News, Culture & Society

From Little Fires Everywhere to The Hunt & A Streetcar Named Desire: The best on demand TV this week

AMAZON & NETFLIX 

Little Fires Everywhere

A classy adaptation of the best-selling novel about family secrets, motherhood and race, co-produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington. The first episode opens with the well-to-do but uptight Elena Richardson’s (Witherspoon) mansion ablaze: it’s arson – in fact, given that Elena was inside at the time, it could even be attempted murder. 

A classy adaptation of the best-selling novel about family secrets, motherhood and race, co-produced by and starring Reese Witherspoon (above) and Kerry Washington

Everyone seems to think her teenage daughter Izzy, the youngest of her four children, has a few questions to answer but, as we quickly learn, there are other possibilities. 

Such as enigmatic, free-spirited artist Mia Warren (Washington) and her teen daughter, who have recently arrived in Shaker Heights and in Elena’s life. Just why do they pack up and move to a new town every few months? Amazon, from Friday

 

Homecoming

The first series of the creepy psychological thriller was about memory manipulation and a dodgy military project. It starred Julia Roberts and reminded everyone what a great actor she is. Series two is a new mystery but with similar themes and some returning characters, although Roberts won’t be back. 

Janelle Monáe stars, playing a woman who wakes up in a rowing boat on a lake, with no memory of how she got there or even who she is. Again, the secretive ‘wellness’ company, the Geist Group, is involved. Amazon, from Friday

 

Hightown

Jackie Quiñones (Monica Raymund) is a National Marine Fisheries Service agent – a ‘fish cop’ – who lives in tourist hotspot Provincetown on Cape Cod. She insists that she doesn’t have a drink and drug problem. She just likes ‘to party a little’, like everyone else in ‘P-Town’. 

But when she finds the body of a murder victim on the beach – seemingly linked to the local drug trade – she becomes embroiled in the investigation and realises she has to make some serious changes in her life. New crime drama with eight episodes. Starzplay (via Amazon), from Sunday

 

The Big Flower Fight

Think of Netflix’s charming, cheering, colourful show as The Great British Bloom-Off. Comedians Natasia Demetriou and Vic Reeves are the hosts and, over eight episodes, ten teams of amateur gardeners compete to create ever more ambitious flower sculptures. Reeves and Demetriou have genuine empathy with the contestants, who are an eccentric but hugely talented bunch from several countries. 

‘Florist to the stars’ Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht judges their creations and decides who continues and who gets sent to the compost heap. The winning duo gets the chance to design an installation for Kew Gardens. ‘It’s not Gardeners’ World,’ says Reeves. ‘It’s punk rock gardening.’ Netflix, from Monday

 

Agents Of Shield

Starved of Marvel Cinematic Universe movie action? Don’t forget Agents Of Shield, the TV show that debuted in 2013. All six series of the consistently entertaining and frequently funny sci-fi drama are available ahead of the release of the seventh and final season. 

It’s about the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.), which keeps tabs on people with extra-normal powers, sentient robots trying to take over the planet, that sort of thing. The final series will see team time-travel and get stranded in Prohibition-era New York. Amazon, from Monday

 

Dynasty

The third season of the glossy 2017 revamp of the glitzy 1980s soap has been a long time coming – it was broadcast on US TV back in October. We hope it will have been worth the wait because, let’s face it, we could all use a little of its bonkers escapism right now. 

The run opens in a suitably melodramatic fashion as the bodies in the lake are recovered, leaving the Carringtons with a bit of a headache. If that isn’t overblown enough for you, Adam tries to kill a comatose Liam, Fallon is haunted by visions of Trixie, and Blake is arrested. Just a typical Dynasty day really… Netflix, from Saturday

 

The Lovebirds

Netflix snapped up this romcom when the planned cinema release was cancelled because of the pandemic. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani star as a couple whose car is commandeered by a ‘cop’ who uses it to run down and kill someone. 

Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani star as a couple whose car is commandeered by a ‘cop’ who uses it to kill someone in this romcom, which is now on Netflix after its cinema release was cancelled

Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani star as a couple whose car is commandeered by a ‘cop’ who uses it to kill someone in this romcom, which is now on Netflix after its cinema release was cancelled 

In order to clear their names they have to solve the murder while on the run, which places something of a strain on their relationship. Directed by Michael Showalter, whose last film, The Big Sick, was also a romcom starring Nanjiani. Netflix, from Friday

 

BBC iPLAYER, ALL 4 & YOUTUBE

A Streetcar Named Desire

A chance to see the Young Vic’s acclaimed 2014 production of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece. Gillian Anderson steals the show as Blanche DuBois, the Southern belle whose life crumbles after she moves into her sister Stella’s marital home in New Orleans. 

Gillian Anderson steals the show as Blanche DuBois in Benedict Andrews’ contemporary 2014 production of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece

Gillian Anderson steals the show as Blanche DuBois in Benedict Andrews’ contemporary 2014 production of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece

Vanessa Kirby plays the emotionally torn Stella while Ben Foster steps into Marlon Brando’s formidable shoes as Stella’s crude bully of a husband. With an ingenious revolving set and powerhouse performances, Benedict Andrews’ contemporary production of this emotionally and sexually charged tragedy is not to be missed. YouTube (National Theatre channel), from Thursday, 7pm (available for seven days)

 

RKO Classic Films

The BBC has dipped into the Hollywood studio’s archive and come up with a collection of 23 classic movies to keep us entertained. These were all made in the days before CGI, a time when the language of the cinema was still being written, when innovators were king and stars were treated like gods and goddesses. 

The BBC has dipped into the Hollywood studio’s archive and come up with a collection of 23 classic films - including the original King Kong (with Fay Wray, above) - to keep us entertained

The BBC has dipped into the Hollywood studio’s archive and come up with a collection of 23 classic films – including the original King Kong (with Fay Wray, above) – to keep us entertained

Among the highlights are Orson Welles’s debut Citizen Kane, the horrifying delights of the original versions of King Kong and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Top Hat, starring the peerless Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in the screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby. BBC iPlayer, from Tuesday

 

Three Busy Debras

Sandy Honig, Mitra Jouhari and Alyssa Stonoha may not be household names, but you won’t forget them after seeing the sitcom they created. They take the lead roles of three housewives called, you guessed it, Debra. These are not your stereotypical wives and mothers – think those featured in The Real Housewives franchise and then turn the dial up to 11. 

The Debras live in an affluent Connecticut suburb and should be able to enjoy their privileged lifestyles. Instead, they spend their days trying to upend the social order, committing crimes and taking their frustrations out on men – all while wearing pristine white outfits, of course. All 4, from Friday

 

Killer Kicks

Believe it or not, manufacturing a pair of training shoes produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as a ten-mile drive – so imagine the damage being done to the environment by an industry that churns out a billion pairs of trainers a year. This kind of thought-provoking fact makes Killer Kicks a must-see. 

It’s hosted by self-confessed sneaker addict Lynnie, who travels to New York to learn about the world’s seemingly ever-growing obsession with footwear that started as something comfortable for sportspeople to wear and became a must-have fashion item. BBC3/iPlayer, from Tuesday, 6am

 

Cuckoo

Andy Samberg is now a star thanks to his role in US police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine but, before that, he appeared in the first two series of this Britcom as Dale, the lovable but hopeless slacker husband of student Rachel Thompson. 

The pair met and married during her gap year, and it’s fair to say her straitlaced Home Counties parents aren’t thrilled by the match – he is, of course, the cuckoo of the title. When Samberg left, Twilight star Taylor Lautner joined as Dale Jr., and the fun continued. Andie MacDowell appeared in the final fifth series, but it’s not the US actors who make the show work – it’s the core UK cast, including Greg Davies and Helen Baxendale. BBC iPlayer, now

 

People Just Do Nothing

Newly available as a five-series box set, the hit BBC mockumentary ran from 2014-18 following the West London massive at Kurupt FM, a tiny pirate radio station run by MC Grindah and his posse of loveable idiots. It won a Best Comedy Bafta in 2017, and a movie adaptation is now in the pipeline. If you’ve somehow missed out on BBC3’s biggest breakout since Little Britain, it’s time to ‘keep it Kurupt’ and check out the nearest millennials will ever get to Spinal Tap. BBC iPlayer, available now

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Medici (Netflix) 

With its gorgeous cast, big-budget sets and fast-paced action, Medici offers an irresistible slice of escapism, which is no doubt why its popularity is soaring. The Netflix Italian-British production, set in 15th Century Florence, has gained a huge audience across 190 countries and sparked heated debate about its historical accuracy. 

With its gorgeous cast, big-budget sets and fast-paced action, Medici is irresistible. Daniel Sharman dominates the latest series as ‘Lorenzo the Magnificent’

With its gorgeous cast, big-budget sets and fast-paced action, Medici is irresistible. Daniel Sharman dominates the latest series as ‘Lorenzo the Magnificent’

It charts the mafia-like rise to power of the Medici banking family with the help of bribery, blackmail and even murder. The series is fast becoming Italy’s answer to The Crown, albeit set almost 600 years ago, as it charts the power struggles of the family who became the de facto rulers of the city. In the first series, heart-throb Richard Madden (Bodyguard, Game of Thrones) is excellent as the dashing Cosimo de’ Medici, who works his charm on a string of beautiful women, from Donatello’s model to a stunning slave girl. In the second and third series, the latter of which arrived on Netflix earlier this month, the equally handsome Daniel Sharman dominates as ‘Lorenzo the Magnificent’ (Cosimo’s grandson). 

He’s also power-hungry and has a way with the ladies. He enjoys an affair with the married Lucrezia before his wife Clarice puts a stop to it. Meanwhile his brother Giuliano, played by the chiselled Bradley James (Merlin) falls for married beauty Simonetta and the pair model for Botticelli’s famous Venus and Mars painting. The all-star cast includes Sean Bean as Lorenzo’s enemy Jacopo Pazzi, in series two, and Sarah Parish, who is brilliant as Lorenzo’s mother.

Kirsty Tyler

 

BRITBOX, DISNEY+, SKY/NOW & WWE 

The Hunt

As many of us now know, when it comes to the last packet of fusilli in Sainsbury’s it’s a dog-eat-dog world. While lockdown has given us a tiny glimpse of homo sapiens’ previous hunter-gatherer life, for predators in the natural world the hunt is a daily necessity.

Sir David Attenborough adds his trademark breathless commentary to the stunning footage in the BBC’s captivating portrait of nature’s killers, made in 2015

Sir David Attenborough adds his trademark breathless commentary to the stunning footage in the BBC’s captivating portrait of nature’s killers, made in 2015

Sir David Attenborough adds his trademark breathless commentary to the stunning footage in the BBC’s captivating portrait of nature’s killers, made in 2015. It’s from the team that brought us Planet Earth, so there’s plenty of astonishing camerawork and watch-through-your-fingers moments… and, of course, the occasional miraculous escape by a bewildered-looking victim.

It’s followed by another Attenborough trademark: a section showing how the seven-part series was filmed. Along the way we watch wild dogs, polar bears, spiders and crocodiles at work – and their less fortunate wildebeest, seal and impala victims. 

And we learn how each predator uses a different strategy – teamwork for some, sheer speed for others, or stealth and patience – as well as how the hunt plays out across different habitats, from tigers in the dense forest to wolves in the Arctic. No mention of the skills needed in securing a packet of flour, though… BritBox, from Thursday

 

The Big Fib

Star of Community Yvette Nicole Brown takes charge of a new game show inspired by the podcast Pants On Fire. In each episode (30 have been made), two adults claim to be experts in a particular subject, but one of them is lying. It’s up to the child contestant to figure out which of them is honest, and which is telling porkie pies. Flight Of The Conchords’ Rhys Darby is also set to feature as Brown’s robot sidekick C.L.I.V.E., who’s always on hand with fascinating facts. Disney+, from Friday

 

Our Queen At War

Originally broadcast a day after her 94th birthday in April, this documentary reveals how Her Majesty’s wartime experiences shaped the rest of her life as well as her record-breaking reign. The programme offers insights into her first meeting with Prince Philip when she was only 13, the terrifying time she witnessed the devastation of a V-1 bomb, her work with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and the events of VE Day. That day she and Princess Margaret mingled anonymously with joyous crowds on the streets of London, a time she later described as the most exciting of her life. BritBox, from Saturday

 

Undertaker: The Last Ride

Live grappling action is on hold (no pun intended), but fans can still enjoy the sport’s overblown antics thanks to this new five-part series, which promises to be to wrestling what Netflix’s The Last Dance is to basketball. 

It’s an in-depth profile of Mark Calaway, aka The Undertaker, made as he prepares to bring to an end his 30-year WWE career. He’s seen struggling to come to terms with what life might be like without the thrills and spills of the ring. WWE Network (wwe.com/wwenetwork); first month free, then £9.99 per month

 

Brassic

In the fictional northern town of Hawley, a gang of roguish petty criminals is constantly ‘on the rob’, planning the next scam and doing its worst to avoid responsibility and adulthood. 

The boisterous, bonkers and often brilliant comedy Brassic comes on like a rural Shameless and features the likes of Michelle Keegan, Dominic West and John Thomson (above)

The boisterous, bonkers and often brilliant comedy Brassic comes on like a rural Shameless and features the likes of Michelle Keegan, Dominic West and John Thomson (above)

This boisterous, bonkers and often brilliant comedy from Joe Gilgun (This Is England) and Danny Brocklehurst (Clocking Off) comes on like a rural Shameless with its mix of big-hearted scallies and their crude antics. Throw in meaty parts for Michelle Keegan and Dominic West (and John Thomson in newly released series two) and you’ve got Sky’s biggest comedy hit in years. Sky/NOW TV, available now

 

King Charles III

In more ways than one, screenwriter Mike Bartlett’s royal fantasy play, made into this 2017 film, is like a Shakespearean tragedy. Not only is the dialogue spoken in Jacobean-period iambic pentameter but the plot, of a king embroiled in a constitutional crisis, could well have transferred straight from Shakespeare’s Globe. 

Tim Pigott-Smith (in his penultimate performance before his death) is a brooding Charles, who finally gets his shot at the throne after the Queen’s death, in Mike Bartlett’s royal fantasy play

Tim Pigott-Smith (in his penultimate performance before his death) is a brooding Charles, who finally gets his shot at the throne after the Queen’s death, in Mike Bartlett’s royal fantasy play

Tim Pigott-Smith (in his penultimate performance before his death) is a brooding Charles, who, after a lifetime waiting to be king, finally gets his shot at the throne after the Queen’s death. But when he stumbles over signing a press freedom bill, William and Kate (Oliver Chris and Charlotte Riley) start to wonder if it isn’t time for some young blood at the helm of the realm. Meanwhile, who’s that girl Harry’s with..? BritBox, from Thursday

 

Run

When bored housewife Ruby (Merritt Wever) receives a text from her ex, Billy (Domhnall Gleeson), saying ‘RUN’, she abandons her family, meets him at Grand Central Station and takes off across America with him, as per their pact made years ago at college. So that’s bound to go well, right? 

The show starts out as a zany romcom but, as the details of the lives they are running from are gradually revealed, it becomes darker in tone. It’s written by Vicky Jones, creative partner of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who appears as a mysterious roadkill taxidermist. Sky/NOW TV, available now

 

FILMS 

Cats

Tom Hooper may have won an Oscar for The King’s Speech but his screen adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hitherto hugely popular musical Cats, based on the poems of T.S. Eliot, has been one of the great cinematic disasters. 

Judi Dench & Ian McKellen attempted to add a bit of class to a cast which also included Francesca Hayward & Robbie Fairchild (above) but Tom Hooper's Cats was a cinematic disaster

Judi Dench & Ian McKellen attempted to add a bit of class to a cast which also included Francesca Hayward & Robbie Fairchild (above) but Tom Hooper’s Cats was a cinematic disaster

Judi Dench and Ian McKellen attempt to add a bit of furry, feline class, but it’s the sung-through structure and too much baffling talk of ‘Jellicles’ and ‘heaviside layers’ that do the real damage. Might just become a late-night, cult thing, though. Sky Store to buy & Rakuten, from Friday

 

The Call Of The Wild

The role of Buck – the canine hero at the heart of Jack London’s frontier-land novel – is played here not by a real dog but by a human actor dressed up in a motion-capture suit, then turned into a big-hearted hound by visual effects. 

It wasn’t always convincing on the big screen but might work better at home in a family-friendly production that’s been stripped of some of its cruelty (but, be warned, not all) and in which Harrison Ford eventually turns up as a grizzled backwoodsman. Sky Store to buy, from Monday

 

Little Women

If you love Louisa M. Alcott’s classic novel, you’re likely to enjoy this spirited adaptation by actress and film-maker Greta Gerwig. 

Greta Gerwig's adaptation of Little Women looks gorgeous, and the March sisters (Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen, above) are delightfully cast

Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of Little Women looks gorgeous, and the March sisters (Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen, above) are delightfully cast

If you don’t, however, it’s a tougher challenge, with Gerwig’s screenplay dashing backwards and forwards in time. 

But it looks gorgeous, and the performances from a cast led by Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh are a youthful delight. Sky Store/Rakuten, now

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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