Time was, the purpose of premium channels such as HBO and Cinemax was to present movies recently out of the theaters. Occasionally these channels might also air a stand-up comedy or musical special but movies were their bread and butter. Viewers loved them too. Where else could they see popular films for a minimal monthly charge in the comfort of their homes?
That was then. Now if you subscribe to Netflix or Amazon’s Screening Room, you can see movies on your TV anytime you want. With this kind of competition facing them, premium channels knew if they were to survive, they would need to develop something different: their own scripted shows.
HBO and Showtime achieved great success with their growing staple of original programming. The most recent channel to dive into the mix is Cinemax with their new drama Strike Back. This marks the first time Cinemax has worked with UK broadcaster Sky to produce an original drama series.
Strike Back couldn’t be more topical. The story is one of intrigue and espionage and concerns a “charismatic former U.S. Special Forces operative who joins forces with a stealth military unit” to thwart the attack of a sinister and crafty international terrorist group. Section 20 is the code name of this elite military unit within the British government. Its job is to obliterate the threat of high risk targets.
The first couple of episodes were immensely watchable, filled with suspense and twists you never see coming. The characters are attractive and charismatic, especially Damien Scott (Sullivan Stapleton), the cocky, panty-chasing former Delta Force operative who, although dishonorably discharged from the Force, is needed by Section 20 for his knowledge of terrorist activities. His partner, the more by-the-book Sargent Michael Stonebridge (Philip Winchester), presents a perfect foil for Scott.
Led by Colonel Eleanor Grant (Amanda Mealing), Section 20 sets up a covert operation in New Delhi, with hopes of capturing a known terrorist they believe is staying in a plush hotel there. Scott and Winchester set off to investigate but become hostages along with the other guests when terrorists take over the hotel.
If at times the plot seems somewhat implausible and the nudity and sex gratuitous, it can be overlooked. The show is fast paced, crackling with smart dialogue and rife with an interesting array of baddies who, on occasion, thwart the heroic efforts of the Section 20 good guys; Strike Back's entertainment factor is high.
Perhaps inspired by the success of his former X-Files colleague, Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad), Frank Spotniz joined co-executive producer and show developer Dan Percival (HBO's Dirty Wars) to produce the ten-episode series, which is based on the Chris Ryan novel. Spotniz also wrote the first four installments.
While it’s no Breaking Bad, Strike Back is good for what it is: a show that concentrates more on the action than the cerebral, and is sure to keep viewers eager to find out what the next installment will bring.
Strike Back airs on Fridays at 10pm ET on Cinemax.