This Country (BBC iPlayer)
Review by Sharon Dale
I have to admit that I had a tear in my eye when the credits rolled on the very last episode of the BBC series This Country. It was the final “Kurtan”. There will be no more.
Perhaps fans like me are feeling the end of this Bafta-winning series more deeply given the desperate need for a stress-relieving belly laugh in these dark and difficult times.
Oh how we will miss Kerry Mucklowe and her cousin, Kurtan, delivering a weekly dose of fresh hilarity.
What makes it worse is that we’ll probably have to wait ages before anything as good, as original, as outrageous, as laugh-out-loud funny and as poignant comes along again.
This Country is a mockumentary of life in a Cotswold village. It is written by siblings Daisy May Cooper and her brother, Charlie, who play Kerry and Kurtan, and much of the script is based on their own experiences and observations.
Along with delivering laughs, it speaks uncomfortable truths about everything from unemployment and parenting to religion and how dull life in a village can be for young people.
This Country has been compared to The Office at its best. I’d agree with that accolade. There are some similarities. So, if you hated The Office or just didn’t get it and are easily offended then you may not enjoy This Country.
The good news is that, as it is on the brilliant BBC, you can try it for free as all three series are now available on the BBC iPlayer.
Inspector Montalbano (BBC iPlayer)
Review by Yvette Huddleston
Set in the stunning scenery of Sicily and based on the detective novels by Italian author Andrea Camilleri, this excellent (subtitled) series, originally launched in Italy in 1999, quickly garnered an army of loyal fans here in the UK after its first appearance on BBC 4 in 2012.
Starring Luca Zingaretti as Sicilian detective inspector Salvo Montalbano, it is “slow television” at its best. The mystery that Montalbano is investigating – usually a murder – unfolds at a leisurely pace.
There is plenty of time for coffee, flirtation, laughs and lengthy lunches (with wine). This is Sicily, after all. It is beautifully shot, making the most of its setting, but it doesn’t shy away from the dark shadow that hovers over that sunny island – the Mafia. Montalbano and his colleagues, while determined to stand up to the powerful forces of organised crime, take a pragmatic approach.
Series 14 is currently on air in Italy, so we might have to wait a little while to see it over here, but in the meantime there are more than 30 episodes available on BBC iPlayer to keep you occupied.
Derry Girls (Series 1 and 2 available on All 4, Series 1 on Netflix)
Review by Chris Bond
Lisa McGee’s Bafta-nominated comedy is brilliant, quirky and above all, hilarious. The show is set in Derry against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland during the 1990s, and revolves around four teenage girls and their English sidekick James.
It follows the antics of this band of “eejits”, as McGee affectionately calls them, as they attempt to navigate their way through a mess usually of their own making.
What makes this coming-of-age sitcom so impressive is the impeccably drawn characters (McGee used her own childhood as the basis for the show), from Erin (Saoirse-Monica Jackson) to the sardonic Sister Michael (Siobhán McSweeney), headmistress of the Catholic school the girls attend.
There are moments of poignancy cleverly woven into the script and their infrequency makes them all the more powerful. When it first aired in 2018, Derry Girls quickly became the most popular show in Northern Irish TV history and it’s easy to see why.
The beauty of the series, though, is it transcends politics and religion, and anyone who has ever been a teenager will watch this with a knowing smile, and it’s this empathy that has you rooting for them.