Cinemax gives me. Believe me, I wouldn’t spend time writing recaps every week for a show I didn’t believe in. Strike Back is definitely something to check out and I have a feeling that Hunted and Banshee will be as well. Cinemax has come a long long way from what I remember of the channel from the 80’s, and for that, I’m very happy.
[Photo and video credit: Cinemax]