Don’t watch The Sinner (originally on Netflix; now on BBC4) because, despite your better judgment, you’ll only get addicted after its irresistibly grabby opening. A pretty if slightly distraite mother called Cora Tannetti — Jessica Biel — is on a lakeside beach with her bearded beta cuck husband and their little boy, surrounded by other relaxed groups of weekend picnickers. Suddenly, she takes huge exception to a hunky male sitting nearby and derangedly stabs him to death with a fruit knife. Why?
That’s why it’s being sold as a new genre — the ‘whydunit’ — because obviously we know whodunit already. With seven more episodes to go, it’s probably safe to assume that the answer is much more complicated — but not nearly as plausible — as the one I gave to the Fawn at the end of episode one. ‘I know exactly why she did it,’ I said. ‘Why?’ said the Fawn. ‘Because she’s a woman…’ I said.
How long do the state authorities think they can get away with it?
I wonder if Wisconsin has any idea what an international embarrassment it has become? By rights it ought to be an unexceptionable place, little more than the quirky answer to the occasional trivia question: ‘Where is the Badger State?’; ‘Whose state governor shares a name with the singer of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)?”’; ‘Which US state makes more Swiss cheese than Switzerland?’
Sadly for this unassuming Great Lakes state — pop. six million — it has instead become an exemplar of the kind of official corruption, mendacity, hypocrisy, bovine incompetence and rampant injustice less often associated with the leader of the free world and the beacon of democracy than with Islamofascist republics, equatorial African kleptocracies and other third-world hellholes.
This is all thanks to the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, which holds the state’s apparatus responsible for one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in recent history.
What kept you watching was the desperate hope that a whole group would get away unharmed. Too often they didn’t
There were 1,500 punters in the audience when Eagles of Death Metal played their fatal gig at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in November 2015. By midnight, every one of those fans would either be dead, bereaved, in hospital with gunshot wounds or so traumatised that the horror would haunt the rest of their lives.
But obviously none of them knew this when they woke up on that sunny autumn morning (though it was a Friday 13th). One remembers that his first thought that day was to make sure he wore some nice trousers. Another recalls being puzzled when his father — ‘a typical Chilean dad’ — embraced him, asked him anxiously where he was going that night (‘I’m 23!’) and then said what now sounds eerily prophetic: ‘No one can steal your soul.’ The son replied: ‘I’ll be careful.’
Unlike most American drama series, Fauda isn’t there to make friends.
‘The rule in our household is: if a TV series hasn’t got subtitles, it’s not worth watching,’ a friend told me the other day. Once this approach would have been both extremely limiting and insufferably pompous. In the era of Netflix and Amazon Prime, though, it makes a lot of sense.
There’s something about English-speaking TV — especially if it’s made in the US — that tends towards disappointment. Obviously there have been exceptions: The Sopranos; Band of Brothers; Breaking Bad; Game of Thrones. But too often, what’s missing is that shard of ice in the creative heart that drama needs if it’s to be truly exceptional.
American drama is a slobbering puppy dog. No matter how dark or weird its subject matter, there’s invariably a fatal moment where it suddenly rolls over onto its back and begs you to tickle its tummy. Its urge to show you how secretly lovable it is is more powerful than its desire to be great art.
Plus: the latest variant on one of my favourite reality TV genres: unteachables go to brat camp.
I have decided to set up a cult, which you are all welcome to join, especially those of you who are young and very attractive or stupendously rich. The former will get exclusive membership of my JiggyJiggy Fun Club™, while the latter will be essential in financing all the cool shit I need on my 500-square-mile estate, viz: hunt stables and kennels, helipad, private games room with huge comfy chair, water slides, grouse moor, airstrip, barracks for my cuirassiers, volcano with battery of rockets inside, and so on.
What gave me the idea was this new Netflix documentary series everyone is talking about called Wild Wild Country. It tells the story of the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the bearded guru who in the early 1980s decamped from India with his thousands of followers to set up a utopian colony on a remote and beautiful ranch in the wilds of Oregon.
If you didn’t know it was all going to go horribly wrong, you might find the early episodes ever so slightly dull.
Ignore the PC nonsense – this telly Western is well acted, gritty, dusty, uber-violent and clandestinely old-fashioned.
Boy came to me the other night in a state of dismay. ‘Dad, I just turned on Match of the Day to watch England vs Kazakhstan and guess what: they never mentioned this, but it’s the women’s game.’
What bothered him was not so much being forced to watch a slower, less athletic, duller version of real football — though obviously that too — as that the BBC was being so utterly disingenuous about it. This policy of pretending there’s absolutely no difference between men’s and women’s international sporting fixtures has, I know, been operational for some time. But for those of us living outside the PC metropolitan bubble — i.e. most of the BBC’s actual audience — it still feels insulting, hectoring and dishonest.
But you can’t escape it. Even really good drama series that you might actually want to watch have been infected. The new Netflix cowboy drama Godless, for example.
What upset James Delingpole far more this week was the miscarriage of justice in Netflix’s The Confession Tapes.
The opening of Gunpowder (BBC1, Saturdays) was just about the most knuckle-gnawingly tense ten minutes I’ve ever seen on TV.
It’s 1603 and James I is on the throne. At the Warwickshire great house of Baddesley Clinton, a group of aristocratic Catholics, including Robert Catesby (Kit Harington) and Anne Vaux (Liv Tyler), are celebrating Mass illicitly when a party of armed men begins hammering at the door.
Quickly, the various guerrilla priests — a senior Jesuit Henry Garnet and two young acolytes — are bundled into hiding, two in a priest hole set behind some panelling, one in a chest. The search party enters, led by an implacable witchfinder-general type who pursues his task with sadistic relish and grim efficiency. As the priests cower, their terror palpable, the search party sets about measuring the house within and without to see if there is any discrepancy in the dimensions.
I know I keep saying that in Decline of the West terms we’re all currently living in Rome, circa 400 AD. But now, on TV, there is actual proof of this in the form of a truly appalling reality series called Bromans (ITV2, Thursdays).
Bromans is like a cross between Love Island and Carry On Cleo, so shamelessly low, tacky and brain-dead that it makes Geordie Shore look like Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation. Basically, a bunch of ridiculously buff lads strip off and participate in crap gladiatorial contests in which no one dies (thus entirely defeating the object), while their hot blonde girlfriends smoulder pointlessly in scanty outfits, and say stupid things like ‘I’ve gone 2,000 years back. I’ve never lived that far back.’ Then they have a typical cocktail party, just like used to happen in Imperial Rome, and — we are led to assume — shag one another.
What I like best about Bromans is its rugged integrity. There’s none of that relentless PC hectoring that Rod Liddle was rightly bemoaning the other day: it’s probably the most accurate reflection anywhere on TV of what young men and women are still really like; and because it’s all done ironically, clumsily and on the cheap it slips under the Guardianista outrage police’s radar.
Obviously, though, I’m not suggesting you should waste time watching it. Instead, what you need is your new favourite Netflix series, Suburra.
Use alternative “clean” energy or a hideous monster will eat you. This is the heartwarming green message aimed at winning the hearts and minds of young children in the animated Netflix series The Magic School Bus Rides Again.
Episode 12,“Monster Power,” teaches kids that a monster will eat them if they don’t use alternative clean energy sources. Albert, one of the students, has seen a movie in which the evil monster loves pollution and is “coming for us next for what we’ve done to this planet!” With the class camping in the woods, Miss Frizzle and the other students help him come up with clean energy alternatives (wind, water, etc) so they won’t be eaten.
The series’ makers, Scholastic, have taken their cue from Soviet-era propaganda cartoons demonstrating the evils of capitalism through the medium of avant-garde animation. And also, probably from the Jesuits’ Ignatius Loyola who supposedly said: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”
Actually, though, the “use clean energy or die” episode is by no means the worst one.
One’s crabby and conservative, while the other is genial and impeccably PC. No wonder Jack and his dad Michael make such compelling TV.
‘Oh really I don’t mind. Whatever you want to pay me. I just want to do this job and I’m really looking forward it. How much were you thinking?’ says Michael Whitehall in an unctuous, good-natured, amenable voice. Then, in an instant, having been told the imaginary amount, he turns savagely nasty and bangs his fist on the table. ‘No fucking way are you paying me so little…’
Watching Michael Whitehall jokingly re-enact how he negotiated his fee for his son’s new Netflix series, Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father, three things become abundantly clear.
First, that he must have been a brilliantly effective agent (shrewd, tough, terrifying) during his previous career, when he represented such stars as Kenneth More, Daniel Day-Lewis, Judi Dench and (Jack’s godfather) Richard Griffiths.
Second, that he really should have been on stage or screen himself much earlier (he became a star only in his early seventies), because his acting skills, timing and delivery are immaculate. (He’ll hate the comparison, but I was oddly reminded of the scene where Gollum’s good and evil sides have an argument in Lord of the Rings.)