The craving for British TV is unabated in Canada. I get queries all the time about when and where a hit British show will turn up here. Often the answer is, I just don’t know. No, I’ve no idea when BBC America’s very hot Killing Eve will land here.
While the streaming service BritBox promises a lot, so far it hasn’t delivered much except access to old, sometimes ancient, series. A lot of good TV seems to vanish between there and here. Right now, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Channel 4 comedy Derry Girls. Set in Derry, Northern Ireland, during the tail-end of The Troubles, it has been called “an instant classic” and “daft, profane and absolutely brilliant.”
On Netflix, at the moment, you’ll find Collateral, a superb four-part-thriller, written by playwright David Hare, that stars Carey Mulligan as the lead detective in a murder case that deftly tackles politics, immigration issues and murky espionage as well as the central crime.
There is also Requiem, a BBC drama on Netflix now, a horror story taken to rather overly gothic extremes. A renowned cellist, Matilda (Lydia Wilson), follows her mother’s mysterious collection of photos to Wales after her mom’s horrifying suicide. Everything is, possibly, connected to the 1994 disappearance of a four-year-old child. It’s a shocker more than a conventional horror story, with all sorts of sudden, gruesome twists. And very British in its connection to the old-school Hammer Films template of gore, eroticism and much screaming. It’s not breezy, but good escapism if overripe thrills is your thing.
Greg Davies: You Magnificent Beast (now streaming on Netflix Canada) is a different tin of British potted comedy beef. It’s a stand-up special, and it’s very male, very scatological and silly. But not without a uniquely English down-to-earth focus on the local and familiar.
Davies will be known to connoisseurs of British TV from his roles on The Inbetweeners and Man Down. He’s a tall, large man, about 50 years old now, and a lot of his comedy is, essentially, about working out his relationship with his parents. He’s never grown up, really. In fact he opens his routine by saying, “My system for stand-up is to go home to Shropshire with a notebook and write down stupid stuff my mum and dad say.” The resulting comedy, to judge by this TV special, is a sociological exercise that doesn’t really have creative tension but has a lot of daft, rude and robust humour.
He tells a story about his mum. It’s very rude and he says his mum has been telling him not to tell those jokes. He even shows us a text from her which says exactly that. Then he tell a story that is quite heart-warming. When some people in the audience applaud, he says scornfully, “There’s no need for that! We’re not Americans.”
He’s the sort of confessional comic who will pull up his shirt and display his middle-aged spread. And he’s unapologetic about the robustness of his humour: “The more upset you are, the funnier I find it.”
There’s a long account of being set up with a woman at a dinner party in Bristol, which involves imitating accents and making horrendous fun of the woman’s drinking and physical strength. Essentially, it goes nowhere. He also does an imitation of the boxer Chris Eubanks that is dead-on, but amounts to a man in a pub telling you an amusing anecdote with accents included. A shaggy-dog story about an encounter with a Cockney cab driver in London goes on and on, but has an excellent, if obvious, punchline.
The meat of his material, though, is his eccentric parents. About his mum, he recounts, “When I was a child I wouldn’t eat my peas one Sunday, and she punched me in the face.” She has, he tells us, objected to this story: “It wasn’t a fist, it was a flat palm.”
The show’s climax is a tribute to his dad, who died recently. Along the way, there’s a diversionary story about a six-year-old child who eats a full roast chicken every day. In any case, his dad was Welsh and wanted him to learn something about Welsh culture. The upshot is that Davies concludes by introducing a Welsh male choir to sing what amounts to a daft commemoration of his father. It’s very British malarkey.