New on netflix: Pig out on Black Mirror and Japanese intrigue
Black Mirror, Season 3, Available from Friday, 12 episodes
Charlie Brooker was once best known for his acerbic reviews in The Guardian and his witty takedowns of sundry telly dross in Screenwipe on Channel 4. That his name has since been incorporated into the title of the latter series is testament, in part, to the massive success of Black Mirror, which Brooker created.
When it first appeared three years ago the show - a series of stand-alone vignettes - was instantly hailed as a sci-fi classic and cleaned up at the Emmys. It also featured a storyline that involved the sitting British prime minister being blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on television (no prizes for guessing where he got that idea). Brooker is now back with the third season and this time he's skewering the hypocrisy of social media. Each episode is a dark parable, which looks at the effect modern technology might have on humanity. In the first one, Bryce Dallas Howard plays the main character, Lacie, who is 'lost'. She has been hypnotised by social media into thinking her value is equivalent to the approval she gets online. While Lacie works on being the most people-pleasing and highly-rateable version of herself that's possible, we see a glimpse of her about to lose her temper at a hideous two-star review. Totally understandable.
Midnight Diner - Tokyo Stories
Available from Friday, three seasons
Like Black Mirror, Midnight Diner - Tokyo Stories takes several vignettes which are woven into an overall theme. The starting point is a small restaurant in the back alleys of the Japanese capital's bustling downtown. Open from the odd hours of midnight to 7am, the Midnight Diner is a haven for the city's weary souls, attracting disparate characters from transvestites to mobsters, furtive businessmen and boisterous ladies who lunch. Directed by award-winning auteur Matsuoka Joji, the film is neatly divided into three portions, each revolving around a Japanese dish: a tomato ketchup-based pasta served on top of a lightly fried egg roll; yam rice; and Japanese-style curry. These dishes each tell the story of a gold-digging divorcee, a wandering homeless girl - beautifully portrayed by Tabe Mikako - and a man who lost his wife in the Fukuoka earthquake. Like Japanese food itself it's easy to digest, but contains substantive depth.
Master of None
Available now, 10 episodes
At first glance, Master of None seems quite predictable. Parks and Rec stalwart Aziz Ansari plays Dev, a single guy in New York City whose sporadic acting gigs leave him a lot of time to hang out with his friends in cool bars and coffee shops. So far, so similar to Friends and a zillion others of the genre. But Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang have crafted something much darker and smarter than anything that took place on the Central Perk couch. Much like Ansari in his recent book Modern Romance, they focus on love in the age of apps and, much like Ansari in his stand-up, they take a light-hearted look at issues of race and gender. The second episode, which looks at the prejudice dealt with by immigrant families and the difficulty the younger ones have in relating to the older family members, has echoes of The Kumars at Number 42 and even Art Spiegelman's Maus. Definitely worth a look.
Available now, 13 episodes
It's inevitable that every new iteration of Thomas Harris's source material will stand unflattering comparison with Silence of the Lambs, one of only two films to win Oscars in every major category. This series suffers from that burden and was cancelled after a few seasons on NBC in the States, but in its short life it did earn critical acclaim. Will Graham does justice to his role as a male version of the Jodie Foster character and Mads Mikkelson is brilliantly icy and creepy as Lecter, with the twist being that this time Lecter pushes the FBI operative's fragile sanity until it seems like he - the investigator - might become a killer himself. We won't spoil what happens but, as Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers once wrote of Silence, this series manages the brilliant trick of being mercilessly scary and mercifully humane.
Catch up now
Russell Brand: End The Drugs War
RTE Player, until October 22
It's a long way from Big Brother's Big Mouth, but somehow, comedian Russell Brand has managed to move from slapstick to serious without changing any of the things fans love about him - the hair, the tight jeans, the Albion-style vocabulary and posturing. As a social campaigner, Brand has zeroed in on housing reform, Ukip (describing Nigel Farage as "a pound shop Enoch Powell"), and now drugs. End The Drugs War is Brand preaching what he knows. As an addict for years, he can clearly relate to the experiences of many of his interviewees, and his conviction that addiction needs to be treated with compassion and abstinence rather than jail and homelessness, rings true, as does his certainty that addicts are capable of better. His belief in decriminalisation for all drugs may sound naive, but most compelling is the level of engagement, and determination that change is possible.
UTV Player, until November 6, episode 1
UTV's new crime drama series is a welcome antidote to Nordic Noir. Instead of bleak, grey and rainy, this is set in a bright and sunny South Coast of England. From the start, loyalties are divided, as DS Nancy Devlin, a rising star, is summoned to a midnight meeting with a dodgy businessman and drug smuggler whose daughter is Nancy's childhood best friend. Out of the blocks, this is fast-paced and entertaining. Philip Glenister is the businessman, while Karla Crome plays Nancy.
Pat Kenny Tonight
TV3 Player, until Oct 30
Pat's back and in case you missed him and Colette Fitzpatrick tackling the top stories, news and fiscal matters of the day, here is a chance to see it all again. Not including Colette's name in the show's title has clearly been a mistake for TV3 bosses, as this seems to be what most commentators are zeroing in on, but beyond that, the show is solid.
Design Matters host Debbie Millman (pictured above) is a writer, artist, designer and all-round visual talent, who is also highly articulate and entertaining. She is the author of several books, including Look Both Ways and Brand Thinking, while her weekly radio show, Design Matters, won a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, and is a blast of insightful, smart conversation with designers, musicians curators, illustrators, creative directors and writers. The chats spiral off in different, always interesting, directions, somehow managing to remain anchored to the business at hand - design, what it means, why it matters. Recent guests include writers Alain de Botton and Steven Heller, artist and singer Amanda Palmer, and entrepreneur and journalist Krista Tippett.
We're sold on the name alone. Tyler Smith and David Bax manage to do exactly what all the best podcasts are known for: create the kind of intimacy that makes listeners feel they are in the relaxed presence of a couple of very funny, very well-informed friends. Alongside the jokes and quips, both Bax and Smith have the kind of in-depth cultural and historic knowledge of cinema that adds context and dimension to their discussions. Episodes last an hour, and tend to take up a single topic - everything from the best movie death scenes, to more academic questions of film theory, and political questions of film criticism and conservatism, along with career analysis of various movie stars. Recent favourites include Top 25 Actors, Top 25 Actresses and the rise of Geek TV.
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