TV / DVD

This is England '90

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It is almost a decade since Shane Meadows’ film This is England was released and his characters — from 12 year old lost boy Shaun to the terrifying National Front supporter Combo — grabbed us by the throat.

The original film was set in 1983 with a backdrop of the Falklands War and Thatcher’s re-election entrenching her reign of destruction. Its bleak setting in a non-specific East Midlands/South Yorkshire town presented a world of limitations and small horizons. The central characters’ identity as skinheads gave them a sense of being part of a culture.

Life in Squares

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This new series on Virginia Woolf is perhaps the most radical, and truthful, on-screen account of her life to date.

Refreshingly, the programme’s director, Simon Kaijser, does not portray Woolf merely as a writer plagued by mental health problems, but instead situates her within her own historical and social context.

This allows us to appreciate just how progressive much of her thought and work really was.

Stonemouth

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Stonemouth is a two-part drama adapted from Iain Banks’s novel of the same name. It is the first adaptation of one of his novels since his untimely death in 2013. It is billed as a romantic mystery.

The story is told by Stewart Gilmour, who was run out of town by his girlfriend Ellie Murston’s family. He is now returning from London years later to attend the funeral of his best friend, Ellie’s brother Callum.

Up the Auntie?

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While we do not know yet who will win the May election, it is already clear that among the biggest losers will surely be the BBC. Whatever government we have, it is certain that the BBC will be mangled and probably dismembered. When a disease-carrying rat like Jeremy Clarkson abandons the Good Ship BBC (and please do not tell me that the “fracas” was anything but a stage-managed exit strategy), it is clear that we are in a Titanic and iceberg moment.

Indian Summers

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Indian Summers, the most expensive drama Channel 4 has ever produced, is the explosive story of British rule in India and the natives’ fight for independence. It is set in 1932, a time when British rule is weakening. The story opens in Simla, a hill station in the Himalayas, where the British enjoy a luxurious summer and the natives wait on them hand and foot.

Cucumber, Banana and Tofu

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Banana

Channel 4’s new cross-channel series consists of three strands showing across Channel 4, E4 and 4oD — Cucumber, Banana and Tofu. The titles are references to states of male sexual arousal. This is a return to Queer As Folk territory — the taboo-breaking 1999 TV series — and none the worse for that.

Tofu is a documentary series about sexuality, while Banana and Cucumber are drama series. Cucumber, written by Russell T Davies, features Henry and Lance, a middle aged gay professional couple dealing with the fallout after they have the date night from the inner circle of Hell.

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.

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