Top TV shows and films on BBC iPlayer (16th April 2015)
Ivan Radford | On 16, Apr 2015Reading time: 8 mins
BBC iPlayer continues to be an almost unrivalled source of free and diverse programming.
From a comprehensive range of election coverage – including interviews, Q&As for younger viewers and comedy panels – to human interest documentaries and sci-fi and horror, there is something for everyone this month on the service. After all, if Inside No. 9 hasn’t gotten under your skin by now, there’s always Wallace and Gromit.
Here are the top 13 TV shows and films currently on BBC iPlayer:
Inside No. 9 – Episode 3
Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton’s accomplished blend of horror, suspense and comedy has always understood the way that each genre works. That’s never more obvious than in the way it handles that staple element of thrillers: the twist ending.
The show’s simple balance of genuine scares and guffaw-inducing silliness relies upon the writers’ – and casts’ – ability to undermine expectations, a trick that is showcased in this week’s story of a woman on trial for being a witch. Charges and humiliation give way to domestic rows and demands of reimbursement for beauty products, leaving you unsure whether this take on The Crucible should be taken seriously or not.
The result surprises you with laughter one minute and shocks you with cruelty the next. Is she really a witch? We won’t spoil the conclusion – besides, whichever answer you go in expecting, you can almost guarantee it will be the opposite.
Available until: 9th May
Photo: BBC/Sophie Mutevelian
The Leader Interviews
Newsnight’s Evan Davis interviews the leaders of each political party in turn – for more information, see our General Election VOD TV Guide.
Available until: 11 months
Photo: BBC/Colin Hutton
BBC Three presents a string of live shows that see figures from each political party face an audience of 100 young voters for an unscripted hour of questions.
Available until: 7th May
Jack Dee’s Election Helpdesk
If the idea of watching politician’s slug it out for two hours behind podiums doesn’t appeal, try this comedy series instead. Jack Dee and a panel of four guests help a live studio audience by shedding light on their dilemmas relating to the general election. At only 30 minutes, it’s political, topical and easy on the attention span.
Available until: 3rd May
Photo: BBC/Open Mike/Ellis O’Brien
Have I Got News for You
The BBC’s topical news show was once a flagship piece of satire for the channel. If it has slipped in recent years, though, with the arrival of social media – where instant satirical jabs are available 24/7 – and pales in comparison to America’s Daily Show offerings, this week’s episode reminds you just how on-point the series can be with the right guest host. Daniel Radcliffe, who has always proven his strong comic timing on screen, is always reliable as a presenter, while panellists Diane Morgan and Armando Iannucci make relatively rare guest appearances.
Available until: 13th May
Photo: BBC/Hat Trick/Richard Kendall
Doctor Who: In the Forest of the Night
What is Doctor Who? Frankly, given that this is a series about a face-changing alien who can go anywhere or anywhen in a police box, it is whatever you want it to be – and that goes double for the people who write it. With The Forest of the Night, Moffat might have outdone himself by asking novelist and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce to ‘do a Who’.
Viewed as a straightforward drama, In The Forest of the Night looks absolutely deranged. Yet Doctor Who isn’t straightforward. It is allegory and fable; a window into the imagination. Simply by transforming the everyday world into a forest, Boyce taps into much deeper roots than Strictly Come Dancing or Casualty – or even Who’s contempories in the cult TV canon.
What other show can do a story like this, steeped in an evocation of England’s green and pleasant land? The title, and the tiger, come from William Blake. The setting, and the surname Arden, brings Shakespeare to mind. With the characters following Cromwell Road to Trafalgar Square, there’s an awareness of British history to go with the literary references. These are not idle, throwaway Easter eggs, but the mark of a writer who understands that, after 50 years, Doctor Who has a place in this tradition.
Available until: 26th April
Photo: BBC/Adrian Rogers
Tom Felton Meets the Superfans
If you started getting excited by the words “Tom Felton”, then you may well fall into the category of “superfan”. What motivates someone to become so devoted to a programme, movie or person? BBC Three’s documentary is an insightful, sympathetic investigation into the phenomenon, from tales of bullying and escapism to a celebration of cosplay at Comic-Con.
The masterstroke, though, is getting Tom to present the whole thing, giving us a look at the crazed crowds from the other side of the red carpet. Reactions to him, both in disguise and in person, are telling, while comments from J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe add to the insight of what it’s like to be objectified by complete strangers. The most revealing part of all, though, is the on-the-ground guerilla reporting of Tom asking for autographs; a sequence that captures the thrill of recognition from someone you don’t even know.
Available until: 26th April
Louis Theroux: Transgender Kids
Over the years, Louis Theroux has grown from a quirky geek interviewing strange-but-true people to one of the top human interest journalists around. This latest series, which started with a look at an Ohio psychiatric ward, continues with an investigation of children who are choosing to undergo a sex change. It’s an intriguing, and also potentially divisive, topic, which makes it ideal for his brand of casually awkward brand of questioning that positions him somewhere between Jeremy Paxman and a kind uncle.
Transgender Kids sees him at his sensitive best, fleshing out the emotions that go into such a decision – for both the transgender youngsters in question and their families. Telling a teenager that being 14 going on 15 was one of the toughest years of his life only brings out the universality of identity crises that we all face (one parent says their child has taught them to be more authentically themselves), but the most beautiful moment comes courtesy of five-year-old Sebastian, who is slowly becoming Camille.
“Can you turn back into a boy?” he gently questions her. “No. I would never do that,” she replies. “Do you think you were always a girl, or that you are turning into a girl?” “Always a girl,” she says, simply. “I’m a girl forever.”
Available until: 5th May
Photo: BBC/Freddie Claire
Matt Berry Does… The Boat Race
Ahead of the 2015 Boat Race, which takes place on 11th April, Matt Berry takes his own, inimitable take on the history of the event, which goes all the way back to water insects. Berry’s latest in a string of iPlayer exclusives (and the first of a new series) confirms not only that the Beeb’s online service is a great platform for short-form content, but also that the IT Crowd star has one of the funniest voices around. Matt saying the word “university” alone is enough to have you in stitches.
Available until: 5th May
Photo: BBC iPlayer
Who hasn’t lied to someone to make something easier? BBC One’s new drama series consists of a string of standalone stories that revolve around tiny fibs told by people all working at the same car showroom.
Michelle Keegan is superb in Episode 2 as Tracy, who goes on holiday to the Dominican Republic with her friend, all expenses paid – only to discover the real cost of their visit. Returning home, she deceives everyone to avoid any awkwardness, as Keegan twitches and glances around with a sympathetically nervous air. The rest of the cast follow suit, from Jason Manford’s cheesy salesman to the boss having an affair with one of the team. The decision to stage it all within the same workplace captures the ripple that each lie spreads, developing into a shifting pool of false facades that is always interesting to gaze into. And that’s no lie.
Available until: 23rd April (Episode 2)
Photo: BBC/Red Productions/Ben Blackall
Adam Curtis’ bizarre, surreal, brilliant provocative documentary deconstructs the media’s presentation of politics and history with a dizzying complexity and a dark sense of humour. At over two hours, it’s a daunting watch, but an important one – not least because it showcases the potential for BBC iPlayer as a platform for bold, experimental work. (Read our full review)
Available until: 2016
Un Prophete’s Tahar Rahim stars in this 2011 drama about a young Algerian in 1941 Paris, who is asked to spy on a mosque during the Nazi occupation. The performances, music and shades of grey make for a compelling watch.
Available until: 11th May
Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers
Aardman’s man-and-dog duo have been a splendid source of stop-motion silliness over the years. While all of their outings are now on BBC iPlayer, it’s The Wrong Trousers that really excels, from its inspired premise (an evil penguin committing a jewellery heist) to breathtakingly imaginative action sequence, which sees Gromit piecing together a train set mid-chase.
Available until: 10th May