Love & Anarchy
This Swedish drama set in the publishing world is less Scandi Noir and more Scandi Phwoar, as married mother of two, Sofie (Ida Engvoll)begins a playful, daring flirtation with a young IT expert Max (newcomer Björn Mosten). As the two become embroiled in a series of sometimes sexual games and challenges that test societal norms they become ever closer and the consequences to their actions more drastic. The split between her conventional life and this new liberating world deepens as Sofie contemplates the complexities of the behaviour she is indulging in.
Celebrated Swedish indie director Lisa Langseth (Pure) serves as the series showrunner and director along with Alex Haridi (Quicksand), giving the series a fresh, youthful feel similar to the aesthetic of the criminally underrated Norwegian drama Young and Promising.
Carmel: Who Killed Maria Marta?
This four-part true crime documentary series tells the story of the grisly murder of Argentinian socialite María Marta García Belsunce in 2002. The crime was initially thought to have been a domestic accident as Belsunce was found dead in her bathtub but an autopsy revealed she had in fact been shot which led to the case becoming a media sensation in Argentina. The documentary attempts to separate the tawdry gossip from the facts and unravel the complicated details of the crime with interviews from friends, family, journalists and investigators involved in the case.
Dash and Lily
Following on from the success of The Kissing Booth and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before comes Dash and Lily, a festive teen romance series based on the popular YA novels by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. In a perfect snowglobe version of New York, the sweet, cheerful Lily (Midori Francis) and the cynical Dash (Austin Abrams) begin a correspondence via a shared diary hidden in the famous Strand bookstore. These private notes take them all across the city from the lights of the Rockefeller Centre Christmas tree to the magic of 34th Street as they open up to each other and push each other out of their comfort zones without ever meeting.
A sort of You’ve Got Mail for young millennials, Dash and Lily’s beautifully filtered, epistolary romance is the kind of comfort blanket escapism that Netflix does so well and that audiences drink up like an expensive hot chocolate. Produced by Stranger Things Shawn Levy and teen idol Nick Jonas, this twosome have an innate understanding of their target market, which surely means that this will not be Dash and Lily’s sole outing.
The Life Ahead
The Life Ahead sees screen legend Sophia Loren return in her first role for almost a decade. Directed by her son, Edoardo Ponti it tells the story of Madam Rosa (Loren) a tough, inscrutable Holocaust survivor and former sex worker who takes it upon herself to look out for the children of the working girls in the small Italian seaside town. When her doctor asks her to watch over a 12 year old Sudanese orphan, Momo (Ibrahima Gueye) she is confronted with the dilemma that she may not be able to cope with the truculent, troubled young boy who had previously mugged her and is determined to become part of the town’s drug dealing network.
Based on Romain Gary’s bestselling novel The Life Before Us, it’s a bittersweet, emotional tale about those who are rendered invisible by society, it’s an immigrant story, it’s a story about the passing of time, the importance of history and the willingness to survive.
The Crown – Season 4
The third season of The Crown felt a bit like a lavish extended trailer for the much anticipated fourth series. It was a smooth introduction to Olivia Colman’s version of Queen Elizabeth, a chance for Helena Bonham Carter to add to her repertoire of ruinous party-girls and a spotlight on the brilliant Josh O’Connor as young Prince Charles – but it was only a placeholder for the double-whammy of drama, the arrival of Diana and Margaret Thatcher to the proceedings.
The Crown has found their Diana in the shape of the relatively unknown actor Emma Corrin who peers out through her eyelashes in the familiar shy-giraffe manner of the late princess. Her and Charles’s strange mating ritual and eventual wedding loom large in the series, as does the spectre of Mrs Thatcher, with Gillian Anderson ensconced in the hairsprayed helmet which is sure to cause many viewers to develop strange new feelings about the Iron Lady.
Covering the years 1979-1990, it will attempt to pack everything in from the 1981 Hunger Strikes, the Falklands War, Britain’s relationship with South Africa and the end of apartheid and Thatcher’s eventual ousting from Downing Street in 1990. It remains to be seen how much detail will be given to the seismic historic events that surround the internal palace drama of Charles and Diana’s gloomy doomed marriage. Hopefully there will be less head-spinning exposition and more thorough exploration in this important season.
We Are the Champions
Produced and narrated by actor Rainn Wilson (The US Office) this docu-series takes a look at various niche competitions from around the world such as chili eating, yo-yoing, dancing dogs and cheese rolling. We Are the Champions finds the fun in the unconventional and celebrates the small-town heroes and communities who are dedicated to these fringe events. A mix of Louis Theroux’s Weird Weekends, Record Breakers and the more idiosyncratic moments of Britain’s Got Talent, the show makes surprisingly moving and uplifting viewing, displaying the passion and commitment of the participants who are all striving to be the best in their particular, peculiar field.
Voices of Fire
Musical polymath and super producer Pharrell Williams heads back to his roots for this docu-series. Voices of Fire sees Williams team up with his uncle Bishop Ezekiel Williams to examine what makes a truly great gospel choir. With the help of various community leaders they embark on a journey through Hamptons Road, Virginia attempting to locate undiscovered talent to form an impressive gospel choir that will be made up of people of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square
Christmas isn’t cancelled, not if Dolly has anything to do with it. She’s here to single-handedly spread joy this sad, strange festive season with her gussied-up Scrooge story starring Mama Mia’s Christine Baranski. Baranski plays the mercenary Regina who after her father’s death has plans to evict everyone (even a basket of puppies!) from the small town she grew up in and sell the land to a property developer who wants to build a megamall. Thankfully an angel appears in the form of Dolly with her giant halo of hair who convinces Regina that perhaps humans are a better investment than cold hard cash.
This Dolly-Holiday delight is an all singing, all dancing, glittery cavalcade of camp. Featuring the vocal talents of Broadway icon Jennifer Lewis and some new songs by Parton, Christmas on the Square is a much needed, unifying slice of cheer that is necessary as we hurtle towards the end of 2020.
If there is anything that 2020 needs it’s the sight of Glenn Close in Deirdre Barlow glasses making finger guns whilst ranting about the Terminator. Thankfully director Ron Howard has gifted us with this indelible image and more in an awards-baiting drama based on JD Vance’s bestselling memoir about his hard-scrabble up-bringing in the Appalachian Mountains.
Gabriel Basso (The Kings of Summer) plays JD, a Yale student who must return to his family after a crisis and is drawn back into the traumas of the past and his fractured relationship with his problematic relatives. Glenn Close plays his beloved grandmother “MawMaw” who took care of him when his drug addicted mother, Beth (Amy Adams) disappeared from his life. Featuring extended scenes of both actors make-up free, wearing a selection of unflattering wigs and novelty T-shirts crying whilst shouting at each other, it’s sure to make at least one of them a first-time Academy Award winner.
Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker
The first Shonda Rhimes production for Netflix is this documentary following the legendary actor and choreographer Debbie Allen (Fame) as she constructs her famous annual musical theatre extravaganza The Hot Chocolate Nutcracker. Allen has been producing this show for over a decade and her non-profit organisation brings the world of dance and theatre to a host of talented youngsters who may not have had the opportunity to experience it previously.