What is January for if not to veg out on TV? I know many people detox, diet, join a gym or make New Year resolutions. If I could make one of those, it should be not to watch so much TV, but that would be stupid as there is so much good TV available right now. So here are some of my, and my friends, TV recommendations which will while away those long, dark evenings, especially if you have given up alcohol.
FOUR LIVES – BBC
Four Lives is a true story starring Sheridan Smith and Stephen Merchant. Sheridan Smith, who has found her niche with these raw, direct roles – remember ‘The Moorside’ series. Stephen Merchant veers sharply away from comedy to portray seedy, monosyllabic Port. It is a terrifying portrayal of the laziness, inefficiency and possible homophobia of Barking and Dagenham police. Well-worth watching if you like true stories.
DOPESICK | DISNEY+
Dopesick is a must-watch TV series created by Danny Strong based on the nonfiction book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy. It is about the Sackler family and their Big Pharma company, Purdue. It examines how this one company, Purdue, triggered the worst drug epidemic in American history and takes viewers to the epicentre of America’s struggle with opioid addiction. From the boardrooms of Big Pharma to a distressed Virginia mining community to the hallways of the DEA.
It is terrifying how addictive prescription drugs can be.
While several of the main characters in Dopesick are fictional, that isn’t to say their stories aren’t to be taken seriously. Instead, as Strong explained, all of them are amalgamations of real people affected by the opioid crisis.
Michael Keaton has deservedly just won the Golden Globe best actor in a limited series or TV movie.
TICK, TICK…..BOOM! | NETFLIX
Oh wow, we, as a family, loved this film. It is a true story and is poignant beyond all expectations. I won’t spoil the story but do watch this film.
Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda makes his feature directorial debut with Tick, Tick…BOOM!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, who revolutionised theatre as the creator of Rent. The film follows Jon (Academy Award nominee and Tony Award winner Andrew Garfield), a young theatre composer, waiting tables at a New York City diner in 1990 while writing what he hopes will be the next great American musical. Days before he’s due to showcase his work in a make-or-break performance, Jon is feeling the pressure from everywhere: from his girlfriend Susan, who dreams of an artistic life beyond New York City; from his friend Michael, who has moved on from his dream to a life of financial security; amidst a creative community being ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. With the clock ticking, Jon is at a crossroads and faces the question everyone must reckon with: What are we meant to do with the time we have?
And Andrew Garfield has just won Golden Globe Best Actor in motion picture, musical or comedy.
THE CLUB | NETFLIX
Another hit from Netflix. The Club portrays the struggles of Turkey’s Jews in the 1950s. A mother convicted of murder reunites with her daughter after 17 years, but all sorts of external influences make that reunion fraught with danger and negative emotion. It certainly feels like it’s a reunion that neither side wants, and its implications will make for exciting drama. Subtitles but worth persevering as the first episode introduces so many characters. I found it hard to remember them all, but I stuck with it and am now really enjoying it. It is beautifully shot, and of course, ‘The Club’ is an integral part of the story. Watch out for Salim’s solo singing performance, as he has an incredible voice. A good one for those who enjoy TV series focusing on social history.
THE GIRL FROM OSLO | NETFLIX
The girl from Oslo talks about Pia, a young Norwegian who, to the great surprise of her parents who came to her house to celebrate her birthday, went to Israel. While Pia is having fun with friends, she is kidnapped by ISIS. They demand the release of some Palestinian prisoners, one of which is being held in Norway, in exchange for her release. So Pia’s mother, Alex, travels to Jerusalem and reaches out to an old friend with the right local government connections, Arik, hoping that he can do something to speed up the bailout as the official political upper echelons hesitate about what to do. But, unfortunately, the girl’s father, Karl, is instead contacted directly by ISIS. It soon emerges that behind it all, there are reasons that go beyond the simple negotiation to free the prisoners on both sides of the barricade.
There are a few actors from the top-rated series, Fauda. Pia’s mother is a slightly irritating, over-dramatised character, but you can get by that.
The series was filmed in more than 100 locations in Israel, including the Negev and Arava deserts, Timna, the Dead Sea and Judean desert, several Palestinian cities, and Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
STAY CLOSE | NETFLIX
This thriller series has had mixed reviews as there are some unusual additions, such as the dance sequence by two psychopathic hired killers. However, that is all I will give away because if you can get beyond the ‘La-La Land’ moment, it is a good thriller. There are some behind the sofa moments, and some don’t look scenes. However, it stars Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage and Sarah Parish and will keep you guessing until the end.
THE UNFORGIVABLE | NETFLIX
The Unforgivable is a film starring Sandra Bullock and Viola Davis. A woman (Sandra Bullock) is released from prison after serving a sentence for a violent crime and re-enters a society that refuses to forgive her past. A great story and an outstanding performance by Sandra Bullock.
THE GIRL BEFORE | BBC
This is an adaptation of JP Delaney’s bestselling novel of 2018. It stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw and David Oyelowo. The other star is One Folgate Street, designed by Edward Monkford. Occupants of this house must abide by his list of strict rules to live there. But, three years apart, both Jane and Emma find themselves drawn to the starkly modern house and to the challenge of abiding by Edward’s rules, which require them to put aside any items that aren’t ‘essential’ to their lives.
The rent is ridiculously low; instead, the house’s virtual system “Housekeeper” collects data on the inhabitants and their personal habits – which spaces they use most or what temperature they prefer in the shower.
It is an intriguing plot and sticks to the original book.
SCREW | CHANNEL 4
Nina Sosanya and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell star as prison officers in this impeccably observed show about life on the wing … where secrets abound and naked inmates run amok. The six-part series, filmed in Glasgow but set in the fictional Long Marsh Prison has a hard act to follow after ‘Time’ which was the prison series of 2021, Jimmy McGovern’s hard-hitting prison drama starring Sean Bean and Stephen Graham.
The reviews are good – I haven’t watched it but I like the trailer so I will give it a go.
THE LOST DAUGHTER | NETFLIX
A college professor confronts her unsettling past after meeting a woman and her young daughter while on vacation in Italy. Her obsession with the woman and her daughter prompts memories of her early motherhood.
Directed & written by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the cast includes Olivia Colman, Jessie Buckley, Dakota Johnson, Ed Harris and Peter Sarsgaard.
MUNICH – THE EDGE OF WAR | NETFLIX 21st Jan
I saw a trailer of this in the cinema when I went to see West Side Story, and I am thrilled that it is on Netflix so quickly after its theatrical release.
A British diplomat (George MacKay) travels to Munich in the run-up to World War II, where a former classmate of his (Jannis Niewöhner) from Oxford is also en route but is working for the German government. They become reluctant spies racing to expose a Nazi secret.
It also stars Jeremy Irons as Neville Chamberlain.
RULES OF THE GAME | BBC starts Tuesday 11th January
An executive is forced to investigate the series of events that led to a brutal death within her company. Initially determined that nothing needs to change, especially in light of a looming stock floatation, she finds herself at odds with the newly hired HR director – until disturbing stories from the workforce start coming to light. Starring Maxine Peake and Rakhee Thakrar.
ANNE | ITV
And if you love Maxine Peake, then here is another brilliant drama series you can watch.
ITV’s four-part drama is a reminder that we may all know about Hillsborough – the 1989 FA Cup semi-final disaster in the Sheffield stadium that killed 97 Liverpool fans – but we didn’t live it and then relive it, viscerally, relentlessly, as the bereaved did.
Written by the novelist and screenwriter Kevin Sampson, who was at the game, it stars Maxine Peake as Anne Williams, mother of 15-year-old Hillsborough victim Kevin Williams, detailing her long, tortuous fight, along with others, to extract the truth from a swirling miasma of misinformation, police mistakes, cover-ups and lies.
CLICKBAIT | NETFLIX
My youngest daughter and I were scrolling through Netflix one grey Sunday afternoon to find something that we would both enjoy. Our common ground was a thriller but not too much violence. Clickbait ticked those boxes and is a very intriguing and utterly novel storyline. In addition, Clickbait has things to say about internet technology, misinformation and the alarming, potentially dangerous speed of modern media.
THE TOURIST | BBC IPLAYER
Please don’t give up on this one as I nearly did. It is a much-hyped BBC series, so perhaps I was over-expectant. Jamie Dornan needed to shake off his ’50 Shades of Grey’ persona, and he does this admirably in this series. This new six-part drama, written by another set of brothers, Harry and Jack Williams, soon takes off once you get past the man needing the loo who then gets chased by a truck that intends to write him off. The Man wakes up in hospital with no memory or ID, so the trek begins to find out who he is.
PEAKY BLINDERS SEASON 6 | BBC IPLAYER
I hardly need to write a review for this because if you are a Peaky Blinders fan, you have been awaiting this series. Enjoy!
A VERY BRITISH SCANDAL | BBC IPLAYER
Most people who love a historical drama, and this one is based on fact, will have watched this over the New Year. Claire Foy is fabulous, though she makes the Duchess of Argyll far too attractive. Paul Bettany plays the manipulative penniless aristo with great style. Again, beautifully filmed at the official Scottish castle of the Camerons and another great insight into social history, in this case amongst aristocratic circles.
We also have an article on our website written by someone who met the Duchess of Argyll back in the day. Click HERE to read.
I have added a clip of an interview with the two lead actors underneath the trailer.
THE GENTLEMEN | NETFLIX
How did I miss this Guy Ritchie film in 2020? Anyway, here it is on Netflix.
When cannabis mogul Mickey Pearson plans to sell his profitable marijuana empire following his retirement, it stimulates an array of wrongdoings in the name of greed. Starring: Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Matthew McConaughey, Michelle Dockery, Colin Farrell, Jeremy Strong, Henry Golding.
My husband loved it!
THE RESPONDER | BBC IPLAYER
The Responder comes from the mind of former police officer Tony Schumacher who has turned to write his first original series. The BBC One drama will focus on the emotional extremes of life as experienced by a police officer.
Leading the cast as responder Chris is actor Martin Freeman.
THE GREEN PLANET | BBC IPLAYER
Any documentary by David Attenborough is a must-see for us. Dive into a world where a single life can last a thousand years. See things no eye has ever seen, and discover Earth’s dramatic, beautiful plant life.
Finally, some great news….
BORGEN | NETFLIX
Netflix has bought the Danish political series, and there will be a season 4. So if you haven’t watched this series or, like me, forgotten it all, then why not re-watch the first three seasons whilst awaiting the new one.
In this landmark drama, a shocking turn of events puts Birgitte Nyborg in the Danish prime minister’s seat as her country’s first female leader. It may be defined as a political drama, but politics is made human. It is about democracy and people: relationships between people, work and home (fascinating at the moment). It is about journalism, women, values, having children, not having children.
If I haven’t given you enough choices, then look at my last Best TV review, click HERE. See you in February…..