Amidst the traditional Cinemax programming of blockbuster feature films and adult movies, an endeavor into the bustling original content industry has produced the British action thriller “Strike Back” and the sexy, dark drama “Banshee.” Let’s see how they hold up.
Season 3 premiere Aug. 9 @ 10 pm.
Marketed as a military action television drama, “Strike Back” has the unique challenge of coming up with a fresh angle to a genre that has been beat into the ground for years. The appeal of “Strike Back,” especially in Season 2 (releasing in the U.S. on DVD in early August), is the dynamic combination between an American military man Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton) and British attaché Rachel Dalton (Rhona Mitra) working together in Sector 20, a secret branch of the British military. The collaboration makes for an intriguing clash in culture, gender and worldview. Expect lots of scenes set in foreign desert lands and plenty of gun violence. The show is headed into its fourth series this year in Britain, with much favor abroad and a slowly growing fan base here in the states.
“Banshee” is a Cinemax show that has a great premise. It seems it is aimed to equal HBO’s dark and twisted blockbusters such as “Game of Thrones” and “True Blood” (of which “Banshee” shares a creator), yet has forced too many things into its plot. Within the pilot alone, we are delivered murder, theft, sex, Amish people, false identities, teenage angst and daunting mafia men. It’s just too much. The absolute best story line is how Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), the protagonist and lovable criminal, will pull off masquerading as a small-town sheriff before several different people on both sides of the law discover who he really is and want to bring him down for it. This simple idea could carry the whole show with an absence of everything else listed before, which just feels like unnecessary garble. Maybe all Banshee needs is a little more time and seasoning to hit its stride, but Cinemax can revel in its ratings, which are at the highest for any of their original programming. “Banshee”: Season 1 is complete, with a second season ordered and airing in 2014.
Although not perfect hits just yet, this inaugural attempt at original programming for Cinemax has proved fairly successful and shown that this channel may have the potential to release programs that will dominate the prime time drama market in the near future.