Dennis Waterman lost old dogs in New Tricks

Dennis Waterman, far right, has wanted to leave since the departure of his co-stars. Photo: SuppliedDennis Waterman has been playing semi-retired cop Gerry Standing in New Tricks for 12 years, but now it can be revealed that he’s been trying to get out since 2012.

That was since other founding cast members Amanda Redman, Alun Armstrong and James Bolam​ left the show.

Waterman will finally get his wish in episode two of the series that starts this week on ABC.

“What astounded me was how total strangers would come up to me and say how obvious it was that we loved working together,” Waterman told Britain’s Radio Times. “You think the audience shouldn’t be able to see that deeply into us. And they were right – we were all having a great time together.

“This is no slight on the new cast, but everything did change really dramatically and suddenly when Amanda and Alun left.

“I’d already signed up for the next season. I did ask Amanda if I’d look sad carrying on after everybody else had quit and she said, ‘Don’t be daft’.

“And then my wife started buying another bleeding house and I had no option. But it wasn’t the same. Great TV shows are like rock’n’roll bands – you mess with the line-up at your peril.”

Waterman agreed to film the first two episodes of season 12 only when the producers promised they would be written by his favourite writer, Julian Simpson.

Simpson publicly protested in 2012 when the original cast claimed they improvised much of their dialogue, so we’ll find out if Simpson has forgiven Waterman from the way he sends him out of the series, in what Radio Times describes as “a finale that’s pure prime-time spectacle”.

New Tricks starts on Saturday, October 17, at 7.30pm on ABC.’God’ takes a step down

When you’ve been God, it’s a bit of a step down to become merely the chief justice of the United States. But Morgan Freeman was happy to lower his status for the sake of making Tea Leoni​ president.

In this week’s episode of Madam Secretary, Leoni’s character, Secretary of State Elizabeth Faulkner McCord, becomes acting president when Air Force One, carrying the president, goes missing (apparently the vice-president and the president of the senate and the Speaker of the House are unavailable). Freeman appears briefly to swear her in.

Freeman is Hollywood’s go-to guy whenever a movie or TV series needs a character with credibility and charisma. He won an Oscar for Million Dollar Baby and he’s worked his way up from president in Deep Impact to God in Bruce Almighty (until replaced by Jim Carrey).

He also happens to be an executive producer on Madam Secretary, so he was around when the writers needed a chief justice. Freeman says: “The casting director said, ‘OK, we’ll get Morgan to audition. Maybe we can make that happen.’ So, I actually auditioned”. He was judged competent enough for the role.

Tea Leoni found him surprisingly frivolous to work with.

“Everybody behaves better when Morgan is there. He’s really fun. That would probably be surprising to others, because when we think of Morgan, we think more of the president or God, but he’s very fun. He’s charmingly playful.”

Later this season, the former US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, will appear as herself.

Madam Secretary resumes on Wednesday, October 14, at 8.30pm on Channel Ten. Critics Snipe at an easy target

Channel Seven’s new crime show, The Player, has attracted the best treasure trove of bad reviews since Channel Nine’s recent disaster Stalker (now cancelled).

The Player stars former action hero Wesley Snipes, who is hoping to earn enough to cover his bills for unpaid taxes from the US government. Most US critics are predicting the show won’t last long enough for that. Here’s a sampling of the best of the worst reactions.

The Hollywood Reporter: “The Player seems like a very bad action-movie-dream set in Vegas where shooting stuff, blowing stuff up, driving cars fast and also fighting very well is more important than plot or believability … basically absurd, with a dollop of stupid on top and a whole bunch of empty tossed in for filler.”

The New York Times: “Plenty of TV shows get by, and even succeed, with equally preposterous plots, but not with a cast full of personality-free characters. Fans of the tax-evading Mr Snipes, if there still are any, will be disappointed that his character is limited to wearing finely tailored suits and delivering omniscient-sounding lines in a blank voice.”

Variety: “It’s all just a glossy excuse for a lot of high-speed chases and fights, informed by the seemingly futile hope that the program’s tone and look will appeal to The Blacklist audience, which merely suggests some confusion as to why people responded well to that show. Even without the absolutely tortured nature of the premise here, the characters are stiff to the point of being laughable.”

The Huffington Post: “I might have tried harder to get past the bad taste that situation left in my mouth had the rest of the show not been fairly paint-by-numbers and generic, but as escapist hours go, there’s not a lot of meat on the bone here.”

The Player starts on Wednesday, October 7, at 9.30pm on Channel Seven.

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