I didn’t think I would be writing another of these articles about the best TV series and films as I thought the sun would be shining. I imagined that we would all be outside every evening, dining al fresco, socialising with 5 friends we haven’t seen for a long time, and the last thing we would want to be doing is sitting in front of the TV again, particularly after the year we have had. However, it appears the weather is not playing ball, or at least God didn’t get the memo from Boris to say we wanted warm, balmy evenings and even sunnier weekends or maybe God did, and this is all part of Boris’s plan to keep us from partying!
Luckily there is lots of great TV on offer and so here are some of the programmes Grace and I are watching or plan to watch. Once again I have tried to give a broad range to cater for everyone’s tastes. Some of the programmes featured may not appeal to everyone or I may not have enjoyed them but someone we trust has recommended them to us.
DRIVE TO SURVIVE | NETFLIX
Grace is hooked on this, and before watching it, she had no interest in Formula 1 racing. This is a behind the scene’s documentary series that is as nail-biting as any of the races. The intrigue, back-stabbing, emotion, and danger are all in this series, and it adds another dimension to this fascinating sport. Go to a Grand Prix in person, and you get the smell of rubber on road, the sound of roaring engines, the energy of a live sport – but you may struggle to follow what’s happening. Cars whizz by so fast you only catch a glimpse at a time; race-defining events can happen out of sight, on the other side of the circuit. Watch on TV, and you catch most of the action but miss the buzz of the live event. However, this series (3 in total) will change all of that.
DEVILS | SKY ATLANTIC
My OH, and I have loved this series. OH loved it because it was all about millionaire bankers during various financial crises. In contrast, I was more focused on Patrick Dempsey, one of the leads, which I loved as ‘McDreamy’ in Grey’s Anatomy – a series I stopped watching after he died (so shallow, I know). In this, he plays a nasty – well, we all love to hate bankers, so it was never going to be a role that we could get behind. This fast-paced, ruthless tale anchors itself in real-life headline stories, from the Argentine crisis and the recessions in Ireland and Greece to the Strauss-Kahn scandal, building from drama to thriller as it paints an ominously topical picture of the power wielded by the world’s top financiers.
By the way season 2 is being filmed in Rome now.
HALSTON | NETFLIX
Halston is a limited series starring Ewan McGregor as the iconic fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick, known by the single name Halston and premiering on 14th May.
Official review: “……as he leverages his single, invented name into a worldwide fashion empire that’s synonymous with luxury, sex, status and fame, literally defining the era he lives in, 1970’s and ‘80’s New York — until a hostile takeover forces him to battle for control of his most precious asset… the name Halston itself.”
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD | AMAZON PRIME
From Academy Award® winner Barry Jenkins and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead comes the Amazon Original limited series “The Underground Railroad”. Premiering May 14.
I read the book some time ago. While anything to do with slavery does not sit comfortably with us, this is a beautifully crafted story that has been handled sensitively by Barry Jenkins into a captivating series.
The real underground railroad, the historical 19th-Century network of people and safe houses that helped slaves escape, becomes a literal, physical train line carrying people to safety. The main character, Cora, makes several stops on the railroad’s route as she runs from enslavement on a Georgia plantation, pursued obsessively by a slavecatcher named Ridgeway.
DOMINA | SKY ATLANTIC
An epic family saga that takes us back to ancient Rome, this Sky drama by Fortitude writer Simon Burke brings to life the power politics that dominated the era by telling the real-life story of Livia Drusilla (Kasia Smutniak), the wife and advisor to the first Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar. Charting the first Empress’ extraordinary rise to power, it begins with young Livia’s world crumbling following the assassination of Julius Caesar. In the years that follow, Livia must traverse her way through a brutal society to seek revenge, secure power for her sons and eventually become Rome’s most influential woman. An international cast includes Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) as Livia’s father Livius, and Colette Tchantcho (The Witcher) as Antigone, Livia’s best friend, ex-slave and closest ally. Premieres 14th May.
THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW | NETFLIX
Agoraphobic Dr Anna Fox witnesses something she shouldn’t while keeping tabs on the Russell family, the seemingly picture-perfect clan that lives across the way.
ICE COLD MURDERS | MORE4
This series has just started, and so far, I have watched two episodes. It is sub-titled, but as the original language is Italian and so expressive, you get it before reading the sub-titles. Each episode is its own story revolving around the Detective, Rocco Schiavone.
After getting on the wrong side of the wrong people in Rome, Deputy Police Chief Rocco Schiavone is exiled to Aosta, a small, touristy alpine town far from the cobbled streets and fritto misto of his beloved city. Rocco’s talent for solving crimes is matched only by his disdain for the rules and his eye for a beautiful woman. But when a mangled body is found on the ski slopes, he soon discovers that his Roman sophistication – not to mention his expensive Roman shoes – are of little help in this dangerous and unfamiliar mountain landscape. With blood on the black run, rumours of mafia involvement, and a murderer at large, Deputy Police Chief Schiavone is about to find himself skating on very thin ice…
Italian actor Antonio Manzini plays the foul-mouthed Rocco Schiavone and is a big star in Italy, having picked up 7 awards and 15 nominations.
This series is less about the individual cases and more about the characters involved. The script is funny, warm and there aren’t too many scenes that you have to watch through your fingers. I highly recommend it.
THE PURSUIT OF LOVE | BBC1
An adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s novel published in 1945, starring Lily James, Emily Beecham and Dominic West and adapted by Emily Mortimer. It has rave reviews by all the TV critics, but both Grace and I were not enthralled. Maybe it is a sign of our age that this modern interpretation didn’t hit our old spot.
The Pursuit of Love is the one that introduces us to the madcap (and quite often simply mad) world of the Radlett family at Alconleigh. The children with their secret society called the Hons (headquarters in the linen cupboard). The foreigner-hating paterfamilias Uncle Matthew, who hunts said children with his bloodhounds across the Oxford countryside. The Bolter – also known as the mother of narrator Fanny, a Radlett cousin – committed to a vibrant life of serial monogamy since abandoning her only child to be raised by her sister Emily. The criticism of female education for the loss of social graces that result, and the gain of hockey-exercised “thighs like gateposts”.
INSIDE NO. 9 | BBC2
This black comedy is back. The new season will have six new episodes written by Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton.
Each 30-minute episode is a self-contained story with new characters and a new setting, and all star at least one (usually both) of Pemberton and Shearsmith.
YOUR HONOR | SKY
This is a US adaptation of the Israeli series Kvodo. It is the story of a good man uncovering dark truths about himself and his capacity for compromise and corruption under pressure. The man is Michael Desiato, a judge in New Orleans played by Bryan Cranston, who as always is brilliant. It may not be Breaking Bad, but it definitely is tense viewing. Please don’t give up after the first two episodes as I did because I found the storyline very distressing.
THE MARE OF EASTTOWN | SKY ATLANTIC
I love Kate Winslet, who stars in this series. She is like a chameleon and can adapt and change into any part and is 100% believable as that person. The part she plays, a detective investigating a murder in a small town near Philadelphia, in this series is very unglamorous, and she is absolutely outstanding. OH, and I thought this one of the best series of the month, and we are still watching it as a new episode comes out each week.
In the suburbs of Philadelphia, a detective named Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) investigates the recent murder of a teenage mother while trying to keep her own life from falling apart. Mare is a local hero, having been the star of a high-school basketball championship game 25 years ago. She has also been trying to solve another murder case for a year, leading many in the community to take a dim view of her detective skills. Her personal troubles include a divorce, a son lost to suicide, and a heroin-addicted daughter-in-law battling for custody of Mare’s grandson.
THE BOLD TYPE | NETFLIX
The Bold Type is an American comedy-drama television series created by Sarah Watson. It is inspired by the life and career of former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine Joanna Coles. Joanna is the executive producer of the series. The series chronicles the lives of three millennial women. They are portrayed by Katie Stevens, Aisha Dee, and Meghann Fahy. All of whom are employed at a fictional global publication called Scarlet in New York City.
There are 4 seasons, so that should keep you busy. My daughters love it, and I have to admit to being quite hooked on it. It is the sort of series you can turn to when you have had enough of thrillers.
MOTHERLAND | BBC2
Returns on Monday 10th May and is one of my favourite comedies. Julia (Anna Maxwell Martin fresh from Line of Duty) finds herself ostracised by the other mums when she is accused of triggering a wave of head lice at school.
THREE FAMILIES | BBC1
Drama about the campaign to relax laws around abortions in Northern Ireland from the perspective of three women. One mother comes to terms with the fact she could be imprisoned for helping her teenage daughter get an abortion. While another is told her baby will not survive birth but that it would be illegal for her to terminate the pregnancy. It started on Monday, 10th May so is now available on Catchup.
THE STRANGER | NETFLIX
I have not seen this so I have taken the review from the Radio Times by Emma Bullimore:
Harlan Coben is fast becoming Netflix’s answer to Jed Mercurio. This series has all the tension and intrigue of Line of Duty. Hot off the heels of his hugely successful series Safe, The Stranger tells the intriguing story of a woman who parachutes into people’s lives, drops bombshells and then disappears as quickly as she arrived. For example, Adam (played by Richard Armitage) is minding his own business at his son’s football match when The Stranger says hello. She tells him his wife faked her most recent pregnancy (and subsequent miscarriage). She then dashes off before he can work out what on earth is going on. Unsurprisingly his life is thrown into a spin, and he can’t work out who to trust.
But why does this woman want to stir trouble? And how does she find out these closely guarded secrets? With an exceptional cast including Jennifer Saunders, Siobhan Finneran and Dervla Kirwan, the mysteries will keep you guessing right up to the very end.
PRODIGAL SON season 2 | FOX, HULU
Malcolm Bright, one of the best criminal psychologists around, uses his twisted genius to help the NYPD solve crimes.
The series centres on Malcolm Bright, whose father, Martin Whitly, is the infamous serial killer known as “The Surgeon”. As a child, Malcolm was responsible for enabling the police to arrest his father. He has not seen his father in ten years after joining Quantico. A disgraced former FBI profile who now works for the NYPD, Malcolm is forced to confront his father after a copycat serial killer uses Whitly’s methods of killing. He finds himself drawn back into constant contact with his father. He must both use Whitly’s insights to help the police solve particularly horrible crimes and battle his own inner demons.
Tom Payne as Malcolm Bright (formerly known as Malcolm Whitly), a disgraced former FBI profile, who now works for the NYPD. He possesses the unique ability to view crimes from the perspective of the killer. This allows him to pick up on things that other cops might miss. However, this gift also haunts him. It causes him to live in a perpetual state of fear that he will one day succumb to the same sociopath tendencies as his father.
THE KOMINSKY METHOD | NETFLIX
The Michael Douglas-led comedy-drama, in which the star plays ageing-actor-turned-acting-coach Sandy, returns for a third and final season. This series is without Alan Arkin, his long-time friend Norman Newlander in the previous series. This final chapter finds Sandy dealing with the trials of ageing without his buddy Norman by his side. To complicate things further, Sandy’s been left in charge of Norman’s estate. Meanwhile, there are yet more difficulties when Sandy’s ex-wife Roz (Kathleen Turner) turns up in Los Angeles. She arrives to spend time with their daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker) and her boyfriend Martin (Paul Reiser). Special guest stars Morgan Freeman and Barry Levinson drop in to play fictionalised versions of themselves. Premieres 28 May.
Read previous screen picks here