Saturday 3 December 2016

The best on the box: What to watch on TV this week

Donal Lynch

Published 19/09/2016 | 02:30

Omari Hardwick stars as James
Omari Hardwick stars as James "Ghost" St Patrick in Power
Orlando Bloom and Malin Åkerman in Easy
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

We've rounded up the best on the box for your viewing pleasure.

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Power

3 seasons, Available now

Power has a power all its own and the third series of the show went up on Netflix in the first week of September. It's a fast-paced drama about a New York drug kingpin who wants a way out and conjures some other classics which have explored this theme - The Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy being the most obvious influences. James "Ghost" St Patrick, played with understated intensity by Omari Hardwick, breaks bad - to use the Netlfix vernacular - to find both the rewards and pain that lie there. Ghost, whose backstory is somewhat inspired by that of executive producer Curtis 'Fifty Cent' Jackson, makes a more than comfortable living from his drug selling. He has a loyal wife, Tasha (Naturi Naughton), who turns a blind eye because she likes what it brings. The strength of this series is in its sizzling dialogue and thumping soundtrack. Definitely worth a look,

The Wrestler (2008)

Available now

This still ranks as one of the unlikeliest career turnarounds in history. Mickey Rourke, his face ravaged by surgery, considered something of an acting has-been, suddenly produces a performance that has critics swooning. And there was a compelling art-imitates-life element to the fascination with this film. Rourke stars as a broken-down professional wrestling star still clinging to his glory days from the 1980s. Shooting in a grainy, bare-bones naturalistic style, full of jump cuts and raw light and hand-held camera work, Darren Aronofsky, the director of Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, pares away all frills, tapping a classic Hollywood trope - a washed-up icon looking for redemption - and, at the same time, transcends that myth. The Wrestler is like Rocky made by the Scorsese of Mean Streets. It's the rare movie fairytale that's also an unsentimental and moving work of art.

The Way We Were (1973)

Available now

Netflix has a surprising amount of incredible old classics mixed in with more current fare. Perhaps the most comforting of these is this romantic touchstone and its "misty water-coloured memories" from the 1970s. It's essentially a love story - between a young activist, Katie (played by Barbra Streisand) and a writer, Hubbell (Robert Redford). They have nothing in common. So of course they fall madly in love and get married (Katie alternating between praising Hubbell's mind and his body; Hubbell listening attentively). And Hubbell sells his book to Hollywood and follows it West to sell out. The film was acclaimed but the soundtrack was one for the ages - the Sex & the City ladies even sang along to it. Except Samantha who dismissed it as a "chick flick." Which it is, but the very best kind.

Easy

Joe Swanberg is only 35 but he's already put out 18 different feature films (including the minor hit Drinking Buddies in 2013). On Thursday his binge of work meets the binge-watching of Netflix as his series Easy debuts.

It deals with a group of adults, in eight loosely connected stories, who are trying to negotiate their way through the tribulations of grown-up life, while still enjoying some of the freedom they had in their early 20s. Swanberg's reputation has this time around enabled him to land talent like Orlando Bloom and Hannibal Buress in the lead roles. Their characters try to live out Samuel Beckett's line about failing better. "Most of the characters love each other", Swanberg told Chicago magazine last week. "Despite their failings, they're in relationships with people who love them and are hoping for their success." The series is more broadly about the divide between "who we say we are and who we really are," he added. The 'Easy' of the title could refer to the unfortunate promiscuity of young adulthood but Swanberg also hopes it might be an easy watch. And from the little we saw, he might be onto something.

Easy - From Thursday, 8 episodes

Catch up now

Emily Hourican

Celebrity Operation Transformation

RTE Player, until October 7, episode 1

Unlike the regular Operation Transformation, this is just a three-parter, so the celebrities involved need to get moving, fast, to shift the pounds and change — or perhaps save — their lives. Stepping up to the scales are Katherine Lynch, Gerald Kean, Elaine Crowley (left), Karl Spain and Brenda Donohue, who all have serious work to do to reverse long-standing bad habits. As usual, there is a compelling mix of humiliation — appearing in cropped leggings and bra-tops before a panel of experts while Kathryn Thomas reads out your weight for the nation to hear, is no one’s idea of fun — and heart-strings-tugging. Admissions of depression, loneliness and low self-esteem are as common in this series as not being able to cook and having ‘no time’ to shop. So can they do it? At stake is so much more than a few inches round the waist,

Cold Feet

UTV Player, until Oct 5, episode 1

Back after 13 years, Cold Feet, the cult comedy-drama series of the 1990s, as much a signifier of its time as Cool Britannia and Blur v Oasis, is powering ahead on UTV, so begin now with the new-look episode 1. A whole lot has happened and Mike Bullen’s exploration of three young couples navigating the choppy seas of life, love and everything in between, in middle-class Manchester is now a look at growing older, dealing with teenage children, the long-term drain of married life and the slow attrition of work and financial responsibility. The original team are back together — episode 1 kicks off with Adam (James Nesbitt) returning after years working in Singapore, with a much younger bride-to-be — and standing by each other yet again. Adam’s meltdown at the altar is smoothly handled by Karen (Hermione Norris), and very quickly they all step back into the camaraderie of friendly slagging and smart one-liners. However, the serious side of life’s mid-section is in evidence too, with intriguing hints of depression and infidelity.

Podcasts

Emily Hourican

Ace On The House

aceonthehouse.adamcarolla.com

DIY may not seem the most fertile ground for podcasting — there is, after all, a strong ‘here’s one we made earlier’ requirement to much of what comes under the umbrella of home improvement. However, comedian Adam Carolla brings a whole lot of expertise — pre-comedy, he was a carpenter — as well as clarity and humour to the matter. Each week, on Ace On The House, Adam is joined by childhood friend and general contractor Ray Oldhafer, with whom he has a lively, dynamic relationship, as the pair answer email questions and issue advice. Scratched floors, damp sheds, painting problems, tool recommendations, all made easy and entertaining.

Parenting on Moncrieff

www.newstalk.com/podcasts/Moncrieff/Parenting

Psychologist David Carey (right) is the voice of sanity, of reason, of reassurance, when it comes to matters of parenting. Each week on Moncrieff, he dispenses advice and relief to those at their wits end over the behaviour or demeanour of their children. His ability to get to the heart of the matter and flush out what’s important from a caller’s question is impressive, as is the way he doesn’t scruple to hold parents to account when he considers there is evidence to suggest they need to do better. His empathy for children is considerable, as is his general level-headed calm and good humour. In recent weeks, he has tackled everything from a 24-month-old with a speech delay, to a child who head-butts the ground, a 19-year-old smoking cannabis, a 12-year-old wetting the bed and worries over bullying of a gay son. In each case, his advice is excellent.

Podcasts

Emily Hourican

Ace On The House

aceonthehouse.adamcarolla.com

DIY may not seem the most fertile ground for podcasting - there is, after all, a strong 'here's one we made earlier' requirement to much of what comes under the umbrella of home improvement. However, comedian Adam Carolla brings a whole lot of expertise - pre-comedy, he was a carpenter - as well as clarity and humour to the matter. Each week, on Ace On The House, Adam is joined by childhood friend and general contractor Ray Oldhafer, with whom he has a lively, dynamic relationship, as the pair answer email questions and issue advice. Scratched floors, damp sheds, painting problems, tool recommendations, all made easy and entertaining.

Parenting on Moncrieff

www.newstalk.com/podcasts/Moncrieff/Parenting

Psychologist David Carey (right) is the voice of sanity, of reason, of reassurance, when it comes to matters of parenting. Each week on Moncrieff, he dispenses advice and relief to those at their wits end over the behaviour or demeanour of their children. His ability to get to the heart of the matter and flush out what's important from a caller's question is impressive, as is the way he doesn't scruple to hold parents to account when he considers there is evidence to suggest they need to do better. His empathy for children is considerable, as is his general level-headed calm and good humour. In recent weeks, he has tackled everything from a 24-month-old with a speech delay, to a child who head-butts the ground, a 19-year-old smoking cannabis, a 12-year-old wetting the bed and worries over bullying of a gay son. In each case, his advice is excellent.

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