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The 20 best shows to watch On Demand this weekend – from Netflix to Channel 4: Our critics sift through thousand of options so you don’t have to


Gripping thrillers, intriguing documentaries and hilarious comedies – they are all featured in our critics’ picks of the best shows to watch On Demand right now. The experts have chosen their top 20 programmes streaming this weekend, as well as reviewing new releases. Read on to find out what to watch this weekend… 

Our picks of the week:

Constellation

Noomi Rapace stars in a mind-bending space thriller

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Apple’s thriller starts out looking like a big-budget space survival blockbuster, but ultimately it’s something much more human than that, and all the better for it as a result. The eight-parter stars Noomi Rapace as an astronaut who suffers through a terrible catastrophe on the International Space Station, then arrives back on Earth to find her reality, and family, subtly but alarmingly different.

Without giving away any spoilers, the viewing experience of what follows is rather like a detective drama as we start to wonder whether Jo (Rapace) is reacting to the trauma or if her life really has been changed, somehow. 

‘Reality is a conspiracy’ goes the tagline for this show and that certainly pushes you in one direction, but you can never be completely sure and that’s the fun of a series that gives its actors a lot of ambiguity to play with. 

Our only criticism is that, before it becomes clear that it’s not meant to be a fast-paced action thriller, you might feel like it’s moving a little slowly – but Constellation is just taking its time, and for good reason. (Eight episodes)

Breathtaking

Chilling drama recreating the early days of the pandemic inside a big city hospital

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on ITVX

As this is based on the book by NHS doctor Rachel Clarke, who wrote about working in a big city hospital in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, you know it’s going to a harrowing watch. It’s also important, so brace for another chilling reminder of what we – and the NHS – went through.

With her everywoman quality, Joanne Froggatt (Downton, Liar) is perfectly cast as Dr Abbey Henderson. She spends significant sections of this three-parter swaddled in PPE, which was part of the problem – there wasn’t enough of it, or nonsensical guidelines meant its use was restricted. The confusion at the start of the pandemic is palpable, intercut with those all-too-familiar official announcements from politicians and medical experts.

Primarily, this comes from Abbey’s point of view, making it a deeply personal account of a national tragedy. Abbey rallies all her energy and strength – and spends vast periods of time away from her family – as the virus commences its relentless march through the population. It all feels so disturbingly real. (Three episodes)

The Holdovers

Alexander Payne’s feelgood movie about a grumpy teacher and his misfit students

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Sky, Apple TV+ and Prime Video

This feelgood movie looks and sounds just like something that was made in the 1970s, and that’s very deliberate. It reunites director Alexander Payne with Paul Giamatti, whom he directed in Sideways almost 20 years earlier. 

Giamatti plays a grumpy boarding school teacher who’s drawn the short straw – he’s been left to look after the children who have nowhere to go at Christmas (the ‘holdovers’ of the title). Might there be something he can learn from them, and them from him?

That story makes The Holdovers sounds cheesy, but it really isn’t. The script from David Hemingson (Whiskey Cavalier) is based on his own school experience and has a rich, bittersweet core that moves rather than manipulates you. 

It’s a film about broken people fixing each other, but in a way you don’t necessarily see coming. It could well carve out a place for itself as a festive favourite in the coming years. Available to rent and buy on Apple, Amazon and Sky. (133 minutes)

Formula 1: Drive To Survive

The human dramas behind the roaring engines of Formula 1

Year: 2019 

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

Drive To Survive is one of the great success stories of Netflix documentaries. The series introduced a whole new layer of fans to the sport, using beautifully shot and edited films and incredible behind-the-scenes access to bring Formula 1’s drivers and support staff to vivid, combative, soap-opera life.

The first series arrived in 2019 and tracked the 2018 racing season, with a new series every year after that following the same pattern, interviewing the drivers and bringing off-track rivalries of this intense sport to life. Series five followed the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen – who, that time around, allowed himself to be interviewed for the first time on the show. 

Series six focuses on the 2023 season, taking in the relative fortunes of Red Bull, Aston Martin and Mercedes and the experience of rookie drivers Logan Sargeant and Oscar Piastri. It’s just as good as the previous series if not better, as you can actually feel how the level of access the show gets has improved – it’s quite the institution now, after all. (Six series)

Asteroid City

Nostalgic Wes Anderson drama starring Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks

Year: 2023

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Sky and NOW

Intensely stylised and shot through with a wistful nostalgia for an America that arguably didn’t really exist, director Wes Anderson’s 2023 movie centres on life in the fictional Asteroid City in the mid-1950s as the illustrious Junior Stargazers convention rolls into town.

Full of oddball characters played by a stunning ensemble cast of star names (including Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Steve Carell, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie and Jeff Goldblum), it’s a visually stunning and whimsical movie that lives long in the memory. Such is the level of that cast, actually, that they may be enough to attract some new fans to Anderson’s very particular style of filmmaking. (105 minutes)

Married To The Game

A behind-the-scenes look at the lives of football’s WAGs

Year: 2024

Watch now on Prime Video

Being the wife or girlfriend of a top-flight international footballer must be great, right? Well, yes, but along with the lavish house, expensive wardrobe and great cars there’s a downside too, as this slick and glossy documentary series reveals.

A life in the spotlight, the attentions of fickle fans and dealing with the pressures of suddenly having to up sticks and move from the UK to the Middle East when a transfer goes through are just a few of the pressures heaped on the partners of Ilkay Gundogan, Jorginho, James Tarkowski, Matt Turner and Riyad Mahrez as the cameras follow them through the summer break and the transfer window. (Six episodes)

Past Lives

Tender tale of lost love which foregrounds the migrant experience

Year: 2023

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

It’s impossible not to shed a tear while watching this discreet and delicate film about two childhood sweethearts who were separated in youth and then brought together again as adults. South Korean-born Nora (Greta Lee) is best friends with Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), but when her family move from Seoul to Canada the pair lose contact. Years later Nora, now a married writer living in New York, reconnects with her old friend. They reunite for one week – but do they regret the life they’ve lost together?

This extraordinary directorial debut by South Korean-Canadian Celine Song was indisputably one of the movie highlights of 2023. It manages to tackle big ideas such as destiny, identity and longing with a simplicity that charms everyone who sees it. (105 minutes)

Can I Tell You A Secret?

Terrifying documentary about the hunt for an online stalker

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

A message containing the words ‘Can I tell you a secret?’ dropping into their mailboxes was just the start of a nightmare for a number of British women. The man behind the message went on to infiltrate not just their lives but those of their family and friends, spreading discord and misery and threatening to destroy everything they held dear.

This tough, intimate and more than a little scary two-part documentary, produced by Louis Theroux, uses testimony from the women targeted to shape an account of the hunt for the man behind the online attacks, a hunt which ultimately ended up with a British judge handing down one of the toughest sentences ever seen for online stalking. (Two episodes)

Boarders

Black inner-city teens meet the elite in this comedy

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Daniel Lawrence Taylor, who created the BAFTA-nominated comedy Timewasters, takes the cliches of Britain’s ‘street smart’ black youth and throws them into a private-school setting, where he also has plenty to say about the privileged elite.

Five talented black teenagers win a scholarship to attend St Gilbert’s boarding school. ‘Don’t be who they expect you to be,’ says the charity leader who helped get them there. Easier said than done when the posh kids think you sell drugs, among all the other racist profiling.

The Headteacher at St Gilbert’s expects them to assimilate, to become ‘Gilbertines’, but no one watching this is going to want that to happen. You’ll want them to succeed for being themselves, especially when the behaviour of the well-to-do students leaves a lot to be desired.

Shot through with humour and wit, the show sifts through the stereotypes while charting a path – of grades, sex, discipline and cliques – familiar to this kind of coming-of-age school setting. We also get us some more interesting subplots including one of the newcomer’s search for clues to a secret society. (Six episodes)

The Way

Epic, dystopian fantasy drama series set in Wales

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Written by a team of three distinct and recognisable voices – Sherwood’s James Graham, documentary essayist Adam Curtis (search his films on BBC iPlayer ) and proud Welshman Michael Sheen – this is part dystopian fantasy, part ensemble drama about family and community. Blended together, the result is a tale that mixes weighty themes with humour, heart and a dash of the absurd.

The jumping-off point is the threat to Port Talbot’s steel workers, a mirror of the miners’ strike 40 years before. We focus on three generations of a family, with Sheen (who also directs) as miner Denny Driscoll, a local hero during the 1980s strike. Denny’s son Geoff (Steffan Rhodri) is a more placid company man, while Geoff’s teenage son Owen (It’s A Sin’s Callum Scott Howells), is the one most desperate for change.

It’s got Welsh blood coursing through it from start to finish, including music by Super Furry Animals’ Cian Ciaran. The big takeaway? ‘Don’t mess with the Welsh Dragon!’ (Three episodes)

The Pet Psychic: What’s Your Dog Thinking?

Meet the woman with a telepathic link to animals

Year: 2024

Certificate: 12

Watch now on My5

Beth Lee-Crowther has a ‘telepathic and psychic link’ to animals and has worked for 20 years as a portal between pets and their owners. A spooky Dr Dolittle, if you will.

In this series she deals with a veritable menagerie of troubled animals. The first episode sees her communicating with Petal the petrified hen, then a dog called Yogi, who’s very chatty when Beth tries to find out why he doesn’t like going for walkies. There’s also a worried fox and a wriggly ferret.

One of her most jaw-dropping house visits involves a cat who is reaching the end of her life. Ragdoll Arya’s owners have an unexpected and rather icky plan – they just want Arya’s permission first. And to complicate matters, Beth is allergic to cats!

You might not be a believer, but this show is very entertaining. Beth also has some tips that will be helpful to pet-owning viewers, giving Graeme Hall and the trainers of Ch4’s The Dog House a run for their money.

The Family Stallone

Lively reality series following Sylvester Stallone’s family life

Year: 2023

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Paramount+

Just what kind of a dad is Sylvester Stallone? It’s time to find out as this reality series goes behind the scenes at the Stallone household, following him, his wife Jennifer Flavin and their three twentysomething daughters (Sophia, Sistine and Scarlet) as they go about their everyday Hollywood lives.

It’s enjoyable Kardashian-lite stuff that spends as much time with the younger members of the family as it does with the Rocky star, though we do get glimpses behind the scenes of Stallone’s gangster show Tulsa and spot him hanging out with actor mates like Al Pacino. The name misses a trick though: surely this was crying out to be called Sly And The Family Stallone? A second series has been ordered, based on the success of the first. (One series)

Avatar: The Last Airbender

Magical live-action adaptation of the manga fantasy classic

Year: 2024

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

After first being an excellent animated series and then a sadly terrible movie, this anime classic bounces back as an eight-part live-action adventure series.

War rages across a fantasy world where magic users each control one of the four elements – earth, fire, water and air – as the cruelly ambitious fire nation sets out to conquer the world. But when two teenagers defrost the last living member of the air tribe, Aang, from a block of ice, the trio set out to bring peace to the world.

Following in the family-friendly footsteps of Percy Jackson and One Piece rather than the darker Game Of Thrones, this is a vibrant adventure crammed with CGI-enhanced martial arts and magic. (Eight episodes)

To Catch A Copper

Jaw-dropping documentary series which, like the real Line Of Duty, unearths shocking cases of corrupt officers

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Channel 4

This jaw-dropping series is a bold move by Avon And Somerset police, who let cameras follow the work of their anti-corruption unit in an act of ‘radical transparency’. When the first episode aired, even chief constable Sarah Crew was shocked by what she saw.

The three episodes follow allegations against officers that range from assault to revenge porn and that take in shocking racism and misogyny and a disregard for the vulnerable in society whom police are sworn to protect.

There are clearly ‘bad cops’ – many with ‘old school’ attitudes that are wildly outdated and not shared by new cadets – but there are far more good cops, including DC Amber Redman. She’s one of the anti-corruption officers the series follows, yet even she admits, ‘I don’t think all of the public trust the police. And I think that is sadly part of a culture where perhaps policing has gone wrong.’ (Three episodes)

Pete Doherty: Stranger In My Own Skin

The inside story of the Libertines frontman’s battle with drugs

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

Watch now on NOW and Sky

The director Katia deVidas filmed Pete Doherty over the course of ten years, racking up more than 200 hours of footage of the Libertines frontman as she documented his descent into drug addiction and the rehab that followed.

DeVidas also happens to be Doherty’s wife, so the lens through which she presents it all has a certain bias; it also has an uncommon intimacy to it, though, and certainly doesn’t stint when it comes to its depiction of the tough times, so be prepared for that.

Ultimately, though, this is a story of survival and, when you consider how Doherty’s life could easily have gone, quite a remarkable one. (92 minutes)

The Roads Not Taken

Javier Bardem and Elle Fanning shine in this sombre drama

Year: 2020

Certificate: 15

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Sally Potter’s sombre drama features superb performances from Javier Bardem and Elle Fanning as father and daughter Leo and Molly. Leo was a writer who now lives a sparse life after an unnamed condition left him in need of a carer. Plagued by memories of his past, he looks back on lives he might have lived, while Molly spends a difficult day with him, desperate to keep he own dreams alive.

As befits a drama exploring memory, the timelines switch around in a slightly disorienting fashion but the overall impact, and the chemistry between father and daughter, keep it poignant. Salma Hayek and Laura Linney also star. (85 minutes)

Messi’s World Cup: The Rise Of A Legend

Series charting the career of the Argentinian footballing superstar

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

Lionel Messi arrived at the 2022 World Cup with an extraordinary playing career behind him, but despite a raft of Ballon D’Or wins, league trophies and Champions League victories, the Argentinian was missing one thing that would remove all argument about him being the greatest player of his generation: a World Cup win. The next few weeks would see that change.

With up-close-and-personal access to Messi himself, this detailed and passionate four-part documentary series charts not only Argentina’s march to glory in Qatar, but Messi’s career as a whole, allowing footballing greats from around the world to pay tribute to the mercurial genius of the ‘Little Magician’. (Four episodes)

Small Island

Andrea Levy’s award-winning story of Jamaicans and Londoners involved in World War Two

Year: 2009

Certificate: 15

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Stylish two-part adaptation of Andrea Levy’s award-winning 2004 novel, an epic love story set against the backdrop of the Second World War. Hortense (Naomie Harris) is an aspiring young teacher, arriving in London from Jamaica to join her husband Gilbert (David Oyelowo).

At a time when landlords put up signs declaring ‘no Irish, no coloureds,’ Gilbert feels lucky to have a roof over his head, however ramshackle; the respectable Hortense, however, is shocked by the conditions.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to their kind-hearted landlady, Queenie (Ruth Wilson), who longs for some passion in her life, which duly arrives in the form of her first black lodger – a mysterious and charming Jamaican airman called Michael Roberts (Ashley Walters). And he has history…

Atmospheric, intriguing and thoroughly watchable. (Two episodes)

Homeland

Claire Danes is award-winning in this tense spy thriller

Year: 2011-2020

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix and Disney+

The first series of Homeland took the viewing world by storm. At its core was the return of an American PoW long thought dead, and the suspicion of one unstable intelligence analyst that he could have been turned by al-Qaeda. Was he? That’s the initial premise of Homeland and the personal game that plays out between Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) and the bipolar Carrie Mathison (a brilliant Claire Danes) as it evolves layers something electric into it all.

That first series is flat-out superb. What comes in the next two over-extends the story to the point of ridiculousness until, in series four, Homeland reboots itself as a lean, mean John le Carré-style series about global espionage threats and becomes unmissable TV once again. The double Emmy Award-winning Danes remains at its core and is later joined by Rupert Friend, in another series standout performance as a deeply damaged assassin. (Eight series)

Pandora

Justice and politics collide in this gripping Belgian thriller

Year: 2022

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Channel 4

A Belgian political drama that places judge Claire Delval (co-creator Anne Coesens) in an impossible situation, choosing between her career and her family when her father is linked to a massive fraud case on his 75th birthday. That’s not all. 

While Claire struggles to cope with the fallout of pursuing her father in court, she picks up a high-profile and upsetting case, of a woman gang-raped after being involved in a public protest against the government. The complexity builds steadily and satisfyingly as more and more people and secrets are bound into the story. (Ten episodes)



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