Sordid, ugly and threadbare: Jimmy Carr – Natural Born Killer reviewed

Here’s an offensive joke: ‘Jimmy Carr gets paid to do a Netflix special.’ All right, it’s not original – I nicked it from an online chat forum. And it’s not especially funny. But unlike any of the sordid, ugly, threadbare material in Carr’s excruciating set, it does at least contain a measure of critical insight. Carr vauntingly lists all the ‘did he really go there?’ topics he plans to cover: ‘child abuse, domestic violence, abortion, murder, gun control and trans issues’. But his treatment of these subjects doesn’t feel refreshingly transgressive so much as gratuitously unpleasant. Here’s a sample: ‘Climate change is like my niece. It’s getting hotter every year.’

Grey, gloomy, and utterly joyless: Ripley reviewed

If you’ve spent any time gawping at Netflix over the past half-decade or so, you’ll already know that human culture has reached its final, perfect form. We made a good effort with cave paintings, epic poetry, theatre, literature and the rest of them, but the apex of culture is the bingeable, episodic rabbit-hole Netflix documentary about a sociopathic liar. Maybe we love con artists because they’re the only people still selling something new There have been so many of these now that it’s difficult to tell them apart. There was the one about the man who matched with women on dating websites by pretending to be the playboy scion to

Fans of torture, dolly birds and fat lines of cocaine will love The Gentlemen

Guy Ritchie only does one thing but he does it very well: slick, violent, sweary, black comedy capers about the unlikely intersection between toffs and the criminal underworld, invariably starring ex-footballer Vinnie Jones as a loveable tweed-wearing thug. If you were hoping for something different from The Gentlemen, prepare to be disappointed. If, on the other hand, you can never quite get enough of shotguns, stately homes, frantically crowbarred-in but still-quite-amusing one liners, rival gangsters, vast quantities of claret (in both vinous and sanguinary forms), torture, dolly birds, travellers, slightly annoying solecisms, fights, gambling and fat lines of cocaine, then this will be your cup of tea, guvnor, and no

Evocative and immaculate: Netflix’s One Day reviewed

One Day is a bestselling novel with a simple but effective premise: a delightful, made-for-each-other couple meet on their last day at university, narrowly miss getting off with one another, then continue narrowly to miss getting off with one another every year for 14 years until finally, eventually they do. Actually, I’m not sure about the pay off. I never got round to reading David Nicholls’s book, nor did I catch the poorly received movie version with Anne Hathaway playing the love interest. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed and shall be very disappointed if the dénouement doesn’t deliver what the plot seems to be promising. All right, so the

Have we all become slaves to algorithms?

Here I am, a human, recommending Kyle Chayka’s book about the negative impact of algorithms on our culture. Hopefully that will calm him down a bit, because he worries a lot, possibly far too much, at least as it seems to someone who is less online. Chayka is a staff writer at the New Yorker and he is concerned about the effect of the Filterworld, his word for the ‘network of algorithms that influence our lives today, which has had a particularly dramatic impact on culture and the ways it is distributed and consumed’. He is referring to the songs Spotify cues up, the films Netflix suggests, the stories Facebook

Still the best thing on TV: Apple TV+’s Slow Horses reviewed

Slow Horses is the best thing on television. And it’s now so successful and popular it can afford to launch series three with a sequence worthy of James Bond: Istanbul location budget; spectacular chase sequences involving cars and speedboats with some thrillingly dangerous manoeuvres round a huge container vessel; a beautiful, immaculately dressed female agent meeting (spoiler alert, though to be fair you can see this one coming a mile off) a tragically sticky end. Except it’s better than Bond – not that difficult these days, it must be said – because it is missing all that grim portentousness, over-earnestness and pomposity. The cars are beaten up and gadget-free; the

Surprisingly addictive and heartwarming: Netflix’s Beckham reviewed

If you’re not remotely interested in football or celebrity, I recommend Netflix’s four-part documentary series Beckham. Yes, I know it’s about a famous footballer who happens also to be a celebrity and who, furthermore, is married to the famous model/celebrity/whatever who used to be in the world’s most famous girl band, the Spice Girls. But trust me, you’re going to be hooked. One of the things that hooked me was the way it enables you to play catch-up on all the David and Victoria Beckham stories you pointedly ignored during the past three decades because, damn it, that pair were quite overexposed enough already without needing any of your attention

Arresting visual spectacle and superb fight scenes: Netflix’s One Piece reviewed

What would you say is the most successful comic-book series in history? If you’re thinking Tintin you’re not even close. (Curiously enough, even the now largely forgotten Lucky Luke scores higher.) If you’re thinking Peanuts, you’re getting warmer. And if you named Asterix, good try but that’s only number two. No, the hands-down winner, with total sales exceeding 516 million, is a Japanese manga called One Piece. One Piece? Me neither. It’s quite unusual these days to chance upon a massive cultural phenomenon – the series has been going since 1997, with 1,093 chapters so far – of which one has never once even heard. But this, I suspect, will

Why I’m addicted to Australian MasterChef

Why is Australian MasterChef so much better than the English version? You’d think, with a population less than a third of ours, the smaller talent pool would make the Antipodean edition look like thin gruel. But a bit like with the cricket and the rugby, size clearly isn’t everything. UK MasterChef now resembles one of those joyless austerity dishes you cobble together from crusty leftovers you found languishing in the fridge. But the Aussie one has had my entire family addicted and yearning for more for the past fortnight. I suppose it’s partly down to the way Australia sees itself. Probably this bears no resemblance to the way Australia actually

How to shock a Satanist

I wish I could be like actors and pretend to be bored by press junkets, but the truth is I love the attention. My job as a Hollywood writer and producer mainly involves sitting in front of a computer and shouting at my kids, so free drinks, launch parties and people telling you how great you are is the perfect antidote to a room filled with empty Monster Munch packets and that urine sample you were meant to hand in to the doctor. Writers are such terrible narcissists. We not only expect complete strangers to be fascinated by our every thought; we want them to pay for the privilege. You

Bags of charm and a gripping plot: Netflix’s The Chosen One reviewed

Some years ago, Mark Millar (the creator of Kick-Ass, Kingsman, etc.) hit on yet another brilliant conceit for one of his comic-book stories: a three-part series based on the premise that Bible-believing Christians are right, that the Antichrist walks among us and that only the second coming will save us – eventually – from the horrors depicted in Revelation. Since the late 1960s, screenwriters have tended to give the devil all the best tunes ‘I have nothing but happy memories of growing up as a Catholic, and I wanted to do a book about faith that was both intelligent and respectful,’ said Millar. ‘If we can do a thoughtful take

Historically dishonest: Netflix’s Eldorado – Everything the Nazis Hate reviewed

If you don’t subscribe to every last detail of the LGBTQ+ agenda, then basically you are a Nazi. This was the subtle message of Eldorado, a documentary that pretended to inform us about the real-life background sexual milieu to Cabaret and Babylon Berlin, but was really much more interested in promoting its political view that Weimar Germany with its sexual promiscuity, rampant drug use and anything-goes view on ‘gender’ represented some kind of paradise on Earth which we should seek to emulate. A voice-over told us what to think: ‘They feel intimidated by this rapid change. The pace of change is a source of frustration to just about everybody. If

Gratuitously twisty, turny nonsense: Sky Max’s Poker Face reviewed

Imagine if you had the power always to tell whether or not someone was lying. You’d have it made, wouldn’t you? The intelligence services would be queuing up to employ you for interrogations; top law firms would pay you top dollar to act as their adviser; you’d win gazillions in all the poker championships; you’d never buy a dodgy second-hand car, not that you’d need to with all that money you’d have. Admittedly, though, your life and adventures would make for a very boring TV series because everything would be so easy. Hence the tortured premise of Rian Johnson’s Poker Face, in which we are invited to believe that our

The perverse and addictive appeal of Netflix’s You

In our risk-averse, deeply fearful age, the idea of one of the most popular shows on any streaming service being a black comedy about a serial killer who has an unfortunate penchant for murdering the women he falls in love with might be something of a tough sell. But the bloody exploits of Joe Goldberg, a bookstore worker-turned-university-professor, who has so far terrorised the denizens of New York, California and London, have run to four immensely popular seasons on Netflix, with a likely fifth and final instalment in the next year or two. Not bad for a series that – intentionally or otherwise – treads a fine line between hilarity

What to watch on Netflix (while we can still share passwords)

If you share a Netflix account with a friend, relative, colleague, in-law, neighbour or ex whose password you happened to crack, your viewing days may be numbered. The streaming service is planning to fight back against password-sharing – by charging an extra fee to subscribers who let friends and family from other households use their account. In a post this month, Netflix emphasised that ‘a Netflix account is intended for one household’, adding: ‘We’ve always made it easy for people who live together to share their Netflix account with features like profiles and multiple streams. While these have been hugely popular, they’ve also created confusion about when and how you can

In defence of Netflix’s Ancient Apocalypse

British writer Graham Hancock has riled the archaeology community with his Netflix documentary, Ancient Apocalypse. The series follows Hancock to ancient sites around the world in pursuit of proof that an advanced human civilisation existed thousands of years before the first cities of Mesopotamia. Hancock, a former Economist correspondent, argues that most archaeologists are too stubborn to admit even the possibility of such a civilisation. Several archaeologists have rebuked Ancient Apocalypse since its release in November. They claim that it propagates false theories, avoids inconvenient facts and regurgitates old beliefs about ancient myths. One Guardian columnist called it ‘the most dangerous show on Netflix’. Flint Dibble, a research fellow at

The Recruit might be the worst show on Netflix

The Top Gun series received generous support from the US Navy because it was such an effective recruitment tool. I wonder if something similar went on between the CIA and Netflix’s new series The Recruit, this time as an exercise in reputation management. ‘There’s nothing sinister or threatening about the Company,’ this bizarre, horribly ill-judged and tasteless comedy/thriller series squeals at every turn. ‘We’re just a bunch of lovable, kooky misfits doing our bit to defend your freedoms.’ If you think I’m exaggerating, consider that one of the biggest baddies in the series – right up there with the evil Russians – is the Senate oversight committee responsible for holding

Most-read 2022: Everyone involved should be in prison: Netflix’s Persuasion reviewed

We’re finishing the year by republishing our ten most popular articles from 2022. Here’s number nine: Deborah Ross’s piece from July on the pitfalls of adapting Austen. You may already have read early reviews of Netflix’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion saying it’s ‘the worst adaptation ever’ as well as ‘mortifying’ and ‘a travesty’, but I know you won’t believe it unless you hear it from me, so here you are: it is truly horrible. I would also add that everyone involved should probably be sent to prison. Not for life, but until we could be confident they’d learned the error of their ways and there was minimal risk of

The Crown doesn’t need a disclaimer

The fifth series of Netflix’s The Crown will soon be upon us. Scripted, as ever, by Peter Morgan, the show will cover the travails of the royal family throughout the 1990s, spanning everything from the then Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s marital difficulties and eventual divorce to the rumours of Prince Philip conducting an affair with a much younger woman (his partner in carriage driving, we are told). Jonny Lee Miller, erstwhile Sick Boy from Trainspotting and Sherlock Holmes from Elementary, dons thick glasses and a grey wig to play former prime minister John Major, a decent man who never stood a chance. Later in the series, we are promised the first

The makers of Fauda have another hit on their hands: Sky Atlantic’s Munich Games reviewed

You’d have to pay me an awful lot more than I get for this column to review Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. As I write, it’s the number one trending show on Netflix, but the most I’m prepared to stomach is that snatch of footage you get forced to watch (because of Netflix’s impertinent and intrusive automatic play function) if you linger over the title image for too long. It shows two cops at an interview desk gradually revealing to Dahmer’s increasingly aghast dad (Richard Jenkins) that his son Jeffrey might not be quite the straight upstanding citizen he imagined. Dahmer murdered – and often dismembered and sometimes ate –