Catch-up TV reviews: Humans, Witnesses, Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners
Ivan Radford | On 26, Jul 2015
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.)
Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners (Episode 4) – Channel 4 / All 4
Last week, ITV broadcast a documentary about schoolgirls with autism. It was understanding of its subjects. It was informative for its audience. It was tasteful in its myth-busting surrounding the condition. Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners is everything it is not.
The show, which has returned this summer for a new run on Channel 4, is an abysmal piece of programming, which takes a mental health condition and uses it for light entertainment.
The premise is simple: people with an obsessive compulsion to clean things are paired with people who love nothing more than to leave clutter and dirt to mount up. This time, the series focuses on country mansions that have gone to seed, with a pair of sufferers shipped off to the Irish home retired civil engineer Michael Keaney. Look at them being shocked by the mould and bacteria on display! Isn’t it funny how they have to spend the night in an outhouse full of grime, which means they can’t get any sleep? Ha ha. Now they have to clean the outdoors toilet at 4am before they can use it. What larks. Isn’t OCD hilarious?
This despicable combination of lazy stereotyping – OCD behaviour can cover all manner of things, not just cleaning – and attempt at light-hearted humour leaves a foul taste in the mouth. There is something to be said for flooding – a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that involves immersive exposure to something that causes a patient anxiety – but Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners is interested in cheap laughs, not considerate exploration of possible treatments for OCD. Exploitative and unsympathetic, this is filthy television in the worst possible sense. The fact that it is now on its fourth season is hugely disheartening.
Available until: 20th August (Episode 4)
Photo: Betty TV
Humans (Episode 6) – Channel 4 / All 4
“What it’s like being you?” Laura and Joe’s daughter, Mattie (Lucy Carless), asks Max. “Frightening,” comes the synth’s reply. “What’s it like being a teenage girl?” he responds. “The same.”
Humans is at its best when examining that blurred line between robot and human – and it’s something that has become elegantly tied to the Hawkins family. At first, they were just conduits to introduce Anita (Gemma Chan) as one of the advanced synths, but their characters have developed as much as the technology in their servant. With Leo, Max and Niska reunited, along with the revelation that Leo is is David Elster’s “resurrected” son, our group of synths have become a parallel family to the Hawkins: as one group pulls together, the other peels apart.
The successful uncovering of Mia’s memories from within Anita’s reformatted shell only emphasises the importance of that bond; Leo is as delighted to see his pseudo-mother as any person would be. A similar unveiling of a traumatic past between Laura (the excellent Katherine Parkinson) and Mattie feeds naturally into the themes of family and history: the identity of Tom ties Mattie and Mia’s flashbacks together with the sharply rendered pain of loss. (William Hurt’s engineer, meanwhile, reiterates the concept in his relationship with Odi” “He can’t love me, but I see all those years of love looking back at me.”)
And yet, as humans such as Joe seem less capable of loyalty than their robotic counterparts, there is that troubling repeated question of whether synths are more human than we are. “Human minds can’t comprehend that their creation could surpass them, it’s how I know you’re underestimating me,” says Max, who performs the ultimate human act at the episode’s finale to further the synths’ cause. The (ahem) literal blurring of boundaries between Jill and Simon and Karen and Pete only makes the series’ tapestry of intimacy and detachment more intriguing. All that and witty humour – “I’m not a telephone” and superb special effects? Roll on the final two episodes.
Photo: Des Willie/Kudos
Witnesses – Channel 4 / All 4
When it comes to cop dramas on TV, Nordic noir is very much the flavour of the decade, let alone the year or the month. Witnesses, Channel 4’s latest foreign import, makes for a welcome surprise: instead of the blood-stained snow of Scandinavia, Marc Herpoux and Hervé Hadmar’s show heralds from France.
That may not seem like a crucial difference at first: the show clearly carries the chilling wind from North Europe, from the grey skies to its lead female detective, Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier). She’s determined. She’s got issues. And she’s an outsider on the force. But as her rookie crosses paths with her old mentor, Paul Maisonneuve (Thierry Lhermitte), things take a welcome turn for the original.
Even the crime itself seems too macabre for Sarah Lund et. al: two show homes have been decorated with dug-up corpses from the nearby graveyard, a set dressing that is topped off with a photo of the now-retired Maisonneuve. Is it accusing him of something? Is it a threat? Or something else entirely?
The secrets and scandals stack up as quickly as you’d expect – Paul’s “accident” is not all it seems and he and Sandra clearly have history. But Dompnier is far from the cliched lead cop we’ve become used to: she does cute rabbit impressions and cracks jokes; she isn’t afraid to describe her old teacher as a “chauvinist bastard”; and, while she’s a rookie in a male-driven department, she doesn’t wear her personal troubles as burdens to sit down and ponder on in moody darkness – she gets on and does things. Her light performance and Thierry Lhermitte’s enigmatic presence make for an engaging watch, while an unexpected climax and the occasional glimpse of a wolf suggest that amid the plethora of tasty Nordic offerings, this short series (it only spans six episodes) is not afraid to serve up a new flavour of its own.
Photo: Newen Distribution / Channel 4
Best movies on Freeview VOD
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
Harry Brown – Demand 5
A pensioner turns vigilante against the troublesome youths on his council estate. Michael Caine brings gravitas to the role.
Available until: 12th 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
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
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