In Australia: Mondays, 9pm, Foxtel
In the UK: Available on Netflix
Secret City was one of TMINE’s top shows of 2016. A marvellous return to the genre of ‘dogged journalist investigates political cover-up at the highest level’, it was every bit Australia’s answer to State of Play and deservedly earned worldwide success through Netflix distribution.
Starring Anna Torv as political journalist par excellence Harriet Dunkley, it also had a lot to say about Australia’s political positioning with respect to both Asia and the US, something that proved to be very timely.
The first season was reasonably self-contained, with a downbeat ending that could have left the show “one then done”. However, that Netflix success means that Secret City is back for a second season.
But when is a second season not a second season? When it has almost nothing in common with the first season.
In the US: Sundays, Starz
In the UK: Mondays, StarzPlay
Some TV shows beg you to emphasise a word in their title. Look at This is Us. It so badly wants you to say us. This is Us. Because it’s important. Because it’s saying something about human nature and human existence about us.
I’m pretty sure that the producers of Now Apocalypse want you to pronounce it Now Apocalypse. Because it’s just so now. Just so timely. Has so much to say about today’s young people.
But maybe they want you to emphasise Apocalypse. Because it feels like the Apocalypse couldn’t come sooner.
Apocalypse Generation Z
I’m middle-aged. I wasn’t when I started TMINE, but that’s writing for you. But even though I have been known to hang out with and work with millennials and Generation Zers, I’m still no longer one of the kids.
So I’ve no idea if Now Apocalypse is supposed to be a satire of this group, or even of what group it might be a satire: LA’s Generation Z, Generation Z in particular or just a bunch of dicks who hang out in California. Maybe you, young reader, will know.
What plot there is to Now Apocalypse can be summarised as follows: there’s a group of friends and lovers in LA. They complain about their dates to one another, while intermittently trying to get off with one another. And there may be reptile aliens in the dating pool. These may be weed-induced hallucinations, though.
Most of the drama revolves around Avan Jogia’s ‘Ulysses’, a “4 on the Kinsey scale” who mostly wants to get off with his flat mate, but occasionally has fantasies about his flat mate’s slightly Aspy (“I find social cues hard to read”), slightly sexy research scientist girlfriend (Roxane Mesquida). Then there’s his pal webcam girl Kelli Berglund, with whom he trades dating stories from time to time.
So far, so LA naval-gazy. But every so often Mesquida drops hints that the world is coming to an end and that possibly she might be an alien, which Jogia half picks up on, half ignores. That is, until he falls off his bike in a weed haze and finds a man having sex with a giant reptile in an alley.
As the first episode doesn’t really go into the alien plot very much, what we’re left with is a bunch of really annoying young people navigating the dating scene and going through the usual problems of ‘open relationships’, people who only want sex, people who lie on their dating profiles et al, that have been the stuff of relationship advice columns for decades – just with the added vicissitudes of sexual fluidity, apps, Internet porn and being Californian to deal with.
While the sexual fluidity is new, it really doesn’t have much to add beyond slightly more explicit sex scenes than Man Seeking Woman had, for example. At the same time, it doesn’t have the jokes or the insight that you’d hope for in a show that’s a statement piece like this. I found myself drifting off several times while watching it, hoping that the show would make either its characters less narcissistic or the peril to the entire world more perilous but never achieving gratification on that score.
Then again, I’m not really the right age for the show, so maybe there’s a few Generation Zers out there with whom it will chime. But I suspect they’re all in California right now and probably not reading TMINE, so I’d advise everyone else not to bother with Now Apocalypse.
I’m not exactly sure when I stopped finding Ricky Gervais funny, but I have a fair idea. It certainly wasn’t during The Office. I’ve never been a fan of ‘cringe comedy’, but you genuinely must be lacking a funny bone not to have found at least parts of it hilarious. Ditto Extras, with its array of celebrities sending themselves up (“They’re good people on Family Affairs…” “It’s too late – I’ve seen everything”).
But by the time of his podcast with Karl Pilkington, an unpleasant note was beginning to creep into the comedy. It was starting to becoming bullying. Gervais was laughing at people, rather than with people.
His film, The Invention of Lying, wasn’t bad but by the time of his stand-up tours, his Twitter bullying and the return of his Office character David Brent in Life on the Road, I wasn’t even bothering to watch any more. Who needs Gervais’ brand of mean-spiritedness in their lives?
Now we have After Life in which Gervais plays a man who’s lost the will to live so decides to not give two f*cks about anyone else. The question I had going into this was: would Gervais have to act at all and how much would I hate After Life?
After After Life
I didn’t hate After Life. I didn’t laugh much, sure, and parts of it often deathly dull. But although there are certain trademarks of Gervais’ brand of comedy to it, After Life is something of a departure for him, in what is arguably his most mature and thoughtful work to date.
In real life, Gervais has, of course, become one of those annoying activist atheists (cf Richard Dawkins) who spend all their time trying to discredit other atheists by aggressively arguing with theists and generally implying – or even outright stating – they’re as thick as two short planks. That’ll win them over, right?
After Life feels very much like one of those arguments come to life and wrapped into a six part dark comedy drama. Why, posits the theist, do you atheists bother living if there’s no point to it all? Gervais replies by basically lumping on his own character’s shoulders all the woes of the world in a Book of Job stylee in order to answer that question.
Here he plays a small-town journalist working in an equally small-town local newspaper. His vicar wife (Kerry Godliman) recently died of breast cancer and Gervais is now struggling to find a reason to live, now that his only reason for living has died. So he takes his pain out on everyone else, including Godliman’s brother and the newspaper’s editor (Tom Basden), his psychiatrist (Paul Kaye), Christian co-worker Diane Morgan, cub reporter Mandeep Dhillon, his dementing dad (David Bradley), his dad’s nurse (Ashley Jensen), his postman (Joe Wilkinson), the newspaper delivery guy (Tony Way) and local sex worker (Roisin Conaty).
Gervais is a git from the outset so when he suddenly decides not to bother with pleasantries any more, there’s no noticeable difference – it’s just a question of how far he’ll go and how quickly, as he tries taking heroin and even threatens to murder a child at his nephew’s school with a hammer.
Are we having fun yet? And that is After Life‘s big question.