fifa

This week we have three major sporting events, a potentially interesting new drama from TNT on tap and news of a highly regarded Belgian detective thriller that is available on Netflix.

Thursday the eyes of the vast majority of the world will be on South America as the 2014 World Cup kicks off in Brazil. Soccer, or football as it is known in the rest of the globe, has gained in popularity here in the US over recent years with the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League generating decent ratings. Major League Soccer continues to expand although it is fair to say that the sport will never reach the heights that it sees in Europe. There soccer is a fundamental part of the social fabric, particularly in a major population area such as London with six sides in the Premier League and 14 professional teams in all. Combine the stereotypical urban and inner city passion associated with Basketball, the storied history of Baseball, the weekend event nature of Football and the blanket coverage of the Kardashian family and you reach an approximation of the scale of the support that permeates soccer outside the US.

Still there’s no denying that a whole generation of soccer players in the US now tune into the month long event that kicks off with the host nation Brazil against Croatia in a Group A match up on ESPN Thursday at 1pm. Mexico plays Cameroon at 9am on Friday in a game that can be seen on both ESPN 2 and Univision with the US finally into action next Monday against Ghana at 3pm back on ESPN.

The NBA Finals and the Stanley Cup are also on the schedule in what is a busy week for sports’ fans. Two games into a rematch of last year’s series between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs and the NBA Finals already appear headed to a full seven game series. ABC has the action from the American Airlines Arena on Tuesday and Thursday before returning to San Antonio on Sunday. Monday it’s all about the Cup as the Los Angeles Kings visit Madison Square Garden in New York to play the Rangers in the third game of the Stanley Cup Finals. LA won the first two games in overtime and I remain of the opinion that there is nothing more dramatic in sports than the Stanley Cup Finals.

Meanwhile Steven Bochco returns to television with a new drama Murder in the First, Monday evening at 10pm on TNT. The co-creator of Hill Street Blues, LA Law and NYPD Blue, to name just three, doesn’t always hit the mark – Cop Rock and Bay City Blues come to mind – but when he does it is television gold. Murder in the First is set in San Francisco and stars Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson as homicide detectives who discover that there supposedly unrelated murder investigations are both linked to entrepreneur Erich Blunt. Tom Felton, in a very smart piece of casting, is the antagonist of the show as said Silicon Valley prodigy with audiences already predisposed to distrust the character after Felton’s stint as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series.

And lastly a quick heads up that Salamander, the highly acclaimed detective thriller from Belgium is available for streaming on Netflix. I’ll have a full review of the show in the next week or so, tentatively scheduled for next Friday, but I’ve been waiting for a number of months for this to reach the US after hearing a very positive reaction when it ran on BBC Four in the UK.

– Wallace Poulter