News, Culture & Society

From Fort Salem to Elizabeth Is Missing and The Hater: The best on demand TV this week

BBC iPLAYER, ITV HUB & ALL 4 

Fort Salem

Three American teenagers (Ashley Nicole Williams, Taylor Hickson and Jessica Sutton) are off to do their basic training on a prestigious military course. But it’s not West Point. It’s Fort Salem – and this is special forces with spells.

Ashley Nicole Williams, Taylor Hickson and Jessica Sutton (above) star as cadets off to do their basic training. But it’s not West Point. It’s Fort Salem – and this is special forces with spells

Three centuries ago, the American government reached an accord with the witches of Salem and they joined forces. Now witches are an integral part of the US military and respected by the public. People give up seats on planes for them, while thanking them for their service. And witches are essential in the fight against The Spree, a sinister terrorist organisation.

When this ten-episode series first screened some critics were a bit sniffy but viewers loved it. It’s a richly imagined and expensively realised world, and very compelling. A second series is planned. BBC iPlayer, full box set available from Sunday, 6am

 

Nighty Night

Julia Davis’s hugely acclaimed black comedy is extremely dark, and isn’t always comfortable viewing. It is, however, very clever and tells the twisted story of narcissistic sociopath Jill (Davis), a beauty therapist who, on discovering her long-suffering husband Terry has cancer, prepares for life without him – even though his condition isn’t necessarily terminal. 

Julia Davis’s hugely acclaimed black comedy tells the twisted story of narcissistic sociopath Jill (Davis, above with Mark Gatiss) as she prepares for life after the death of her husband

Julia Davis’s hugely acclaimed black comedy tells the twisted story of narcissistic sociopath Jill (Davis, above with Mark Gatiss) as she prepares for life after the death of her husband

She begins dating other men, although it’s her neighbour Don, a womanising doctor, who is the focus for her increasingly obsessive behaviour. Angus Deayton plays him, while Kevin Eldon is Jill’s other half. Ruth Jones, Mark Gatiss, Felicity Montagu and Miranda Hart also appear. BBC iPlayer, s1-2 box set available now

 

Eric Andre Does Paris

Andre is hugely popular in his native US, but largely unknown on this side of the Atlantic. That should change after comedy fans stream this special which, as you may surmise from the title, was filmed during a sojourn in the French capital. 

It’s actually a spin on The Eric Andre Show, a parody of low-budget, local TV chat shows that mixes surrealism, dark comedy and stunts. Expect plenty of all three here. All 4, from Friday

 

Alan Bennett’s Diaries

Anybody who’s read Alan Bennett’s diaries will tell you they’re a wonderful collection of memories and observations that offer a window into his life. Originally shown in 2016, this documentary, filmed over the course of a year, was recently dusted down by the BBC to tie in with the revamped lockdown versions of Bennett’s Talking Heads series. 

Anybody who’s read Alan Bennett’s diaries will tell you they’re a wonderful collection of memories and observations that offer a window into his life

Anybody who’s read Alan Bennett’s diaries will tell you they’re a wonderful collection of memories and observations that offer a window into his life

Like the diaries themselves, the programme reveals much of what is important to the playwright, including his work, partner Rupert, his second home in Yorkshire and his local library. BBC iPlayer, until Thursday

 

Harper’s Island

Young Trish Wellington and Henry Dunn cordially invite a bunch of attractive friends to their wedding on picturesque Harper’s Island, 37 miles from the coast off Seattle. Just because seven years ago a madman murdered six people on the island, that’s no reason to suppose that a deranged serial killer will dispatch the wedding guests one by one in ever more inventive and gruesome ways, is it? 

Er, yes, turns out it is. If you’re a fan of slasher horror films such as Friday The 13th and Halloween, you’ll enjoy this 13-part series, which has acquired a cult following. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Midsomer Murders

It’s 23 years since Caroline Graham’s Chief Inspector Barnaby books were first adapted for the small screen by Anthony Horowitz, creator of Alex Rider and Foyle’s War. Horowitz is no longer involved but the series is still going from strength to strength, despite losing original star John Nettles; he left in 2011 with Neil Dudgeon smoothly taking over as Tom Barnaby’s younger but no less skilled cousin, John. The 21st series aired in January this year, complete with the show’s customary eccentric murders; there’s a chance to see all those episodes and many of its predecessors – including those starring Nettles – on ITV’s catch-up service. ITV Hub, available now

 

What We Do In The Shadows

Hilarious off-the-wall mockumentary in which four vampires share a house in contemporary Staten Island. Nandor, Nadja and Laszlo are conventional, hundreds-of-years-old blood-sucking vampires. Colin Robinson is an ‘energy vampire’, feeding off the boredom and irritation of his victims. 

Natasia Demetriou, Matt Berry and Greta Lee (above) are among the cast of this hilarious off-the-wall mockumentary in which four vampires share a house in contemporary Staten Island

Natasia Demetriou, Matt Berry and Greta Lee (above) are among the cast of this hilarious off-the-wall mockumentary in which four vampires share a house in contemporary Staten Island

The housemates squabble with witches, werewolves and other vampires; they struggle with the internet; they attend a ‘Suberb Owl’ party (think about it) at the neighbours’ place. It stars British comedians Natasia Demetriou and Matt Berry as Nadja and Laszlo. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

SKY, DISNEY+, BRITBOX & ACORN TV

Elizabeth Is Missing

On Friday, Glenda Jackson is up for a second Leading Actress Bafta for her role in this film, only five years after returning to acting after a long career in politics and a mere 48 years after she won her first (for the 1971 film Sunday Bloody Sunday).

Glenda Jackson is tremendously affecting as Maud, an elderly lady made cantankerous by the frustrations arising from her dementia but determined to find her missing friend

Glenda Jackson is tremendously affecting as Maud, an elderly lady made cantankerous by the frustrations arising from her dementia but determined to find her missing friend

Jackson is tremendously affecting as Maud, an elderly lady made cantankerous by the frustrations arising from her dementia but determined to find her friend who has mysteriously gone missing. The search triggers memories of Maud’s older sister Sukey, who disappeared 70 years before.

The film is cleverly put together to reflect Maud’s sense of disorientation and will resonate particularly with anyone with a relative or friend who has dementia. If Jackson, 84, doesn’t bag the Bafta – which will sit nicely alongside the other one, the two Oscars, the Emmys, the Tony and all the rest – it will be a travesty. Acorn TV, from Friday

 

Muppets Now

Prepare for some mayhem as The Muppets head back to TV for a series unlike anything they’ve attempted before. Since 1955, Jim Henson’s creations have been entertaining children (not to mention their parents) across the globe. 

This new Muppets series features Miss Piggy and all the familiar old faces and is an unscripted, improvised story featuring celebrity guests including RuPaul and Seth Rogen

This new Muppets series features Miss Piggy and all the familiar old faces and is an unscripted, improvised story featuring celebrity guests including RuPaul and Seth Rogen

This new series features Miss Piggy and all the familiar old faces (if Kermit sounds odd, it’s probably because a new actor, Matt Vogel, is now providing his voice, taking over from Steve Whitmire after his 26 years in the role), but it’s Scooter the gofer who takes centre stage. 

The unscripted, improvised story follows his adventures as he battles to upload the series to the Disney+ platform. Look out for celebrity guests, including RuPaul and Seth Rogen, during the six-episode run. Disney+, from Friday

 

Black Is King

Beyoncé’s latest project, described as a ‘visual album’, has been criticised for appropriating African culture. Now fans can make up their own minds. Inspired by her album The Lion King: The Gift, it follows the progress of a boy as he deals with betrayal, love and self-identity with help from his ancestors, who guide him towards his destiny. 

Beyoncé herself has directed the film, while artists who appeared on the album, including Childish Gambino, Pharrell Williams and Kendrick Lamar, as well as her husband Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy Carter, make guest appearances. Disney+, from Friday

 

Louis Theroux Collection

Louis Theroux has produced some extraordinary documentaries and more than 40 of them, from the Dark States, Extreme Love, When Louis Met… and Weird Weekends series, are brought together here. 

They include the notorious The Most Hated Family In America, about the Westboro Baptist Church, members of which picketed military funerals with homophobic signs; Louis And The Nazis, in which Theroux spent time with white supremacists; and Louis Theroux: Savile, where he looks back at his infamous encounter with the paedophile Jimmy Savile. BritBox, from Thursday

 

Killer In My Village

Even the sleepiest of British villages can have a shocking murder lurking beneath the surface, as this documentary series shows. This week’s episode heads to the village of Edwinstowe, in Nottinghamshire, and focuses on the murder of Philip Croydon, whose wife Carol stabbed him 22 times with a cheese knife. Series 1 and 2 are also available. Sky/NOW TV, available now

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (Netflix)

This dark, disturbing documentary about Jeffrey Epstein is still high in the streaming charts following the arrest of his right-hand woman Ghislaine Maxwell. As the series reminds us, Epstein’s friend Donald Trump once said of him: ‘I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.’

This dark, disturbing documentary about Jeffrey Epstein is still high in the streaming charts following the arrest of his right-hand woman Ghislaine Maxwell (both above)

This dark, disturbing documentary about Jeffrey Epstein is still high in the streaming charts following the arrest of his right-hand woman Ghislaine Maxwell (both above)

Epstein’s victims, several of whom are interviewed at length here, can attest to his interest in young girls. Some were only 14 when first raped by him. Over four episodes, the series looks at the murky origins of the billionaire’s fortune, the way in which he built what one lawyer describes as a ‘molestation pyramid scheme’ by recruiting kids for sex, and then paying them to bring their friends to him, and his eventual downfall.

It’s not an easy watch. Victims tell of his devastating impact on their lives and of the battle to have their stories taken seriously. Virginia Giuffre, who claims she was forced to have sex with Prince Andrew, is among the contributors.

For a long time, Epstein was mysteriously untouchable and had the power to make inconvenient investigations go away. He committed suicide in prison last year, giving conspiracy theorists a field day, while Ghislaine Maxwell, of whom we hear a great deal, is awaiting trial. Some Netflix documentaries really wring their subject dry. This one feels as though it’s barely scratched the surface.

Neil Armstrong 

NETFLIX

The Hater

When creepy, manipulative Tomasz is kicked out of law school, he is taken on as a ‘social media moderation’ operator by a dodgy digital consulting outfit. He discovers he’s great at smearing people online. Destroying lives and careers is his forte. Getting people cancelled comes easily to him. But at what personal cost? And will his dubious talent impress Gabi, the girl he’s besotted with? 

This film from the Polish director Jan Komasa won plaudits at this year’s digital Tribeca Film Festival. Above: Maciej Stuhr as mayoral candidate Pawel Rudnicki

This film from the Polish director Jan Komasa won plaudits at this year’s digital Tribeca Film Festival. Above: Maciej Stuhr as mayoral candidate Pawel Rudnicki

When he starts using his dubious talents to try to take down a liberal politician running for mayor (Maciej Stuhr), things start to get seriously dark. This film from the Polish director Jan Komasa won plaudits at this year’s digital Tribeca Film Festival and is very of the moment. From Wednesday

 

Good Girls

Christina Hendricks, Retta and Mae Whitman are back as unlikely criminal masterminds Beth, Ruby and Annie. Unfortunately, production of the comedy-drama’s third series was shut down early due to coronavirus, so there are only 11 episodes to enjoy, although a fourth run has already been commissioned. 

Christina Hendricks (above), Retta and Mae Whitman are back as unlikely criminal masterminds Beth, Ruby and Annie in series three of Good Girls

Christina Hendricks (above), Retta and Mae Whitman are back as unlikely criminal masterminds Beth, Ruby and Annie in series three of Good Girls

This one begins as the ladies attempt to come to terms with Rio’s death – that’s if he really has met his maker – while launching a new money-laundering venture. From Sunday

 

The Umbrella Academy

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and can be pretty dysfunctional too. However, few are as weird as the Hargreeves, the siblings at the centre of this comic-book adaptation, which is returning for its second series. They all have superpowers, were raised by an eccentric millionaire and after years apart are now reunited. We left them at the end of the previous run as the apocalypse began, and now they’re travelling to 1963 to change the course of history. Ellen Page, Robert Sheehan and Mary J. Blige are among the cast. From Friday

 

Warrior Nun

‘You’re saying some random, formerly dead civilian is out there with an angel’s halo inside her?’ says one of the demon-battling ninja nuns in the first episode of this bonkers fantasy drama inspired by a graphic-novel series. Your reaction to that sort of dialogue tells you whether you’re going to love or hate this. 

This bonkers fantasy drama stars Alba Baptista as a recently deceased, 19-year-old orphan resurrected when an ancient secret order of nuns embeds an angel’s halo in her back

This bonkers fantasy drama stars Alba Baptista as a recently deceased, 19-year-old orphan resurrected when an ancient secret order of nuns embeds an angel’s halo in her back

It’s Andalusia, Spain, in the present day. Ava Silva (Alba Baptista) is a recently deceased, 19-year-old quadriplegic orphan resurrected when a member of an ancient secret order of nuns embeds an angel’s halo in her back to keep it from the bad guys. The series’ young cast commits to the colourful premise entirely. Available now

 

Fear City: New York vs The Mafia

In the 1970s and 80s, the mafia had a powerful grip on New York. The ‘Five Families’ controlled the construction industry, the docks and many of the restaurants, bars and clubs. They even had judges in their pocket. Then the FBI decided to take them on with a huge bugging operation. This three-part documentary features previously unheard surveillance recordings as well as first-hand accounts from former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, FBI agents and former gangsters. From Wednesday

 

AMAZON PRIME

Avocado Toast The Series

Heidi Lynch and Perrie Voss have created an intergenerational sex comedy in which they also star as thirtysomethings Molly and Elle, who are dealing with the trials of love and life while uncovering some shocking truths. After a lifetime of dating men, Molly comes out as bisexual; Elle, meanwhile, is horrified that her mum and dad are divorcing after her mother’s affair with a much younger man. Available now

 

TrustWHO

The World Health Organization has been hitting the headlines since the pandemic took hold. Although President Trump hasn’t been complimentary about the agency, other nations have tried to follow its guidance. However, in this documentary director Lilian Franck challenges the idea that it’s as impartial and altruistic as we’ve been led to believe by investigating alleged links between the WHO and major industrial powers. Available now

 

Fear The Walking Dead

It’s five years since this spin-off from the regular Walking Dead series first aired, and it keeps going from strength to strength – there are those who even reckon it’s better than the original. Look out for a crossover between the two chilling dramas, with the main focus on one of the original show’s characters, Morgan Jones (the ever-reliable Lennie James), and Alicia Clark’s efforts to lead their fellow zombie-apocalypse survivors to safety. It doesn’t start well when one of their number, Luciana, is injured in a plane crash… From Wednesday

 

Knives Out

Entertaining Christie-style whodunnit with an excellent cast including Daniel Craig having a wild stab at a Southern accent as PI Benoit Blanc. Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette are among those who might have murdered crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). 

Entertaining Christie-style whodunnit with an excellent cast including Daniel Craig having a wild stab at a Southern accent as PI Benoit Blanc

Entertaining Christie-style whodunnit with an excellent cast including Daniel Craig having a wild stab at a Southern accent as PI Benoit Blanc

Director and writer Rian Johnson pays tribute to, and makes fun of, the tropes of twisty-turny murder mysteries. Craig is to return in a sequel. From Friday

FILMS

Make Up

In Claire Oakley’s impressive debut feature, 18-year-old Ruth (Molly Windsor) arrives at a soon-to-close Cornwall holiday park to team up with her working boyfriend. But when she finds long red hairs among his clothes, she becomes obsessed by the idea he’s been cheating. Expect menace, atmosphere and swirling sexual undercurrents. Curzon Home Cinema, from Friday

 

Clemency

Alfre Woodard is wonderful as the warden of a US jail who accepts that implementing a death sentence is just part of her job. 

Alfre Woodard is wonderful as the warden of a US jail feeling the strain in Chinonye Chukwu’s powerful and properly painful film

Alfre Woodard is wonderful as the warden of a US jail feeling the strain in Chinonye Chukwu’s powerful and properly painful film

But when her 11th execution goes wrong, the strain takes its toll. Chinonye Chukwu’s picture is a tough watch – but powerful and properly painful. Bohemia Media, Curzon Home Cinema, available now

 

Above Suspicion

Directed by the normally rather good Phillip Noyce, this under-par offering sees an ambitious but inexperienced FBI agent arriving in a Kentucky town desperate to make a name for himself. But not as desperate as pretty, drug-addicted Susan (Emilia Clarke) is to leave the same town… Most platforms, available now

Matthew Bond 

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