A League of Their Own
This cheery modern remake of the 90s film is the true story of the 1940s female professional baseball team, the Rockford Peaches. Starring Abbi Jacobson, D’Arcy Carden and Chanté Adams, it deepens the movie to tell the stories of the queer women and women of colour on the team as they step up to the plate.
A Spy Among Friends
This excellent dramatisation of the story of Kim Philby stars Guy Pearce as the traitorous spy. It does an evocative job of showing that Philby’s betrayal was enabled by the emotional reserve and unspoken rules of the upper-class circles from which the espionage community was largely drawn. Damian Lewis and Anna Maxwell Martin also bring a blend of heartbreak and classy restraint.
This Rogue One prequel joined a few more dots in the Star Wars universe and revealed its dark underbelly. By the end, it felt like one of the most essential additions to the SW canon ever: thrilling, smart and stylish. Diego Luna stars as the titular pilot and intelligence officer whose revolutionary activity puts him on a collision course with the empire.
Donald Glover’s revelatory and unique hip-hop drama returns for a final season. The gang are back in Atlanta now, but they’re struggling to readjust to a home town that seems smaller and duller than the world they’ve just left. Surely something will have to give? As always with this gloriously groundbreaking show, expect the unexpected.
The show that launched a One Show takedown of Boris Johnson by one of its stars, Dan Stevens. And in the fetid air of 2022 politics, this Watergate dramatisation felt prescient – as a whistleblower (Julia Roberts’s Martha Mitchell) is persecuted for telling the truth about government corruption. Stylish, starry, necessary.
George & Tammy
There’s romance, rhinestones and ruin in this sharp but affectionate rendering of the passionate and dysfunctional relationship between Nashville icons Tammy Wynette and George Jones. Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon’s chemistry makes for irresistible melodrama, while their widescreen, middle America milieu is evoked beautifully.
With the third and final season of the Calder Valley crime masterpiece beginning on New Year’s Day, get up to speed. Sarah Lancashire is outstanding as long-suffering cop Catherine Cawood, whose quest to keep James Norton’s evil Tommy Lee Royce away from her grandson (and his son) Ryan is becoming ever more complicated.
Ophelia Lovibond plays Joyce, an earnest young feminist in 70s LA whose radical but unpopular magazine, The Matriarchy Awakens, comes under the influence of smut-peddler Doug (Jake Johnson). He has a tenuous grasp on intersectional theory, but reckons he knows what women want. Might he help her become “the porn queen of Pasadena”? A moreish comedy that’s a total joy.
The MCU’s first Muslim superhero Kamala Khan (the brilliant Iman Vellani, in her first ever acting role) is a hugely relatable Pakistani-American teen who adores the Avengers and whose other preoccupations – fitting in, her interfering parents – are entirely universal. Kamala does acquire powers of her own but, essentially, this is a charming, funny and self-aware musing on fandom itself.
A drama for which the adjective “panoramic” might have been invented, Pachinko swoops gracefully back and forth through the last century of Korean history. But for all of the grand, often traumatic events it documents, it never fails to explore the personal emotional dimension of history: how changing times change people.
Pick your dystopia: impoverished backwoods America or a future London, decimated by war? This William Gibson adaptation is a stylish, head-spinning sci-fi, in which VR gameplay collides with reality across multiple timelines.
Deep in the bowels of Slough House languish the Slow Horses –a dissolute crew of failed or disgraced spies led by the brilliant Gary Oldman’s shambolic agent Jackson Lamb. But what can this misfit crew offer to the MI5? Perhaps their apparent lack of credibility is the greatest disguise of all?
What would happen if a mysterious virus laid waste to billions of people? Notwithstanding the fact that humanity has recently been perilously close to finding out, this beautifully realised adaptation takes a nuanced view. There’s horror, of course, but also a real sense of the survivors gaining fresh insights into what makes life worth living.
Tim Burton’s Addams Family reboot provides exactly what you’d expect: delightful gothic whimsy, lavish visual flourishes and a few jagged edges (high-school jocks attacked with flesh-eating fish!). This series focuses on the family’s daughter and mixes classic teen coming-of- age tropes with a murder mystery. In a matter of weeks, it has become a cultural sensation of Stranger Things proportions.
ITVX, from Wednesday
In this captivating thriller, Vicky McClure and Johnny Harris reprise the dark, potent chemistry they displayed in This Is England. McClure is Stella Tomlinson, a woman traumatised by the murder of her daughter. Charles Stone (Harris) is in prison for the crime – but when he requests a restorative justice session, all hell breaks loose.
A small but perfectly formed gem of a sitcom: Dylan Llewellyn stars as fragile, closeted teen Jack who is paired with blokey mature student Danny (Jon Pointing) in their first year at university. A funny and tender friendship develops – Danny is lairy but never mean, while the recent loss of Jack’s father lends an undertow of melancholy.
Why not celebrate the festive return of Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones’s charming gold-diggers Andy and Lance by rummaging through the three seasons during which Detectorists became one of the BBC’s most cherished recent offerings? A funny and profound musing on history, continuity and friendship.
Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared
A beautifully oddball creation: this comedy initially has top notes of Sesame Street and Rainbow before sprawling, macabre details of a much darker hue become inescapable. Delightfully demented and, despite appearances, definitely not one to share with the kids.
How to With John Wilson
A magnificent cross between an early Louis Theroux-style innocent and a television intellectual such as Jonathan Meades, documentary-maker Wilson serves up a unique and addictive series. The subject matter of each 20-odd-minute episode (scaffolding in New York, cooking risotto) can sound humdrum. But Wilson follows every story to strange, digressive, glorious places.
Liam Williams’s autobiographical coming-of-age comedy combines acute observations about class, gender and mental health with hilarious weed and alcopop- fuelled hijinks from his Leeds adolescence. How did the thoughtful, stroppy teen become the smart but restless adult?
A soulful immigrant story, with jokes. Mo Amer is Mohammed Najjar, a Palestinian refugee living semi-legally in Texas while he seeks asylum status. Mo could be bleak and earnest or worthy and dull but, happily, it’s none of those things. Instead, it’s a celebration of functional multiculturalism with a humane, subtly polemical heart.
“I’ve been told my personality can make people uncomfortable,” says Nathan Fielder. He’s not wrong – this prank/reality comedy is one of the most brain-frying shows in years. The premise is that Fielder helps participants rehearse for difficult moments in their lives, but the rehearsals are so immersive that fact and fiction blur, to disorienting effect. You’ll laugh, and you’ll freak out, too.
Stewart Lee: Snowflake/Tornado
The comic embodiment of the metropolitan elite parades his masterful, self-reflexive set from 2019-20. As ever, it’s full of cultural provocations, brilliantly calibrated callbacks, uneasy audience interactions and hilarious disses of Alan Bennett. The place where standup and the avant garde meet.
Since it’s Christmas, might a boozy Bake Off hit the spot? This entertaining series applies the eliminative competition show format to the world of mixology – and it turns out barkeeps are capable of getting every bit as molecular as high-end chefs in search of “masterpieces of liquid art”.
Frozen Planet II
David Attenborough’s journeys into natural wonder shouldn’t be taken for granted: this latest series throws up yet more painstakingly filmed beauty and strangeness from the coldest depths and peaks of the world. From the hilarious Pallas’s Cat to the awe-inspiring Siberian tiger, the planet’s fragile glory has never been better captured.
Joe Pera Talks With You
Part of the Adult Swim TV empire, but tonally unlike anything else they’ve produced, this wonderfully gentle yet deceptively peculiar series sees Pera – a gangling, slightly awkward naif – sharing bite-size snippets of wisdom on all manner of matters from the construction of a bean arch to obituary writing.
Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls
Lizzo is looking for back-up dancers for her world tour, but she’s after girls who look a bit like her. This cheerful reality show sees 13 women face-off for the gig. Even though there’s a competitive element, the tone is entirely affirming: “curves and confidence” are the order of the day and Lizzo herself is a relentlessly positive presence.
Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone
A departure for Adam Curtis – this latest series from the enigmatic magus of the BBC archives features no voiceover and no music. Instead, the remarkable images carry the staggering and harrowing story. How did it feel to watch not one but two systems of government collapse in the space of two decades? The ramifications could hardly be more pertinent. An intuitive emotional history, darkly comic and utterly tragic.
Storyville: The Fire Within
The pick of the many excellent Storyville documentaries currently on iPlayer is Werner Herzog’s startling requiem for volcano-chasers Katia and Maurice Krafft, whose lifelong passion caught up with them when they died in 1991. The close eruption footage they captured makes the risks they took seem understandable.
The Tinder Swindler
One of the best of Netflix’s glut of true-crime documentaries is this enraging tale about conman Simon Leviev who used the titular dating app to contact women, seduce them with lavish gifts then relieve them of large sums of money. The story is told from the emotional viewpoint of Leviev’s victims, which elevates it above the prurient.