Pick of the week
Fifth Brunson’s mockumentary comedy set in a rough-round-the-edges Philadelphia school manages a rare feat. As any teacher worth their salt might demand, it shows rather than tells. We’re encouraged to sympathize with the school’s scrappy kids and hard-pressed, passionate teachers. But the show strikes a fine balance between comic charm and subtle polemic about the inadequacies of the US education system. As we join the action, a teacher has been fired for kicking a student and a funding battle begins over basic equipment. Brunson also stars as Janine Teagues, an endearing if slightly scatty teacher who delights the kids but sometimes bothers her superiors.
Disney +, from Wednesday 1 June
Based on Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones’s memoir, Danny Boyle’s six-part comedy-drama rattles along energetically enough, summoning up the mood of dank, repressed mid-70s Britain. The angle feels relatively new – Jones’s (Toby Wallace) perspective has been explored less than Sid Vicious’s and Johnny Rotten’s, and his abusive childhood is evoked in all its claustrophobic grimness. But there’s an earnestness to the script and performances that feels slightly off, undercutting the band’s nihilism. However much they gurn and sneer, the actors simply aren’t grubby or delinquent enough to pull it off.
Disney +, from Tuesday 31 May
Borgen: Power & Glory
The heyday of Scandi-drama seems like a distant memory, but the return of Birgitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) feels like a welcome visit from an old friend. A decade ago, she felt like a principled anomaly. In the populist era, she’s even more of a liberal wish-fulfilment fantasy. Nyborg is now minister for foreign affairs – and when oil is discovered in Greenland, she’s at the center of an international power struggle in the Arctic. She also has to keep an eye on Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen) who is milking her status as a “Nyborg expert” on TV.
Netflix, from Thursday 2 June
“I may be a superhero. But I’m still just a man who fell in love with the wrong woman. ” Homelander (Antony Starr) is attempting a rebrand, but his gentler mode seems even more unhinged. This is par for the course for this returning superhero spoof – it manages to have its cake and eat it by satisfying a taste for satire and spectacular ultraviolence. Butcher (Karl Urban) now works for the government and is unusually calm. But when the Boys learn of a mysterious anti-Supe weapon, they collide with the Seven and all hell breaks loose.
Amazon Prime Video, from Friday 3 June
Strip clubs had a tough time through the pandemic, and the Pynk – in the fictional, deep south town of Chucalissa – was no different. Covid-related departures created vacancies. Cue Roulette – a new dancer (portrayed by Gail Bean of Snowfall fame), ready to give the club a few headaches and a much-needed fresh lease of life. The first season of this show was a sleeper hit, but P-Valley deserves more attention: it’s saucy in every sense, but the stories are told generously and from the perspectives of the dancers, and are all the better for it.
StarzPlay, from Friday 3 June
This Lycra-clad comedy-drama, launched last year, aims to do for the fitness video what Glow did for female wrestling: present it as an emblem of an era, set in amber and ripe for all sorts of melodrama and kitsch period detail. The problem is, unlike Glow, the characters are never quite well-drawn enough for it to convince, either as drama or comedy. In season two, Sheila Rubin (Rose Byrne) deals with the aftermath of breakthrough success – her workout video has spawned imitators and jealous also-rans eager for a share of her spoils.
Apple TV +, from Friday 3 June
Floor Is Lava
Season one of this wonderfully daft adventure show (think The Crystal Maze with regular plummets into boiling red gloop) did big, albeit possibly Covid-related, numbers for Netflix, so a second season was a no-brainer. But once you’ve created an obstacle course of bubbling volcanic matter, how do you raise the stakes? It’s really obvious: a massive volcano, spewing even hotter lava! It’s fair to say no one can be accused of overthinking this show’s USP, and that’s part of the appeal. Put it this way: you’ll watch more than one episode.
Netflix, from Friday 3 June