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REVIEW: ‘Fleabag,’ ‘Victoria’ and other new shows to binge

ARMY OF ME - The Philippine Star

That British series have much shorter runs than their American counterparts can be both a boon and bane for TV fans. Though shows only stretch for fewer than 10 episodes, they can clock in at an hour or so per installment, making the experience closer to watching a film and leaving you wanting more when the season is over.

From a supernatural drama set in 19th century Somerset to a comedy about a naïve 20-year-old who ends up working as a nanny to London literati in the ‘80s, here are five small-screen UK imports that you may not have heard of but are totally worth your time.

If Marcella reminds you of Scandinavian noir, it’s because the ITV crime series was produced, written and directed by Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt, who created the Swedish-Danish TV thriller The Bridge.

Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) plays lead character Marcella Backland, a London detective who has left the Metropolitan Police for the sake of her family, only to have her husband leave her and their two children. She returns to her job on the murder squad, investigating an unsolved, 11-year-old case of a serial killer who seems to have become active again.

In the process, she deals with the dubious nature of her husband’s employers, all while trying to save her marriage and sorting out whether she’s capable of murder herself.

Victoria

Lovers of costume dramas have a reason to rejoice. Across eight episodes, this big-budget ITV miniseries tells the story of the young Queen Victoria, from her accession to the throne at the tender age of 18 through to her courtship and marriage to her first cousin, Prince Albert.

Played by Doctor Who’s Jenna Coleman, the under-five-foot-tall monarch was said to have been besotted with her first prime minister, Lord Melbourne (Rufus Sewell), so much so that gossips of the day referred to her as ”Mrs. Melbourne.” The 19th century millennial was aware that all eyes were on her and that her life was interesting: the woman born Alexandrina Victoria published two volumes of diary extracts, some of which have been brought to life in this historical soap.

 Love, Nina

Adapted by Nick Hornby from the book Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life — about author Nina Stibbe’s life as a nanny to London literati in the ‘80s — the lighthearted BBC comedy-drama revolves around the experiences of a 20-year-old from Leicester who moves to Primrose Hill to work as an au pair.

Faye Marsay stars as the naïve girl with no experience of nannying — and even less of the highbrow north London milieu in which she suddenly finds herself — while Helena Bonham Carter is her boss, a single mother of two said to be inspired by Mary-Kay Wilmers, then the editor of the London Review of Books.

Marcella

If Marcella reminds you of Scandinavian noir, it’s because the ITV crime series was produced, written and directed by Swedish screenwriter Hans Rosenfeldt, who created the Swedish-Danish TV thriller The Bridge.

Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) plays lead character Marcella Backland, a London detective who has left the Metropolitan Police for the sake of her family, only to have her husband leave her and their two children. She returns to her job on the murder squad, investigating an unsolved, 11-year-old case of a serial killer who seems to have become active again.

In the process, she deals with the dubious nature of her husband’s employers, all while trying to save her marriage and sorting out whether she’s capable of murder herself.

Fleabag

Think of this six-part BBC comedy series as Bridget Jones’ Diary mixed with Girls and Miranda. Based on the award-winning play about a twentysomething woman trying to cope with life in London while coming to terms with a recent tragedy, the sitcom is headlined by the brilliant Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who is also its writer.

Fleabag, the lead character’s nickname and also Waller-Bridge’s, owns a café that’s forever losing money. Her best friend, who once worked with her, just died as the result of a semi-suicide. Her boyfriend keeps walking out on her, no thanks to her habit of masturbating to Barack Obama speeches. Fleabag, the woman, doesn’t sound too likeable, especially when she keeps making snarky remarks to the camera when nobody is looking, but she presents her life in all its broken, defeated glory, which makes Fleabag the show absolutely hilarious. 

The Living and the Dead

Supernatural goings-on and malevolent spirits abound in 19th-century Somerset. It seems that the Industrial Revolution and modern science have largely bypassed the rural English community in which a young doctor and his wife live.

Nathan Appleby (Merlin’s Colin Morgan) is a trauma psychologist who has returned home from London with Charlotte, his photographer spouse (Charlotte Spencer). After the couple takes over the family farm, the local vicar distracts the young doctor with the news that his teenage daughter, Harriet (Tallulah Rose Haddon), has started hearing voices. She seems to have been possessed by an evil spirit. But is she really?

Made in the tradition of the dark English pastoral — in which the rites of a bygone era are pitted against the modern ingress of technology — the BBC’s The Living And The Dead should please fans in need of five episodes’ worth of fright.

 

 

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