News, Culture & Society

From Big Bird on Dear… to Alex Rider & an Anthony Bourdain boxset: The best on demand TV this week

SKY, BRITBOX, APPLE TV+ & ACORN TV

Dear…

‘Your legacy is every life you’ve touched,’ says Oprah Winfrey during this new biographical series. Inspired by the Dear Apple adverts, in which consumers describe the impact of the company’s products on their lives, it profiles a number of public figures while hearing from the fans who have been moved to write to them after being inspired by their work. 

Dear… profiles a number of public figures – from Big Bird to Oprah Winfrey – while hearing from the fans who have been moved to write to them after being inspired by their work

Winfrey is one of those featured, alongside the likes of Gloria Steinem, Spike Lee, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Yara Shahidi, Stevie Wonder, Jane Goodall, Misty Copeland and, our personal favourite, Sesame Street resident Big Bird – we’re hoping his best friend Mr Snuffleupagus is among those paying tribute.

Expect tears of joy from the celebrities as they hear about the effect they have had on ordinary people across the globe. Apple TV+, from Friday

 

The Plastic Nile 

Available to stream from World Environment Day, this shocking documentary reveals the horrifying impact of plastic on the River Nile, a vital life source for the thousands of people and animals who live within it or along its banks. Award-winning correspondent Alex Crawford exposes the harm done to food chains and captures on camera fishermen and vets trying to help creatures stricken by accidentally ingesting the stuff. But what really brings the tragedy home is the hideous sight of tons of single-use plastic thoughtlessly disposed of as it clogs this once majestic waterway. Sky/NOW TV, from Friday

 

My Brilliant Friend

Elena Ferrante’s ‘Neapolitan novels’ – four books about the lifelong friendship between Lila and Elena, daughters of a tough working-class area of Naples – are a phenomenon. 

The big-budget adaptation of the Elena Ferrante novel is an extraordinary achievement and covers Lila and Elena’s (Margherita Mazzucco, above with Christian Giroso) youth

The big-budget adaptation of the Elena Ferrante novel is an extraordinary achievement and covers Lila and Elena’s (Margherita Mazzucco, above with Christian Giroso) youth

Published between 2012 and 2015, they were instantly recognised as classics, and the fact that ‘Elena Ferrante’ is a nom de plume and the author’s identity remains unknown has only deepened fans’ obsession. 

This big-budget HBO adaptation of the first novel (there will be a series for each) is an extraordinary achievement, covering Lila and Elena’s childhood, adolescence and first romantic relationships. Sky/NOW TV, available now

 

The Miniaturist

Amsterdam, 1686. Eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman (Anya Taylor-Joy) moves into the house of the rich merchant she has just married. Her sister-in-law Marin (Romola Garai) and the servants seem to resent her. As a wedding present, her husband gives her a dolls’ house modelled on their own home, but miniatures for the house ordered by Nella appear to reveal family secrets. 

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as newlywed, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman in this three-part adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller which is set in 17th Century Amsterdam

Anya Taylor-Joy stars as newlywed, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman in this three-part adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller which is set in 17th Century Amsterdam 

Every scene looks like a painting by a Dutch Old Master in this three-part adaptation of Jessie Burton’s bestseller – previously broadcast on BBC1 – which differs from the novel in one important aspect. Acorn TV, from Monday

 

Das Boot

A solid sequel to the brilliant Wolfgang Petersen anti-war drama about the crew of a U-boat that patrols the Atlantic in search of British convoys. It’s now autumn 1942, nine months after the events of the original story, and the tide has turned against the Germans in the Battle of the Atlantic. 

The series focuses both on the claustrophobic intensity of life on board a German submarine – the U-boat fleet had the highest casualty rate in the German military – and on the activities of the Resistance in the sub’s home base, La Rochelle in occupied France. Sky/NOW TV, available now (ahead of s2, June 9)

 

Screened Out

Today’s world of gaming apps, Instagram fame and social-media addiction troubles Canadian film-maker Jon Hyatt. With his wife and children, he travels across the world, speaking to doctors, tech insiders, psychologists and marketing experts to explore the harmful effects of our obsession. 

He discovers an alarming link between the way app developers exploit human weaknesses and the psychology behind the success of arcade slot machines. And with echoes of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, Hyatt decides to disconnect himself from all social media. The results are eye-opening… Various platforms, from Monday

NETFLIX

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

Anthony Bourdain was the closest thing cooking had to a rock star. The self-proclaimed pirate was a tattooed New Yorker who took drugs and drank like a fish through every service in every kitchen he ever cooked in. 

Anthony Bourdain was the closest thing cooking had to a rock star. He was also dynamite in front of a TV camera, which is why these 12 series of his travel/cooking show are so enjoyable

Anthony Bourdain was the closest thing cooking had to a rock star. He was also dynamite in front of a TV camera, which is why these 12 series of his travel/cooking show are so enjoyable

He worked in the best – and worst – restaurants around the world and also blew the lid off the entire industry with his incendiary tell-all book Kitchen Confidential. But alongside the larger-than-life personality was a man who loved food. 

He was also dynamite in front of a TV camera, which is why these 12 series of his travel/cooking show are so enjoyable to watch. That he committed suicide while filming the final series – at the age of 61 – makes them also surprisingly poignant. Series 1-12, from Monday

 

13 Reasons Why

This teen drama initially sparked a backlash because an early episode featured a graphic suicide. The scene in question has since been removed from the show, but it has still faced widespread criticism for its portrayal of bullying, sexual assault and self-harm. 

After discovering the truth about the murder of Bryce Walker (Justin Prentice) at the end of last season, Winston (Deaken Bluman) kicks off series four seeking justice for Monty (Timothy Granaderos), who was killed in prison after being framed for the murder. From Friday

 

Queer Eye

Back for their fifth season, the fab five – Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness – are taking their life makeover skills to Philadelphia. Queer Eye has travelled to Georgia, Missouri, Kansas and Tokyo among other places since first airing in 2018. 

In each episode the lifestyle gurus revamp every area of a willing participant’s life, from fashion and grooming to diet, culture and design. If this season is anything like the last, you will definitely be needing a box of tissues by your side. From Friday

 

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

His name has become synonymous with sexual depravity and manipulation, but how did Jeffrey Epstein get away with his crimes for so long? 

This revealing four-part documentary helps to explain how Jeffrey Epstein was able to get away with his systematic abuse of vulnerable women and girls for so long

This revealing four-part documentary helps to explain how Jeffrey Epstein was able to get away with his systematic abuse of vulnerable women and girls for so long

This revealing four-part documentary explains how he came from humble beginnings before amassing the fortune that bought him access to some of the most powerful and influential people in the world, all while running an international sex-trafficking ring. 

Director Lisa Bryant also examines the secret plea deal Epstein made in 2008 that enabled him to stay out of jail – and to continue his systematic abuse of vulnerable women and girls. Available now

 

Keeping Up With The Kardashians

For the Kardashian and Jenner clans, revisiting 2007 must feel like a trip back to the Victorian era. But that’s what Netflix are offering viewers the chance to do as they show the first two seasons of the blockbusting reality show. Especially intriguing is seeing how much Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie have changed since then. From Monday

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Code 404 (Sky/NOW TV) 

Sky’s biggest comedy hit in almost a decade has quickly been renewed for a second series. Code 404 is a bit like a reverse Life On Mars – a police officer finds himself struggling because he’s been pitched into the future rather than the past. There are also nods to Robocop and The Six Million Dollar Man.

Set ‘a few years from now’, when detective inspector John Major (Daniel Mays, near right) is killed while working undercover, scientists use AI and stem-cell technology to resurrect him. A year after his death he’s reunited with his work partner DI Roy Carver (Stephen Graham, far right) and his life partner, Kelly (Anna Maxwell Martin).

Code 404 sees DI John Major (Daniel Mays) resurrected using AI and stem-cell technology and go back to work with his partner (Stephen Graham, above with Mays)

Code 404 sees DI John Major (Daniel Mays) resurrected using AI and stem-cell technology and go back to work with his partner (Stephen Graham, above with Mays)

Major expects to move back in with Kelly but she’s not keen. ‘Think of me as like… Oscar Pistorius,’ he says in an ill-judged attempt to reassure her that he’s still the same good guy he was, only with a few enhancements. Unbeknown to him, she and Carver are an item. Bit awkward. And although he used to be ‘the best cop in the unit’, Major’s not the man he was. He’s prone to malfunctions and requires regular software updates. Nevertheless, he’s determined to track down the man who shot him. 

Part of the fun is seeing Mays and Graham, actors we’re more used to watching in gritty, serious dramas, embrace the show’s broad, knockabout comedy. There’s subtle stuff going on too. Several characters are named after modern philosophers and there are philosophical references dotted throughout.

All in all, this show’s running on a highly efficient operating system.

Neil Armstrong 

 

AMAZON

Alex Rider

Alex is the sort of lad who will scale a wall, break into a building and pick a lock with a paperclip to retrieve a friend’s confiscated phone. He just seems to be naturally good at that sort of thing. After the death of his guardian uncle, who he discovers was a spy, Alex is recruited by a specialist subdivision of the British Secret Intelligence Service. 

Based on the second novel in Anthony Horowitz’s best-selling series, this new Alex Rider stars Otto Farrant (above) in the title role and Vicky McClure as his MI6 handler

Based on the second novel in Anthony Horowitz’s best-selling series, this new Alex Rider stars Otto Farrant (above) in the title role and Vicky McClure as his MI6 handler

‘MI6 gather information. We apply it. We take care of the bigger picture and we use any means necessary,’ the department head Alan Blunt (Stephen Dillane) tells him. The teenager is the perfect candidate to infiltrate a school called Point Blanc, which appears to be the link between two high-profile ‘accidental’ deaths. Based on the second novel in Anthony Horowitz’s best-selling series, this stars Otto Farrant in the title role and Vicky McClure as his MI6 handler. From Thursday

 

This Is Us

It may not have found an audience during its brief, free-to-air run on Channel 4 a few years ago, but the US comedy-drama has belatedly picked up a UK following among Amazon Prime subscribers. The fourth season continues to follow the lives and loves of the Pearson family across several decades as they navigate various highs and lows. The run begins as Rebecca returns to LA ahead of Jack’s first meeting with her parents. It’s an event that doesn’t go as well as the couple had hoped. From Friday

 

El Presidente

This eight-part Spanish-language dramedy takes a sideways look at the 2015 Fifa corruption scandal, focusing on the role played by an obscure Chilean club president who became a key player in a $150 million bribery conspiracy. From Friday

 

Living Abroad

Four-part docu-series following four of Spain’s World Cup winners from 2010 on and off the pitch as they ply their trade abroad at the fag end of their careers. There’s Juan Mata, in and out of the team at Manchester United, David Villa in Japan and Javi Martínez at Bayern Munich. More interesting is Barcelona great Xavi Hernández as he takes his first steps in management in Qatar. From Friday

 

BBC iPLAYER , ALL 4 & YOUTUBE 

Cardinal

The fourth and final season of the acclaimed Canadian crime mystery based on the novels of Giles Blunt begins on BBC2 this week. If you’ve never seen it and want to catch up on its predecessors, here’s a chance to do just that. 

Billy Campbell  (above with Karine Vanasse as his sidekick Lise Delorme) stars as Detective John Cardinal in this acclaimed Canadian crime mystery based on the novels of Giles Blunt

Billy Campbell  (above with Karine Vanasse as his sidekick Lise Delorme) stars as Detective John Cardinal in this acclaimed Canadian crime mystery based on the novels of Giles Blunt

Billy Campbell stars as Detective John Cardinal, a melancholic soul who, when we first meet him, has been demoted after becoming dangerously fixated on the case of a missing girl – but his hunches are soon proven to be right. After solving the mystery, he and his devoted sidekick Lise Delorme deal with the occult and the murder of Cardinal’s mentally ill wife. BBC iPlayer, from Wednesday

 

Coriolanus

Political skulduggery, ruthless ambition and an angry egotist with a cold disregard for the populace… not a snapshot of this week in the news but Shakespeare’s 1605 tragedy of Republican Rome.

Tom Hiddleston is electrifying in this fast-paced production, which was filmed in 2014 at the Donmar Warehouse and is now being streamed via the National Theatre on YouTube. Hiddleston’s Coriolanus is a conflicted hero, a forward-thrusting Roman general whose driving force is his ambitious mother (Deborah Findlay). 

After a major military victory, the plebeian-despising aristocrat is made a consul. But when the people riot against his appointment, he denounces them, is exiled and plots revenge. National Theatre YouTube, from Thursday, 7pm

 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

What if, contrary to the standard horror-film rules, the cute teenager isn’t the first to die? What if she’s the victor rather than the victim? Joss Whedon’s beloved and influential series explored high-school anxieties through the prism of the supernatural, using monsters as metaphors. 

In Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar), it gave us a funny, feminist superhero who was as handy with a witty one-liner as she was with a stake. Several episodes – including the musical Once More With Feeling, the nightmarish Hush and the heartbreaking The Body – are often cited as among the greatest TV ever and the show’s reputation as a groundbreaker has grown even greater since its original run 20 years ago. All 4, s1-7 from Monday (s1 also on E4 from Mon 11pm, s2-7 All 4 exclusive)

 

Killing Eve

For dedicated Killing Eve fans, tomorrow is the big day as the eagerly anticipated final episode of series 3 arrives on iPlayer. Prepare to be on the edge of your seat as former MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) pursues Villanelle (Jodie Comer), the beautiful but ruthless assassin she’s obsessed with. 

Prepare to be on the edge of your seat as former MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) pursues Villanelle (Jodie Comer, above), the beautiful but ruthless assassin she’s obsessed with

Prepare to be on the edge of your seat as former MI6 agent Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) pursues Villanelle (Jodie Comer, above), the beautiful but ruthless assassin she’s obsessed with

The fast-paced denouement follows a dramatic penultimate episode, to be shown on BBC1 tonight, in which Eve is hot on the heels of Villanelle, while the pressure is on for the killer’s mentors, Konstantin (Kim Bodnia) and Dasha (Harriet Walter). BBC iPlayer, from Monday 6am

 

Bad Education

Jack Whitehall appeared as hapless, newly qualified history teacher Alfie Wickers during April’s The Big Night In fundraising special, and if it whetted your appetite for more, you can catch all of his antics courtesy of BBC iPlayer, where each of the hit sitcom’s three series are now available to stream. 

For the uninitiated, it all takes place at the fictional Abbey Grove School in Hertfordshire, where Alfie seems to spend more time trying – but failing miserably – to impress the colleague he fancies than he does teaching. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Angels Of The North

More Geordie Shore than Antony Gormley, Angels Of The North is an eight-part series that follows the luscious-locked gals of a Tyneside salon at work. It was filmed just before Covid-19 struck and sent sales of home hairdressing kits soaring. 

The show’s stars are the scissor-wielders of Longlox in Gateshead: owner Sammyjo, her ‘mamager’ Bev and irrepressible stylists Kallie, Ashleigh, Leona and Holly. 

They’re all larger-than-life characters and, fittingly for a salon specialising in hair extensions, very little of the gossip gets left on the cutting-room floor. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

How’s Your Head, Hon?

She made a big splash in last year’s Strictly. Now Michelle Visage is throwing open the doors to her family home and inviting us to her weekly virtual house party. 

Michelle Visage is throwing open the doors to her family home and inviting us to her weekly virtual house party in How’s Your Head, Hon?

Michelle Visage is throwing open the doors to her family home and inviting us to her weekly virtual house party in How’s Your Head, Hon?

Husband David (the camera operator) and her youngest daughter Lola appear as Visage offers advice on staying sane during lockdown. She also catches up with some celebrity friends – the first two episodes feature Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, Alan Carr and Joel McHale. BBC3/iPlayer, available now

 

FILMS

Parasite

This time last year, Bong Joon-ho’s psychological thriller and social satire had just won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It would go on to win two Baftas and no fewer than four Oscars, including Best Picture, becoming the first foreign-language film ever to do so. 

Watch the impoverished but resourceful Kim family (Park So-dam, above with Choi Woo-sik) inveigle their way into the lives of the wealthy Parks in the Oscar-winning Parasite

Watch the impoverished but resourceful Kim family (Park So-dam, above with Choi Woo-sik) inveigle their way into the lives of the wealthy Parks in the Oscar-winning Parasite

And for once all the hype was richly deserved as we travel to Seoul and watch the impoverished but resourceful Kim family (Park So-dam, above left, with Choi Woo-sik) inveigle their way into the cosseted, luxurious lives of the wealthy Parks. Sky Store/Rakuten, from Monday

 

Woman At War

The emergence of the Extinction Rebellion movement has put disruptive environmentalism very much centre stage. So the timing looks perfect for an Icelandic comedy-drama about a committed eco-campaigner who suddenly has to balance her guerrilla sabotage campaign against an aluminium plant with the life-changing opportunity to adopt a child. All a bit weird but Halldora Geirharosdottir’s central performance borders on the wonderful. MUBI, from Friday

 

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Most Brits will be unaware of Fred Rogers, the American children’s TV host. But don’t let that put you off as Oscar-nominated Tom Hanks is quietly fantastic as the earnest ‘Mr Rogers’, a man whose goodness shines through. 

Oscar-nominated Tom Hanks is quietly fantastic as the earnest ‘Mr Rogers’, a man whose goodness shines through in this properly lovely film

Oscar-nominated Tom Hanks is quietly fantastic as the earnest ‘Mr Rogers’, a man whose goodness shines through in this properly lovely film

Ah, but is he too good to be true? Matthew Rhys is terrific as the journalist who finds out. Properly lovely. Sky Store/Rakuten, available now

Matthew Bond

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk