Showmax becomes your go-to for Brit content

Boiling Point

SADLY, BritBox is leaving South Africa at the end of August (yes, well, you should have subscribed and if you didn’t, you can’t complain) but great British TV isn’t going anywhere, thanks to Showmax’s distribution deals with the likes of BBC, ITV and Sky. It’s not going to please everyone, especially those in the middle of box sets, or me who wants to know when we might see season three of The Outlaws, but there is some excellent content.

  • Boiling Point S1

A high personal recommendation from me. I loved this anxiety-inducing series and devastated it ended where it did because, please, there are so many loose ends. Following on from the multi-award-winning 2021 film of the same name, the BAFTA-nominated miniseries Boiling Point is set in a high-pressure restaurant kitchen. Picking up eight months after their mentor Andy Jones (the wonderful eight-time BAFTA nominee Stephen Graham) suffered a heart attack, the four-part BBC show follows head chef Carly and her team as the stresses of keeping the restaurant running bear down on them.

Boiling Point has already won the 2024 Casting Directors’ Guild Award for Best Casting in a TV Drama Series, thanks to a powerful ensemble led by Vinette Robinson, who won Best Supporting Actress at the British Independent Film Awards for her role as Carly in the movie. Boiling Point has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Daily Telegraph (UK) calling it “a Michelin-starred TV drama” and “highly stressful TV” in its 5/5 review.

  • Time S1-2 

Tamara Lawrence beat Time S2 co-star Jodie Whittaker to win this year’s Royal Television Society awards for Leading Actor – Female, with Bella Ramsey taking home Supporting Actor – Female. They play inmates at a women’s jail who must confront the dangers and violence of prison life.

At this year’s BAFTAs, the four-part BBC drama was nominated for Scripted Casting and Editing awards, having won Best Mini-Series and Leading Actor (Sean Bean) for S1 in 2022. Stephen Graham (see above) is in S1 as well. Season two has a 95% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Times (UK) saying, “It gets stronger and more moving with every episode.” I enjoyed both seasons, another recommendation from me.

  • Rain Dogs

HBO and BBC One collab Rain Dogs is MetaCritic’s best-reviewed show of 2023, with an 88% metascore from the critic aggregator site. Double-BAFTA winner Daisy May Cooper stars as Costello Jones, a devoted mother, aspiring author, and peepshow dancer, who wants more for her young daughter. As Costello’s friends, Ronke Adekoluejo and Jack Farthing were nominated for supporting actor prizes at the Royal Television Society and Film Independent Spirit awards respectively.

Time hails Rain Dogs as, “A portrait of a fascinatingly unconventional family…The perfect balance of darkness, warmth, grit, and scathing British humour.” Hmm, about that darkness…I found it quite oppressive and ultimately depressing. Not a fun series, but don’t shy away if you’re made from sterner stuff.

  • A Spy Among Friends

Guy Pearce beat out co-star Damian Lewis to win this year’s Royal Television Society Award for Best Actor for his role in A Spy Among Friends as British intelligence officer Kim Philby, who had been secretly working as a double agent for the KGB. A Spy Among Friends was also up for Best Miniseries and Limited Series, as well as Best Actress for Anna Maxwell Martin.

Based on Ben Macintyre’s award-winning novel of the same name, the six-part ITV series has an 88% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As Irish Independent says in its five-star review, “If, like me, you have an unlimited appetite for old-school Cold War spy thrillers full of men in overcoats and hats, secrets being passed on inside rolled-up newspapers, conversations in coded language…this is one worth staying up late for.” Yep, I agree. Recommended.

  • Blue Lights S1

Game of Thrones star Richard Dormer won Best Supporting Actor at the 2024 Irish Film and Television Awards for his role in Blue Lights, which was also up for Best TV Drama, Best Script, and Best Actor (Martin McCann).

Set in Belfast in Northern Ireland, the BBC series follows three rookie police officers who find themselves up against criminal gangs, undercover agents, their own communities and even their own police force as they work to complete the last two months of their probationary period.

Blue Lights has a 91% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with five-star reviews from both The Daily Telegraph and The Guardian, with the latter calling the six-part series “well-crafted, fantastically tense, thrilling stuff,” and “one of the best shows of the year”. It’s on my watch list. Or My Stuff as it’s now called on Showmax.

  • The Sixth Commandment

Oh yes, yes. This one is sad but excellent. Don’t take my word for it: at the recent BAFTAs, Britain’s most prestigious TV awards, The Sixth Commandment was named Best Limited Drama, with Timothy Spall (whom I adore) winning Leading Actor. The four-part BBC series also took home Best Limited Series at this year’s Royal Television Society Awards.

Spall plays Peter Farquhar, an inspirational teacher whose meeting with a charismatic student (Éanna Hardwicke in a BAFTA-nominated and Royal Television Society-winning performance), sets the stage for one of the most complex and confounding criminal cases in recent memory. Anne Reid was nominated for a Leading Actress BAFTA as Ann Moore-Martin, Farquhar’s deeply religious neighbour, and..I’ve deleted the rest of this sentence because of spoilers.

The Sixth Commandment has an 89% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Irish Independent calling it, “Not just a great true-crime drama – one of the best of the year in any genre.”

  • Black Ops S1

Nominated for four BAFTAs in four years, Nigeria’s Gbemisola Ikumelo won her second this year, for Female Performance: Comedy for Black Ops, a six-part buddy cop comedy. Gbemisola plays Dom, a community support police officer asked to go undercover as a drug dealer with her partner Kay (Hammed Animashaun in a BAFTA-nominated and Royal Television Society-winning performance).

“Can you really make a hilarious comedy about police racism? The answer – pretty miraculously – is yes,” says The Guardian’s 5/5-star review, calling the show “a pitch-perfect, star-packed joy.” The BBC has already ordered a second season.

  • Nolly

I’m a big fan of any mid to early 20th century period drama. For this one, Helena Bonham Carter was nominated for the Leading Actress BAFTA this year for her role in Nolly, which explores the reign, and fall from grace (depending on how you frame it), of the inimitable British soap star Noele Gordon. She played the role of Meg Mortimer in the long-running British soap opera Crossroads from 1964 to 1981, with a brief return in 1983.

The easy three-part series has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Guardian saying, “It’s a joy to watch this warm, thoughtful tribute to soaps, fabulous older women – and showbiz itself.” Russell T Davies (It’s a Sin, Years and Years, A Very English Scandal) won the BAFTA Cymru Best Writer Award, while Mark Gatiss was up for Supporting Actor – Male at the Royal Television Society Awards, among other accolades for the ITV drama.

  • The Lovers

Ah. The Lovers. The Irish are so special. This is mostly (often darkly) funny – until it’s not, right at the end, but that’s not a bad thing; it just gives the whole thing more depth Roisin Gallagher was nominated for the Best Female Performance: Comedy BAFTA this year for her performance as Janet, a foul-mouthed supermarket worker, who doesn’t care about anything until she begins an unexpected relationship with a self-centred political television broadcaster Seamus (Critics Choice nominee Johnny Flynn).

From Radio Times: “In many ways, the finale wrapped up the show’s central storyline, with Seamus leaving behind his life as a political broadcaster and choosing to start out on a real relationship with Janet.

“However, one final moment perhaps hints at more to come – when the team at the supermarket get a news notification to say that Janet’s past has been unearthed, now that she is linked with Seamus. Could this revelation perhaps form the backdrop of a second season yet to come? For now, we will have to wait and see, but we will keep this page updated as soon as anything is announced regarding the show’s future.”

Directed by BAFTA winner Justin Martin (Together), The Lovers has an 82% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with London Evening Standard calling the six-part Sky Original “a brilliant rom-com with as much bite as it has heart” in their 5/5-star review. As they say, “This surprisingly gritty take on the genre is a must-watch.”

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