7 shows you might have missed in June 2022

There’s so much good telly on these days, it’s a struggle to keep up. Sarah Kennedy highlights 7 shows you might have missed last month.

The Lazarus Project

There’s so much good telly on these days, it’s a struggle to keep up. Sarah Kennedy highlights 7 shows you might have missed last month. 

Sherwood (BBC iPlayer)


This terrific BBC drama launched to six million viewers, a second series has already been announced and yet I’m still worried no one is watching it. My lovely cousins in Nottingham, whose local TV celebrities are, I kid you not, the Traffic Cops, haven’t seen it yet. Well, take a tip from me. It’s worth it. 

A brooding sense of bitter resentment hangs like a grey cloud over this former-mining town. News archive footage from the miners’ strike of the early 1980s suggests a united force. The miners backing Arthur Scargill versus Margaret Thatcher and the governments’ decimation of the unions. But people and communities have a habit of being far more complicated. 

40 years’ worth of division along political lines makes for fantastic tension. Relationships are set up and the past is hinted at very naturally. Dark secrets are ready to be brought out into the light. The town immediately feels like a real place and reminds me of ITV’s Broadchurch in all the right ways. Each character is so richly drawn, complex and contradictory.

It’s a ridiculously strong ensemble cast, ostensibly led by Neil Morrisey as the detective in charge, but Lesley Manville and Lorraine Ashbourne steal every scene. Adeel Akhtar gives the performance of his life that switches from bumbling busybody to Shakespearian tragedy in a single awkward glance. 

I’m already invested in these characters, and loving the lyrical Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire accents, even before a bow and arrow wielding maniac starts killing people. And there’s a spy cop, embedded in the town by the Met Police in the 80s who has lived there ever since under a false identity. Layer upon layer of tension and mystery.

Throughout I was on the edge of my seat, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with how it ended. And now a second series? Call me a daft apeth, but it doesn’t seem like a natural fit. Those of us with long memories wince at the horrible mess they made of Broadchurch series 2, but let’s keep the faith and get excited about writer and local lad James Graham shining a light on more untold East Midlands stories.


Back in Time for Birmingham (BBC iPlayer)

back in time for birmingham

The BBC’s Back in Time for… series is warmly nostalgic like a Peter Kay sketch (Ooh! Do you remember things?) showing us that as a nation, for all that divides us  there’s an awful lot that unites us. Chiefly poor diets and cold terraced houses. This, the ninth iteration of the format, tells the story of Indian and Pakistani immigration and how from the 1950s onwards they helped create modern Britain. Modern day Solihull citizens (an outrageous casting decision – they’re not even Brummies!) Dad Vishal, Mum Manisha and children Alisha and Akash swap their life, their clothes, and their mod-cons for 1950s Sparkbrook to live like new British citizens making their home in the Midlands after partition. 

The stories of deprivation, putting up with cheap lodging, long anti-social hours and dirty dangerous jobs are hard to hear. These young men were entirely focussed on work and sending money home to help their families. Birmingham had plenty of manufacturing jobs crying out for workers. Despite the hardships, and the weather, these men changed their minds about going home, and bravely made a life in the UK bringing family over when they could afford to.

This show speeds through the decades to squeeze all this history into a four-episode run, trying to throw in as many highlights and lowlights as possible. The Sharmas’ are not as engaging or as silly as previous families, but the history of immigration in this country has very serious and unpleasant moments which, to the show’s credit, are not shied away from.

Things pick up when the women arrive, and the family is complete. It’s always fun watching the youngsters struggle with unfamiliar kitchen appliances resulting in a bland, depressing dinner. Watching two vegetarians make liver curry look palatable is pretty astounding, as is the fact that evictions took place in the 1950s because neighbours objected to Indian cooking smells. 

Alongside food we learn about the immigrant families’ tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit, how they built community from scratch around music, cinema and religion. Birmingham is Britain’s most ethnically diverse city with a quarter of the population having South Asian heritage. This show is a timely celebration of the home they built on the eve of Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games this summer. 


The Lazarus Project (Sky/ Now)

The Lazarus Project

Maybe time travel needs a warning from the continuity announcer, to make sure you’re really paying attention. Fortunately, the synopsis for this new drama by Joe Barton (who also wrote the magnificent sprawling Giri/Haji) is the confusing part. The show itself is a pleasure to watch. 

The lovely Paapa Essiedu plays George, a data whizz and app designer, who is getting hitched to Sarah (Charly Clive) and having a baby on the eve of a pandemic. This part feels far too real. I don’t want to see an airborne pandemic fictionalised yet, thank you very much. But we don’t linger. With the world at its knees George wakes up again on 1 July, his Groundhog Day, confused and frightened. Everything has been reset. He lives those same six months again very differently, researching wormholes and hazmat suits, and driving Sarah away. We empathise with his fear of a new pandemic and his anxious prepping. We see a great future and a terrible one play out for him and his wife Sarah. Then he’s back on 1 July again.

Anjli Mohindra is Archie, who turns up to explain it all in a very sassy Doctor Who fashion (Rani from The Sarah Jane Adventures has graduated to exposition). She’s part of a team called the Lazarus Project, saving the world from mass extinction events by time travel. Think of Superman spinning the globe backwards in the classic 1978 movie. 1 July crops up a lot because that’s their checkpoint. Archie and team provide a lovely bit of levity, very much needed after seeing the end of the world again and again, and she gets the best lines, “You’ve been searching for something George, time travel, time loops, time jumps, Tim jumps. I’m pretty sure that last one was a typo”. And when George asks if Archie can use the time machine to go back to London in the 1800s, “I’m a brown woman. Why the fuck would I want to?”

The complex plot is all explained nicely within the first 20 minutes, which is admirable indeed. As is casting Caroline Quentin as their M. Then we crack on at pace; George gets a training montage and a mission to track down ex-Lazarus agent Dennis Rebrov (Tom Burke) who seems at first a simplistic villain, but his motivations are explored in the second episode. Is he a terrorist or the only person holding the Lazarus Project to account? Who exactly gets to define terrorism when Lazarus’s methods are just as violent and immoral. 

Paapa Essiedu humanises George and makes his outlandish situation very relatable. When the mission becomes violent he does his job but he’s frightened, barely able to hold it together. The first episode ends with a terrific cliff-hanger where viewers will be screaming at the TV because we know what’s going to happen next and but George takes his eye off the ball. My one criticism would be not spending enough time with Sarah and George to care about them as a couple. She’s the wife, the reason for him to get sad, or mad, or protective, or violent. Not a person; just John Wick’s dog. With a drama as clever as this, Sarah deserves better.


Drag SOS (Netflix)

Drag sos

I’m so pleased Netflix has rediscovered this gem originally produced by Channel 4 in 2019. Lets dust off the feathers and sequins, and take another look at this heart-warming drag show. Manchester queens the Family Gorgeous, led by the incredible Cheddar Gorgeous (drag innovator, academic, and alien-unicorn) are on the road journeying through a series of down-at-heel market towns where drag is almost entirely unheard of, apart from Widow Twanky in the annual pantomime. 

The drag artists are Anna Phylactic, Lill, Asttina Mandella, Liquorice Black and TeTe Bang; a colourful and confusing explosion of loveliness. Their task is to makeover a handful of locals and turn them into superstars for one night only. This feels like a welcome break for the participants and a boost to their egos after real life has ground them down for too long. We meet a father wanting to bond with his drag queen son, and a woman looking to regain her sense of self after leaving an abusive relationship.

It’s not RuPaul’s Drag Race, and that’s what makes it great. Drag SOS is more intelligent, more thoughtful, more fabulous and at least a thousand times more inclusive than any franchised American drag queen with international name recognition. The show also feels very camp, very British, and champions kindness and positivity. How refreshing. 

In my rainbow heart-of-hearts I want Netflix to revive this promising series, splash the cash and bring the Family Gorgeous back together. Helping ordinary people be bolder, braver, and more tolerant in such excellent company is no bad thing at all.


Suspect (Channel4)


If by the opening credits you’re already wondering what on earth you’re watching, you’ve either found something wonderful or terrible. Suspect is a very bold and bizarre two-hander with a new character each episode for James Nesbitt to butt heads with, and zero let-up in its strange theatrical intensity. It’s not so much playing with cliched cop show tropes but taking a sledgehammer to them and making some strange modern art from the fragments that remain. 

The credits, the music and the lighting may as well be the word atmosphere written in 50 ft high letters. Adapted from the Danish thriller Face to Face, it’s so close to the platonic ideal of a Walter Presents show, it’s almost a send-up, but it edges around silliness thanks alone to Nesbitt’s intensity. 

He plays grizzled cop Danny, at the morgue to investigate a young woman’s suicide. The sheet is pulled back and the corpse on the slab is his estranged daughter Christina. She’s had substance abuse issues and after an initial investigation her death is ruled a suicide. Danny refuses to believe that and is instantly obsessed with finding her killer. This episode is for the freaky true crime geeks. The level of detail is truly unsettling. Unflinchingly Danny demands all the details from Joley Richardson’s increasingly panicked pathologist. 

Clues from episode one lead him to the next encounter in Christina’s apartment with her wife Nicola (Niamh Algar), clues from two lead to three and so on. Each suspect reveals a little more about Danny’s mysterious daughter (oh Danny, did you really think she paid for such a beautiful apartment and worked in events?!) and twists the knife, making him feel even more guilty about their relationship, or lack thereof. Watch out for the quiet moments. Danny and Nicola take a break from their furious first meeting; two people struggling with complicated grief who don’t trust each other at all sit on the sofa sharing a cigarette. It’s very emotional. 

Suspect is a strange beast and won’t be a crowd-pleaser, but by the end of episode two I’m completely hooked.  


Backstage with Katherine Ryan (Amazon Prime Video)

katherine ryan

Ever wanted to know what behind the scenes at a stand-up comedy show looks like? Katherine Ryan welcomes us to her Big Brother constructed reality at the Camden Roundhouse, a beautiful venue with cameras installed in the dressing rooms. No, not another #MeToo moment for comedy, but the premise of a very entertaining twist on the comedy panel show. We watch the show, but we also watch four comics chat before, during and after their set. 

With Katherine Ryan as compere the talent is top-shelf, the biggest names on the scene. And they’re raring to go after lockdown. The focus is on the backstage chit-chat so the actual sets themselves are cut short. The comics are warm, telling stories and talking about themselves and their careers. It’s a gang you want to be a part of, quite a different image of stand-ups than people would necessarily expect, although the pre-show nerves are all present and correct. 

It’s heartening to see Sue Perkins back doing stand-up for the first time in 14 years. Cynically I wonder perhaps this show is being used by some of the more divisive characters to rehabilitate themselves (He tells awful jokes on-stage but look how nice he is to the hair and make-up team!). Geoff Norcott pops up for a few minutes to be used as Katherine’s sounding board for her intros, which are essentially heckles delivered by a professional. It doesn’t look like he’s credited as a writer which seems like a waste of his talent. And he gets saddled with the majority of the obviously scripted stilted bits. Has anyone ever in their whole life said “Have a good sound check!”?  Regardless, this is an easy and entertaining watch. 


Man Vs Bee (Netflix)


Another big-name comic has been tempted by Netflix money. Man Vs Bee is written by Rowan Atkinson and William Davies, who wrote the Johnny English films together. The director David Kerr has done a lot of British TV comedy and his first feature film was Johnny English Strikes Again. Savvy old Rowan has taken his favourite people to Netflix with him.

Unsurprisingly he plays a version of Mr Bean called Trevor (thankfully able to speak rather than just make imbecilic noises). He’s house-sitting for a snobby privileged couple in their baffling ultramodern and terribly expensive smart house. We’re supposed to care about him because he’s putting his life back together after unemployment and divorce, and wants nothing more than to go on holiday with his daughter Maddy. 

Atkinson gets to muck about in classic physical comedy by himself for large amounts of time. The silly gestures to operate home appliances plays into this nicely. Hit titular non-human co-star is a bee, beautifully realised in expensive CGI, and a dog called Cupcake hell-bent on making a mess. Trevor and co will destroy the house. This much we know even without the court case scene where he’s on trial for 14 outlandish offences all related to this disastrous week. Even comedies aren’t immune from the clichéd so-many-days-earlier opener.

If anything, too much happens in the first 15 minutes. Loads of irreplaceable items are wrecked. Any jeopardy is trampled into the carpet, like so much fine china. So then it has to become about a bee nemesis, who, for no good reason decides to extract revenge from Trevor.

Short comedies should be encouraged. This is the big benefit of streaming services; the show can be as long or as short as the writer wants. I would not sit down and watch a Rowan Atkinson film, but as this is cunningly segmented it’s very watchable. Even if you’re not much into slapstick, you have the sense of a true master at work.

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