From Katherine Ryan’s new sitcom, The Duchess, to Hugh Grant in A Very English Scandal and Cold Courage, the best on demand TV to watch this week
NETFLIX & STARZPLAY
Six-episode sitcom written by and starring Canadian stand-up Katherine Ryan. Katherine is a ceramicist (her brand is called ‘Kiln ’em Softly’) and single mum who can’t stand the wastrel father of her daughter but wants to get pregnant by him again. It’s er… complicated. How will the thoroughly decent, reliable chap she is currently in a relationship with feel about this?
Six-episode sitcom written by and starring Canadian stand-up Katherine Ryan as a ceramicist and single mum who wants to get pregnant again by the wastrel father of her daughter
Katherine doesn’t really care. ‘We might as well enjoy men as temporary figures and focus on what is best for our children,’ she reasons. There are some great one-liners, particularly when Katherine spars with the other mums at the school gates and with her useless ex. Netflix, from Friday
The Social Dilemma
Thanks to social media we’re more connected to each other but, as this documentary contends, we are also less connected to reality. Do we control social media, or does it control us? It’s certainly responsible for the spread of conspiracy theories and political polarisation, and possibly for mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
Contributors include former high-level Silicon Valley insiders now desperately worried about the global impact on society of companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, all of which have teams of brilliant people dedicated to analysing your activities on your computer, tablet and phone. Netflix, from Wednesday
Power Book II: The Ghost
This spin-off from Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson’s crime drama picks up the story days after its sister show’s finale. Michael Rainey Jr. stars as Tariq, who is desperate to escape his father’s criminal world. But attending an Ivy League university while supporting his family – including his mother, who needs a lawyer to get her off a murder charge – isn’t cheap. To pay for it, Tariq becomes embroiled with a gangster family. Clifford ‘Method Man’ Smith and Mary J. Blige co-star. StarzPlay, from Sunday
Second series of the aimiably daft French comedy. When would-be entrepreneur Joseph Hazan can’t get his idea for a new app off the ground he turns his family’s failing kosher butcher shop into a cannabis cafe in preparation for the drug’s legalisation. This brings the Hazans into contact with some hardened criminals, and the first season ended with the family being forced to grow weed for gangsters. Netflix, from Friday
SKY, BRITBOX, DISNEY+ & ACORN TV
If you thought BritBox was all about giving viewers an opportunity to watch classic British telly, think again. To entice new subscribers, it’s also backing a few exclusive new shows. The revamped Spitting Image is among the highlights to come, but before that streams, there’s a chance to see this eight-part international crime drama starring John Simm, Caroline Goodall and Arsher Ali.
This eight-part international crime drama starring John Simm (above, with Sofia Pekkari and Pihla Viitala), Caroline Goodall and Arsher Ali is based on a series of novels by Pekka Hiltunen
Based on a series of novels by Pekka Hiltunen, it focuses on two Finnish women who, on arrival in London, become embroiled with a secret organisation known as The Studio, which aims to cut down to size anyone it feels is getting too powerful, rich and dangerous. BritBox, available now
The final part of this gripping trilogy about the parlous state of Italian politics in the 1990s is just as shocking as the first two series (1992 and 1993). Corruption is rife and competing forces are battling for power as the populist Silvio Berlusconi plots his path to the top. Based on real events, this fictionalised drama features archive footage and has been compared to House Of Cards. Sky/NOW TV, available now
Anna Friel and Daniel Mays are on top form in this three-part drama by Tony Marchant. Paula Radnor (Friel) is a probation officer assigned to Eddie Mottram (Mays), who has spent ten years in jail for the murder of his girlfriend. As he struggles to cope with life on the outside, she becomes convinced he’s innocent, and the line between her personal and professional lives begins to blur… Acorn TV, from Monday
Summer Of Rockets
Stephen Poliakoff’s critically acclaimed Cold War drama centres on Samuel, a Russian-born Jewish inventor of hearing aids, who is forced by MI5 to spy on his friend Kathleen, her husband Richard Shaw MP and Lord Arthur Wallington.
Stephen Poliakoff’s critically acclaimed Cold War features Keeley Hawes, Linus Roache (above, with Hawes), Toby Stephens and Timothy Spall among its excellent cast
The excellent cast includes Keeley Hawes and Linus Roache (below), Toby Stephens and Timothy Spall. BritBox, from Thursday
Jo Brand and Morwenna Banks created this bittersweet comedy about staff in children’s services of a fictional council. Brand also stars as Rose, a senior social worker whose bizarre domestic set-up often gets in the way of her work. Alan Davies plays her well-meaning colleague, while Himesh Patel is Nitin, a former police officer who believes in sticking to the rules. BritBox, from Thursday
Shortly before taking the lead in Doctor Who, Jodie Whittaker played a nurse who, after being sacked for whistleblowing, moves to Edinburgh, steals the identity of her friend (an actual doctor) and attempts to start a new life in the first series of writer Dan Sefton’s anthology medical drama.
The second run stars Alfred Enoch as a wounded soldier whose convalescence in a foreboding hospital takes a nasty turn. Sharon Small, Blake Harrison, John Hannah and Ashley Jensen are among the supporting cast. BritBox, from Thursday
Spies In Disguise
Will Smith, Tom Holland and Karen Gillan are among the vocal cast of this animated espionage comedy. Slick superspy Lance and chaotic scientist Walter are forced to work together on a secret mission to save the world. As the assignment begins, Lance is accidentally transformed into a pigeon. Can Walter can turn him back into the debonair man he once was? Disney+, from Friday
Powerful five-part documentary about Greg Kelley, a star high-school footballer in Texas with a bright future – until he was accused by a four-year-old boy of molestation. Kelley’s family and friends were adamant he was innocent; others believed with equal conviction he was guilty. Kelley was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in jail, but was later exonerated. How did this appalling miscarriage of justice happen? Sky/NOW TV, available now
BBC iPLAYER & ALL 4
A Very English Scandal
Both Hugh Grant as Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as his lover Norman Scott are outstanding in this acclaimed three-part drama based on John Preston’s bestseller. It tells the story of the extraordinary 1970s episode in British politics when Thorpe was tried for conspiracy to murder.
Both Hugh Grant as Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe and Ben Whishaw as his lover Norman Scott are outstanding in this acclaimed three-part drama based on John Preston’s bestseller
Thorpe, a married man, father and a talented politician, was accused of being involved in a plot to hire a hitman – albeit a spectacularly incompetent one – to kill Scott, a younger man with whom he’d had a brief sexual relationship.
The series, directed by Stephen Frears and adapted by Preston, Russell T. Davies and Sarah Phelps, begins with Thorpe and Scott meeting and ends shortly after the notorious 1979 trial. BBC iPlayer, available now
Not the original sci-fi series from the 1970s but the brilliant remake from the 2000s. Filming was delayed by 9/11 because aspects of the storyline resembled what was happening in real life. Cylons, sentient robots initially built by humans and now virtually indistinguishable from them, turn against their creators and all but wipe them out in a surprise attack.
The survivors are now refugees and must try to overcome their differences and find their way back to their legendary planet of origin – Earth (if there even is such a place) – while avoiding being obliterated by the Cylons. The show deftly juggles heavyweight philosophical themes with gripping drama and thrilling action sequences. BBC iPlayer, available now
Timothy Olyphant is the charismatic but tough US marshall Raylan Givens in this hugely enjoyable crime series adapted from the Elmore Leonard stories. Stetson-wearing Givens is resolutely old school and his unconventional but ‘justified’ methods see him reassigned to his old home turf of Harlan County in the Appalachian region of Kentucky.
Timothy Olyphant is the charismatic but tough US marshall Raylan Givens in this hugely enjoyable crime series adapted from the Elmore Leonard stories
His tangles with colourful clans of local criminals are sometimes complicated by his past in the area and by his personal relationships. Justified, which ran to six seasons, has crackling dialogue, compelling characters, great humour and a rich ‘hillbilly noir’ atmosphere. All 4, from Friday
The first series of this fly-on-the-wall documentary, Britain’s Youngest Football Boss, followed the fortunes of West Ham United’s women’s team. Now it’s back with a new name, but the premise remains the same. Attendances are booming following the Women’s World Cup, and West Ham are keen to ride the wave of that success as they prepare for their second season in the Women’s Super League. BBC3/BBC iPlayer, available now
Pamela Adlon’s joyous comedy about a struggling actress juggling crummy bit-parts while single-handedly raising three headstrong daughters is an under-the-radar delight. Adlon plays Sam Fox (not that one) with a disarmingly raw openness, while her three co-stars Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood and Olivia Edward scene-steal in turn. Seasons 1-3 are already available, and season 4 starts tonight. Celia Imrie has a ball as the family’s loose canon of a grandmother. BBC iPlayer, from Sunday
Why is there such a buzz about..?
We all thought we knew how the cinema year proper would restart. Dates chopped and changed, but it was always going to be Tenet first and Mulan second – big films that would get cinemas back in business.
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet has taken more than £5 million in its first week. But the powers that be at Disney have taken a different tack, deciding that their live-action remake of Mulan will be available exclusively on their home-entertainment platform, Disney+, where it will initially be available – for as many viewings as you like – for an additional £19.99.
Liu Yifei is good in the title role of Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan but it’s a very different film to the original 1998 cartoon
So what do you get for your money? Well, a very different film to the original 1998 cartoon. Out go the songs, the comedy animals and Eddie Murphy’s extraordinary voice performance as Mushu, the small but noisy dragon who protects Mulan as, disguised as a man, she trains as a soldier in the Chinese Emperor’s Imperial Army.
In comes lots of female empowerment, a wicked but insightful witch played by Gong Li and a rather poorly visualised and non-speaking phoenix. There’s still a bit of skinny-dipping, some nice comedy with the matchmaker and an extraordinary ‘I’m Spartacus’ moment. There’s some killing too – hence the rare 12A certificate for a Disney film.
Liu Yifei is good in the title role, while New Zealand film-maker Niki Caro, best known for Whale Rider, channels Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to decent effect but is heavily dependent on wire-work and visual effects. It’s not Mulan as we know it but it’s not bad.