Best TV shows to stream this week: 11 May
- Brian Donaldson
- 11 May 2020
Including The Eddy, Brassic and The Ranganation
From tormented twins to jazz japes, here's what's occurring on the small screen.
I Know This Much Is True ★★★★★
Featuring a dual performance from Mark Ruffalo that absolutely screams Emmy award-winner, this six-part adaptation of Wally Lamb's 1998 novel rewards viewers who stick with it. And it's certainly not easy at times. There's a brand new trauma lurking in each episode as we follow the travails of the Birdsey twins, Thomas and Dominick (both played exquisitely by Ruffalo during the main section set in 1990 as America throws itself into the first Gulf War while we also see the boys at college in the late 60s and earlier in junior school). Unofficially tasked throughout his life as his brother's carer, Dominick struggles with his own problems while looking after a twin with severe mental-health issues.
There's also a deep mystery at the heart of this story: that of the boys' true parentage. Their mother (Melissa Leo) has never revealed the identity of the father they never knew, with stepfather Ray (John Procaccino) proving to be an often caring but sometimes cruel stand-in. Featuring an unsettling synth score by ambient icon Harold Budd and directed with guile and tenderness by Derek Cianfrance, a strong supporting cast includes Kathryn Hahn as Dominick's ex-wife Dessa, and Rosie O'Donnell in an atypically serious role as care worker Lisa. But it's Mark Ruffalo who overwhelmingly steals the show, with an acting masterclass that is sensitive and subtle when others might have gone for showy and shouty.
Sky Atlantic, starts Monday 11 May, 9pm; all episodes on NOW TV.
Set in a fictional Lancashire town called Hawley (but filmed in the actual northern pocket of Bacup), Brassic's reputation went before it when Sky ordered this second batch of episodes before the very first series had even aired. Picking up where it left off, Vinnie (Joseph Gilgun) has been rumbled in his plan to fake his own death in order to escape the vengeful clutches of local gangster Terence McCann (Ramon Tikaram). Series two mainly revolves round Vinnie and his motley gang of misfits attempting to make it up to McCann on various illegal jobs which routinely end in catastrophe.
There's a mini-slew of guest stars this time around with John Thomson playing a hapless clown and Bill Paterson as a scone-making, shy-bladdered entrepreneur while Dominic West continues in his role as the most inept small-screen medical professional since Paul Kaye's can't-be-arsed therapist in After Life. There are sticky ends aplenty while the scenes featuring a mobile phone and a road sign are guaranteed to make you yelp in horror. A joyous comedy-drama romp (the drama is far outweighed by the comedy until the penultimate episode), Brassic also features a truly excellent pun on Airbnb.
Sky One, Thursdays, 10pm; all episodes on NOW TV.
The Eddy ★★★☆☆
If Ken Loach was more interested in bebop than food banks, then he might have one day made a series like The Eddy. Created by Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) who takes the directorial reins for two of its eight episodes, the drama features highly naturalistic docu-style acting and camerawork, and low-key scripts that might struggle to keep some viewers engaged.
Revolving around a former jazz legend Elliot Udo (André Holland) and the Paris club he's attempting to keep afloat, a criminal network is working behind the scenes to undermine his efforts. The rather flimsy plot sometimes feels as improvised as the drum solos, with musical interludes taking up a large swathe of screen time. Your appreciation for that will inevitably be determined by your tolerance of jazz, while the story is largely saved by a fine last episode which might actually get your pulse racing above sleepy mode.
All episodes on Netflix.
The Ranganation ★★★☆☆
Once voted the hardest working comedian in the country, Romesh Ranganathan was never likely to let a little thing such as a global pandemic to impede his thirst for showbusiness grafting. So, while he has been deprived the wild energy of a studio audience for The Ranganation, Zoom and Skype have been utilised to bring together some members of the general public (including, of course, his mum) and a pair of celeb pals to chat about the key issues of the day. And all of it filmed in his impressively glammed-up garage.
In the opening episode, Katherine Ryan and Danny Dyer provided humour of a sarcastic or blokeish nature (you can probably guess who delivers what) as they rated some TikTok dance routines and gleefully laid into the Prime Minister. The echoing and discombobulated timbre of the participants' laughter is something that takes the ears a little while to get accustomed to, but Romesh ploughs on admirably with his cutting yet charming brand of wit.
BBC Two, Sundays, 9.15pm; episode one on BBC iPlayer.
Peter Sellers: A State Of Comic Ecstasy ★★☆☆☆
As the 40th anniversary of Peter Sellers' death approaches, there's plenty reason to honour the troubled genius routinely dubbed one of the finest comics to have ever graced our screens. But as watchable as A State of Comic Ecstasy is (the name comes from Stanley Kubrick's nutshelling of the Sellers' USP), it adds little to the canon of material out there and fails to uncover anything fresh about the man or his myth. There's a new interview with Britt Ekland (the pair married ten days after meeting), a quote or two from Steve Coogan, and some chat with the grandson he never met, but much of the footage and interviews are old stock, much of it plundered from the BBC's own 1995 documentary about Sellers' passion for home movie-making.
Running through his many marriages (all failed), the later movie choices (disastrous in the main) and linking it all to his relationship with the mother who he seemingly could never please, there's very little here for those familiar with the life and work of Peter Sellers to get over-excited about. Meanwhile, new audiences might find the more surreal end of his era's humour baffling and the browning-up distasteful, even if Hanif Kureishi is on hand to partially defend it.
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