Finding yourself in hot water isn’t always a bad thing. Just ask Lucius Modestus, bath-builder extraordinaire of ancient Rome and the hero of Thermae Romae Novae (Netflix), the anime adaptation of the manga series by writer and illustrator Mari Yamazaki. Here, Japanese studio Naz reimagines the Roman Empire in 11 episodes, updating Hideki Takeuchi’s 2012 movie Thermae Romae and its 2014 sequel with additional storylines. When architect Lucius loses his job because he can’t meet the demands of his fellow citizens, he repairs in a funk to the bathhouse. This is where the surreal element of the series makes its big splash, because Lucius is sucked into a drain and flushed out in … modern-day Japan. He is now a time-travelling bath builder, marvelling at the oddball society in which he has landed and fascinated by the accessories and bathroom design we now take for granted. His astonishing discoveries and “original” ideas make him a “starchitect” when he finds his way home – which he continues to do, somehow, after each bewildering excursion to the future. It all amounts to an accessible, comical alignment of Japanese bathing culture with that of Rome 2,000 years ago: even the snow monkeys of Nagano and the delights of sake and Japan’s oldest beer are introduced. That’s not all – in a live-action appendix to each episode, Yamazaki herself visits a chosen onsen, though sadly without evidence of any ancient Roman accidental tourists. Spy games What do you do with spies who can’t cut the secret service mustard? Exile them to Slough House, MI5’s London backwater for pen-pushing paper shufflers. That’s the preferred solution in Slow Horses , approaching its series one climax on Apple TV+. Each member of the disillusioned group (including the women) is less suave James Bond and more bumbling spy Johnny English. Its dictatorial chief is Jackson Lamb, a slob and greasy alcoholic. A walking biohazard he might be, but one with multiple tricks up his sleeves; and it’s impossible to imagine anyone portraying him with more disdainful aplomb than the splendidly soiled Gary Oldman – holey, stinking socks and all. Reduced to sorting through suspects’ rubbish, digging up council tax records and ferreting out parking tickets, these sorry spooks must fight their way through six tense episodes of sabotage by their own side and some gory action centred on a group of extreme right-wing kidnappers. Despite the violence, the criminal gang proves as incompetent as Chris Morris’ terrorists in Four Lions (2010) and supplies much of the grisly humour. Add to that scenes of this bloodied gaggle of noxious racists in a van, forcing their captured Muslim comedian to tell them jokes to relieve the tension, and you have some sort of landmark moment in inventive writing. Supporting Oldman are Kristin Scott Thomas, Jonathan Pryce, Olivia Cooke, Saskia Reeves and Jack Lowden: a parade of particularly luminous stars, all working in the shadows. But the award for cockiest believer in his own inflated legend goes to Roddy Ho, played with a condescending sneer by Christopher Chung. Sulky, genius-level hacker Ho has been condemned to Slough House for an unspecified transgression – perhaps for doctoring his online dating profile to make him look like Mr Universe. When living off packets of crisps on a dingy housing estate, some fake identities are just too implausible to fly.