Who knows what hedge-fund billionaires are really like, but this is the series that has fun imagining. Damian Lewis plays Bobby Axelrod, an ordinary Joe from Yonkers whose ruthless brilliance with money has made him New York’s alpha capitalist.
The first series charted how his sworn enemy, public prosecutor Chuck Rhoades (an angry, driven Paul Giamatti), set out to bring “Axe” and his firm crashing down. The dynamic swings cleverly between the two big beasts, with the complication that Chuck’s wife works for Axe. It’s grown-up, chewy drama, loaded with psychology and philosophy (it gets talky too) but a tremendous cast makes it slip down nicely.
Tuesday nights get a little chillier with the return of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s unsettling anthology. “Comedy drama” undersells what’s always been a genre-busting format; each episode offers a different setting and tone, and the fact that it resists categorisation may be why it’s largely overlooked in awards season. (A traumatic 2015 edition with Sheridan Smith is a modern classic.) It was starting to feel like BBC2 didn’t know where to place it, either. This third series has been lying on the shelf for the best part of a year, but happily a fourth is just going into production.
The Bill takes place entirely within a northern restaurant at closing time as four blokes bicker over who’s going to pick up the tab. Old rivals Malcolm (Pemberton) and Archie (Shearsmith) both insist it’s their turn, while wealthy southerner Craig (Philip Glenister) is keen to flash his cash, and parsimonious Kevin (Jason Watkins) has counted out the exact change to pay for what he’s consumed. The wrangling escalates artfully – and dangerously – with a flurry of feints and twists, with only the very last punch failing to connect.
Thousands of Africans fleeing poverty, violence and civil unrest are heading across Libya, aiming for Europe. Reaching the coast, they’re crammed by smugglers onto giant, barely seaworthy dinghies, hoping to be picked up by European search and rescue teams. Many don’t make it that far. Some die; some are trafficked into slavery or prostitution; many are picked up in Libyan territorial waters and then dumped in detention camps. In a country that’s free-falling into anarchy, this means they’re effectively forgotten. Aid agencies can’t get to them, and it’s up to the likes of Ross Kemp to highlight their appalling plight.
This is heartbreaking television; as Kemp says, no matter what your view on the “migrant crisis”, these are people, who are risking everything. No one deserves this kind of treatment.
The verdant, rolling hills of the South Downs have been hymned by many, from William Blake to Jane Austen and Hilaire Belloc. Now we have local vicar Peter Owen-Jones to add to the list, as he presents a celebration of Britain’s newest national park. Starting at the eastern end by Seven Sisters cliffs, he covers a lot of ground, both literally and figuratively, as his walk along the 100 miles of the South Downs Way sees him touch on the area’s amazing biodiversity, its ancient history, geology and the people who work on its slopes.
There are so many fantastic facts to take in, it’s almost overwhelming — Owen-Jones’s rapturous, portentous delivery adds to the effect — but the sight of the beautiful, rare Adonis blue butterflies and bee orchids on the chalk grasslands will lift the heart.
This Oscar-nominated Netflix original charts the volatile life and fluctuating fortunes of jazz legend Nina Simone, drawing on interviews with family and friends, candid diary entries and letters, as well as some remarkable live performances.
Director Liz Garbus seems to specialise in gifted but troubled souls, having made Bobby Fischer against the World and Love, Marilyn, and here she’s blessed with another fascinating if self-destructive subject.
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