Festivities are long gone and January has nearly come to an end. Frankly there's only one way of getting through this month, and that's good tele. We're all a bit strapped for cash so choose to stay in a bit more. The tele gods hear us and send a load of new shows our way, ready for us to demolish by the time February arrives.
*There are no spoilers in this piece*
Four Lives (BBC) = 5/5
This three-part drama tells the story of four young men who were killed by Stephen Port. I didn't really know much about this case, other than the fact Port killed four men between 2015-16. Well there is so much more to this than that. There's no element of who-done-it in this, it's a look at just how much the police messed up the case, and how their failures meant three more men died after Anthony.
We don't see the murders and don't really get to know the victims, the focus here is the families and how they had to fight for justice.
Sheridan Smith was brilliant, but no surprises there. The real surprise was Stephen Merchant (above) playing Port. I've only ever seen Merchant as a comic, and right hand man to Ricky Gervais - well this is a far cry from anything like that. He doesn't just play the part, he brings lots of little traits to the murderer that make your skin crawl whenever he is on screen. I was watching him and I couldn't even picture him as the funny guy he is in reality.
Don't get me wrong, this is no easy watch, and the anger you will feel is so overwhelming you'll find yourself screaming at the tele, but definitely something I would recommend to watch.
Anne (ITV) = 5/5
Another series which highlights the faults of the police in the past, Anne looks at the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 and how it was dealt with until the fans and families finally got an element of closure and justice YEARS later.
This. Broke. Me.
I'm from a Liverpool supporting family so to see the original footage cleverly edited into the show was pretty hard to watch. I learnt a lot though, because although I knew it was handled awfully and the second inquests didn't finish until 2016, I really didn't know the ins and outs of it.
When the final episode comes round and the crowd sings 'You'll Never Walk Alone' alongside footage of the real people and facts around it all, I sobbed - I'm talking the level of crying where you can't catch you're breath.
Football fan or not, I highly recommend this - get the tissues ready though.
Rules of the Game (BBC) = 5/5
In this series Maxine Peak (who also played Anne in the drama above) plays a hot-shot business woman working for a fitness clothing company. Right at the start we see her find an employee dead in the reception but we don't who it is or find out what's happened until further down the line.
A new HR director comes into the company and unearths a LOT of dodgy stuff which builds to a climax.
This was BRILLIANT. I really didn't think it was going to be that good, but I was hooked as soon as it started. It discusses a lot of important issues too including sexual abuse and sexism in the workplace.
A thriller, but not like anything I've seen before - WATCH IT.
The Tourist (BBC) = 3/5
This series follows a man (Jamie Dornan) who wakes up in hospital in Austrilia following a car crash with no memory of his life. If you're looking for something with twists and turns, this is it.
You quickly realise someone is after him, hence the car crash, but throughout each episode we find out more and more about his previous life and what sort of dodgy things he was involved with.
I wasn't amazed by this because there's a point in one of the earlier episodes, where something very impossible happens and after that things got a bit silly. Nevertheless, there were some good laughs in it, and if you take the far-fetched element with a pitch of salt I think you'll like it.
The Very British Scandal (BBC) = 3/5
This was disappointing because the two leads are so strong (Claire Foy and Paul Bettany) and with the real-life divorce of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll to play with I was ready to be hooked for the three episodes. However it was not to be. I can't really put my finger on what was wrong with this, but I just didn't really care that much. With some of the earlier shows I've talked about I was buzzing to watch the next episode, but with this it was a case of finishing it just because I wanted to know what happened.
I watched it at the gym which says it all really. I wasn't really that engaged with it because I found the Duke so irritating. This is no spoiler because it all played out in the press in the 1960s, but they get married, it turns sour, and the divorce gets nasty. The acting was great and they did it really well, but I just didn't find it very gripping to be honest.
Stay Close (Netflix) = 4/5
I loved The Stranger back in 2020, so when I heard Harlan Coben was coming back with another series I was ready to binge it as quick as possible.
This tells the story of a women who seems to have a perfect family life, but has a darker past which catched up with her. There's some murder along the way and eight episodes of twists and turns.
There's lots of famous faces in this one including James Nesbitt and Richard Armitage (who was also the lead in The Stranger) which will lead you Googling 'where have I seen XYZ' throughout if you're anything like me.
Overall I thought this was really good. I will say that, similar to The Tourist, there were a few things that happened in the last couple of episodes that were a bit stupid which meant it lost me a bit. I'm all for drama, but keep it believable to an extent. For example, a character being in a fight one minute (involving a serious stab wound) and then walking round in jeans and not a scratch on him/her other than an arm in a sling later that same day.
If you like thrillers though, this is one to watch.
West Side Story (cinema) = 5/5
I know this is a film but I had to slip it in there. I've realised from seeing this that I actually prefer West Side Story (WSS) to Romeo and Juliet (RJ). I know they're VERY similar stories, and WSS was inspired by RJ, but I have to say *UNPOPULAR OPINION* I think there's so much more to WSS.
The basic of both is that two groups don't like each other, a member of each group falls in love, and it doesn't end well. Everyone knows RJ because they were made to do it at school, but WSS isn't as big of a thing and I think that's wrong because the premise of the gangs has much more to discuss than in RJ which it's just a case of two families not liking each other. I did English at A Level and have a degree in it so I love Shakespeare, but for me WSS had more to it.
The story is set in 1950s New York City with two rival gangs - the Sharks and the Jets. If you leave it at that it's just the same as RJ, but throw in race and it gets a new element. The Sharks are from Puerto Rico and have come to start a new life in NYC, whilst the Jets are a white gang
who feel like their patch of the city is being taken over by outsiders. I just felt this brought more depth to the story, and teamed with the fact it's a musical with some amazing dance numbers, I would say I prefered it much more to Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet.
Some things I'm looking forward to/are next on the list...
The Responder (BBC)
Trigger Point (ITV)
I DO NOT OWN ANY OF THE PHOTOS IN THIS PIECE