Top TV shows and films on BBC iPlayer (26th April 2015)
Ivan Radford | On 26, Apr 2015
This week on BBC iPlayer is all about Peter Kay’s new sitcom, Car Share, which premieres in its entirety online before its linear TV broadcast.
Equally impressive among the brand new offerings are the new season of W1A and Inside No. 9’s consistently entertaining second run, but there are older gems to be found too, with the rare arrival of Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche New York, not to mention the ongoing availability of Wallace and Gromit’s classic shorts.
From stop-motion to corporate satire, here are the top TV shows and films currently on BBC iPlayer.
“That’s all good, then,” says Ian Fletcher, Head of Values at the BBC after another unproductive group discussion. For anyone who watched mockumentary Twenty Twelve – or saw Season 1 of this Beeb-themed follow-up – Hugh Bonneville’s defeated catchphrase will fall on familiar ears. What it actually means: absolutely nothing’s good at all.
Fletcher rushes about New Broadcasting House at the start of Season 2, as the team prepare for a visit from Prince Charles and try to deal with a Jeremy Clarkson scandal, but it’s not the topical plots that make W1A so funny to watch: it’s the constant barrage of double-speak. “Yep, OK,” they all say over each other, never letting anyone actually make progress. The words may change – “Cool,” says clueless intern Will (the hilarious, scarf-wearing Hugh Skinner) – but the message is the same. Every time anyone speaks, they say nothing. Every time a meeting happens, it achieves nothing. And the more people speak – and the longer the meetings run – the less anything is actually said or done. It’s like watching a sitcom by Pinter or Beckett.
The cast deliver this intelligently stupid anti-language with wonderfully deadpan performances. Queen of it all is Jessica Hynes as PR guru Siobhan Sharpe, who agrees with every statement that comes out of anyone’s mouth. “Don’t think, just say things!” she enthuses, during one brainstorming session to help re-brand the BBC’s tennis coverage (the word “WINbledon” comes up). As things descend into talk of monkeys and butter, and events climax in an inspired dash through the corridors between New and Old Broadcasting House, W1A announces its return with a superbly conceived piece of verbal and physical farce. That’s all good, then.
Available until: 20th May (Episode 1)
Peter Kay fans will be pleased with the comedian’s debut show on the BBC, which sees his well-meaning supermarket employee drive to work every day with a colleague. The humour between the odd couple is nothing new, but the affection between the pair is endearing enough. For all its middle of the road familiarity, though, there’s an innovative web series hidden in here somewhere. Read our full review
Available until: 28th April
Inside No. 9 – Episode 5
Nana’s Birthday arrives Inside No. 9 this week – and, as you’d expect, celebrations don’t go smoothly. Family secrets and drinking habits all come to the surface, while someone waits quietly underneath a pretend cake waiting to burst out. Eavesdropping and awkward truths make this recognisable gathering a gleefully painful watch, one that’s full of nasty emotions more than gruesome murders. If Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton hit mature heights with their second episode of this second season, this penultimate entry emphasises it, with a conclusion that is shocking in its delicate, restrained tragedy.
Available until: 22nd May
Two couples meet after their sons have a fight in Yasmina Reza’s bitterly hilarious play-turned-movie. As the posh pair (Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) look down on the well-meaning couple (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly), polite conversation slides into playground bickering. Roman Polanski shoots it with claustrophia turned up to the max, never letting his cast leave out of a sense of etiquette and manners that increasingly disappears underneath the pristine coffee table. A delight.
Available until: 26th April (12:10am)
Up in the Air
George Clooney plays a detached businessman who fires people for a living in Jason Reitman’s moving, witty drama. While his gradual thawing provides us with the familiar emotional arc, though, it’s the supporting cast of Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga, one a naive youth, the other a perfectly hardened match for him, that gives Up in the Air its real punch. Commitment, comedy and a cool relevance to an age full of redundancies and unemployment? This is always a flight worth taking.
Available until: 4th May
The Young Victoria
Emily Blunt is magnificent in this undemanding historical drama, which is elevated above its slightly clunky script by an engaging cast, swooning romance and stunning costume design. Who needs Parliamentary tension when you’ve got pet dogs, moustaches, Paul Bettany, and kissing in the rain?
Available until: 4th 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
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
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
Synecdoche, New York
Meet Caden Cotard (Hoffman). Caden is a theatre director. Living up to his surname, he genuinely thinks he’s dying – obscure diseases, skin infections, brain malfunctions, he’s got them all. Miserably married to successful artist Adele (Keener), Caden’s life is a perpetual chain of failure, loss and illness; while his production of Death of a Salesman goes well, his family falls to pieces. “I fantasise about him dying,” admits his wife in therapy. Awfully funny though it is, the truth is that so does he.
Can Caden achieve anything of worth with his life? Can art ever represent the true nature of reality? After his wife leaves for Berlin, taking with her his daughter Olive, Caden gets the chance to find out. He receives the ‘genius grant’, an unlimited amount of money to fund an artist’s production of something big and meaningful. For Caden, this project is a simulacrum of his own life spanning an entire warehouse; a synecdoche of New York and of himself. He’s helped along by his assistant, Hazel (Morton), who lives in a house that is perpetually burning down. Together, they construct an artistic anti-reality, or a dramatised hyper-reality, in which everyone Caden knows or has met is a character acted by an actor, including himself.
David Lynch-like in its ambition, Synecdoche New York is an arc without a narrative, a poignant project which leaves your brain buzzing and your heart throbbing. It’s flawed. But isn’t everything in life?
Available until: 17th May
Photo: BBC/Jack Barnes