October 24, 2020

From a David Attenborough documentary to Ghosts and Brave New World: The best on demand TV this week


NETFLIX 

 

David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

David Attenborough has spent the past seven decades travelling the wildest reaches of the globe and produced some of the most memorable documentaries of all time, showing our world in all its variety and wonder. 

David Attenborough (above) has spent the past seven decades travelling the wildest reaches of the globe and produced some of the most memorable documentaries of all time

David Attenborough (above) has spent the past seven decades travelling the wildest reaches of the globe and produced some of the most memorable documentaries of all time

That’s why he’s now so concerned about climate change, and its threat to humanity and the planet’s survival unless urgent action is taken. In this moving and at times sobering documentary he gives a bluntly stark warning about the biggest challenges facing us – ‘It’s about saving ourselves.’

In this moving and at times sobering documentary he gives a bluntly stark warning about the biggest challenges facing us – ‘It’s about saving ourselves’

In this moving and at times sobering documentary he gives a bluntly stark warning about the biggest challenges facing us – ‘It’s about saving ourselves’

Yet still he offers some hope for future generations, not least that the pandemic may make us pause for thought and bring us together. Available now

 

Emily In Paris 

Twentysomething Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) works for a US company that has just acquired a French marketing firm. When her boss can’t go to Paris, Emily gets the job – despite the fact that her French doesn’t extend much beyond ‘Oui’. 

Initially, the snooty, old-school Parisians aren’t interested in hearing this perky young American’s ideas for their social media strategy, but Emily gradually proves quite the influencer.

Twentysomething Emily Cooper (Lily Collins, above) works for a US company that has just acquired a French marketing firm

Twentysomething Emily Cooper (Lily Collins, above) works for a US company that has just acquired a French marketing firm

Meanwhile, her romantic life becomes… un peu compliqué. This ten-part cultureclash comedy is as saucy as you would expect from creator Darren Star, the man behind Sex And The City. Available now

 

The Boys In The Band 

Mart Crowley’s 1968 play is considered groundbreaking for putting the lives of a group of New York gay men on stage without apology or judgment. It was made into a 1970 film, and the play was revived on Broadway with a starry cast two years ago. 

Now that Tony Award-winning version is adapted with a cast including The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons as the host of the party that assembles the disparate characters, and Zachary Quinto as the bitter, waspish guest of honour. Available now

 

The Forty-Year-Old Version 

If Radha Blank doesn’t become a big star after the release of her directorial debut, for which she won a trophy at this year’s Sundance Festival, then something has gone badly wrong. 

Blank also stars, as a fictionalised version of herself, a struggling writer desperate to make her mark on Broadway before her impending 40th birthday. Hilarious, deeply personal and completely compelling, the movie offers a wry look at dreams and the search for fulfilment. 

It’s shot in haunting black and white on, unusually for these days, 35mm film. From Friday

 

Hubie Halloween 

Adam Sandler renewed his Netflix contract this year, and if this collaboration is anything to go by, that’s a good thing. Sandler plays Hubie Dubois, a well-meaning soul who spends every Halloween keeping the residents of Salem, Massachusetts, safe. 

But this year, things are different thanks to a mysterious new neighbour and the disappearance of several locals. Hubie is convinced that the festival’s monsters are real – but can he convince anybody else? 

Ray Liotta, Maya Rudolph (above, with Tim Meadows) and Adam Sandler’s old pals Steve Buscemi and Rob Schneider co-star

Ray Liotta, Maya Rudolph (above, with Tim Meadows) and Adam Sandler’s old pals Steve Buscemi and Rob Schneider co-star

Ray Liotta, Maya Rudolph and Sandler’s old pals Steve Buscemi and Rob Schneider co-star. From Wednesday

 

BBC iPLAYER & ALL 4 

 

Ghosts

The second series of this gentle, family-friendly sitcom is currently airing on BBC1 on Mondays, but the entire box set is available to stream, alongside its predecessor. Written and performed by faces familiar from Horrible Histories and Yonderland, the plot follows the fortunes of Alison and Mike (Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe), a young couple who, after struggling to get on the housing ladder, are thrilled to learn they’ve inherited a manor house.

Written and performed by faces familiar from Horrible Histories and Yonderland, the plot follows the fortunes of Alison and Mike (Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe, above)

Written and performed by faces familiar from Horrible Histories and Yonderland, the plot follows the fortunes of Alison and Mike (Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe, above)

But there are two problems: the property is in a state of disrepair and it’s inhabited by a bunch of ghosts who are not particularly thrilled about sharing their home. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Strike 

Based on the eponymous detective novels written by J. K. Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, Strike stars Tom Burke as Cormoran Strike, a war veteran turned private detective operating out of a tiny office in London’s Denmark Street, who uses his background as a Special Investigation Branch officer to solve complex cases that have eluded the police. 

Opposite Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger plays his professional partner Robin Ellacott. Throughout all four series there is a constant will-they-won’t- they between them

Opposite Tom Burke, Holliday Grainger plays his professional partner Robin Ellacott. Throughout all four series there is a constant will-they-won’t- they between them

Opposite him, Holliday Grainger plays his professional partner Robin Ellacott. Throughout all four series there is a constant will-they-won’t- they between Strike and Ellacott that many critics found frustrating, though Burke insists that this is the very heart of the show. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Michael Palin Box Sets 

To tie in with Michael Palin: Travels Of A Lifetime, a new series starting tonight (BBC2, 8pm) in which the genial Monty Python star looks back on his epic journeys, the BBC is making three of his best-loved series available to stream. 

Around The World In 80 Days is the show that started it all in 1989, and sees Palin follow in the footsteps of Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg. In 1992’s Pole To Pole he travels from the North Pole to the South Pole via Scandinavia, the Soviet Union, Europe and Africa. 

Finally, Hemingway’s Adventure, from 1999, sees him retrace his literary hero Ernest Hemingway’s journeys through the US, Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Angel 

In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Buffy’s relationship with boyfriend Angel was always complicated by the fact that she was a slayer and he was a vampire – and a moody, tortured one at that; a love rival dismisses him as a ‘billowy coat king of pain’.

When Angel (David Boreanaz) bowed out, he was given his own spin-off series, in which he works as a detective, battling the powers of darkness and saving souls. Several characters appear in both shows and Buffy fans will find Angel an enjoyable addition. All 4, available now

 

Lance 

Lance Armstrong was once the most famous sportsman on the planet, a seven-time Tour de France winner who had survived testicular cancer and founded a charity that raised millions. 

Lance Armstrong (above) was once the most famous sportsman on the planet and a seven-time Tour de France winner who had survived testicular cancer

Lance Armstrong (above) was once the most famous sportsman on the planet and a seven-time Tour de France winner who had survived testicular cancer

We know now that it was only through drugs that he was able to dominate the world’s toughest cycle race from 1999 to 2005. This gripping film charts his spectacular rise and fall in forensic detail, with contributions from the man himself. 

Regrets? He’s got a few… BBC iPlayer, now

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Enola Holmes (Netflix)

When it comes to entertainment pedigree, Enola Holmes couldn’t be more of the moment. It stars 16-year-old Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things, is directed by Harry Bradbeer (who directed most of Fleabag and a couple of Killing Eve episodes too) and has a screenplay by Jack Thorne (who adapted Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials so successfully for TV).

I think we can safely say that as far as feisty females are concerned – and they are very much the common denominator of all those shows – Netflix’s latest hit certainly has the bases covered. 

Enola sets off in pursuit of her missing mother (Helena Bonham Carter, above)

Enola sets off in pursuit of her missing mother (Helena Bonham Carter, above)

With a supporting cast that includes Henry Cavill, Sam Claflin and Fiona Shaw, you can see the sort of investment that’s been made. Money has clearly been spent on adapting the first novel (of six) by American author Nancy Springer about the adventures of Enola Holmes, the younger, cleverer sister of both Sherlock and Mycroft.

Aimed at a slightly younger audience than those who enjoyed Benedict Cumberbatch in the modern-day Sherlock but sharing the same energy of Robert Downey Jr’s 2009 film Holmes, this is good, high-spirited fun.

With our young heroine, Enola – which she’s rather proud spells alone backwards – addressing the camera directly, there are definite echoes of Fleabag too, as she sets off in pursuit of her missing suffragette mother (Helena Bonham Carter, right) but is quickly distracted by a floppyhaired marquess (Louis Partridge).

A sequel surely can’t be ruled out.

Matthew Bond 

 

SKY/NOW TV, DISNEY+ & ACORN TV

 

Brave New World  

In New London, everyone belongs to everyone else. Monogamous sexual relationships are considered supremely selfish in this rigidly socially engineered, pill-popping world of the future – a supposed utopia of order and harmony and pharmaceutically ensured goodwill that is in fact sterile and lifeless. 

But not everyone subscribes to the new world order, as the increasingly unhappy Lenina Crowne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and Bernard Marx (Harry Lloyd) find out when they journey outside their bubble to the so-called Savage Lands. 

Based on Aldous Huxley’s influential 1932 novel, this nine-part adaptation also features Demi Moore as John’s mother Linda, as well as Joe Anderson and Lara Peake (above)

Based on Aldous Huxley’s influential 1932 novel, this nine-part adaptation also features Demi Moore as John’s mother Linda, as well as Joe Anderson and Lara Peake (above)

And what will happen when they take their troubled worker John (Alden Ehrenreich) back to New London with them? Based on Aldous Huxley’s influential 1932 novel, which introduced a number of dystopian ideas that have since become standard sci-fi tropes, this nine-part adaptation also features Demi Moore as John’s mother Linda, as well as Joe Anderson and Lara Peake. Sky/NOW TV, available now

 

The Right Stuff 

The space pioneers who started it all Space is big on TV at present. Among other shows, there’s Away – a sci-fi drama about a mission to Mars; Challenger: The Final Flight, a documentary series about the space shuttle disaster; and Space Force, a Steve Carell comedy. 

But here’s the origin of them all: the story of Mercury Seven – America’s first astronauts. Based on the Tom Wolfe bestseller, this is a fact-based drama about the obsessive, competitive, alpha-male military test pilots selected in 1959 by the new National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) for the space programme. 

They are flawed heroes but they become instant celebrities, splashed on the cover of every magazine. The story focuses on John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams), a high-minded family man, and Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman), a fellow with an eye for the ladies and ‘one of the best pilots the Navy has ever seen’, but ‘also one of the most reckless’. 

The story focuses on John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams), a high-minded family man, and Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman, above, with Shannon Lucio), a fellow with an eye for the ladies

The story focuses on John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams), a high-minded family man, and Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman, above, with Shannon Lucio), a fellow with an eye for the ladies

The stakes are high – far more than just the lives of the astronauts. ‘What we’re doing here has consequences for the entire world,’ says a Nasa boss. ‘If Russia gets a man into space first, we could lose the Cold War.’ Disney+, from Friday

 

Reilly: Ace Of Spies 

Sam Neill was once in the running to replace Roger Moore as James Bond, and he’d have been pretty good too if this 12-part spy drama is anything to go by. Written by Troy Kennedy Martin, best known for creating Z Cars and the original screenplay for The Italian Job, it focuses on the story of Sidney Reilly, a real-life Russian-born British secret agent and a suave, sophisticated womaniser. 

Sam Neill (above) was once in the running to replace Roger Moore as James Bond, and he’d have been pretty good too if this 12-part spy drama is anything to go by

Sam Neill (above) was once in the running to replace Roger Moore as James Bond, and he’d have been pretty good too if this 12-part spy drama is anything to go by

Reilly’s major accomplishments – including the infiltration of the German army in 1917 and plotting the overthrow of the Bolsheviks a year later – are among the feats depicted in the Bafta-winning series that was first broadcast in 1983 that is still a thrilling watch today. Acorn TV, from Monday

 

The Call Of The Wild 

A bearded Harrison Ford stars in this charmingly old-fashioned story based on Jack London’s much-loved 1903 novel. Living a happy life in the sunny climes of California, adorable St Bernard/Scotch Collie Buck is stolen and transported to the snowy wastes of the Yukon. 

Becoming a sled dog, he crosses paths with bereaved outdoorsman John Thornton (Ford) and the pair set off on an adventure. All the animals are depicted using CGI, thanks to Disney’s policy of not using real animals on set. Disney+, available now

 

AMAZON

 

Fleabag 

The second and apparently final series of Fleabag provides three hours of brilliant tragi-comedy that won six Emmys, two Golden Globes and a Bafta. Phoebe Waller-Bridge created and plays a grieving, troubled young woman who has, in her words, ‘spent most of my adult life using sex to deflect from the screaming void inside my empty heart’. 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge (above) created and plays a grieving, troubled young woman who has, ‘spent most of my adult life using sex to deflect from the screaming void inside my heart’

Phoebe Waller-Bridge (above) created and plays a grieving, troubled young woman who has, ‘spent most of my adult life using sex to deflect from the screaming void inside my heart’

Will religion help her? Has she finally found love with Andrew Scott’s ‘hot priest’? And how will she and her sister (Sian Clifford) cope with their widowed Dad (Bill Paterson) getting married to their awful godmother (Olivia Colman)? 

How will she and her sister (Sian Clifford) cope with their widowed Dad (Bill Paterson) getting married to their awful godmother (Olivia Colman, above)?

How will she and her sister (Sian Clifford) cope with their widowed Dad (Bill Paterson) getting married to their awful godmother (Olivia Colman, above)?

The ending, in which ‘Fleabag’ speaks to the camera for the last time, is pretty much perfect. If you’ve yet to experience the comic delights of the show that made Waller-Bridge a star, now is the time. From Thursday

 

Fernando Torres: The Last Symbol 

‘This is the story of my life. So short but yet so lengthy.’ The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker hung up his boots last year, so now seems the perfect time to look back on his career.

The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker, Fernando Torres (above), hung up his boots last year, so now seems the perfect time to look back on his career

The former Liverpool and Chelsea striker, Fernando Torres (above), hung up his boots last year, so now seems the perfect time to look back on his career

He discusses the people who had an impact on his life both inside and outside the game and recalls his most memorable moments on the pitch. Available now

 

FILMS

I Am Woman 

How the 1971 hit song I Am Woman and singer Helen Reddy (who died last week) got to No 1, with the help of journalist Lillian Roxon and cocaine-addicted husband-manager Jeff Wald. 

It’s a familiar tale but Tilda Cobham-Hervey is striking in the central role. Most platforms, from Friday

 

Blackbird 

There is much to enjoy and reflect on with Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet (above)

There is much to enjoy and reflect on with Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet (above)

From the moment we watch Susan Sarandon struggling to get out of bed, we’re pretty sure this star-studded drama is not going to end happily. But with Kate Winslet, Sam Neill and Lindsay Duncan among the supporting cast, there is much to enjoy and reflect on. Most platforms, available now

 

The Ground Beneath My Feet 

A young Austrian business executive struggles to keep her life under control; not surprising considering the endless hours at work, a suicidal sister and the affair with her female boss. 

The big question is has Lola – very nicely played by Valerie Pachner – reached breaking point? Mubi, available now

Matthew Bond



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