What to watch on TV this week

Connie Nielsen

Connie Nielsen as Jo in Close to Me - Credit: Channel Four Television Corporation

Close to me, Streaming now on All4 

I don’t think the opening sequence to this adaptation of Amanda Reynolds’ best-selling thriller could be more dramatic. 

Just seconds in, lead player Jo Harding (Connie Nielsen) has been flung down a staircase, a pool of sticky blood seeping out around her blonde locks. 

It’s the beginning of an intriguing, if a little drawn-out, concept that’s not unlike S J Watson’s Before I go to Sleep – adapted into a film starring Nicole Kidman. 

The premise is this. Jo’s had a fall and can’t remember the last year of her life. But was the tumble an accident? With a history of self-harm and mental illness, did she do it to herself? Was she pushed by someone close to home? Or...was there an intruder in the house? 

All these possibilities and more are investigated across six episodes – which I personally feel could have been chopped down to four...but enjoyed nonetheless. 

Having joined a group for brain injury support group, a manic, desperate, scared Jo tries to piece together the assorted jigsaw pieces of her life, all the while blindsided by friends and family who ‘don’t want to upset her’. 

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As an audience, we join Jo (via inner monologues) on her quest. And, strange mermaid/fantasy sequences aside, it’s rather gripping. 

She learns that her son’s dropped out of uni and now seemingly hates her. That her dog has dropped dead. She ‘blossomed’ over her lost year. And that potentially she’s slept with her daughter’s fiancée and baby daddy. 

Lurking in the shadows is husband Rob, played brilliantly by Christopher Eccleston, who strikes a delicate balance in his performance. So finely tuned that we’re never quite sure if he’s a good guy, or a baddie...not, at least, until the very very end of the series. One minute he’s helping Jo’s increasingly confused father out of pee-soaked trousers, the next he’s up-to-no-good, sneaking about insidiously, trying to find out ‘what Jo knows’. 

As well as being a modern whodunnit, Close To Me is a deftly drawn commentary on marriage and middle life. A couple who firmly find themselves in the ‘sandwich generation’ with needy adult children to attend to, and ailing parents. A woman in the throes of menopause. And a man unsure of how to cope with the fallout of all the changes in their lives. 

This dynamic is, in many ways, at the heart of the premise of the show – rather than the fall itself. 

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis 

Professor Robert Langdon's friend and mentor, Peter Solomon, director of the Smithsonian, has been k

The Lost Symbol - Credit: Rafy/Peacock

The Lost Symbol, Streaming now on Sky/Now TV 

The last time we saw Dan Brown’s Professor Robert Langdon dashing about with a manbag and head full of puzzles was in 2009’s Angels & Demons – a less than sizzling prequel to The Da Vinci Code (both starring Tom Hanks). 

As a hardened Brown fan my interest was piqued last month when I saw Sky had optioned The Lost Symbol – streaming now on Sky and Now TV. 

I’m a few episodes in and, I have to say, although it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I am hooked. If you’re the kind of person who watches Indiana Jones reruns at Christmas – this is the show for you.  

In it Ashley Zukerman leads as Langdon, a young, energetic professor of Symbology at Harvard. 

When the tattooed, severed hand of his former mentor (and father of his former love) Peter Soloman (Eddie Izzard) turns up at the Smithsonian, Langdon finds himself at the mercy of a madman. Lured into a series of puzzles with potentially deadly consequences. 

There are unfathomable encryptions to work out. A la Indiana, walls physically move, closing in on the would-be hero. And Langdon can’t shake his ex Valorie (Peter’s daughter) or the CIA off his tail. 

While it’s not my favourite of Brown’s novels (that would be Deception Point), there’s an easy, Sunday night watching vibe to this show. You don’t need to concentrate too hard. Just pull on your pyjamas, pour a cup of cocoa and settle in for the ride. 

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis 

How I Met Your Mother, streaming on Netflix 

If you’re looking for something easy to binge-watch over the upcoming Christmas period, then look no further than How I Met Your Mother.  

Similar to Friends but for a more millennial audience (its first episode aired in 2005), How I Met Your Mother follows Ted (Josh Radnor), the show’s main character, as he and his friends navigate their way through love, life, and work in Manhattan.  

While the show has been compared to Friends throughout the years, what differentiates it from the NBC classic is that each episode begins with future Ted (whose narration voice is provided by Bob Saget), talking to his two children in the year 2030, gradually working his way through his twenties and thirties as he explains the story of how he met their mother – hence the show’s name.  

Joining Ted in his quest to find love in The Big Apple are his four closest friends: his college friends Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alison Hanningan), on-and-off flame and friend Robyn (Cobie Smoulders), and perhaps the show’s breakout character Barney (Neil Patrick Harris), who’s best known for his catchphrases ‘Suit up’ and ‘legen—wait for it—dary’. 

How I Met Your Mother may not have had the same pop culture legacy that Friends or Seinfeld managed, but it’s still a great show to make your way through, and definitely provides many laughs along the way. And while the show’s ending might’ve left a bit of an unsavoury taste in some fan’s mouths, don’t let that take away from the show itself – it's still a fun watch. 

Danielle Lett 

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