What we're watching on TV

Something strange is going on in The Midwich Cuckoos

Something strange is going on in The Midwich Cuckoos - Credit: @SKYUK

The Midwich Cuckoos, Sky Max/Now TV 

Something ghoulish is going on in the made-up suburban commuter town of Midwich. Something that has residents gripped in frenzied fear. Something no one can talk about, nor understand. 

Welcome to the world of John Wyndham. The author’s creepy 1957 book is recreated almost to the letter by David Farr (the powerhouse who set the Beeb’s ratings soaring with The Night Manager). 

Drawn across seven episodes (which do, admittedly get a bit silly by the end), the sci-fi drama no doubt hinges much of its success on lead Keeley Hawes, whose name is telly gold dust. 

She will attract the curious and cautious kind of viewers who usually declare fantasy/sci-fi isn’t ‘their thing’. 

Episode one opens with loved-up Zoe (Aisling Loftus) and Sam (Ukweli Roach) driving long the leafy lanes of Midwich from the Big Smoke, seeking a new life...and hinging a lot on the move – could a fresh start help solve their fertility issues? 

Hawes plays pragmatic family therapist Dr Susannah Zellaby, who has her troubled adult daughter Cassie (Synnove Karlsen) living at home. 

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And Max Beesley is work-addicted DCI Paul Haynes. 

One calm, warm, early summer evening (while Dr Zellaby is away on a rare date night), out of the blue the air becomes taut and static in a small section of Midwich near the prep school. Horses whinny in their stables. Birds flit in the sky. Lights switch on and off by themselves. Phones are cut off from the rest of civilisation. And everyone falls to the ground, mesmerised. 

When they wake up, they’re surrounded by scientists, police and military personnel in haz suits, scrabbling to make sense of what occurred. 

Two months later, all women of childbearing age are up the duff. Dr Zellaby, orderly by nature, is drafted to calm the ranks, some who have never had sex before, as they grapple with their new mum status. 

And things become even more bizarre, when the newborns grow at a rate of knots, into knowing, strange, blunt-fringed supranatural beings, who seem to be working for a nefarious cause. 

I wish they’d chopped the show down a bit – it does drag at the end, despite a decent twist. But other than that The Midwich Cuckoo is watchable stuff.  

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis 

Strangers Things is back and better than ever

Strangers Things is back and better than ever - Credit: Tina Rowden/Netflix

Stranger Things 4, all episodes on Netflix 

This was the telly event my whole family had been waiting for this year. One that could lift Netflix’s recently ailing viewing figures. And one that’s seen Kate Bush climb into the Top 10 again! 

I am NOT a sci-fi lover by any means. I fall asleep at the mention of Star Wars, Star Trek...anything like that. I am just not interested. 

But when Stranger Things dropped on the streaming service in 2016, with its Stephen King-esque title sequence, and uber retro 80s vibes (from fashion, to music), I wasn’t the only one who became hooked. 

To date, it is one of the most-watched TV series of all time – viewers revelling in the attention to detail, and the characters, whose comradery and bro-hood harks back to 80s classics such as IT, The Lost Boys and The Goonies. It's not just a show, it’s an entire movement.  

Season four is, I think, the best yet, working not only in a loop with the other series, but also as a standalone. 

And while the show’s creators could have played it safe with the same-old same-old we’ve seen in the previous series’, I was thrilled to see them expand the world they created, bringing in new monsters, new characters and new worlds. 

I don’t want to give too much away to those who haven’t yet seen it, but expect the following. 

1. Yes, you will find out what happened to Hopper (David Harbour). 

2. A brand new ‘other side’ and soul-crushingly horrifying ‘baddie’. 

3. Comic relief from Joyce (Winona Ryder) and the Hawkins gang. 

4. To find out how Eleven became Eleven. 

5. To fall in love with Running Up That Hill all over again in one of the most epic episodes of the show ever. 

And it's not over yet with a few more episodes due to land on Netflix in early July.

Charlotte Smith-Jarvis 

F1: Drive to Survive is streaming now on Netflix

F1: Drive to Survive is streaming now on Netflix - Credit: Netflix

Formula 1: Drive to Survive, four seasons streaming on Netflix 

Growing up, my Sunday afternoons were soundtracked by Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain, the roar of engines and Murray Walker’s excitable yelping as Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost duelled on the world’s race circuits. 

Despite being from a family of fans, my dad and brother’s Formula 1 fever wasn’t infectious – I would much rather retreat to my bedroom to record the Top 40. 

So my latest TV obsession has taken a few people by surprise – myself included. Formula 1: Drive to Survive.  

And I'm not alone – apparently the Netflix behind the scenes documentary series is winning the sport new fans, especially in America. All it needed was a glossy reality TV makeover. 

The most recent series of Formula 1: Drive to Survive documents the controversial 2021 season.  

While it was the battle for the title between seven times champion Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen which dominated the headlines, the drama further down the field and in the pit lane is just as compelling.  

The full-throttle rivalries, the heart-stopping crashes, the crushing disappointments and the champagne corks popping on the podium.  

Daniel Ricciardo trying to prove he’s still a force to be reckoned with at McLaren, while his teammate Lando Norris is also keen to make his mark. 

The Haas team trying to reverse its recent fortunes with new sponsors and new drivers. 

The ascent of Norfolk’s star driver George Russell. 

And this is access all areas – so you also get to enjoy the slightly surreal spectacle of Red Bull team boss Christian Horner and his wife Geri, nee Halliwell, trotting around the countryside on their horses while discussing the team’s fortunes and Mercedes principal Toto Wolff putting in his exacting breakfast orders.   

Yet while my inner petrolhead has been well and truly unleashed, I still won’t be spending Sunday afternoons watching the races, though. I need to avoid season five spoilers. 

Emma Lee