Recommendations: "Squid Game," "Taskmaster," "Sex Actually with Alice Levine” and More.
It is your monthly free edition of "Worth Watching."
Welcome to the (free) monthly edition of Worth Watching.
I’m back after a week off. There is a plethora of good television to watch at the moment, as the weather outside goes from ‘OK’ to ‘uggggghhhhhhHHHHHHh.’
Just to note that as I am dyslexic I usually have a sub-editor each newsletter, but they are unable to check this week’s edition. So if a sentence or two doesn’t make sense to you, please just nod and act as if you know what I am on about.
As always, if you want to get the weekly version of this email for only £3.50 a month (or £35 a year) all you need to do is click on the button below and pop in your details. Thank you so much for reading and please do let me know your recommendations.
Squid Game (Netflix) - Horrific. Ridiculous. Compelling. Gripping. Terrifying. These are some of the words I have thought up to sum up this new South Korean drama, which Netflix claims is on track to being their most popular series ever.
Honestly though, none of those words do it justice. This series is really quite hard to describe. The concept is about people heavily in debt competing for a large cash prize. If they don’t win each game, they are killed. You assume at the start it is going to be a bloodier Hunger Games. It very much is, but what it spins into is something deeper and surprisingly more complex: weaving in themes of poverty, capitalism, free will, totalitarianism and the desire and consequences of securing victory at all costs.
It is also a show that has such scale and social media appeal only Netflix can truly pull it off. If you have been on TikTok or social media in the last week, you may have seen disturbing scenes or a meme such as this.
Delve into the show, then pick it all apart on the internet afterwards.
Oh, and don’t watch this series directly before going to bed.
Sex Actually with Alice Levine (Channel 4) - Another show that will make you occasionally look at the television from behind your fingers (but for a different reason) is this new series presented by broadcaster and former Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine.
In this documentary she finds out some of the kinky habits from people around the country and meets people who make money from having sex online (I know, it is Peak Channel 4). The appeal of watching this show is Levine herself, thrown into all manner of awkward situations by her producers to get a funny reaction. As one of our country’s fastest and finest broadcasters, she does all of this with ease.
Oh and obvious warning: don’t watch this series with any members of your family.
Interesting side note – one of the executive producers of this show is Louis Theroux, with this show coming from Mindhouse, a new company he’s a part of. As a result of his involvement, this series has a Weird Weekends vibe throughout.
If you’re worrying that Theroux will be too busy doing shows like these than fronting his own documentaries, fear not. He’s announced three of his own docs this week.
Taskmaster (Channel 4) - Sticking with Channel 4 … YES, this show where comedians compete over a set of ridiculous challenges is hardly anything new, but the line-up of the latest series (Victoria Coren Mitchell, Guz Khan, Morgana Robinson and Desiree Burch) contains so much chemistry it has an unmissable charm.
The challenge near the end of the first episode is one of the best I have seen in the history of the show. I have rewatched it multiple times.
Drag Race Series 3 (BBC Three) - I was a bit concerned that the third series would be rushed after the overwhelming critical success of the second. It seems to hold up so far (I am very much relieved.)
The Problem with Jon Stewart (Apple TV+) - This is the first show Jon Stewart has hosted in six years. Be warned: this is not The Daily Show.
A mixture of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight and Newsnight, this fortnightly talk show features Stewart taking a deep dive into a particularly troubling news story. He then brings in people who have been affected by the issue to talk about their experience, in the hope that it shames those responsible into making amends.
I do admire how well researched the investigations are. It is like a well-written newspaper feature spilling out onto television. It isn’t as funny as Stewart’s previous work though, but then again perhaps he isn’t trying to be funny here anyway.
Manhunt: The Night Stalker (ITV Hub) - My final recommendation is a true crime series that looks more about the methodology of capturing the culprit than the life of the culprit himself. Martin Clunes excellently portrays DCI Colin Sutton, who was drafted in to help catch a serial rapist who had operated in South East London for more than 15 years. It is a three parter. I watched this series all in one go.
TV has had a right *nightmare* this week:
Red Bee Media, who broadcast Channel 4 and Channel 5 (along with many other channels) was evacuated after reports of a fire on Saturday evening.
As a result many channels, including Channel 4 and Channel 5 crashed. More4 turned squiggly. Film4 froze on a still from the end of The Simpsons movie. Several music channels fell over too and have not returned since.
According to The Times, the activation of the “fire suppression system” caused a “sonic wave” that shut down the servers at their broadcast centre (meanwhile Red Bee Media say they are still investigating the cause.)
What is staggering is how severe these outages must have been. Several days after the technical problem, Channel 4 froze just before Bake Off started (before thankfully getting back up and running in time). Popular shows such as Taskmaster and Sunday Brunch experienced technical problems too. If you think that All 4 and My5 were also affected.
Red Bee also look after BBC channels, but they were unaffected as these BBC channels have a backup in Salford, which they used. This meant that shows such as Strictly Come Dancing were able to air as normal (although they did lose the usual continuity messages between programmes).
Then, just when we all assumed the problems were over, the penultimate episode of Married at First Sight UK was shown two days in a row. At one point the television froze on this screen, as if it was trying to taunt viewers who had tuned into watch.
Let’s hope that when Married at First Sight airs tonight, they don’t air the same episode for the third time in a row. Can you imagine?!
Other stuff I’ve done this week:
On the Must Watch podcast this week we spoke to MEL & SUE. As you can imagine, I was incredibly excited (I also asked them a question at one point with my voice several octaves higher than expected). They were supposed to be on for twenty minutes or so, but ended up being on for more than 45. You can hear their full interview on the podcast, which is available on BBC Sounds.
I’m also doing a Bake Off liveblog for The Guardian with the baker Michael Chakraverty. You can follow our analysis and cake memes on their website.
That’s all for this week. Have a good weekend.
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Scott Bryan / @scottygb