This is the best damn week of TV in ages
March is probably the best month of television all year. Who knows why.
Here is what is worth investing your time in this week. And what a week.
Leaving Neverland (Channel 4, Wednesday 9pm / HBO Go) - You might be a bit reluctant about watching a four-hour documentary featuring alleged child sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson, but you won’t regret watching it afterwards. I saw both parts of Dan Reed’s film two weeks ago and I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since.
If I’m honest with you, I can’t listen to Jackson’s music any more. After watching, his songs have been deleted from my phone. When I heard his music played in a coffee shop the other day, I had to put my own headphones in to listen to something else because I wasn’t able to concentrate on what I was doing. It’s going to be interesting to see whether radio stations will continue to be playing his music and what the wider reaction will be.
I spoke about this in more detail on BBC Sounds’ Beyond Today .
Derry Girls (Channel 4, Tuesday 9.15pm) - I have never seen a show that manages to depict teenage friendships as authentically as Derry Girls. We all see our youth and part of us depicted here in some way. The show’s writer, Lisa McGee, is an incredible talent.
For me, I relate closely with James Maguire (aka. Dylan Llewellyn) and his pitiful attempts at school at trying to be friends with who he calls the ‘lads’ (featuring cringe lines like: “don’t you just love beer? I love beer, football, poker and you know… tits.”)
If you haven’t seen this show before, not a problem. You can jump right in with the first episode of season two. Then go back and watch the whole thing on All 4.
Fleabag (BBC One, Monday 10.35pm / BBC Three) - Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s semi-autobiographical show continues to be funny, shocking and so utterly compelling. It hasn’t lost any of its bite. And nobody can break the fourth wall as well as Phoebe. Trust me, I’ve tried.
The only downside is that, for some reason, we’re only seeing one episode a week. BBC iPlayer is dropping episodes at 10am each Monday, which you can then see on TV just over 12 hours later. No fucking idea what their strategy is, but we are where we are.
The Great Celebrity Bake Off (Channel 4, Tuesday 8pm) - Wow, it took me [checks watch] TWO weeks before I mention Bake Off on this newsletter. How fucking typical.
I am writing this up though because I do want to alert you to the fact that, for some amazing reason, they have managed to book in John Lithgow. He does a creation in the Showstopper that I can’t talk about because of an embargo but it’s bloody amazing.
Dating Around (Netflix) - I thought I would be bored of dating shows after 465,757 episodes of First Dates, but this one feels special. Instead of us just watching one date at a restaurant, we see one person experiencing five dates over subsequent days. All of these dates are edited tightly into one show, so you end up rooting for some and hoping some of the others end as soon as possible.
I like the way this show acknowledges and celebrates the many hurdles we all face in trying to find love. I also feel sorry for the person who is forced to eat at the same restaurant five times in a row. At least try different main courses.
Other shows worth a look in (this week is so good)… MotherFatherSon (utterly pretentious BBC Two drama starring Richard Gere but worth a dip) and This Time with Alan Partridge. There’s also a Louis Theroux documentary on tonight on BBC Two.
Also a quick note on… Line of Duty - One of the great TV dramas is coming back for a fifth season. Now is the time to start rewatching from the very beginning if you haven’t yet, especially as it is heavily hinted that the next season’s storyline will link back to the very first. You’ve got time. You can watch all the episodes on Netflix.
And a show that is not worth watching this week - The Hangover Games (E4, Tuesdays 10pm) - Imagine a gameshow where all the contestants are hungover as hell and have to answer questions about the previous night with friends you don’t care about, to win not that much money. Who kissed who? Who dropped that kebab? Who actually cares?
In media stuff… I spoke with Simon McCoy from BBC News about the new upcoming BritBox streaming service, its implications for Netflix and how hard BritBox will find attracting younger viewers. I’m also on the Must Watch podcast (with special guest Lisa McGee)
ALSO: I am running the London Marathon. This Sunday I’m running my first half marathon, to raise money for Bowel Cancer UK. You can sponsor on JustGiving.
That’s all this week. Overall, it is an exceptional week of television. Let me know your feedback, good or bad, on this week’s TV, as well as this week’s newsletter.