IF you’re a tele addict who is in desperate need of new things to watch, look no further.
Thanks to the wealth of on-demand services we have at our disposal now, there’s plenty to sink your teeth into. Here are The Sun TV Mag’s top picks.
Pray Away – Netflix
“We were the leaders of the ex-gay movement. We believed that something must have happened to make you gay,” claims one of the participants in this emotionally charged feature-length documentary, which examines the rise of gay conversion therapy in the United States and beyond, from the people who preached it.
“A voice inside me said: ‘How could you do that to your own people?'” reflects another former proponent of de-programming sexuality.
In the 1970s, five men were grappling with their sexuality while being active members of an Evangelical church. They started a Bible study group to help one another move away from the homosexual ‘lifestyle’. Quickly, things snowballed – they received over 25,000 letters from people who also wanted to stop being gay. Exodus International was formed, which became the largest conversion therapy organisation in the world, promising its members that they could be cured of their desires.
Behind the scenes, however, the leaders had a secret: they had never stopped feeling attracted to the same sex. Members struggled with feelings of guilt and shame, and some attempted suicide.
Now, many of these men and women have stepped away from the religious right which heralded them as superstars, and have come out as LBGTQ. But it’s not just people who have left the movement who share their story in this documentary – current members also have their say. American Horror Story’s Ryan Murphy and Jason Blum executive-produce this extraordinary insight into a controversial and damaging world.
Available from Tuesday
Cruel Summer – Amazon Prime
If Mean Girls were to be made into an intense psychological thriller, it would look a little something like this.
Executive-produced by Jessica Biel, this engrossing 10-part drama is set across the summers of 1993, 1994 and 1995 in a small town in Texas.
It explores how an impossibly perfect and popular teenager named Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) came to go missing and then miraculously reappear, while a dorky local outcast named Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) waited in the wings to step into her place as Queen Bee, before going on to become the most hated person in America.
It’s nostalgic without feeling dated, with superb performances from its young cast. Unsurprisingly, it’s already been renewed for a second season.
Available from Friday.
Mr Corman – Apple TV+
It’s hard to know what to make of this 10-parter, which stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who also has created, written, produced and directed the series.
Joseph plays a man named Josh Corman, who is a teacher living in Los Angeles with past aspirations of being a musician. He’s joined by a solid supporting cast which includes Debra Winger as Josh’s mother and Juno Temple as his ex-fiancé.
In its opening scenes, which take place in a classroom, it seems like we have a straight-up comedy on our hands. But just as the viewer starts having delusions of a -style feel-good adventure, it shifts into a dark and insular drama, as we witness a man weighed down by malaise and regret about his life choices.
On top of that, there’s a bit of a fantasy element thrown in. Mix all of this together, and the series appears to be having as much of an identity crisis as the leading character himself. And perhaps, that’s exactly the point.
Available every Friday, starting with a double bill.
Summer Of Soul Music – Disney+
Many of us will have heard of Woodstock – the festival held in New York in 1969, which has been remembered as defining moment of the counterculture movement, where Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who rocked the stage. The Harlem Cultural Festival also happened in the same year. Heard of it? No?
Well, you should have – and this documentary is here to right that wrong. Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and BB King played to a crowd of more than 300,000 people.
While Woodstock was immortalised in an Oscar winning documentary, the tapes from this event have been sitting in a basement for over 50 years. As well as finally showcasing this extraordinary footage, the film – directed by Questlove of The Roots – explores how 1969 was a game-changer for black identity in the US. Captivating.
Available from Friday
Cooking With Paris – Netflix
After a few years out in the wilderness, socialite Paris Hilton appears to be having something of a comeback.
Her documentary, The Real Story of Paris Hilton, has had close to 23 million views on YouTube. And now, she’s showing us her inner Nigella Lawson – kind of. She may not be a trained chef, but Paris is having a good go at rustling up some treats in the kitchen, with a little help from a few quirky kitchen appliances and celebrity friends. Check out the viral YouTube video of her making lasagne to mentally prepare.
Available from Wednesday
Shiny_Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord – Netflix
Last week, the third season of German drama How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast) hit Netflix.
The popular series follows a nerdy teenage outcast who becomes a millionaire online drug dealer – and does it all from his childhood bedroom. But did you know, it’s actually based on a true story?
Maximilian Schmidt, known online as Shiny Flakes, was arrested for selling around €4.1 million worth of drugs in 2015. It’s one of the biggest cybercrime cases in German history, and the police aren’t sure where a lot of the money is. Here, Maximilian tells his story. Subtitled.
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Special – Netflix
Ryan O’Connell’s daring US comedy about being a mid-20s gay man with mild cerebral palsy enjoys poking fun at the negative ways in which disabled people are often viewed. Sure, it’ll make you squirm several times an episode, but behind the shock value, it’s thoughtful, empowering and hilarious.
Why Are You Like This – Netflix
No taboo is off limits for this razor-sharp comedy, which follows the dysfunctional friendship of super-woke Australian 20-somethings Mia (Olivia Junkeer) and Penny. Unashamedly controversial, it tackles topics few other shows would go near and is as knowingly anti-politically correct as possible. Not for the faint-hearted.
Breeders – Sky on Demand
Mums and dads will be aware that there are countless things they shouldn’t say out loud their kids, let alone them, but Paul (Martin Freeman) and Ally (Daisy Haggard) rip the s**t out of that rulebook with their horrifyingly honest foul-mouthed rages in two series of this uncompromising, grimace-inducing show.
This Way Up – C4 & All4
Aisling Bea and Sharon Horgan bring warmth and wit to this cutting series about two Irish sisters, Aine (Aisling) and Shona, attempting to navigate life and love in London. Unafraid to discuss subjects like mental health with raw honesty, it’s sometimes near the knuckle but always funny.
Jerk – BBC iPlayer
The first series of American comedian Tim Renkow’s brilliant British-based sitcom caused a stir – and it’s easy to see why.
Revolving around the misadventures of Tim (Renkow playing an extreme version of himself), a young man with cerebral palsy who uses his disability to get away with whatever he likes, it was very close to the bone.
From faking being a refugee, to offending workmates just because he could, Tim, as the title suggests, is a jerk. And he’s still a jerk in this new, second series.
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“Tim unfortunately is a stagnant mess and I don’t see that changing in the near future,” laughs Tim. “I think the show’s got a little crazier this season, which is good. The first season was to establish that a character like Tim can exist and this one was just: ‘Okay, we know he exists, let’s see what the hell he can get himself into.’”
The show features a fabulous cast that includes The Sopranos legend Lorraine Bracco as Tim’s potty-mouthed but well-meaning mum.
1. Heist Netflix
In 1993, Healther Tallchief, a 21-year-old nurse’s assistant with drug-addiction problems, pulled off a multi-million-dollar heist. She had been working as a driver of armoured vehicles supplying cash to casinos in Las Vegas after falling under the spell of a tarot card reading career criminal with a penchant for sex magic. Together, they went on the run with their $3.1million for 12 years, until Heather turned herself in in 2005. This bonkers story is one of three heists which are explored across six episodes, and while the dramatic re-enactments are rather hammy, the stories themselves will blow you away.
2. Explained Netflix
Across its first two seasons, this series has broken down all manner of subjects, from the female orgasm and the stock market to K-Pop and even athleisure. In its third season, with new episodes dropping weekly, we learn about sugar. These days, if you want to lead a healthy lifestyle, sugar is perceived as public enemy number one. But for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, it was essential for survival. This documentary explores if there’s anything that can give us the same hit that sugar does, without the downsides. Can we really have our cake and eat it too? Other topics include chess, royalty and plastic surgery. Perfect fuel for curious minds.
3. Baptiste BBC iPlayer
The first series of crime drama Baptiste treated viewers to a feast of shocking, sometimes brutal plot twists and an unsettling glimpse of the bleaker sides of life. Series two takes things up a notch. The atmosphere is dark, dank and heavy, our hero – the previously steady and reliable Julien Baptiste (Tchéky Karyo) – reduced to a shambling, alcohol-sodden wreck. This time, the French detective is helping the British Ambassador to Hungary find her missing family, but the pair quickly discover they’re up against a formidable foe. And while shifting timelines make it a visual jigsaw, perseverance definitely pays off. All episodes are available to stream.
4. Never Have I Ever, Netflix
Created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, this hit teen comedy is partially based on Mindy’s own childhood in Boston. It revolves around the life of Indian-American teen Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) as she navigates school, friends and boys. After that series one cliffhanger that saw Devi torn between popular Paxton and former nemesis Ben, life is set to get even messier as she juggles her new love triangle. Plus, the arrival of a new cooler Indian girl at school leaves Devi worried, but thankfully, best pals Eleanor and Fabiola are on hand to help. Entertaining and <very> funny – season two hit the top spot for Netflix’s most-watched show in its first week of release.
5. Lie With Me, Sky On Demand
It’s only expected that you’ll initially be wondering if you’re watching an EastEnders spin-off where Janine Butcher has moved to Australia, so recognisable is actress Charlie Brooks as the Walford villain. But you’ll soon be over that as you immerse yourself in the world of her character, mum-of-two Anna, who’s the victim in this situation where she’s moved Down Under for a fresh start in her troubled marriage to husband Jake (Brett Tucker), only for a spanner to be thrown into the works in the shape of the couple’s new nanny Becky (Phoebe Roberts), a supposed stranger… Any more detail than that and we’d be spoiling the twists and turns of this four-part suburban noir thriller, which is for anyone who’s enjoyed C5’s psychological dramas of late as you’ll be gripped by themes of adultery, gaslighting, domestic abuse and deception.