I will tell you about it Dead playerscreated by Alice Birch (who co-adapted Normal people and wrote for Succession), after taking off my goggles and taking a hot shower. There’s no limit to reproductive bloodshed in this six-part Amazon Prime Video remake of David Cronenberg’s psychological thriller about gynecologist twins descending into mania. The 1988 film, starring Jeremy Irons, featured surgical instruments so misshapen and creepy it was hard to look at them without wriggling, but this makeover isn’t for the faint of heart either. Babies pound out of vaginas; arms dig deep into biceps into oozing C-sections. I didn’t see so much blood gushing from the elevator scene The brilliant. Here is the miracle of life written as big as a fruitful battlefield. Birch seems on a mission to do the whelping thing Normal people made for sex: as damn it shows for real.
You could be forgiven for moaning “not another old movie reinvented”! But the new series isn’t aiming to be a dead ringer, so to speak, to the original. It’s a gender swap, with Rachel Weisz playing the gyno twins: domineering, drug-addled, sexually predatory Elliot (all flowing mane and punk sizzle) and taut, submissive dyke Beverley (hair slicked back; soon shown miscarrying her same pregnancy). They act as one when they skewer a drooling sexist lout (“Is your imagination so fucked up you have to see everything twice before your cock gets hard?”), when they switch identities for Elliot to get a new lover (Britne Oldford ) for Beverley, and in getting their precious birth center funded. Then there’s the sweetest toxicity of their twin, the smothering of codependency.
The writer seems on a mission to do for childbirth what normal people have done for sex
Dead players juggles a myriad of themes: infertility; in vitro fertilization; the medical institution; competition; scientific ethics, all seasoned Succession-esque jabs at super-wealth (Jennifer Ehle is terrific as an obnoxious advocate, grinning in jumbo glasses like a malevolent Gloria Steinem). Sometimes it overstretches and succumbs to the streamer’s disease of laborious subplots and overlong detours (investor nights; strangely behaving employees; sticky streams of sociopolitical consciousness). Still, the hot, creepy mess of the twins’ dynamic is executed beautifully: Weisz glides over the double skins with campy gusto. She is especially vivid as Elliot, who feels like a classic Hollywood freak.
On ITV1, the drama in three episodes Hunting for Raul Moat, written by Kevin Sampson, outlined the real-life events of 2010 when, just released from Durham prison, Moat (played by Matt Stokoe) shot three people dead. He injured her ex Samantha Stobbart (Sally Messham), killed her new partner Christopher Brown (Josef Davies) and blinded PC David Rathband (who later killed himself).
A key challenge of the true crime drama is how to avoid glorifying the killers at the expense of the victims and their families (some of whom objected to this miniseries). Self-pitying, fueled by rage, known for intimidating women and jailed for assaulting a child relative, Moat personified toxic masculinity. However, some regarded him as a folk hero for his surviving escape from the police (the drama’s opening scenes show fans making a twisted pilgrimage to the town of Rothbury, near which he shot himself).
THFRM makes a genuine effort to focus on the victims. Messham is touching as the frightened young woman, who inadvertently fuels Moat’s rampage by pretending Brown is a cop. Lee Ingleby is gruffly stoic as a senior officer. The bizarre real-life arrival of footballer Paul Gascoigne, wielding a fishing rod and cooked chicken, offering to talk to Moat, is not shown. Only grunting sporadically (“Are you taking me seriously now?”), Stokoe lends Moat no semblance of lone wolf charisma as he trudges around, face set like suet, with a sawed-off shotgun.
In other times, THFRM it seems incredibly simple. Spot the growing online support for Moat, but barely review it. There’s no real sense of the macabre media circus going on around the standoff (at the time, it seemed shocking: a manhunt framed almost as public entertainment). What emerges is a well-meaning, solidly acted, yet monochromatic retelling. While it rightfully whitens itself from sensationalism, there are too many other blanks.
Netflix’s new six-part political thriller The diplomat it seemed that it could not fail. With Keri Russell (The Americans), was created by Debora Cahn, who worked on it The west wing AND Homeland.
Russell plays Kate Wyler, an earnest and outspoken US career diplomat who is forced to become the UK ambassador and live in a stately home in Regent’s Park. Though their marriage is crumbling, she’s joined by her retired diplomat husband, (Rufus Sewell, who confusingly takes a rude “US Hugh Grant” turn). Kate continues to complain about the serious (an Iranian plot thread) and the easy (a magazine photo shoot) with equal ferocity.
While Kate is a kind of clone of Carrie Mathison (bad character, unkempt hair), US staff remember the fast-talking element of The west wing. Elsewhere, there are relentless fish out of water/Emilia in Paris-esque jokes to British formality. Rory Kinnear plays the British prime minister as a cheeky mix of Tony Blair and Boris Johnson.
I liked it Homelandand I’m always up for a decent political thriller, but, after a few episodes, The diplomat feels tired and dated. If you want to watch people standing in posh rooms arguing pointlessly and promoting British stereotypes, you better stick to one Downton Abbey repeat.
Our changing planet (BBC One) is an opportunity to check the progress of an ambitious seven-year global green project that started last year. The idea is that six wildlife presenters (Chris Packham, Ella Al-Shamahi, Steve Backshall, Liz Bonnin, Ade Adepitan and Gordon Buchanan) visit climate-damaged areas of the world each year to see how conservation missions are doing .
The first of two episodes is a delight right from the start – who knew it was possible to “hear” a coral reef (Backshall in the Maldives) or that stinky mucus was the only way to have sex with a beaver (Bonnin in California) ? Along with a research team in Greenland, Packham is practically squeaking from the cold, but still finds the energy to bury his face deep in the thick fur of a tranquilized musk ox to smell good. Classic Beeb wildlife magic.
Star Ratings (out of five):
Dead players ★★★★
The hunt for Raoul Moat ★★★
The diplomat ★★
Our changing planet ★★★★
What else am I looking at
Deborah JamesBowelbabe in his own words
A wonderful and extremely emotional documentary made by inspiring “control your poop” activist Deborah James. She’s about James that she’s been living (she’s really living) with bowel cancer, in the five years before her death at age 40 last year.
Judy Blume forever
(Amazon Prime Videos)
A documentary (which premiered at the 2023 Sundance festival) about the acclaimed US author (Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret), whose “radical honesty” about teenage travails (menstruation, dating, bullying) continues to educate/entertain around the world.
A sinister crime series based on the novels set in Atlanta by Karin Slaughter. Ramón Rodríguez is the irregular (dyslexic) special agent, nicknamed the “Rat Snitch Traitor” for exposing corrupt officers. Erika Christensen plays her equally maverick colleague/love interest.