Red rose BBC Three | iPlayer
Wedding BBC One | iPlayer
bad sisters AppleTV+
The sky at night BBC Four | iPlayer
A horror show called Red rose? Not a docuseries about Labour’s performance in the 2019 general election, but a BBC/Netflix collaboration from Eleven, the rising production company that brought us Sex education. The red rose in question is a chilling app which, downloaded onto the phones of post-GCSE teenagers in Bolton, Lancashire, begins to manipulate them from smooching their best friend’s boyfriend to committing suicide, possibly murder.
There is a core of friends who loosen their school ties before the summer: the headstrong Rochelle, the beautiful Wren, the quick-witted Ash, the nerdy Taz and the kind Antony. Their plans for the summer include getting excited on nearby moors, not terrorizing via iOS.
The idea of a horror series set in a northern British town is great, given how rare horror is on UK screens and how great London-centric TV drama is here. . It’s a vibe similar to how stranger things‘ The bizarre Upside Down was discovered in a rural town in Indiana, not the New York City subway.
But with shows in which viewers are required to suspend disbelief to immerse themselves in the supernatural (and there are certainly non-this realm elements to the threat Red rose, including a twinkling, ghostly figure lurking in camera mode), the details of authentic existence must be just that. There are realities presented perfectly here: the use of food banks and coin-operated meters flashing zero will be familiar in a cost-of-living crisis, but some elements are puzzling.
Why, for example, is a child in 2022 filming a party with a camcorder? And if there is a vogue for playing with time and setting (see the brilliant The end of the fucking world and its mashup of funny modern-day teenagers, with architecture and a soundtrack from the 60s), there is a particular stylistic choice in Red rose which has rightly haunted me: a motif from a choir version of Aqua’s Barbie Girl. I’m a big fan of juxtaposition in TV soundscapes, but in this case we have mourners throwing dirt on a coffin in a shaky voice singing “life in plastic/ it’s fantastic “, which might work if the person had died from a botched cosmetic procedure, but literally only then.
However, Red rose kinda reminds me of the breakout tech thriller Chloe, in that I was adamant I didn’t like it, and then watched the first three episodes without pausing. I’m intrigued whether the rogue app will turn out to be purely of the paranormal variety, or go the way of black mirrorThe Shut Up and Dance episode of , which featured black hat coders, whose likes are usually terrifying and are already causing havoc IRL.
From Teenagers to Parents: Nicola Walker (Emma) and Sean Bean (Ian) have been married for 27 years, with an adopted single-aged daughter, Jess, and a deceased son, though we don’t immediately know how. From the writer Stefan Golaszewski (Mom; He she), Wedding will divide audiences into those who find it slow and lacking in plot, and those who find it beautiful in its tranquility and characterization. We start with Emma and Ian bickering over a jacket potato at an airport cafe, before she offers him a supportive hand to ease his fear of flying. This gentle back and forth sets the tone. Sure, not much happens in the first episode, but that’s more the point. Ian, who has lost his job and his mother (we don’t know what Lady Bracknell would think of that), loads the dishwasher a lot. Emma’s attempts to talk to her elderly father are unrewarded. The silences in Wedding to pass off as a chatterbox.
If I’m honest, the monotony of this suburban life rather horrifies me. But there’s a lot of love, kindness and loyalty – something that Jess’ obnoxious, snobby boyfriend on a visit to London is all too entitled to appreciate (as in Red rose, we are in the north). There are some wonderful observations: Ian’s solitary strolls and friendly but prolonged conversations with a millennial receptionist turn into mild harassment – though he’s mortified when he realizes it. And there are developments on the horizon: I wonder about the story between Emma and her young boss (Henry Lloyd-Hughes) at his desk job. There are four episodes, and I care enough about these characters to keep going. It goes without saying that Walker and Bean are excellent everywhere.
Meanwhile, there are darker events in the Garvey family; five Irish sisters, with very different personalities but shared loyalties, in Sharon Horgan’s latest, bad sisters (the concept is borrowed from a Belgian broadcast, transferred from just outside Dublin, and is an AppleTV+ original). The pilot is called The Prick, and within seconds we’re faced with a corpse in an open coffin with an unfortunate erection. You know bad sisters is going to be a lot of fun and clever – especially when the next shot is Horgan’s Eva holding a hose at waist height watering roses.
The deceased asshole (and asshole) in question is/was John Paul, Grace’s brutal and controlling husband of Anne-Marie Duff. He’s even worse than Jess’ boyfriend in Wedding. That John Paul ends up dead and four of the five sisters despised him does not go unnoticed by an insurance broker desperate to avoid paying for a life insurance policy – something possible if he can prove foul play. Considering that in flashback we saw the sisters snicker about how they might murder John Paul (“I’d feed him sharks!”), that’s not a terrible hunch. Cue an investigative black comedy.
As you might expect, bad sisters is a hoot, with some fantastical settings, both soft and elaborate: swimming in the sea on Christmas Day; gas explosions in wooden cabins; Lizzo concerts. The cast is exquisite and includes man of the moment Daryl McCormack (better known as Leo Grande). There are 10 episodes in all, and I intend to release them.
At the University of Warwick, where The sky at night presenter Chris Lintott gets a chance to see, along with buzzing students, the very first images — “stunning, iconic, beautiful,” as Lintott accurately describes them — from the James Webb Space Telescope. “A lot of people have been waiting for this moment for 20 years,” he tells us, which is why all the scientists and professors contributing to this program are sparkling with excitement.
Lintott takes us on an expert road trip: Dr Hannah Wakeford from the University of Bristol explains exoplanets; a Cardiff scholar teaches us about dying stars. Watching The sky at night is, for the general public, like reading A brief history of time, or the joy I explicitly felt in 2012 when CERN’s Large Hadron Collider detected the Higgs boson particle. A discovery only enhanced by discovering last week that Olivia Newton-John’s grandfather was the physicist, Nobel Prize winner and subject of my school study project, Max Born. The result of The sky at night is that I spent last night ordering physics books online; it’s a half hour that everyone on the planet can enjoy.
What else am I watching
Listen, there will never be a better twin solo performance than Lindsay Lohan in The parent Trap, but Michelle Monaghan gives it a good shot in this thriller. Gina and Leni keep changing identities – which is quite a complicated existence, but becomes even more difficult when one of them disappears.
As of this writing, Emma Raducanu has just sent Serena Williams to the first round. Amazon’s rights to the men’s and women’s tours mean fans have been able to watch tennis all year round, and this is one of the last tournaments before the big one: the US Open.
After 28 years – even more than Wedding‘s wedding – Jeremy Paxman is stepping down from hosting everyone’s favorite wholesome experience of feeling stupid. I had fun searching online for some of the funniest clips from previous episodes.