The Best TV Shows to Watch This July

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Paper Girls, 2022
Paper Girls, 2022(Film still)

From Andrew Garfield’s leading role in a 1980s true-crime drama to a revealing new documentary about The Rolling Stones; here are the best things to watch on TV in July 2022

The Undeclared War (Channel 4, now screening)

What did you day on the first day of your first internship? In C4’s six-part thriller The Undeclared War, GCHQ workie Saara Parvan (Hannah Khalique-Brown) prevents a cyberattack that threatens to tank the national economy and change the course of the 2024 national election, winning the applause of Tory PM Andrew Makinde (Adrian Lester). Written and co-directed by Peter Kosminsky, who has serious form when it comes to this kind of thing, the show promises a hard-edged look at issues of national security (it was researched over a period of three years) and a fast-paced thriller engineered around a nifty conceit: Parvan’s cybersleuthing is visualised, Inception-style, as a gravity-defying series of set pieces.

My Life as a Rolling Stone (BBC Two, July 2)

Screening as part of a season on the BBC celebrating the group’s 60th anniversary, My Life as a Rolling Stone promises to peel back the legend of the biggest rock band the world has ever seen. How do you do that with a story as relentlessly pored-over as The Stones’? Perhaps, as this first episode seems to suggest, by exposing the business acumen involved in transforming a group of snot-nosed blues aficionados into a pop-cultural juggernaut worth an estimated $1.5 billion – “a link between the counterculture of the 1960s and the commercial, modern world”. Crucial in that transformation was the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, who encouraged their sex-and-drug-fuelled antics as a counter to the Beatles’ squeaky-clean image – a marketing masterstroke that Keith Richards can laugh about now. “The Beatles were exactly the same as us,” chuckles the group’s guitarist and self-styled outlaw figure, “filthy swine!”

Under the Banner of Heaven (Disney+, July 27)

Andrew Garfield is having a bit of a moment following acclaimed roles in Tick, Tick ... Boom! and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, so we’re excited to see what he brings to Under the Banner of Heaven, a true-crime drama based on Jon Krakauer’s account of a double-murder that shook a small-town community in 1980s Utah. Echoes of True Detective abound in the trailer, with its portentous mutterings about an ancient evil at work in the killings, and generous helpings of existential despair from Garfield, as the Mormon cop whose work on the case leads him to question his faith.

Surface (Apple TV, July 29)

Having survived an apparent suicide attempt with no memory of her past, Sophie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) faces a dilemma: accept the official version of events that she threw herself from the boat, or start looking into her husband (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, bolstering his creepy-guy credentials after his role in The Invisible Man) to see if he might have had a hand in her near-demise. It’s a bit of an eye-rolling premise, perhaps, but the sumptuous San Francisco setting and bougie conniving make this feel, just maybe, like a west coast answer to Big Little Lies.

Paper Girls (Amazon Prime, July 29)

Amazon Prime will be hoping a little of Stranger Things’ retro-tweeny magic rubs off on Paper Girls, a comic-book sci-fi adaptation that may give older viewers flashbacks to The Girl From Tomorrow. The familiar ingredients quickly fall into place, from the obligatory 1980s setting to the aggressively relentless needle-drops (The Bangles! New Order! Er, Marie Davidson?) and hastily sketched high-school archetypes, but the time-hopping plot, which finds a group of paper girls plunged into a conflict between warring bands of folks from the future, sounds like a blast.