Watchlist: April

Series watch:

Telly suddenly got good again – I’ve had a splendid April’s viewing – largely thanks to Prime offering a cheap deal on Paramount+ TV (£3.50 pcm for 3 months) which meant subscribing to see the superb adaptation of Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow was affordable.

AGinM stars Ewan McGregor as the Russian aristocrat under house arrest in the Metropole hotel in Moscow, where he is witness to the highs and lows of life under Stalin, becomes guardian of a young girl and lover of a film star Anna Urbanova, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, his wife in real life. They sizzle! It is a delightful series that manages to be gentle and funny, yet dramatic and serious at the same time. I’m loving it – all except for the scene where they made poor Paul Ready (Kevin in Motherland) as Prince Nikolai Petrov play the violin – why do directors not realise it is painful to watch non-players pretend to play a musical instrument?

Paramount also gave me access to the violently soapy Yellowstone featuring Kevin Costner as John Dutton, scion of the family ranch in Montana. It’s a frontier version of Succession with guns and horses (and less snappy dialogue). The Dutton ranch in Montana’s Paradise Valley is under siege, from land developers who want to build an airport, from the Native American reservation who want to build a casino and would reclaim their land if they could, to being next door to the National Park which will bring reintroduced wolves to their door. All Dutton wants to do is to preserve his family’s way of life… So what if the accents are all up and down – unlike fake violin playing, that doesn’t bother me, but in warring siblings Jamie and Beth – and with Beth’s soulmate Rip leading the bunch of cowboys and not batting an eyelid over the summary justice he has to mete out, it’s full of drama and I’m loving it. I’m currently up to series 5, where Costner has had to become state governor in order to further the future of the ranch. The real star is the scenery which is just splendid.

Having read the fun novel Mr & Mrs American Pie I couldn’t resist watching the TV series it inspired – Palm Royale (AppleTV)- there’s little similarity apart from the 1969 setting, the would-be socialite and former beauty queen called Maxine (Kirsten Wiig), now married to Doug who works for an airline, and her nemesis and top of the social tree Evelyn (Allison Janney – always worth watching). It also stars Ricky Martin as a gay bartender, Laura Dern as Evelyn’s hippy sister, and Carol Burnette is the mother-in-law who steals every scene she’s in. It’s glossy and fun, but very uneven and bitty.

Sugar, also on AppleTV stars Colin Farrell as an unconventional PI, John Sugar, whose speciality is finding missing people. He’s recruited to find the missing granddaughter of a legendary film producer (James Cromwell) and it gets complicated very quickly. I’ve only seen two episodes so far, but am loving its contemporary noir feel and charismatic lead.

Finally, Mammoth on BBC2 is simply hilarious. Created my Mike Bubbins, a former teacher himself, he plays the titular forty-something Tony Mammoth, who was trapped by an avalanche in 1979, and perfectly preserved, is discovered and brought back to life in 2024. He returns to his job as a PE teacher and causes mayhem wherever he goes being an unreconstructed 1970s man. Of course all his old friends – well those still surviving – are in their dotage. He may be a bit chauvinist, but is strangely lovable which is what makes this comedy the brilliantly funny show it is.

And big screen on the small screen…

Just one-liners for these all beginning with ‘A’!

  • Asteroid City – Wes Anderson’s latest was gloriously colourful but the plot disappointed.
  • Anatomy of a Fall – Too long, but a fascinating look into the French justice system.
  • All of Us Strangers – Heartbreaking, slow-burning, wonderful. All four main cast members were brilliant.

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