This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.
I rarely mention radio but I thought a new radio station deserved a mention. However the rest of the post is best TV for July and there are some real good TV series starting plus Hamilton the musical being shown on TV on 3rd July. So much good entertainment available – we are so lucky to have this level on our TVs and in most cases for free.
The new radio station which launched on 29th June is surely going to lure some of the BBC Radio 4 & LBC audience. They certainly have persuaded me. It seems more thoughtful than most political radio programmes and the broadcasters, Stige Abel and Aasmah Mir, in the early morning slot are going to give the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 a run for their money. Stig and Aasmah allow their guests to answer the questions and they don’t seem to be out to wind them up. Personally I don’t like being woken with overly-hostile interviews.
The other Times Radio presenters include Tom Newton-Dunn, Matt Chorley, Giles Coren, Michael Portillo, Hugo Rifkind and Mariella Frostrup. The latter presents her weekday programme from 1 – 4pm and is a series of social trends and interviews. She has a section where she takes a couple of obituaries and expands them by interviewing people who knew them. I learned so much more about Margarita Pracatan, the flamboyant Cuban singer who broadcaster Clive James helped make a household name in the UK.
Have a look at the Times Radio schedule HERE and see the interview of Boris Johnos by Stig –
HAMILTON on Friday, 3rd July
Enjoy Lin-Manuel Miranda’s sensational Broadway musical from the comfort of your living room. Experience the original Broadway Production of Hamilton, streaming exclusively on Disney+ on July 3.
THE SECRET SHE KEEPS starts 6th July
An adaptation of Michael Robotham’s novel of the same name, this taut thriller is set in an affluent Sydney suburb and tells the story of two women from vastly different walks of life who hold one thing in common: explosive secrets that could destroy everything they hold dear. For supermarket shelf-stacker Agatha Fyfle (Laura Carmichael), ‘mummy blogger’ Meghan Shaughnessy’s (Jessica de Gouw) seems to have the perfect life and she asks herself why can’t she have that too? Agatha’s envious obsession with Meghan escalates into stalking, and after Agatha engineers a meeting, the pair begin an unlikely friendship. However the collision of their worlds results in one shocking act that cannot be undone.
ALAN BENNETT’S TALKING HEADS
Widely celebrated as Alan Bennett’s masterpieces, his multi-award-winning Talking Heads return to BBC One. Filmed during lockdown under social distancing guidelines, a new generation of Britain’s finest actors star in 10 of Bennett’s classic scripts, alongside two brand new Talking Heads penned by the acclaimed writer last year.
Much like the original, the new Talking Heads will see some big names performing Bennett’s monologues. Jodie Comer, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig and Imelda Staunton are among those appearing in the new series. The stars will be taking on the now iconic monologues, adding their own spin on them.
A SUITABLE BOY coming soon
Set against the turbulent backdrop of 1950s, post-partition India, this adaptation of Vikram Seth’s weighty 1993 novel follows four families over 18 months, focusing, among others, on Lata (newcomer Tanya Maniktala), whose mother is determined to find her daughter a husband. However, torn between family duty and romance, the spirited student embarks on her own journey of self-discovery. Meanwhile, connected to Lata through their siblings’ marriage is the wayward Maan (Ishaan Khatter), who is determined to enjoy life to the full whatever the consequences, much to the concern of his politician father – but could his infatuation with courtesan Saaeda Bai (Tabu) be one step too far?
I MAY DESTROY YOU
Michaela Coel’s new 12-part drama has won plaudits from critics after it made its debut on BBC One on Monday, 29th June.
In the series, Michaela Coel plays Arabella, a feted millennial writer working on the first draft of her second book. When she takes a break from writing to have drinks with a friend the night before her deadline, she finds herself abandoned at a bar and drugged, with little to no recollection of the night that led her there.
The show begins as an attempt to piece together the remains of that fateful evening—and the weighty realization that Arabella may never truly know what transpired eventually settles in.
Coel, who wrote and co-directed the series, has previously revealed she was a victim of sexual assault herself.
THERE SHE GOES
Series 2 of this gentle comedy starring David Tennant and Jessica Hynes began on 21st June and so you will need to catch up. Based on the real-life experiences of writer Shaun Pye – whose daughter was born with an extremely rare and currently undiagnosed chromosomal disorder – the show follows the day-to-day life of Rosie (Miley Locke), who has a severe learning disability.
Series one which debuted on BBC Four last year chronicled the dual timeline of Rosie as a newborn and age nine. The new series will be set around 18 months on and will focus on Rosie at the ages of three and 11.
Resistance is a film outlining the true story of how the young Marcel Marceau, the renowned French actor and mime, helped Jewish orphans survive Nazi-occupied France.
While Marceau (played by Jesse Eisenberg) plays the part as a young man aged 16 yrs at the outbreak of war. Watched disapprovingly by his father, a Jewish butcher, Marceau (born Marcel Mangel) would rather perform in Strasbourg’s cabaret clubs than chop meat. But when his politically active cousin (Geza Rohrig) persuades him to help care for a group of orphans rescued from Germany, his childlike clowning is a big hit with his traumatised charges. His bravery as he helped children escape to Switzerland, walking with them across the Alps is exceptional. This is an untold story and it is one worth watching on a wet, Sunday afternoon as we did. Get out the tissues!
ABSENTIA starts 8th July
As the third series of this thriller begins, heroine Emily Byrne (Stana Katic) is serving out the final days of her FBI suspension while working hard to be a good mother. However everything is upended when an international criminal case hits too close to home, threatening the family she is so desperately trying to hold together. Emily and her ex-husband, special agent Nick Durand (Patrick Heusinger), can’t help but intervene, and his life is endangered. Following a sequence of deadly events, Emily must race against time to save Nick, but in the process comes to realise there’s a larger conspiracy brewing.
Rider devotees who have been waiting years for a decent version can relax. From the first scenes this is more satisfying than the film, stylish but not sanitised, catching more of the books’ momentum and bringing them up to speed with the 21st century.
The plot is the second book, Point Blanc, with aspects of the debut, Stormbreaker, mixed in to help set the scene. Otto Farrant’s Rider is more plausible than Pettyfer’s from the start, a teenage schoolboy with a footballer haircut but less of a male-model energy. He is unusually astute and sporty but otherwise rather normal. At the beginning of the first episode, Rider (Otto Farrant) and his best mate Tom (Brenock O’Connor) just want to get through the school day and go to parties in the evening. Like James Bond, Rider is an orphan, raised by his mysterious uncle Ian (Andrew Rider) and devoted housekeeper Jack Starbright (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo). When Ian dies, Alex smells something fishy, and after following the clues meets Alan Blunt (Stephen Dillane) and Mrs Jones (Vicky McClure), bosses at a mysterious government agency who reveal that Ian had been working for them. Alex arrives just as they are looking for someone to infiltrate a sinister Swiss boarding school for the children of the super-rich. Finally all that snowboarding will come in handy.
The series has been brought up to date, with smartphones and social media, as well as a more diverse cast. As the original fans of Alex Rider are now in their thirties then this series is not just for children and there is enough to keep older people engaged.
13 Commandments, yet another crime drama brought to Channel 4 under the auspices of Walter Presents, begins in the grizzliest manner imaginable. A man arrives at an airport, and is greeted reverentially by a driver who ferries him to a terraced house in a run-down street. There two thugs deliver a young woman into his possession. He drives her off to an abandoned house, ties her up, dons gloves and slits her throat. You rather hoped the camera would not show the last detail, but no, it panned just low enough to be unsparing.
The police including old lag Peter Devriendt, his new partner Vicky Degraeve, and a pair of old-school clowns called Simon Roelandts and Marnix Santermans, all reached a consensus that this was an honour killing. The precinct boss is a blonde narcissist who fusses about what she wears before appearing in front of the camera, while sexist Simon and thick Marnix are laid on for light relief.
If you love these foreign thrillers then you will enjoy this series but it is not for the faint-hearted.
STATELESS starts 8th July
The paths of strangers intersect as they get caught up in an immigration system that profoundly affects their lives, in this timely Australian series co-created by and starring Cate Blanchett, which provides insights into issues which countries are grappling with around the world. At an immigration detention centre in the Australian outback, four diverse strangers’ lives collide to create unlikely emotional connections. An airline hostess on the run from a dangerous cult; an anguished Afghan refugee and his family fleeing persecution, a bureaucrat running out of time to contain a national scandal, and a struggling young father escaping a dead-end job – all discover the contradictions of protection and border control. Alongside Blanchett, the cast includes Yvonne Strahovski, Jai Courtney, Asher Keddie, Fayssal Bazzi, and Dominic West.
THE OLD GUARD coming 10th July
Led by a warrior named Andy (Charlize Theron), a covert group of tight-knit mercenaries with a mysterious inability to die have fought to protect the mortal world for centuries. But when the team is recruited to take on an emergency mission and their extraordinary abilities are suddenly exposed, it’s up to Andy and Nile (Kiki Layne), the newest soldier to join their ranks, to help the group eliminate the threat of those who seek to replicate and monetize their power by any means necessary.
This is a short film anthology curated for Netflix by the Chilean director Pablo Larraín, his brother Juan de Dios Larraín and Italian producer Lorenzo Mieli. They invited 17 film-makers from around the world to make short films during lockdown about the theme of lockdown. Larraín himself contrives an amusing piece about an ageing lothario in a care home who contacts an old flame on Skype while his long-suffering nurse has to sit impassively in the background.
Some film-makers have stuck toughly to the spirit of lockdown, with lo-fi pieces shot on their smartphones within their own four walls.
Homemade is a diverting but indulgent collection, and the experiences of genuine hardship don’t shine through very much however it is still worth watching.
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA starts 14th July
The Plot Against America is an American alternate history drama television miniseries created and written by David Simon and Ed Burns, based on the 2004 novel of the same name by Philip Roth. The story is told through the eyes of a working-class Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, as they watch the political rise of Charles Lindbergh, an aviator-hero and xenophobic populist, who becomes president and turns the nation toward fascism.
It is not so much about people who do wrong as what happens when people choose not to do what’s right.
Roth’s story brilliantly captures an American society in decline as it allows fascism and hatred to weave its way into the national consciousness. Simon and others have made the parallels to 2020 clear in interviews, and the mini-series undeniably echoes rhetoric and hate speech that we have heard in recent years, but there’s something about “The Plot Against America” that feels depressingly timeless—people will look the other way again, often out of fear, and the consequences won’t be immediately drastic, just a slow deterioration of what should have been.
PENNY DREADFUL: CITY OF ANGELS all episodes available 1st July
The show opens in 1938 Los Angeles, a time and place deeply infused with social and political tension. When a grisly murder shocks the city, Detective Tiago Vega (Daniel Zovatto) and his partner Lewis Michener (Nathan Lane) become embroiled in an epic story that reflects the rich history of Los Angeles: from the building of the city’s first freeways and its deep traditions of Mexican-American folklore, to the dangerous espionage actions of the Third Reich and the rise of radio evangelism. Before long, Tiago and his family are grappling with powerful forces that threaten to tear them apart.
The series stars Tony® and Emmy® winner Nathan Lane, Natalie Dormer, Daniel Zovatto, Kerry Bishé, Rory Kinnear, Adriana Barraza, Michael Gladis, Jessica Garza and Johnathan Nieves.
PERRY MASON: series started 22nd June
Perry Mason is getting a reboot with a new eight-part thriller coming to Sky Atlantic. Perry Mason is a shrewd, compassionate US defence lawyer, first seen in the 1950s TV series. The character was adapted from the crime novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. The new series will turn back the clock to when a young, down-on-his-luck Perry is honing his crime-solving skills by working as a private investigator in LA in the early 1930s. Private investigator Perry Mason is played by Matthew Rhys.
If best TV for July is not enough for you then have a read of best TV for June as lots of the programmes are still available on Catch Up.