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This week's TV highlights include "Alice & Jack," "The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth," "The New Look," and "Bring the Drama" – a review.
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This week’s TV highlights include “Alice & Jack,” “The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth,” “The New Look,” and “Bring the Drama” – a review.

Alice and Jack on Channel 4, found at channel4.com.

The BBC Two documentary, “The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth,” is available on iPlayer.
The updated appearance (Apple TV+)

Watch the series “Bring the Drama” on BBC Two through iPlayer.

What is currently causing the fluctuation of unstable relationships? Recently, we saw the release of the Netflix version of One Day (which follows a college couple for 20 years). Now, there is Victor Levin’s Alice & Jack, a six-episode drama on Channel 4 that explores romantic dysfunction over several decades. Co-directed by Juho Kuosmanen (known for Compartment No 6) and Hong Khaou, this may be intended as a television tribute (as the first episode aired on Tuesday, February 14th), but it is emotionally raw and thought-provoking.

I immediately approve because the character of Alice, portrayed by Andrea Riseborough (to Leslie), is a financial expert. I admire the sharp and unpredictable qualities she brings to her roles. Domhnall Gleeson (The Patient) plays Jack, a contemplative biomedical researcher. They first meet through an app and their connection becomes obsessive, unstable, and harmful. As time goes on (spoiler alert), they continue to reunite, relying on each other out of necessity rather than desire. For Alice, who carries emotional scars, there may be too much past trauma for her to handle.

Please be aware that you may not have a favorable opinion of Alice or Jack. There are moments when I find them to be insufferable and self-indulgent drama queens. Along with supporting actors Aisling Bea, Aimee Lou Wood, and Sunil Patel, it is widely accepted that the main characters’ intense love has the power to disrupt everything and everyone in its path. They manipulate and mistreat decent individuals, while the obstacles preventing them from being together seem forced and flimsy over time. If you continue watching until the end (spoiler alert), you may feel deceived by the strange, confusing ending.

Alice and Jack simultaneously exude a daring, intellectual (reminiscent of a peculiar, lengthy play divided into six parts), contentious, and entertaining vibe (“I will try to say this as kindly as possible – please leave”). Riseborough and Gleeson effectively portray the constantly tumultuous couple, their individual issues colliding in tumultuous waves. While not overly explicit, there are moments that evoke a wearier, more exhausted version of Normal People. However, this begs the question of whether we truly need another anti-romantic comedy for our jaded era.

BBC Two aired a three-part documentary series called The Space Shuttle That Fell to Earth, created by Lizzie Kempton. The series delves into the tragic events of the 2003 Columbia disaster, where the Nasa space shuttle exploded upon re-entry to Earth, resulting in the death of all seven crew members (both male and female). The episodes begin with footage of debris falling over east Texas and then cover different aspects of the devastating event: the lead up and problematic launch (caused by foam casing hitting a wing); the concerns that were ignored on the ground; and finally, the aftermath and investigation, leading to a damning report.

There are interviews with Nasa engineers, officials, and journalists, as well as the bereaved families. Soon, the shocking tale emerges: the attempts to raise the alarm that were batted away; the emails left ignored or unsent; the stifling chain of command that made all this possible; the pervading sense that cost and schedules were favoured over scrutiny and what amounted to a disturbing “fingers crossed” attitude to safety.

‘Calm and oblivious’: orbiting Columbia space shuttle astronauts (clockwise from top left) Dave Brown, Willie McCool, Mike Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Laurel Clark, Rick Husband and Kalpana Chawla.

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More difficult moments can be found elsewhere. The families of the astronauts who were left behind. The videos of the crew preparing, forming close bonds, and conducting scientific experiments in space, all filled with excitement for the opportunity (for four of them, it was their first mission). It’s unsettling yet touching to watch the footage from inside the shuttle cabin, where the crew appears calm and unaware, floating in zero gravity. This gripping documentary series pays tribute to the innocent astronauts and those who tragically let them down.

After watching all 10 episodes of Todd A Kessler’s latest series, The New Look, which combines World War II and high fashion, on Apple TV+, I am still confused. What was the purpose of this show?

In essence, the film consists of two intertwined biographical stories about renowned French fashion icons, Christian Dior and Coco Chanel, portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn and Juliette Binoche. Additionally, it delves into the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Paris and the accusations of collaboration against both designers. While Dior quietly supports the French resistance with the help of his brave sister Catherine (Maisie Williams), Chanel is depicted engaging in disgraceful behavior such as associating with Heinrich Himmler and attempting to deliver a message to Winston Churchill, which ultimately fails.

Ben Mendelsohn as Christian Dior in The New Look.

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Jonathan Glazer’s most recent movie, The Zone of Interest, showcases how the atrocities of Nazi Germany can serve as a powerful and unsettling backdrop. However, The New Look lacks this same cleverness, with its uneven shifts in tone and focus. It alternates between discussing fashion (with beautifully dressed Parisian characters, perfumes, rivalries, and rebirths) and delving into the dark topics of Nazis, torture, executions, and the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Additionally, the portrayal of Chanel is inconsistent, at times depicting her as a heartless, anti-Semitic individual and then as a snarky, witty, and campy queen – and even a feminist hero: “I will no longer tolerate this boys’ club!”

In other areas, there is an excessive amount of padding, with unnecessary intricacies and laughable dialogue (such as “Your boyfriend is a Nazi”). Additionally, the cast, including John Malkovich, speak English with French accents (why?). The nuanced performances, especially from Mendelsohn and Williams, get lost in a convoluted and morally questionable storyline. Kessler was the creator of one of my favorite TV shows – Damages – so I doubt this was his intention.

If you’re looking for something unique and heartwarming, you might enjoy the new six-part series Bring the Drama (BBC Two) featuring host Bill Bailey. The show follows a diverse group of eight aspiring actors who did not have the chance to attend drama school, as they are guided by casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry (known for her work on Fleabag, Broadchurch, and Bridgerton). Hendry shares her belief that the entertainment industry is biased towards privilege and hopes to see change.

Host Bill Bailey and eight aspiring actors in Bring the Drama.View image in fullscreen

In the beginning, the trainees participate in soap acting at the Albert Square set, giving their best performances. In the upcoming weeks, they will also explore forensic drama through Silent Witness and action drama through Peaky Blinders. The ultimate reward is an opportunity to showcase their talents to the industry. This show is heartwarming and supportive as it encourages individuals to pursue their dreams. There is no elimination process, and success relies on Hendry’s “magical pen-drop moments”. It brings back memories of classic reality television like Faking It, before the chaos and negativity took over.

Star ratings (out of five)
Alice & Jack ★★★

The space shuttle that crashed to the ground received a rating of four stars.
The New Look ★★
Bring the Drama ★★★

What other things am I currently viewing?

(BBC One)

The second season of the crime drama set in Dublin, written by Peter McKenna and Ciaran Donnelly. Dark, unyielding, and unconventional, it features Charlie Cox and Clare Dunne.

Trending on Netflix since it launched last month, this drama about real-life female Colombian underworld boss Griselda Blanco, starring Sofia Vergara engulfed in prosthetics, is garish, overblown and undeniably exciting.

Sofia Vergara sitting alone at a table in a restaurant.

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(BBC Four)
Aw, “Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss, old fat furry cat-puss.” Heart-twanging 50th-anniversary tribute to the stripy moggy and friends, including a repeat of the 2009 Timeshift documentary on creator Oliver Postgate and two episodereruns. No, you’ve always secretly wanted to be Emily.

Source: theguardian.com