HBO’s sumptuous adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s hugely successful Neapolitan Novels series turns its attention to book two, The Story of a New Name. Finding herself in a loveless marriage, and watched over by her mother-in-law, Lila persuades her best friend Elena to join her on holiday, but a series of secrets soon threatens their relationship.
Friday 19 June, 9pm, Sky Atlantic
Ben Platt returns as the frighteningly ambitious Payton Hobart in the second season of Ryan Murphy’s melodrama. With the chaotic high school president election long lost, Hobart now has his heart set on the gubernatorial race against incumbent Dede Standish.
Friday 19 June, Netflix
There’s a faint whiff of mid-season 90s X Files emanating from this German sci-fi drama about a group of aliens using a new synthetic party drug, Bliss, to infiltrate human hosts. Game of Thrones’s Rosabell Laurenti Sellers plays Nora, the woman trying to solve the riddles after having lost her memory.
Tuesday 16 June, 9pm, Syfy
Hot on the heels of 2019’s Helen Mirren-starring Catherine the Great, The Favourite writer Tony McNamara has penned this outrageous miniseries based on the life of the Russian monarch. Starring Elle Fanning as the capricious Catherine, married to husband Peter (Nicholas Hoult), it is a historical bacchanalia, all excess and extravagance.
Thursday 18 June, Starzplay
Tom Brittney plays Billy, a constructed-reality star coping with new fame, in this timely drama written by broadcaster Reggie Yates. While his co-stars thrive out in the “real” world, Billy can’t seem to shake people’s assumptions about him.
Wednesday 17 June, BBC Three
Rebel Wilson hosts this self-consciously wacky gameshow in which 10 professional comedians are locked in a house and forced to make each other laugh. The twist? Anyone who does laugh is booted out, while the last stoic standing wins.
Thursday 18 June, Amazon Prime Video
Just in time for Father’s Day, this documentary directed by Bryce Dallas Howard focuses on the joys of modern-day parenting. Featuring heartfelt stories from six everyday dads, as well as more famous ones such as Will Smith, Patton Oswalt and her own dad Ron, it is soft-focused, Hallmark card stuff.
Friday 19 June, Apple TV+
Shot over four years in New York State prisons, this two-part documentary focuses on the rehabilitation of a group of inmates via a rigorous educational programme. Arriving without a high school education, they leave with victory over the Harvard debating team.
Monday 15 June, 10pm, BBC Four
This doc sheds light on transgender depictions in Hollywood, looking at how the likes of The Crying Game and Pose trace a history of representation that is both dehumanising yet also evolving. It features leading trans creatives such as Laverne Cox and Lilly Wachowski.
Friday 19 June, Netflix
This three-part drama about the public health response to the fatal poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018 still carries a worrying resonance. Anne-Marie Duff stars as the director of public health for the region, while Rafe Spall plays the detective contaminated at the Skripals’ home.
Sunday 14 June, 9pm, BBC One
This longstanding podcast featuring journalists and experts discussing race issues is more important than ever following the global outrage after the police killing of George Floyd. Particularly moving recent episodes include A Decade of Watching Black People Die and Black Like Who? – both necessary and often painful explorations of history repeating itself.
A new pod in which activist Gina Martin and her sister, comic Stevie, rake through the social media posts of notable people. This might sound cruel on the face of it, though said people are in attendance too. First up is body positivity influencer Megan Crabbe for an enlightening chat about Instagram and mental health.
Widely available, weekly
The Guardian’s Ian Sample, Hannah Devlin and Nicola Davis take readers’ questions to experts, with recent queries ranging from the effect of vitamin D on Covid-19 to calculating herd immunity. Sick of hearing about the pandemic? There are also episodes on topics like why dogs become more rebellious during puberty.
Widely available, weekly
Released as part of the New York Times’s 2019 project marking 400 years since enslaved Africans arrived on American shores, this six-part podcast delves into the traumatic and enduring legacy for black Americans. With Black Lives Matter protests occurring around the world, 1619 is a prescient reminder of the insidious beginnings of racism.
New York Times, weekly
Iceland’s nine-piece, female hip-hop collective got halfway through their debut podcast before the virus hit. Each week they took on a topic raised by a song on their new album Soft Spot, touching on narcissism, feminism and sexism. Guests include duo Ider and Of Monsters and Men’s Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir.
(Spike Lee,) 154 mins,
London-born Delroy Lindo makes his fourth appearance in a Spike Lee film as one of a group of African-American Vietnam vets who return to find out what happened to their squad leader. Another prestige production for Netflix, who will be hoping this gets the reach of Lee’s last film BlacKkKlansman, which ended up with six Oscar nominations.
(Judd Apatow) 137 mins
Like his last film, the Amy Schumer-starring Trainwreck, Judd Apatow unites with a fresh comic talent. SNL’s Pete Davidson co-writes and stars in an autobiographical film about a kid whose life is upturned by the death of his firefighter dad.
(Věra Chytilová) 76 mins
Second Run, the DVD label that specialises in the more esoteric elements of world cinema, has launched its own on-demand platform. Pick of the bunch is probably this key 1966 film from the Czech new wave – more obviously quirky than the likes of The Fireman’s Ball or Closely Observed Trains, but fun and watchable nonetheless.
(Kenneth Branagh) 94 mins
A streaming debut for this putative franchise-starter based on the kidulty fantasy novels by Eoin Colfer. Ferdia Shaw plays the 12-year-old “criminal mastermind” aiming to track down his equally criminal mastermind dad (Colin Farrell).
(Jeffrey McHale) 94 mins
Showgirls was supposed to be the blockbusting reunion of Basic Instinct’s Joe Eszterhas and Paul Verhoeven; instead, it was ridiculed before evolving into a trash classic. McHale tries to establish whether, in fact, it’s any good.
(Park Chan-wook) 168 mins
A gloriously twisty, erotic psychodrama from the Vengeance Trilogy director Park Chan-wook. Adapted from Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith, it moves the action from Victorian London to 1930s colonial Korea, where conwoman Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) inveigles her way into the home of a horrible old pornographer and his niece Hideko (Kim Min-hee).
Tuesday, 1.50am, Channel 4
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