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.)
The Last Man on Earth (Dave, UKTV Play)
Between Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man and Will Smith’s zombie horror, I Am Legend has had more than its fair share of screen adaptations. But nothing like this.
Last Man on Earth follows the post-apocalyptic life of Phil, a guy who – thanks to a virus wiping out the human race – is now the only guy on the planet. It’s hard to believe that’s the start of a sitcom, but Will Forte’s series (the latest US import by UKTV’s Dave) isn’t afraid to be unusual. Instead of soul-searching, Phil poos in a swimming pool. Instead of surviving, he stocks up on porn.
Forte, who spent years winning over fans on SNL, brings an innate likability to the stoner loser, something that becomes even more impressive as you realise just how unlikeable Phil is. Would his life be any different if the rest of mankind hadn’t been killed off? Probably not. Except for the swimming pool.
The obvious gags are dealt with quickly in the opening episode, from Castaway jokes to shop window mannequins, but there’s something inherently enjoyable about watching a man raid an aquatic supplies shop to lob bowling balls at fish tanks in a car park. Forte’s script, meanwhile, leaves him railing against God to give him someone to talk to – a device that offers a surprising amount of depth to the silliness (the spectre of The LEGO Movie’s Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who are exec producers and originally penned the idea, looms large). The prospect of another person arriving to disrupt the man’s lonely existence offers a promising spin on relationships in a refreshingly unfamiliar context. The fact that it’s Kristen Schaal is a bonus.
The result is a series that, while not always making you laugh out loud, stands out from the rest of the I Am Legend adaptations – not to mention the more generic sitcoms filling up our TV screens. More apocalypse now, please.
Available until: 9th September
Photo: ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Jordin Althaus/FOX
Brits Behind Bars: Cocaine Smugglers (Channel 4, All 4)
Access can make or break a documentary. You wouldn’t expect Brits Behind Bars: Cocaine Smugglers to get very far into the Peruvian underworld, but the Channel 4 programme dives right into it like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting after spotting a toilet. Columbia was once the coke capital of the world, but Peru has long since overtaken it, something that came to light in 2013, when two young Brits (Melissa Reig and Michaella McCollum) were caught trying to smuggle £1.5 million worth of the white stuff out of the country. The film sheds even more on the whole sordid affair, from the “human resources” department of a trafficking company – which selects and grooms tourists, first planting the idea as a joke, before building up their confidence – to the guy who has mastered the art of building drug-concealing suitcases. He’s the Q of the covert operations branch. The film perhaps tries to cover too much of the industry it’s profiling – with downbeat interviews from former mules, who regret their decision to ferry drugs across the globe – but the sheer amount of insight crammed into one hour offers an undeniable buzz.
Available until: 9th September
Photo: Nathalie Mohoboob / Production Company
Undercover (Dave, UKTV Play)
If Last Man on Earth proves that comedy shouldn’t be afraid to push boundaries, Undercover is a reminder of why it should be scared in the first place. Dave’s first scripted sitcom sees an incompetent copper infiltrating the Sarkissian family in the Armenian mob, a task that he is no way cut out for. Daniel Rigby portrays his idiotic fish-out-of-water with a commendably straight face, but any potential for edgy tension is lost by the set-up’s reliance upon easy stereotypes for its gangsters: despite being “very tactile” people, one gets angry after someone touches his rear end during a group huddle. Sarah Alexander brings a stone-faced glare to the table as his handler, Zoe, but as they recount events at a secret coffee shop rendezvous, the cutting back and forth – and a subplot involving, somewhat ironically, a character who is condemned for being a racist – leaves things too jumbled to be anywhere near as funny as it wants to be. If the execution is lacking, though, it deserves points for having the ambition to try something new in the first place.
Available until: 31st August (Episode 1)
Best movies on Freeview VOD
The Faculty (ITV Player)
Pupils in the US discover their school is being taking over by aliens in this enjoyably trashy sci-fi horror from Robert Rodriguez
Available until: 16th August
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Demand 5)
Werner Herzog’s remake of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 cop thriller follows a drug-addled detective in New Orleans, whose corrupt debts make for a darkly hilarious, disturbing and compelling watch. Nic Cage is so out of it he’s practically horizontal.
Available until: 17th August
Jane Eyre (ITV Player)
Samantha Morton and Ciaran Hinds star in this adaptation of the Bronte classic, which sees the young Jane become governess at Thornfield Hallf – only to fall for the mysterious Mr. Rochester.
Available until: 18th August
Trespass (Demand 5)
Nic Cage and Nicole Kidman are held captive in their own home in this enjoyably stupid thriller.
Available until: 25th August
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
The Descent (Demand 5)
Neil Marshall’s horror, about a group of women who get trapped in a series of Scottish caves, combines claustrophobia, darkness and creepy monster design to terrifying – and bloody – effect.
Available until: 2nd September
Thunderpants (Demand 5)
An 11-year-old boy’s amazing ability to break wind leads him first to fame and then to death row, before it helps him to fulfill his ambition of becoming an astronaut.
Available until: 7th September
Jeepers Creepers (Demand 5)
A young couple find themselves terrorised by a mysterious figure in this horror that starts off like Duel, before swerving off into its own entertaining creature feature.
Available until: 11th September