This week’s Best On Demand Television

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Small Pretty Stuff (Netflix, as of Mon).

Authors Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton celebrated the publication of their collaborative novel about life at an elite ballet school, Tiny Pretty Things, in 2015. It was an immediate hit and has won several awards since then – and it has now been turned into a 10-part TV series. The tale follows the fortunes of a group of highly talented teenagers, both poor and affluent, from diverse backgrounds, who have left behind their homes and families to fulfill their dream of becoming professional dancers. They are enrolled at the Archer Ballet Academy, which is associated with City Works Ballet, the renowned professional company in the city. But it soon becomes apparent that a multitude of sins are concealed by the institution…. The stars in the film are Lauren Holly, Kylie Jefferson and Brennan Clost.

Expanse The (Amazon Prime, Wed. onwards).

This popular sci-fi series will hopefully continue as long as James SA Corey continues to write the books that inspire it. Next year, with a novella to follow, the ninth is due out – and that’s about it, if what Corey says is valid. Luckily, the TV series is lagging a bit; Amazon is about to release the fifth season, which will include 10 episodes, one of which will be directed by Thomas Jane, the star of the show. This moment, as thousands of people leave the solar system in the hope of finding a new life and peace on planets outside the alien ring, the story begins. In the meantime, the Rocinante’s crew faces various personal obstacles that may impact the whole group.

Black Bottom of Ma Rainey (Netflix, from Fri).

Based on the acclaimed play by August Wilson, much has already been said about this highly awaited period drama, especially as it features the final appearance of the late Chadwick Boseman, who died in August. Like the ambitious trumpeter Levee, he’s on top form here, but the focus is on Viola Davis as Ma Rainey, the blues legend who inspired a generation of singers. The story focuses on a 1927 Chicago recording session, where Ma becomes entangled in a dispute with her white manager and producer as she seeks influence over her songs. Meanwhile, Levee passes the boredom as he and his fellow musicians wait for the session to begin by challenging their encounters with his colleagues, which brings some surprising revelations to light.

Digger of Gold (BritBox, Fri/Fri).

For this six-part drama, Julia Ormond and Ben Barnes team up with Marnie Dickens, who made her name as a Hollyoaks screenwriter, but received even more acclaim for her work on Thirteen, an early Jodie Comer role. Ormond plays Julia, a wealthy 60-year-old who’s been putting other people first all her life, including her ex-husband Ted and her three sons, the striving Patrick, the self-destructive Della and the nestling Leo. But after falling in love with Benjamin (Barnes), 24 years her junior, she decides to put her own happiness first. Will the pair ever live happily afterward, or will their loved ones show that the new guy is really interested in their money in their lives? It features Alex Jennings and Julia McKenzie in supporting roles.

A Mighty Chase: The Grand Tour (Amazon Prime, Fri.).

Thanks to his Amazon series Oh Cook, James May currently has an alternate – and, frankly, impossible – future as a TV chef, but now he’s back on more familiar ground alongside friends Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. In the film, the trio embarks on a journey to Madagascar, where, though ostensibly looking for an elusive pirate treasure, they cross risky, rough roads. What will we look forward to seeing? Well, if there are no fires, car makeovers or the familiar sight of Hammond in danger, we’ll be disappointed. Originally, the show was scheduled to air earlier this year, but was delayed due to various Covid-19 issues. Let’s hope the wait was worth it.

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