What to Watch: Streaming Hot Picks

We often discuss PBS and BBC America’s programming on this blog, but if you’re not watching Netflix or Hulu you’re missing out on a whole cache of shows that you’d not see otherwise.

Derek: Series 2 – Netflix

If you are on social media, you will be familiar with Ricky Gervais’ goodwill ambassador, Derek Noakes. He promotes the heck out of that show.
In series one, we learned that Derek works at Broadhill Retirement Home with his friends Hannah (Kerry Godliman) and Dougie (Karl Pilkington). He loves the residents at the home, animals and YouTube videos…about animals. Derek’s motto is to be kind to everyone, even considerably debauched characters like Kevin (David Earl) who loiter around and freeload off the care home.

Just like the first time around, there is just as much sadness as laughter in series two. Derek’s long-estranged dad comes to live at Broadhill; at the urging of his friends, Derek gives internet dating a try; and in a home full of people at the end of their lives, Hannah and her boyfriend Tom (Brett Goldstein) attempt to bring a new life into the world – with very little privacy, might I add.

I have a few warnings about this series:

  • If you love Karl Pilkington, as I do, you will be disappointed to discover that Dougie makes a very quick exit in the first episode.
  • If like me you don’t care for the alcoholic, sex-crazed Kevin, you’ll be seeing even more of him because he and Derek become roommates. You also get to meet Kevin’s even more disgusting brother, Cliff.
  • If you are an animal lover, like me and Derek, prepare yourself for the saddest thing you’ve ever seen in any TV show or movie.

While Derek is far from a perfect show, the thing that makes it worthwhile in my opinion is that Ricky Gervais gives just about every character the opportunity to redeem themselves. No matter how unlikeable these people may be, we get insight into their pain and their dreams. Subsequently we are inspired by Derek’s example to accept them where they are at that moment. If nothing else, watching Derek can make you aspire to be a better human being.

 

Rev. Series 3 – Hulu

Rev. is another sitcom that is as dramatic as it is funny. Tom Hollander plays Adam Smallbone, the vicar at East London’s St. Saviours, an “intercity church with intercity problems” as he’s often reminded by Archdeacon Robert (Simon McBurney). Over the first two series we’ve watched Adam deal with many dilemmas which fall into one of two categories – making his parish viable and relevant or balancing his time between work and home life with wife Alex (Olivia Colman).

Series three, however, brings all Adam’s issues to a head. St. Saviour’s is due for an audit which it is unlikely to pass. His wife has been promoted in her legal aid job, so Adam is left to supply the lion’s share of childcare for their infant daughter, Katie. And a moment of weakness between Adam and church school headmistress Ellie Pattman (Lucy Liemann) ultimately leads to a crisis of faith that isn’t resolved until the very end of the last episode.

The third series is chock-full of delightful guest appearances from Hugh Bonneville, Joanna Scanlan, Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson among others.
If you’re willing to ride out Reverend Smallbone’s Job-like trials, your perseverance will be rewarded in the end. Tom Hollander is fantastic as this all-too-human vicar who experiences the same feelings, temptations and stresses as the average person and yet is expected to be better than the rest of us.

 

The Politician’s Husband –Netflix

Where to begin? This political drama stars David Tennant as star cabinet minister Aiden Hoynes and Emily Watson as his brilliant, but less visible MP wife, Freya Gardner. When Aiden’s resignation/leadership bid goes sour, he realizes his presumed good friend and fellow minister Bruce Babbish (Ed Stoppard) has set him up for his own political gains.

From then on, everything Aiden does is about revenge. Oddly enough when Freya is offered a cabinet position of her own, her husband sees it as the perfect way to get back at the Prime Minister, the party and most importantly his Judas of a friend, Bruce. His wife will serve as his eyes and ears and when the time is right, she’ll turn on the Prime Minister, thus vindicating Aiden.

At first the pair is on the same page, but quickly Freya realizes she has ambitions of her own and has been in her husband’s shadow long enough. When Aiden directs his wife to turn the tables on the PM during a TV interview and she fails to come through on the air, her betrayal puts Freya on her husband’s list for retribution as well. Golden couple indeed…

 

There are a few things I have to say about this three part mini-series before I out and out recommend it. Don’t expect the Doctor version of David Tennant. They highlighted his hair for heaven’s sake.

Tennant plays a complex character – a smart, ambitious SOB with jealousy issues. Aiden sincerely loves his family, but is driven by the need to win at all costs. Thus he has lost sight of what his responsibilities in Parliament and at home truly are.

Also Aiden and Freya have this weird sexual relationship wherein talking about political strategy and the power of their careers is a turn-on. If that’s not ridiculous enough, the couple then proceeds to engage in aggressive lovemaking. Though it does play into the plotline of the story later on, I could have done without the awkwardness of it anyway.

The ending of The Politician’s Husband is a bit predictable, but I’d still recommend it for the insights you can gain about the British political system, the nuanced performance of Emily Watson and the drama created by the unexpected turns of Aiden’s scheming mind.

I hope you are tempted to try one of these shows and, if you already have, please chime in on what thought of them.

Carmen is an American wife and mother of two college students who live away from home. With her yellow lab Malcolm by her side, she watches and writes about British television for her own blog Everything I Know about the UK I Learned from the BBC. Read more of Carmen’s posts here.

Comments

  1. Kate says

    I recently subscribed to Hulu Plus because of their huge library of British shows. I’m in the middle of watching Rev., and I highly recommend it. I also enjoyed catching up on a couple of series of QI. Over the years, I’ve been disappointed that BBC America has turned into a couple of British shows and a lot of Star Trek: Next Generation and American movies. Thankfully, I now have Hulu (and Netflix) for my British television needs.

  2. Harry says

    As an Anglican priest I just love Rev. Tom Hollander, whom I always enjoy, is just great. Rev. Believe it or not, it is not far from the truth. Thank you for the post.

  3. Harry says

    Sorry, somehow my computer is acting strangely. The message should read; As an Anglican priest I just love Rev. Tom Hollander, whom I always enjoy, is just great. Believe it or not, it is not far from the truth. Thank you for the post.

  4. says

    I love that I can watch Coronation Street on Hulu without having to subscribe, I hope they never change that.