I really loved the first series (six half-hour episodes) of this. It was a charming little character-oriented comedy with some adorable characters, especially the Mum. I also have a real soft spot for the ditzy girlfriend of her twenty-something son. The first season was largely free of humiliation porn.
The second series is not. It is centred on the other characters rather than the titular one, and the writers have chosen to highlight and poke their fingers into the more cringeworthy flaws of those characters. I squirmed my way through the second episode and could just about stomach the third, but I haven’t mustered up the courage to see if I can manage the fourth yet.
In summary: Watch the first series, it’s lovely. I’m reserving judgment with the second.
The Last Leg, Channel 4
The bloke and I have been watching this satirical news show on Friday evenings pretty regularly for a while. It seems to have gone off the boil a bit. It’s still amusing, but a little bit too up its own arse.
Hard Sun, BBC
Another of those six-episode BBC things, except each one was an hour. This was billed as “sci-fi” so the bloke and I gave it a whirl. Apart from the basic premise (this is not a spoiler), which is that the Sun is going to explode a lot sooner than a billion years from now, it is not sci-fi. The basic premise is not explored or expanded upon. This is, in fact, a grisly crime drama. Most of the criminals are your run-of-the-mill conspiracy theorists, fantasists and rejected psychotically controlling husbands. All white men in their thirties. All the crimes are pretty gruesome. I had to avert my eyes a lot.
The best thing about it is Agyness Deyn. She plays a sort of undercover vice cop. She is properly nails, an adaptable survivor, and a truly interesting and original character.
If you’re looking for clever world-building and plot-driven sci-fi, seek elsewhere. If you want a character-driven crime drama and don’t mind quite a bit of gore, then give it a whirl.
This eight episode series was pretty heavily advertised and got a lot of attention in the mainstream UK press. It’s a dramatisation of the non-fiction book by Misha Glenny that explores the world of Russian oligarchs and of “dark” money and its movement. It was an expensive production, and billed as the lead actor’s Bond audition. Lots of people disliked it for being too slick and too glib about the more difficult issues it was supposed to tackle, like human trafficking. (Content Warning: The second episode centres the trafficking through the story of a Russian girl who thinks she’s going to work in a hotel in Cairo. It was very, very hard to watch.) I think those are fair criticisms. I also think one point that was underappreciated was just how beautifully Russian the story was. The directors/producers made a point of casting actors from the countries they were supposed to be from (Israel, Czech Republic, etc). This was a successful all around strategy, but it really shone through in the Russian actors’ performances. The television story uses as its focus a long-standing feud between the members of two families, one exiled and one in a position of power in the Russian government, who are doggedly set against one another. All the family members are as devastatingly flawed as in any Tolstoy novel or Chekhov play, and despite their professions of devotion to one another’s well-being, their actions mostly serve to tear them apart. The main character is trying to bridge this gap, first through upright and legal means, and then through increasingly devious and illegal ones. Even though he “wins” the battle between the families, he does it by destroying everything he’d worked for to try to drag his family and himself onto the moral high ground. Despite its flaws, excessive gloss and occasional ultraviolence, it is a fantastic tribute to the best of Russian storytelling, and for that alone I’m glad I watched it.
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