Having started the year so well, I have rather lapsed with my watchlist reports, but apart from a couple of NT live screenings (see down the page), I haven’t been to the cinema. I have watched a fair amount of telly though, so here are a few high and low lights.
Bingeworthy (& not so bingeworthy) TV
Bosch Legacy (Prime)
I’m in the Bosch fan camp, having loved all the series of the maverick, jazz-loving LA cop. Others have said that the series are too slow, but for me, that gave time for characterisation and atmosphere, each series following the events of one of Michael Connelly’s novels. In Legacy, Bosch has left the LAPD to become a PI, and daughter Maddie is now a rookie cop. In this series, Bosch has two cases – one working for lawyer Honey Chandler who had survived a hit in the previous series, the other the suspicious death of a billionaire who had hired him to find his long-lost heir. Loved it! And the series ends on a cliff-edge too – but phew, season 2 is on the cards.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Just occasionally, a pitch-perfect comedy series with hidden yet heartwarming depths will come along that will just make you feel so happy after watching it. The fact that it’s absolutely hilarious and sweary and nominally about football is hard to believe, but I defy anyone to not fall in love with the fish out of water that is Ted Lasso. Lasso, an American college soccer coach, is employed by the new owner of a struggling English football team Richmond AFC in the Premier league to spite the former owner (her ex) by running the club into the ground. But Lasso arrives, and his folksy wisdom gradually begins to win everyone over. Jason Sudeikis (Lasso), Hannah Waddingham (owner Rebecca) and Brett Goldstein (as sweary club captain, Roy Kent) excel.
Stranger Things 4 (Netflix)
What’s not to love about Stranger Things and its pitch-perfect 80s setting bringing Kate Bush back to number 1. Watch the first three series first to get Eleven’s back story, and enjoy the building climax. I particularly loved Hooper (David Harbour) escaping the gulag.
Night Sky (Prime)
Sissie Spacek and JK Simmons are an old couple with a portal to another world under their garden shed. Their lives are put into turmoil when a young man turns up in the portal needing their help. They take Jude in, but a secret society of portal guardians are on his track – they don’t know about this other portal. As you’ll expect having Spacek and Simmons on board lends this series class, but the bits without the leads were very like a mad SF&F conspiracy drama. However, we won’t find out what was due to happen as Amazon cancelled it after one season of 8 episodes.
Ten Percent (Prime) – Call My Agent – the British ‘W1A’ version. Same plot as the original French, but done in Peter Morgan’s shotgun W1A style. Still good, (Maggie Steed is super) but the French original (Netflix) is better.
As for The Control Room (BBC1) – don’t bother – it’s just silly! He never checked the contents of the van… only watched half an episode. 👎
Straight Line Crazy by David Hare, starring Ralph Fiennes (NT Live)
David Hare is well known for his sociopolitical dramas and on paper his latest, Straight Line Crazy should have had legs – it’s based on the life of American town planner who always believed he was right, Robert Moses – but despite a super performance by Ralph Fiennes, ably supported by Danny Webb as the Governor who gives the yay or nay to his schemes, it fell flat for me. The first half was electrifying, as Moses battles against the entitled and extremely rich landowners of Long Island to drive a pair of freeways up its length, to enable all New Yorkers to access the beaches. He wins his battle, never mind that the average New Yorker couldn’t afford a car, so a train line might have been a better first step – as someone comments later. In the second half, set thirty years later, the Governor is no more, and he takes on the denizens of Greenwich Village, as he wants to drive a new highway through Washington Square – and in them he meets his match – so he sends his assistants to talk to the town hall meeting and they can see the residents’ point, this was rather flat in comparison.
I think I was done in for with this play though, as from the very start I wasn’t thinking Ibsen’s Master Builder, but The Simpsons classic ‘Monorail’ episode (watch the song here). Nuff said!
Prima Facie by Suzie Miller, starring Jodie Comer (NT Live)
Comer makes her West End debut in a one-hander, playing an ambitious young barrister who specialises in defending men accused of sexual assault, she knows how to work the courtroom to her client’s advantage. But when she herself is assaulted, she sees just how wrong and how male the system really is.
The first half starts off light, we meet the successful young barrister, who has made her way to the top from a working-class Liverpool background. She tells us how she reels in the witnesses and makes them doubt their own stories before sucker-punching them and getting her clients off. Things are good for Tess, but when she starts a fling with a colleague it all suddenly goes wrong, and we’re taken through the rape and what happens after, before moving on two and a bit years to the case coming to court where, faced with a similar style of cross-examination she becomes aware that the jury won’t convict. However, she does make a noise in court – and stands up for the 1 in 3 women that will be sexually assaulted in a big climax of a speech challenging the patriarchal system.
Oh my god! She is so brilliant, with so much energy. How one person can memorise and perfectly act an hour and a half of monologue escapes me. She did different voices and accents, changed costumes and got rained on halfway through – the only time she went off stage for just a couple of minutes while a musical interlude played. A very tough subject and a well-written play that makes its point clearly, wonderfully staged and acted.
What are you currently enjoying? Do share…