We catch up with some of the TV shows and films currently available on free VOD services in the UK. (For BBC TV reviews and round-ups, see our weekly Best on BBC iPlayer column.)
Virgin Atlantic: Up in the Air (Episode 1) – ITV Player
These days, if you haven’t had a documentary crew film your day-to-day goings-on, you’re not a real company. So it’s no surprise that Virgin Atlantic should fly into the fly-on-the-wall realm for this three-part series. Judging by the opening episode, though, the programme’s got more gloss on it than a brand new air hostess, whom we see recruited from a large pool of applicants – a process that takes them from how to look (no toadstool buns) to rehearsing what to do in the event of a crash. The human interest is mildly diverting, particularly when it comes to an older candidate, but the show hovers lightly over anything of more substance: we discover the shocking price of a new toilet (£200k) and the starting salary of a cabin crew (£12,500), but it’s too busy basking in the glow of Richard Branson’s charismatic smile to consider the contrast.
Photo: ITV / John Rogers
Married at First Sight (Episode 1) – All 4
Would you marry a stranger? A person you’ve never met and know nothing about? How about if someone else told you that they’d be a good match for you? In a world of online dating based on recommendation algorithms, Channel 4’s new series takes that approach to the semi-logical extreme, as a panel of experts try to pair up people. There’s a psychologist, an anthropologist and even a priest to debate everything from genes to the sanctity of marriage, but they can only matchmake a couple if the panel agree unanimously. This first episode gives us an insight into the process, while introductions to our singletons are engaging and light-hearted.
It’s nothing groundbreaking, but there is something inherently intriguing to the concept of science dictating love – the fact that 1,500 people applied to be part of the show, not to mention the fact that it is based on a hugely successful Danish TV format, only highlights that oddly universal appeal.
From Russia with Cash – All 4
Has London’s property boom been fuelled by dodgy money? One study earlier this year suggested that corrupt funds have been invested in at least some of the UK’s property market, but this Channel 4 investigation attempts to find proof. Posing as a Russian government official, with a low salary but lots of suspicious spare cash to burn, he meets with a string of agents from Winkworth, Marsh & Parsons, Domus Nova and others, all of whom appear to be understanding and welcoming of the individual. No anti-fraud authorities are informed, although the agencies are quick to note that this is because there was no concrete step towards a serious transaction. Regardless, the suggestion that things might have progressed further makes for a compelling watch, at a time when – even with Russians reducing their investment in real estate, due to their own weak currency and economic sanctions – the UK housing crisis has left more people than ever unable to afford a home.
Humans (Episode 4) – All 4
Humans continues to impress with its fourth instalment, which sidesteps the mystery of its androids to focus on an equally enigmatic character: Leo. Colin Morgan leaves Merlin far behind with his earnest performance, which suggests he has more in common with the machines than the humans around him. A set piece for Emily Berrington’s Niska, meanwhile, hammers home the gap that exists between them – one that has big consequences, not just for her and those tracking her, but for Leo too.
Black Work (Episode 1) – ITV Player
How do you make a TV series even better? Add Sheridan Smith. That’s the lesson we’ve learned after countless examples of excellent programmes made truly unmissable. In the case of Black Work, she makes a mediocre drama worth watching. The three-part ITV drama stars Smith as Jo, a police officer whose husband dies during an undercover operation. Trying to track down his killer, she clashes repeatedly with the official police unit assigned to the mystery, who are undoubtedly covering up something, but her real struggle is coming to grasps with the other life of her husband of which she knew nothing. It’s far from classic, but when Smith’s on the case, it’s impossible to switch off completely.
Photo: Photo: ITV / Stuart Wood and Des Willie
Best movies on Freeview VOD
The Princess Bride – Demand 5
Need a charming, clever, funny adventure that appeals to boys and girls alike? As you wish.
Available until: 28th August
Drag Me to Hell – Demand 5
Sam Raimi’s horror about a young girl who is cursed by a gypsy woman is full of the cheesy, over-the-top and practical effects that first made the director’s name. A refreshingly old-fashioned piece of scary silliness.
Available until: 9th August
The Railway Children – ITV Player
Based on the novel of the same name by E. Nesbit, Lionel Jeffries’ movie stars Jenny Agutter and follows three children, whose lives change dramatically after they move from a comfortable townhouse to a small Yorkshire cottage near a railway line.
Available until: 12th July