TV / DVD

Olive Kitteridge

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Olive Kitteridge is not a happy woman. In the first two minutes of this slow-paced, bleakly humorous HBO mini-series she is preparing to shoot herself in the glorious autumn woods of Maine, northeastern US. The series is based on a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Elizabeth Stout and directed by the acclaimed film maker Lisa Cholodenko.

Most of the rest of the series is a flashback to 25 years earlier, in the 1980s. Then she was a spiky middle-aged maths teacher in a small coastal town, living with her teenage son and her husband who she finds deeply irritating.

Veep

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Armando Iannucci, writer and director of The Thick of It and In the Loop, here takes his political satire from Whitehall to the White House. Set in the office of the fictional vice-president Selina Meyer, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus of Seinfeld, Veep was touted as an American version of The Thick of It. Sadly the series does not match the comicality or great observation of its British original.

"The number two" is overpowered by a phantom president who never appears on screen. The first few episodes show Meyer struggling to accommodate the interests of both Congress environmentalists and oil barons: a task that is, of course, full of spectacular blunders and a shambolic ending. Veep needs to be complimented for depicting the close ties between big business and the political establishment.

However, in this series Iannucci fails to fully explore any wider political context, concentrating mainly on the administration itself.

Boss

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Showing Thursdays at 11pm on More4. Previous episode are available through 4OD

Boss, a US TV drama that has just premiered in Britain, focuses on the political manoeuverings of the Mayor of Chicago and his opponents. But it smacks more of The Sopranos than the West Wing, with a bit of King Lear thrown in. It is a portrait of the politician as a gangster and of the gangster as tragic hero.

Continuum

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A cop show with a lead called Cameron may not sound enticing to readers of this magazine, but stay with me. For a start, Continuum reinvigorates the tired police procedural format with a time-travel story arc, and does so more credibly than the late and unlamented Crime Traveller.

In the process it raises interesting questions about the kind of future capitalism is creating, and the role of collective action in social change.

The plot follows Vancouver cop (or "Protector") Kiera Cameron, who is transported back in time from 2077 to the present when a group of rebels called Liber8 effect a daring escape from their imminent executions. She dedicates herself to preventing them from subverting the future, in the hope that she will discover a way to return to her time.

Tsar to Lenin

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Herman Axelbank's film Tsar to Lenin provides an unparalleled film record of the Russian Revolution.

Axelbank worked at Goldwyn Pictures in New York. In 1917 he spotted a newspaper headline: Revolution in Russia! "I wish I could take motion picture there," he said. "We don't have any of our own from 1775."

The American revolutionary Max Eastman helped him make the film. An early supporter of the Bolsheviks, Eastman had travelled to Russia in the 1920s. He had close political relations with many of the leaders of the Soviet regime and especially with Leon Trotsky.

Ken Loach at the BBC

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Today Ken Loach is an internationally feted filmmaker. But he was also once a prophet in his own country. Working with a generation of radicals, he excelled at what became known as the drama-documentary - a TV genre that was socially engaged, aesthetically experimental and politically influential. It made working class people the subject of public service broadcasting. This essential collection has many of the key works which now deserve the widest rescreening for their enduring relevance and artistic courage.

56 Up

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Available online on ITV Player

In 1964 Granada TV took the Jesuit maxim "Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man" as inspiration for a series which documented the lives of 14 seven year olds every seven years. Now they are 56.

When it was first broadcast, Seven Up! shocked many with its emphasis on class - but that is what made it such compelling viewing. For me, this first programme remains the most powerful - at the time, I had been teaching seven year olds in an east London primary school.

White Heat

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This six-part drama follows the lives and loves of seven housemates. It starts in the present day when one of them has died and then goes back to the 1960s where they seem to be part of some kind of social experiment conducted by a young radical called Jack in a flat in London.

In his will the deceased has left the flat to his "former flatmates". Like my own brother he was dead for two weeks before he was found, so the flat needs some cleaning up. We see a group photo which shows the seven main characters as they were when they first moved in.

Jack wants to run a sort of island of egalitarianism where people do not have exclusive relationships - but he imposes his own rules, such as no one being allowed to sleep with anyone else for more than three nights.

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