News, Culture & Society

From Ricky Gervais’ After Life to Defending Jacob and Liar: The best on demand TV this week

NETFLIX

After Life

On hearing that his dark and, at times, almost unbearably moving comedy had been recommissioned, Ricky Gervais said, ‘I have never had a reaction like this before. It’s been insane. And heartwarming. But now I have to make sure the second season is even better, so I’ll have to work much harder than usual. Annoying, really.’ 

Ricky Gervais (above, with Roisin Conaty) is back as Tony, the widower whose efforts to be rude to everyone following his wife’s death are constantly scuppered by the kindness of others

The trailers for the second run suggest he has outdone himself by coming up with something even more poignant and thought-provoking than before. 

He’s back as Tony, the widower whose efforts to be rude to everyone following the death of his beloved wife are constantly scuppered by the kindness of others. And don’t worry, the dog is returning too. From Friday

 

The Last Dance

You don’t have to know about basketball to enjoy this dramatic behind-the-scenes documentary series about the Chicago Bulls. It focuses on the 1997-98 season when the team, which included Michael Jordan, was bidding to win its third championship in a row, a feat it had also achieved earlier in the decade. 

Jordan, widely regarded as the sport’s greatest-ever player, was legendarily competitive and was rumoured to bully team-mates who failed to measure up to his expectations. This ten-parter was put together from 10,000 hours of archive footage and features interviews with more than 100 people, including Jordan and fans such as Barack Obama. From Monday

 

The Willoughbys

Feature-length animated adaptation of an award-winning children’s book about four siblings – Jane, Tim and ‘creepy’ twins both named Barnaby – who think they would be better off raising themselves and so trick their awful parents into going on a dangerous holiday without them. 

The Willoughbys is a feature-length animated adaptation of an award-winning children’s book about four siblings – Jane, Tim and ‘creepy’ twins both named Barnaby

The Willoughbys is a feature-length animated adaptation of an award-winning children’s book about four siblings – Jane, Tim and ‘creepy’ twins both named Barnaby

But then social services get involved… Ricky Gervais and Jane Krakowski are among those providing the voices. 

Meanwhile, the character Jane is played by singer Alessia Cara in her debut acting role. She was cast after she said in an interview it was her ambition to be in an animated film. From Wednesday

 

Extraction

While his Avengers co-star Chris Evans takes a break from saving the world in Defending Jacob this week (see below), Chris Hemsworth continues to play the hero in this action thriller, which he also co-produced. 

Hemsworth takes the lead role of Tyler Rake, a fearless black-market mercenary (is there any other kind?) who agrees to risk life and limb to rescue Ovi, the son of an international crime lord.

The mission looks like being a success, until members of the underworld hit back, changing the course of both Rake and Ovi’s lives for ever. From Friday

 

Middleditch & Schwartz

Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch and Parks And Recreation’s Ben Schwartz are about to fly by the seat of their comedic pants. On TV they’re accustomed to working with finely honed scripts by a collection of talented scribes, but here they’re relying on their own sharp wits to keep us entertained. 

The duo have recorded three completely improvised mini-sitcoms, in which they each play a different character embarking on a flight of fancy. The nature of the shows means there are a few misses as well as hits, but watching the pair spark off each other is a joy to behold. From Tuesday

 

Rising High

Betonrausch, to give Rising High its native German title, is a feature-length crime caper about real-estate fraud. In a way, it’s a morality tale for modern times, though it’s got more to do with the world of greed that led to the crash of 2008 than with today’s pandemic-induced economic fears. 

David Kross (you may recognise him from the acclaimed movie The Reader) and Frederick Lau play the main protagonists, Viktor Stein and Gerry Falkland who, along with a banker Nicole Kleber (Janina Uhse), get rich incredibly quickly thanks to a seemingly foolproof plan. 

However, it isn’t long before their lies catch up with them and, as they begin to be swallowed up in a maelstrom of deceit, they’re forced to make some life-changing decisions. Available now

 

The Midnight Gospel

In what’ll be remembered as The Age Of Lockdown, with its characteristic existentialist angst among self-isolaters, comes the latest from Pendleton Ward, creator of the 2010 award-winning fantasy series Adventure Time. 

It’s the sort of psychedelic, mind-bending animation that the Sgt Pepper-era Beatles would have appreciated. Meet slacker Clancy, who lives in another dimension, where alternate universes are created for scientists to harvest their technologies. 

Except Clancy is more of a Magic Roundabout Dylan, chiefly interested in interviewing alien guests on his ‘spacecast’ show, The Midnight Gospel. The trouble is, there’s something afoot with Clancy’s multiverse simulator. Crazy, man… From Monday

 

APPLE TV+, BRITBOX & DISNEY+ 

Defending Jacob

An impressive cast – headed by Chris Evans, Jaeden Martell and Michelle Dockery, as well as Cherry Jones – breathe life into this eagerly awaited eight-part adaptation of William Landay’s best-selling novel of the same name. 

An impressive cast headed by Chris Evans, Jaeden Martell and Michelle Dockery (above) breathe life into this eagerly awaited eight-part adaptation of William Landay’s novel

An impressive cast headed by Chris Evans, Jaeden Martell and Michelle Dockery (above) breathe life into this eagerly awaited eight-part adaptation of William Landay’s novel

Evans plays Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney living in a small Massachusetts community with his wife and children. They seem to have the perfect life – until Andy’s 14-year-old son Jacob is accused of murder. 

As a result, he finds himself torn between his duty to ensure that justice is done and his desire to keep his child out of the firing line. Apple TV+, from Friday

 

The Beastie Boys Story

To many, the Beastie Boys are forever frozen in time as the tabloid horror show of the 1980s – a beer-drinking, shambolic mess whose fans took to stealing Volkswagen car badges. But as this documentary shows, that’s like judging The Beatles solely on Love Me Do. This springs from the short book tour the surviving members – Adam ‘Ad-Rock’ Horovitz and Mike ‘Mike D’ Diamond – completed following the release of their autobiography last year. 

The book, and film, are a retelling of the band’s formation, early worldwide success (and notoriety) and their subsequent evolution. It is also a warm testament to their decades-long friendship with third member Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch, a friendship that ended – as did the band – when he passed away in 2012 from cancer. As a tribute to their lost friend, and to a band that never stood still, it is a joyous watch. Apple TV+, from Friday

 

War And Peace

James Norton and Lily James steal the show as star-crossed lovers Andrei and Natasha in this excellent adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel. Paul Dano completes the famous love triangle as Pierre, Andrei’s close friend who is secretly in love with Natasha. 

James Norton and Lily James steal the show as Andrei and Natasha in this excellent adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic which also boasts Jim Broadbent and Gillian Anderson (above) among its cast

James Norton and Lily James steal the show as Andrei and Natasha in this excellent adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic which also boasts Jim Broadbent and Gillian Anderson (above) among its cast

Look out for Adrian Edmondson’s brilliant performance as Natasha’s genial but improvident father Count Rostov in the six-part series, set in early 19th Century Russia during Napoleon’s invasion. 

The starry cast includes Gillian Anderson, Mathieu Kassovitz, Brian Cox, Greta Scacchi and Jim Broadbent, who plays Andrei’s irascible father, Prince Bolkonsky. BritBox, from Thursday

 

Lamp Life

This gentle, funny animation has all the charm and warmth of a full-length Pixar film squeezed into a ten-minute short. 

Set in the Toy Story universe, it tells the story of what happened to Bo Peep (and her loyal sheep) after she (and they) left Andy’s bedroom at the end of the second film, before meeting up with Woody and gang in Toy Story 4. Her life away from her lamp includes a trip to the sea, a frat party and warring siblings. You’ll just wish it were longer. Disney+, available now

 

Made In Senegal

‘For me, football… it’s my life,’ says popular Liverpool winger Sadio Mané at the start of this 75-minute documentary showing how a football-mad kid from a farming community in West Africa, where he was known as ‘the ball wizard’, rose to the top of the sport and now lives in a world of private jets and second homes on the Spanish coast. 

But would the joint winner of last year’s Golden Boot Award, as laid-back off the pitch as he is intense on it, be able to help the Senegalese national side win the 2019 Africa Cup Of Nations for the first time, as their fans hoped? Features Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp speaking German, for those who like that sort of thing. Rakuten TV, available now

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Money Heist (Netflix)

Sure, it seems obvious now that everyone would love watching a team of good-looking, sexy Spaniards carrying out audacious, spectacular crimes in a stylish, funny, Tarantino-esque show. Yet when Netflix acquired Money Heist (La Casa De Papel – The House Of Paper, as it is rather more poetically named in Spanish) at the end of 2017, the series’ ratings were in freefall in its home country.

It seems obvious now that everyone would love watching some sexy Spaniards (Esther Acebo, above) carrying out audacious, spectacular crimes in a stylish, funny show

It seems obvious now that everyone would love watching some sexy Spaniards (Esther Acebo, above) carrying out audacious, spectacular crimes in a stylish, funny show

The streaming service quietly made the show’s two seasons available without any fanfare or marketing. Within a few weeks the stars noticed the number of followers they had on social media increasing exponentially.

Then fans started dressing like some of the characters – the gang of robbers, all codenamed after cities and brought together by the mysterious ‘Professor’, wear red jumpsuits and Dali masks. Some of them began showing up at political protests – it has been argued the show is a critique of capitalism.

Stephen King declared himself a fan, tweeting last year: ‘When does MONEY HEIST come back? Because, dig it, I’m not getting any younger here.’

It is now one of Netflix’s most watched shows. The new series – the fourth – has been trending worldwide, although it has been divisive, with many viewers angry over a popular character’s death. 

Another series is believed to be in pre-production, and Money Heist: The Phenomenon, an hour-long documentary about the making of the show and revealing how several key scenes were created, is currently available on Netflix.

Neil Armstrong 

 

BBC iPLAYER, ITV HUB & ALL 4

Liar

The first series of this gripping thriller starred Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd as teacher Laura and surgeon Andrew, whose date ended in terror when he raped her. 

The first series of this gripping thriller starred Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd (above with Katherine Kelly) as Laura and Andrew, whose date ended in terror when he raped her

The first series of this gripping thriller starred Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd (above with Katherine Kelly) as Laura and Andrew, whose date ended in terror when he raped her

The run climaxed with Andrew’s murder, while the second series – now available to stream as a box set – is focused on the hunt for his killer. 

Laura is clearly in the frame and is targeted by DI Karen Renton (Katherine Kelly), but there are plenty of twists and turns to come before the murderer is unmasked. ITV Hub, available until May 6

 

My Family

Some sitcoms attempt to break new ground or be a little subversive, but My Family was always unashamedly populist – which is perhaps why it ran for 11 series while other, more niche offerings, fell by the wayside. 

Robert Lindsay and Zoë Wanamaker star as misanthropic dentist Ben Harper and his control-freak wife Susan, while Kris Marshall, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Gabriel Thomson play their rather demanding children, who seem to have little in common other than a shared surname. Every episode is now available to rewatch. BBC iPlayer, from Friday

 

Get Even

Kitty, Margot, Bree and Olivia are the kind of self-assured teenagers many of us wished we’d been, although their ordered world is about to come crashing down around them in this chilling crime drama. They’re pupils at an elite private school who are bonded by a common cause – to expose injustice via their own secret investigative society. 

However, after one of their targets is found dead, it becomes clear their actions are more widely known than they realised – and that somebody is trying to frame them for a crime they didn’t commit. Can the quartet discover who it is and clear their names? BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Goodness Gracious Me

All three series of the groundbreaking 1990s comedy show are available now. Its creators and stars, Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, took the 1960 Peter Sellers/Sophia Loren song and flipped it, making the Anglo-Indian cast the stars of the show, and the Anglo-Saxon English the figures of fun – notably in the simple but brilliant ‘going for an English’ sketch. 

All three series of the groundbreaking 1990s comedy show are available now. Above: Kulvinder Ghir with Nina Wadia as Mrs ‘I can make it at home for nothing’

All three series of the groundbreaking 1990s comedy show are available now. Above: Kulvinder Ghir with Nina Wadia as Mrs ‘I can make it at home for nothing’

But the show took care to be equally merciless with Indian stereotypes, including Mr ‘Everything comes from India’ and Mrs ‘I can make it at home for nothing’ (Nina Wadia). BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Titian: Behind Closed Doors

As museums and galleries are closed, some of us are missing our cultural fix. Thank goodness, then, for documentaries such as this, which give viewers an opportunity to see exhibitions we would otherwise have missed. 

Titian: Love, Desire, Death is the title of the show that should be running at London’s National Gallery. Art-lovers can see what it would have contained – the programme showcases six paintings commissioned from the Renaissance master by Prince Philip of Spain in 1550. Experts are on hand to discuss his life and work. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

The Virtues

If you’re feeling a bit down about being cooped up at home, it might be best to steer clear of Shane ‘This Is England’ Meadows’ four-part drama. But if you want something to get your teeth into with magnificent performances and a thought-provoking storyline, this is it. Stephen Graham heads the cast as Joseph, a recovering alcoholic who falls off the wagon after his ex-wife emigrates to Australia with their young son. All 4, available now

 

I Am A Men’s Rights Activist

Documentary exploring the beliefs of Philipp Tanzer, a former porn actor who now works as a hairdresser in the Highlands and is involved in the ‘men’s rights movement’, the supporters of which maintain that feminism has gone too far and that men are at a disadvantage in contemporary society. BBC3/iPlayer, from Tuesday

 

AMAZON

Manhunt: Deadly Games

The excellent first series, Manhunt, was a fictionalised account of the hunt for the Unabomber. This series tells the story of the efforts to catch serial bomber Eric Rudolph (Jack Huston), whose motivation was a hatred of abortion and homosexuality. 

Judith Light (above) plays the mother of Richard Jewell (Cameron Britton), an innocent man who was wrongly accused of being a terrorist after the bombing of the 1996 Olympic Games

Judith Light (above) plays the mother of Richard Jewell (Cameron Britton), an innocent man who was wrongly accused of being a terrorist after the bombing of the 1996 Olympic Games 

His first attack was at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, after which an innocent man, Richard Jewell (Cameron Britton), who had actually spotted the bomb and saved hundreds of lives, was wrongly accused of being the terrorist. StarzPlay, from Thursday

 

21 Bridges

Years after the murder of his cop father, New York detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) makes his name by bringing down those responsible for the deaths of serving officers. His latest case uncovers a citywide conspiracy linking members of the police force and a criminal empire. 

With all of Manhattan’s bridges closed, Davis is trapped on the island with the ringmasters and must track them down before they can silence him for good. Sienna Miller, Keith David and JK Simmons co-star in a tense action thriller produced by the Russo brothers, who are best known for directing several instalments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From Tuesday

 

Military Wives

From the director of The Full Monty, this was inspired by the story of the Military Wives Choir. A group of women whose husbands are serving in Afghanistan set up a choir. Kate (Kristen Scott Thomas), the strait-laced colonel’s wife, favours a formal approach to singing, but easy-going Lisa (Sharon Horgan) thinks they should focus on having fun. 

Predictably, the pair don’t get on. Yes, this is as formulaic as a musical scale but it hits absolutely the right note. It will make you laugh and it will definitely make you cry. Prime Video Cinema, available now

 

FILMS 

Portrait Of A Lady On Fire

Sheltered young noblewoman Héloïse (Adèle Haenel) is being pushed into an arranged marriage. Marianne (Noémie Merlant) has been engaged to paint a portrait of her that will seal the deal with her future husband. 

This beautiful French film shows how love really feels as painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and subject Héloïse (Adèle Haenel, above with Merlant) fall for each other

This beautiful French film shows how love truly feels as painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) and subject Héloïse (Adèle Haenel, above with Merlant) fall for each other

This beautiful French film shows how love feels, with all its ecstasy and agony, as painter and subject fall for each other. It’s an extraordinary work of art that lives up to the hype. MUBI, available now

 

Spies In Disguise

An animated spy yarn with the amusing conceit of Will Smith’s suave, Bond-like agent Lance Sterling being turned into a pigeon by young boffin Tom Holland. More starling than Sterling, Smith, together with Holland, then has to take on shape-shifting villain Killian. 

Sounds absurd? Great shoot-’em-up scenes, sharp dialogue and one or two very grown-up jokes give this wings. Sky Store & Rakuten, available to buy from Monday  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk