The Ireland murder case that inspired two docuseries and a podcast

Sophie Toscan du Plantier's home in County Cork, Ireland.

Welcome to Screen Gab, the newsletter for everyone trying to make summer’s rising temperatures a little more bearable by curling up with another true crime saga.

In this week’s edition, we look at staff writer Meredith Blake’s latest trip down a true crime rabbit hole — this time, the brutal murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier at her vacation home on Ireland’s southern coast in 1996 — which has Blake urging us to get caught up on “Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie” on specialty streamer Topic.

Plus, we spoke with “For All Mankind” showrunners Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi, send you into the weekend with recommendations on what to stream, and more. And, as always, we want to know what you’re watching, so send your TV or streaming movie recommendations to with your name and location. Submissions should be no longer than 200 words and are subject to editing for length and clarity.



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Turn on

Recommendations from the film and TV experts at The Times

Closeup of a man in a dark button down shirt and short dark hair, looking down with a tense expression.
Joo Won as Carter in “Carter.”
(Son Ik-chung / Netflix)

In need of an adrenaline fix and already mainlined “The Gray Man” and “Uncharted” on Netflix? Queue up “Carter,” the latest action bonanza from South Korean filmmaker Jung Byung-gil. The charismatic Joo Won stars as the eponymous operative, who wakes up amid a mysterious global viral outbreak with a missing memory and a particular set of skills before proceeding to “Hardcore Henry” his way through a ridiculous body count of expendable gangsters, mercenaries and military thugs for an unrelenting two hours and 14 minutes. Hampered by a convoluted plot peppered with a little bit of everything — amnesia, rage-zombies, geopolitical spycraft, family melodrama, one memorable bit of Papa John’s product placement and brief appearances by Camilla Belle (“10,000 BC”) and Mike Colter (“Luke Cage”) — its whizzing, showy camera work flirts with being nausea-inducing as Jung attempts to one-up the masterful faux one-take sequences of his exhilarating 2017 assassin picture, “The Villainess.” Yet in its most ostentatious moments — an opening set piece in which Carter, tattooed, nearly nude and wearing a thong, slices and dices his way through hundreds of blade-wielding enemies in a bathhouse — it serves up the kind of eye-popping visuals, ultraviolence and ambition of vision you still won’t find in the blandest, biggest-budgeted of Hollywood action fare. — Jen Yamato

This week saw the midseason return of “Resident Alien” (Syfy), a splendid science-fiction farce in which Alan Tudyk plays Harry, a pie-loving extraterrestrial visitor on a failing, later abandoned mission to eradicate humanity. Set in a Colorado mountain town, the first part of Season 2 ended with a shooting and a just-hatched half-human baby alien running loose; new business involves covering up that shooting and finding that baby. The series is at once a science-fiction adventure, a conspiracy thriller and a small town comedy whose iconic characters include a mayor, a sheriff, a deputy sheriff, a bartender, the proprietor of a diner and a pair of sleuthing children (one smart, one less so but with the ability to see Harry’s true form). There are romantic subplots and family dramas, passages of real suspense and an abundance of humor subtle and broad; the series does all these things extraordinarily well. At its center is the friendship between Harry, who has awkwardly (yet somehow successfully) assumed the shape and identity of a doctor, and his assistant, Asta Twelvetrees (played by Sara Tomko), who is in the know. But the show, which is ultimately about community, is rich with related story lines. “Humans are gross,” says Harry, “but they have each other.” — Robert Lloyd

Catch up

Everything you need to know about the film or TV series everyone’s talking about

A man with gray hair and wearing a hooded jacket stands on a windy lake shore.
Director Jim Sheridan in “Murder at the Cottage.”

Two days before Christmas 1996, the mutilated body of French TV producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found in the driveway of her remote vacation home in West Cork — a rural corner of Ireland known for attracting artistic types from abroad. Suspicion immediately fell on a brash, imposing freelance journalist from England named Ian Bailey, who had a history of domestic violence and happened to be the first reporter on the scene. Thanks to a bungled police investigation, a lack of physical evidence and a wildly unreliable key witness, the brutal murder remains officially unsolved after a quarter of a century, but a flurry of recent true crime accounts has reignited public interest in the case. The latest is “Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie,” a five-part documentary from acclaimed director Jim Sheridan, now airing on the specialty streaming service Topic. (It was broadcast on British TV last year.)

The Oscar-nominated filmmaker (“In the Name of the Father,” “My Left Foot”) has spent much of the last decade working on the project, which features extensive interviews with Bailey and his former partner, Jules Thomas, as well as Maria Farrell, a local woman who said she saw Bailey near Toscan du Plantier’s home on the night of the murder, only to recant later. “Murder at the Cottage” takes a sharply critical look at the Garda — the Irish police force — who were so keen to suspect Bailey, they may have ignored other potential leads, and is sympathetic to the notion that Bailey, who was tried and convicted of the murder in absentia in France, has no connection to the case. Bailey has denied involvement in Toscan du Plantier’s death. (Her family initially gave interviews for the series but asked Sheridan to remove their interviews from the final cut, which now includes archival interviews with Toscan du Plantier’s parents and son.)

Though it offers few easy answers to the mystery of who killed Toscan du Plantier, “Murder at the Cottage” is informed by a deep familiarity with the cultural idiosyncrasies and dysfunctional institutions of rural Ireland, circa 1996. Ironically, the series, which features lyrical narration from Sheridan (whose thick Dublin accent makes murder sound like “more-door”) , beautiful shots of the brooding Irish landscape and a bevy of colorful locals, may compel you to start browsing real estate listings in County Cork. “Murder at the Cottage” follows the engrossing, 14-part podcast “West Cork,” originally released in 2018, so thorough it even explored the (highly unlikely) theory Toscan du Plantier was killed by a drunken horse and “Sophie: A Murder in West Cork,” a three-episode docuseries that arrived on Netflix last year (as “Murder at the Cottage” was airing on Sky TV) and presented a compelling but possibly oversimplified version of events. The combined spotlight seems to have spurred action: Earlier this summer, the Garda announced plans to conduct a thorough review of the case.

Guest spot

A weekly chat with actors, writers, directors and more about what they’re working on — and what they’re watching

Two men sit behind microphones at a table against a black background. Place cards show their names.
Matt Wolpert, left, and Ben Nedivi speak onstage last month at a Comic-Con panel on “For All Mankind.”
(Amy Sussman / Getty Images)

In its third season, which concludes Friday with a dramatic cliffhanger, space-race epic “For All Mankind” (Apple TV+) has achieved what I can only describe as greatness. Since “Nixon’s Women,” a Season 1 entry that used the series’ alternate history to create a brilliant all-female spin on “The Right Stuff,” the series has steadily honed both its human drama — divorces, affairs, rebel children and workplace rivals — and its gravity-defying action — space walks, crash landings, recuse missions. Season 3, which fast-forwards to the mid-1990s and mankind’s first mission to Mars, marshals these qualities to create one of the most consistently gripping stories of the year, as the U.S., the Soviet Union and Silicon Valley vie for control of, and strive for survival on, the next frontier. Showrunners Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi stopped by Screen Gab to discuss the series’ action set pieces, what inspired Season 3, and what they’re watching. — Matt Brennan

What have you watched recently (not counting your own show) that you are recommending to everyone you know?

Matt Wolpert: “Tokyo Vice” [HBO Max] is really fascinating. I’m a Michael Mann junkie, so it’s firing on all cylinders for me.


Ben Nedivi: I love “Better Call Saul” [AMC]. It is a masterclass in writing, directing, acting, you name it — and the one show I watch as soon as it airs every week. Sad to see it go but excited to see what they do next. A more recent obsession has been “The Rehearsal” on HBO, which is the perfect mix of weird, dark and hilarious.

Obviously, space travel — whether to the moon, Mars or more distant planets — has inspired countless films and TV shows. What would you say was your No. 1 touchstone or inspiration for Season 3 of “For All Mankind”? How has it shaped the show?

Wolpert: Weirdly, the two types of films that inspired Season 3 were adventure epics like “Master and Commander” [HBO Max], and westerns like “The Searchers” [VOD, multiple platforms] and “Rio Bravo” [VOD, multiple platforms]. They all touch on that sense of being on your own, of having to rely on each other and surviving the elements of an inhospitable place.

Nedivi: The Polaris hotel disaster in Episode 1 was definitely inspired by our love of the disaster films of the ’70s, especially “Towering Inferno” [VOD, multiple platforms] and “Poseidon Adventure” [YouTube]. But once we got to Mars, we actually talked a lot about westerns, like “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” [VOD, multiple platforms]. Stories of survival, greed and competition in an unforgiving environment. There’s also something about the look of Mars that has such a western feel to it — in fact, we used a few spots in Utah as a visual reference for our Mars landscapes, and our composers Jeff Russo and Paul Doucette even paid homage to Sergio Leone with the opening track in Episode 306, titled appropriately enough “Spaghetti Martian.”

For me and many other fans, “For All Mankind’s” gripping action set pieces have become one of the series’ defining features. What sequence have you found most memorable to make (whether for good or bad reasons), and why?

Wolpert: One of the most memorable for me was the Soviet invasion of Jamestown in Season 2. A lot of the effects were practical when we depressurized Ops Comm — we got to create our own mini-hurricane, which was pretty fun. But we also shot the whole sequence during the very beginning of the pandemic, and the feeling of claustrophobia in those scenes was also being felt by the whole crew.


Nedivi: If I had to pick one, it would probably be the Mars landing at the end of Episode 5, not only because it captured the intensity of those seven minutes of terror but also the absurdity of being first. That last moment of Poole and Kuznetsov wrestling each other to the ground was especially tricky to execute. We shot it several times and worked for days with our amazing stunt coordinator Todd Schneider and his team to find the right choreography to make it feel like both a desperate dash to be first and an an inspirational moment of cooperation. I think we stuck the landing (pun intended).

What’s next

Listings coordinator Matt Cooper highlights the TV shows and streaming movies to keep an eye on

Friday, Aug. 12

“Cosmic Love” (Netflix): The fault lies not in their stars but in themselves in this new astrologically inspired matchmaking series.

“Day Shift” (Netflix): It’s hard out here for a vampire hunter in this Los Angeles-set 2022 action-horror-comedy mash-up starring Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg.

“Five Days at Memorial” (Apple TV+): This new series dramatizes events at one overwhelmed New Orleans hospital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“A League of Their Own” (Prime Video): Play ball! “Broad City’s” Abbi Jacobson and “Parks and Recreation’s” Nick Offerman star in this new series based on the hit 1992 movie.


“Never Have I Ever” (Netflix): This coming-of-age comedy starring Maitreyi Ramakrishnan returns for Season 3.

“Post Malone: Runaway” (FreeVee): The heavily tatted, genre-splicing rapper is profiled in this new documentary.

“Rogue Agent” (AMC+): This 2022 fact-based thriller retells the twisted tale of a con man (“Happy Valley’s” James Norton) who passed himself off as a British spy.

“Secret Headquarters” (Paramount+): Wow! Suburban dad Owen Wilson moonlights as a superhero in this family-friendly 2022 comedy.

“13: The Musical” (Netflix): A bar mitzvah boy (Eli Golden) navigates life at a new school in the Big Apple in an adaptation of the Broadway show.

“This Fool” (Hulu): Stand-up comic Chris Estrada stars in this new comedy set in South L.A.

“Viagra: The Little Blue Pill That Changed the World” (Discovery+): Everything you always wanted to know about the erectile dysfunction drug is revealed in this new documentary.

“Children of the Underground” (FX, 8, 9, 10:30 and 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.): This new docuseries tracks one woman’s efforts to shelter victims of domestic violence.

“RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race” (VH1, 8 p.m.): More famous faces tease, tweeze and twirl as the competition returns.


“CMT Summer Camp” (CMT, 9 p.m.): Little Big Town performs in Greensboro, Ga., in this special.

“Hamster & Gretel” (Disney, 9:35 p.m.): A grade schooler and her pet rodent are transformed into superheroes in this new animated comedy.

“CMT Campfire Sessions” (CMT, 10 p.m.): Brett Eldredge does some pickin’ and grinnin’ in this new episode.

Saturday, Aug. 13

“Romance in Style” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): A plus-size fashion designer hooks up with a hunky fashion-mag publisher in this TV movie.

“The Princess” (HBO, 8 p.m.): Diana, Princess of Wales, is remembered in this new documentary.

“In Love With My Partner’s Wife” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A police detective crosses the line in this new thriller.

“South Park: The 25th Anniversary Concert” (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.): Trey Parker, Matt Stone and special guests celebrate the off-color animated series.


Sunday, Aug. 14

“Who Do You Think You Are?” (NBC, 7 p.m.): Zachary Quinto of “Heroes” explores his family history in the season finale.

“Chesapeake Shores” (Hallmark, 8 p.m.): The family drama sails in for a sixth season.

“Sister With a Secret” (Lifetime, 8 p.m.): A teen disappears under mysterious circumstances in this new thriller.

“Tales of the Walking Dead” (AMC, 9 p.m.): The horror franchise expands further with this new anthology series.

“My Life as a Rolling Stone” (Epix, 9 p.m.): Keith Richards is up next as the four-part docuseries continues.

“Westworld” (HBO, 9 p.m.): The futuristic drama logs out of its fourth season. With Evan Rachel Wood.


“Power Book III: Raising Kanan” (Starz, 9 p.m.): The crime drama drops its Season 3 premiere.

“Who Killed Biggie and Tupac?” (Investigation Discovery, 9, 10 and 11 p.m.): Two of hip-hop’s biggest mysteries are probed in this new docuseries.

Monday, Aug. 15

“Legacy: The True Story of the L.A. Lakers” (Hulu): The NBA franchise that Jerry Buss built is the subject of this new 10-part docuseries.

“Better Call Saul” (AMC, 9 p.m.): Bob Odenkirk signs off after six seasons of this “Breaking Bad” prequel.

“Running Wild With Bear Grylls” (National Geographic, 9 p.m.): “Midsommar’s” Florence Pugh gets back to nature in this new episode.

“Deliciousness” (MTV, 10 and 10:30 p.m.): The foodie series hosted by Tiffani Thiessen serves up a third season.


Tuesday, Aug. 16

“Hotties” (Hulu): It’s a dating show and a culinary competition in this new series.

“Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist” (Netflix): A college football standout falls victim to an online hoax in this new documentary.

“Leonardo” (The CW, 8 p.m.): “Poldark’s” Aidan Turner portrays the original Renaissance man in this new historical drama.

“Devils” (The CW, 9 p.m.): This imported series set in the world of high finance clocks in for Season 2.

“Dark Side of Comedy” (Vice, 9 p.m.): “SNL’s” Chris Farley is remembered in the series premiere.

Wednesday, Aug. 17


“Junior Baking Show” (Netflix): “The Great British Baking Show” begets a kid-centered spinoff.

“Look Both Ways” (Netflix): Follow “Riverdale’s” Lili Reinhart on two different life paths, “Sliding Doors”-style, in this 2022 comedy drama.

Thursday, Aug. 18

“Hold Your Fire” (AMC+): This gripping 2022 documentary recalls a protracted hostage standoff at a Brooklyn sporting goods store in 1973.

“Glorious” (Shudder): A man is trapped in a rest-stop restroom with a supernatural entity in the 2022 thriller. With Ryan Kwanten and J.K. Simmons.

“The Innocents” (Shudder): The kids aren’t all right in this creepy 2021 supernatural thriller from Norway.


“Inside the Mind of a Cat” (Netflix): Pspsps! This new documentary gets up close and personal with our furry feline friends.

“Selena + Chef” (HBO Max): Ms. Gomez serves up a fourth season of her intimate cooking show.

“She-Hulk: Attorney at Law” (Disney+): “Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany is a mean, green litigation machine in this new action comedy set in the MCU.

“Tekken: Bloodline” (Netflix): Everybody is kung fu fighting in this new animated series based on the video game.

“The Undeclared War” (Peacock): There’s panic on the streets of London in this new cyber-thriller. With Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg.

“60 Days In” (A&E, 9 p.m.): The unscripted series set in a county lockup in Georgia is back with new episodes.

“Waka & Tammy: What the Flocka” (WE, 9 p.m.): The hip-hop star and his better half return for another season.

“Inmate to Roommate” (A&E, 10 p.m.): Ex-convicts take part in a program to reduce recidivism in this new unscripted series.