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Film and TV

All Creatures Great and Small

Is there anything “more gloriously British” than All Creatures Great and Small, asks Anita Singh in The Daily Telegraph. The revived series about a trio of Yorkshire vets is balm for the soul. Nothing has changed for season two, which is as it should be. The sunny, rolling Yorkshire Dales provide a beautiful backdrop. It takes five minutes before we see vet James Herriot (Nicholas Ralph) with his arm halfway up a sheep. The bite is supplied by Siegfried Farnon (Samuel West), who is a softie underneath, but gets the best lines: “If you have a point, Mrs Hall, I’d rather you got on and stabbed me with it.” Gentleness doesn’t have to be dull, and herein lies the proof.

During lockdown, this sweet, deliberately mild remake of a classic “was the television equivalent of taking your brain out and dunking it into a bucket of warm tea”, says Stuart Heritage in The Guardian. Now that the world has started again, will it still be Channel 5’s biggest attraction? The problems faced by the characters remain minimal and easily resolved. Nothing of note ever happens, but the backdrops are beautiful and everyone is polite. As Herriot “gently bandages up an adorable fluffball of a cat”, it is resoundingly clear that we are still going to need All Creatures Great and Small. The show is as soothing as it ever was. “The rest of television is scrambling to keep up.”

All Creatures Great and Small is on Channel 5, Thursdays at 9pm. Watch a trailer here.

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Squid Game

It’s impossible to turn away from Squid Game, says Quinci LeGardye in Polygon. It’s No 1 on Netflix in more than 90 countries, and the streaming platform says it’s on track to be its most watched series ever. The nine-part Korean drama sees hundreds of desperate characters taking part in a life-or-death contest of their own free will. These games are a nightmarish childhood vision – losing a tug of war means “a bullet to the head”. Masked attendants in bright costumes place the eliminated, “both dead and dying”, into caskets decorated as gift boxes. But the prize is $39m. It’s like Battle Royale meets Parasite. There’s no overt “hand-wringing about capitalism”, just nine hours of wondering if survival “is worth watching a friend die”.

It may be “the most upsetting series I’ve ever seen”, says Kevin Fallon in the Daily Beast. I watched through my fingers. Yet it may also be the most globally popular series in modern times. That’s an interesting dichotomy. “How is it so popular?” First, it’s a word of-mouth phenomenon, spawning endless TikTok tributes. You can watch it dubbed or with subtitles. (Try the latter first.) There’s a certain thrill to being as horrified as the characters. Like Parasite, Squid Game uses genre as a Trojan horse to talk about class divides. Black comedy, morbid whimsy and “spectacular” cinematography are part of the appeal. And we’re not used to such a visceral experience on television. “I wonder if I’ll ever stop thinking about it.”

Squid Game is on Netflix. Watch a trailer here.