The 20 best shows to watch On Demand this weekend -…

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Written By Maya Cantina

An intriguing tale of a man seeing visions of his dead parents, the story of a US tech start-up founded on lies and a labyrinthine slice of Scandi noir – they are all featured in our critics’ picks.

We have selected the 20 best shows to watch On Demand right now – sifting through thousands of options to save you the bother.

Can’t decide what to watch this weekend? 

Read on to find out the shows worth investing your time in…

Palm Royale

Kristen Wiig stars as a social climber determined to crack 1969 Florida high society

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Apple TV+

‘All I ever wanted was to belong. To be a somebody in this world.’ Kristen Wiig stars in Apple’s glitzy comedy about one woman’s determination to con her way into the high society of Palm Beach, Florida – specifically that of the exclusive Palm Royale club. It’s set in 1969 and has all the jet-set glamour one would expect of the time, but it’s the cast that really sells this ten-parter. Wiig is vulnerable but steely as ex-pageant queen Maxine, while the Queen Bee in the society she’s trying to crack is the magnificently uppity Evelyn Rollins (The West Wing’s Allison Janney), a leading light in the local fight against paediatric cancer. 

The series is based on the novel Mr & Mrs American Pie by Juliet McDaniel, and the pleasure in watching the story evolve is in seeing the lengths Maxine will go to in order to secure the social elevation she so dearly wants, and the comeuppance others get along the way. Her schemes are a lot of fun, but you have to ask: how much will it all cost her? And if the club waiter Robert looks familiar, he should – that’s snake-hipped pop legend Ricky Martin. (Ten episodes) 

All Of Us Strangers

Andrew Scott plays a man seeing visions of his dead parents in this BAFTA-nominated fantasy

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Disney+

What if you could meet your parents as equals? That’s the intriguing idea behind Andrew Haigh’s movie, which stars Andrew Scott as a lonely writer who visits his childhood home and meets them at the age he is now – even though they died in a car crash when he was 12.

Adam (Scott) steadily gets to know Mum and Dad (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) across a series of beautifully acted encounters. There’s a moment when they all re-enact Christmas and, just for a moment, Scott manages to look just like the child he has become in their presence. It’s a lovely piece of acting and the film is full of that in their meetings, as all three of them come to terms with that which went unsaid before they died. 

The other strand of the film (and the only other prominent actor in the film) is Paul Mescal as Harry, a neighbour with whom Adam has embarked on a relationship. The less said about the plot beyond all that the better but, suffice to say, All Of Us Strangers is a moving experience that passes almost like a dream, and manages to say more by showing rather than telling – that’s the mark of good writing, good storytelling, good acting and, as a result of all that, a good film. BAFTA noticed and gave it six nominations, but the Oscars, for some reason, ignored it entirely. (105 minutes) 

3 Body Problem

Dazzling sci-fi adaptation from the duo behind Game Of Thrones

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

What would you do if aliens were invading our planet, but not for hundreds of years? That’s one of the many questions posed by this epic sci-fi thriller based on a trilogy of Chinese novels. 3 Body Problem comes from David Benioff and DB Weiss, the pair who adapted Game Of Thrones, and has a similarly impressive scope. The storyline flits between the stunningly re-created 1960s China of the Cultural Revolution, a mysterious virtual reality simulation and present day Oxford (shifted from China in the books), where a quintet of scientists – the ‘Oxford Five’ – steadily realise that something terrible is happening out in space. One of them will be familiar to Thrones fans – it’s John Bradley, who played the studious Samwell – while Benioff and Weiss brought plenty of behind-the-scenes talent with them from their HBO fantasy show, too.

To say more would spoil the twists and turns of this eight-part first series, although we will say that the adaptation takes some challengingly complex source material and manages to weave it into a highly watchable and entertaining series without losing what made the original so remarkable – the cleverness of its concepts, and the sheer alien-ness of its invaders. And, as you’d expect since it’s based on a trilogy, the way this batch ends certainly leaves room for a return. (Eight episodes) 

My Wife, My Abuser: The Secret Footage

Shocking documentary charting 20 years of domestic abuse

Year: 2024

Certificate: 18

Watch now on My5

This is a sensitive look at a disturbing domestic violence case, featuring extensive commentary from the police who attended the case, as well as from the victim, Richard Spencer. 

Spencer lived with his wife Sheree in a tidy six-bedroom suburban home that looked a picture of domestic bliss. The reality was a living nightmare for Richard who, over the two decades of his marriage, had been subjected to verbal and physical abuse, keeping it a secret from family and friends and suffering in silence. 

Richard was able to take control of his situation in one small way, by secretly recording the abuse on hidden cameras. This documentary features that shocking footage, as well as audio recordings that will chill you to the core. It’s an eye-opening look at domestic violence, regardless of the gender of the victim or perpetrator. (90 minutes)

Road House (2024)

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in a remake of the cult Patrick Swayze favourite

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Prime Video

This remake of the Patrick Swayze action movie is brutal but generally very entertaining, with a terrific central performance and a sunny Florida backdrop. The Bourne Identity’s Doug Liman directs Jake Gyllenhaal as Elwood Dalton, a retired UFC fighter who is very good with his fists but also has a thoughtful approach to violence: ‘No one ever wins a fight,’ is his philosophy. He is, however, also a man of fierce passions – it takes a lot to get him angry but when he is, he just can’t let go. 

And that’s the arc of the movie, in which Dalton takes a job as a bouncer at a bar in the Florida Keys and gets steadily more and more wound up by visiting thugs (one played by a swaggering Conor McGregor) all of whom want to destroy the bar, but why? There’s a lot of western in the story, a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance, but when it’s at its most successful is when the focus isn’t on the slightly clunky plot but on Gyllenhaal. He’s clearly spent a lot of time at gym for the role, but there’s also a lot of nicely restrained acting going on behind those muscles and he’s good with the witty put-downs, too. That humour and the sunny Florida setting serve to balance out all the violence, which is only really truly shocking right at the end. (121 minutes)

The Dropout

Downfall of the woman behind the Theranos blood-testing scandal

Year: 2022

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Disney+

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

The story of Theranos, the American blood-testing company that promised a technology revolution but was founded on lies, is a fascinating one. And the character of its founder, the now convicted fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, is the key to that story. 

The Dropout is based on a 2019 podcast of the same name but the strength of the TV adaptation is Amanda Seyfried’s compelling performance as Holmes, a woman who swindled investors out of millions of dollars. It was filmed while Holmes was on trial, and was created by Elizabeth Meriwether – best known for the sitcom New Girl. 

That Meriwether managed to render the story around Holmes as well as she did is a serious achievement, and she was lucky to have such a riveting performance from Seyfried to anchor the whole thing. (Eight episodes)

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (Taylor’s Version)

Watch the singer’s sensational $1 billion concert from the comfort of your own home

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Disney+

Every generation has a few stars who burn brighter than all the others. In 2023, Taylor Swift proved she was burning the brightest by far

The experience survived the transition from stage to big screen when Swift bypassed all the major studios to release her tour in cinemas, setting new box office records in the process. Then it became available to rent at home with three extra songs, and now it’s part of the subscription on Disney+ – with four extra acoustic numbers that didn’t make either of those previous releases. We haven’t even touched on the breathtaking scale and skill of the show itself but, suffice to say, The Eras Tour is a spectacle for the ages, and Swift richly deserves all her success. (210 minutes) 

Shirley

Regina King stars in a drama about the US’s first black congresswoman

Year: 2024

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

In 1968, New York school teacher Shirley Chisholm (Regina King) became the US’s first black congresswoman. That wasn’t enough for her, though, and in 1972 she embarked on a campaign to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for the office of President of the USA. Full of sharp observations about the challenges Shirley faced, but with a neat line in wry humour too, this is an excellent biopic about an often-forgotten figure from US politics. 

King is brilliantly unrecognisable as determined campaigner Shirley, while the great Lance Reddick also features in one of his final roles before his untimely death in March 2023. (117 minutes) 

Twisted Metal

Marvel star Anthony Mackie stars in a post-apocalyptic action comedy series

Year: 2024

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Paramount+

In a dystopian future where the big cities are walled havens of happiness and everything in between is a blasted wasteland of marauders and criminals, delivery driver John Doe (Anthony Mackie) relies on a fast car, his impeccable driving skills and as many firearms as he can carry to ferry items between towns. 

Based on the PlayStation game, this is a full-throttle, tongue-in-cheek ten-episode action series given cheery charm by Mackie’s motor-mouthed lead character, not to mention guest appearances by Scream’s Neve Campbell, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Stephanie Beatriz and Sideways’s Thomas Haden Church. Imagine Smokey And The Bandit played out in the world of Mad Max and you’re getting the idea. (Ten episodes) 

Hightown

Gritty Cape Cod crime drama with a great sense of place

Year: 2020-

Certificate: 18

Watch now on NOW

Watch now on Sky

A strong sense of place can serve as a great anchor for a TV show – not that the human drama in Hightown really needs much grounding, unfolding as it does around the life of a day-drinking law enforcer as she mooches her way through the bars and women of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

Jackie Quiñones, a National Marine Fisheries Service Agent, is a woman who buries her feelings on a daily basis, and she’s played with 100 per cent conviction by Chicago Fire’s Monica Raymund. ‘Everyone parties, I’m fine,’ a twitchy Jackie tells us during the first episode, in which she drinks and sniffs heaven knows what, finds a dead body and drives around drunk. She’s clearly a woman on course for a reckoning and Jackie’s journey to something better is the compelling central strand of this refreshingly authentic-feeling show, one which also has the added bonus of feeling a little like armchair tourism. (Eight episodes)

All The Beauty And The Bloodshed

Documentary exploring the career of Nan Goldin and the fall of the Sackler family

Year: 2022

Certificate: 18

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

If you’ve seen Dopesick (Disney+) or Painkiller (Netflix), two serialised dramas on the opioid crisis and the role of the Sackler family in it, then this documentary takes that scandal and sees it though the deeply personal lens of an artist. 

Nan Goldin is a photographer known for her confrontational images and documentation of the New York City subculture she was a part of. In this film, the story of her life as an artist intersects with the story of her life as an addict and activist. 

In 2019, Goldin refused a prestigious retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery in London when she heard that they were to accept £1 million from the Sacklers, who were global patrons of the arts. The gallery refused the money, leading to a domino effect of other galleries severing ties with the family. 

This powerful film is as much a portrait of the artist and her close relationships and collaborations, as it is a strike against the Sacklers, about whom Goldin is typically candid: ‘My anger at the Sackler family is personal. I hate these people but it’s not about my own addiction. When you think of the profit off people’s pain you can only be furious about it.’ (117 minutes)

Top Dog

Odd-couple Scandi noir from the producers of The Bridge

Year: 2020-

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Channel 4

A Swedish crime drama that brings together talented young lawyer Emily (Josefin Asplund) and paroled convict Teddy (Alexej Manvelov) who, in the first series, are both motivated from opposite directions, to find the kidnapped son of one of Sweden’s leading families. 

One crime brought them together but the show grows more labyrinthine, its tendrils reaching far and wide and snagging its protagonists in a vast and deadly web of deceit and conspiracy.

Scandi-noir fans should know it’s produced by the team behind big hit thriller The Bridge and is based on a book series by lawyer and author Jens Lapidus. His novels have also been adapted as the ‘Stockholm Noir’ trilogy that began with 2010 movie Easy Money and includes spin-off series Snabba Cash (Netflix). (Two series)

The World Cook

Fred Sirieix and Emma Willis host this global culinary challenge

Year: 2022-

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Prime Video

A blend of MasterChef: The Professionals and Great British Menu, Amazon’s contest sees 16 chefs compete in knockout challenges. Fred Sirieix and Emma Willis make for a jovial hosting duo as the scenic series whisks the chefs round local markets in Majorca, Croatia, Italy and Austria before ending up in Mexico for a grand final in its first series. Familiar faces such as Marcus Wareing, Jay Rayner and Grace Dent are among the judges in the run but – and this is no criticism of the chefs – the locations frequently outshine the food. 

Series two brings us 16 more contenders, including plant-based specialist Lisa Marley from England, and they’ve changed the show’s recipe a bit – the contenders are now split into two groups of eight who won’t meet until the final. They commence the contest in a rather drab looking airline hangar (the food definitely takes top billing over the scenery there), but there’s glamour before the end of part one as the contenders are whisked off to Turkey to continue the competition, before stops in Iceland, Croatia, Crete and Thailand later in the run. (Two series) 

Blown Away

The glass-blowing contest with mind-blowing creations

Year: 2019-

Certificate: pg

Watch now on Netflix

A glass-blowing contest? It sounds like a tricky sell for a TV show, but if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that you can make good television about almost anything – it’s all about the execution. In the Canadian series Blown Away, ten skilled crafters compete for a $60,000 prize through a series of challenges, and that relatively low number means that we get to know them all pretty well. 

There are some British contenders to look out for amid the mostly North American field, including Elliot Walker (series two) and Maddy Hughes (series three), and the creations they all come up with will challenge your preconceptions about what can be made with glass. In the latest fourth series, the glassblowers come up with pieces that represent their dark side, pay tribute to their childhood and re-create their favourite sweet treats in glass form. Let’s hope that no one suggests a crossover with Is It Cake? – that could send someone to the hospital… (Four series) 

5lbs Of Pressure

Luke Evans and Rory Culkin star in a gritty crime thriller about an ex-con

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

After serving a 13-year stretch for killing a man, Adam (Luke Evans) returns to the New York streets he once ruled, determined to leave his old life behind and make a better future for himself and the son he left behind when he went to jail. It won’t be easy though – not only is the brother of the man he killed hovering vengefully in the background, but the neighbourhood’s violent new hoodlums (Alex Pettyfer and Rory Culkin) are just waiting for an excuse to slap Adam down. 

It’s gritty and violent stuff, but Evans grounds it with a typically powerful turn as the battered but hopeful former crook prepared to do anything to make amends for his old sins. (109 minutes) 

Photographer

Documentary series following National Geographic’s greatest photographers

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Disney+

Each episode of this six-part documentary series follows a top-flight photographer for National Geographic as they set out to take an iconic image. Some are heading to the studio to snap posed model shots, others are heading out into the wilds to capture natural life in all its splendour, all are out to create something gobsmacking.

Every instalment focuses in tightly on a single snapper, not only following them at work but looking back at what brought them to see life through a lens. It also examines the amazing images that they’ve already created, breaking down just how they shot them and what exactly makes them so eye-catching. It is easily one of the most visually stunning documentary series. (Six episodes) 

Gunpowder

Grisly Gunpowder Plot tale starring Game Of Thrones’s Kit Harington

Year: 2017

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Netflix

In 1603, England is enduring turbulent times. Following the death of Elizabeth I, King James of Scotland has ascended to the throne. The country is at war with Catholic Spain; English Catholics face persecution, and priests saying Mass may be put to death. Deep in the Warwickshire countryside, a plot is brewing that will still linger in the national consciousness 400 years later. 

Starring Game Of Thrones’s Kit Harington as the plotter Robert Catesby and Liv Tyler as his cousin Anne Vaux, this compelling (and graphically grisly) three-part drama charts the momentous events of a tumultuous year. It was first shown on the BBC in 2017, and on its release an interesting bit of trivia about Harington surfaced: he’s actually a direct descendant of Catesby. (Three episodes) 

Lucan

Thrilling two-parter on the scandal that rocked the aristocracy

Year: 2013

Certificate: 15

Watch now on UKTV Play

On a November night in 1974, Sandra Rivett was murdered in the London house where she worked as a nanny. Her employer was Veronica, Lady Lucan, estranged wife of Lord Lucan. He disappeared on the same night, never to be seen again; had he mistaken Sandra for Veronica? 

While much of this terrific two-part drama is based on the facts, anything depicting the time before, during and after the murder – which remains officially unsolved – is bound to include a certain amount of speculation. Thankfully, however, writer Jeff Pope (Archie, The Walk-In) avoided sensationalising further a story that is more than sensational enough as it is. 

Rory Kinnear is mesmerising as Lord ‘Lucky’ Lucan, with outstanding support from Catherine McCormack as his wife Veronica, plus Christopher Eccleston as the ghastly John Aspinall, who owns the Clermont Club frequented by equally ghastly upper-crust men. (Two episodes)

Freaknik: The Wildest Party Never Told

Documentary about a legendary Atlanta street festival

Year: 2024

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Disney+

After beginning as a casual picnic event limited to local black college students, Freaknik evolved into a city-wide extravaganza of music and partying that drew young people from all across the country to Atlanta, Georgia each year in the 1980s and 1990s. By the time authorities – fed up with the complaints from locals and the spike in crime that came with the event – finally cancelled it in 1999, hundreds of thousands of people were attending each year. 

This eye-opening documentary film produced by rappers Jermaine Dupri, 21 Savage and Luther ‘Uncle Luke’ Campbell looks at the growth of a grassroots phenomenon and charts the influence on music and street culture that it continues to have today. (82 minutes) 

Home Fires

Meet the inspirational women keeping the home fires burning during the Second World War

Year: 2015-2016

Certificate: 12

Watch now on UKTV Play

Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond head an impressive ensemble cast in this engaging six-part drama set in a close-knit village community in Cheshire during the Second World War. 

It begins with a battle over the future of the village Women’s Institute, which imperious president Joyce Cameron (Annis) wants to close down for the duration of the war. Her free-spirited antagonist Frances Barden (Bond) presses for a vote of ‘no confidence’ and forces Joyce and many of her supporters out. As Frances gets to work resurrecting the institute, recruiting new members and instilling a strong sense of purpose, the war is taking away the men of the village. The womenfolk must roll up their sleeves and get to work. (Two series)

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