What to watch on TV this week
- Credit: RICARDO HUBBS/NETFLIX
Maid, all episodes available to stream now on Netflix
I have to admit, it wasn’t until a friend told me that I knew the lead (Margaret Qualley) in this runaway Netflix hit is actually co-star Andie MacDowell's daughter. I should have guessed from the smile and cheekbones.
I also didn’t realise Andie MacDowell could act. Every time I happen to catch Four Weddings and a Funeral (usually late night in a hotel room), I can’t help but cringe at that line: “Is it raining? I hadn’t noticed.” Urgh, pass the sick bucket.
It might seem unlikely for a down-at-luck tale about a single mother trying to make ends meet to have climbed the streaming service’s Top 10 most-watched list, especially with a raft of feelgood Christmas flicks being catapulted onto the small screen.
But maybe this gritty, emotionally draining, at times heart-wrenching observation not only of single mothers, but of a system which almost sets them up to fail, is what we all need right now. It certainly reminded me not to moan about many of the things I complain about.
Based on Stephanie Land’s book – Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive – episode one sets out the stall. Living in a rundown static trailer with her two-year-old daughter and emotionally abusive husband Sean (Nick Robinson), after fearing for their safety following one of his alcoholic rages, Alex packs all she can into a tiny bag and bravely escapes.
Every episode that follows charts the highs and (mostly) lows of her journey.
- 1 Case of Omicron Covid variant confirmed in north Norfolk
- 2 'Squatter' couple become legal owners of land as saga continues
- 3 Teenager admits stabbing three people in Norwich city centre
- 4 Confusion as people in Norfolk mistakenly turn up for booster jab
- 5 Weather warning issued as wintry showers expected to cause icy conditions
- 6 More than 80 Norfolk parishes protest against wind farm plans
- 7 Norfolk hotel set to launch five romantic orchard cabins next year
- 8 Norfolk Labour website tells people not to vote for party
- 9 NCFC LIVE: Missed chance for City against 10-man Newcastle
- 10 MP 'not concerned' about single Omicron case in north Norfolk
From being told she can’t get a job without a place to live, and can’t live without a place to work. To ending up in a women’s shelter. To exposing her daughter to a horrendous black mould problem which makes her sick. To husband Sean somehow scraping the money together to take her to court for custody. It's often too much to bear as a viewer.
Whenever Alex DOES manage to work (as a Maid for a couldn’t-care-less boss) the odds are stacked against her. We see, through clever onscreen graphics, the money coming in one hand and being dished back out again with the other. In one scene she will practically beg another driver for just $3 as she accidentally daydreamed at the pump. Those are $3 dollars she simply cannot afford.
There is a point midway towards the end where you feel Alex is going to make it. She’s put her heart and soul into making a life for her daughter and it's paying off in the most beautiful way. But, of course, the opportunity at a fresh start is ripped away cruelly by circumstances beyond her control.
Add into the mix her hapless, arty-farty mother (MacDowell) Paula, who, like Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Dubois relies on the kindness of strangers (men) and cannot bear to be alone – up and leaving at a whim to follow her latest beau wherever he may land - and her passive-aggressive father Billy Burke (Hank Russell) who always seems to take Sean’s side, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
As Alex lugs her tot from car to car, pillar to post, up and down town, on and off ferries, as an audience you almost lose sight of the fact she’s carrying a person. Her child has almost become living luggage.
But throughout, Alex proves this couldn’t be further from the truth. She’d go to any length to protect and care for her daughter, no matter the cost to her own sanity. This character has grit and determination. You’ll cry with her. You’ll root for her. And, happily, you will ultimately celebrate with her. Pour a glass of wine and settle in for the ride.
Worzel Gummidge, stream now on BBC Iplayer
I love Mackenzie Crook’s beautiful writing and pitch-perfect shows that distil the essence of charm and spread it across an hour or so of TV like hot butter on a comforting crumpet.
Worzel Gummidge has – in recent years - been a Christmas treat, but this year the BBC spoilt us with a Bonfire Night special involving the incineration of a scarecrow (spoiler: not WG).
Like autumn on speed dial, this charming show brought together some of my favourite things: fireworks, terrifying mannequins and the wonderful cast that Crook attracts to all his projects because he’s brilliant.
From the music (The Unthanks, who I always feel should hail from NR2 rather than Tyne and Wear) to the wonderful Toby Jones in his six roles as butcher, baker, alderman, mayor, postmaster and publican, this show was a cosy delight.
The (gunpowder) plot, in short, involved Worzel (Crook) meeting his cousin Guy Forks (yes, spelled like that, and played by Paul Kaye with garden forks as fingers) and taking his place on top of a bonfire stack ahead of a good old-fashioned ritual burning. So far, so family-friendly.
Worzel’s young sidekicks Susan and John (played by the rapidly growing India Brown and Thierry Wickens) set out to save the day and Guy learned a thing or two about climate change.
Like everything Crook produces – The Detectorists in particular – this was gorgeously-shot, in tune with nature and quietly magical with a softly-spoken anti-pollution message woven in between the mild peril of Worzel’s seemingly imminent death-by-blaze.
It was charming, beautiful and lovely. Gummidge is still pretty terrifying to look at, though – not sure I’d want to meet old Worzel Turnip Hands down a dark alley.
Big Mouth, all five seasons available on Netflix
The fifth season of one of Netflix’s biggest animated series, Big Mouth, has just landed on the platform – and it’s definitely the perfect show to binge watch if you’re looking for something light, easy-to-watch and filled with laughs.
The show, which was created by actor, comedian, and writer Nick Kroll, follows a group of teenagers as they make their make their way through the struggles that come with puberty, school, and home life.
An already awkward time in anyone’s life, the show’s characters are accompanied by ‘hormone monsters’, their over-the-shoulder angels who try and guide them through their tumultuous teenage years.
The kids and adults on Big Mouth are voiced by some of comedy’s biggest and best, including Nick Kroll himself, John Mulaney, Jason Mantzoukas, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, and Jordan Peele to name a few. And the likes of Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig, John Oliver, Seth Rogen and Zach Galifianakis have all provided guest voices throughout the course of the show.
Filled with jokes and gross-out gags galore, Big Mouth still manages to do a great job of tackling real-life issues such as body image, sexuality and coming out, love and relationships. But don’t be fooled – even though the main cast are kids, I wouldn’t say it’s suitable viewing for the youngsters.