The best television in the UK this month

An adaptation of Ian McGuire’s Booker-longlisted The North Water, plus The Mad Women’s Ball
September 2, 2021

The North Water

BBC Two, September. Viewers only recently recovered from the doomed search for the Northwest Passage in BBC Two’s The Terror earlier this year should prepare themselves for worse, as this adaptation of Ian McGuire’s Booker-longlisted novel sets sail for freezing Arctic waters. Jack O’Connell plays a disgraced army surgeon who signs up for a whaling expedition aboard a ship that contains Colin Farrell’s psychopathic killer among its ferocious crew. Set in 1859, and filmed on location near Svalbard, pack ice ’n all, its superb cast also includes Stephen Graham, Tom Courtenay and Peter Mullan.

The Mad Women’s Ball

Amazon Prime, 17th September. Based on the hit French novel Le bal des folles by Victoria Mas, about the treatment of women deemed “hysterics” in Paris’s Salpêtrière hospital in the 19th century, this feature-length drama tells the story of Eugénie (Lou de Laâge), a middle-class girl who believes she hears dead people. Committed by her family, she finds her destiny entwined with a nurse at the hospital (played by screenwriter/director Mélanie Laurent) as preparations begin for the annual ball.


Apple TV+, 24th September. In space, no one can hear television executives scream. Science-fiction remains TV’s riskiest genre—viewers expect a cinematic level of spectacle. Foundation, then, is a statement of intent from Apple. It’s based on Isaac Asimov’s celebrated 1940s series of stories, one of the inspirations for Star Wars, about a mathematician (Jared Harris) who foresees the fall of the empire that rules the galaxy, and sets out to preserve the essentials of civilisation as war and chaos loom. Visually, it’s expensively magnificent.