I know I’m not the only one who occasionally sighs wearily at Netflix’s garish home screen and offers its shiny wares like a fairground barker to a shy coconut.
And in the era of the seemingly bottomless pit of the major streamers of high-concept, budget-busting, algorithm-driven dramas, how does relatively low-concept, human-scale drama not just find a space on our ‘tiny’ terrestrial screens? but also in our hearts and minds?
As the wholly compelling yet deeply relatable story unfolds, Mancunian chalk-and-cheese sisters Becca and Rosaline are awkwardly reunited in grief
Maryland initially presents like so many other British TV dramas, full of evergreen cliché opening sequence: the busy family breakfast in an ordinary kitchen.
But as the wholly compelling yet deeply relatable story unfolds, Mancunian chalk-and-cheese sisters Becca and Rosaline are awkwardly reunited in grief when the body of their mother Mary is found on a beach in the Isle of Man, confusing, not least because they thought she was in Wales – Maryland has a hold on you and won’t let go.
This is partly the work of a top cast, with Suranne Jones (whom I’d love to watch doing her ironing, to be honest) as Becca and Eve Best as Rosaline, both brilliantly supported by the kind of character actors who are great at everything they do. (Happy Valley’s George Costigan as the sisters’ father Richard, Ackley Bridge’s Andrew Knott as Becca’s husband Jim, Shameless’s Dean Lennox Kelly as Rosaline’s love interest and Holby City’s Hugh Quarshie too… well, that would give too far away for those who want to chat). Plus, as a casting curveball, there’s Stockard Channing as Mary’s unlikely friend.
I’d like to see Suranne Jones ironing
But even with so much talent glistening on screen, it’s the writing that makes Maryland a true must-see. From an original idea by Suranne Jones, the screenplay is from debuting dramaturge (though she has form in comedy) Anne-Marie O’Connor, whose fan club I’m about to start; her characters refreshingly speak the way people actually speak.
As an antidote to all those in-yer-face American shows where the focus is pulled so tight they can be easily watched on phones by sugary tweenagers, this is a low-key tale that explores middle-aged sibling rivalry with the sort of secrets mysteriously making even seemingly “normal” families unknowable. It’s a story that deals entirely with the quiet complexities of women’s lives, in which the men’s stories are secondary to the bonds between mothers, daughters and sisters.
Still, it’s also funny and cleverly plotted enough to keep stray viewers who don’t fall into that demographic on the edge of their couch, too.
And Maryland uses a trick I don’t recall seeing before: Though Becca and Rosaline work, apart from the fact that Becca’s job consists of wearing a dress suit and a name tag, while Ros’ career allows her to with a head full of highlights and a wardrobe of creamy cashmere, we never get to know what they actually do, simply because it doesn’t really matter.
This week, Kathryn Flett (pictured) was blown away by Maryland and praises the show’s “top-of-their-game cast”
This means that unlike all those busy pursed-lipped television professional women who make their way to the glass ceilings of their plot, these women’s relatable emotional journeys have more room to breathe — and resonate — with viewers.
So, in the context of unremarkable British TV drama, Maryland is pretty much a blueprint for good adult storytelling – and one that the sisters, whether or not they have sisters, will recognize as something very special.
More dramas like Maryland ASAP please.
A chaotic modern Columbo
HEAVEN / NOW
Natasha Lyonne, pictured stars in Sky’s ten-part murder mystery romp Poker Face. It was created by Rian Johnson, who wrote and directed the hit Knives Out and its follow-up Glass Onion
If you’ve never seen Netflix’s Orange Is The New Black (Prisoner Cell Block H with 21st-century intelligence, really) or Russian Doll (a stylish time-slip comedy with a hint of Groundhog Day), American actress Natasha Lyonne might just be passed you by. No shame, but now it’s time to catch up: Lyonne stars in Sky’s ten-part murder mystery romp Poker Face – and it’s a lot of fun.
The actress (whose real-life backstory is as colorful as that of any of her characters) plays Charlie Cale, a gifted poker player turned casino insider whose clever brain and uncanny ability to solve crimes are effectively disguised by a gritty accent. and chaotic personal style.
In the opening minutes of episode one (which stars Academy Award winner Adrien Brody as a corrupt Vegas casino boss), Lyonne channels Peter Falk’s peerless 1970s Detective Columbo – and brilliantly so.
It was created by Rian Johnson, who, after writing and directing the hit Knives Out and its follow-up Glass Onion, has plenty of form with clever clog plots (he also directed some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad). So when it comes to borderline silly but never short of extremely entertaining TV escapism, you’re in very safe hands here. Or not, as the case may be…
I was on BBC’s Celebrity Sewing Bee in 2014 (I never found out which actual celebrity lost weight) and it was the most fun I’ve ever had as cameras trained on all your stitches and b*tch!
We laughed non-stop, but were very competitive and reluctantly conceded when Overtones lead singer Timmy Matley won (I was deeply saddened when he passed away in 2018). Bee is now back for a ninth series (Wed, BBC1), directed by Sara Pascoe with judges Paddy Grant (even more charming in real life) and fashion expert Esme Young.
It’s still fun, but I think it’s high time for (ahem) a change from some of the other outdated TV formats: I’m talking about you MasterChef, Bake Off, Apprentice, Dragons’ Den…
Glamorous Mud Throwers
That looks more like it now! Mud-throwing by Queen Bees on stilettos – and a happy ending for newlywed Chrisshell (pictured)?
“The real estate is next level,” real estate agent Mary Fitzgerald of Selling Sunset (Netflix) recently said on a red carpet in LA. Awesome! As much as I love real estate porn, it’s not the only reason Sunset addicts love the reality glam thon, now back for a sixth season. “We’ve all got some mud on our faces this season too,” added Mary’s boss Jason Oppenheim. That looks more like it now! Mud-throwing by Queen Bees on stilettos – and a happy ending for newlywed Chrisshell?