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From Wallander to The Honourable Woman: The best on demand TV to watch this week


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iPLAYER

Wallander 

It’s set in Sweden and is based on books by a Swedish author, but can this version of Wallander really be described as Scandi-noir? Probably not, seeing as it stars a largely British cast headed by Kenneth Branagh. 

While some will tell you Krister Henriksson delivers the definitive portrayal of the haggard detective in Sweden’s own TV adaptation, Branagh is, frankly, superb. Each episode from all four series keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, and if you’re not already aware of Wallander’s fate, don’t spoil the reveal by watching out of order. 

Can this version of Wallander really be described as Scandi-noir? Probably not, seeing as it stars a largely British cast headed by Kenneth Branagh and a pre-fame Tom Hiddleston (above)

Look out for a pre-fame Tom Hiddleston in the first two seasons. BBC iPlayer, from Monday

 

The Honourable Woman 

Ahead of the eight-part spy thriller’s original broadcast in 2014, many critics concentrated on the fact that Hollywood star Maggie Gyllenhaal would be playing the lead. 

And although she’s good as businesswoman, life peer and Middle East peace campaigner Nessa Stein, it’s the strength of the ensemble cast that makes it worth watching again. 

Ahead of the eight-part spy thriller’s original broadcast in 2014, many critics concentrated on the fact that Hollywood star Maggie Gyllenhaal (above) would be playing the lead

Ahead of the eight-part spy thriller’s original broadcast in 2014, many critics concentrated on the fact that Hollywood star Maggie Gyllenhaal (above) would be playing the lead

Andrew Buchan, Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Katherine Parkinson, Tobias Menzies and Lindsay Duncan also appear in a story involving secrets, intrigue, political machinations and personal tragedy all tied up in Stein’s ambitious long-held dream to connect the West Bank with optical fibre cables. BBC iPlayer, from Monday

 

In My Skin 

In 2018, BBC3 aired a one-off darkly comic drama about 16- year-old Bethan (Gabrielle Creevy), who was leading a double life – at school, she was your typical cocky teenager, but at home she was dealing with the fact her bipolar mother had been sectioned. 

The story has now been expanded into a five-part series, based on the experiences of its writer, Kayleigh Llewellyn. Bethan is still trying to keep her domestic situation from her classmates while having teenage crushes, getting tough love from her Nana and keeping her English teacher off her back. BBC3/iPlayer, from Sunday

 

Stacey Dooley Investigates 

The investigative reporter heads to South Korea where pornography is illegal. It’s been forced underground, with perverts getting their kicks via ‘molka’, a dark craze utilising hi-tech cameras as small as pinheads to covertly record women at vulnerable moments. 

Dooley speaks to those on both sides – perpetrators and victims – to learn more about its implications, which can be tragic; one story she hears involves a young woman who killed herself shortly before her wedding after discovering a colleague filmed her while she was taking a shower. BBC3/iPlayer, from Wednesday

 

NETFLIX

Money Heist 

The relentlessly chaotic Spanish thriller (Casa De Papel) hurtles back for a fourth series of outlandish crime capers. To date, the mysterious El Profesor (Alvaro Morte) has pulled off the most daring robbery in Spain’s history, helping himself to 2.4 billion euros from the Royal Mint, alongside eight whacky crims. 

Having dispersed around the globe, the whacky crims are now back in town and plotting a raid on the Bank of Spain. But is Nairobi (Alba Flores, above) still alive?

Having dispersed around the globe, the whacky crims are now back in town and plotting a raid on the Bank of Spain. But is Nairobi (Alba Flores, above) still alive?

Having dispersed around the globe, they’re now back in town and plotting a raid on the Bank of Spain. But is Nairobi (Alba Flores) still alive? At times crazier than a wounded bull, this is the definition of binge TV. Vamos! From Friday 

 

Unorthodox 

Fact-based tale of a fight against religious restrictions An unhappily married young woman bridles against the many restrictions placed upon her by her insular, ultra-orthodox Jewish community in America and flees to Berlin to try to start again. 

She falls in with a group of musicians and begins to embrace new freedoms, but can she really escape her past? Esty is played by Israeli actress Shira Haas and the four-episode, German-made series is based on a bestselling memoir by Deborah Feldman and produced by the Deutschland 83 creator. Available now

 

Uncorked 

Elijah is a young man with a big ambition – to pass the exam that would pave the way to him becoming a master sommelier. You would think his father Louis would be thrilled by his son’s drive and enthusiasm, but he’s disappointed – he’d prefer him to take over the running of the family business, a Memphis barbecue restaurant. 

Father and son struggle with their opposing viewpoints until a tragedy forces them to look at the situation from a new perspective. Mamoudou Athie and Courtney B Vance head the cast of this likeable drama. Available now

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Love Is Blind (Netflix)  

What happens if you lock away 30 good-looking young people and tell them to flirt? So far, so Love Island. But what makes Love Is Blind so addictive is that it challenges the myth of ‘love at first sight’: the would-be couples can’t see each other. 

For favourites Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed there’s a happy ever after

For favourites Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed there’s a happy ever after

They have to do their flirting from within two isolating ‘pods’ (perhaps the ultimate in ‘social distancing’ – yet the show was filmed in 2018, before Covid-19). 

Cue a frenzy of speed dating and mutual assessment unlike anything on innuendo-laden Blind Date. Because this is a deadly serious business: they’re actually choosing their marriage partners. 

Only after the couples, all from Atlanta Georgia, have got engaged do they actually meet. Then they’re returned to Atlanta to set up home together and start their wedding arrangements. 

Clearly, for viewers’ favourites Cameron Hamilton and Lauren Speed there’s a happy ever after. But will it be the same result for the other couples? You’ll have to watch to find out…

Struan Robertson 

 

SKY/NOW TV, BRITBOX & DISNEY+ 

Beware The Slenderman 

The Slenderman is a stick-thin, impossibly tall, faceless character invented for an online Photoshop competition. However, this entirely fictional, internet meme has had horrific real-world consequences. 

This chilling documentary reveals how two 12-year-old girls became obsessed with the avatar and the reams of internet folklore that sprung up around it, leading ultimately to them luring their best friend to a remote location and almost stabbing her to death. 

Including interviews with the two attackers, this is a fascinating study in how easy it is for some to lose themselves online with devastating consequences. Sky/NOW TV, from Sunday

 

Pen15 

Adult comedy about the growing pains of 13-year-old suburban schoolkids. The twist is that the central characters, best friends Maya and Anna, are played by two adults who are friends in real life, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle, the co-creators of the show. 

It’s funny and touching and it will make you cringe as you remember your own teenage dramas. This first season of ten half-hour episodes was nominated for an Emmy and a second season is currently being filmed. Sky/NOW TV, from Tuesday

 

Shakespeare & Hathaway 

Daytime TV was once much maligned, but there are gems to be found these days, including this light-hearted mystery series. Mark Benton and Jo Joyner head the cast as mismatched private detectives Frank Hathaway and Luella Shakespeare, who solve various crimes around Stratford-upon-Avon, with help from actor and undercover specialist Sebastian (Patrick Walshe McBride). 

The third series recently aired on BBC1, and a fourth has already been commissioned. The second drops onto BritBox this week and sees the titular duo search for a dog that’s inherited a fortune, solve the murder of two members of a re-enactment group and discover who is targeting a psychic, among other baffling cases. BritBox, from Thursday

 

Gentleman Jack 

Suranne Jones wore weights around her ankles to perfect the ever-so-slightly macho strut in this terrific BBC period drama. Jones plays Anne Lister, a woman running rings around the menfolk as she battles to restore her uncle’s estate, which she has inherited. 

Sophie Rundle (above with Suranne Jones) plays the alluring Ann Walker, who soon falls under Anne Lister’s spell

Sophie Rundle (above with Suranne Jones) plays the alluring Ann Walker, who soon falls under Anne Lister’s spell

Sophie Rundle plays the alluring Ann Walker, who soon falls under Lister’s spell. BritBox, from Thursday

 

Forky Asks A Question 

The character created in Toy Story 4 (above) is back in his own series. Each four-minute episode sees him ask a question about life

The character created in Toy Story 4 (above) is back in his own series. Each four-minute episode sees him ask a question about life

The character created in Toy Story 4 is back in his own series. Each four-minute episode sees him ask a question about life. Youngsters will love it. Tony Hale provides the voice of Forky. Disney+ available now

 

AMAZON & APPLE TV+

Tales From The Loop 

Languid sci-fi drama starring Rebecca Hall and Ato Essandoh, with a surreal, fairy-tale quality and a mesmerising, melancholy score co-written by Philip Glass. Beneath the town of Mercer, Ohio, is the Mercer Center For Experimental Physics – ‘the Loop’. 

Languid sci-fi drama starring Rebecca Hall and Ato Essandoh (above), with a surreal, fairy-tale quality and a mesmerising, melancholy score co-written by Philip Glass

Languid sci-fi drama starring Rebecca Hall and Ato Essandoh (above), with a surreal, fairy-tale quality and a mesmerising, melancholy score co-written by Philip Glass

Its purpose is ‘to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe’, and it is the cause of the town’s many oddities and anomalies. If you like the kinetic pace of much of modern TV, this will take a bit of adjusting to but it’s oddly beautiful and you’ll find yourself still thinking about it long after it has finished. Amazon Prime, from Friday

Last Chance To See 

The Murder Of Jill Dando

Twenty-one years ago, Jill Dando, one of the BBC’s most popular TV presenters, was shot dead on her doorstep in the middle of the day. It was a senseless murder that shocked the nation. This sensitively handled film tells the story of one of Britain’s most high-profile unsolved killings, hearing from Dando’s friends and family. BBC iPlayer, ends Wednesday 

 

Veronica Mars 

In the original three seasons of the cult California noir, which ran from 2004 to 2007, Veronica (played by Kristen Bell) was a plucky teenage private investigator investigating crimes in the troubled beach town of Neptune. 

Now she’s a 30-something detective, trying to discover who is behind a string of bombings that appears to be targeting Neptune’s tourism industry. A crime boss is equally keen to catch the bomber. 

A season-finale twist divided fans and it is unclear when – or if – Veronica Mars will return. Amazon Prime (StarzPlay), available now

 

FILMS

Ordinary Love 

There’s nothing ordinary about the performances here from Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson, who bring emotional depth and humanity to a tale of a middle-aged couple facing up to a cancer diagnosis. 

Tom and Joan have already suffered the loss of their daughter, and when Joan is told she has breast cancer, their relationship, which has settled into a routine of gentle bickering, faces a challenge. 

Lesley Manville (above) and Liam Neeson  bring emotional depth and humanity to a tale of a middle-aged couple facing up to a cancer diagnosis

Lesley Manville (above) and Liam Neeson  bring emotional depth and humanity to a tale of a middle-aged couple facing up to a cancer diagnosis

Of course, it’s a film that comes pre-packed with weepie moments, and heart strings will be tugged. But its gentle pace and crisp dialogue set it in a league of its own. Sky Store, available to buy from Monday

 

Motherless Brooklyn 

Much praise was lavished on the period detail in Ed Norton’s homage to film noir, set in New York in the Fifties. But it’s a film very much of today: Norton plays Lionel Essrog, a private detective with Tourette’s, whose primary weapon is not a Colt 45 but his incredible memory. 

And the case he’s working on involves an urban renewal project that would evict the city’s poor black communities. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the activist fighting the plans, while a starry cast – Bruce Willis, Willem Dafoe – get their teeth into some meaty roles. Sky Store, available to buy from Monday

 

Jumanji: The Next Level 

The Jumanji film reboot (based on a Robin Williams-starring Eighties original) was an often hilarious body-swap comedy that was fun family viewing. Starring Dwayne Johnson and Karen Gillan it was also somewhat of a surprise hit, so a sequel was inevitable. 

While it doesn’t have the surprise factor of the first, The Next Level pushes its ‘people trapped in a computer game’ antics even further to deliver just as many laughs. Kevin Hart might just steal the show this time around and is a real treat. Sky Store, available to buy from Monday       


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