Good news: Mini-series -- ones where stories actually end -- are back

This is the fifth of six stories in the TV season preview I sent to papers. Scroll down and you'll see one on non-fiction; scroll up and you'll see the others.

By Mike Hughes

The good news is
that mini-series are back, big-time.

They had vanished --
so thoroughly that the Emmys temporarily dropped the mini-series
category. Now they've returned, working to tell a deep story, yet
have a real ending. The newcomers include:

The best

-- “Escape at
Dannemora” (Nov. 18, Showtime). Three years ago, the world was
intrigued by the search for two escaped convicts in upstate New York.
Now that story is told from all sides by director Ben Stiller. Benico
Del Toro and Paul Dano are excellent as the cons, but the highlight
is Patricia Arquette's brilliant performance as the prison employee
who was part of the scheme.

The rest

-- “Jack Irish”
(arrived Sept. 10, www.acorn,tv). Guy Pearce, a movie co-star in the
U.S., returns to Australia for his second mini-series as Irish, a
trouble-prone lawyer. It's a good one, with an intense plot that has
international implications.

-- “The Romanoffs”
(Oct. 12, Amazon Prime). Here's an anthology, with a difference:
Characters claim to be descended from Russia's last royal family.
Matthew Weiner created it, with stars including Diane Lane, Amanda
Peet and (from Weiner's “Mad Men”) John Slattery and Christina

-- “Clique” (10
p.m. Wednesdays, Pop, Nov. 7). This six-week, seven-hour British tale
starts with two girlhood friends reaching the University of
Edinburgh. Then one is lured into an elite group leading a lavish –
and dangerous?-- life. Her friend tries to lure her back.

-- “Dirty John”
(this fall, date pending, Bravo). Debra Newell – an interior
designer with talent and taste – knew she liked John Meehan, a
slick and handsome guy. She didn't know he was an ex-con scam artist.
That true story became a podcast and then this film with Connie
Britton and Eric Bana.

-- And “Masterpiece
Theatre” (9 p.m. Sundays, PBS) keeps turning out masterful
miniseries. The current one (“The Miniaturist”) is dark and
dreary, but on Sept. 30, two terrific shows will return, back-to-back
-- “Durrells in Corfu” at 8 p.m. and “Poldark” at 9. That
will be followed Oct. 21 with “The Woman in White,” a five-week
tale that starts with the sighting of a mysterious woman.