Pachinko to Bridgerton: the seven best shows to stream this week

An exceptional adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s novel about four generations of a Korean family, and the return of the raunchy Regency period drama

Pick of the week


Pachinko. Photograph: Juhan Noh/Apple

In the light of current events, it’s hard to watch this lyrical, emotionally rich adaptation of Min Jin Lee’s novel about four generations of a Korean family without thinking about how the sweep of big history interacts, often tragically, with individual lives. But Pachinko would have been an exceptional piece of work regardless of context. The story follows Sunja (played by Yuh-Jung Youn, Yu-na Jeon and Minha Kim) – a girl born into a Korea struggling under Japanese occupation, who experiences huge upheaval. While the scope of the narrative is wide, redemption is always to be found in the intimacies of human kindness.
Apple TV+, from Friday 25 March



From left: Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma and Charithra Chandran as Edwina Sharma in Bridgerton.
Bridgerton. Photograph: Liam Daniel/Netflix

This wildly popular Regency drama ticks a remarkable number of boxes: period nostalgia underpinned by modern raunch; a panracial, pansexual outlook; and, of course, the delightfully meta touch provided by the running commentary of gossip columnist Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews). As we rejoin London’s high society, the search for a new “diamond” is on and the Queen (Golda Rosheuvel) is concerned: “Apathy is a blight the monarchy simply cannot endure.” Wise words and, with the dashing Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) looking for love, a worry the royal is unlikely to have to endure for long.
Netflix, from Friday 25 March


Is it Cake?

Is it Cake?
Is it Cake? Photograph: Netflix

It’s a long way from Mary Berry, but in the ecosystem of food-related television this gloriously pointless show occupies a distinct niche. On the basis of a clip that went viral a couple of years ago, it’s clear that seeing cakes almost identical to everyday objects is an itch many of us needed to scratch. Mikey Day presents this fleshed-out version of that video as bakers (happily, all aware of the mind-boggling absurdity of their endeavours) compete to make the non-cakiest cakes possible. And why not? Expect to see bowling pins, trainers and rubber ducks.
Netflix, out now



From left: Anne Reid as Lady Denham and Charlotte Spencer as Esther Denham in Sanditon.
Sanditon. Photograph: BritBox

Nowadays, if your favourite show is cancelled, don’t despair. If enough people care, fans have a good chance of exerting sufficient pressure to reverse the decision. It has been proved with this seaside period drama based on an unfinished Jane Austen manuscript: months of campaigning has ensured that the show’s Midsummer Ball cliffhanger will now be resolved. There’s even a nod to the circumstances around the return, as Anne Reid’s Lady Denham says to heroine Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams): “I rather thought we’d seen the last of you.” Not a bit of it.
BritBox, from Monday 21 March


The Principles of Pleasure

The Principles of Pleasure.
The Principles of Pleasure. Photograph: Netflix

Some real sex education on Netflix. This series explores female desire, attempting to connect sexual pleasure to autonomy, attainment and fulfilment in other areas of life. Comedian Michelle Buteau presents engagingly, discussing issues surrounding self-esteem, sex positivity, masturbation and “the orgasm gap” (think the gender wage gap only a fair bit sexier). The tone can feel a little forced at times, lurching between pseudo-scientific discourse and a slightly twee coyness, but the subject matter is long overdue for serious discussion.
Netflix, from Tuesday 22 March


Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls

Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.
Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. Photograph: James Clark/Amazon Prime Video

“Girls that look like me,” says Lizzo, “don’t get representation.” Well, now they do as this cheering new series sees the rap icon looking for dancers to join her on her world tour. On the face of it, this is just a simple reality show contest. But, eventually, something more uplifting and even profound begins to emerge as the contenders move into the Big Grrrls House and begin to ponder the serious business of, as one dancer puts it, “learning to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back”.
Amazon Prime Video, from Friday 25 March


Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u

Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u .
Olivia Rodrigo: driving home 2 u. Photograph: Harper Smith/Disney

Olivia Rodrigo has achieved a lot for a 19-year-old. So much, in fact, that she’s already releasing slightly wistful films looking back at her recent past. In this documentary, she recalls the writing and recording of her monumentally successful 2021 debut album, Sour, and ponders the specific emotions surrounding it. Rodrigo feels like a very new kind of pop star – her career is both minutely commercially planned (the Disney hook-up goes back to her early teens) and creatively autonomous. This film captures a key phase in that process.
Disney+, from Friday 25 March


Phil Harrison

The GuardianTramp

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