The best #snowday TV: what to watch on Netflix, Amazon and more
Make the most of the days off and enjoy all this great telly
In the age of Instagram perfection (where everyone is their own makeover specialist) Queer Eye seems oddly quaint
Tommy from Love/Hate (Killian Scott) has seemingly forgotten all about that long lusted after bottle of fizzy orange and has now quantum leaped into the body of a gun-toting, preacher with a Peaky Blinders-style hairdo, ready to wreak vengeance on his ne’er do well, pampered parishioners.
Set in Depression-era rural Iowa, Damnation is a gritty tale of the American labour movement, the economics of greed, the seduction of capitalism, a terrain of strikes, starvation and bloodied soil. It’s Deadwood long after the goldrush and minus sweary Lovejoy.
Scott plays Seth, a fiery, charismatic preacher who unites the disgruntled farming community and inspires them to strike until their prices are increased. This sees desperate smaller farmers attempting to cross pickets to save their livelihoods leaving the town awash with bullets and bloodshed. Strikebreakers are sent for to demolish the unions and regain the status quo, with the most effective of the bunch being the smooth-tongued Creely (Logan Marshall-Green AKA American Tom Hardy) who just so happens to be Seth’s estranged brother, turning the tale into Cain and Abel in cowboy hats.
The Bold Type
Inspired by the life of Joanna Coles, former edition of Cosmopolitan magazine, The Bold Type is a fun, zingy drama about three young women embarking on fledgling media careers in New York City. It follows the trios’ adventures at the fictional Scarlet magazine where they juggle their complicated personal lives and negotiate office politics and mishaps through the whirlwind of social media – while looking impossibly glamourous, of course.
Absentia is Amazon Prime’s new serial killer thriller. A six-part procedural drama with a familiar Nordic Noir twist, it follows the story of Emily Byrne (Castle’s Stana Katic), a presumed dead FBI agent who is found six years after being kidnapped and is then promptly accused of murder.
The series traces the life that continued in Byrne’s absence, from her husband remarrying to her father’s illness while dealing with her trauma and memory loss. With its fuzzy timelines and sketchy protagonist there are shades of Netflix’s exploitation mystery The Sinner and Anna Friel’s troubled Marcella. The show also rather distractingly, features Ralph Ineson (Finchy from The Office) as an FBI agent investigating Byrne’s ordeal but the case of the man who allegedly threw a kettle over a pub in Chichester remains sadly unsolved - here’s hoping for a spin-off show.
There were high hopes for the latest movie from director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), a sci-fi drama set in Berlin in the near future (in another Blade Runner-esque version of the city) where brooding mute barman Leo (Alexander Skarsgård) stalks through the city on the hunt for his missing girlfriend. This journey to locate his soulmate leads him to the shadowy world of two achingly sardonic US Army surgeons (played by a be-wigged Justin Theroux and a moustachioed Paul Rudd) who are on their own mysterious quest. It'sa sortof homage to his father, David Bowie, but the reviews have been mixed. Judge for yourself.
There was a time when it felt like the tyrannical reign of the judgemental makeover show would never end. We were doomed to see Gillian McKeith poking about in some poor accountant from Halifax’s excrement or twin Sloane Rangers Trinny & Susannah prod at a stranger’s breasts in a changing room for the rest of eternity.
In the age of Instagram perfection (where everyone is their own makeover specialist) these shows seem oddly quaint, which is possibly the misplaced mix of affection and nostalgia Netflix is banking on with their relaunch of Queer Eye. The mid Noughties series (originally titled Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) winked at the premise that gay men are superior to straight men in matters of style, food, culture and personal grooming. A hapless hetero New York man would be made over by the fabulous five (that featured Carson Kressley) and sent on his merry way. It was all a bit like something Carrie Bradshaw would have dreamt up while typing on her iMac in her undies in the middle of the afternoon.
The show itself has now been given a slight face-lift and a whole new fab five are attempting to solve sartorial and social problems but this time they’ve been transplanted to the American South (gasp!) where they gamely engage in conversations around topics such as LGBTQ rights while showing Uncle Randy how to rustle up an impressive avocado toast.
Seeing Allred is the incendiary (and timely) documentary about the notorious women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred. Filmakers Sophie Sartain and Roberta Grossman follow the dogged Allred as she represents some of comedian Bill Cosby’s accusers and supports clients such as Summer Zervos, the Apprentice contestant who accused Donald Trump of unwanted sexual advances.
The documentary examines the attorney’s divisive reputation, for some she is a determined warrior, a lightning rod of righteousness and justice, for others she is a hardened publicity seeker. Although any explorations of her detractors criticisms are mostly kept to a minimum, Seeing Allred instead acts as a loving, ebullient tribute to the flamboyant equality trailblazer.
A girl is abducted and her deadbeat dad is the main suspect in Save Me, a gritty drama set in south London which comes from the people behind Line of Duty. The series is written by Lennie James, who stars as Nelly, a small-time scoundrel who is accused of kidnapping his estranged daughter Jody. Nelly must get off the barstool if he is to save his daughter and clear his name. The series also stars Suranne Jones as Jody’s mother, Claire.
A six-part documentary made by Zero Point Zero, the production company responsible for the hard-hitting feature Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, Rottencontinues on their journey to reveal the decaying underbelly of the food industry.
It concentrates on various subjects such as corruption and food fraud, the rise of food allergies, the decline in agriculture, exploitation in American fisheries. Taking the sombre, justice-warrior tone of a true crime series it’s Making a Murderer for food-lovers and those concerned about the future of our consumer culture of convenience.
Netflix, February 2nd
Is there no end to Snoop Dogg’s talents? Rapper, actor, mogul, weed connoisseur, cooking chum of Martha Stewart and now there’s Coach Snoop, an entire Netflix series following his involvement with a youth football league that supports children from underprivileged areas of Los Angeles.
More in the mold of Hoop Dreams and Friday Night Lights rather than the irreverence of Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, the docuseries explores Snoop’s love of football and his belief in its healing properties and the stability it can provide for troubled, isolated kids. Snoop takes a mindful approach as a mentor giving spirited speeches and floating down the sidelines in his grey marl shawl/snood like a sunglasses-sporting Jedi, leaving the real tough love to be doled out by coach K-Mac who endures the tears and tantrums waiting for that all-important breakthrough.
The series centres around the hapless Dylan(Johnny Flynn) who having contracted chlamydia, must contact all his previous sexual partners to inform them of this misfortune. Told through flashbacks , mostly involving his friend Luke (Daniel Ings) intertwined with his current romantic dilemmas – mainly the small issue of being in love with his best friend Evie (played by the dazzling Antonia Thomas) it’s a zippy, breezy affair that is surprisingly sweet given its laddish premise. Season 3 plunges deeper into the lives and loves of the gang. It’s a light confection perfect for easing your brain out of the crushing New Year’s Day blues.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Although somewhat tarnished by charisma black hole James Corden who pilfered the format and transformed it into his mobile karaoke nightmare, Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is the original car-based comedy series. A low-concept talk show of sorts, it sees Jerry tooling about in a vintage car (what’s the deal with millionaire comedians and their obsession with flashy cars eh?) picking up a comedian mate or an interesting celebrity and shooting the breeze about everyday life on their way to get coffee. More loose, natural and understated than Corden’s craven fawn-fest due to Seinfeld’s genuine curiosity and belief that his guests should be the actual star of the show, it can be quietly revealing and insightful as well as typically surreal and hilarious.
Beginning life as a web series for the US site Crackle in 2012, it has now been hoovered up as part of Seinfeld’s mega-deal with Netflix. Enjoy all previous 59 episodes including appearances by Barack Obama, Sarah Silverman and Aziz Ansari before the new series begins later this year.
Dirty Money (which is produced by acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney) is an investigative series exploring the corruption and disrepute taking place in various factions of the business world. Each stand-alone episode is made by a different director including Kristi Jacobson, whose Cartel Bank exposes the relationship between HSBC and the Mexican drugs cartels and actor Fisher Stevens’ guide to the Trump regime. It’s essentially a macro version of Watchdog – instead of Anne Robinson castigating a cowboy builder from Essex it’s a New York intellectual seething at a Wall Street trader. Other companies and business trends under intense analysis in the sure-to-be controversial series are payday money lenders, Volkswagen and Big Pharma.
A Futile and Stupid Gesture
An intriguing biopic starring Will Forte as comedy writer Doug Kenney and Domhnall Gleeson as Harry Beard, whose influential National Lampoon magazine and radio show were the voice of the American comedy world in the early ’70s and were then at their peak in popularity and critical acclaim. The magazine and show managed to launch several high-profile careers with cast members including Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and John Belushi, who appeared on the radio show graduating to television and becoming household names on Saturday Night Live. Kenney and Beard went on to write the quintessential college comedy Animal House and produce the National Lampoon’s film series.
Featuring a whole batch of young comedians playing the ’70s stars (including Joel McHale as his ex-Community co-star Chevy Chase) it’s an acerbic and dark tale of the excess and wildness of the comedy scene at the time which had more than its share of casualties.
The Polka King
Based on the documentary The Man Who Would be Polka King, Jack Black stars as Jan Lewan, the Polish-born Pennsylvanian gift shop owner, enterprising entrepreneur and polka-music legend whose preoccupation with the American Dream saw him set up a Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands from his senior-citizen fanbase.
It’s Black again delving into the bizarre biopic territory that earned him critical kudos in Richard Linklater’s underrated Bernie. The off-kilter, campy quality of the story gives him licence to create a bombastic, cultish figure with a Conan the Barbarian bowl haircut and a selection of gold lamé tuxedos.
Concentrating on the more comedic and outlandish elements of the story rather than the dire consequences for his unfortunate investors, it’s a film that requires the audience to sympathise with a scheming swindler, which in the current political climate may be hard to swallow. Relying on Black’s idiosyncratic ‘charms’ is a gamble, but with a strong supporting cast that features Jenny Slate playing his supportive wife and Jason Schwartzman as his earnest bandmate, The Polka King may be slightly one-note but it’s a distracting musical interlude from the whistling emptiness of January nonetheless.
The season 11 final of Operation Transformation aired this week. See how leaders Mary Diamond, Wayne O’Donnell, Felicity Moroney, David Crya and Sarah O’Callaghan end their health and fitness journey. They have collectively lost over 10 stone in the two months, and the reactions a a joy.
Neven’s Irish Food Trails
Having travelled around Italy for his last series, Neven Maguire is back in Ireland for Neven’s Irish Food Trails. In this new series, Maguire is on a quest to meet the people who produce some of Ireland’s finest foods. In the opening episode, he explores Ireland’s dairy industry, beginning with Ballynoe, Co Cork, where young dairy farmer Maeve O’Keefe tends to her herd of Jersey crossbred cattle. Then it’s on to Michelstown, home of Ireland’s world-famous Kerrygold butter. He also pays a visit to Toons Bridge, near Macroom, to learn how Italian cheesemaking techniques are used to create Toons Bridge mozzarella.
On TV Thursday and Friday
Weinstein: The Inside Story
Harvey Weinstein was once one of the most successful producers in Hollywood history, but beneath the glitz and glamour, there was a dark story of threats, bullying and allegations of sexual assault. As Hollywood prepares to celebrate the 90th Academy Awards, Panorama investigates Weinstein's spectacular fall from grace and the extraordinary efforts he made to silence his accusers. This one-hour special examines the complex web of lawyers, journalists and private detectives deployed to keep Weinstein s secrets hidden.
Serial Killer with Piers Morgan
Thursday, TV3, 9pm or the Player
Serial Killer with Piers Morgan features Lorenzo Gilyard who was convicted of killing six people in and around Missouri between 1977 and 1993, and was also suspected of murdering a further seven more, earning him six life sentences. His prolific spree saw him labelled the Kansas City Strangler, and despite overwhelming DNA evidence pointing to his guilt, he continues to protest his innocence to this day. Here, Piers Morgan sets out to discover what drove a seemingly well-adjusted family man to kill.
Thursday, BBC2, 9pm
Civilisations - note the plural - is a nine-part series that reworks the classic 1969 TV series into a truly global history of art. The remake is about much more than emulating, or reacting against, what an aristocratic TV art critic in a tweed jacket said about art all those years ago. It is about rekindling a golden age of factual television. The series will examine more than 500 works and will span 31 countries. With three presenters Simon Schama, David Olusoga and Mary Beard as well as sublime photography; this is a truly universal story of civilisation to enjoy.
RTE2, Thursday, 9.30pm, or the Player
Conor and Mairead’s much-loved fridge finally gives upon them and Jock joins the loveable rogues from the Republic of Cork on a long road trip to find a cheap replacement and relive some fond memories.
RTE2, Thursday, 11.15pm, or the Player
Annie Mac, Huw Stephens and May Kay present highlight form the renowned annual three-day music extravaganza in Dingle, Co Kerry. Tonight's performers include Songhoy Blues with their desert blues music from Mali, rising Derry band Touts, fiddle player Caoimhín Ó’Raghallaigh from The Gloaming, and Joshua Burnside, whose music was described by The Irish Times as "rumbling, brooding, powerful, magnetic".