We have made it through January but February is still a month that needs good TV. The evenings are still long, and so they are perfect for curling up on the sofa and being entertained. TV is a gift that keeps on giving. When you think there is nothing new to watch, all the channels suddenly produce some new series or another season of one that you have previously enjoyed.
Jimmy (Martin Compston – Line Of Duty) and Tully (Tony Curran) are best friends, but 30 years after they met in their Glasgow home town, Tully has a confession: He has terminal cancer and has been given just four months to live, yet doesn’t want to undergo chemotherapy.
Along the way, Tully talks about his mother, Barbara (Elaine C Smith), having to sell her house to pay for her nursing home care, instead of being able to leave it to them, he starts making a list about what to do with his life, while Jimmy – now a successful writer who emigrated to London – tries to suggest he still goes for chemo, giving himself “extra time”, to which Tully dryly responds, “I was always shit at penalities”(!)
They also keep having flashbacks to the lads in the ’80s when they were best friends.
It is desperately sad but it deals sensitively with the issue of someone with a terminal disease wanting to take control of their death.
Here is one for the period drama fans and for anyone who loves a good costume or hairdo!
Seriously though, this is the story of two frightened teenagers trapped by their destinies – the wedding night of the dauphin and his new dauphine is humiliating and moving. Sadly, we know it doesn’t end well for them.
Watch out for the younger brother, the ‘Spare’ and his wife, who are grumpy and manipulative.
HAPPY VALLEY season 3
I suggested this series in my last Best TV article, and if you haven’t watched it, then you should. If you have not seen the first two seasons, then now is the time to catch up.
The third and final season sees Sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) discover the remains of a gangland murder victim in a drained reservoir. This sparks an unfortunate series of events that leads her to Tommy, the father of her grandson Ryan and her late daughter’s rapist.
AM I BEING UNREASONABLE?
Nic is a lonely mum who is grieving a loss she cannot tell anyone about. She feels trapped in her life, her depressing marriage, and the cat is missing. Her young son Ollie is the only thing that keeps her going because he is her main source of happiness. When new mum Jen moves to town, she and Nic quickly develop a deep friendship that brings a lot of joy and laughter, but threatens to bring up old history and secrets that Nic feels are better left in the past.
I am not a great reality TV viewer, however, this one I recently watched and loved it – I really loved it. Claudia Winkleman (another reason to love it) in a castle in the Highlands, presiding over a group of people playing what is essentially the party game Mafia over several days, with some I’m a Celebrity-style outdoor activities to break up all the talking.
THE LIGHT IN THE HALL
This six-part psychological thriller for S4C and Channel 4 is about a journalist obsessed by the murder of a woman from her own home town. They were both once part of the same friendship group but fell out as teenagers. Like huge Welsh hit Keeping Faith, it’s a bilingual drama filmed and broadcast in both Welsh (as Y Golau) and English. The cast is great, with Utopia‘s Alexandra Roach and Game of Thrones‘ Iwan Rheon alongside The Thick of It‘s Joanna Scanlan. It’s airing in English two episodes a week starting Wednesday the 4th of January on Channel 4 and All 4.
FAUDA SEASON 4
I think this is one of my top five series. And season 4 does not disappoint.
This is the most ambitious mission of the show’s four seasons, however, because it takes the team outside of Israel and the Palestinian Authority out to Belgium and Lebanon, as the team tries to rescue Gabi and flush out this massive Hezbollah plot. Of course, Doron will also get the opportunity to reintegrate himself with his work family, which is always the second major source of drama.
Fauda is just one of those shows that continues to bring the right level of action and tension, and each season is accessible to people who may not have watched all of the previous seasons. But your comfort with the series will vary, as it continues to be a series where the heroes and the villains are pretty well defined: The unit’s reason for being is to flush out Palestinian terror cells who are intent on killing as many Israelis as possible.
We don’t live in a country that’s constantly under threat by its immediate neighbours. However, this series highlights all of the issues, fears and, perhaps, more worryingly, that there is little chance of a solution and peace.
DEAD TO ME season 3
Jen’s husband recently died in a hit-and-run, and the sardonic widow is determined to solve the crime. Optimistic free spirit Judy has recently suffered a tragic loss of her own. The ladies meet at a support group and, despite their polar-opposite personalities, become unlikely friends. As the women bond over bottles of wine and a shared affinity for “The Facts of Life,” Judy tries to shield Jen from a shocking secret that could destroy her life as she knows it. The dark comedy — which explores the weirdly funny sides of grief, loss and forgiveness — features a cast that includes TV veterans Christina Applegate and Ed Asner.
Netflix’s new spy drama Treason raised hopes pre-release with its high calibre creative personnel. Charlie Cox, Ciaran Hinds, and Olga Kurylenko in front of the camera, and Matt Charman (“Bridge of Spies”) behind it seemed an enticing combination. However, there are some serious faults with the script and the plot starting with the waitress who walks in, off the street, to a private member’s club and then mixes a drink with poison and serves it to the head of MI6.
The series is set entirely in London and happens over the course of five days. Cox plays Adam Lawrence, who is thrust into becoming the head of MI6 when the erstwhile head, Martin Angelis (Hinds), is poisoned. Adam renews old acquaintances with a former SVR spy Kara (Kurylenko), who has come to “collect” her dues.
Adam is caught in the crosshairs of an even bigger political conspiracy unfolding to destabilise the country’s political landscape and must protect his family against all odds. With not one but three intelligence agencies involved, the storytelling does not end up reflecting their explosive convergence.
I did actually enjoy this series, even with its noticeable plot faults.
WOMEN AT WAR (subtitles)
I am just about to watch this so I can only tell you what I have heard from others who have watched it.
It’s a good French series about the involvement of women in WWI on the French side through the prism of four prototypal characters: a prostitute with a son in the army; a runaway competent nurse; an upper-class lady with a shady past; and a nun.
The story of the four characters intersect and find a common destiny in a French town near the front, confronted by the horrors of war.
Some of that conflict was well depicted, but other elements, maybe not so much. Historical accuracy is not the main element here (e.g. there was no gas attack until 1915, whereas all the action took place at the beginning of the war in 1914).
The depiction of war wounds, the morale of troops, the insufficient equipment (no helmet) and the treatment of the wounded seemed pretty spot on, though.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (film with subtitles)
All Quiet on the Western Front tells the gripping story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. Paul and his comrades experience first-hand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives and each other in the trenches. It is very graphic, 1917 meets Saving Private Ryan. Whilst we all know that WWI was a desperate and tragic loss of 17 million, 3 million lost on the Western Front, this film shows it from the perspective of the losing side. The film is nominated for many BAFTAs.
BANK OF DAVE (film)
Bank of Dave is the ‘true(ish)’ story, as this puts it, of Dave Fishwick, the Burnley businessman who wanted to set up a high street bank to help the local community. Rory Kinnear plays Dave Fishwick and he captures something of a man who is sensationally rich but has never lost touch with his humanity or roots.
Even though the film goes off-piste quite a bit, the story is still very warm and endearing. It’s the perfect Sunday afternoon feel-good film.
Sorry, no trailer.
MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street (Season 1)
A true crime docuseries looking into the fall of the financier, Bernie Madoff.
THE KINGS OF THE WORLD SEASON 1 (subtitles)
This Colombian drama series about five friends from the streets of Medellín empathetically paints a gripping portrait of a group of feral boys who struggle with breaking out of the script laid out for and by them. Street boys like them are made of and for violence. Their lives are both precious and precarious. As they hop on and hook their bikes onto freight trucks on Colombia’s steep winding country roads, their bravery could almost be mistaken for fearlessness. Instead, it’s a reminder that they’ve always lived on the edge. And they’ve made a home, however temporary and fragile, right there.
Armand Gamache (Alfred Molina), finds himself in the sleepy, charming Quebecois village of Three Pines to solve a perplexing mystery that soon unfolds into another, and another, until crime and secrecy has eventually stained every member of the populace. Throughout this, the legacy of violence against Indigenous Canadians, and especially law enforcement’s failure to bring its perpetrators to justice, threads through the story.
Riches on Prime Video explores power struggles within both the Richards family and Richards’ family company after the unexpected death of its patriarch and CEO, Stephan Richards (Hugh Quarshie). With his surviving family already bitterly divided by a literal ocean of differences, two of his estranged children from a previous relationship hail from America; his second family resided with him in England, the new struggle to secure control over the business brings the Richards to an explosive flashpoint. And Brendan Coyle (Mr. Bates in Downton Abbey) also stars in it.
The show “Jack Ryan” is a political thriller series based on the characters from Tom Clancy’s novels. This is season 3 and of course, is topical because it is Russian based.
At the end of Jack Ryan’s second season, Ryan’s mentor, CIA lifer James Greer (Wendell Pierce), allowed that his being tortured and nearly killed during their dangerous time together in Venezuela had inspired him to decelerate. Greer was done, out, finished; he was going to take his heart condition to a desk somewhere and look forward to retirement. This is why now, in season three, as Jack and Greer enjoy dinner in a piazza outside the Pantheon in Rome, the older man displays a measure of pride in what his CIA protege has become. “It does me good to see that you took so naturally to the field as a case officer.” Retirement can wait, though, because Jack’s Rome field work and steadfast analytical mind have also turned up a threatening prospect: somebody in Russia has seemingly reactivated a Soviet-era initiative called “Sokol” (“Falcon”), which aims to use small, radar-undetectable battlefield nukes to destabilize the Eastern Bloc and foment unrest on an international scale.
SHRINKING SEASON 1 (27TH JANUARY)
Written by Bill Lawrence (Scrubs, Ted Lasso), Brett Goldstein and Segel, this 10-episode comedy follows a grieving therapist (Jason Segel) who starts to break the rules and tell his clients exactly what he thinks. Ignoring his training and ethics, he finds himself making huge, tumultuous changes to people’s lives… including his own. Harrison Ford co-stars. Episodes 1 and 2 arrive together, followed by episodes weekly.
TRUTH BE TOLD SEASON 3 (20th January)
Octavia Spencer reprises her role as investigative reporter turned true crime podcaster (Poppy Scoville) to take on a new case. In Season 3, Poppy, frustrated by the lack of media attention for several young missing Black girls, teams with an unorthodox principal (Gabrielle Union) to keep the victims’ names in the public eye while chasing down leads to a suspected sex trafficking ring that may have ensnared them.
This is a three-part drama to air from the screenwriter of Dr. Who. It stars The Crown‘s Helena Bonham Carter as Crossroads actor Noele Gordon, whose unceremonious sacking after years on the popular soap is the meat of this drama.
Did you miss the new four-part thriller, Without Sin, on ITV’s new streaming service, ITVX. Starring Vicky McClure, the psychological drama tells the story of a grieving mother who makes a shocking discovery when she visits her daughter’s killer in prison. The series was written and filmed in Nottingham, from where McClure comes. She says: ‘I just really hope that the audience will enjoy, if they’re not from Nottingham, to see the city in all its glory. And then for those that are locals: it’s a big show, it’s a great show, it’s set here and it’s for the city.’
Comedian and writer Morwenna Banks has adapted Nick Hornby’s Funny Girl novel into this six-part Sky Comedy series starring Gemma Arterton, Rupert Everett and David Threlfall. Arterton plays Barbara Parker, who’s crowned Miss Blackpool in a 1960s beauty contest before moving to London to pursue her dream of becoming a comic.
For all our other TV recommendations, look here