News, Culture & Society

From How To Build A Girl to The Young Offenders and Burton & Taylor: This week’s best on demand TV

AMAZON PRIME 

How To Build A Girl 

In 2014, Caitlin Moran’s novel How To Build A Girl became a bestseller. Based loosely on her own experiences, it tells the story of teenager Johanna Morrigan, who decides to reinvent herself as rock music critic Dolly Wilde, complete with outlandish clothes, dyed hair and a top hat. 

American Beanie Feldstein – sister of Jonah Hill – is an odd choice to play Johanna, but the cast, which includes Paddy Considine and Emma Thompson (above), is exceptional

Moran has co-written this feature-length adaptation, which retains the book’s warmth and charm. American Beanie Feldstein – sister of Jonah Hill – is an odd choice to play Johanna (her accent leaves something to be desired), but the cast, which includes Paddy Considine and Emma Thompson, is exceptional. From Friday

 

Jim Gaffigan: The Pale Tourist 

Gaffigan is a best-selling author, actor and comedian who often pokes fun at his own life and sold out Madison Square Garden – one of only ten comics to do so. This two-part special was created during a world tour in which he aimed to sample the culture and food of as many countries as possible before writing and performing all-new material based on his experiences for a local audience. From Friday

 

Breathe: Into The Shadows 

Nine months after their daughter was abducted, Dr Avinash Sabharwal and his wife Abha are contacted by Siya’s kidnapper and told they have to carry out a series of murders if they want their child returned. 

The planned killings seem to be linked to a figure from Hindu lore. This 12-episode series has a twist that takes some swallowing but a lot of the enjoyment comes from watching a glossy thriller set in Delhi. 

Dr Sabharwal is played by Abhishek Bachchan (inset, above), whose recent positive test for Covid-19 was huge news in India

Dr Sabharwal is played by Abhishek Bachchan (inset, above), whose recent positive test for Covid-19 was huge news in India

Dr Sabharwal is played by Abhishek Bachchan, whose recent positive test for Covid-19 was huge news in India. Available now

 

The Island 

Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson and Sean Bean star in a sci-fi action thriller that was released in 2005 and set in a dystopian vision of 2019. In the nightmare world, humans live in a confined indoor community after ongoing abuse of the Earth has rendered most of the planet inhabitable. 

One of the only places in the outside world still capable of sustaining life is an idyllic island where citizens are chosen to live through a lottery. But all is not as it seems. From Tuesday

 

Cougar Town 

It’s been five years since the plug was pulled on this hit sitcom, but it’s lost none of its shine in the intervening years. Now all six series are being made available, and they feature arguably the best work of Courteney Cox – yes, even better than her performance as Monica in Friends. 

She plays Jules, a fortysomething, newly divorced woman living in a small Florida town. She spent her early adulthood married and raising her now-teenage son, so is keen to let her hair down by dating younger men – while also hoping to fall in love all over again. 

Now all six series are being made available, and they feature arguably the best work of Courteney Cox (above) – yes, even better than her performance as Monica in Friends

Now all six series are being made available, and they feature arguably the best work of Courteney Cox (above) – yes, even better than her performance as Monica in Friends

Watch out for Cox’s former colleagues Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Matthew Perry, who pop up in guest roles; her then-husband David Arquette also appears. From Monday

 

This Is Us 

Bereavement, addiction, adoption and depression are just some of the weighty issues compassionately tackled in this show as we follow the lives of the Pearsons: dad Jack, mum Rebecca and their triplets Kate, Kevin and Randall. 

Milo Ventimiglia and Mandy Moore lead the strong cast as Jack and Rebecca and flashbacks to the triplets’ childhoods, and those of their parents, effectively build emotional suspense guaranteed to tug on your heartstrings. Available now

 

iPLAYER, ALL 4

The Young Offenders 

All six episodes from the new third series of this Irish sitcom, which has been hailed as the BBC’s answer to Derry Girls, are now available as a box set for fans to binge-watch. 

The action centres around the antics of Conor and Jock (Alex Murphy and Chris Walley, pictured, above, with baby Star), two teenage tearaways from Cork

The action centres around the antics of Conor and Jock (Alex Murphy and Chris Walley, pictured, above, with baby Star), two teenage tearaways from Cork

The action centres around the antics of Conor and Jock (Alex Murphy and Chris Walley, pictured, right, with baby Star), two teenage tearaways from Cork. By the third series, the hapless pair, have been expelled from school and are trying to make ends meets while also navigating young adulthood and the perils of parenting. 

The first two series are also available. BBC3/iPlayer, available now

 

Who Do You Think You Are? 

With no new run of the show on the horizon yet, the BBC is dusting down the most recent six series for our perusal. Among the highlights are Julie Walters learning more about her Irish great-grandfather and Brian Blessed discovering his ancestor, Jabez Blessed, was a real-life Oliver Twist. 

Others uncovering family facts include Billy Connolly, Ian McKellen, Daniel Radcliffe and Olivia Colman. However, the best of the lot has to be EastEnder Danny Dyer, whose hilarious reaction to finding he has a royal lineage is one of the high points of the show’s 15-year stint on our screens. BBC iPlayer, available now 

 

First Night Of The Proms 

Two nights ago, the world’s greatest classical musical event kicked off its 125th season with a performance that came courtesy of the BBC Grand Virtual Orchestra, made up of 300 musicians from the Beeb’s orchestras and choirs. 

For the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, they performed a unique reworking of all nine of the German maestro’s symphonies, individually recorded from the musicians’ homes. 

And thanks to BBC iPlayer you can enjoy the whole thing again from a virtual front-row seat. The only thing missing from the Proms experience is the rush to the bar at the interval… BBC iPlayer, available now

 

W1A 

Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville, right), the former head of London Olympic Deliverance (as seen in the comedy series Twenty Twelve), joins the BBC as Head of Values. 

On his first day he has to take part in a Senior Team Damage Limitation meeting with the Director of Strategic Governance, once he gets a digital handshake session with the Senior Technical Services Choreographer out of the way. 

Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville, above), the former head of London Olympic Deliverance (as seen in the comedy series Twenty Twelve), joins the BBC as Head of Values

Ian Fletcher (Hugh Bonneville, above), the former head of London Olympic Deliverance (as seen in the comedy series Twenty Twelve), joins the BBC as Head of Values

The internal workings of the BBC are lampooned over the course of three short series in this mockumentary about the well-meaning but largely inept and jargon-bound Corporation. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces 

Charismatic architect Clarke (right) explores the extraordinary world of small builds in the popular series in which people turn tiny spaces into the most incredible places to live, work and play. 

If you haven’t seen it before, it is essentially Grand Designs without the schadenfreude. People undertake ambitious projects, then complete them without defaulting on their mortgage payments or getting divorced. 

Charismatic architect George Clarke (above) explores the extraordinary world of small builds in the popular series in which people turn tiny spaces into the most incredible places to live

Charismatic architect George Clarke (above) explores the extraordinary world of small builds in the popular series in which people turn tiny spaces into the most incredible places to live

One memorable episode shows a man and his dad building a Hobbit house for £479 from old logs, featuring a tree at its heart and a blackboard that turns into a bed. All episodes of series nine are now available to watch. All4, available now

 

Staged 

David Tennant and Michael Sheen star in a supremely witty series in which they play versions of themselves, stuck in lockdown and attempting to rehearse for a postponed West End show. 

However, the competitive actors, who co-starred in Good Omens, actually spend much of the time bickering. The series, which is in six 15-minute episodes, also stars Tennant’s wife Georgia and Sheen’s girlfriend Anna Lundberg. 

Look out for brilliant cameos from Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson. BBC iPlayer, box set available now

 

The Long Song 

A reshowing of the 2018 adaptation of Andrea Levy’s acclaimed novel. Told over three parts with a script by Sarah Williams, it’s set in 18th Century colonial Jamaica during the final years of slavery and focuses on the stories of plantation worker July (Tamara Lawrance) and her vile owner Caroline Mortimer (Hayley Atwell). 

The impressive supporting cast includes Lenny Henry, Leo Bill and Sharon Duncan-Brewster. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Greyhound (Apple TV+)

According to the end credits of Greyhound, some 3,500 Allied ships were lost during the Battle of the Atlantic, taking with them more than 72,000 men. Tom Hanks’s gripping but exhausting new film, based on the C. S. Forester novel The Good Shepherd, does a first-class job of showing us why such losses weren’t even higher. 

Of course, cinematic tales of mid-Atlantic naval heroism aren’t new. The Cruel Sea, starring Jack Hawkins, is a British classic, but it’s almost 70 years old now. Nevertheless, Greyhound feels like its American counterpart, able to draw not just on a screenplay that Hanks himself has written but state-of-the-art visual effects that put us at the heart of the tense, terrifying, freezing-looking action.

In a film notably light on back-story, Tom Hanks (above) plays Captain Krause

In a film notably light on back-story, Tom Hanks (above) plays Captain Krause

In a film notably light on back-story, Hanks plays Captain Krause, commanding a destroyer – call sign ‘Greyhound’ – for the first time as it escorts a convoy across a North Atlantic seemingly full of unseen U-boats. 

On one side of the Atlantic the convoy and its naval escorts is protected by American air cover; on the other by the RAF. But in between is the dangerous area known as the ‘black pit’, where the U-boats hunt in packs, like wolves.

Once it starts, the action is relentless as ‘Greyhound’, relying on primitive radar and sonar, rushes to and fro after U-boats that taunt them by radio and sink below the waves seconds before they arrive. 

With Hanks – the great everyman of American cinema – at the helm, you won’t want to miss a single moment.

Matthew Bond 

 

SKY/NOW TV, BRITBOX, DISNEY+ 

Burton & Taylor 

They were the ultimate power couple, Antony and Cleopatra to the power of ten. But by the time they reunited in 1983 for a Broadway revival of Private Lives, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had twice been divorced. 

Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter (above) act their socks off in a biopic that looks over Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's volatile relationship

Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter (above) act their socks off in a biopic that looks over Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s volatile relationship

He was 57, she 51; he had a year to live, and both bore the scars of years of boozing and bickering. Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter act their socks off in a biopic that looks over their volatile relationship and the cruelty each was capable of inflicting on the other. BritBox, from Thursday

 

Rogue Trip 

US TV news reporter Bob Woodruff, injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq, embarks on a six-part adventure with his son Mack, in which they throw away the official guidebook and get off the beaten track in nations that don’t attract your typical tourist: Colombia, Papua New Guinea, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Ukraine. Disney+, from Friday

 

Mr Selfridge 

Jeremy Piven plays American entrepreneur Harry Selfridge, the man who founded the famous Oxford Street department store. The drama follows Harry’s life both inside and outside the store, including his marital problems and meetings with such famous figures as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Ernest Shackleton and Anna Pavlova. 

The first two scripts are by the king of period drama Andrew Davies and set the tone for the rest of the series. Zoe Tapper and Katherine Kelly (above, with Jeremy Piven) co-star

The first two scripts are by the king of period drama Andrew Davies and set the tone for the rest of the series. Zoe Tapper and Katherine Kelly (above, with Jeremy Piven) co-star

The first two scripts are by the king of period drama Andrew Davies and set the tone for the rest of the series. Zoe Tapper and Katherine Kelly (below, with Piven) co-star. BritBox, from Thursday

 

Gordon, Gino & Fred 

Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and Fred Sirieix’s most recent adventure sees them swap Europe for Ramsay’s home from home, the US. He loves America and believes it’s now at the forefront of world cuisine. 

But D’Acampo and Sirieix aren’t convinced by his enthusiasm. BritBox, from Thursday

 

Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels 

The first series featured characters from classics of gothic literature. City Of Angels is set in 1938 in Los Angeles and detective Santiago Vega is investigating a massacre. 

Meanwhile a demon, played with relish by Natalie Dormer, is gently prodding people in the direction of evil-doing. Her ultimate aim appears to be to start a race war, and she’s doing a pretty good job. Sky/Now TV, available now

 

The Plot Against America 

Six-part adaptation of Philip Roth’s novel starring Winona Ryder. Aviator Charles Lindbergh becomes US president in 1940 after campaigning on a platform of keeping America out of the war. 

Supporters insist he’s not really an anti-Semite, but most American Jews know that’s exactly what he is. The series shows how fascism doesn’t turn up overnight, fully jackbooted, but is rather a more insidious, gradual process. Sky/Now TV, available now

 

NETFLIX

Jack Whitehall: I’m Only Joking 

Whitehall could be accused of ignoring his stand-up career of late. He’s rarely been off the box, but has usually popped up as a presenter, actor or travelogue participant. 

However, he returns to the stage – where he first made his name – for this comedy special, his second such performance for the streaming giant. Filmed at Wembley in January, it sees Whitehall wax lyrical on such subjects as his father and frequent co-star Michael and a somewhat uncomfortable event at Berlin airport. 

There’s a potentially disastrous moment involving an audience member to savour, too. From Tuesday

 

Street Food: Latin America 

Tasty new series that sees camera crews travel to six Latin American cities – Oaxaca, Mexico; Salvador, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Lima, Peru; Bogota, Colombia; and La Paz, Bolivia – where the locals serve up delicious treats. 

There’s also an insight into the history of each traditional dish. From Wednesday 

 

Love On The Spectrum 

Finding the partner of your dreams can be tricky at the best of times, but add in being a young adult on the autistic spectrum and the dating game becomes very confusing and difficult. 

However, the seven singletons featured in this new series are getting help from their families and a team of experts who hope to give them the confidence to begin their search for a soulmate. From Wednesday

 

Norsemen 

Think Game Of Thrones played for laughs. Norsemen was a surprise hit for Netflix when it began two series ago, and has done for Norse legend what Plebs did for Ancient Rome. 

It’s the everyday story of Viking folk living in a Norwegian village in the 8th Century, the characters ranging from inept chief Orm and his brilliantly angry wife Froya to a slave on a mission to modernise the village, all aided by a poker-faced cast including Jon Oigarden and Thorbjorn Harr, left. 

The sitcom has all the trappings of an epic historic tale: sombre lighting, authentic costumes, straggly beards… but the gags are as sharp as a broadsword to the solar plexus. 

The characters range from an inept chief and his brilliantly angry wife to a slave on a mission to modernise, all aided by a poker-faced cast including Jon Oigarden and Thorbjorn Harr (above)

The characters range from an inept chief and his brilliantly angry wife to a slave on a mission to modernise, all aided by a poker-faced cast including Jon Oigarden and Thorbjorn Harr (above)

Expect new characters but lots of the same guffaw-inducing moments. From Wednesday

FILMS 

Arkansas 

A stylish, noir-ish southern drugs thriller from Clark Duke. The story of two low-grade drug-dealers – Kyle (Liam Hemsworth) and Swin (Duke himself) doing whatever it takes to survive is well written, well acted and well executed. 

A nicely restrained Vince Vaughn co-stars. Most platforms, available now

 

Kristin Scott Thomas (above, with Lambert Wilson and Jules Benchetrit)

Kristin Scott Thomas (above, with Lambert Wilson and Jules Benchetrit)

In Your Hands 

Modern French tale about a troubled young man from the suburbs who just happens to be a gifted classical pianist. But is he making the most of his talent? 

Not until he comes under the tutelage of Kristin Scott Thomas. It’s a bit Good Will Hunting but none the worse for that. Curzon Home Cinema, now

 

Disappearance At Clifton Hill 

A young Canadian woman (Tuppence Middleton) returns to her home town following the death of her mother, still obsessed by the kidnapping she witnessed as a girl. 

But when the police aren’t interested she begins to investigate the abduction herself. Most platforms, from Monday

Matthew Bond   

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