It’s three years since Outlander premiered on the American cable channel Starz, then here on Amazon Prime, and it’s since built up a sizeable worldwide cult following of fans entranced by the central romance between 20th-century nurse Claire Randall and 18th-century Highland warrior Jamie Fraser.
If that sounds like utter nonsense well, yes, it is, but after a painfully slow start – this opening episode takes a long time to get going – Outlander is a classy, sexy (sometimes very sexy) historical romp. The series, based on Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels, arrives on mainstream British television tonight as Claire (Caitriona Balfe), an exhausted WW2 nurse, and her historian husband Frank (Tobias Menzies) holiday in the Highlands.
Halloween approaches as the couple visit some supposedly enchanted standing stones to watch a ceremony with its roots in witchcraft and superstition. When Claire returns alone magic happens…
Horizon: Dawn of the Driverless Car
Passenger jets fly on autopilot every day. “Driver assist” technologies already help cars avoid collisions. So why is the prospect of handing over our steering wheel and brakes to a computer so unsettling and fraught with ethical problems?
It looks unlikely that any child under ten will grow up needing to take a driving test. Companies such as Apple and Google are putting great efforts into training cars to drive themselves, though oddly, the programme pays more attention to hopping between a robot that can tie knots and a British artificial intelligence start-up that looks to have a very long way to go.
It’s a fragmentary treatnent of a fascinating subject. One researcher complains pointedly, “Being in an autonomous car is really, really boring.”
DIY SOS: The Big Build
One of the hardest ways disability affects families must be the separation of loved ones. Ryan Cooper was 19 when he was struck with a serious brain condition. Five years on, he’s living in a specialist care centre in Gloucester: his mum Rachel spends five hours a day, five days a week travelling from Bristol to see him. It’s taken a toll on the whole family, and Ryan’s clearly depressed.
The Coopers’ house throws up a heap of problems as the DIY SOS team tear it apart: designer Gabrielle Blackman looks positively aghast at one point. But in a triumph of community organisation, as ever it’s the volunteers who deserve most of the credit.
A Million Ways to Die in the West
Take Blazing Saddles, throw in a bucketful of modern expletives and you’ve got a future classic. Director, co-writer and star Seth MacFarlane (Ted) plays Albert, a frontier nerd who loses his girl (Amanda Seyfried) to the town’s wealthy moustache emporium owner (Neil Patrick Harris). From nowhere comes divine Anna (Charlize Theron) who teaches Albert gunplay and love, but Albert doesn’t know that Anna’s husband is feared gunman Clinch Leatherwood (Liam Neeson).
From the outside, this is a big old-fashioned cowboy movie, but MacFarlane’s modern view of the Wild West is actually very subtle, even if the laughs seem to hinge mostly on death, sheep and bodily functions – and they come fast and thick. This is the comedic western that had to happen: an enormous “what if” with plenty of surprises and great stunts highlighting some gruesome realities.
Be warned: this is a very Marmite experience that won’t be to everyone’s taste – and don’t miss Ewan McGregor in the film’s centrepiece county fair sequence.
Should we be worried about the Trump administration’s approach to dealing with the media? This documentary hones in on the implications of Hulk Hogan’s staggering legal victory over Gawker upon the freedom of the press