TV in January 2022 is kicking off with a brace of new and returning small screen offerings, including a cross-pollination of American and British comedy in Toast Of London spinoff series Toast Of Tinseltown, and the swan song season for the (secretly) Welsh fantasy drama A Discovery Of Witches. Here’s your guide to the best in TV and streaming for the week of Mon 3-Sun 9 Jan.
PEN15, Season 2b
There are few other ages in one’s life as alluring for artists as teenagedom, and that tender period is depicted and torn apart with unflinching cringiness in comedy-drama series, PEN15. Returning for the second batch of its final season this week, the American show, from streaming service Hulu originally, is the creation of Sam Zvibleman, Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle (with musical comedy icons The Lonely Island as co-producers) and stars the latter two as they were in middle school at 13 years old in the early 00s – and as they are now, in adult form – surrounded by actual age-appropriate kids. If you can get over this deliberately peculiar juxtaposition, you’ll find much to be endeared to in this searing but ultimately sympathetic look back on post-pubescence.
From Tue 4 Jan at 9pm on Sky Comedy.
Toast Of Tinseltown, Series Premiere
Fresh from Season 3 of unlikely horror-comedy hit What We Do In Shadows, the exceptionally witty Matt Berry and his fantastic voice are back on TV this January for another slice of Toast. This time, Toast’s not quite so exceptional actor Stephen Toast – played by Berry – has swapped the cobbled streets of London for the palm-tree-lined boulevards of Hollywood in a spinoff that was originally pitched as simply Toast Of America. Following three successful seasons of the sitcom, which proved a hit both here and in the States, Berry and co-creator Arthur Matthews (of Father Ted and Big Train fame) wiled away lockdown creating YouTube audio shorts in lieu of a fourth season, which, after a six-year wait, the aforementioned American spinoff will now serve as in the form of a six-episode miniseries.
From Tue 4 Jan at 10pm on BBC One and available for streaming on iPlayer thereafter.
Mandy, Season 2
Another British comedy favourite here in Diane Morgan, who first rose to prominence as Philomena Cunk, spoof talking head from northern England in Charlie Brooker’s various semi-mockumentaries (well, before the slightly less good Netflix ones) and is now, thanks to series like Motherland, a certifiable star in her own right. In Mandy – not to be confused with the neon, blood-splattered Nicolas Cage film of the same name – Morgan skewers the rapidly increasing gig economy via her titular character, who stumbles through various shortcuts (and in short episodes) to getting money or stuff as easily and quickly as possible, to varying though usually zero degrees of success. It’s also something of a cameo fest: Maxine Peake, Natalie Cassidy, Johnny Vegas, the late, great Sean Lock and John Cooper Clarke (as a Christmas ghost, naturally) have previously shown up.
Begins Wed 5 Jan at 10pm on BBC Two and available for streaming on iPlayer thereafter.
Screw, Series Premiere
Drawing inspiration from creator Rob Williams’ own time volunteering in prisons, new Channel 4 drama Screw is pitched as a “darkly” comic, unabashed view inside an all-male prison – a modicum of the realities of which viewers might be more sympathetic than usual to after several bouts of lockdown life. The series is headed by veteran prison officer ‘Screws’ Leigh (Nina Sosnaya, His Dark Materials) alongside fish-out-of-water colleague Rose, played by Jamie-Lee O’Donnell from Derry Girls in her first breakout dramatic role. This environment is well-trodden ground for both dramatic, comedic and just about every other ‘ic’ genre in entertainment, so it’ll be interesting to see what Williams’ ‘true to life’ inspirations amount to as Screw progresses.
Begins Thurs 6 Jan on Channel 4 and available for streaming on 4OD thereafter.
A Discovery Of Witches, Season 3 (Final)
Produced by Cardiff’s own Bad Wolf and based on the first novel of the same name by American author Deborah Harkness, Sky’s TV adaptation of A Discovery of Witches comes to an end this January with its third season. The premise has the distinct twang of CW-esque, dark fantasy YA nonsense: Diana Bishop is a lapsed witch and Oxford University prof who accidentally unlocks the magical secrets hidden within a manuscript at the Bodleian Library. Enter Matthew Clairmont, a vampire biochemist, who wants to help her with said manuscript’s contents despite a historic rift between their kind. It’s not long, of course, before their distrust simmers into something else… Thanks to the genuine simmer between leads Teresa Palmer and Matthew Goode and some high production values, however, A Discovery of Witches is actually a smartly seductive TV romp through time and mysticism. (You might also recognise some of its shooting locations from around Wales’ capital.)
Begins Sat 7 Jan at 9pm on Sky Max.
words HANNAH COLLINS
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