The best TV shows, autumn 2020
From John Boyega fighting systemic racism in Steve McQueen's Small Axe to Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant recovering from scandal in The Undoing, here's the best of autumn TV
Following the murder of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protests filled the streets of cities across the world. In the frontlines of the London protests was the famed actor John Boyega, who gave an impassioned speech during a rally in Hyde Park. Now – in a promising, post-Star Wars move – he’s teaming up with filmmaker Steve McQueen (Widows, 12 Years A Slave) for a new racial anthology series, set within London’s West Indian community.
Starting in the late 60s and concluding in the early 80s, Small Axe tells the stories of British people of colour who spoke truth to power. Boyega will play Met Police officer Logan Leroy MBE, who fought to reform the police from within after seeing his father assaulted by two officers.
Black Panther’s Letitia Wright also stars in a separate story following the Mangrove 9, a group of black activists who protested against police racism in Notting Hill. Small Axe is premiering at this year’s New York Film Festival.Read more ...
Possibly the most elusive and experimental show of the year, The Third Day combines mystery TV drama with immersive theatre. In an unlikely collaboration between HBO and Punchdrunk International, this new series blurs reality and fantasy to create a newly absorbing experience. It’s seven episodes divided into three stories, the middle of which is broadcast live from a theatre and composed in one continuous shot. It could well prove a new feat in television.
A strange island off the English coast connects the stories. When Sam (Jude Law) travels there to escape a devastating trauma, he’s sucked into the characters of the residents and the various rituals that take place. In the final story, Helen (Naomie Harris) visits the island to find answers but finds the residents are engaged in a fractious battle.
With serious Lost and Wicker Man vibes, The Third Day looks to be the TV event of the season. Emily Watson and Paddy Considine also star.Read more ...
Firstly, it’s written and created by David E Kelley, who realised Liane Moriarty’s novel about the Monterey Five was worth adapting. And then there’s Nicole Kidman, who can never be understated and whose television breakthrough is gradually superseding her film roles.
Kidman plays Grace, a successful therapist in New York, whose life is suddenly upended – leading to the disappearance of her oncologist husband Jonathan (Hugh Grant). So far, it looks like a big-budget scandal series. But, like Big Little Lies, will there be a murder? A cover-up? We’ll have to wait for a full trailer to find out more.
The series also stars Noah Jupe, playing Grace and Jonathan’s son, who’s already made ripples as a child actor – starring in Alma Har’el’s Honey Boy and the John Krasinski horror film A Quiet Place.Read more ...
The first season of His Dark Materials was a magical achievement in fantasy television. In recent years, entertainingly splattered by the blood and sex of Game of Thrones, Jack Thorne’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s book trilogy offers something more accessible. And yet, it’s still horrendously dark (the holocaustal severing facility is still chilling to remember).
Set in a world where parallel universes exist and animals (‘daemons’) are tied to people’s souls, our heroic tween Lyra (Dafne Keen) has travelled through a portal into a different dimension. In her new surroundings, she’s finally united with Will Parry (Amir Wilson) and they find a mysterious object that can slice the fabric of reality.Read more ...
A lot of prequels have the feel of existing purely for marketing purposes. It looks the same for Ratched, the upcoming prequel for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which traces the origins of the ruthless and authoritarian Nurse Ratched.
But, like most of the projects created by the fruitful Ryan Murphy (Hollywood, The Politician, American Horror Story), this Netflix series has an explosively colourful intrigue about it. There are still layers of scepticism, chiefly from the fear that Murphy’s turning Cuckoo’s Nest into a horror movie (which it categorically is not), but this new sexual and surgical world looks worthy of bingeing.
Arriving in northern California in 1947, Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson) seeks employment at a prestigious psychiatric facility, where new and dodgy experiments are being conducted on the human mind. She enters the system and rises inside it. The series also stars Sharon Stone, Judy Davis, Sophie Okonedo and Vincent D’Onofrio.
Regardless of your politics, the Royal Family is a consistent source of fascination around the world. They’re at the centre of wealth, national identity, international relations, and the fraught memory of the British Empire. Peter Morgan’s opulent Netflix drama The Crown, then, is like an entertaining and expensive history lesson – expanded in season 4, which takes place between 1979 and 1990.
These years saw the rise of Margaret Thatcher and the marriage between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer – events still fresh in many people’s minds. Morgan has a habit of stretching the truth for drama, so it’ll be curious to see his version of events. All the usual cast are returning, including Olivia Colman and Josh O’Connor, with Gillian Anderson and Emma Corrin playing Thatcher and Diana.Read more ...
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