What’s on the telly?

A mixed bag this week, but I’m delighted to report that after episode four of After Life (Netflix), Mr Grigg and I are well and truly converted.

This black comedy written and starring Ricky Gervais has become a firm favourite in this household. Great writing, timing, characters and poignancy and some wonderful, laugh-out-loud lines. Swearing yes, but a series to treasure.

The newspaper office in which the Gervais character works reminds me of those I frequented back in the 80s. I do miss that black, quickfire humour. Still, you’d be lucky to find a newspaper office in a small town these days.

This week, here are three things we’ve been watching:

Bloodlands (BBC)

James Nesbitt stars in this twisting police thriller.

We’re now into episode two of this Sunday night police drama set in Northern Ireland. It’s a tense thriller, produced by Line of Duty creator Jed Mercurio. After a former senior IRA member, now a businessman, goes missing, connections are made into the disappearance of four people prior to the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement. Inevitably for most police drama these days, one of the team has a personal link to the cold case. Already, there are a number of unexpected plot twists to keep us glued to our screens until the end of this four-part serial.

What’s to like: twisting and turning plot, the backdrop of the recent Troubles, evocative and desolate landscape.

What’s not to like: I’m not a James Nesbitt fan (sorry) so there’s that, an ever-increasing cast of villains is confusing, plot devices which are too obvious.

Mank (Netflix)

Gary Oldman turning his back on Amanda Seyfried. Is that a bonfire of the vanities in the background?

The true story of the man who wrote Citizen Kane, the classic film which is very much seen as the masterpiece of Orson Welles, as co-writer, director and leading actor. Our very own Gary Oldman takes the title role of Herman J Mankiewicz in a black and white film full of style, wisecracking dialogue and a cast of well-known actors, many of them young and British. The film is a stylish, fascinating study of the Hollywood of the 1930s. Beautifully directed and the acting of Amanda Seyfried, best known for her roles in the Mamma Mia!, is a revelation. I loved it, but not to be slipped into lightly if you don’t know Citizen Kane.

What’s to like: the acting (Tom Burke, he of Cormoran Strike fame, is a dead-ringer for Welles), the fast pace, the depiction of California in the 1940s.

What’s not to like: the flashbacks, some incoherent dialogue and lack of colour. Black and white is great to set the scene but I would have liked the film to become colour imperceptibly after about twenty minutes.

Capone (Netflix)

The trouser-soiling gangster in an illuminating moment.

I was attracted to this film drama because Tom Hardy is in the lead role. ‘Who the hell’s Tom Hardy?’ Mr Grigg said. I tried to explain, using a loud one-tone, shouty Tom Hardy voice and then going on about Taboo and all that but he was still none the wiser (we should be on Gogglebox). He said Hardy looked more like a purple potato which Jamie Oliver suggests you put in focaccia. So then all I could think of what the focaccia are we watching this for? It’s pretty grim, focusing on a syphilitic Al Capone remembering his glory days. We gave up and switched to something equally terrible called Project Power starring Jamie Foxx. We suffered ten minutes of that and grabbed the remote to instead watch two more episodes of After Life.

What’s to like: the prospect of gazing at Tom Hardy, the lure of an Al Capone biopic, the potential of all those Mafia family relationships.

What’s not to like: Tom Hardy masquerading as a purple potato, incoherent dialogue, rambling scene setting.

By Maddie Grigg

Maddie Grigg is the pen name of former local newspaper editor Margery Hookings. Expect reflections on rural life, community, landscape, underdogs, heritage and folklore. And fun.

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