From Juno Temple in Little Birds to Away and The Bridge: The best on demand TV this week


SKY, BRITBOX, DISNEY+ & ACORN TV

 

Little Birds

In the first scene, Lucy (Juno Temple) is leaving the psychiatric facility where she has been a patient. Her doctor gives her a bottle of experimental pills, ‘a mood-levelling tranquillity elixir’, and tells her to ‘have a great trip’. 

It’s an ambiguous farewell because although Lucy, a troubled American heiress, is off on a real journey to Morocco where she is to marry an English lord (Hugh Skinner), many scenes have a woozy, slightly hallucinatory quality.

In the first scene, Lucy (Juno Temple, above far right) is leaving the psychiatric facility where she has been a patient

Tangier in 1955 is a sultry, febrile, bohemian city and Lucy finds herself embroiled in political and amorous intrigue. Will this apparently fragile little bird have occasion to use the specially made gun her arms manufacturer father gives her ‘just in case trouble comes a-calling’..? 

Take a guess. This is a stylish, visually ravishing drama. Sky/NOW TV,  or on Stan in Australia, available now

 

Capital 

This biting satire is based on the novel by John Lanchester and centres on the residents of a fictional South London street. Pepys Road was once a working-class area but sky-rocketing property values mean each home is now worth over £1 million. 

They’re a disparate bunch, including an old woman who’s lived in Pepys Road for decades and a City banker with a Range Rover in the drive. All have their own problems, and the tensions escalate after each of them receives a mysterious postcard with a sinister message, ‘We want what you have’. 

The three-part drama was written by Peter Bowker (The A Word, Eric And Ernie) and first aired on the BBC in 2015 and the fine cast includes Toby Jones, Rachael Stirling, Gemma Jones, and Lesley Sharp. Acorn TV, available now

 

The Prisoner 

Patrick McGoohan created and starred in this surreal 17-episode 1967 show that captured the psychedelic zeitgeist with themes of freedom, individualism and rebellion against authority. 

McGoohan plays the captive known as Number Six. In the famous opening sequence he resigns from the secret service, is drugged and kidnapped and wakes up in the mysterious ‘Village’, a prison disguised as an Italianate holiday camp (in reality Portmeirion in North Wales), from which he spends the entire series trying to escape, only to be foiled by a malevolent bouncing white bubble every time. 

Patrick McGoohan (above) created and starred in this surreal 17-episode 1967 show that captured the psychedelic zeitgeist with themes of freedom and individualism

Patrick McGoohan (above) created and starred in this surreal 17-episode 1967 show that captured the psychedelic zeitgeist with themes of freedom and individualism

Fans still argue over the meaning of the crazy finale and, according to popular myth, McGoohan had to go into temporary hiding to avoid baffled viewers demanding an explanation. BritBox, available now

 

Mulan 

This hotly anticipated live-action remake was originally set for a cinema release but has been repeatedly postponed because of the pandemic. It’s now being shown on Disney+ and you can watch it from the comfort of your home, for an extra, somewhat pricey one-off payment of £19.99. 

Mulan is based on the Chinese legend about a young woman who masquerades as a man to go to war, and is set to include some major differences from the 1998 animated original. 

There will be no Mushu and Li Shang, Mulan’s love interest in the original, will be replaced by Chen Honghui (Yoson An). Chinese actress Liu Yifei (above) plays Mulan

There will be no Mushu and Li Shang, Mulan’s love interest in the original, will be replaced by Chen Honghui (Yoson An). Chinese actress Liu Yifei (above) plays Mulan

It has had a full overhaul from story to songs (mostly cut). There will be no Mushu, the fast-talking dragon sidekick made famous by Eddie Murphy, and Li Shang, Mulan’s love interest in the original, will be replaced by Chen Honghui (Yoson An). 

Chinese actress Liu Yifei plays Mulan. Disney+, from Friday

 

Keeping Faith 

The hit Welsh drama starring Eve Myles that broke BBC iPlayer records had everything to do with the way in which the ferociously feisty Faith Howells (Eve Myles) was a kind of beleaguered everywoman, battling to keep family and her work as a lawyer together while she contended with the consequences of her husband’s behaviour – in this case, simply vanishing into thin air. 

The hit Welsh drama starring Eve Myles had everything to do with the way in which the ferociously feisty Faith Howells (Eve Myles, above) was a kind of beleaguered everywoman

The hit Welsh drama starring Eve Myles had everything to do with the way in which the ferociously feisty Faith Howells (Eve Myles, above) was a kind of beleaguered everywoman

After Faith discovered there was a lot more to her Evan than she’d known about – and none of it good – the biggest shock of all came at the end of series one. The second series had yet more bombshells and, with the third outing in the offing, here’s a chance to play catch-up. Acorn TV, available now

 

Host 

Hugely effective low-budget horror in which a group of pals hold a seance on Zoom, the video conferencing app, and, inevitably, get much, much more than they bargain for. 

It’s short (57 minutes), sharp and shocking and has become a huge hit, generating the sort of social-media buzz that big studio movies dream of. Mostly filmed on Zoom, Host is the lockdown brainchild of British director Rob Savage (who took charge of several episodes of the bonkers ancient Briton drama Britannia), producer Jed Shepherd and writer Gemma Hurley, who recruited some of their actor friends to star in it. 

Watch it on your laptop. shudder.com (7-day free trial, £3.99 per month), available now

 

NETFLIX

 

Away

A Chinese woman, an Indian, a Russian, an Anglo-African and an American are on a spaceship. Not a joke but the premise of this epic new series starring Hilary Swank as Commander Emma Green, leading a crew on the first mission to Mars.

the premise of this epic new series starring Hilary Swank (above, with Brit Ray Panthaki) as Commander Emma Green, leading a crew on the first mission to Mars

the premise of this epic new series starring Hilary Swank (above, with Brit Ray Panthaki) as Commander Emma Green, leading a crew on the first mission to Mars

Naturally, they very quickly have what Mission Control calls ‘a situation’. If you’re not a sci-fi fan, don’t be put off. The focus is on the characters and their relationships with loved ones left behind, and Away packs a powerful emotional heft as the tension escalates in an excellent ten-parter. From Friday

 

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things 

Charlie Kaufman’s films – Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind – are either charmingly quirky or disturbingly weird, depending on your point of view. 

The latest ‘metaphysical thriller’ written and directed by Kaufman is quite definitely in the latter camp. The unnamed protagonist, played by Jessie Buckley, is taking a road trip with her new-ish boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to meet his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis) for the first time. 

It’s when the couple reach the remote farmhouse that things really begin to get, well, disturbingly weird. From Friday

 

Love Guaranteed 

Susan is a dedicated lawyer whose small law firm is struggling to keep its head above water. In a bid to save it, she takes on a lucrative case brought by Nick, a handsome and charming client who wants to sue a dating website that guarantees to find love for its customers – he doesn’t believe such a thing is possible. 

As Susan and Nick work together, sparks fly – and you can probably guess what happens next… Rachael Leigh Cook (above) and Damon Wayans Jr take the leads in this romcom

As Susan and Nick work together, sparks fly – and you can probably guess what happens next… Rachael Leigh Cook (above) and Damon Wayans Jr take the leads in this romcom

As they work together, sparks fly – and you can probably guess what happens next… Rachael Leigh Cook and Damon Wayans Jr take the leads in this likeable romcom. From Thursday

 

Young Wallander 

The makers of the original Swedish series based on Henning Mankell’s best-selling novels have done a sort of Endeavour/Morse, imagining detective Kurt Wallander as a young man but set in the present day. 

In the opener of six episodes, Adam Pålsson (above) is a newly graduated Wallander, who has to overcome his guilt to solve a crime after failing to save a teenager from a nasty attack

In the opener of six episodes, Adam Pålsson (above) is a newly graduated Wallander, who has to overcome his guilt to solve a crime after failing to save a teenager from a nasty attack

In the opener of six episodes, Adam Pålsson (watch out for him in Moscow Noir on Channel 4 from September 13) is a newly graduated Wallander, who has to overcome his guilt to solve a crime after failing to save a teenager from a nasty attack. From Thursday

 

Chef’s Table: BBQ 

Vegans and vegetarians look away now – the roving Emmy-nominated culinary show is back and the emphasis this time is very much on meat. Barbecue experts including 85-year-old Texan Tootsie Tomanetz (who still takes charge of the coals at her own restaurant), Australian Lennox Hastie, who specialises in Outback cuisine, South Carolina’s Rodney Scott and traditional Mayan chef Rosalia Chay Chuc are among the most remarkable of those demonstrating their mouth-watering skills on the coals. From Wednesday

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Selling Sunset (Netflix)

The series that follows the goings-on at the Oppenheim Group, a Los Angeles real estate agent specialising in luxurious properties, quickly rose from being a sort-of reality show to a genuine TV phenomenon. 

It’s now Netflix’s highest-rated programme, both here and across the Atlantic.

Much of the allure is the property- porn backdrop: swooping walk-throughs of multi-million-dollar homes, the kind where people enjoy infinity pools with views over the glowing city. 

The women include Mary Fitzgerald and Maya Vander (above with Fitzgerald)

The women include Mary Fitzgerald and Maya Vander (above with Fitzgerald)

(The developers of a newly built $40 million property even had nearby telephone poles knocked down so that the new owners could have a completely unobstructed view while entertaining on their roof terrace).

However, the real reason why Selling Sunset is unmissable is the obviously fake friendships and real beef between the six impossibly glamorous women who work at the Oppenheim Group.

The women include wholesome newbie Chrishell Stause, TV’s perfect sassy villain Christine Quinn, quiet assassin Davina Potratz, Mary Fitzgerald, no-nonsense Maya Vander and Heather Rae Young. 

The producers maintain the show isn’t scripted, but that some storylines are ‘amped up’ a bit to enhance the drama.

After the third season was released, Christine revealed that founder Brett has left Oppenheim to set up a new agency so we can expect to see even more fireworks in the next season.

Kelly Woodward 

 

BBC iPLAYER & ALL 4

 

The Bridge

The daddy of all Scandi-noir thrillers and arguably still the best. It opens with the weirdest discovery ever – a dead body, severed at the waist, straddling the Sweden/ Denmark border on the Oresund Bridge connecting Malmö and Copenhagen.

Enjoy again Sofia Helin as the socially inept Swedish detective Saga Norén and her rather more charismatic Danish counterpart, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia, above with Helin)

Enjoy again Sofia Helin as the socially inept Swedish detective Saga Norén and her rather more charismatic Danish counterpart, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia, above with Helin)

Enjoy again Sofia Helin as the socially inept Swedish detective Saga Norén (with her sludge-coloured 1970s Porsche, penchant for leather trousers and brutal approach to dating) and her rather more charismatic Danish counterpart, Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia, of Killing Eve fame). BBC iPlayer, seasons 1 and 2, available now

 

Code 37: Sex Crimes 

Now in its third season on Walter Presents, this police drama roams the often weird and sometimes not so wonderful world – rape, incest, prostitution, pornography – of a Ghent-based sex-crimes unit. 

At its heart is punky female chief investigator Hannah Maes (Veerle Baetens), who leads a team of chauvinistic males – old-timer Charles, macho Bob and blond rookie Kevin – and solves Belgium’s most abhorrent crimes while continuing a personal quest to avenge her mother’s death. 

There are echoes of 1970s cop dramas here, and the storylines sometimes feel a little simplistic, while Flemish is not the easiest tongue on the ear (no sex pun intended). But if you like your police dramas subtitled, it’s worth a watch. All 4, available now

 

Skin 

This moving six-part series follows a group of young people seeking help with skin conditions that have blighted their lives. In an age in which image is everything, they feel their appearance and confidence have been wrecked by issues ranging from acne to psoriasis. 

Among those featured is Amy, who is an ambassador for the Birthmark Support Group and is considering having treatment to lighten the port-wine stain on her face. BBC iPlayer, from today

 

When Bob Marley Came To Britain 

Had he not succumbed to cancer in 1981, Bob Marley would have celebrated his 75th birthday this year. The reggae icon is much loved, particularly in his native Jamaica and in Britain, which he regarded as his second home. 

This touching film explores the time he spent here in self-imposed exile in the late 1970s, from recording key albums to performing secret gigs and playing football in Battersea Park. 

Those who got to know him, including photographer Dennis Morris and broadcaster Don Letts, discuss his impact on their lives, as well as his influence on politics, culture and a generation of black Britons. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Sakho & Mangane 

There’s a touch of black magic about this African crime drama, shot in the Senegalese capital of Dakar. It focuses on the partnership between two very different cops, the cool and calm Sakho and his boisterous colleague Lieutenant Mangane (Yann Gael). 

It focuses on the partnership between two very different cops, the cool and calm Sakho and his boisterous colleague Lieutenant Mangane (Yann Gael, above)

It focuses on the partnership between two very different cops, the cool and calm Sakho and his boisterous colleague Lieutenant Mangane (Yann Gael, above)

They’re paired together by the ambitious and newly promoted Mama Bâ, who is pinning her hopes on the duo to solve the high-profile murder of a Belgian ethnologist, which she believes will help her gain the respect of the men under her command. Walter Presents/All4, from Friday

 

AMAZON & STARZPLAY

 

The Boys 

Such is Amazon’s confidence in its demented superhero satire that it has ordered a third series before the eight-episode second has even aired. Its confidence is well placed. 

The Boys is funny, fast-paced and full of mayhem. The titular vigilantes who try to keep in line the amoral celebrity superheroes, led by the evil Homelander, are on the run. 

Meanwhile, there’s a new ‘supe’ in town – Stormfront. She’s a dab hand with Instagram, popular with the fans and seems extremely ambitious. And Homelander isn’t happy… From Friday

 

The Great 

It’s not the most accurate account ever made of how Princess Sophie Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst came to be Empress of Russia but this ten-part series is definitely the most entertaining. 

Nicholas Hoult is a delight as the tyrannical man-child Tsar Peter III whose every whim – however mad, bad or dangerous – must be indulged by his subservient court, while Elle Fanning is perfect as the ambitious Catherine, who is determined to make the country a better place. 

Nicholas Hoult is a delight as Tsar Peter III whose every whim must be indulged by his subservient court, while Elle Fanning (above) is perfect as the ambitious Catherine

Nicholas Hoult is a delight as Tsar Peter III whose every whim must be indulged by his subservient court, while Elle Fanning (above) is perfect as the ambitious Catherine

Think Blackadder crossed with The Inbetweeners – side-splittingly funny, slightly ridiculous and occasionally very rude… StarzPlay, available now

 

All Or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur 

Amazon’s fly-on-the-dressing-room-wall sports docuseries moves to North London and the state-of-the-art new stadium at White Hart Lane. Tottenham Hotspur’s tumultuous 2019/20 season saw the departure of head coach Mauricio Pochettino and the arrival of former ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho – not necessarily good news for Spurs fans but a winner for the show’s producers. 

Tottenham Hotspur’s tumultuous 2019/20 season saw the departure of head coach Mauricio Pochettino and the arrival of former ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho (above)

Tottenham Hotspur’s tumultuous 2019/20 season saw the departure of head coach Mauricio Pochettino and the arrival of former ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho (above)

Follow all the highs and lows of the pandemic-interrupted season as the first three of nine episodes drop this week. From Monday

 

Bosch 

All good things come to an end – and that includes Bosch. The hugely popular crime show about Special Forces Operative turned LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus ‘Harry’ Bosch has been renewed for a seventh season – but that will be its last. 

Catch the first six outings for Titus Welliver as the inscrutable Bosch, an officer with a grudging respect for the rules as he hunts down his own mother’s murderer. Available now

 

FILMS 

The King of Staten Island 

Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson stars in and co-writes a very personal film about a dope-smoking slacker on Staten Island who’s haunted by the death of his firefighter father. 

It’s funny, dark and too long but moving too once you know that Davidson’s fireman father died in the 9/11 attacks. Sky Store & Rakuten, from Monday

 

Bad Education 

An exuberant tangle Catholic guilt starring Gael García Bernal (above)

An exuberant tangle Catholic guilt starring Gael García Bernal (above)

Pedro Almodóvar’s 2004 film is an exuberant tangle of camp, conspiracy and Catholic guilt starring Gael García Bernal. But there’s a darker side too, as a young man approaches an old friend – now a film-maker – and offers him a story about the sexual abuse he suffered at the school they both attended. Mubi, from Friday

 

Vivarium 

Perhaps the ultimate lockdown film, with a young couple trapped in a suburban house they cannot escape. Whatever Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) do, they always end up back there.

And then a baby arrives in a cardboard box… Available now on most platflorms

Matthew Bond 



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