The week in TV: One Day; Piers Morgan: Uncensored; Rishi Sunak: Up Close; Curb Your Enthusiasm; G’Wed – review

One Day (Netflix)
Piers Morgan: Uncensored (TalkTV)
Rishi Sunak: Up Close (ITV1)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sky Comedy/Now)
G’Wed (ITVX) | itv.com

At first it’s hard to tell how it’s going to go with the new Netflix adaptation of David Nicholls’s 2009 romantic global bestseller, One Day. It has Nicole Taylor (Three Girls) as head writer and Molly Manners (In My Skin) co-directing. It also stars Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall, both striking in their breakout turns in This Is Going to Hurt and The White Lotus respectively.

It’s also a whopping 14 episodes. Even though they’re short (25 to 30-ish minutes apiece), how long before “Will they?/Won’t they?” turns into “Christ, get on with it!”? Some of us are still recovering from the 2011 film version, in which Anne Hathaway’s “Yorkshire” accent veered in and out of full Emmerdale.

The premise is simple: Emma (Mod) and Dexter (Woodall) semi-cop off at their 1988 Edinburgh University graduation ball. We then revisit these friends with a frisson of attraction every year on the same day (15 July, St Swithin’s Day) over two decades, either together or separately.

Dexter is a golden boy (“a profoundly unserious person”), dripping with lazy charm. Lucking into a post-pub TV presenting career, he worries his parents with his hedonism (“I’m afraid the person you’ve become is not very nice”). Emma is a salty northerner, painfully in thrall to Dexter (“Still chipping away at that marble, are you?” quips her friend), whose literary ambitions get sidetracked into teaching. Down the years, they come together (meals, holidays, weddings, tragedies, unsuitable partners, triumphs, kisses, rows) like lovelorn skydivers with platonic parachutes.

One Day has problems. The Em-Dex connection sometimes feel less sexual/amorous, more mutually needy emotional vampirism. (Would their real-life counterparts really bother with each other?) The decades – 1980s through to the 00s – barely register bar a busy soundtrack and asides about mobile phones (“You can send messages on it like a little typewriter”). Emma’s ethnicity is mentioned so fleetingly you wonder if you dreamed it. The novel’s poignant sense of time passing is here confined to Dexter’s hair getting darker.

But for all my griping, Taylor’s adaptation manages to be riveting and moving. Woodall and Mod bloom and fray beside each other, aided by an excellent cast (Essie Davis, Jonny Weldon, Eleanor Tomlinson, Amber Gappy). The result is a sometimes bumpy litany of bittersweet life lessons: a romcom bathed in shadows. I ended up much more invested than I thought I’d be.

If you still believe in the innate integrity of British politics, don’t look at the edition of Piers Morgan: Uncensored (TalkTV) featuring Morgan’s hour-long interview with Rishi Sunak.

It contains the Rwanda bet/handshake incident you may have heard about. A critic of Sunak’s policy to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda, Morgan bets him £1,000 (“to a refugee charity”) that he won’t get people on to planes before the election. Sunak shakes Morgan’s hand, rabbiting about “getting them on to planes”, at which point I think I felt my soul being sucked out of me.

Let’s shake on it… ‘mirthless laughter’ and ‘big-dog preening’ with Rishi Sunak and Piers Morgan. Photograph: Simon Dawson/No 10 Downing Street

The prime minister has since “rowed back” on the betting moment (quite apart from anything else, such a bad look during a national cost of living crisis), but the rest of the interview was also weird. Morgan’s big-dog preening is such (he recently bumped into the Sunaks on a plane, dontcha know?) that even interesting details, such as Morgan’s heart attack-struck mother getting stuck for hours on a trolley in a hospital corridor, are catapulted into the swirling black void of his self-aggrandisement.

Here was Sunak, in the run-up to a general election, red-eyed, intermittently yelping with mirthless laughter, seemingly without the gumption to stop himself reducing a life and death issue to the level of a crass golf club wager. He has been rightly criticised for shaking hands, but Morgan shouldn’t have suggested the bet either.

Later, in a Sunak-heavy TV week, during PMQs the PM managed to make a jibe about Labour’s transgender policy on the day that Brianna Ghey’s mother was in the Commons to meet with the Labour leader. Keir Starmer looked genuinely furious.

Elsewhere, there was Rishi Sunak: Up Close (ITV1), a half-hour Tonight documentary from Anushka Asthana, who is shadowing the main party leaders in election year, and who presented an earlier programme on Starmer. Amid some revealing visuals (Sunak attends to his daughter’s hair like he’s never held a brush before), Asthana’s cool-headed approach gets results. When pressed about Boris Johnson, the prime minister’s eyes widen in Partridge-esque panic as he squeaks: “I speak to him on occasion.” It made you feel almost sorry for Sunak. Almost.

Is the new 12th series of Larry David’s LA-based comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sky Comedy/Now) really the final one? It has been threatened before (the multi-zillionaire Seinfeld co-creator obviously doesn’t need the payday), but this time it feels serious.

Those who’ve never understood CYE’s appeal won’t care, but what about the rest of us? Since its inception, it has poked a stick in every conceivable hornet’s nest (the Holocaust, the Middle East, Maga, infirmity, marital mores and much more). Where will we get our mainly improvised, transgressive equal opportunities misanthropy now?

Larry David and JB Smoove open season 12 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Photograph: HBO

I’m such a Curb fan I even feel “prett-ay, prett-ay good” watching the borderline dud episodes. Last week’s opener (following David to a personal appearance in Atlanta) isn’t a classic, but it does feature show legends Susie and Jeff (Susie Essman and Jeff Garlin) and the uncontainable human typhoon that is Leon (JB Smoove).

As per, David wanders around, hunched, like some distant relative of Montgomery Burns: a blessed man shrivelled with pettiness. In a rare self-aware moment he observes: “I’ve been expecting more from myself my whole life… and it’s just not there.” Elsewhere, a hotel maid wreaks revenge and a dog butt-dials. So Curb business as usual. Enjoy it while you still can.

Gemma Barraclough, Yasmin Freeman and Dylan Smith in G’Wed: ‘seamless ensemble playing’. Photograph: ITV

New six-part comedy G’Wed (ITVX), created by Danny Kenny and Mario Stylianides, about Liverpudlian schoolkids, is a bracing holler of cheek and spirit. Orphaned “posh southerner” Christopher (Jake Kenny-Byrne) is sent to live with his nan in Liverpool, where he’s “mentored” at school by fellow student, gobby rapscallion Reece (Dylan Thomas Smith).

Containing echoes of comedies from recent years (PRU, Derry Girls), G’Wed (Scouse for “go ahead”) is a white-knuckle riot of school, family (Reece’s vibrant mother is played by Leanne Best), disruption, young love, social media, filthy banter, peacocking boys, queenly girls (“Lads are so thick”), race and diversity (“Come here, my curly haired little homophobe”). There are pokes at working-class stereotypes (“We’re not all sitting around eating crack out of a binbag”) as well as deeper meditations on grief, disability and identity. At times it all feels a tad hyperactive, but this young cast are firestarters who blow up the screen with seamless ensemble playing beyond their years.

Star ratings (out of five)
One Day
★★★★
Piers Morgan: Uncensored ★★
Rishi Sunak: Up Close
Curb Your Enthusiasm ★★★★★
G’Wed ★★★

What else I’m watching

Our Flag Means Death
(BBC Two)
The second (sadly, final) series of the sweetly zany 19th-century cult comedy about squeamish/rubbish pirates starring Taika Waititi.

Ted
(Sky Max)
Hardworking, droll TV reboot of the 2012 comedy film about a subversive teddy bear. Seth MacFarlane voices Ted again, while Max Burkholder plays a teenage version of the Mark Wahlberg character.

Max Burkholder in the ‘droll’ Ted. Photograph: NBC Universal/ Peacock

Hot Mess Summer
(Amazon Prime Video)
Presented by Rylan Clark, this new series follows twentysomethings who think they’re filming a show about raving it up on a Greek island but are actually put to work in a bar. Entertainingly, for us at least, confusion and tantrums ensue.

The Guardian