As the clocks go back next weekend and we get ready to hunker down during those long, dark evenings, I have prepared a selection of the best TV that either Grace, I or our friends recommend.
A lot is happening in the streaming market, and it is hard to know what to choose. But if I can distract you from the rest for a second, I’d like to point you in the direction of Paramount+. However, I am not encouraging you to subscribe to yet more channels, but I will say that I have found much to watch on Paramount+, and at a £6.99 p.m. subscription (with a 7-day free trial), I have chosen to cancel one of the others in favour of Paramount+.
The Offer, created by Michael Tolkin, is ostensibly the true story behind the making of the 1972 classic, The Godfather.
My husband and I found this 10-part series fascinating. I cannot understand some of the less-than-enthusiastic reviews, as we thought the acting, script and production were all excellent.
You’ve got Frank Sinatra (Frank John Hughes) trying to shut the movie down because he thinks the Mob-connected singer in Mario Puzo’s book is modelled on him. You’ve got the Mafia trying to shut it down because they insist there’s no such thing as the Mafia. You’ve got the studio trying to shut it down because it’s running over budget, over time, and nobody wants to see a gangster movie in 1972 anyway. You’ve got rampant egos, real-world violence mirroring the fictional bloodshed, beautiful people behaving appallingly, and appalling people very occasionally doing decent things.
And finally, you have the divine Juno Temple playing Bette, Ruddy’s assistant.
Four seasons of this series are available, so this should keep you busy in the run-up to Christmas. Jane Lovett, the cook, recommended this series whilst she was doing a cookery demo on Zoom. She said it had hooked her husband and her during the lockdown and, subsequently, all their friends that they recommended it to.
I am not a cowboy and Indian fan however, this series had me hooked once I got to the end of episode 2. The first episode is a little confusing but stick with it as it does come together. Four seasons of Kevin Costner are never going to be tough for us ladies.
The drama is set in the present day and focuses on the Dutton family and their ranching dynasty in Montana. It is an ensemble effort that centres around family patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner). He actively controls the largest connecting ranch in the United States. It deals with a family trying to hold on to what they have amidst raging familial politics and compounding outside forces. Sibling rivalry, mutual affection, and a minefield of shared history work to both unite and tear the Duttons apart at the seams.
I am really enjoying season 1, and it is one that I will dip in and out of between now and Christmas. I won’t sugar-coat the series as it is quite violent at times (a.k.a. behind the sofa moments), but this violence is outweighed by the majestic and beautiful Montana countryside.
The prequel to Yellowstone, 1883 is another unmissable Western epic from creator Taylor Sheridan, in which the Duttons make their way from Texas to the Montana ranch where the uber-famous, set-in-present-day series is based.
The Ex-Wife is based on the bestselling novel by Jess Ryder. Newly married Natasha has the perfect house, a loving husband and a beautiful little girl called Emily. If it weren’t for Jen, the ex-wife, she’d have it all.
A four-part series which hits the ground running and keeps up the pace.
This series is from the mind of Stephen King; the series follows a pandemic in a post-apocalyptic world, with the fate of the world in the hands of a 108-year-old woman (Whoopi Goldberg) and a select group of survivors that include characters played by James Marsden and Greg Kinnear.
Shantaram is an adaptation of Gregory David Roberts’ weighty 2003 novel of self-discovery. You need to be committed to this series as it is twelve one-hour episodes, and I understand it is only half of the book. I loved the book though cannot remember the story (comes with old age!)
Shantaram stars Charlie Hunnam as Lin Ford, an on-the-run Australian bank robber who flees the continent to live under the radar in Bombay. Now a small fish in a big unfamiliar pond, Ford’s acclimation to life in India is further challenged by his criminal past and a newfound love that could derail his incognito existence.
RAYMOND & RAY (film)
Raymond & Ray stars Ewan McGregor and Ethan Hawke as the titular siblings, a pair of half-brothers with plenty of regrets and resentment regarding their father, a dead man with a major oddball of a dying wish — for his estranged sons to bury him together. A comedy-drama that places two of today’s top acting talents at its helm.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin and produced by Oprah Winfrey, Sidney explores the life, times, and legacy of actor, filmmaker, and Civil Rights icon Sidney Poitier. Through talking-head interviews with celebrities like Spike Lee, Robert Redford, and Lenny Kravitz, along with archival footage and cinematic snapshots from Poitier’s portfolio, Sidney presents a layered and exhilarating documentary about one of Hollywood’s most prolific talents.
Causeway, starring Jennifer Lawrence as a U.S. Army soldier recovering from physical, mental, and spiritual injuries. It is released on 4th November. I have not seen it, but I understand that the story is lacking while the two lead actors are great. However, I will watch it as I admire Jennifer Lawrence as an actress.
Lawrence returns from Afghanistan after riding in a vehicle that was struck by a bomb, which caused her to have a cerebral haemorrhage. At the start, she’s seated in a wheelchair, waiting for the home healthcare worker, who’s going to look after her as she undergoes rehab. Tentatively, Lynsey starts to walk but struggles to bathe, drive, and remember things for a while. The brain injury has smashed and weakened her; she’s a person in fragments.
THE CROWN SEASON 5
I understand that this series is being streamed on 9th November with the much-argued-for disclaimer.
The full label reads: “Inspired by real events, this fictional dramatisation tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II and the political and personal events that shaped her reign.”
Nevertheless, many will still enjoy this season, which will be quoted as fact in the coming weeks as the disclaimer is forgotten.
Season 5 will follow the breakdown in Charles and Diana’s marriage, and the latest trailer shows Elizabeth Debicki and Dominic West, who play Diana and Charles respectively, looking visibly anxious as a voiceover exclaims: “Buckingham Palace is issuing this statement: It is with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have separated.”
The upcoming season will also see Imelda Staunton’s debut as the late Queen Elizabeth II.
At last, a charming and uplifting series for you.
This brand-new sitcom starring Neil Patrick Harris tells the story of Michael Lawson, a successful real estate agent whose partner of 17 years suddenly and unexpectedly leaves him. Michael then has to navigate life as a single gay man in his mid-forties in New York City.
This makes for a charming and authentic look at the world of modern dating with all its ups and downs. You’ll be left wanting more from this funny and surprisingly emotional series at the end of the eight episodes.
THE BEST OF THE REST
ARCTIC CIRCLE | CHANNEL 4 (subtitles)
Amidst the icy landscapes of Finish Lapland, the blood sample of a woman in a coma contains a deadly virus. A criminal investigation takes a surprise twist in WALTER PRESENTS: ARCTIC CIRCLE.
When police officer Nina Kautsalo finds a Russian sex worker barely alive in an old cabin, a routine blood test reveals that the woman is infected with an unknown pathogen. German virologist from the European Centre of Disease Control, Thomas Lorenz, makes a shocking discovery when he recognises it as an extremely rare and dangerous virus from Yemen that causes miscarriages, foetal deformities, and death. Thomas must travel to Lapland to determine the extent of the problem while maintaining full secrecy as ordered by the Finnish national police. Investigating a series of murders and a virus that threatens to spread far beyond the borders of Lapland, Nina and Thomas soon find themselves having to stray from the law. They must rely on each other if they are to keep their loved ones safe. But what takes precedence? A deadly virus or an active serial killer?
This gripping crime drama created before the COVID-19 pandemic offers its own interesting take on what might happen when a dangerous virus breaks out – set against the backdrop of the uniquely beautiful and harsh landscape of northern Finland.
SOMETHING TO HIDE | CHANNEL 4
The perfectly privileged life of wealthy Frenchman Claude Arbona (Daniel Auteuil) is shattered in WALTER PRESENTS: SOMETHING TO HIDE when his own grandson accuses him of rape.
Based on a harrowing true story with tragic consequences, Something to Hide follows the turmoil of a family broken by a rape accusation. Mayor of his town, Claude’s life is a success. Life is much less cheerful for his beloved grandson Lucas (Victor Meutelet) due to his parent’s divorce. Distraught that his family is torn apart, Lucas becomes violent and ill-behaved. When confronted by his mother, he reveals an unimaginable story – that he was raped by his grandfather. Highly regarded Claude Arbona is shocked that his greatest ordeal yet is caused by the person he loves most. Subsequently, he faces the wrath of the law and those who greatly respected him as mayor and potential senator of their beloved town. His marriage, family, career and life are thrown under the harsh light of public opinion as the crude details of this twisted story are revealed. With the beautiful backdrop of the French Riviera, a dark story unravels.
BLOODLANDS (season 2) | BBC (now on iPlayer)
This series focuses on a Northern Irish detective with a murky IRA past.
In the first series, Tom was revealed to have been a reluctant assassin (codenamed ‘Goliath’) at the tail end of The Troubles: shooting two people during a weapons shipment. In the opening to series two, Brandon recreates this important backstory with a young Tom (a de-aged Nesbitt) recovering the weapons and discovering gold bars in the cases.
The murder of a dodgy accountant, kickstarting this second series, prompts Tom to search for the hidden bullion. On top of investigating a murdered man and covering every track that would lead to Tom’s killings from the 90s, he’s also greedy for gold.
I found this series compelling until the last episode which left all Bloodlands fans disappointed.
SAS: ROGUE HEROES | BBC
This much-awaited series starring Dominic West will be released on 30th October, with all episodes being immediately available on BBC iPlayer.
SAS: Rogue Heroes is a major new drama telling the story of how the world’s most famous Special Forces unit, the SAS, was born.
Based on Ben MacIntyre’s best-selling book, SAS: Rogue Heroes, the series will tell the remarkable tale of how the SAS came to exist in North Africa during World War Two.
Adapted by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight, it will reveal how officer David Stirling (played by Connor Swindells), the founder of the legendary organisation, and his men changed warfare by attacking the enemy behind their own battle lines in a string of daring escapades.
THE ENGLISH | BBC
Hugo Blick’s anticipated epic western The English, starring Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer, will arrive on BBC Two this November.
Set in 1890 mid-America, the series follows aristocratic Englishwoman Lady Cornelia Locke (Blunt) and a Pawnee ex-cavalry scout, Eli Whipp (Spencer), as they attempt to cross a violent landscape built on dreams and blood. According to the BBC, the powerful drama takes the core themes of identity and revenge to tell a uniquely compelling parable on race, love and power.
The six-parter is written and directed by multi-award-winning Hugo Blick, whose acclaimed TV series include The Honourable Woman, Black Earth Rising and The Shadow Line.
THE WALK-IN | ITV (all episodes available on ITV Hub)
This gritty series is about the Neo-nazi turned anti-fascist Matthew Collins, played by the brilliant Stephen Graham. It is based on a true story.
Collins is now working as a bona fide journalist for the anti-racist organisation, Hope not Hate.
This is a very thought-provoking series and well-worth watching.
HELP | CHANNEL 4
Another drama starring Stephen Graham. Help is set in a fictional Liverpool care home in the spring of 2020. A carer (Jodie Comer) who bonds with a patient (Stephen Graham) is put to the test in horrific circumstances as the Covid-19 pandemic hits.
It starts in 2019, Sarah begins working as a care assistant at Bright Sky Homes, a care home in Liverpool. She is good at connecting with the residents, particularly a middle-aged man called Tony, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Tony frequently walks out of the building and wanders the streets to try and go to his mother’s house, forgetting that she has died and their home now belongs to another family.
The workload is tough, but everyone’s world is turned upside down when the COVID-19 pandemic hits the UK in March 2020. Like most other care homes across the country, Bright Sky suffers a COVID-19 outbreak among residents. This is made all the worse by a severe lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), with NHS hospital supplies prioritised above homes.
You know how this story goes, but it is worth watching as the performances are outstanding.
Have fun watching these, and do let us know of any TV series or films you enjoy using the Comments box below. For more Best TV suggestions, click HERE.