This week’s On the Beat features excellent new series from some true Anglophenia favorites, but also has one or two curveballs for you to consider. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
1. WHAT TO WATCH WHILE YOU’RE WAITING FOR MORE SHERLOCK
If you’re a Benedict Cumberbatch fan, Showtime’s new limited series premiering Saturday is a real treat. Adapted from Edward St. Aubyn‘s popular novels, Patrick Melrose is a passion project for the charismatic Brit, who exec produces and stars as the troubled title character. It’s a role that spans several decades as Melrose endures a dysfunctional upbringing, slips into substance abuse, and ultimately resolves to rebuild his life. Flanked by a classy cast that includes Jennifer Jason Leigh, Allison Williams, and Blythe Danner, this five-parter promises to be peak Cumberbatch.
2. WHAT TO WATCH IF YOU CAN’T RESIST A PERIOD DRAMA
Call the Midwife‘s Heidi Thomas has adapted Louisa May Alcott‘s coming-of-age novel into this three-part miniseries premiering Sunday on PBS. A BBC co-production, it boasts impeccable period details and a fine cast led by Emily Watson as matriarch Margaret March and rising star Maya Hawke (daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman) as her most headstrong daughter, Jo. Director Vanessa Caswill fully captures the four daughters’ struggle to make ends meet while their father fights in the American Civil War, and the performances she coaxes are universally compelling. Could Dame Angela Lansbury finally win an Emmy for her supporting turn as domineering Aunt March?
3. WHAT TO GO SEE FOR SOME SERIOUS DRAMA THIS WEEKEND
Anton Chekhov‘s 1896 play The Seagull is revered as an all-time classic, and this film adaptation opening in theaters Friday looks like a reassuringly prestigious affair. Tony winner Michael Mayer directs a super-classy ensemble cast that includes Saoirse Ronan, Annette Bening, Elisabeth Moss, Brian Dennehy, Cory Stoll, and Dunkirk‘s rising star Billy Howle. Factor in a script by Pulitzer Prize nominee Stephen Karam and Mayer’s film should be well-equipped to explore Chekhov’s existential themes as it tracks the romantic and artistic tensions between a group of endlessly intriguing characters.
4. WHAT TO STREAM IF YOU’RE HAVING A HECTIC WEEK
Co-created by Catastrophe‘s Sharon Horgan, this BBC sitcom debuting Thursday on the Sundance Now streaming service spotlights the less “apple pie” side of parenthood. BAFTA winner Anna Maxwell Martin stars as Julia, an exasperated single mother struggling to balance work, childcare, and her ongoing bid to keep up with the annoyingly perfect “alpha moms” at her kids’ school. Packed with spiky one-liners and horribly relatable humiliations, Motherland is a funny, refreshing and surprisingly infectious series; it should entertain not just stressed parents, but anyone currently battling a lengthy to do list.
5. WHAT TO READ FOR A UNIQUE INSIGHT INTO THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Since breaking through in the mid-’90s, the Duplass brothers have carved out varied careers as actor-writer-directors with a distinctive quirky style. In recent years, they’ve created the acclaimed HBO show Togetherness, shown off their acting chops in The Mindy Project (Mark) and Transparent (Jay), and helped to make terrific indie films like Tangerine and Safety Not Guaranteed through their production company. Published Tuesday, this candid collection of personal essays sees them share the secrets of their success as well as revealing how they got through tense times in their working relationship. Topped off with a witty foreword from Mindy Kaling, it’s a funny and fascinating read for film fans.
6. WHAT TO WATCH WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MOOD FOR A MYSTERY
Premiering today on the Acorn TV streaming service, this thriller series gives a uniquely challenging role to Torchwood favorite Eve Myles. Shot back-to-back in two different languages, English and Welsh, Keeping Faith centers on a small town lawyer (Myles) fighting to find out why her husband disappeared shortly after their daughter’s birth. Set against a backdrop of stunning Welsh countryside, it’s a gripping and harrowing eight-parter that might just suck you in for a binge-watch. (And don’t worry, it’s definitely the English-language version that Acorn TV is streaming.)
7. WHAT TO PLAY WHEN YOU FANCY A NEW SONG WITH A TOUCH OF CLASS
A regular presence on the U.K. charts in the ’90s and early-’00s, Gabrielle has kept a lower profile in recent years. But this first single lifted from Under My Skin, her first album in 11 years, shows she hasn’t lost her touched. It’s a classic-sounding pop ballad featuring a typically soulful vocal from the honey-voiced Londoner, who co-writes all her own material. Let’s hope the album, due in August, lives up to this high standard.
8. WHAT TO GO SEE IF YOU FEEL LIKE SOMETHING OFFBEAT
Specific plot details haven’t been revealed, but this thriller film hitting theaters Friday looks appealingly weird. Margot Robbie (who also produces) stars as a mysterious femme fatale who interrupts a couple of hitmen (Woman in Gold‘s Max Irons and Band of Brothers‘ Dexter Fletcher) while they’re muddling through a highly dangerous mission. With a supporting cast that includes Simon Pegg, Mike Myers, and Harry Potter‘s Matthew Lewis, not to mention some stylish neon visuals, Terminal has got to be worth a punt.
9. WHAT TO STREAM IF YOU LIKE A SLOW-UNFOLDING MYSTERY
Dexter‘s Michael C. Hall rocks a British accent in this thriller series debuting Friday on Netflix. Created by mystery novelist Harlan Coben, it’s set in an upscale English community whose genteel surface seems deceptive. When the teenage daughter of Hall’s character goes missing, he begins to discover more about his friends and neighbors than he bargained for. Though the opening episode is a little complicated and sprawling, this series has potential to become gripping, and Hall is flanked by a strong ensemble cast that includes Sherlock‘s Amanda Abbington.
10. AND FINALLY, WHAT TO WATCH IF YOUR WEEKEND COULD USE SOME GLITZ AND GLAMOUR
If you’ve never tuned into this annual song contest, a huge deal in Europe for over 50 years, here are a few things you should know. First, it’s a campy spectacle where less is never more and traditional good taste is rarely rewarded. Second, despite not being anywhere near Europe, Australia has been allowed to compete since 2016 and Israel (this year’s favorite) made its Eurovision debut way back in 1973. Third, for a variety of reasons, the United Kingdom’s song has virtually no chance of winning these days. And fourth, it’s surprisingly infectious even if you don’t really like the tunes. Airing live on Logo Saturday afternoon, it’s the perfect way to inject some fun into your weekend.
What are your plans for this week?Read More