What’s available on-demand on Freeview? Keep up-to-date with our weekly catch-up TV column, including reviews of shows on ITV Hub, new releases on All 4 and a guide to My5.
(For BBC TV reviews and round-ups, see our weekly Best of BBC iPlayer column. Or for reviews of the shows on All 4’s Walter Presents, click here.)
Kiss Me First (All 4)
VR is a tricky thing to get right in any other medium. Ready Player One, for all its jaw-dropping visuals, failed to make its digital world feel weighty enough to live up to its more interesting real life counterpart. Kiss Me First, the new thriller from Skins creator Bryan Elsey, nimbly sidesteps that obstacle by making itself about that very problem.
It follows Leila (Tallulah Haddon – The Living and the Dead), a young woman who spends her mornings begging for cleaning work in a cafe so she can spend her nights escaping from the sudden loss of her mum. How does she escape? By disappearing into Azana, a VR game where she can be free. Inside, she stumbles across Red Pill, a secret paradise on the edge of the code. Drawing her there is Tess (Simona Brown), a mysterious other user, who soon appears in her real life too. Theirs is a quickly intoxicating, impulsive bond, one that’s matched by the thrill of Red Pill’s invention of an illegal necklace that will allow her to feel physical pleasure (and pain) in the VR world. Combining live action and computer animation to innovative effect, the production is an impressive-looking beast, but there’s a darkness to this untapped digital Eden that is waiting to be discovered, and possible pain in both VR and real life becomes all too apparent by the end of the opening hour. The result is an intriguingly unusual mystery that builds a world just asking to be explored. No wonder, then, that Netflix has snapped up the rights to this one – you can imagine bingeing through it in one feel swoop.
Available until: 6th June 2018 (Episode 1)
Timeless: Season 2, Episode 1 (All 4)
Warning: This contains spoilers for the end of Timeless Season 1. Not seen it? Read our spoiler-free guide to why you should catch up.
Timeless will perhaps always be most famous for being the show that was cancelled and then uncancelled by NBC, after fan outcry convinced the network to keep the sci-fi series going. (Read our interview with co-creator Shawn Ryan here.) But this second run seems determined to become famous in its own right, and this opener is a rollicking romp that barrels along with such energy you can feel the excitement of the writers given one more shot to make an impression. A hefty “Previously on Timeless…” intro will barely help people get caught up, but that’s no obstacle to enjoyment: after an enjoyably convoluted first season, this second outing feels less like Travelers and more like Legends of Tomorrow, jumping into historical periods with a simple aim: stop Rittenhouse, whatever it is that the mysterious organisation is actually plotting to do.
The series benefits from focusing on the personal details over the bigger picture, and so we catch up with our heroes, as Wyatt and Rufus head out in the Lifeboat to get Lucy back, after she’s headed with her mother and Emma on a mission in the middle of World War I. She thinks Wyatt and Rufus are dead, after Rittenhouse bombed their HQ. They’re not all convinced, like Wyatt is, that Lucy is still alive. The result is a nice balance of family drama and wartime action, with Lucy torn between trying to do the right thing and trying to prove her loyalty to her female companions – and Emma and Carol, meanwhile, enjoying practically winking at the camera as sinister villains. By the end of the hour, the stage is set clearly for the coming 10 episodes, with an intricately over-the-top evil ploy already threatening history as we know it, and the gang confidently back in action. The fact that we get to meet Irene and Marie Curie (Melissa Farman and Kim Bubbs) is a bonus.
Available until: 2nd May 2018 (Episode 1)
The Island with Bear Grylls: Season 5, Episode 1 (All 4)
“If it team fails to find common ground, it’s just going to fall apart. It’s not rocket science,” observes the ever-likeable Bear Grylls. Rocket science it certainly ain’t, and it doesn’t take a bright spark to clock what Channel 4 is hoping to do with the latest season of its reality survival show, as it pits the poor against the rich on a remote island for several weeks. There are nuanced differences in the current inequality plaguing our society that deserve to picked apart subtly and sensitively on TV, particularly as Brexit paves the way for even worse conditions for those on the breadline and below it. The Island with Bear Grylls is not that TV show. But that doesn’t mean there’s no catharsis to be found in seeing wealthy people flounder in harsh environments.
Available until: 2nd June 2018 (Episode 1)
First Dates: Season 10, Episode 1 (All 4)
It’s been a stunning week of TV, from Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence and eerie sci-fi The City of the City to Cunk on Britain and the ambitious Kiss Me First. But one of the purest pleasures can be found in the return of Channel 4’s First Dates. The dating reality series remains as charming as ever, in its sincere, warts-and-all approach to old-school blind dates, but there’s added spice to this season’s opener, as a series first occurs: we see Stuart and Mandy attend the restaurant. Both divorced from each other 11 years ago, they’re not there together, but separately, and yet that doesn’t stop them hanging out before hand with a drink, or having their tables placed next to each other, resulting in a hilariously awkward yet endearing heartfelt evening, as they both wish their former partner well in finding new romance. Their body language alone is fascinating to read. First Dates succeeds because of its brief, individual stories, but we’d pay to see a spin-off series just following these two.
Available until: 6th July 2018 (Episode 1)