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.)
Brief Encounters (ITV Hub)
Sex in 1980s Yorkshire? Pull t’other one, luv. We don’t do that sort of thing round ‘ere.
That’s the kind of humour you might expect from ITV’s new six-part drama, the wittily titled Brief Encounters. The briefs? Those are the Ann Summers lingerie that cleaner Steph (Sophie Rundle) decides to sell to the local female population. The encounters? Well, those are what she hopes will happen afterwards.
It’s a cosily familiar premise, from the period decor in the neighbourhood pub to the uptight, well-off Pauline, who employs Steph and reluctantly agrees to host a sales party for her. Of course, she is played, with withering, down-to-earth inevitability, by Penelope Wilton.
“Asparagus roll?” she offers one of the attendees, as they turn up. “Vera, dear,” she offers another. “What an interesting blazer.”
As TV-drama-by-numbers as this seems, though, (someone even eats potpourri) it’s all written and performed so charmingly that it’s impossible not find yourself tittering at the inappropriate undies and clashes of social classes – not least because, you guessed it, vibrators trump Victorian stuffiness every time. Wilton cringes yet grows in confidence, while Rundle moves from endearingly timid to likeably forthright with real charisma. The blokes, who are all offended and disapproving of their ladyfolk, are a two-dimensional bunch, which could hamper any real human drama in the remaining episodes, but there’s a welcome undercurrent of feminism to the whole thing that gives this feel-good bit of telly a genuine feel-good vibe. Brief Encounters? It’s not pants, by any means.
Available until: 3rd August (Episode 1)
Life Stripped Bare (All 4)
How could you survive without your phone or the Internet? It’s an important question that people should be asking themselves, as we all slowly turn from active, interacting humans enjoying daylight to individuals clicking on squares of light in darkened rooms. At the very least, it’s the kind of thing you can imagine Channel 4 making a decent, provocative documentary about.
Life Stripped Bare isn’t it.
Challenging a bunch of 20-somethings to live without modern comforts for 21 days, the whole thing descends into a gimmicky, dull affair, because these youngsters are required to give up everything, including clothes, toiletries and even furniture. For one participant, who goes to IKEA once a week, that’s a struggle, but for most, the challenge becomes how quickly they can get shoes and clothes back from storage. Why do we each own an average of 1,000 items? Why are three weeks supposedly long enough to break a habit? You won’t find that out here. This is less about the secret to happiness in the 21st Century and more about watching hipsters run around naked. Which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds.
Available until: 4th August
Son of a B**** (Walter Presents)
Take a moment out of your day to visit the Channel 5 website and view the TV listings. Then, head over to ITV. Then, browse through any number of pay-TV channels that sit out there in the digital and satellitey (yes,it’s a word) ether. The message is clear: it’s not easy to find good quality to stuff to fit in the schedule. Somewhere along the line, there’s going to be some filler.
Now spare a thought for Walter, the actual man who actually exists and actually runs Walter Presents. Against all the odds, he’s done something quietly remarkable for the last six months: he hasn’t picked a duff TV programme yet. And this is 2016, when the competition for foreign TV programmes has never been higher, thanks to BBC Four and Sky Arts.
Son of a B**** is the nearest the on-demand collection of global drama has come to a missed penalty kick, and even then, it’s a comfortable header into the back of a net. A Brazilian comedy about a referee whose on the way to umpire the World Cup final, just as his life off the pitch falls apart, it flies by like a classy free kick: easy to see where it’s going, but over quickly and well executed enough to be entertaining throughout. If you’re tired of the football, or you can’t get enough of it now Euro 2016 is over, this is for you.
Available on All 4’s Walter Presents.