The 20 hottest shows to watch On Demand this weekend (2024)

If you're looking for something to keep you entertained on TV this weekend then look no further.

Our critics have picked out the 20 must-watch shows on demand which you won't want to miss.

For comedy lovers, there's a laugh out-loud production about a group of smalltime offenders, while music fans will be thrilled to watch the story of the Beach Boys impressively laid out across six decades.

So sit back and enjoy our selection of the best of On Demand...

Eric

Benedict Cumberbatch plays a tortured puppeteer in Abi Morgan's 1980s NYC drama about a missing child

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

There's a lot going on in this impressive six-part drama from Abi Morgan and, as a whole, it more closely resembles her hauntingly excellent series River than either The Split and The Hour, her two more famous shows. Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Vincent, a tortured, hard-drinking puppeteer on a Sesame Street-style show in the New York of the 1980s. He's not a great father to his son despite his best intentions to be better than his father was to him, and that leads to problems with his wife (Transparent's Gaby Hoffmann) and plenty more besides when nine-year-old Edgar suddenly goes missing, and Vincent becomes convinced - at the expense of all else - that creating a huge walking puppet named Eric is the key to finding his son.

Vincent's quest is the throughline for a show that also spirals off into exploring life for the gay, black detective who investigates Edgar's disappearance and delves into the spooky subterranean life of the city as it dips into issues such as homelessness and city corruption, before returning to its central theme about the generational scars of parenting. The show brings the danger of the city to life with a dark, almost fantastical edge, and Cumberbatch, who clearly learned how to puppet for the role, is fully committed and quite mesmerising in the lead - even making you wonder if he could actually be the real monster at the heart of it all. (Six episodes)

The Outlaws

Stephen Merchant's crime romp about seven misfits who meet while doing community service

Year: 2021-

Certificate: 15

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

This laugh out-loud production about a group of smalltime offenders who meet on community service in Bristol was the BBC's biggest comedy launch of 2021. The Outlaws is the brainchild of The Office's Stephen Merchant, so it's no surprise that viewers loved the programme for its mix of deadpan humour and prison drama tropes.

In the first series Stephen's character Greg, a newly divorced lawyer who'd been caught in a compromising position with a prostitute, starts community service with a mismatched group of petty criminals. An all-star ensemble cast, including Oscar-winner Christopher Walken, Poldark's Eleanor Tomlinson and Darren Boyd, play the neon-bibbed misfits who accidentally become involved with big-time criminals. And Jessica Gunning (aka Martha in Netflix hit Baby Reindeer) is a hoot as the group's Community Payback Officer. (Three series)

We Are Lady Parts

Anarchic British comedy about an all-girl, all-Muslim punk band

Year: 2021

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Channel 4

OK, so a sitcom about a Muslim, all-girl punk rock band doesn't sound like the easiest sell, but this truly original show, created by Nida Manzoor (Polite Society) is full of surprises, depicting Muslim women as funny and caring as well as rude and chaotic. It doesn't so much defy stereotypes as kick them to the curb with a well-aimed Dr Martens boot.

Can punk group Lady Parts convince Amina (Wicked Little Letters' Anjana Vasan), a goody-two-shoes PhD student with severe stage fright, to let loose and join them as lead guitarist? Featuring surreal set-pieces and catchy original songs such as Voldermort Under My Headscarf, it's rare that a show can be as subversive and silly as this.

In series two, Lady Parts are on a high after completing their first UK tour - but soon they have to reckon with a rival band. Goodness Gracious Me's Meera Syal joins the cast - and there's a jaw-dropping cameo from Nobel Peace prize winner Malala. (Two Series)

Dancing For The Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult

Documentary series investigating a murky management company exploiting TikTok dancers

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

TikTok is peppered with chirpy happy dance videos that pull in millions of views, but is there a darker side to this hugely popular - and hugely lucrative - part of the entertainment landscape? This three-part documentary series investigates the cult-like tactics used by one Los Angeles-based management company to control and manipulate the dancers signed up with it.

Central to the series is the chilling story of the Wilking sisters, Miranda and Melanie, who had dreamt of dance success all their lives. However, after Miranda signed up with 7M, the company and the firm's founder Robert Shinn steadily encouraged her to cut herself off from her sister and parents, and to only rely on him - and the church which Shinn also ran - for support.

Interviews with the Wilkings and those who have managed to escape 7M's clutches paint a chilling picture of psychological coercion as well as physical and financial exploitation. (Three episodes)

The Sympathizer

Robert Downey Jr plays multiple roles in this cinematic Vietnam drama

Year: 2024

Watch now on NOW

Watch now on Sky

Robert Downey Jr is the big name attached to this blackly comic seven-part HBO drama and when he's on screen you can't miss him, but the four characters he plays are more of an engine to keep the story going - and occasionally comic relief - than the focus of the show itself. That lies with a charming but tense man we only ever know as the Captain (Hoa Xuande), a spy from communist North Vietnam working against the Americans from inside the southern forces during the Vietnam War.

We're introduced to his split existence in episode one, directed by Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, The Little Drummer Girl) with all the heft, thought and pure cinematic scale of an Oscar-winning movie. This episode is where we first meet Downey Jr, too, cast as a ridiculous-looking, deadly acting CIA agent who serves as a handler and a kind of mentor to the Captain. Episode two moves the story on to the US, where Downey Jr is a flamboyant professor who takes the Captain under his wing, and on it goes from there as the Captain struggles to stay alive, playing one side against the other.

The most fascinating thing about this show is how so many of its characters are wrestling with a dual existence, because that tension makes them so inherently interesting to watch. Look out for Sandra Oh as an American with whom the Captain becomes involved in LA - she's always interesting to watch, of course, and makes the most of what she's given here. (Seven episodes)

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

Spin-off series from the hugely successful zombie saga

Year: 2024

Certificate: 18

Watch now on NOW

Watch now on Sky

Rick and Michonne were two of the most popular characters in the original Walking Dead, and the husband and wife are both present - but separated - at the start of this spin-off show, which is essentially a love story about them (hopefully) finding one another again, five years after Rick was kidnapped.

Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira return to the roles they played for years on the original show (he from series one, she from series three), and rooting for them across this six-parter is a much more rewarding experience than it was on the often-grinding later years of the original.

Their journeys start in different places, with Rick a prisoner of the CRM (Civic Republic Military) in Philadelphia. We learn all about that life in part one, before the focus shifts to his sword-wielding wife in the second, in which we find Michonne reeling from a gas attack.

Among the wider cast, look out for Lost's Terry O'Quinn as the leader of the CRM in a story that should provide closure for fans, but is unlikely to attract new ones. That isn't the point of it, after all. (Six episodes)

The Veil

Elisabeth Moss stars as an MI6 agent in a race against time

Year: 2024

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Disney+

'I can change into anything. Become a hundred strangers.' Elisabeth Moss dons a crisp English accent to play MI6 agent Imogen Salter in this glossy and gritty international spy thriller. Salter is a brilliant but unstable asset, a woman who has adopted so many identities that she's not entirely sure who she is any more.

Salter is deployed - presumably without a particularly rigorous psych assessment - to track down the mysterious and dangerous Adilah El Idrissi (Little Birds' Yumna Marwan), who could be preparing an attack on the west. The show is very much about the veil between truth and lies that unfolds between them as they travel between Istanbul, Paris and London, while The Good Wife's Josh Charles knocks back the whisky as a CIA agent who thinks he can control Salter. The fool!

Written by Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders, This Town), the resulting adventure plays a little like a B-movie take on Homeland or Killing Eve, with Moss giving it some great acting punch as the bewitchingly confused Salter. It's not quite as good as watching Claire Danes dig into the tighter script she had on Homeland but then, that's a very high bar to set. (Six episodes)

Fallen Idols: Nick And Aaron Carter

Investigating the sexual assault allegations against Backstreet Boy member Nick Carter

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Discovery+

During the 1990s, Nick Carter was one of the most famous faces on the planet, his time in the pop group Backstreet Boys making him rich, successful and admired. But was he really the wholesome blond all-American boy that he seemed?

In recent years, Carter's image has darkened, especially as several women began to allege that he'd committed serious sexual assaults against them at the height of Backstreet Boys' success. Those allegations only gained more weight when his brother Aaron began to publicly back the women who were accusing his sibling.

This dark and unsettling four-part documentary series ventures into a bleak world of celebrity, obsession and violence, as it looks at the allegations against Nick while also examining the public feud between him and his brother that only ended with Aaron's death in 2022. (Four episodes)

The Hunger Games: The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes

Prequel to The Hunger Games charting the rise of Coriolanus Snow

Year: 2023

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Prime Video

Donald Sutherland's turn as the tyrannical President Coriolanus Snow was one of the high spots of the quartet of Hunger Games movies. But just how did he begin his rise to power?

This prequel movie sets out to answer that, skipping back to 64 years before Katniss first entered the arena to find the young Snow (Tom Blyth) using his considerable charm and manipulative skills to advance his status in the battered post-war Capitol. It's enjoyable, clever stuff that fans of the original films will relish.

The glimpses of the development of the Hunger Games that fans know and hate are chilling, the cast (which includes Peter Dinklage, Viola Davis and Rachel Zegler) is excellent and Blyth's turn as Snow is simply fascinating, managing to convincingly convey the character's journey from conflicted and hopeful to outright villainous over the course of the movie. (157 minutes)

Geek Girl

Emily Carey plays the neurodivergent schoolgirl who falls into a career as a model

Year: 2024

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

'My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.' Neurodivergent 16-year-old Harriet is the main character of this light-hearted series, which is based on the young adult novel by Holly Smale. House Of The Dragon's Emily Carey plays Harriet with a lot of charm - she's a character who really isn't at home in the pit of vipers that is her school, but she finds her niche, somewhat surprisingly, when she falls into a career as a model after a horrendously embarrassing accident at London Fashion Week.

Harriet can't quite believe it and therein lies the classic underdog charm of this series, with a story that offers a wish fulfilment for any child, teen or adult who has ever really wanted to fit in. Carey delivers a voiceover that expresses all of Harriet's inner anxieties, playing to both comic and poignant effect depending on the scene, while the cast is filled out by some colourful performances in the fashion world, most notably Sarah Parish as modelling gatekeeper Jude Paignton. It's not the slickest show in the world, but it's got heart and charm where it matters. (Ten episodes)

Camden

Documentary about the musical legacy of London's Camden Town

Year: 2024

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Disney+

When Dua Lipa's parents left war-torn Kosovo for London in 1992, they settled in Camden - her dad had been a rock musician in Yugoslavia, and the family felt very at home among the area's renegade energy. Lipa is also a producer on this series about the history and magic of the place, this 'crucible of acceptance' as Coldplay's Chris Martin puts it, a four-parter full of fond memories of times past, drawn from an impressive pool of interviewees who each have a special place in their hearts for Camden.

Along with Lipa and Martin, expect to hear from Boy George, Suggs, Nile Rodgers, Pete Doherty and the always-entertaining Noel Gallagher, talking about the spirit of the place and especially of venues like The Dublin Castle that played host to so many greats - Coldplay, Madness, The Darkness, Amy Winehouse, Babyshambles, The Libertines, Blur and many more. There's some great footage, and the series does a superb job of bringing the stories to life with the kind of energy and accessibility that means you can watch and enjoy without any knowledge of the acts involved. It's the formative spirit of this place and what it means to these people that's important, and that's a universal principle anyone can relate to. (Four episodes)

Rebus

Grisly reboot of Ian Rankin's dark Scottish detective drama

Year: 2024

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

This gritty reboot of the Ian Rankin stories - previously adapted between 2000 and 2007 starring John Hannah and then Ken Stott - reimagines the brooding Scottish detective as a younger officer, with Outlander's Richard Rankin (no relation) in the lead role.

It's hard to like rough DS John Rebus at first - he's a hard-drinking, chaotic young divorcee with a messy love life who has no compunction about breaking the rules. He soon comes into his own, though, when investigating a violent stabbing in the streets of Edinburgh, alongside new detective Siobhan Clarke (Henpocalypse!'s Lucie Shorthouse), a fast-tracked detective whom Rebus treats with some disdain.

'I think long-term fans will get a shock because they're seeing young Rebus,' says author Ian Rankin. 'They're getting the quite macho Rebus from the early books but set in contemporary times.'

Be warned, there's violence and swearing from the outset. (Six episodes)

Insomnia (2024 TV series)

Vicky McClure stars as an insomniac whose life slides out of control in this thriller

Year: 2024

Certificate: 18

Watch now on Paramount+

'I'm fine. I'm just not sleeping great.' When you don't sleep, the world around you can seem alien and your actions within it uncertain, but you put on a convincing face and get on with life as best you can. This six-part drama starring Vicky McClure really captures that sensation of unreality.

Its central character is Emma Averill (McClure), a wife, mother and high-flying lawyer who suddenly stops sleeping not long before her 40th birthday, and starts to feel everything spin slowly out of control. Lurking behind the 'everything is fine' veneer she pastes over her face at the start is the fear that she will turn into her mother, a violent insomniac who had a psychotic breakdown at exactly the same age, tormenting Emma and her sister - right after she stopped sleeping.

So, what is actually going on here? Is Emma doomed by genetics to repeat the past? Why is her sister suddenly trying to reconcile Emma with her mother? And what do the numbers her mother chants mean? The first episode of Insomnia sets up such questions nicely, and McClure carries the drama of it all very well indeed. (Six episodes)

Mulligan

Animated sci-fi comedy created by 30 Rock's Tina Fey and Robert Carlock

Year: 2023

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Netflix

Bronzed buff action hero types are forever saving the world from alien invasion in the realms of science-fiction, but what happens next? That's what this energetic and inventive animated series sets out to discover as muscly grenade-throwing action man Matty Mulligan (voiced by Nat Faxon) is made US president in the aftermath of a failed invasion. He may have been able to blow up an extraterrestrial fleet, but is he really the guy to lead the tattered survivors of humanity forward, rebuild the food supplies and, erm, reboot the Fast & Furious franchise?

It's fun finding out as this absurd sitcom in the vein of American Guy - penned by 30 Rock's Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (Fey also lends her voice to the show) - continues to mess around gleefully with post-apocalyptic cliches in its second batch of ten episodes. (Two series)

A Part Of You

Swedish teen drama about love and loss

Year: 2024

Certificate: 15

Watch now on Netflix

Seventeen-year-old Agnes wishes that she could be more like her big sister. Not only is Julia the coolest kid in school, she's also dating a fantastic boy named Noel. The quieter, more restrained Agnes would give literally anything to be able to slot into Julia's place in the world. But when a horrible tragedy occurs, Agnes is forced to confront a world turned upside down where a lot of her dreams suddenly come true, but at a terrible cost.

Scriptwriter Michaela Hamilton was inspired to write the screenplay for this Swedish drama by the death of her own teenage brother, and manages to fill it with loss and grief, but also hope and love. It makes for an aching and open-hearted film that boasts a fantastic performance at its core from Felicia Maxime as Agnes. (99 minutes)

The Beach Boys

Documentary looking at the story behind the iconic US band

Year: 2024

Certificate: 12

Watch now on Disney+

From early hits that created the California dream of sunshine, surfboards and girls in bikinis to the groundbreaking complexity of albums such as Pet Sounds, the story of the Beach Boys is impressively laid out across six decades in this new look at the history of the band.

It's a detailed documentary film that traces their story from the Wilson brothers singing three-part harmonies together as kids through line-up changes, falling outs and rivalries with other bands (it suggests that the rivalry between them and The Beatles pushed each on to greater and greater heights) to their status among the greats of American music.

There are lashings of archive footage and performance clips, but it's the all-new interviews with Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, David Marks and Bruce Johnston that really let you peek behind the curtain at what actually went on in the band. (114 minutes)

Gasoline Rainbow

Freewheeling improvised movie about a teenage US roadtrip

Year: 2023

Watch now on Mubi

Joyous and weird in equal dollops, this idiosyncratic indie movie follows five teenagers from the landlocked middle of Oregon as they mark the end of their high-school years by embarking on an epic 500-mile road trip to see the ocean.

As they head west in a battered van, the cameras of brothers Bill and Turner Ross follow them on their journey as they meet strangers, make friends, get lost, get high and generally find their way. Literally and metaphorically.

It's predominately improvised, with the directors giving the kids only the barest minimum of instructions for what to do and where to go. The result very definitely is not a documentary, but it has all the vivid energetic life of one, telling a rambling, freewheeling story full of teenage characters that feel achingly vibrant and real. (111 minutes)

Bay Of Fires

Aussie comedy drama about a woman fleeing to a two-bit Tasmanian town rife with murder and mystery

Year: 2023

Certificate: 15

This Australian black comedy drama follows a high-flyer forced to flee her very nice life in Melbourne to a cesspit town in Tasmania with her two children. Anika (Marta Dusseldorp) is the CEO of the family investment company in Melbourne, who was doing rather well for herself until two men attempt to kill her in a supermarket.

To her rescue comes a mysterious stranger (Foundation's Rachel House) who informs her of a plot to kill her and helps her escape - to Tasmania. At this stage, nobody's motives are clear, least of all to Anika, whose new identity - Stella Heikkinen - 'sounds like two beers', and by the end of episode one we are left with a lot of questions, such as what secrets the rather unwelcoming residents of Mystery Bay (or Misery Bay as the town sign now reads) are harbouring.

What makes the series so watchable, even during its rather preposterous set-up, is the performance of Dusseldorp (Jack Irish, The Twelve). She manages to make being clueless both convincing and endearing. It's a show that is clearly trying to do something a bit different with the on-the-run thriller, and Dusseldorp makes it worth the price of admission. (Eight episodes)

Mad Dogs USA

Four friends endure the holiday from hell in Belize in this US remake of the British drama

Year: 2015

Certificate: 15

Watch now on UKTV Play

Mad Dogs was a 2011 drama starring John Simm, Philip Glenister, Marc Warren and Max Beesley as four friends enduring the holiday from hell when they reunite at the Spanish villa of an old friend, played by Ben Chaplin.

For this US version, Ben Chaplin is now one of the friends who along with The Sopranos' Michael Imperioli, A Million Little Things' Romany Malco and Treme's Steve Zahn has an even worse time in Belize. That's the location of the home of their old pal Milo, who is played by a bald Billy Zane in a performance reminiscent of Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.

What was supposed to be a good-natured get together soon takes a turn for the worse when it becomes clear that Milo is involved with some shady figures from the criminal underworld - and when he decides to steal a yacht belonging to a local drugs lord he sets off a series of wild events that expose dark secrets, deception and even murder.

It's bloody, violent and slightly deranged, a highly entertaining entry in the middle-aged suburban men in peril genre (think The Hangover films). (10 episodes)

The Famous Five

Enid Blyton's stories are given a dark and stylish overhaul

Year: 2023

Watch now on BBC iPlayer

Enid Blyton's tales of four friends and a dog have been adapted for TV before - so, if you're going to do it again, it makes sense to go big - and the BBC certainly did that with this epic and exciting show, the brainchild of edgy movie director Nicolas Winding Refn.

Refn, a Dane better known for sparse and darkly stylish films such as Drive and Only God Forgives (although he did once direct an episode of Marple), infuses these adventures with neon opening credits, pulsating synth music and cinematic shots and edits, but doesn't lose the essence of what Blyton's stories are - adventures in the great British countryside in which children can achieve anything.

The opening story brings the five together as Julian, Dick and Anne come to stay with the grumpy George at the seaside home she shares with Aunt Fanny, Uncle Quentin and her newly acquired dog, Timmy. What follows has shades of The Goonies (there's a dead body early on) and a brilliantly deranged baddie in Jack Gleeson, who played the unhinged child king Joffrey in Game Of Thrones. It's an impressively unusual mix and a much bigger risk for the BBC than their cosier take on Malory Towers, Blyton's boarding school book series.

The second adventure, timed for Easter, follows the Five as they try to protect Uncle Quentin's latest invention from enemies both foreign and domestic, and co-stars Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey). (Two feature length episodes, with one more to follow)

The 20 hottest shows to watch On Demand this weekend (2024)
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