TV Review: Mad Dogs | Suits | Jonathan Meades on France

IMAGINE if a thoughtful but easily confused auntie bought you the box-set of Mad Dogs for Christmas rather than Mad Men – you’d be pretty annoyed. This is the kind of show that Sky thinks qualifies it as a grown-up player in the drama game.

Mere obligation – I watch so you don’t have to – dragged me back to Majorca for the continuing misadventures of Max Beesley, Philip Glenister, John Simm and Marc Warren, the all-star England macho back-four who couldn’t resist the big bag of dirty money. And that’s kind of the plot as well.

We rejoined the four friends as they were leaving Majorca, en route for the Spanish mainland and ultimately home, but guess what? They caught the wrong ferry and ended up on Ibiza. Cue more location porn: ochre hills, baked earth, hairpin bends, blissed-out sunsets. I mention the atmospherics because there wasn’t a single line of dialogue that I could quote back to make you smile. My notepad after the first episode resembled the terrain: arid nothingness, minimal doodling, a lizard perched on a rock.

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Mad Dogs is a very old-fashioned show and really the optimum moment for it would have been 15 years ago, the apotheosis of Laddism when Loaded magazine was flying out of the newsagents, Men Behaving Badly was on series six and Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels was just around the corner. That said, it’s also very Sky, and hardly looks out of place next to Ross Kemp, Eamonn Holmes and all that football.

All of the cast have done more interesting and challenging things, even Warren and especially Simm. But maybe that’s why they signed up. It would be a nice job, a bit of sun, the chance to handle guns and drive fast – a right laff. I’m sure they had great fun making it, and even more fun at the end of each day over a few cervezas, and who knows, maybe the post-shoot malarkey is included in the DVD extras and that’s where the magic lies. Or, alternatively, not.

Confession time: your idiot-lantern correspondent has never knowingly watched anything on Dave, which in name alone seems to date from 1997. But there I was ready for Suits. The continuity announcer was ready, too. “The wait is over,” he drooled. “Sharp, fresh, clever,” he promised. And although the first line jotted down – “The ball’s in your court but the truth is your balls are in my fist” – could have sat happily in Mad Dogs if only that show had bothered with a script, he wasn’t far off.

The quip came from Harvey (Gabriel Macht), hotshot lawyer. Cut to a bar for celebratory cocktails where a colleague introduced him to the winsome waitress thus: “You’re looking at the best closer this city’s ever seen.”

Waitress: “Baseball, huh?

Harv: “No, I close situations.”

Waitress: “So you only care about the money?”

Harv: The truth is I only care about the children.”

Okay, maybe not Billy Wilder-sharp, but still pretty nifty for a Tuesday night in mid-January. And, of course, the New York accents help – they make lines zing in a way that Cockernee can’t. Maybe Harv owes something to Don Draper, the original brilliant corporate bastard who’s only interested in two things: winning and himself (OK, three if you include beautiful, fascinating, no-strings women). But Suits has something else going for it, namely Mike (Patrick J Adams), the polymath stoner who stumbles into the hiring process at Harvey’s firm while fleeing a drugs deal. Mike has dreamed of being a lawyer but has been barred from every school in the country for selling exam papers. Harvey, fed up having to accept the latest “Harvard summer associate douche”, takes a gamble on Mike, who’s got a photographic memory and, with a sick gran just hit by medical bills, cares in a way that Harv doesn’t.

Fond of a suit himself, Jonathan Meades also likes Ray-Bans and a bit of Russell Harty-esque camp in the delivery. He throws all this together and, for Jonathan Meades On France, is strolling through lonely fields and past unlovely buildings likened to “immense squat mince pies” to pronounce on his adopted homeland. He seems untroubled by the obvious comparisons with the pretentious 70s arts presenters lampooned by Monty Python – indeed he seems to be actively encouraging a giant boot to hurtle through the clouds and squash him. The first programme was all about the letter V. He introduced “the clubbable bigot”, “the opium-smoking, job-seeking admiral” and “the celebrity witch” (Joan of Arc). Someone else was of the firm belief that “a well-turned door handle would make the world a better place”.

With a well-turned phrase, Meades makes TV a better place.

Mad Dogs

Sky1, Thursday, 9pm


Dave, Tuesday, 9pm

Jonathan Meades On France

BBC4, Wednesday, 9pm

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