Best TV Series & Films to get you through the last 4 weeks of winter

I love writing these posts about all the best TV series and films we suggest for viewing because I get to speak to lots of my friends over 50 and ask them for their recommendations. I had to tell you that just in case you thought I spend all my free time watching TV. Some of the recommendations are for films that I have enjoyed watching with my 20 something daughters so there is a broad choice.

Having said that, I have to admit that I have been glued to the TV as my husband and I decided to watch Spiral from the start. 8 seasons and 12 episodes for each season, except for the last season when there were only 11 episodes, so 95 in total. 95 hours of totally captivating TV. This French series (subtitles) is excellent because there are about 3 storylines running parallel, which intertwine and then twist away. All the time you are watching, you get to know the characters who become your TV family.

Season 8 is the last of this epic TV series but my advice is if you have the time watch from the start. Read my review HERE.

TEHERAN | APPLE TV

I love a good spy thriller, and this is a gripping one; however not as good as Fauda, which I reviewed in Best TV for May 2020.

If I have any criticism, I found Teheran a bit one dimensional, and the Mossad operators were too impersonal and robotic. The ending left one hanging, so I guess that there is a series 2 in the pipeline. I prefer a series where there is a background story to each of the characters, but I am sure that with Series 2, they will build on the background stories.

THE VALHALLA MURDERS | BBC iPLAYER

The Valhalla Murders season 1 is an eight-episode police procedural television series produced in Iceland. It is based, with the usual artistic license taken, on a real-life incident. As described in an article on the website MEAWW, “In the late 1940s, an almost similar event took place in remote Iceland. A state-run institution … housed troubled, young boys, aged between seven and 14, where they were beaten and abused by the staff. Although in reality there was no murder, per se, as shown in the series, it caused quite a noise and the boys were eventually compensated in monetary terms.”

BLOODLANDS | BBC

BBC One’s new drama executive produced by the Bodyguard creator, with Cold Feet’s James Nesbitt starring as a Belfast-based detective who finds himself back on the hunt for a notorious serial killer 20 years after the case initially went cold.

Whilst promoting the series, Nesbitt promised fans that they’d be getting a “classic Jed Mercurio thriller” with Bloodlands and he certainly wasn’t wrong there. Police-focussed, hints of corruption, links to organised crime, a Northern-Irish lead detective – we are really enjoying this though miss not being able to get all episodes at once.

UNFORGOTTEN | ITV

The popular cold case crime drama Unforgotten returns for another series as Cassie (Nicola Walker) and Sunny (Sanjeev Bhaskar) begin a new investigation. This time, the case centres on a dismembered body found in a scrapyard – with the team believing it had previously been kept in a domestic freezer for as long as three decades.

THE RED SHADOWS | MORE4

A police officer tries to hunt down her missing sister in this riveting French series WALTER PRESENTS: THE RED SHADOWS.

In 1993, five-year-old Clara was abducted. During the handover of the ransom, Clara’s mother was killed, and Clara disappeared. Her older sister Aurore, now a police officer, has been obsessed with the abduction ever since. 25 years on from the kidnapping, Aurore’s grandparents are selling their estate, and ripples are running through the family to see who will get the inheritance. During a murder case, Aurore finds photos of a young woman who strongly resembles her sister at the victim’s home. She traces them back to a woman named Clara Ivaldi in Italy, but this woman fiercely denies being the missing girl. As the family begins to break down, will Aurore finally be able to heal her own wounds by finding her sister alive? Or is she just clinging onto a hope that could otherwise leave her life destroyed…?

DEVILS | SKY ATLANTIC

Devils is a financial thriller. Some critic described this as Billions meets James Bond. Patrick Dempsey stars in it and we haven’t seen him for a while since we all loved him in Grey’s Anatomy.

Italian trader Massimo Ruggero is the Head of Trading at the New York London Investment Bank (NYL). While the financial crisis is raging in Europe, Massimo is making hundreds of millions for NYL out of speculation.

As his mentor Dominic Morgan, the American CEO of NYL and the nearest to a father that Massimo has ever had, fully supports him, the talented trader seems to be the first choice in the run for vice-CEO. However, when Massimo is involved in a painful scandal that sees his estranged wife playing an escort, Dominic denies him the promotion, choosing the old-school banker Edward Stewart instead.

Massimo is left astounded – his mentor turned his back on him. Convinced that the scandal was a set-up, Massimo is determined to seek the truth but when Edward suddenly dies, Massimo realizes that something bigger is at stake.

With the help of his trading team and a group of hacktivists, Massimo will discover the hidden agenda behind apparently unrelated events, such as the Strauss-Kahn scandalThe Libyan Civil War, and the crisis of the PIIGS.

DEUTSCHLAND 89 | MORE4

It’s the news everyone has been waiting for! The highest rated foreign language drama in UK TV history, WALTER PRESENTS: DEUTSCHLAND 89, is back for its third and final season.

When the ‘anti-fascist’ Berlin Wall fell on November 9th, 1989, superspy Martin Rauch gets involved and must deal with the consequences. The peaceful revolution has thrown his world into turmoil. He and his fellow agents at the East German Foreign Intelligence are reeling. Their government has collapsed, their organization is in chaos, and their futures are uncertain, at best. How to play the next hand? Join Big Brother at the KGB? Go West and work for an enemy agency? Use international contacts to begin a new career? Or run off to paradise with hoarded gold? With Lenora still locked up and everything on the line, Martin must race to save his son, settle old scores and escape the scramble of agencies trying to get their hands on the legendary Kolibri.

Created by Joerg Winger and written by Anna Winger, writer of recent success Unorthodox, the Deutschland series boasts a whole host of accolades including best drama series at the International Emmy Awards, Seoul International Drama Awards and Series Mania.

TORN | MORE 4

If you loved The Adulterer then WALTER PRESENTS: TORN will be your brand new drama obsession.

Victoire Delorme has just moved with her husband and their two children to a small village in south-eastern France where she works as a school teacher. At the end of the first day at pickup time, a seductive voice calls her name. The voice belongs to none other than Florent Malleval, her first love. Victoire and Florent are both married, both have children, and yet … the attraction is irresistible. They succumb to a passion that has never been extinguished. But just when they decide to leave their spouses, Florent’s wife suddenly disappears…

Viewers may recognise Bruno Debrandt, playing Florent, from Walter Presents: Spiral and Walter Presents: Detective Cain.

AMSTERDAM VICE | CHANNEL 4 7th March

WALTER PRESENTS: AMSTERDAM VICE is an original prequel to the series of novels written by A.C. Baantjer, the most successful Dutch book franchise of all time.

It’s Amsterdam, 1980s. Detective Judd Cox has just been promoted to the roughest department within the capital city’s police force. Along with his new partner Montijn, the pair are investigating a murder case that leads to plans of an attack which would occur on the coronation day of Princess Beatrix. The duo must do everything in their power to stop such an attack. Based on historical facts, Amsterdam Vice combines hi-octane moments with emotional depth. A character-driven drama, about two unlikely detective buddies, is like Amsterdam itself: gritty, yet warm-hearted and witty.

THE BAY | ITV

My daughters got really caught up with this one but I never got around to it.

The final episode of The Bay airs on Wednesday, 24th February (you can get the whole series on CatchUp), with Detective Constable Lisa Armstrong and her team getting closer to the truth than they’ve ever been. Starring Morven Christie, in this series, we’ve seen Morecambe police investigate the death of Stephen Marshbrook (Stephen Tomkinson), a lawyer assassinated in his hallway during a family barbecue. With the incredible complex case proving a difficult one to crack, Lisa continues to battle with her personal life whilst trying to get justice for the Marshbrook family.

AND NOW FOR SOME LIGHTER ENTERTAINMENT

PRETEND IT’S A CITY | NETFLIX

Fran Lebowitz is an iconic figure in New York, wearing the same style of clothes, jeans, loafers, a white dress shirt and a long coat. Fran has lived in or around NY city all of her life and is a writer but really is a talker; she speaks plainly about culture and politics. This is the story of Fran’s relationship with NY city and her observation of life there. Martin Scorcese directs this 8-part series. I loved this series, and it made me laugh out loud. Dip in and out of it whenever you want some light relief from thrillers etc.

CATASTROPHE | AMAZON PRIME

If you missed this comedy series in 2015 then you can catch up now on Amazon Prime Video. It was created, written by, and stars Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney, who portray single people who become a couple after she unexpectedly becomes pregnant following a fling while he is visiting London on a business trip. Carrie Fisher, Ashley Jensen and Mark Bonnar play supporting characters in the series.

There are now 4 series, the latest one being broadcast in 2019.

COUNTRY COMFORT | NETFLIX from 19th March

After hitting the skids in her career, an aspiring country singer finds new life as a nanny for a handsome widower and his five charming children. Charming, funny, and some good country music. The Nanny is played by Katharine McPhee which made me chuckle as I thought of that film with Emma Thompson, Nanny McPhee.

GINNY & GEORGIA | NETFLIX

Ginny & Georgia follows Ginny Miller, a “15-year-old” who is more mature than “her 30-year-old mother, Georgia, in a New England town” where Georgia decided to settle down with her daughter, Ginny and son, Austin, to give them a better life that she never had.[3]

FILMS:

I CARE A LOT | NETFLIX

This film is a comedy thriller and as Grace said to me, “This is good Saturday evening escapism”. Rosamund Pike is fantastic starring as the manipulative, predatory, caring guardian with Peter Dinklage giving a great performance as an angry Mafia-style drug baron.

TO OLIVIA | SKY CINEMA

The true story of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal starring Hugh Bonneville and Keeley Hawes. I can’t give you a personal review as I don’t have Sky Cinema however I have heard some disparaging reviews on the radio. Nevertheless the trailer makes the film appealing and I would say a good Sunday afternoon film.

NEWS OF THE WORLD | NETFLIX

This film stars Tom Hanks, is directed by Paul Greengrass and introduces us to a young star in the making, Helena Zengel. A slow start but an absorbing ride down a comfortingly familiar Western trail, guided by Tom Hanks in peak paternal mode (that voice is so calming). However it was Helena that kept me mesmerised. This film has had mixed reviews from film critics and perhaps in normal times I wouldn’t rush to a cinema to see a Western. However sitting at home in lockdown this film did more than just fill 2 hours, it kept me absorbed and I did not feel it was wasted viewing time.

TRUST | NETFLIX 12th March

A romantic drama set in New York City involving “exceptional temptations.” The story follows a New York City gallery owner named Brooke and her husband Owen, who gets mixed up in high society affairs as each of them are seduced by another. This looks like it has some slick cinematography, with lots of vibrant neon colours. But it also looks like another of these films full of super attractive people in a wealthy world dealing with issues of sex and power and lies within their super attractive, wealthy world. But hey, maybe there’s something entertaining about watching that. 

JULIET, NAKED | NETFLIX

Where was I in 2018 when this film came out. I watched it this weekend with one of my daughters and loved it.

Juliet, Naked is the story of Annie (the long-suffering girlfriend of Duncan) and her unlikely transatlantic romance with once revered, now faded, singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe, who also happens to be the subject of Duncan’s musical obsession.

It stars Chris O’Dowd and Rose Byrne with Ethan Hawke playing the has-been singer-songwriter, Tucker Crowe.

It was warm, funny, and filmed in the UK so slightly nostalgic – chatting to a girlfriend in a pub – watching pastimes of bygone days!

INSTANT FAMILY | NETFLIX

If you liked Rose Byrne in the last film then this is another light-hearted, easy-to-watch, film.