From Rebecca to On The Rocks and Drama Out Of A Crisis: The best on demand TV this week 

NETFLIX

 

Rebecca

Daphne du Maurier published Rebecca, her enduring psychological thriller, in 1938 and within two years it had been turned into an Oscar-winning film by Alfred Hitchcock.

Now it’s been given a major feature-film update with horror specialist Ben Wheatley brought in to direct, and Armie Hammer and Lily James taking on the roles of Max de Winter and his second wife.

Rebecca has been given a major feature-film update with horror specialist Ben Wheatley brought in to direct, and Armie Hammer and Lily James (above) taking on the central roles

The handsome de Winter is an unhappy widower when he meets a pretty but unworldly ladies’ companion (James) in Monte Carlo. They hit it off, he proposes and soon they’re off to Manderley, his sprawling country seat run by the terrifying housekeeper Mrs Danvers (a superb Kristin Scott Thomas), who was unhealthily devoted to first wife Rebecca and is cruel and contemptuous to her successor.

As a facelift for a literary classic, it all works very well. From Wednesday

Matthew Bond

 

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction 

David Letterman – who is still sporting his Father Christmas-style bushy beard – returns with the third series of his popular chat show. Across four revealing episodes he will be delving deep into the lives of various famous folk who are household names on both sides of the Atlantic, including Kim Kardashian West, Robert Downey Jr, Lizzo and Dave Chappelle. 

Expect laughs, revelations and gossip galore. From Wednesday

 

The Alienist 

Dark, atmospheric thriller based on Caleb Carr’s bestsellers. Set in New York at the end of the 1800s, the first series saw Dr Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), an ‘alienist’ (criminal psychologist – think a turn-of-the-century mindhunter), team up with newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans) and police secretary Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning) to track down a serial killer targeting street children. 

Set in New York at the end of the 1800s, the first series saw Dr Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), an ‘alienist’, team up with newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans, above) and Sara Howard

Set in New York at the end of the 1800s, the first series saw Dr Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), an ‘alienist’, team up with newspaper illustrator John Moore (Luke Evans, above) and Sara Howard

In season two, Sara has set up her own detective agency, staffed entirely by women. Following the disappearance of her baby, a young woman is convicted of murder – wrongly, Sara believes – and executed. Then the daughter of Spanish diplomats also disappears. Sara, John and Laszlo investigate. From Thursday

 

The Queen’s Gambit 

Walter Tevis wrote some of the most extraordinary novels of the 20th Century, including The Hustler and The Man Who Fell To Earth, and yet he’s almost forgotten today. 

Perhaps that will change after another adaptation of one of his books hits our screens. The Queen’s Gambit takes place during the Cold War era and stars a superb Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy who struggles to cope with life outside of competition. 

The Queen’s Gambit takes place during the Cold War era and stars a superb Anya Taylor-Joy (above) as Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy

The Queen’s Gambit takes place during the Cold War era and stars a superb Anya Taylor-Joy (above) as Beth Harmon, an orphaned chess prodigy

Her fortunes between the ages of eight and 22 are followed across six episodes as she strives to become a grandmaster. From Friday

 

American Murder: The Family Next Door 

It perhaps says something about society in general that Netflix has so many potential subjects for its admittedly popular true-crime documentaries. The latest shocking tale focuses on pregnant 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her two young daughters (four-year-old Bella and Celeste, three), who went missing in Frederick, Colorado, in 2018. 

The latest shocking tale focuses on pregnant 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her two young daughters (four-year-old Bella and Celeste, three, pictured with her above), who went missing

The latest shocking tale focuses on pregnant 34-year-old Shanann Watts and her two young daughters (four-year-old Bella and Celeste, three, pictured with her above), who went missing

Archive footage, social-media posts, law-enforcement recordings, home videos and text messages piece together their awful demise in gruesome detail. It also follows the story of how Shanann’s husband Christopher had an affair with a co-worker and was eventually convicted – of strangling his pregnant wife and smothering his daughters – and sentenced to five life sentences. Available now

 

APPLE TV+, DISNEY+, ACORN TV & SKY

 

On The Rocks

Sofia Coppola’s new comedy stars Parks And Recreation’s Rashida Jones and regular collaborator Bill Murray. Jones plays thirtysomething author Laura, whose suspicions that her husband (Marlon Wayans) might be having an affair are in no way allayed by her charming, philanderer father Felix (Murray) when she tells him of her fears.

‘Males are forced to fight, to dominate and to impregnate all females,’ he tells her. He urges her to start spying on her spouse, and so the pair trail him around New York. Essentially a love letter to the city, this is also about ageing, marriage and the tenuous bond between parents and grown-up children. 

Sofia Coppola’s new comedy stars Parks And Recreation’s Rashida Jones and regular collaborator Bill Murray (both above)

Sofia Coppola’s new comedy stars Parks And Recreation’s Rashida Jones and regular collaborator Bill Murray (both above)

It’s a slight film but enjoyable nonetheless and Jones and the dependably deadpan Murray have great father-daughter chemistry. Apple TV+, from Friday

 

War & Peace 

Like The Secret Garden, Tolstoy’s masterpiece has had more than its fair share of adaptations over the years. One of the least-known yet most impressive is this opulent four-part mini-series from 2007, featuring an international cast that includes the wonderful Clémence Poésy, Malcolm McDowell and Brenda Blethyn. 

An opulent four-part mini-series from 2007, featuring an international cast that includes the wonderful Clémence Poésy (above), Malcolm McDowell and Brenda Blethyn

An opulent four-part mini-series from 2007, featuring an international cast that includes the wonderful Clémence Poésy (above), Malcolm McDowell and Brenda Blethyn

The story – involving the impact of the Napoleonic era on five aristocratic Russian families – remains as gripping as ever. Acorn TV, from Monday

 

Bruce Springsteen’s Letter To You 

On the day Bruce Springsteen’s new album is released, fans get a window on the creative process of The Boss in this feature-length, behind-the-scenes documentary. 

On the day Bruce Springsteen’s new album is released, fans get a window on the creative process of The Boss (above) in this feature-length, behind-the-scenes documentary

On the day Bruce Springsteen’s new album is released, fans get a window on the creative process of The Boss (above) in this feature-length, behind-the-scenes documentary

It features studio footage with the E Street Band as well as final-take performances of ten tracks from the new record. Apple TV+, from Friday

 

Meet The Chimps 

Deep in the forests of Louisiana lies Chimp Haven, a 200-acre refuge for more than 300 chimpanzees. This moving, funny and fascinating six-part National Geographic documentary, narrated by Glee’s Jane Lynch, takes viewers behind the scenes to meet its staff, who have dedicated their lives to keeping its hairy residents happy.

Many of the chimps had difficult starts in life, but they’ve been given a second chance – not that their mischievous behaviour always reflects how grateful they are… Disney+, available now

 

The Secret Garden 

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s much-loved children’s novel has been adapted for the big and small screens on numerous occasions. The latest is a very lavish affair that should keep youngsters occupied during the half-term holiday. 

Colin Firth (who also appeared in a 1987 television version) and Julie Walters (above) co-star as uncle and housekeeper

Colin Firth (who also appeared in a 1987 television version) and Julie Walters (above) co-star as uncle and housekeeper

A standout Dixie Egerickx stars as Mary Lennox, a headstrong young orphan sent to live with her forbidding uncle in his remote, gloomy country house. Angry at the world, she struggles to settle – until she discovers the secret garden… Colin Firth (who also appeared in a 1987 television version) and Julie Walters co-star as uncle and housekeeper. Sky/NOW TV, from Friday

 

Once Upon A Snowman 

Olaf may not have been the main focus of Frozen, but he is one of the movie’s most popular characters, so it’s only right that he’s been awarded his own film. This is ‘Olaf, the origin story’, and focuses on what happened to him after he was created by Elsa and before he was discovered by Anna and Kristoff in the forest.

Find out why the lovable snowman loves summer on his voyage of discovery. Disney+, from Friday

 

Why is there such a buzz about..? 

Emily In Paris (Netflix)

It is received wisdom in the TV and film industry that, in screenwriter William Goldman’s words, ‘nobody knows anything’. No one can predict what will be a hit.

Maybe, but it now seems blindingly obvious that, in a prolonged period of restricted travel and relentless bad news, millions of viewers might want to watch a bright and breezy comedy about a beautiful young woman flitting around an idealised Paris having amorous adventures with handsome young men.

In this ten-part series, twenty-something fashionista Emily Cooper (Lily Collins – daughter of Phil Collins) works for a Chicago company that acquires a French marketing firm. 

Twenty-something fashionista Emily Cooper (Lily Collins above)

Twenty-something fashionista Emily Cooper (Lily Collins above)

When her boss can’t go to the French capital, Emily gets the job. She has to revamp the stuffy, old-school company’s social-media strategy – she becomes an Instagram influencer – while navigating a new culture (she can’t speak French) and embarking on new romances.

Some French critics complained vociferously that it was a catalogue of cringeworthy clichés about Paris (one sniffed that it should have been called Emily In Wonderland). 

Others ‘hate-watched’ it, seemingly furious that it didn’t offer an in-depth analysis of socio-economic divisions in France or a trenchant critique of the legacy of colonialism. 

Nevertheless, Pierre Public lapped it up. It was the most watched Netflix show in France, and in the UK and the US, for days on end.

It turns out that people are desperate for daft, frothy fun. Creator Darren Star was also behind Sex And The City, and now he has another TV phenomenon on his hands.

Neil Armstrong 

 

BBC iPLAYER & ALL 4

 

Drama Out Of A Crisis

Play For Today was a series of more than 300 dramas broadcast by the BBC from 1970 to 1984, reflecting a period of political, social and cultural change and attracting huge audiences. 

It was sometimes controversial, occasionally censored but always worth watching, providing a platform for, among others, Mike Leigh (with Alison Steadman and Tim Stern in Abigail’s Party), Dennis Potter and Ken Loach, and starring the likes of Helen Mirren and Judi Dench. 

Play For Today was sometimes controversial, occasionally censored but always worth watching, providing a platform for, among others, Mike Leigh (with Alison Steadman, above)

Play For Today was sometimes controversial, occasionally censored but always worth watching, providing a platform for, among others, Mike Leigh (with Alison Steadman, above)

This fascinating film marks 50 years since its debut and features interviews with Leigh, Loach and David Hare. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

The Same Sky 

Fans of Deutschland 83 should lap up this Cold War thriller set in East Germany during the 1970s, which follows the sordid adventures of Lars Weber, a so-called ‘Romeo agent’. 

His missions involve him meeting and seducing Western women with links to their nation’s government or defence institutions. His latest target is a British Secret Service data analyst – but will she fall for his dubious charms? 

Tom Schilling and The Bridge’s Sofia Helin (above) star. The first episode airs on More 4 on Friday, with the rest of the series made available to stream immediately afterwards

Tom Schilling and The Bridge’s Sofia Helin (above) star. The first episode airs on More 4 on Friday, with the rest of the series made available to stream immediately afterwards

Tom Schilling and The Bridge’s Sofia Helin star. The first episode airs on More 4 on Friday, with the rest of the series made available to stream immediately afterwards. Walter Presents/All 4, from Friday

 

The West Wing 

When The West Wing first appeared on our screens some 20 years ago, no one did shows about politics. That this is hailed as one of the best TV dramas of all time is down to the brilliant writing of creator Aaron Sorkin and the phenomenal cast – headed by Martin Sheen as flawed but admirable President Bartlet.

In marked contrast to today’s politicians, The West Wing showed their protagonists as optimistic, intelligent and idealistic, constantly striving to do the right thing and improve our lives. Enjoy the fantasy. All 4, from Wednesday

 

Step Into The Ring 

When Norwich’s Zak Knight (above) failed to make it big in WWE, he was not to be deterred. This four-part documentary acts as the perfect companion piece

When Norwich’s Zak Knight (above) failed to make it big in WWE, he was not to be deterred. This four-part documentary acts as the perfect companion piece

When Norwich’s Zak Knight failed to make it big in WWE, he was not to be deterred. This four-part documentary, which acts as the perfect companion piece to last year’s charming grapple comedy Fighting With My Family, follows the wannabe promoter as he trains a group of aspiring youngsters battling their own demons in and out of the ring. BBC iPlayer, available now

 

Rent Like A Boss 

With property prices astronomically high, many are trapped in the rental market – which has almost doubled in the past decade. A fifth of tenants complain about the behaviour of agents and landlords, which is where property experts Big V and Tobias come in as they travel the country sorting out rental dilemmas. BBC3/iPlayer, from Sunday

 

FILMS 

Cut Throat City 

After Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans four boyhood friends turn reluctantly to crime. But then their first big job goes wrong. Terrence Howard and Ethan Hawke co-star. Most platforms, available now

 

Blood And Money 

Tom Berenger plays a grizzled Vietnam veteran on a hunting trip in Maine that suddenly involves a dead woman in a fur coat and a large sum of money. Who’s hunting whom? Most platforms, available now

 

The likes of Isabella Rossellini (above with David Lynch) feature in a documentary

The likes of Isabella Rossellini (above with David Lynch) feature in a documentary

Helmut Newton: The Bad and the Beautiful 

Probably better known now for his erotically charged nudes than for the fashion work that first made him famous, the life of controversial photographer Helmut Newton is ripe for reassessment. 

The likes of Isabella Rossellini feature in a documentary that marks the 100th anniversary of his birth in Berlin. Curzon Home Cinema, from Friday

Matthew Bond   

 

AMAZON & STARZPLAY 

 

Time 

A prize-winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, director Garrett Bradley’s documentary introduces viewers to Sibil Fox Richardson, aka Fox Rich, whose husband Robert is serving a 60-year jail sentence for armed robbery. 

Rich, an entrepreneur, abolitionist and mother-of-six, herself spent three-and-a-half years behind bars for her part in the crime. The film follows her 20-year battle to have his term reduced while raising her family. Amazon, available now

 

Parasite 

At its heart, the Oscar-gobbling Parasite (starring Park So-dam and Choi Woo-shik) is a tale of haves and have-nots and the lengths the latter will go to to improve their lot. 

At its heart, the Oscar-gobbling Parasite (starring Park So-dam and Choi Woo-shik, above) is a tale of haves and have-nots and the lengths the latter will go to to improve their lot

At its heart, the Oscar-gobbling Parasite (starring Park So-dam and Choi Woo-shik, above) is a tale of haves and have-nots and the lengths the latter will go to to improve their lot

But within that framework Korean director Bong Joon-ho packs enough laughs, gasps, horror and plot twists for three films. An entirely original story that you’d be better off knowing as little as possible about going in, it is worthy of all the plaudits, hype and little gold statues. Amazon, from Friday

 

Mad Men 

When people talk about the ‘Golden Age’ of TV drama, Mad Men is always in the top tier. Created by Matthew Weiner, it’s about the employees (such as office manager Joan Holloway – Christina Hendricks) of advertising agency Sterling Cooper from 1960 to 1970. 

Created by Matthew Weiner, it’s about the employees (such as office manager Joan Holloway – Christina Hendricks, above) of advertising agency Sterling Cooper from 1960 to 1970

Created by Matthew Weiner, it’s about the employees (such as office manager Joan Holloway – Christina Hendricks, above) of advertising agency Sterling Cooper from 1960 to 1970

Although creative director Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is, ostensibly, the main character, it is Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), rising from secretary to creative powerhouse, who provides the most compelling narrative arc. StarzPlay, from Thursday

 

7 Hours On Earth 

Ramona Marquez, best known as Karen Brockman in Outnumbered, leads the young cast in this witty take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as a group of aliens ‘downloaded’ into the bodies of teachers at a school set about fixing the romantic lives of a posse of lovestruck teenagers. Amazon, available now 

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