Created by three qualified doctors, this latest British hospital drama to look back at the UK’s initial response to Covid-19 doesn’t quite live up to its name.
A three-part tale based on palliative care specialist Rachel Clarke’s 2021 memoir of the same name subtitled Inside the NHS in a Time of Pandemic. But while former junior medical doctor-turned-actor Prasanna Puwanarajah and one-time hospital physician, now serial showrunner Jed Mercurio’s (Line of Duty, Critical) fly-on-the-wall approach has its moments, it never truly compels.
In part, that could be down to viewer déjà vu and a sense of Breathtaking being a little late to the party. Michael Winterbottom’s polarising This England used the same combination of real-life audio and television footage and drama in 2022 to critique the Johnson government’s initial sluggishness to take the threat to the nation’s health seriously, while Jodie Comer deservedly won a Bafta for her stunning performance as a care nurse overwhelmed by a lack of resources and support in 2021’s Help. As with both those shows though, you’ll also here likely utter an audible sigh of relief that we had a more co-ordinated, less-chaotic approach to those dark early days of 2020.
A Compassionate Spy (DocPlay)
The perfect watch for anyone whose interest was piqued by Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, this offers another perspective on the “Manhattan Project”.
Steve James’ (Hoop Dreams, Life, Itself) look at the life of the American atomic bomb programme’s youngest physicist Ted Hall is fascinating and frightening in equal measure.
Through archival footage and interviews with experts and family members, you’ll learn how Hall was increasingly concerned at his country’s behaviour towards sharing its information with its World War II-ally the Soviet Union and the resulting potential for armageddon. So he reached out – and did the unthinkable.
Fool Me Once (Netflix)
Michelle Keegan, Richard Armitage, Addel Akhtar and Joanna Lumley team up for Danny Brocklehurst’s (Safe, A Teacher) eight-part adaptation of prolific author and Netflix favourite Harlan Coben’s 2016 novel of the same name.
It’s the story of a family already shaken by two murders, who find themselves re-traumatised all over again when one of the apparently deceased appears as an intruder on their home’s security camera footage.
“If Lumley doesn’t quite act Keegan off-screen, she is nonetheless fantastically formidable. Throw in a plot that moves like a slinky on steroids and you have a post-Christmas thriller to cherish,” wrote The Daily Telegraph’s Ed Power.
Joyride (Neon, Prime Video)
Streaming debut for the standout effort from a year when Hollywood brought sexy back to comedy.
Former Xena: Warrior Princess script co-ordinator-turned-Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim made her big-screen directorial debut with this tale about a young Asian-American woman Audrey (Ashley Park), who goes in search of her Chinese birth mother, with the help of her childhood best friend Lolo (Sherry Cola), her former room-mate Kat (Stephanie Hsu) and Lolo’s cousin Deadeye (Sabrina Wu).
A riotous, raunchy, risqué cross-country adventure closer to The Hangover or Superbad than The Joy Luck Club, this is most definitely not for the faint-hearted, or easily-offended. But, like the best R-Rated Hollywood comedies (There’s Something About Mary, Bridesmaids, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), there’s a sweet core beneath the salty language and dirty talk.
Pokémon Concierge (Netflix)
Charming, four-part Japanese stop-motion animation series which focuses in on Haru, a concierge at the Pokémon Resort, and her interactions with Pokémon and their owners who visit as guests.
With episodes just 20-minutes long, this offers perfect small-bite viewing for the summer holidays.
“The show’s high level of craftsmanship makes every small detail worth poring over in awe,” wrote The Daily Beast’s Allegra Frank, while Decider’s Meghan O’Keefe believed it was “a candy-coloured, three-dimensional world you want to escape to” and Ready Steady Cut’s Jonathan Wilson thought that it was “pretty unique in the franchise in the way it focuses almost exclusively on the adorable allure of Pokémon as, essentially, personable wild animals. Nobody’s mad, nobody wants a fight. Everyone just wants to have a nice time”.
The Tourist (TVNZ+)
Almost exactly two years after first capturing the world’s attention, the misadventures of Elliot Stanley (Jamie Dornan) and Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald) continue in the second, six-part season of this BBC series.
Picking up the action 14 months after the mysterious Irishman and the probationary constable were thrown together after a car crash in the Australian Outback left him with amnesia, the seemingly unlikely couple are now loved-up and travelling through South East Asia together.
Despite enjoying “the here and now” (if not Elliot’s rather lengthy beard), Helen knows her beau’s seemingly violent past will eventually catch up with him. That’s why she reluctantly chooses to share the letter that she’s been keeping from him ever since it was mailed to her police station when he was still in hospital. As he reads the note from “Tommy”, she knows there’s only one destination they can be heading to next – Ireland.
One of the delights of brothers’ Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing, Baptiste) original series was their Coen-esque ability to switch between serious action and dark comedy. Dornan (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Fall), in particular, seemed to revel in the freedom afforded by his character’s lack of self-knowledge and identity.
Here, if anything, the hilarity goes up a notch. As well as a breathless, but mirth-filled cross-country chase, the opening episode also offers up hints at an artistic past for Elliot, a moniker which makes one of the “bad guys” a little difficult to take seriously and the extended use of The Pretenders’ Don’t Get Me Wrong which means you’ll never be quite able to hear that 1986 hit in quite the same way again.