I thought we would all be outside basking ourselves in the summer sunshine as we were in May 2020. However, the weather seems as inclement as is natural for the UK at this time of year. So here I am with plenty of the best TV to fill those long, light evenings when you should be dining al fresco sipping some deliciously chilled rosé wine.
LIFE AFTER LIFE
This four-part adaptation of the 2013 novel, Life After Life by Kate Atkins, documents Ursula Todd’s many demises. Born to a wealthy middle-class family in 1910, Ursula dies almost instantly, strangled by her umbilical cord. But, then again, she survives. It’s a pattern that repeats throughout Ursula’s many comfortable childhoods: there’s a drowning incident, a fall out of a bedroom window, and multiple battles with Spanish flu. And then, suddenly, she is back, being born, and doing it all over again – but this time with self-protective instincts she can’t quite account for.
I remember reading this book by Kate Atkinson, and absolutely loving it. However, when I heard it was being made into a TV series I wondered how they would manage to convert what worked so well in words on a page into a visual medium. I need not have worried as firstly I could hardly remember the book apart from remembering I loved it, (that’s just an age thing). The way they portray the re-births is very clever. Any other bits that might be missed are narrated by Lesley Manville and overall the effect is brilliant. If you really enjoy this series then try the next book in this series, God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, which follows the life of Teddy, Ursula’s younger brother.
Conversations With Friends – 15th May
An adaptation of Sally Rooney’s debut novel, from the same team that made Normal People. Detailing the relationship between friends Bobbie, Frances, and married couple Melissa and Nick, the series stars Sasha Lane and Joe Alwyn alongside newcomer Alison Oliver.
D.I. Rachita Ray (Parminder Nagra) welcomes her new promotion – but, as she’s asked to solve a “culturally specific homicide”, starts to suspect she’s been chosen for her ethnicity rather than her identity. Maya Sondhi (otherwise best known as Line of Duty’s Maneet Bindra) writes and Jed Mercurio produces, blending a smart character study with an engaging organised crime thriller.
THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND THE CANOE
Four-part drama based on the extraordinary story of how prison officer John Darwin faked his own death to claim life insurance and avoid bankruptcy – unbeknownst to his two sons.
The Hartlepool couple were convicted of fraud in 2008. Their plan fell apart from when they attempted to start a new life in Panama but visa laws meant they couldn’t.
Eddie Marsan and Monica Dolan lead the cast as John and Anne Darwin respectively, while the supporting cast includes Mark Stanley (Anne Boleyn, Sanditon) and Dominic Applewhite (The Inbetweeners) as their grieving sons.
DEVILS Season 2
Season 2 of this financial thriller series picks up several years later with Massimo looking to partner up with China but Dominic (Patrick Dempsey) reappears to give a warning about it.
The Staircase explores the life of Michael Peterson, his sprawling North Carolina family and the suspicious death of his wife, Kathleen Peterson.”
The show depicts the death of Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead in a pool of blood at the bottom of the staircase in the family’s Durham, N.C., mansion in December 2001. Michael Peterson then became the lead suspect in her death. After a three-month trial, Peterson was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in 2003. However, that was not the end of the story……
THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE – 15th May
Steven Moffat adapts Audrey Niffenegger’s famous novel, with Rose Leslie (The Good Fight) and Theo James (Divergent) as husband and wife Claire and Henry whose marriage is disrupted by time travel. Henry has a condition that causes him to skip back and forth through time, meaning he meets his wife Claire out of order.
Troppo follows an ex-cop on the run from a brutal crime he did not commit. To maintain his freedom, he hides in North Queensland, Australia, where he becomes involved with a PI agency run by an eccentric ex-con. They’re an odd couple and don’t mesh well at all. He’s by the book, while she’s a walking hurricane. However, as they search for a murderer, they slowly learn to understand one another. A new unlikely bond is formed, and with it comes a partnership that grants both a chance at redemption. Based on the best-selling novel Crimson Lake by Candice Fox, take a journey to parts unknown with two lost souls on a search for justice.
DAS BOOT Season 3 – 14th May
The multi-award winning Sky Germany Original drama returns, following the tense struggles of a young U-boat crew as they engage in the Battle of the Atlantic whilst being hunted down by an obsessed Royal Navy Commander in a thrilling game of cat-and-mouse. All episodes arrive at once.
MOTHER TERESA: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (Sky Documentaries)
Over three episodes, Mother Teresa: For the Love of God? takes viewers on a remarkable ride through the twists and turns of an improbable life, revealing the extraordinary truth about one of the most recognised yet enigmatic figures in contemporary history. Episodes arrive weekly.
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
Hacks tells the story of a dark mentorship that forms between Deborah Vance (Jean Smart, Mare of Easttown), a legendary Las Vegas comedian, and an entitled, 25-year-old (Hannah Einbinder). Vance is struggling for relevance, while Einbinder is out of work as a comedy writer because of an insensitive tweet.
The pair reluctantly team up, but at first it certainly doesn’t seem to be a match made in heaven.
TEN PER CENT
W1A writer John Morton’s celebrity-packed remake of the French showbiz comedy, Call My Agent, grows into a charming underdog story.
We follow four agents as they squabble over clients and occasionally band together for the good of the company: ambitious Rebecca (Lydia Leonard), bumbling Dan (Prasanna Puwanarajah), imperious Stella (Maggie Steed) and slimy Jonathan (Jack Davenport), who thinks he’s better than everyone else because he’s the son of company owner Richard Nightingale (Jim Broadbent). They’re helped by their assistants, Ollie (Harry Trevaldwyn) and Julia (Rebecca Humphries), who have some new blood to train up when Jonathan’s secret love-child Misha (Hiftu Quasem) turns up at the office one day and inadvertently lands herself a job as Rebecca’s new assistant.
It is not nearly as funny as Call my Agent but still worth watching.
NIGHT SKY 20th May
Night Sky revolves around the Yorks, an elderly couple who discovered, many years ago, that their backyard held a secret chamber leading to another planet. The two protected this secret their entire lives, choosing not to tell a soul. However, their secret comes back to haunt them in the form of a mysterious young man who makes them question everything they thought they knew. The chamber is much more than they ever thought. There isn’t much known yet about this new series. What is known leads us to ask questions, like what is the chamber, who is the man, and what does he want? J.K. Simmons and Sissy Spacek star as the Yorks.
It’s a Boy meets Boy bromance and whilst many may think this is a series for the young I have really enjoyed watching it. It’s a simple story that feels vital in the current climate, and it is exquisitely portrayed by the young actors. Brought to life onscreen with the help from drawings and doodles from the graphic novels. It is breaking viewing figures on Netflix. Olivia Colman, also starring in it, is said to have cried in rehearsals.
DAUGHTERS OF DESTINY
The four-part Netflix documentary “Daughters of Destiny” is a celebration of a pioneering school for the children of Dalits, members of the lowest group in the oppressive caste system that still shapes Indian society. Much of it takes place in classrooms and dormitories. But it’s at its best when it leaves the school grounds and follows the children home, into a harsh and unchanging world whose realities seem hopelessly at odds with the ideals of the school.
The Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, founded in 1997 in Bangalore by the Indian-American businessman Abraham George, is a boarding school that accepts 24 preschool students a year and provides free education (and food and housing) through 12th grade. It’s an educational institution and a social experiment: a demonstration that Dalits can thrive academically, a proposition that still needs proving in India, and an attempt to pull Dalits out of poverty by preparing children for jobs that can support their extended families.
This puts tremendous pressure on the Shanti Bhavan students, and that’s the central drama of “Daughters of Destiny,” which the writer and director Vanessa Roth shot over the course of seven years. Following five girls of different ages — one who enters as a 4-year-old, others who graduate and embark on jobs — the series can feel like a montage of crushing expectations, guilt, resentment (only one child per family can be admitted), and generational and cultural standoffs.
It is beautifully shot. The intimate visuals delivered the emotional impact of the powerful personal stories.
WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS?
This unabashedly old-fashioned Agatha Christie adaptation is exactly what it needed to be. Hugh Laurie, pulls triple-duty as writer, director and actor for BritBox’s new series Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, an adaptation of the 1934 novel. Hugh Laurie, who pulls triple-duty as writer, director and actor for BritBox’s new series Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, an adaptation of the 1934 novel.
Will Poulter stars as Bobby Jones, a vicar’s son and former naval officer who happens upon a dying man at the bottom of a cliff. With his dying breath, the man asks a question – “Why didn’t they ask Evans?” Cue a cross-country journey, undercover detective work and a shadowy conspiracy, as Bobby teams up with his old friend Frankie (Lucy Boynton) to discover how the man died and just what his final question alluded to.
We also have a supporting cast of big-name actors including Dame Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Paul Whitehouse, Conleth Hill and Hugh Laurie himself.
If you missed this 2007 film starring Maggie Smith, Rugh Wilson and David Williams, written and directed by Stephen Poliakoff. This is a haunting, beautifully acted and directed film that will have you mesmerised.
Capturing Mary introduces caretaker Joe Dix (Danny Lee Wynter) to Mary Gilbert (Maggie Smith), a past luminary of the grand mansion he now tends. When Joe welcomes Mary into the dormant house, he coaxes her into sharing her memories of it with him.
Once inside, Mary wanders the corridors of the splendid mansion in which, as a brilliant young writer and critic (played in her youth by Ruth Wilson), she attended glamorous soirées during the late Fifties. As she does so, she recounts to Joe the tale of woe that befell her within the gilded walls.
Reflecting on her heyday, remembering parties and functions with the cultural élite, she is haunted by the memory of a subtly evil man, Greville White (David Walliams), who feigned friendship but actually brought about her destruction.
Now, in later life, Mary can’t escape the fact that revisiting the past is not always a happy, nostalgic journey but it does help her understand where her despair and disappointment began.
Slow Horses is a spy thriller television series based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Mick Herron. It refreshes the espionage genre by letting its band of snoops be bumbling, with Gary Oldman giving a masterclass in frumpy authority.
After a botched and publicly embarrassing training mission, British MI5 agent River Cartwright is exiled to Slough House, an administrative purgatory for service rejects. Known as slow horses, Cartwright and his fellow employees must endure dull, paper-pushing tasks and their miserable boss, Jackson Lamb, who expects them to quit out of boredom and frustration. Life in Slough House is defined by drudgery until the slow horses become entangled in a dangerous gambit by Regent’s Park.
TEHRAN Season 2 (6th May)
I loved Season 1 but we were left on a cliffhanger so I am happy that season 2 is streaming from 6th May and its added Glenn Close to the cast.
Tehran is based on an international conflict between two countries, Israel and Iran. The show explores the world of espionage while majorly focusing on the battle between the Iranians and Israelis. It follows Tamar, a Mossad hacker-agent who infiltrates this city under a false identity in the hopes of destroying the nuclear reactor in Iran. However, her mission falls apart, and she has to develop a new operation that puts everyone dear to her in jeopardy.
We expect to see Tamar returning in season 2 with a better plan to prevent Iran from getting the atomic bomb this time around. We saw Tamar moving heaven and earth to ensure her mission’s success in season one. But unfortunately, Gorev’s huge plan fell flat when all the Israeli planes started getting shot down one after another. At the end of season 1, we see Tamar leaving Faraz alive, who claimed that he spared her dad’s life when he was in the same situation. We also witnessed Milad and Tamar on bike riding through Tehran. We hope that Tamar managed to get back to Israel to regroup with Gorev.
Based on the bestselling book of the same name by Min Jin Lee, Pachinko is an epic story that spans four generations of the same family across three countries: Korea, Japan and America. It also uses three different languages — Korean, Japanese, and English — to tell the tale of forbidden love and loss, war and peace, triumph and reckoning.
We follow lead character, Suja, as she falls pregnant and has to leave Korea. What effect does this have not just on her, but the next generation of her family? Minha Kim could be this series’ breakout star as Teenage Suja, while Yuna plays the young version, and Academy Award Winner Yuh-Jung Youn the older version of the same character.
THE BIG CONN (Docuseries)
The Big Conn pulls back the lid on a story of how one man stole more than half a billion dollars from the U.S. government and tax payers. Conn’s big story wraps in cons on the public, local fame, lavish parties with adult film stars, big cars and even … voodoo dolls.
While it may look like a minimalist Office Space on the outside, a peek into Severance shows that there is something else afoot at Lumon, a company that promises that brain surgery can give you the perfect work/life balance. That’s the kind of promise that seems to bring in people desperate to stop bringing home their anxiety about the work day, but it comes with the inevitable question of “what’s really going on here?”
Severance (which is directed by Ben Stiller), also features Patricia Arquette, John Turturro and Christopher Walken. And with that cast and this interesting sci-fi premise, it certainly looks like an Apple TV hit.
In Shining Girls, Elizabeth Moss stars as Kirby Mazrachi, who is suffering from the traumas of a brutal attack six years ago. That attack was so troubling that it left her in a state where she perceives reality as constantly changing as if she’s time-travelling without any intent to do so.
But then, Mazrachi discovers a recent murder with similarities to her own cold case. With the help of reporter Dan Velazquez (Wagner Moura), Kirby may finally put her traumas to rest — and prevent other attacks as well.
Jamie Bell co-stars as a man who Mazrachi sees and believes is her attacker. Moss stars, directs and executive produces the film. Leonardo DiCaprio is a co-executive producer.
The first three episodes streamed on Friday, 29th April and a new episode will stream for the following five Fridays.
THE ESSEX SERPENT May 13th
The Essex Serpent is set in 1893, and the six-parter follows newly-widowed Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes, see our main picture), who is finally freed from an abusive marriage when her husband dies. Keen to start afresh, Cora moves from London to the small Essex village of Aldwinter and becomes intrigued by a local superstition that a mythical creature known as the ‘Essex Serpent’ has returned to the area. Cora explores the rumours of this mythical sea dragon — a kind of dinosaur that survived extinction. But she soon clashes with the local vicar, Will Ransome (Tom Hiddleston), who’s determined to lay superstition to rest in his rural parish, dealing with the frightening rumours as they begin to spread throughout the community…
WALTER PRESENTS: ON MORE4 (all subtitled)
THE KING OF WARSAW – 15th May
The hotly anticipated series dubbed as the Polish Peaky Blinders WALTER PRESENTS: THE KING OF WARSAW is finally here.
It’s 1937 Warsaw and fascism hangs over Europe. The Jewish mafia rules the city before the outbreak of World War II under the leadership of Buddy Kaplica, a Polish gangster-socialist with connections in high places. His right-hand man is a ruthless Jewish boxer, Jakub Szapiro, adored by women and envied and feared by men. Deep down, Jakub dreams about taking over Buddy’s position and becoming the king of the mafia. Torn between loyalty to his boss and a chance to fulfil his own ambitions, Jakub will rise to a decisive fight for power in the streets and will be absorbed by the relentless world of sex and violence causing a mob war which could determine the fate of Warsaw and the entire country.
The Polish Film Awards winning series is based on the recently UK-published book of the same title by Szczepan Twardoch, one of the most prominent Polish writers of his generation.
THE NORDIC MURDERS: Season 3 – 13th May
After the death of her daughter, former prosecutor Karin Lossow and her new partner-in-crime, homicide detective Ellen Norgaard, are back on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom in the third season of WALTER PRESENTS: THE NORDIC MURDERS.
It’s tourist season at the Kaiserbad – and this year’s season brings plenty of 16-year olds out of their minds on drugs – that is, until one of them is found dead in a sauna. The party that started it and then escalated quickly was thrown by Ben, Karin Lossow’s great-nephew. Karin has not seen Ben’s father Rainer for a while, so when the Munich police officer arrives, things get dicey. He immediately starts to second guess Ellen Norgaard’s investigation, in which his son has become a suspect. Apparently no one from the party can remember what happened, but luckily for Karin and Ellen an elderly neighbour witnessed the commotion. Did Ben kill his friend? And can Karin find out before anyone else gets hurt?
ANOMALIA – 29th April
Tormented characters and contrasting worlds that are spellbinding and sometimes frightening; WALTER PRESENTS: ANOMALIA is a fantasy series at the crossroads of science and faith.
Having recently separated from her husband, neurosurgeon Valérie Rossier moves back to her native region of Gruyère with her son Lucas. Upon taking up a new position at an exclusive clinic working under her former teacher and renowned professor Wassermann, strange events occur through which she gradually discovers her healing powers, starting with her believing she has run someone over. Secrets are slowly revealed about her true heritage and her family’s tragic history. Can rectifying an error from the past influence the present?
AND HERE IS A FILM COMING TO CINEMAS IN JUNE and is one for us older women, Good Luck to you, Leo Grande, starring Emma Thompson.
And, as we are lucky enough to be able to stream old and new programmes these days, check out Annabel’s previous screen picks here