Plus: was Fleabag really profound and true? Or sententious, hormonal, millennial drivel?
If you liked Triumph of the Will, you’ll love this latest masterpiece of the genre: Our Planet. The Netflix nature series exploits the prestige, popularity and swansinging poignancy of Sir David Attenborough to promote an environmental message so relentlessly dishonest and alarmist it might have been scripted by the WWF.
‘Walruses committing suicide because of global warming.’ That was the nonsense from episode two repeated uncritically by all the newspapers, none of which seems to have been much interested in questioning the veracity of the claim. You’ll never guess what it was that really drove those walruses over the edge of the cliff… Ironically, the likely culprits were polar bears — that supposedly threatened species whose population has grown exponentially in the past 50 years to the point where they are now beginning to become something of a pest.
Plus: I really hope Netflix’s Sex Education is not the future of TV.
Boy often likes to rebuke me for having impossibly high standards when it comes to TV. ‘Why can’t you just enjoy it?’ he says. This is disappointing. One reason I ruined myself to give him an expensive education is so I wouldn’t have to share my viewing couch with a drooling moron happy to gawp at any old crap. Worse, whenever I try to draw his attention to stuff I consider to be extra specially worth watching — Fauda, Babylon Berlin, etc. — he rejects it because it has been tainted by my recommendation.
So the next brilliant thing he won’t get to see is Gomorrah (Sky). This relentlessly dour and violent series about the Camorra mob in Naples is now filming its fourth season, but because I’ve come to it late I’m still only on the first. What I so love about it — essentially my criterion for all great art — is the ruthless, uncompromising integrity of its vision.
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.