A murder mystery set in a tuxedoed 1930s enclave of London’s jazz-besotted aristocrats, the British miniseries “Dancing on the Edge” makes one thing emphatically clear: Chiwetel Ejiofor’s star-making performance in “12 Years a Slave” is no fluke.
While the series itself is hit and miss, the cast (and sumptuous period design) is first rate. “Dancing,” on Starz, features an ensemble that includes Matthew Goode, John Goodman and Jacqueline Bisset.
Ejiofor plays Louis Lester, the suave leader of an all-black jazz band that becomes the toast of London’s cafe society and a favorite of the Royal Family’s younger scenesters.
In the series’ meandering opening -- the murder mystery doesn’t begin until well into the second episode -- Lester meets the ambitious, enthusiastic young music journalist (Goode) who can open all the right doors.
Among the progressive elites who quickly become patrons: the reclusive cultural arbiter Lady Cremone (Bisset), a secretive wealthy American businessman (Goodman) and a spoiled, rebellious hanger-on (Tom Hughes).
While the crime’s resolution is satisfying, writer/director Stephen Poliakoff (BBC’s “The Lost Prince”) can’t resist some late-arriving, credulity-straining derring-do with midnight trains, missing passports and sex-shenanigan cover-ups.
An odd, short coda, presented a week after the Episode 5 finale, is like a DVD extras segment, and entirely missable. Everyone has clearly moved on to better things.
“Dancing on the Edge” airs Saturday, Oct 19, on Starz at 10 p.m. New York time; subsequent Saturdays at 9 p.m. Rating: ***
Progeria, the rare, lethal aging disorder documented in HBO’s “Life According to Sam,” tricks the blood vessels of children to function like those of octogenarians.
We might be tempted to assume the condition also speeds up the mental and emotional maturity of sufferers like young Sam Berns, but that would be taking due credit from the boy himself.
Berns’s charisma and hard-won grace are present throughout the documentary, which follows the now-17-year-old boy’s two-year involvement in a clinical trial for a new treatment.
The trial was conducted by Sam’s physician parents, who established the Boston-based Progeria Research Foundation upon the boy’s diagnosis.
The family’s remarkable story is warmly told by filmmakers Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, though at 94 minutes the documentary could have sacrificed some languid flourishes to no detriment.
Sam, though, is a charmer, popular among his classmates, a huge fan of Dave Matthews and a terrific guide through this strange, little-known world.
“Life According to Sam” airs Monday, Oct. 21, on HBO at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***1/2
“I give to you,” says Dracula, “free, safe wireless power!”
An environmentally responsible Nosferatu?
The undead have rarely been less scary than in NBC’s dreary new chiller “Dracula.”
Arriving in 19th-century London after ages underground, the vampire (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is out for blood -- and black gold.
His ancient archenemies, a shadowy group of supernatural cronies, are bound for world domination through “business, politics and oil.” The count intends to thwart their efforts with the alternative energy of magnetic power.
A premise that silly could be fun, but this American/British coproduction is relentlessly dull.
Rhys Meyers, affecting a ludicrous American accent, is as turgid as he was on “The Tudors,” making him the rare actor to suck the life from both Dracula and Henry VIII.
“Dracula” airs Friday, Oct. 25, on NBC at 10 p.m. Rating: *
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and Lewis Lapham on books.