We review the best TV shows and films currently available on BBC iPlayer. (Click here to skip to our reviews of the best movies on BBC iPlayer.)
For BBC Three recommendations, click here.
Pick of the Week: Before Grenfell: A Hidden History
When Grenfell Tower caught fire in June 2017, the tragic disaster took lives, destroyed homes and tore apart communities. A year on from that horrific loss, this documentary reflects upon another shocking element of the blaze: the deep division between rich and poor that it revealed. Director James Ross and narrator Danny John-Jules take us back into the history of Kensington, explaining – with help from the residents of the community – how the borough became the most unequal place in Britain, from the building of a wall to separate the middle-class from the slums in the 19h century to the the first Notting Hill race riots and the construction of Grenfell Tower in the 1970s. Levels of income inequality today are the same as they were in 1850 – a damning indictment of a past that shaped a heart-wrenching and avoidable event. (Also available and recommended is Ben Anthony’s documentary Grenfell.)
Available until: 13th July 2018
Pick of the Week: Poldark: Season 4
It’s all change as we head back to Cornwall for Season 4 of BBC One’s Poldark. The year is 1796 and Ross is being lined up for a political journey that will take him to the nation’s capital – unless, of course, he’s beaten to it by Hugh Armitage (Josh Whitehouse), the lieutenant in love with Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) who continues to keep her heart torn. Nonetheless, the Poldarks try to rebuild their marriage, while George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) enjoys stronger power and even a closer bond with long-suffering wife Elizabeth (Heida Reed). Politics, affairs and gusty winds blowing across fields? In the words of Dead Ringers, Poldark is essentially a sexy version of The Archers. But with Aidan Turner on magnetic, brooding form as our hero, what’s not to like? Four seasons in and the show knows exactly what it’s doing, opening on a shot of Turner wading in topless from the ocean. Some things never change, after all.
Available until: 28th August 2018
Royal Academy Summer Exhibition
A highlight of the year’s artistic calendar, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition is the world’s longest running and largest open-submission show. Kirsty Wark and Jayson Mansaray take us behind-the-scenes and in front of the artwork, as we see Grayson Perry coordinating the annual event. If you can’t get to the exhibition in London this summer, this is the documentary for you.
Available until: 16th Jul 2018
All Girls Live at the Apollo
If you’re tired of the same old male comedians on panel shows and stand-up programmes, this two-part compendium is for you, showcasing a host female talent, from Gina Yashere, Kerry Godliman and Angela Barnes to Aisling Bea, Nina Conti, Sarah Millican, Roisin Conaty and the inimitable Joan Rivers.
Available until: 16th July 2018
Frankie Goes to Russia
“Nothing I could say could possibly make it any worse,” says Frankie Boyle of relations between Britain and Russia, and he’s probably right – and promptly sets about attempting to prove it. The Scottish comedian is in his element in another culture, as he politely goes about brushing people up the wrong way with his candid honesty about everything from the weather to sexual equality. He dissects the stereotypes and half-truths of Russian football and culture in a way that’s impressively straight-faced but refreshingly funny.
Available until: 7th July 2018
A Girl’s Guide to TV
Rachel Parris is scathingly sharp in this witty documentary that pores over the history of women on TV, exposing everything from mistreatment and the pressures of beauty to silly, sexist interview questions. How can women get ahead, “despite their bodies teeming with pesky oestrogen”? That’s less the focus here than the important task of reminding the nation that while things are improving for women in the media, they weren’t always like this – and they’ve still got a long way to go to reach full equality.
Available until: 9th July
Our Girl: Nigeria Tour
Michelle Keegan is back as Georgie, everyone’s favourite plucky army medic who throws herself into her work training Nigerian forces, only to find herself pitched headlong into danger. Fighting against Boko Haram is the new element of tension in her latest tour, but it’s the focus on grief and trauma that marks this new season out, as the BBC military drama doesn’t shy away from exploring the emotional conflict that faces troops away from the frontline. With its soldier banter and occasionally broad characterisations, it would be easy to turn one’s nose up at Our Girl, but with Love Island on our screens, the reminder that women can have professions that have historically been associated with men is something worth celebrating, not least because of Keegan’s superbly charismatic central performance.
Available until: 23rd January 2019
Condensing one of Shakespeare’s best tragedies down into two hours is no mean feat, but this BBC Two adaptation, directed by Richard Eyre, manages to do so with real energy and emotion – not to mention cinematic flair. Anthony Hopkins takes on the eponymous role of the ageing ruler, who goes mad when dividing his kingdom between his three daughters, only for two of them to lie and deceive their way to power. They’re played with class by Emma Thompson and Emily Watson, while Florence Pugh shines as youngest, and most honest, daughter Cordelia. It’s a wonder that anyone else gets a look in, and it’s to Eyre and the ensemble’s credit that so many turns stand out, from Christopher Eccleston as the oily Oswald and Andrew Scott as the well-meaning Edgar to John Macmillan as his brother, the devious Edmund, Jim Broadbent as their poor father, and even Outlander’s Tobias Menzies as the scheming Duke of Cornwall. At its centre is Hopkins, who is impressively restrained, not only to generously give screen space to the other stars orbiting around him, but also to make his quiet, melancholic monster that much more impactful on the small screen. Yes, there are helicopters, but there are also moments of powerful tenderness.
Available until: 27th June
Peter Kay’s Car Share: The Finale
If the slightly uneven unscripted instalment left Car Share looking a little wobbly in its final lap, this last stretch of road finds Peter Kay and Sian Gibson’s car-sharing buddies back in top gear, as the socially awkward John tries to apologies to the effervescent Kayleigh for not returning her declaration of love. The result is a deceptively slow-paced reunion that takes its time over just 30 minutes to build bridges between them again, and doing so in a way that perfectly brings together all of the show’s best elements, from natural banter and the odd moment of car-crash physical comedy to a fantasy musical video that manages to be both pop song pastiche and personal display of affection. Will they? Won’t they? With a closing shot that echoes The Graduate but with a more positive track playing in our couple’s ears, Car Share concludes with a surprisingly poignant, but no less entertaining, ride into the sweetly sincere unknown. What a mature, understated gem this comedy has grown to become.
Available until: 2nd July 2018
A Very English Scandal
We are very much here for Hugh Grant’s career renaissance, as the underrated English actor seizes the chance to take on an impressively diverse range of roles just at the time in his career (and personal and political life) that he stops caring what other people think of him. After playing a cannibal warrior (and many other characters) in Cloud Atlas, and stealing scenes with his self-aware villain Paddington 2, he’s yet again found another new side to show us as Jeremy Thorpe, a politician who begins an affair with a stablehand in the 1960s. Grant is magnetic as the liberal politician who stands up for good causes and even has a decent shot at being PM, but is also snobby, slippery and seductive – much to the detriment of poor Norman Scott, played by Ben Whishaw with a physical charisma and total naive vulnerability that promises heartbreak to come in the face of both rejection and discrimination. Adapted by Russell T Davies, this small three-parter promises to be a big hitter come awards season, and deservedly so.
Available until: 19th June 2018 (Episode 1)
Glastonbury is taking a year off, leaving a gaping hole in the BBC’s festival season – one of the highlights of the summer on BBC iPlayer is the chance to catch all of Glasto’s acts for free whenever you want. Luckily, the BBC is stepping in to fill the gap, with its Radio 1 Big Weekend becoming The Biggest Weekend, recruiting big names to perform across four locations: Belfast, Perth, Coventry and Swansea, each one catering to a different radio station (Radio 1, 2, 3 and 6). The result is an impressively diverse playlist, with acts including Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bords, Orbital, Beck, Manic Street Preachers, Emile Sande, Stereophonics, Craig David and even Mica Paris and Michael Xavier doing numbers from Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals. It’s not Glasto, but what is?
Available until: 27th June 2018
BBC Four has established itself as a veritable hub of foreign-language drama to rival even the brilliance of All 4’s Walter Presents. Part of the secret to the channel’s success is not just the quality of its curation, but also its diversity, and that’s summed up perfectly by this latest acquisition: a sci-fi thriller from France. The short-form web series follows the spaceship Ulysses, which is on a mission to Mars. Manned by a crew that includes Swedish billionaire William Meyer and newly drafted psychologist Jeanne Renoir, the air is already tense in the crew – and becomes more so when they discover an emergency message sent by another ship (from a rival corporation). Rather than trumpet its own success, it simply warns them not to come and save them, because something has gone wrong on the planet and Mars is far too dangerous. So, naturally, they land to try and help, and what they find there is a deliciously intriguing mystery, one that combines time travel, identity, human mortality and Russians – all the ingredients you need to make a binge-worthy box set. And with each episode spanning under 30 minutes, this is one mission that’s impossibly easy to make it through.
Available until: 16th June 2018 (Episode 1)
Frankie Boyle’s New World Order
Frankie Boyle: Not the hero we need, but the one we deserve. A bitter, sarcastic, caustically offensive Scotsman with a great big bushy beard prophesying the coming doom of Britain and humanity itself – probably within the next five years. Boyle’s format is simple, offering up a statement or prediction and getting a panel to debate it. It’s a fantastic antidote to the tired tone of Have I Got News for You. That’s partly because Boyle’s guests are the excellent female trio of the astute Sara Pascoe, the frank Katherine Ryan and the insightful Mona Chalabi. It’s also because the limit of two topics per episode allow for more in-depth discussions than the usual headline-based quips of run-of-the-mill panel shows, with this new season getting off to a bracing start, as David Baddiel joins them to examine in serious detail the accusations of anti-semitism in the Labour Party. Laugh-out-loud funny, thought-provoking and balancing razor-sharp wit with a nuanced acceptance of facts (Boyle doesn’t target one specific person or viewpoint: he resents everyone equally), this isn’t just a fun way to round off the week: it’s an essential part of the modern media landscape.
Available until: 17th June 2018 (Episode 1)
Million Pound Menu
Why was Dragon’s Den cancelled? You could come up with all kinds of theories, but perhaps the simplest is that BBC Two has a replacement show that feels far fresher: Million Pound Menu, a series that sees 12 restaurants concepts seek investment to launch their brands. Episode 1 is promisingly diverse, introducing us to both Scottish street-food trader ShrimpWreck and Epoch, a female-led fine-dining concept hoping to land a spot in a British hotel. Backers include MEATLiquor co-founder Scott Collins, Rocco Forte Hotel’s Lydia Forte and Benares owner Atul Kochar. Combining Bake Off’s fun of amateur cooking with the thrill of seeing start-ups climb the business ladder, the result is a tasty bit of reality TV that’s just different enough to stand out on the weeknight menu.
Available until: 16th June 2018 (Episode 1)
The Royal Wedding
Catch up with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s special day with BBC One’s extensive coverage. There’s the full live footage, or just the key highlights wrapped up in 90 minutes. Either way, presenters Kirsty Young, Huw Edwards and Dermot O’Leary are the best of the broadcasting bunch in Windsor this weekend – tune in for the hats and suits, stay tuned for Bishop Michael Curry’s passionate speech about fire.
Available until: 19th June 2018
Motty: The Man Behind the Sheepskin
Sports funs will enjoy this endearing, sincere tribute to the legend of the small screen, John Motson, whose iconic commentary and love of statistics have won him a home in football watchers’ hearts. This one-hour send-off is a neat reminder of his vocal magic, following him on a farewell tour to the stadiums that marked his career highlights and adding in contributions from Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, Sir Trevor Brooking and Mark Lawrenson. Oh, and Noel Gallagher, for good measure.
Available until: 18th June 2018
Box Set: Our Girl: Season 1 to 3
One of the BBC’s best dramas of recent years has been something different to the norm, following Molly, a young army recruit who has to find her feet in a hostile territory – not to mention a military force full of men. Starring Lacey Turner in Season 1, it was a thrilling, charming drama that combined the tension of Afghanistan conflict with a talented cast (including Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon). The later seasons replaced Lacey with the excellent Michelle Keegan, playing Lance Corporal George Lane, with ben Aldridge reprising his role as the good-hearted but haughty Captain James. The result was no less stirring, and found fresh suspense and topical threats in a Nepal Tour, not to mention a moving conclusion. Ahead of Season 4, which takes the group to Nigeria, the first three runs are back on BBC iPlayer. Don’t miss them.
Available until: 17th November 2018
Box Set: Fleabag: Season 1
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s six-part comedy, which started its life as a play at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, is one of BBC Three’s most successful series – and it’s not hard to see why, with its willingness to explore the darker aspects of navigating single female life in the city, not to mention its laugh-out-loud brand of narcissistic, self-loathing humour. Hilarious, self-aware and searingly honest, this is a breath of fresh air and a showcase for a fine new British talent. Missed the watercooler chat last year? Catch up now.
Available until: 18th June 2018
Bow ties. Chicken dances. Flaming staircases. A protestor jumping onto the stage and stealing the microphone during the UK’s performance. Catch up with the typically extravagant grand final of this year’s Eurovision song contest, all narrated with just the right blend of affection and irony by national treasure Graham Norton. Don’t have 230 minutes to spare? All the songs are available individually on YouTube – catch up with our highlights from the Semi-Finals here.
Available until: 11th June 2018
This charming collection of comedy shorts balance sharp observations and witty writing with infectious imagination. Read our full review
Available for over a year
Car Share: Unscripted
Peter Kay and Sian Gibson’s chemistry is at the heart of what made Car Share, the breakout BBC One sitcom and record BBC iPlayer hit, such a charming success. Kay was endearingly grouchy as John, mid-management at a supermarket, and Gibson was adorably upbeat at Kayleigh, a colleague with whom he car-pooled to work. After two seasons of will-they-won’t-they sparks, this one-off sees the pair reunite for 30 minutes of improvised banter, as they free-wheel their way along to the radio and see what happens. It’s an admittedly experimental move – Kay introduces the episode with a clip cautioning as much – and the result is, inevitably, hit and miss. One segment that sees them trying to remember the mnemonic for how to help someone suffering a stroke is amusingly mundane, while Kayleigh’s screeching Heather Small impression is hilariously painful, to the point where they can’t help but descend into giggles themselves. But while there’s an undeniable natural chemistry that works, the laughs are more sporadic than a normal Car Share episode, reminding us how much the pair benefit from a more structured journey – the fact that the fictional background radio station is pre-written, and that this has been naturally edited together with other establishing shots (and visual gags, including a “Vengaboys” bus), leaves the end result in a bizarre limbo between scripted and unscripted, which feels more like a collection of deleted scenes than a polished final vehicle. It’s the lack of the show’s over-arching plot, perhaps, that’s the issue, leaving us still wondering where their fledgling romance is headed. Thankfully, there’s another scripted final instalment on the way to wrap that up. In the meantime, this is an uneven ride, but a curious, likeable stop-gap on the way to our destination.
Available until: 11th June 2018
The Private Life of the Royal Academy
Anyone familiar with the work of Frederick Wiseman will do well to check out this insightful BBC documentary, which takes us behind-the-scenes to London’s Royal Academy of Arts. Celebrating its 250 anniversary, we hear from those who manage the establishment’s day-to-day running, the architects who design the building, and Royal Academician artists both new and old to get an idea of how they are inducted, supported and showcased by such traditions as the iconic annual Summer Exhibition. As it prepares for another quarter of a millennium, how does the Royal Academy balance history and innovation? Opening its doors like this is a good start.
Available until: 11th June 2018
Britain’s Best Home Cook
The BBC’s new answer to Bake Off takes a different tack, as it steers away from baking to food overall – and pits 10 of the nation’s best home cooks against each other. There’s a hint of Fame Academy in there (they all live in the same house), as well as GBBO (each one gets a workstation in a gigantic kitchen), and the blend works surprisingly well – we get the suspense of seeing each one race to come up with a recipe (Episode 1: ideal burgers), from the cool-headed Tobi to the scientifically-minded Pippa. In a nice touch, the winner gets to pick a key ingredient for the second challenge, before the bottom chefs from the week try to outdo each other to survive until next episode. With the rest of the gang cheering on from the sidelines, the result whips up the cooking show formula with a nice balance of group flavours, while queen judge Mary Berry is in her element, as she can comment on something other than soggy bottoms.
Available until: 17th December 2018 (Episode 1)
Hannah and her sisters make for engrossing, compellingly human television in this new BBC One series, which straddles the line between legal thriller and family drama. It’s the kind of thing you’d expect from US TV, and our own Abi Morgan more than comes up with a British answer, showcasing all of our greats – Nicola Walker, Meera Syal, Stephen Mangan, Stephen Tompkinson and Anthony Head – in a complex ensemble tale. Our main character is Hannah, who has just departed her family’s firm for a rival law firm, causing friction with her catty younger sister, Nina, and strong mother, Ruth, who inevitably end up on the opposite side of a divorce case to her. Tompkinson and Syal are on fine form as the couple preparing to split, while another case sees a stand-up comedy potentially alienating his own son. With so much seething distrust, jealousy and resentment simmering under the surface (Mangan as Hannah’s husband is a lovely type, but also seems to click with Nina), the fun lies in seeing each relative use their clients as ammunition to snipe at the others. Throw in Anthony Head as their estranged father walking back into town and you have something that’s shaping up to be a powerhouse drama.
Available until: 28th June (Episode 1)
Box Set: The Bridge: Season 1
Swedish and Danish police investigate jointly after a woman is found murdered in the middle of a bridge on the border between the two countries. Inspiring the British remake The Tunnel, this Scandinavian crime drama series is one of the best foreign-language shows of recent years – don’t miss the chance to catch up from the beginning.
Available until: 21st June 2018
It’s been five decades since Kenneth Clark’s 1960s series Civilisation was first broadcast – you can catch up with the whole thing from the archives on BBC iPlayer. Now, BBC Two is rebooting the programme, and the extra ‘s’ on the end of the title is hugely promising stuff. From its opening hour, Simon Schama is thinking as big as it gets, trying to pin down the rise of creativity across the globe, from the first signs of scratches on pots for decorative purposes to paint swilled in mouths and blown out against cave walls. It may not have the fantastic beasts of Blue Planet II, but this is stunning stuff, with visuals that match the epic scope of what the Beeb is attempting to achieve. Whether there’s too much packed into an hour or not, the good news is that the show is available on BBC iPlayer for over a year for everyone to catch up with.
Available on BBC iPlayer
“I have written and directed a film about veganism,” says Simon Amstell. “I’m sorry.” If you laughed at that, you’ll love this. Set in 2067, when the human race has apparently converted entirely to veganism – an alternate universe to rival The Man in the High Castle and SS-GB for unnerving chills – Amstell’s mockumentary looks back at the years when people slowly began to realise the horror of consuming meat, eggs and other produce sourced or derived from animals. The film purports to explore the strange, alien idea that humans and animals aren’t equal, aiming to break the taboo surrounding Britain’s carnivorous past. It’s a neat way to tackle an oft-derided concept, by deliberately presenting what’s considered normal as the absurd – but Amstell, crucially, doesn’t lose sight of the ridiculousness of his own concept. The result is simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and unsettling – and, most of unsettling of all, is the knowledge that, deep down, you may even feel yourself being won over by Amstell’s viewpoint. A thought-provoking, rib-tickling, stomach-churning satire. Read our full review.
Available until: March 2019
As BBC iPlayer’s Original Drama Shorts return for another season, one of 2014’s best, My Jihad, returns as a miniseries of three 15-minute films. The first introduced us to Fahmida (Anjli Mohindra) and Nazir (Hamza Jeetooa), two single Muslims who crossed paths at an unsuccessful speed-dating night. Picking up events one month later, this is a universal exploration of love in modern Britain that packs in twice as much warmth and wit as most 30-minute shows do in a whole season. (Read our full review.)
Available until: June 2020
Original Drama Shorts
BBC iPlayer continues to prove a platform for new talent with its latest bunch of shorts. From a moving demonstration of isolation and connection in an online age to a darkly funny – and unpredictable – story of female love and family loyalty, this is an impressively versatile collection of stories that are more than worth spending time with. (Read our full review.)
Available until: June 2020
Nothing Like a Dame
What do Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Eileen Atkins, and Joan Plowright all have in common? They’re all national treasures, and they’re all officially Dames, but they also all agree to sit down and talk about their lives, careers and lessons they’ve learned for this new documentary. Directed by Roger Michell, the result should be forgettable fluff, but there’s heart, wit and a refreshing honesty that makes this frank chat between old friends and colleagues an unmissable watch.
Available until: 2nd July
The Damned United
Michael Sheen is typically brilliant in Peter Morgan’s drama about Brian Clough’s stint at Leeds United. When Don Revie quit to manage England the outspoken Brian Clough took charge of the football club… for 44 days.
Available until: 19th June 2018
Dina’s getting married in a few weeks and, at 48, is bent on building the future that she now believes she deserves in this intimate, fascinating love story about a couple with autism. Don’t miss it. Read our full review.
Available until: 19th June 2018
Asghar Farhadi’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning A Separation stars Bérénice Bejo (from The Artist) as Marie, who drags her estranged husband, Ahmad (Mosaffa), from Tehran to finalise their divorce – but why now? As Ahmad comes home, he finds he has to live not only with his ex, but her two daughters from old relationships, her new fella Samir (Tahar Rahim, from A Prophet) and his son.
Available until: 26th June 2018
Andrew Davies’ impressive adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel follows an impressionable Oxford undergraduate and his infatuation with a flamboyant alcoholic young lord and his grand ancestral home. Behind the camera? The Crown director Julian Jarrold. In front of it? Matthew Goode, Hayley Atwell, Ben Whishaw, Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon.
Available until: 28th June 2018
Literary adaptations don’t come much greater than David Lean’s sweeping take on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, which sees a poor orphan become a gentleman of means, thanks to a mysterious benefactor.
Available until: 29th June 2018
Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, adapted by Ronald Harwood from his own play, is exactly what you’d expect from the congenial actor; a warm-hearted ode to the act of performance.
Maggie Smith on vocals? Another OAP on piano? This is The Best Exotic Marigold 2: The Musical. Or, Classic FM: The Movie. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; the talented old farts stop their clarinets getting too full of hot air. Despite cliches and syrupy key changes, Hoffman’s relaxed helming keeps the tempo up – one opening montage is beautifully. The result hits all the right notes – and most of them in the right order.
Available until: 3rd July
Made in Dagenham
Gemma Arterton and Sally Hawkins are superb in this winning tale of female factory workers fighting for equal pay. Given a 15 certificate because of its swearing, this is still worth considering as an option for younger teens, thanks to its uplifting true tale and inspiring example.
Available until: 10th July
City of Ghosts
What is life like under ISIS? That’s the kind of question that has been tackled in Channel 4’s drama, The State, and 2014 Oscar nominee Timbuktu. But nothing can quite capture the reality like footage actually shot in Syria – and for years, a group of activists have been filming exactly that and releasing it online. Playing out like a harrowing thriller, this documenary is an incredibly powerful tribute to courage in the face of evil.
Available until: 11th July 2018
First staged in 2012, Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female take on the Shakespeare’s two plays about Henry IV takes the inventive premise of framing the action as if it’s performed by inmates of a women’s prison. Led by Harriet Walter, the result is a piece of meta-theatre that brings a new layer and poignant insight to concepts of authority and loyalty.
Available until: 17th July 2018
Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy concludes with Harriet Walter taking on Prospero in The Tempest, which emerges as a study of the eternal struggle for freedom, morality and justice.
Available until: 17th July 2018
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
With the franchise reboot out now in cinemas, go back to the original two video game adaptations, starring Angelina Jolie as the eponymous adventurer.
Available until: 30th August 2018
The Rack Pack
BBC iPlayer’s first scripted original drama follows the rise of snooker in the 1980s, as a young Steve Davis faces a heated rivalry with Alex “Hurricane” Higgins. Snooker may not be the most exciting or mainstream sport, but the film understands that it’s about people as much as potting – and Will Merrick as Davis and Luke Treadaway as Higgins are uncannily good, one hilariously awkward and the other tragically self-destructive. Together with business guru Barry Hearn (a brilliant Kevin Bishop) crafting a new, professional era for the sport, The Rack Pack is a moving tribute to a bygone sporting age and a legend who simply wouldn’t exist today. The result is something everyone should go snooker loopy over, whether they’re fans of the sport or not. Read our full review.
Photo: BBC / Zeppotron / Keiron McCarron
Adam Curtis’ latest documentary is perfectly at home on BBC iPlayer, freed from broadcasting constraints to ramble through the last three decades of global history to try and work out how we got to today’s world of Donald Trump and Brexit. The result is typically simplified and willfully obtuse, but there are thought-provoking flashes of inspiration amid the experimental mash-up of polemic and pop culture. Clocking in at almost three hours, no one else is making documentaries like this, and that’s something to be celebrated.
Available until: October 2021
BBC iPlayer’s second original feature is the follow-up to teen documentary Beyond Clueless. Young director Charlie Lyne and the Beeb’s streaming platform prove a scarily perfect match, the lack of constraints giving him the chance to fully embrace the experimental nature of his film essay. The documentary stitches together clips from existing horror movies to explore how and why they scare us, but instead of an explanatory voice-over critiquing and giving context, we’re given a whispered narration from an anonymous woman who is working through her own fears. Contrasting cuts and eerie echoes arise during the hypnotic 80-minute montage, quietly raising questions while offering a fresh insight into films that have, in some cases, become all too familiar. As interesting as it is creepy. (Read our full review.)
Available until: October 2020