Best new TV shows to stream: 10 August
- Brian Donaldson
- 10 August 2020
Including Ted Lasso and Mandy
From catastrophic coaches to conniving cads, here are new shows for your small screens
Ted Lasso ★★★★☆
Initially created as a promotional tool for NBC's coverage of English football, Ted Lasso proved to be so darned tootin' popular that this US coach nabbed his own series. In this ten-episode batch, Ted (Jason Sudeikis) seems to know even less about 'soccer' than before which, on the face of it, would seem to be a distinct disadvantage when he's called upon to manage the ailing AFC Richmond. And hell sure does start a-poppin' when he hosts a catastrophic first press conference, earning himself an instant nickname from the fans who are meant to be behind him: 'Wanker! Wanker!' they yell from the stands and in the pubs and on the street when he walks on by.
But this is from the Apple TV+ stable whose 2020 comedy-drama roster features the largely irresistible schmaltz of Trying and Little Voice, so you might have an inkling where it's going: after the downs, there are plenty of ups while the ultimate sting in the tale should leave you feeling tired and emotional as the final whistle on the series blows.
Sudeikis is highly enjoyable as the endlessly optimistic coach while Hannah Waddingham plays a blinder as the club's owner whose underhand rationale for employing Lasso is ultimately broken by the humanity he spreads across both the team and wider community. Nick Mohammed is fun as the nervy kitman Nathan, Brett Goldstein bristles as the ageing hardman captain (Roy Kent = Roy Keane?) with a soul which eventually reveals itself, and Juno Temple splendidly channels her inner WAG who is romantically involved with the team's hugely talented and vastly arrogant star striker Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster).
There is more than a shade or two here of the BBC's recent The First Team (unqualified American attempts to save struggling English team while an angry veteran player does his utmost not to help out). But in Sudeikis' Lasso, there's a homespun philosophy and vibrant humanity that keeps you hooked, while plenty other humorous performances are sprinkled throughout.
Apple TV+, Friday 14 August.
When called to analyse James Gandolfini's acting prowess, The Sopranos' creator David Chase pinpointed an ability to express so much merely with his eyes alone. While no one would ever dream of putting Lee Mack anywhere near the same bracket of performance as Gandolfini, he certainly does some funny stuff with his peepers in Semi-Detached. And with so much focus on Mack's hapless character Stuart in this real-time sitcom (penned by David Crow and Oliver Maltman), this relatively inexperienced actor does a fine job in holding the audience's attention, often with just an expression which varies from deadpan to desperation.
Set in a claustrophobic cul de sac where he lives with his younger girlfriend April (Ellie White), their new baby Bertha, and his sexually adventurous father Willie (Clive Russell), while Stuart's politician ex-wife Kate (Samantha Spiro) resides directly opposite with her new husband Ted (Patrick Baladi). This unlikely situation throws up endless daft scenarios often inspired by the criminality of Stuart's brother Charlie (Neil Fitzmaurice).
As Stuart races around between houses trying to solve a problem that is only ever going to grow arms and legs, he comes over as a cross between Jack Bauer (for the real-time element as well as the dodgy problem-solving) and Basil Fawlty (for the bottled-up anxiety and the 'tache). There's also a crateload of toilet humour (Stuart suffers from IBS, often exacerbated by stress which pretty much amounts to the duration of an entire episode). After his career of mainstream stand-up, panel shows and helming broad sitcom fare such as Not Going Out, Lee Mack's acting future may well be one to keep your eye on.
BBC Two, Thursdays, 10pm.
Crime & Punishment ★★★★☆
Is there a country in the world that can say it operates a flawless criminal justice system? The UK certainly seems to lurch from crisis to calamity with budget cuts, prison populations and re-offending numbers among the factors causing continual public concern. As the BAFTA-nominated Crime & Punishment returns, its opening episodes feature truly damning facts and figures: despite a rise in the numbers of reported rapes, conviction rates sit at a record low. Meanwhile, the numbers of children being detained in prison has skyrocketed in the last decade.
In the opener, 'To Catch A Sex Offender', two rape allegations are followed from the night of the alleged attacks to the conclusion of their cases, with the police and Crown Prosecution Service more or less pointing the finger of blame at each other for faults within the system. Whatever the problems, we've clearly come a long way since 1982, as evidenced from a clip of the BBC's Police: A Complaint Of Rape featuring a room of largely hostile male detectives haranguing and accusing the complainer. Fast forward to now, and banks of female police officers are engaged in making life less traumatic for those coming in to report an assault.
In episode two, 'Criminal Kids', we follow the misfortunes of two men who have been stuck in the criminal justice system from an early age, and despite their own intentions, and efforts of sympathetic police officers and probation services, they show no signs of being able to shake off their propensity to offend.
Crime & Punishment is a depressing but important document that our legal system still needs a serious shake-up (this series focuses on events and procedures in Hampshire but no doubt will resonate across the country) despite many years and various government initiatives to stem the tide of criminality.
Channel 4, Thursday 13 August, 9pm.
'I want to play oddballs … I want to play weirdos' announced Diane Morgan to The Guardian three years back. Perhaps not being given enough of those roles by other writers and directors, she's simply gone out and created for herself the weirdest and oddballest of them all. Welcome to the strange world of Mandy, a largely delusional, accident-prone (albeit the accidents mainly happen to other people), tactless, tasteless and downright curious individual. Mandy is as northern as Philomena Cunk but whose plans all go south before they've even been hatched.
Across six 15-minute episodes (short, sharp and with numerous shocks), Morgan has managed to rope in folks like her After Life co-stars Tom Basden, Tony Way and David Bradley, as well as Sean Lock and her old drama school mate Maxine Peake. Oh, and Shaun Ryder plays Mandy's ex-husband (she initially wanted Mark E Smith, but he went and died).
With plotlines featuring Russian hitmen, fish pedicures and line-dancing endurance competitions, Mandy is a downbeat, surreal affair with shades of Toast Of London, Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, Noble & Silver, and Lock's 15 Storeys High. An off-kilter antidote to all that warm comedy you get nowadays, Morgan also managed to secure rights to have the perfect theme song …
BBC Two, Thursday 13 August, 9.30pm.
Dirty John 2: The Betty Broderick Story ★★★☆☆
After the newspaper feature which became a podcast and then a Netflix drama series (plus mini-documentary) comes its follow-up. The Betty Broderick Story might be brand-aligned to Dirty John (the tale of serial conman John Meehan which starred Eric Bana and Connie Britton), but its winding true narrative seems to exist a little more in the greyer areas of human relationships. Sure, Dan Broderick proved to be a heartless cad of the highest order, but his bloody fate is, some might argue, less deserved than the one which befell Meehan.
While Dirty John's Debra Newell is just the latest in a long line of Meehan's devastated victims, Betty Broderick is a woman badly scorned by her husband and who cannot let his betrayal go: the pair fell in love at high school, married shortly after and had four children together. There are riveting central performances here from Amanda Peet as the tormented Betty, and Christian Slater at his wolfish best as Dan whose affair with his secretary Linda (Rachel Keller) later turns into his second marriage, driving Betty seriously and understandably off the rails.
Having added the Brodericks tale to its credits, Dirty John has now become a crime anthology series about 'love gone horribly wrong'. That's an umbrella which could shelter an endless number of dramatic possibilities culled from real life. Perhaps this should just have been removed from the Dirty John franchise and called Dastardly Dan?
Netflix, Friday 14 August.
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