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TV time! 8 new things to watch on the box

Pull on your comfies and clear your schedule: we've got a bumper week of terrific telly to binge. From Lily James as Pamela Anderson to scary dating app true crime, here's what to watch.

PICK OF THE WEEK: Pam & Tommy, Disney+, 2 Feb

Cementing Disney’s attempt to inch away from rosy childhood content, this eight-part series charts the infamous sale of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s 1995 sex tape. Lily James and Sebastian Stan are amazingly chameleon-like as Anderson and Lee — beautiful, infatuated, bosomy — but also entirely complex, fleshed-out characters. That said, this is definitely a fun romp of a show. How Walt Disney would have felt about the marathon sex scenes is anyone’s guess.

Station Eleven, STARZPlay, 30 Jan

Sure, it’s slightly odd watching TV shows about fictional pandemics in this day and age, but this adaptation of Emily St John Mandel’s 2014 novel, starring Himesh Patel (Yesterday) is worth any white knuckles. Station Eleven’s flu pandemic is a great deal worse than ours, with a 99% fatality rate, and yet the concept is strangely, bleakly hopeful: the ways in which humans might seek meaning and charm in our darkest of days. Half-pieced museums, patched newspapers, and travelling theatre groups: creativity, stubbornly enduring, in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

The Teacher, C5, 31 Jan

Sheridan Smith, fast becoming a mainstay of the British gritty drama, stars in this psychological thriller about a Bradford teacher who is arrested for having sex with a student. Coming in four parts, what at first seems like a black-and-white scenario grows more complex at the end of the first episode.

The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind, Netflix, 1 Feb

Britain’s 2019 entry for Best International Feature Film, this poignant but rousing adaptation of William Kamkwamba’s true memoir is finally coming to UK Netflix. Set in 2001 in Malawi, it follows as drought and famine befall 13-year-old William Kamkwamba’s village, and he is forced to leave school for lack of money. Determined to help his community, Kamkwamba is inspired by a textbook on energy production. The film was the directorial debut of actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave), and he plays our main character’s father with believably complexity.

The Tinder Swindler, Netflix, 2 Feb

Perhaps undersold by its slightly tacky name, this is a genuinely gripping documentary series from the makers of Don’t F**k with Cats. Fleshed out with photos, video messages and online posts, three women share their entirely true stories of falling in with a dreamy, jet-setting man who proved to be too good to be true when he — oh! — cheated them out of thousands of dollars. Shocking, guiltily-fun true crime at its best, it really puts your bad date stories into perspective.

Mary Beard’s Forbidden Art, BBC2, 3 Feb

Continuing in the vein of Mary Beard’s 2020 series Shock of the Nude, this insightful two-parter explores “why and how art gets forbidden”, assessing outrageous, taboo, and provocative art from Ancient Greece all the way to the 1960s. Mary Beard, always so uncompromisingly herself, is at her best here: thoughtful and unflinching as she stares at stone willies.

Reacher, Amazon Prime Video, 4 Feb

Lee Child’s bestselling series of crime thriller novels gets a new adaptation here, following the eyebrow-raising casting of Tom Cruise as a character that should be a blond giant (so, not Cruise) back in 2012. Our new Jack Reacher, Alan Ritchson, is suitably Olympian, and appealingly flexes his way through the story. Oh, the plot? Well, if you need it: an ex-cop, Reacher returns to small-town life, only to come under unfair suspicion for a sudden murder. Crime-solving action ensues.

The Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, BBC2, 4 Feb

Warm-up highlights for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics begin on Wed (2 Feb), but the real deal doesn’t kick off until Friday with the Opening Ceremony. Clare Balding will be on hand for commentary on what Beijing promises will be an “ethereal and romantic” event, despite the necessary Covid protocols. Medal events follow from Sat; see the schedule here.

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