At the risk of repetition, let me say once again that it's nice when foreign shows debut here at almost the same time as they do abroad. Recently, the dark and disturbing Hannibal began on AXN one day after its international premiere. Now the mob-drama-with-a-difference, Red Widow, launched on Zee Café, a few weeks after its opening in America. Obviously, not every international show that's aired on English entertainment channels is worth your time. (For example, I couldn't bring myself to follow One Tree Hill - there's only that much of American high school culture one can take before turning catatonic. Anyway, we've seen it all a hundred times before - the girlfriend-boyfriend thing, the bullying, the general weirdness of American teens; I hope fervently that the reality is far removed from TV shows. If not, the prospect is simply too dire to contemplate.)
But the depressing truth is that even very average foreign shows seem interesting because they're so different from what we're used to on our channels (the relentless shaadi-ghar-parivar-bahu stuff, which is about as engaging as leftover dinner from the last decade. I feel exhausted even saying this because it must be the 127,659th time I have. But there you are, it has to be said because we're still force-fed shows built around every possible permutation and combination of the traditional family saga).
So Red Widow seems a much more attractive show than it is. It is the story of Marta, a suburban housewife, whose husband was into 'import-export' (read smuggling soft drugs). But suddenly things go horribly wrong and he's murdered by an unknown assailant. Marta wants to flee from this illegal, dangerous life, but she realises that to keep herself and her three children safe, she has no choice but to get into it - and get entangled with the sophisticated, sinister crime boss, Nicholae Schiller. (Why do so many underworld kingpins look like they've just stepped out of the pages of a men's magazine?)
The show is reasonably entertaining if a little simplistic. I was intrigued to see that Marta's role is played by an actress called Radha Mitchell. Some Googling revealed this bit of trivia: her name is actually Radha Rani and she was named thus because her parents were deeply influenced by Hindu spirituality. And finally. Star World is showing Mad Men and everyone knows that the show is about the advertising industry, set in an era when people smoked all the time. So what are the makers supposed to do? Not show their characters smoking? Or - as the channel has done - paste a sign saying 'Smoking Kills' in the middle of the screen for the entire duration of the episode and rob audiences of all viewing pleasure?
Sometimes, good intentions can go far too far.