TWO press releases landed in my inbox over the weekend in quick succession, both from Channel 10.
One was parroting some new ill-defined variety show with pranks or something and the other was a reboot of Dancing with the Stars. Why. Yeah, that’s intentionally not a question mark. That period signals defeat.
Defeat on my part to try and understand the reason behind rolling out more yesteryear shows as if it’s still 2002 as anything other than a desperate corporate attempt to grasp at ad dollars.
And defeat on the part of free-to-air commercial programmers who appear to no longer care about real storytelling — content with blinding an ever-diminishing audience with bright lights and glittery dresses in the hope that if they distract them enough they won’t realise that they’re being fed a diet of bunkum.
These shows aren’t designed to challenge you — unless it’s to challenge your patience — and it’s barely meant to entertain you. It’s about lulling you into a sense of complacency.
Luckily, we can literally look elsewhere now. Vote with your fingers.
(Amazon Prime Video — Friday, September 14)
This is not that one-season Ioan Gruffudd crime procedural of the same name that was cancelled after one season, though who can resist listening to ol’ Hornblower postulate about the method of death?
There’s little I can tell you in the way of plot when it comes to Forever — the filmmakers and Amazon Prime Video are keeping us on a tight leash because there’s a reveal at the end of the second episode that shouldn’t be spoilt.
Here’s what I can say: Oscar and June have been married for 12 years, they have a comfortable life burdened with the same conversations, the same dinners and the same fishing holidays at a lake house. Tired of a humdrum routine, June convinces Oscar to change their usual holiday plans and go skiing instead. It’s a decision that will change their lives forever. Get it? Forever. That’s the title!
Starring Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen (two SNL alums reuniting), Forever is a subtle half-hour series about love, life and regrets. It has quietly funny moments and a hint of wistfulness, which is exactly what you expect from co-creators Alan Yang and Matt Hubbard, who both worked on Parks and Recreation. Yang was also Aziz Ansari’s co-creator on Master of None.
AMERICAN VANDALS S2
(Netflix — Friday, September 14 from 5pm AEST)
First it was the penis vandal, now it’s the turd burglar. Netflix’s mockumentary true crime series returns for a second season after the runaway success of what was originally devised as a limited series. The mystery of who drew 27 phalluses on the teachers’ cars is done, so now the “documentarians” have moved their sleuthing elsewhere.
This time, it’s an elite Catholic school, where a poo prankster has been wreaking havoc — someone has been lacing the cafeteria’s lemonade with laxatives. And just when you thought poo joggers were the only miscreants lurking out there. This clever satire series is a great weekend binge.
THE DEUCE S2
(Showcase on Foxtel — Tuesday, September 11 at 9.45pm, then Foxtel Now)
Disco! Punk! Brothels! Peep show booths! The second season of The Deuce has time-jumped four years to 1977 and the sinful world of midtown Manhattan has changed — sex is now an open commodity with the strip overflowing with behind-closed-doors establishments and porn sets, and The Deuce isoverflowing with the lurid colours of the late 1970s.
David Simon’s (The Wire) extraordinary series returns this week and nothing else on the air at the moment manages to be so evocative of a specific time and place. It’s a vividly drawn series of the opportunistic criminal underbelly of New York, anchored by an incredible performance from Maggie Gyllenhaal as Eileen/Candy, a prostitute turned porn director. There’s a real spirit to The Deuce, a seedy one but one you can’t resist.
(SBS — Monday, September 10 at 11.30pm, then SBS on Demand)
The Scandinavians know how to do crime — there’s a whole genre for it: Scandi-noir. And this Swedish series, Modus, based on a book by writer Anne Holt, has all the hallmarks of an addictive whodunit thriller. The brilliant cop (because there’s always a brilliant cop) at the heart of Modus is Detective Inger Johanne Vik, who’s a bit of a savant when it comes to profiling.
She has her work cut out for her when the US President (Kim Cattrall!) vanishes in the middle of a state visit to Stockholm, disappearing from her room in Admiralty House, down a secret passage no less. To make things more complicated, the FBI liaison officer is an ex-partner of Inger’s. Awks.
(Showcase on Foxtel — Tuesday, September 11 at 8.30pm, then Foxtel Now)
“Strike a pose,” Madonna instructed. But how many of us who have been singing along, listing all those golden age actors, since 1990 know the genesis of what she was going on about? The underground ballroom scene in 1980s New York has little to do with the foxtrot or a jaunty two-step but it was where you went to be seen and to vogue.
Produced by Ryan Murphy, Pose stars Evan Peters, Kate Mara, James van der Beek and five transgender actors in major roles, including MJ Rodriguez — a first for mainstream TV. It’s set in the heyday of 1980s extravagance, charting what happens when the marginalised people of the ballroom scene clashes with corporate America. It’s extravagant, it’s thrilling and it’s everything you expect from a Murphy series.
AMERICAN HORROR STORY: APOCALYPSE
(Showcase on Foxtel — Thursday, September 13 at 8.30pm, then Foxtel Now)
Apocalypse is the American Horror Story crossover fans have been waiting for — and it’s set 18 months into the dystopian future. After seven previous seasons, the anthology series is finally coming together with the characters of season one’s Murder House to clash with season three’s Coven.
We’ve known all the worlds in AHS were technically connected (even if the same actors were playing different characters) but to see it rendered in all of its bloody glory is something else.
And, damn, what a cast. There are returning MVPs including Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Jessica Lange, Emma Roberts, Gabourey Sidibe, Taissa Farmiga, Frances Conroy, Kathy Bates, Connie Britton, Dylan McDermott, Cheyenne Jackson, Adina Porter and Stevie Nicks. Plus, the queen of TV drama, Joan Collins. Yes, please.