Best new TV shows to stream: 24 August
- Brian Donaldson
- 24 August 2020
Including Hoops and Strike
From human cyborgs to hated celebrities, here are new shows for your small screens
I Hate Suzie ★★★★☆
You find yourself with an idea about a teenage pop sensation who later attains fame in a British sci-fi drama. Who you gonna call? Billie Piper! Lucy Prebble (she of Succession fame) collaborated with the former Doctor Who companion on this very notion, as we track the grubby downfall of a celeb (Piper's Suzie Pickles) whose phone is hacked leading to rather unfortunate images of sexual congress (not with her husband) leaking into the public domain.
This eight-part drama seeks to lay Suzie's trauma out in stages (episodes are dedicated to shame, fear, shock, denial etc) with her family life being dragged through the mud: hubbie Cob (Daniel Ings) switches from being a sardonically jolly dad to their young son, to a full-on anger mismanager whose sees little positivity in anything that's said or done around him. Suzi's one-woman PR machine Naomi (Leila Farzad) tries to keep everything on an even keel but has her own troubles to deal with, such as deciding how to react when a stranger masturbates next to her on a packed train.
I Hate Suzie is a frenetically paced and discombobulating viewing experience (some might get upset at an entire episode dedicated to Suzie trying to bring herself off) but a powerhouse performance from Piper, whose face seems to be able to house a dozen emotions at any given time, makes this a compelling watch.
Sky Atlantic, Thursday 27 August, 9pm. All episodes available on NOW TV, Thursday 27 August.
Peter The Human Cyborg ★★★☆☆
Motor Neurone Disease is a devastating condition which effectively causes a slow paralysis and puts the handbrake on the body's basic functions one by one, leaving loved ones to sit by while the person they once knew simply disappears in front of them. Pioneering scientist Peter Scott-Morgan was having none of that, and having received this devastating diagnosis in 2017 decided that he would turn himself into a human cyborg in order to kick back against the worst ravages of MND and potentially extend his life by a few decades.
This one-off documentary tracks a difficult journey including sacrificing his own voice in order to keep breathing, with the technology allowing him to build a synthesised version that rendered his newfound vocal abilities as less robotic than Stephen Hawking's. Meanwhile, an integrated triple ostomy allows him to be fully hydrated through the day and an exoskeleton means he is actually able to stand and tower above the rest of us. Whether this is the potential future for all MND sufferers or just a privilege for the chosen few, it certainly does show the remarkable possibilities for science fiction to become science fact.
Channel 4, Wednesday 26 August, 9pm.
Strike: Lethal White ★★★☆☆
When JK Rowling was outed as being brand new author Robert Galbraith, she initially suspected that the BBC had spilled the beans. Presumably on learning that the leak had actually dripped out of a law firm, she perhaps felt beholden to the corporation to let them film her Galbraith books. Now with this fourth Strike adaptation, she remains one of the very few British authors to have had each one of their publications brought to a screen whether big or small.
There's nothing especially exciting or progressive or original or dangerous about the Cormoran Strike stories, Lethal White being the fourth instalment (Rowling/Galbraith has suggested that Cormoran might have ten stories in him): it simply feels like good solid Sunday-night fare. With an opening credit sequence that hints vaguely at a semi-swinging 1960s London, we see Cormoran smoke, drink and mooch around record shops. When the show starts it almost feels like we're in Rebus territory, our hero slightly worse for wear, bruised and battered in an ill-fitting suit as he attends the wedding of his sidekick Robin (Holliday Grainger). Their mutual appreciation is obvious even to anyone who has just joined the ongoing series but adds precious little to the drama of Strike.
Lethal White features Tory and Labour politicians who reek of something at worst corrupt, at best mildly fishy, while a left-wing agit-prop organisation has its own dark secrets to hide as a child murder from the past has Strike snooping around. As the former squaddie turned private eye with a fake limb and damaged soul, Strike is played with a moody yet friendly demeanour by Tom Burke (who might well be perfectly cast as Orson Welles in David Fincher's forthcoming Mank). But with very little to imprint this tale onto the memory, Lethal White is likely to fade from view before you know it ever existed.
BBC One, Sunday 30 August, 9pm.
You might find it either quite reassuring or utterly bamboozling that a show such as Hoops could be made now. 'Crude humour' is one of Netflix's warning descriptors for the series and, frankly, that's putting it mildly. Sure, there's not a single use of the 'c word' over the course of ten animated episodes, but the voice of Jake Johnson vents forth a seemingly endless stream of profanity-fuelled, gutter-scraping obscenities through Ben Hopkins, the head of a high-school basketball team which is as terrible and hopeless as his private life. And yet it almost feels refreshing.
Aligning himself to Bill Burr's angry misanthrope in F Is For Family, Ben Hopkins has a life that few would yearn for. He has a job that no one holds in much esteem, he's separated from Shannon (Natasha Leggero) who wants a divorce so she can properly be with Ron (Ron Funches) who just so happens to be Ben's best friend. The team he coaches are full of abject losers until seven-foot tall Matty (AD Miles) looms into view: but he has no desire to join up unless Coach Hopkins can hook him up with a woman so he can lose his virginity.
This is about as sophisticated as Hoops gets, as Ben veers from calamity to catastrophe, with only the vague hope that he might get back with Shannon keeping him going, while the homespun philosophy of heart-melting 90s movie Little Man Tate also acts as some sort of inspiration (initially you'd have Ben pegged as a fan of the Terminator or Saw films but at least the series has the odd surprise up its unwashed sleeve). If you're efcormxpecting nuanced and subtle humour in Hoops, you'll be wasting your time. If a valve-releasing explosion of filth-induced mirth is the very thing to get you through these difficult times, then strap yourself in.
Available now on Netflix.
The Unbelievable Story Of Carl Beech ★★★☆☆
In the wake of 2012's Jimmy Savile revelations, Carl Beech did a terrible thing. For reasons still best known to himself (though this documentary does hints at potential explanations), this father-of-one disclosed to the police that he had been abused as a child by his late stepfather, as well as by a number of high-ranking public figures such as former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, ex-PM Edward Heath and former head of the British Army Lord Brammall. As well as alleging his own abuse, Beech claimed he witnessed the murders of three young boys.
It was all a pack of lies, but the consequences of his actions ran far and wide. Acclaimed filmmaker Vanessa Engle chose to make this one-hour exploration of a fantasist who ruined countless lives including those he accused that were still alive as well as untold numbers of family members. But this story would also impact on genuine victims of abuse who would now feel less inclined to come forward due to the likelihood of facing investigators who might be more sceptical, determined not to be duped by another Carl Beech.
The reputations of many who took Beech at his word were also damaged, while Engle manages to get his ex-wife on camera to express her disgust at the ensuing chaos and pain caused (he is currently serving an 18-year sentence in prison). The Unbelievable Story Of Carl Beech is a tale that almost speaks for itself, though it's an added help that there is film of Beech being questioned about the allegations. Quite why Engle chose to insert several moments from an old Pinocchio movie (yes, we get it: he was a despicable liar) is unclear. This distracting and unnecessary technique almost derails the power of the story at several crucial moments.
BBC Two, Monday 24 August, 9pm.
Follow The List's Staying In is the New Going Out articles for more recommendations, alternative online events, press releases, refund policies, restaurant deliveries and further general information.