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Gripping thrillers, romantic comedies and period dramas – they are all featured in our critics’ picks of the best shows to watch On Demand right now. The experts have chosen their top 20 programmes streaming this weekend, as well as reviewing new releases. Read on to find out what to watch this weekend…

Our picks of the week:

Alice & Jack

Disarmingly funny romance starring Domhnall Gleeson and Andrea Riseborough.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Channel 4

 Relationships don’t always happen like in the movies, and here’s one that starts messy, and stays that way, over a 15-year period and six episodes. Written by Victor Levin, a writer with form in romantic comedies (TV show Mad About You, Destination Wedding), it follows Andrea Riseborough’s wealthy loner Alice and Domhnall Gleeson’s gentle scientist Jack.

They fall for each other, and into bed with each other, pretty instantly and Jack is smitten, but Alice constantly pulls away. She wants someone kind like Jack, but she’s also self-aware enough to believe that she’s wrong for him.

Riseborough and Gleeson are superb, making their flawed characters eminently watchable and likeable. (Six episodes)

This Is Me… Now: A Love Story

Jennifer Lopez stars in a weird and wonderful musical based around her life.

Year: 2024

Watch now on Prime Video

Mixing styles and genres with playful audacity, this new musical extravaganza sets out to offer a look inside the lives and loves of Jennifer Lopez.

Fusing music from her new album – also called This is Me… Now – with a story of multiple romantic entanglements (watch out for a cameo by her former-and-current beau Ben Affleck), the end result is a trippy, mind-bending affair that spirals from tributes to classic musicals to high-budget pop promos and dance sequences that look as if they’re inspired by Mad Max.

It’s not easy-going but it is exhilarating and J.Lo fans will find plenty to fall head over heels for in the amazing song-and-dance numbers. (65 minutes)

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

The record-setting New York detective drama starring Mariska Hargitay.

Year: 1999

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

It may have started as a spin-off from Law & Order, but the series focusing on the Special Victims Unit – named after a real-life police unit that handles sex crimes – has long since surpassed the show that spawned it. As of 2024 it’s the longest running primetime live-action TV drama on American TV, having clocked up a ridiculous 25 series since it began in 1999.

Netflix has multiple series available so set aside plenty of time to binge the cases handled by the New York unit. Lead detectives Stabler and Benson (played with sharp-eyed empathy by Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay) are great, but watch too for the late Richard Belzer (a transfer over from parent show Law & Order) whose turn as deadpan detective John Munch is a masterclass in laconic scene stealing.

The New Look

The Second World War experience of Coco Chanel and Christian Dior.

Year: 2024

Watch now on Apple TV+

The scars and secrets of war are the subject of this complex ten-part drama, based on what actually happened to fashion designers Christian Dior and Coco Chanel in occupied Paris during the Second World War. If you’re new to the history of it, there will be surprises – chiefly that Chanel collaborated with the Nazis, and that Dior fought to save his younger sister, a French resistance fighter, from death at their hands in the camps.

The drama focuses on the whys, hows and consequences of their choices and moves across their lives, taking us through the occupation and liberation of Paris and beyond. It comes from Todd A Kessler, who brought us the brilliant Damages, and whose reputation and script has attracted a first-rate cast. 

Juliette Binoche has by far the trickiest job bringing dimension to Chanel, who is clearly set up as the villain of the piece but whom Binoche manages to frame as a survivor, while Ben Mendelsohn (who starred in Kessler’s Bloodline on Netflix) radiates vulnerability and quiet nobility as Dior.

The horror of the occupation is keenly realised in the opening episodes, which also feature Game Of ThronesMaisie Williams as Dior’s sister and Dracula’s Claes Bang as Chanel’s slippery introduction to the Nazis. Glenn Close, who picked up multiple awards as the force-of-nature lawyer Patty Hewes in Kessler’s Damages, pops up later in a series of such high quality that it feels uncommonly addictive for its type. (Ten episodes)

The Grand Tour: Sand Job

Clarkson, Hammond and May race 1,000km across the Sahara.

Year: 2024

Watch now on Prime Video

Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond are off to Mauritania for this special, a West African country none of them claim to have heard of before, and which they’re appalled to learn is alcohol-free. What the trio have heard of, of course, is cars – which is just as well because they’re converting three of them into desert racers for the Sand Job, the exciting focus of which is a race across the Sahara.

The three desert-modified motors are a Jaguar F-Type with fancy lights (Clarkson), an Aston Martin ‘you can live in’ (Hammond) and a very cool-looking Maserati with a roll cage (May). Will they make it across the Sahara, though?

There’s the small matter of their escapade taking place in a Foreign Office ‘red zone’ with a small war not too far off and, as Hammond’s satnav thinks he’s just south of Manchester, there could be a few other problems in store, too. We won’t spoil what they are, that’s all part of the fun of watching this Boys’ Own-style adventure.

Lady Macbeth

Florence Pugh dazzles in her leading-role debut in a feature film.

Year: 2016

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

Long before she became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Florence Pugh made a big impression in this dark British period drama – which was also, incredibly, her leading role feature debut. The title alludes to Shakespeare’s scheming queen, but the film is a loose adaptation of a 19th-century Russian novella, with the location moved to England in 1865.

Pugh plays Katherine, a teenager contained in a loveless marriage, expected to live in the dour service of her inadequate husband and his cruel father. She is not a victim, but as a heroine, she is complex. Her opportunities, when she grasps them, are bold, self-serving and deadly. In a drama with only four other main characters, including her lover and maid, Katherine is the only one who, by hook or by crook, thrives. (89 minutes)

Past Lives

Tender tale of lost love which foregrounds the migrant experience.

Year: 2023

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

It’s impossible not to shed a tear while watching this discreet and delicate film about two childhood sweethearts who were separated in youth and then brought together again as adults. South Korean-born Nora (Greta Lee) is best friends with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), but when her family move from Seoul to Canada the pair lose contact. Years later Nora, now a married writer living in New York, reconnects with her old friend. They reunite for one week – but do they regret the life they’ve lost together?

This extraordinary directorial debut by South Korean-Canadian Celine Song was indisputably one of the movie highlights of 2023. It manages to tackle big ideas such as destiny, identity and longing with a simplicity that charms everyone who sees it. (105 minutes)

One Day

TV adaptation of David Nicholls’s novel about life and love.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

Beginning with their final night at university together, One Day follows Dexter and Emma (The White Lotus’s Leo Woodall and This Is Going To Hurt’s Ambika Mod) across almost two decades, as they cross in and out of each other’s lives and fall in and out of love with one another. The twist? We only catch up with them on one day each year, 15 July.

It’s a great conceit that allows time to flicker past as the pair’s lives and looks change across the series. It’s already been adapted into a lovely 2011 film (starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess), but this 14-parter has much more elbow room to dig into elements from the novel, delighting fans as it expands upon the joys and tragedies of Dex and Em’s lives. The fact that each episode is only around 30 minutes long helps the show to zip along at a great pace, as does the liberal use of music from each year.

The show’s makers do a good job of capturing the 1990s in particular, especially the spell when Dex becomes the odious host of low-rent, post-pub TV that’s all too close to what was actually on our screens at the time. It says a lot for Woodall’s charm as an actor that he manages to keep Dex at all likeable during those years, while you’re always rooting for the endearing Mod – who was the tragic heart of This Is Going To Hurt – to find a happy ending as Emma. (14 episodes)

Players

Gina Rodriguez and Tom Ellis headline this romcom about modern dating.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

Sports writer Mack (Jane The Virgin’s Gina Rodriguez) and her buddies (including Adam, played by Damon Wayans Jr) cut a swathe through the nightlife of New York, using the chat-up techniques they’ve honed over the years to cajole anyone who catches their eye into a one-night stand. But then Gina meets war correspondent Nick (Lucifer’s Tom Ellis) and finds herself falling for him. Can she and her pals turn their pick-up tricks into romantic techniques that will ensure that Nick falls just as hard for Mack?

Playing as much like a romantic heist movie as it does a romcom, it’s great fun watching Mack and co set out to steal Nick’s heart. (105 minutes)

Sunderland ’Til I Die

Behind-the-scenes at Sunderland Football Club in victory and defeat.

Year: 2018-2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

The first two series of this fly-on-the-wall documentary about Sunderland Football Club haven’t been pleasant viewing for fans. The first covered 2018-19 when they followed up relegation from the Premier League by dropping out of the Championship too and into League One. The second hoped to show them getting promoted, but instead saw them stagnating in mid-table.

This third and final run of two episodes finally gives fans something to cheer about as the club battles for a play-off final spot and a return to the Championship. The on-the-pitch stuff is smartly done, but – as Welcome To Wrexham on Disney+ proved – this really comes to life when it focuses on the club’s dedicated fans, whose mental health and happiness hinge on Sunderland AFC thriving. (Three series)

To Catch A Copper

Jaw-dropping documentary series which, like the real Line of Duty, unearths shocking cases of corrupt officers.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Channel 4

This jaw-dropping series is a bold move by Avon And Somerset police, who let cameras follow the work of their anti-corruption unit in an act of ‘radical transparency’. When the first episode aired, even chief constable Sarah Crew was shocked by what she saw.

The three episodes follow allegations against officers that range from assault to revenge porn and that take in shocking racism and misogyny and a disregard for the vulnerable in society whom police are sworn to protect.

There are clearly ‘bad cops’ – many with ‘old school’ attitudes that are wildly outdated and not shared by new cadets – but there are far more good cops, including DC Amber Redman. She’s one of the anti-corruption officers the series follows, yet even she admits: ‘I don’t think all of the public trust the police. And I think that is sadly part of a culture where perhaps policing has gone wrong.’ (Three episodes)

Death Comes To Pemberley

‘Sequel’ to Pride And Prejudice, starring Matthew Rhys and Anna Maxwell Martin.

Year: 2013

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

Two hundred years after the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, this thoroughly enjoyable three-part series continues the story six years after the book left off, but in a very different vein – that of a murder mystery.

Adapted from P.D. James’s ‘mash-up’ novel of 2011, this stars Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, now happily married with a small son. As they prepare to throw a lavish annual ball in their magnificent Pemberley home, the contented couple suddenly find their lives thrown into disarray when a murder is committed on their estate. Rebecca Front and Trevor Eve also star, and Jenna Coleman is excellent in the tricky role of Elizabeth’s flighty sister, Lydia. (Three episodes)

Lady Chatterley

Joely Richardson and Sean Bean star as D.H. Lawrence’s lovers.

Year: 1993

Certificate: 15

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Director Ken Russell has form with the works of D.H. Lawrence. His 1965 adaptation of Women In Love won Glenda Jackson the best actress Oscar. He directs this four-part adaptation of Lawrence’s most famous novel, starring Joely Richardson as the Lady, with Sean Bean as Mellors, the earthy groundsman who provides her comfort after her husband returns from the war, wounded, and with no interest in intimacy.

Some critics found it a bit too ‘sudsy’, but there’s no faulting the performances of Richardson and Bean, both perfectly cast and bold rather than brazen in their performances.

You’ll find it hard to track down an adaptation of this famously steamy novel that makes the sexual chemistry truly sizzle, and there’s been plenty of them. See Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden‘s 2015 BBC miniseries or Emma Corrin and Jack O’Connell, whose 2022 adaptation for Netflix saw the return of Joely Richardson – playing Sir Chatterley’s nurse, in place of his wife. (Four episodes)

Rylan: Football, Homophobia & Me

Rylan looks into homophobia in football in this one-off documentary.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Discovery+

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Rylan grew up in London’s Stepney Green, and loves going to watch West Ham play. He doesn’t enjoy the homophobic abuse he’s experienced watching live football though, and uses this documentary to shine a worthwhile light on the issue.

He speaks to Rio Ferdinand, who talks about how difficult it is for people in the game to speak openly – which leads Rylan to reflect how extraordinary it still is that, at the time of filming, there has never been an openly gay Premier League player.

He does manage to speak to one who came out after retiring – Aston Villa’s Thomas Hitzlsperger – during an insightful, concise film that shows Rylan at his best, and will leave you with a fresh perspective on the topic. (45 minutes)

The Space Shuttle That Fell To Earth

Detailed and emotional examination of the 2003 Columbia disaster.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 12

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

In February 2003, space shuttle Columbia broke up on re-entry over Texas, killing all seven astronauts on board. This three-part docuseries is high on drama and emotion, mixing science and social history with the deeply personal stories of the people involved, the astronauts and their bereaved families, as well as the NASA employees who had been part of the space shuttle programme.

What happened was a tragic reminder of just what a feat it was to make a spacecraft reusable. Columbia was the first shuttle to take off, back in 1981, and for those of us who remember watching it on TV, collective breaths were held as we waited to see if it would touch down safely on landing. It visited orbit 28 times before its catastrophic demise and this is a fascinating record of the technical achievements of the space shuttle programme as well as a sad and detailed examination of what went so horribly wrong. (Three episodes)

Einstein And The Bomb

Docudrama looking at Albert Einstein’s role in the development of nuclear weapons.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

His name is now shorthand for genius, but Albert Einstein questioned his own wisdom in cracking equations that ultimately opened the door to the development of nuclear weapons. This documentary feature marries archive footage of the great man to dramatic reconstructions of key moments to tell the story of Einstein’s life, focusing particularly on the German-born theoretical physicist’s relationship with the Nazis and his role in the creation of the A-bomb.

Working well as a companion piece to 2023’s epic movie hit Oppenheimer, this is an intelligent and frequently chilling look at the price of scientific advancement. Ridley’s Aidan McArdle plays Einstein in the reconstructions. (76 minutes)

King Richard

Will Smith plays the dad behind the rise of the Williams sisters.

Year: 2021

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

At the time of release, this movie was rather overshadowed by its star, Will Smith, slapping the comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars for joking about his wife. Smith picked up the Oscar for his performance as Serena and Venus’s dad and coach later that night, one of six awards the movie was up for – and an indicator of why it’s worth seeing.

The rise of the Williams sisters (played here by Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton) from LA’s working-class Compton neighbourhood to global tennis domination is an incredible against-the-odds tale, and this drama really brings home what it took to get there: much more than just raw talent. (145 minutes)

Crossroads

Britney Spears is a teen in search of the mother who abandoned her in her movie debut.

Year: 2002

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

Britney Spears’s movie debut came out in 2002, a time long before on-demand TV. The coming-of-age drama came into the spotlight once more when the singer released her explosive memoir, The Woman In Me, in 2023, which led to it being released on streaming for the first time.

There’s a lot of talent behind Crossroads, looking back. The script comes from future uber-producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy) and stars Spears as teenager Lucy, on a road trip with old school friends in search of the mother who abandoned her. Spears’s mechanic dad is played by Dan Aykroyd and her mother by Kim Cattrall, while a fresh-faced Anson Mount, later to be star of Hell On Wheels and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, is Lucy’s love interest. It should come as no surprise that this journey involves singing – in one scene, Lucy sings her heart out in a bar and earns enough for the friends to fix their failing car.

Spears was at the peak of her fame at the time she made Crossroads, and became totally immersed in the role. ‘I think I started Method acting – only I didn’t know how to break out of my character. I really became this other person,’ she remarked on the experience, which turned her against the idea of acting ever again. (94 minutes)

Him & Her

A comedy about real-life love in all its lazy, messy glory.

Year: 2010-2013

Certificate: 15

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Some of the best, most original relationship comedies of recent years have been written by Stefan Golaszewski. His most recent was Marriage, starring Nicola Walker and Sean Bean. Before that, he won a BAFTA for Mum, which starred the marvellous Lesley Manville as a suburban widow whose home was filled with well-meaning, if irksome, family and friends.

Him & Her was Golaszewski’s first sitcom. Another BAFTA winner, it stars Russell Tovey and Sarah Solemani as Steve and Becky – a lacklustre couple living a lockdown lifestyle long before the pandemic. Even if they hardly leave the house, there is no shortage of witty and hilarious observations made around the most banal of events – and regular visits from their neighbours (such as Joe Wilkinson’s Dan) and family, including Becky’s sister and her fiance (Kerry Howard and Ricky Champ). Over four wonderful series, they eventually find the energy to get married. (Four series)

Suncoast

Coming-of-age drama starring Woody Harrelson and Laura Linney.

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Disney+

When her terminally ill brother is moved into a specialist treatment facility, teenager Doris struggles to find her place in the world. As her mother (Laura Linney) focuses all her attention on the dying boy, Doris strikes up an oddball friendship with an ageing activist (Woody Harrelson) who she meets at the facility.

The premise sounds depressing but there’s a strong thread of uplifting and even feel-good wit running through this American drama. Linney and Harrelson are predictably excellent in support but it’s The Last Of Us’s Nico Parker, daughter of Thandiwe Newton, as the wide-eyed and hopeful Doris, who really steals the show here. (109 minutes)



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