Our Summer Guide to the best, must-watch TV and film

‘Tis the season of sport on TV, Euros 2020, Wimbledon and soon the Olympics. Normally I would not pen an article on best TV for summer as I would imagine that everyone, if they were not watching sport then they would be on holiday mode or soaking up the sun outside. However, as we are having a bit of a wet summer and the football and tennis are coming to an end, then I thought you might like some TV and film choices to while away those evenings.

THE GODFATHER OF HARLEM | APPLE TV

My husband and I are gripped by this true story of infamous crime boss Bumpy Johnson. We started at the beginning of season 1 and season 2 has recently become available so 20 episodes to keep you entertained. Bumby Johnson, the gang boss who controls Harlem, and has recently finished serving an 11 year prison sentence in Alcatraz returns to find the neighbourhood he once ruled in shambles.

The show’s central trinity – Johnson the gangster, Powell the congressman and Baptist pastor and Malcolm X the Muslim minister and revolutionary -are played by Forest Whitaker, Giancarlo Esposito and Nigel Thatch. And the main pleasure “Godfather of Harlem” affords, through five of its 10 episodes, is watching those actors go at it. Throw in a quirky performance by Vincent D’Onofrio as the mafia boss Vincent Gigante, Johnson’s primary antagonist, and there’s a high probability of entertainment at any given moment.

There are lots of side stories and some scenes involving torture so you may need to turn away.

SOMOS | NETFLIX

This is a gritty show about a real-life Mexican drugs cartel. 

In 2011, a DEA operation in the small Mexican border town of Allende went wrong, causing the local cartel to set up shop and start slaughtering the town’s residents. The new drama Somos. is a fictionalization of that time period, told from the perspective of the residents whose lives were ripped apart.

CLARKSON’S FARM | AMAZON PRIME

This is probably the most talked-about series this year. It shows Jeremy Clarkson in a different light from his previous TV roles. He is humble, self-deprecating, hardworking and very amusing. His supporting cast of leggy, Irish, girlfriend, Lisa Hogan, Cheerful Charlie the Land Manager, Kaleb -Jeremy’s very capable and proficient 21-year-old assistant and Gerald Cooper, a specialist in the construction and maintenance of dry stone walls, which form 40 miles of boundaries on the farm, all give this series a well-rounded and amusing insight into farming.

Gerald’s conversations with Clarkson are amiable but incomprehensible due to his strong local accent. Kaleb has no qualms in calling Jeremy an idiot when he gets it wrong which he does on numerous occasions. Charlie Ireland keeps Jeremy on track with the agricultural aspects of the crops, the complex details of government regulation and the financial consequences.  Rachael Sigee, writing for the i newspaper, described Charlie as “chronically sensible … a stickler for the rules who delivers increasingly bad news with the politely firm manners of a parish vicar.”

Apart from the entertainment value of this 8-part series, it gives one an insight into the turbulent and tough life of a British farmer. My whole family loved it and I have not heard of one friend who has also not enjoyed this series.

HEMINGWAY | BBC IPLAYER

Ernest Hemingway was nothing if not complicated. Ken Burns, the Director, describes him as “battlefield correspondent, big-game hunter and deep-sea fisherman, bullfight aficionado, brawler, lover and man about town”, but also a man whose literary influence runs deep. His eventful life was so full of incidents that the details here are compelling alone, but there is an interesting psychological edge too. The first episode clearly explains how Hemingway was a direct combination of his “judgmental, controlling, self-dramatising” It is a gripping profile. 6 parts.

LUPIN SERIES 2 | NETFLIX

Omar Sy is back as ‘gentleman thief’ Arsène Lupin, as Netflix’s biggest foreign-​language series to date continues. This is an absolute gem! A fun, smart and fast paced show. 100% bingeable…the only disappointment comes when you run out of episodes! 

TIME | BBC IPLAYER

Sean Bean and Stephen Graham are outstanding in this new 3-part prison drama from Jimmy McGovern. The story follows a new inmate, the schoolteacher Mark (Bean), and his prison officer Eric (Graham).

Mark admits to his crime. He did it, that’s for sure, and he’s been sentenced to four years. And yet, despite the punishment suiting the offence, Mark still doesn’t belong there. It’s a riveting, upsetting paradox.

A concurrently armoured and fragile Stephen Graham also stars, playing the lead prison officer Eric. The series follows both him and Mark in parallel, crossing only occasionally.

It is gripping and gruesome in equal amounts but gives an insight into the inadequacies of our prison system which is clearly not fit for purpose.

I AM YOU (film) | AMAZON PRIME

The film begins with a type of occurrence that has become all too common: a bomb exploding in a crowded area. Terrorism causes great pain and suffering by ending and destroying lives. Based on real events, Cole’s hard-hitting drama I Am You depicts in great detail how far people are willing to go in order to avoid such atrocities. After a devastating terrorist attack and witnessing the death of his father by the ISIS, young man Masoud (Cetinkaya) decides to leave Afghanistan and, with the aid of smugglers, migrate to Germany, where he has connections that can help him built a new life there for himself and his family. He travels primarily by car, accompanied by a pregnant doctor Aisha (Sonmez) and an elderly man. The film follows their harrowing journey as they travel from country to country.

THE BEAST MUST DIE | BRITBOX

A mother bent on seeking revenge after her son was killed. A beautiful coastal location, boasting views begging you to stare at them through narrowed eyes. And – wait for it – a therapist with a cello in his office. The opening scenes of The Beast Must Die tick off all the classy thriller tropes and then some (there’s also a big house filled with terrible rich people and ugly sculptures).

And yet, despite the fact that BritBox’s first original drama series has quite blatantly been carefully engineered to appeal to fans of the sort of high-end British detective series that populate the ITV/BBC-backed platform’s streaming catalogue, it’s consistently gripping viewing, elevated by its trio of lead performances from Cush Jumbo, Billy Howle and Jared Harris. It is worth watching if you are at a loose end.

TOGETHER | BBC IPLAYER

It’s hard to take your eyes off this unflinching domestic lockdown drama. Sharon Horgan and James McAvoy are brilliant in this BBC drama about a couple in lockdown.

And coming soon BAPTISTE SEASON 2 | BBC1 from 18th July

Baptiste’s first series ended with the shocking revelation that Julien’s long-lost biological son Niels was a corrupt cop helping a criminal gang. In the final showdown, Niels killed his own mother but was ultimately apprehended and sent to prison for his crimes.

The second series will deal with the psychological toll that such a dark turn of events has on Baptiste, but will also see him take on another troubling case.

Here is a teaser:

If you want more TV recommendations from previous reviews then click HERE.