Five things to watch this July – from Natalie Portman's new thriller to the TV adaptation of 'The Decameron'

the decameron
Your TV watchlist for July is hereCourtesy of Netflix

Sheltering from the heatwave has never been so well provided for. This month’s new small-screen offerings are a menage of irreverent period dramas, sci-fi thrillers and moody murder mysteries. UK viewers will finally be able to get their hands on the closing season of Elle Fanning’s wonderful period drama comedy, The Great, and, later in July, Netflix will be serving up an inspired take on the classic renaissance Italian story The Decameron, with an all-star cast including Zosia Mamet and Derry Girls’ Saoirse Monica Jackson. Meanwhile, Apple TV+ debuts some fantastic new programming, with the futuristic mystery Sunny, starring Rashida Jones; the sun-drenched comedy Land of Women, with Eva Longoria fleeing crime bosses in rural Spain; and the 1960s-set Lady in the Lake, a heady mystery that sees Natalie Portman take on the unsolved murders in her local town. Close the curtains, get a cold drink and enjoy.

The Decameron

Based, admittedly extremely loosely, on the famed 14thcentury collection of stories by Giovanni Boccaccio, this irreverent period drama will make a delightful new addition to your summer viewing. Set during the Black Death of the 14th century, class tensions, looming death, sex, and bloodshed abound as a group of nobles hide out from the plague in Tuscan villa, in the house party to end all house parties. Starring Zosia Mamet, Saoirse Monica Jackson and Sex Education's Tanya Reynolds, The Decameron is a dark, witty and rollickingly funny romp, most certainly the pandemic show we’re all glad we never had at the time.

The Decameron is streaming on Netflix from 25 July

Lady in the Lake

natalie portman in lady in the lake

Spooky and dripping with atmosphere, Lady in the Lake is a new seven-part series based on the novel of the same name by Laura Lippman. It stars Natalie Portman as Maddie, a housewife in 1960s' Baltimore looking to reinvent herself as an investigative journalist when she becomes obsessed with the unsolved killings of a local white girl and a black woman. Lippman has said the novel is based on two real murders in her own hometown and the disparate ways the murders were reported and investigated. Both trippy and absorbing, the adaptation – from the director Alma Ha’rel – is a gorgeous piece of filmmaking with a brilliant turn from Portman.

Lady in the Lake is streaming on Apple TV+ from 19 July.

Land of Women

eva longoria land of women

Fancy an escape to Spanish wine country? Eva Longoria heads up this charming escapist dramedy, which follows the fortunes of three generations of women forced to flee back to their matriarch’s hometown in Spain. Longoria plays Gala, a wealthy New Yorker whose family is put at risk after her husband disappears with the money he owes dangerous criminals. Packing up her mother, Julia, and daughter, Kate, they escape to Julia’s small rural community in Spain where past lives return and their new identities prove hard to remain. Funny, sweet and undeniably enjoyable, it is a splendid place to be for several episodes – the threat of vengeful criminals notwithstanding.

Land of Women is streaming on Apple TV+ now.

The Great

elle fanning and nicholas hoult in the great
nick wall

The concluding season of the award-winning series is finally available in the UK. Tony McNamara, the scribe behind such impudent takes on historical dramas as The Favourite and Poor Things, first turned his acerbic pen to the story of Russia’s Catherine the Great in 2020 to outrageous effect. The show has since proved enormously popular. Starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult, The Great has been lauded as a riot of pithy dialogue and improbable plotting and has featured a plethora of brilliant performances from the likes of Gillian Anderson and Jason Issacs. Its third and final season begins with the fallout from Catherine’s attempted assassination of Peter as the monarchs deal with their rocky reign and even more unstable marriage. A show that set the tone for our current vogue for anachronistic takes on the period drama; it will be sorely missed.

The Great seasons 3 is streaming on Channel 4 from 8 July


Rashida Jones stars in this moody sci-fi thriller as Suzie, a woman engulfed in a life-altering mystery after her husband and son disappear in a mysterious plane crash. The 10-part series takes place in Kyoto, in the not-too-distant future, and centres around the unlikely friendship that forms between Suzie and Sunny, a lifelike robot given to her by her husband’s business to ease her loss. Over time, Sunny proves more than just emotional support technology, but an ally in a strange journey to uncover the mystery of what really happened to her family. Like Dave Eggers’ The Circle meets iRobot, this is an eerie but compelling watch, brimming with atmosphere and a wonderful central performance from Jones.

Sunny is streaming on Apple TV+ from 10 July.

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