Freeview’s hidden gems

Don't be scared by your Freeview box. Even though it regularly delivered the bin-end of television, direct to your house, there are some gems worth sifting through it for. Such as these...

Futurama: now hiding on Sky Three

Freeview. Forty odd free-to-view TV channels, all of them shite.

Well, most of all them shite. Cherry pick the best bits of the schedule, move the times around with your trusty PVR, DVD recorder or video cassette taping device and you end up with one evening’s worth of decent pay channel quality programmes every week. And by decent pay channel we mean Sky One or Sci Fi, where a quarter of the schedule is still crap. Sigh.

At least you don’t have to scour through the schedule looking for the handful of decent shows Freeview carries. Here’s our pick of the best five currently running.

Supernatural – Sunday 9 PM, ITV 2

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This post-Buffy anthology show crosses Ghostbusters with The Fugitive, with a side order of the X-Files and a dollop of Charmed. Long premise short; two psychic, spook slapping brothers roam the United States of Americaland, battling ghouls as they go. There’s a story arc about the lads’ Dad and a bunch of demon stuff, but Supernatural’s strength is in its (mostly) capsule story format, dark undertow and genre familiar guest star policy. Woot! There’s that robot bird out of Battlestar Galactica! Narf! It’s Darla off Angel!

Unfortunately, Supernatural on ITV 2 is currently wrapping up the second season, which makes it a bad time for new viewers to tune in. Keep an eye out for repeats though – they’re bound to turn up soon.

Boston Legal – Monday 10 PM, FTNForgot the Wrath of Khan; Boston Legal is William Shatner’s finest hour. Playing the befuddled yet blustering attorney Denny Crane, he’s not shy of showcasing the self-effacing comedy chops we first saw in Airplane II: The Sequel. Shot through with smart one-liners and loony story lines, this courtroom procedural also features a virtuoso turn from James Spader as the amoral, foppish Alan Shore and Rene Auberjonois as the shape-shifting head of a security. We wish.

FTN are currently draining the dregs from season two, but season one’s Candice Bergen-free episodes are heavier on jocular testosterone and better for it.

The Daily Show – Monday to Friday 8.30 PM, More4Why bother following the Digg links to YouTube when you can watch The Daily Show how nature intended; on your big fat telly? If you’ve not seen it, imagine The Day Today, if The Day Today was a topical news show hosted by a smarmy American guy, instead of a surreal tour-de-force presented by a pock marked, acerbic genius. Actually, scratch that comparison, Jon Stewart is far too smug and pleased with himself to ever touch the brilliance of Chris Morris. If he did, his hand would most likely sizzle and crisp, like crackling on roast pork.

Still, you can count on The Daily Show to provide three solid chuckles and a belly laugh every episode. For a programme that spews out new content five times a week, those are pretty gnarly odds.

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Quantum Leap – Various days and times, ITV 3

ITV’s third channel has Quantum Leap scattered carelessly throughout it’s schedule, like pearls cast into piles of pig swill, if the pig swill was made from repeats of Lovejoy and Home to Roost.

Nostalgic and wrinkled readers will recognise this genial time travel series from its 90s stint on BBC 2. Starring Scott Bakula, looking exactly the same as he does in Star Trek:Enterprise – but without the KwikFit uniform – we follow Sam Beckett as he leaps through time, righting anomalies, cross-dressing and saying oh boy! at least twice an episode. Leap is sci-fi light; a fantasy premise driving a sequence of soapy, moral-dilemma-of-the-week plots.

Still, Bakula’s likeability and affable support from Dean Stockwell make most of the 95 episodes in circulation a pleasant enough waste of your time.

Futurama – Saturday 8 PM, Sky ThreeLong since banished from terrestrial screens, Futurama can still be caught in this double bill slot, kicking off at the precise moment most of its target audience are downing their first pint of the weekend.

You know the story; a dysfunctional collection of cartoon misfits – including sweary robot Bender and young, dumb, Homer Simpson surrogate Fry – engage in 31st century hijinks. Hilarity doth ensue. Whackier, yet more adult than The Simpsons, Futurama ran for just four seasons. Shame on Fox, the studio responsible for its axing. And, also, shame on them for cancelling Tru Calling, Firefly and Dark Angel. We’ll let them off Sliders though. That should never have had a fourth series, never mind a fifth.

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Anyway, watch Futurama. It’s ace. Oh, and keep ‘em peeled for new episodes in 2008. Fox backtracked in 2006, announcing four straight to DVD movies. They’ll be chopped up into 16 syndicated episodes once every last cent has been juiced out of the animated sit com’s salivating fanbase. Yay!