The End Of The F***ing World

10.20pm, Channel 4

The biggest event on TV this week is the Halloween return of Netflix’s Stranger Things (see Friday), but, aside from teaser trailers, they’re keeping the new series under wraps until after these pages go to press, ruling out a longer preview. This, though, allows the opportunity to spotlight a smaller new show, also seasonably morbid and macabre, that’s an odd, half-hidden little gem.

Made up of eight short episodes, The End Of The F***ing World is based on a bleak and sweet comic book by American artist Charles Forsman, which the adapters, writer Charlie Covell and director Jonathan Entwistle, have done a good job of translating into something weirdly, hazily British, while remaining faithful to the source. Forsman’s original is grungier, where the TV version is more goth, both in terms of wearing black, and in being more strangely romantic, albeit in a repressed way.

It helps that Forsman’s story, which follows the misanthropic misadventures of two angsty, outsider teens, is universal. Navigating the uncertain terrain between adolescence and adulthood, and dismayed by the evidence of all the adults around them, the feelings, lack of feelings, fears and frustrations of the lead characters, James and Alyssa, will be recognisable in teenage bedrooms from Pennsylvania to Penicuik. Indeed, it’s one of those stories that keeps getting told over and over again. Echoes, references and direct, hat-doffing steals abound: traces of books like The Catcher In The Rye, movies through Badlands to Harold And Maude to Heathers, comics like Daniel Clowes’s modern classic Ghost World.

One of the strangest things about seeing the show on Channel 4, in fact, is how closely it resembles in outline another series the channel made more fuss over earlier this year, Born To Kill, the drama about a teenage boy with psychotic fantasies, whose obsession with killing leaks into real life.

To start, TEOTFW is like a snottier, black comedy mirror of that. James (Alex Lawther) is another budding teen psychopath – blank and isolated, hiding secrets, traumas and violent notions, he’s graduated from self-harming to killing small animals, and is now considering murdering something bigger. Enter Alyssa (Jessica Barden), a new girl at school, consumed by her disappointment in the other girls, her mother and her hateful stepdad. In James’s silent, loner figure, she thinks she’s found a sensitive kindred spirit. Meanwhile, he’s sizing her up as his first human victim, fingering the knife hidden in his boot.

Soon they are off on the road together, fleeing their despised town in a stolen car. At the end of the line, perhaps, lies Alyssa’s secretly longed-for reunion with her missing father. Before that, though, well, things take a strange and bloody twist.

Forsman’s drawing is clean and simple, in the graphic tradition of Peanuts or Calvin & Hobbes. Occasionally, Entwistle’s direction affectionately replicates panels from the book, but, while stylised (hints of Wes Anderson), he opens things out more naturalistically, creating a washed-out, spacy, strangely retro British suburbia world, all 1970s modern, with 1950s Americana pop on the soundtrack.

Sometimes the references are too blatant, and sometimes the black comedy doesn’t work. But as the show develops, its awkwardness grows more in keeping with the confused attitudes of James and Alyssa. Lawther and Barden are fantastic. Both are somewhat older than the characters (Lawther is 22, Barden 25), but pass easily for 17. Sweet, unsettling, obnoxious, smart, naïve, horrible and vulnerable, sometimes all at once, theirs is a strange little journey. Following episode one’s debut on Channel 4, all episodes will be available online at All 4.



10pm, BBC Two

Hopping around the various rungs of the drug ladder in 1980s LA, this drama is more a steady slow burn than a compulsive addiction, but it remains a satisfying Sunday night dependable. The path that Franklin (Damson Idris) is on grows darker tonight as, following the beating and robbery last week, he sets out to recover his cocaine cash, and take revenge on the unknown rivals who took it. To this end, his friend Leon hooks him up with a local thug, Karvel, who he enlists to help track down the thieves, leading to some of the most troubling scenes the series has so far presented, and a grim new determination by Franklin to toughen up. Meanwhile, CIA man Teddy begins to get antsy when he and his Contra contact Alejandro line up an arms deal involving US Army rocket launchers. Elsewhere, seeking to throw off suspicion for their heist, Lucia, Pedro and Oso concoct a gruesome plan to frame another member of the cartel, but Oso’s ethics lead to complications.



8pm, BBC Two

Aaaaand relax, as the best looking of all the year’s Watches returns for its annual survey of the melancholy splendours of the season. Presenters Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games have set up home again in their glorious base at the National Trust’s Sherborne Park Estate in the Cotswolds, to catch up with the various badgers, barn owls and otters we last saw in Springwatch, and introduce us to whole host of new faces near and far – including a family of urban foxes living on the south coast, being spied on by Gillian Burke, who is out to put them through some sneaky intelligence tests. The series continues nightly until Thursday; look out on Wednesday for some worms. Meanwhile, there’s more going on via the BBC’s Red Button channel, where you can find a selection of wildlife films from across this year’s Watch, including the busy beavers of Cornwall, the rare summer migrants to Nottinghamshire, and the work of brotherly wildlife illustrators Richard and Ian Lewington.


Marvel’s Inhumans

9pm, Sky1

Is it possible there are too many Marvel comic adaptations flying around now? A relatively obscure gang of loopy, super-powered, evolutionarily advanced sorts first created by Stan Lee and visionary artist Jack Kirby in 1965, back when comics were fun, bright and Pop, The Inhumans have by now evolved a deep and knotty backstory, which is one of the reasons this new show is such hard going. In this lacklustre and confusing telling, they’re the royal family of a secret city hiding on the moon, ruled by king Black Bolt, whose voice is so mighty he can destroy things by speaking, and so, eh, doesn’t, prompting a fairly funny performance from Anson Mount, as he expresses himself through his eyebrows. He’s married to Medusa (Serinda Swan), who has magic hair. The weighty plot involves Black Bolt’s jealous/ evil brother, Maximus (Iwan Rheon), who starts a bloody revolt, causing the king and his followers to flee to Earth. Uncertain of tone and clunky of dialogue it’s kind of…stupid. But there is a big cute teleporting bulldog.


Storyville: The Work – Four Days To Redemption 11pm, BBC Four Intimate, often uncomfortable and generally fascinating, this documentary makes the viewer a fly on the wall at California’s Folsom prison, to watch as a remarkably intense exercise in group therapy unfolds. Co-directors Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous record the work of an experimental programme that’s been running at the state facility for several years. Twice a year, volunteers from the public are invited inside to participate in four-day sessions with inmates, to plunge into their pasts and confront their deepest fears and feelings together. We observe as a group of first-time citizens – a bartender, a young museum worker and a slightly uptight teaching assistant – sit down with inmates including former members of the Aryan Brotherhood and the Crips and Bloods gangs, whose crimes run to murder. As the sessions progress, they pass through therapy cliché territory, all touchy-feely, crying and chanting. But things get increasingly raw, draining and cathartic, as all the men come to regard each other, and themselves, in a different light.


Stranger Things


Of all Netflix’s hits, none has found a place in audience’s hearts quite like this fantastic sci-fi/ horror hybrid, created by Matt and Ross Duffer. There have been many TV shows and movies thrown up by the ongoing obsession with the 1980s, but Stranger Things’ first series was the canniest and most beguiling in mashing up Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and John Carpenter, throwing in some Cronenbergian psychic goo along the way. With a mixtape soundtrack, a charming young cast, and a genuine icon of the era it celebrates in Winona Ryder, the result was simultaneously achingly nostalgic yet ultra fresh: the kind of monster mystery adventure we haven’t seen in years. Returning to the small Indiana town with its spooky woods and sinister research lab one year later, this second series hits the ground running with the ET and Ghostbusters references. It’s Halloween 1984, and young Will (Noah Schnapp) is still nursing the trauma of his experiences in the sticky haunted dimension known as The Upside Down. But what has become of Eleven (Millie Bobby Brown)?


Harry Potter: A History Of Magic

9pm, BBC Two

The British Library has just opened its new exhibition marking the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first novel in JK Rowling’s world conquering series, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. For wizarding fans who can’t make it to London, this documentary goes behind the scenes of the show, which itself goes behind the scenes of the books, to examine the inspirations and traditions the author has drawn on in her work. Using objects in the library’s collection, along with unseen manuscripts, early drafts and sketches Rowling has loaned from her own archives, plus drawings from illustrator Jim Kay, the film journeys through the legends, belief, folklore and history that fed Rowling’s imagination, from the Anglo-Saxon spells that cure MRSA, to the ancient stargazers who first mapped the wonders of the night sky. Rowling herself is on hand for an interview, while readings from famous fans recreate some of the books' best-loved moments.


Although there’s more TV around than ever, it’s rare to encounter a drama that makes you think, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” But I’ve found myself thinking it twice recently: first during the revived Twin Peaks; now, with Mindhunter (Netflix).

Co-created by David Fincher, who directed the first two and last two episodes of the 10-part series, it’s another entry in the overpopulated serial-killer genre. But Mindhunter takes a step away from the regular territory, which is doubly surprising given it has a direct connection with the form’s godfather, The Silence Of The Lambs. Set in a meticulously realised 1977, the show is loosely based on the work of former FBI agent John Douglas – previously the model for the Jack Crawford character in the Hannibal Lecter saga – who pioneered the field of criminal profiling by conducting interviews with the era’s most notorious incarcerated criminals, including Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Ed Gein and Edmund Kemper, “The Co-Ed Killer,” who, as played by Cameron Britton, becomes a particularly significant, pale and hulking early presence here.

In Mindhunter, the Douglas figure is Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff), a driven but inexperienced young agent, joined, initially reluctantly, by a gruffer, older partner, Bill Tench (a brilliant Holt McCallany), a buzz-cut chainsmoker straight from a 1940s FBI movie. Their project – to try and understand their imprisoned subjects’ insane actions, and so build a psychological database to help catch other killers – goes against the grain of the law enforcement mindset of the time, which was essentially to lock such monsters away, and try to forget them. But as they traverse the USA from prison to prison to do their interviews, feeling their way blindly, they begin proving the project’s value, using things they’re beginning to learn to help local police with gruesome crimes.

Presenting its criminals as hideously ordinary, Mindhunter makes an attempt at de-mystifying the serial killer, removing the mask pop culture has applied, of the seductive, near supernatural anti-hero. One of the most intriguing and entrancing things is how it does this stylistically, employing a rich yet hyper-flat style. Ford and Tench line up in the classic rookie-mentor formation, and the series often resembles a denser, twisted throwback old cop show. Fincher commissioned a new camera for the programme, and it has a unique look. Beneath the meticulously composed images, there’s a sharp, retro-videotape TV texture that lends the strange sense memory of watching 1970s US studio-bound soaps, the kind with shaky sets.

This feeling is intensified by the concentration on dialogue. There is very little explicit violence or gore. We glimpse blunt, shocking flashes in crime scene photographs, but, largely, the violence occurs in the language, and in our minds, as cops and killer matter-of-factly discuss crimes. Extra dissonance is added by Groff’s performance as Ford. Wide-eyed, clean cut, strangely blank, he’d be the killer in another American Psycho-style thriller, part John Boy Walton, part Norman Bates. At first, the blunt dialogue, the soap fee, the entire unsettling oddness had me wondering if it was one of the worst things I’d ever seen. Soon, it was the only thing I wanted to watch. Mind you, bingeing is not advised. It’s great, but I’m glad to escape when each episode ends.