Sorry, Australia. And indeed fans of Australian TV. For ages, I’ve been promising to review all manner of new and exciting – and, it turns out, not so exciting – Australian TV shows. However, thanks to a deluge of US and Internet TV, I’ve being failing hopelessly.
This weekend, however, I made a massive effort to play catch up with all of them. I’ve not been 100% successful, since I’ve not yet started SBS’s Deep Water, but since that’s a four-part mini-series that’s already finished, I might as well watch all the episodes before letting you know what I think of it prior to its eventual BBC Four airing.
After the jump and to save myself a whole lot of time, mini-reviews of the first few episodes of all the other shows. Just to give you a tantalising preview of what I’m going to say, though:
It’s “What have you been watching?”, my chance to tell you what movies and TV I’ve been watching recently that I haven’t already reviewed and your chance to recommend things to everyone else (and me) in case I’ve missed them.
The usual “TMINE recommends” page features links to reviews of all the shows I’ve ever recommended, and there’s also the Reviews A-Z, for when you want to check more or less anything I’ve reviewed ever.
Après lui le déluge. This week marks the proper kicking off in the US of a big selection of the Fall schedule, so brace yourself for a flotilla of reviews as the likes of Designated Survivor, Notorious, The Good Place, This Is Us, Lethal Weapon and Pitch head down the pipes towards. I’ve saved myself some of that burden by previewing a couple of shows already, including Speechless (US: ABC) and Son of Zorn(US: Fox);I’ve also reviewed the first episodes of Quarry(US: Cinemax; UK: Sky Atlantic) andBetter Things(US: FX), and passed a third-episode verdict on Four In The Morning (Canada: CBC).
I’ll do my best to keep up, but I might get caught up on some rapids somewhere – maybe by deciding to watch the rest of saison 2 of Le Bureau Des Légendes (The Bureau) (France: Canal+; UK: Amazon).
After the jump, I’ll be reviewing the regulars, Halt and Catch Fire, Mr Robot and You’re The Worst, as well as the second episode of newcomer Quarry. But if you think that the list above is all I’ve been watching, you don’t know me very well:
Home From Home (UK: BBC Two) I tuned into this comedy pilot purely for old times’ sake, since it starred my TV wife Joanna Page. It sees Page married to Johnny Vegas for some unfathomable reason and the two of them deciding to buy a cottage in the Lake District and dragging their kids along to stay with them. Unfortunately, in the transit down the motorway, they forgot to bring any jokes with them. Somehow, I doubt it will make it to series…
Hooten and the Lady (UK: Sky1) There can’t have been many people who, when they first heard of Lara Croft, thought to themselves “Wouldn’t she better if she were split in half – one half an aristocratic archaeologist, the other an adventurer who likes diving off things and grunting?” Yet Tony Jordan (Life on Mars, Hustle) apparently did, as can be seen from his new Sky1 show Hooten and the Lady.
As nominatively determined to dreadfulness as its spiritual predecessor Bonekickers, it sees Ophelia Lovibond – last seen ruining Elementary – deciding the best thing to do to fight government cutbacks at the British Museum is throw aside over a century of archaeological best practice, revive the good old days of Empire and cultural insensitivity, and head off down the Amazon a-lootin’ ‘n’ a-pilligin’. There she meets American petty criminal Michael Landes (Love Soup, Save Me) and they strike a pact to combine his brawn and her brains in an effort to get rich and save museums.
The show wants to be a sort of Indiana Jones meets the screwball comedies of the 40s and 50s, but in reality is a near-unwatchable fan fic version of Lara Croft meets Relic Hunter, but without the charm, stunts or wit of either. The decade and a half’s age difference between the two leads doesn’t help conjure an air of romance, either, even assuming there were more to either character than a thinly sketched character background more suited for a murder-mystery weekend.
Everybody involved looks like they’re having fun out on location somewhere sunny. The rest of as we sit through their irritating, by the numbers, ‘flirtatious banter’? Less so.
Doctor, Doctor (Australia: Nine) After taking over most of Australia’s TV channels, the omnipresent Rodger Corser (The Doctor Blake Mysteries, The Beautiful Lie, Party Tricks) now makes his moves on the Nine Network with this surprisingly enjoyable Australian redo of Doc Hollywood that also feels like it’s here to stick two fingers up at Seven’s somewhat clunky 800 words, which has just returned for a second season, as well as wave in passing at ABC Australia’s Rake and USA’s Royal Pains.
Corser plays a top Sydney heart surgeon who’s got one too many addictions for his own good. An incident at a party ends up with the arrogant Corser being stuck on probation for a year but, with few friends and the Australian health service in desperate need of GPs in rural areas, Corser finds himself sent back to general practice in his home town.
There, he has to deal with his politician mother, the fiancée he stood up and who’s now married to his brother, his uninterested father, his gun-mad foster brother and everyone he grew up with. Oh yes, and not remembering any general medicine any more, so having to Google everything, half his patients being a plane-ride away, not being able to do any surgery or else he’ll lose his licence, and an Irish nurse who’s not going to help him quit substance-abuse any time soon.
Doctor, Doctor is actually a lot more charming yet simultaneously harder edged than you might think. Corser’s character is as big a dick as Rake‘s, yet Corser is engaging enough to make you like him. The fact he’s a coke-head who likes to party-hard on whatever other substances you might have to hand is also a lot darker than someone with a single incident behind him. There’s also the coming to terms with general practice, as well as the denizens of the local hospital, which is pretty entertaining.
It’s unlikely ever to make it to the UK, given Nine’s strapped enough for cash as it is, but I used to think that about Hulu, too, and look what happened there. Give it a whirl if you can.
High Maintenance (US: HBO; UK: Sky Atlantic – probably) Originally a Vimeo web series and maintaining a lot of that feel, High Maintenance sees its co-writer-creator Ben Sinclair playing a pot-delivering, New York cyclist who encounters new and odd customers in every episode.
While billed as a comedy, it’s probably better to think of it as a frequently amusing series of vignettes skewering characters, the first a katana-wielding strongman who seems reluctant to pay, the second a gay man who realises he’s spending too much time with his fag hag flatmate rather than other gay men. With Sinclair an in-story Rod Serling, don’t be too surprised to discover there’s a twist in the tail with each vignette, the first having an absolute kicker of a resolution. But also be prepared for a lot of cringe comedy along the way, as the drug-focus of the piece means the show goes to some dark and uncomfortable places along the way.
In Australia: Mondays, 8.30pm AEST, Foxtel Showcase) In the UK: Not yet acquired
As I mentioned in my recent birthday round-up of lessons learnt over the past year, Australian TV is on the rise at the moment. There are lots of reasons for this. There’s the arrival of BBC First, resulting in the native channels having to create more of their own content rather than buy it from the BBC. Keeping a keener eye on selling to foreign markets means that co-production money can elevate or even gets shows off the ground where once they would have languished or not get made – Cleverman, for example, has benefited a lot from SundanceTV US’s budget contributions. There are also government and state funding bodies, with the likes of Screen Australia and Screen New South Wales giving TV companies cash and/or help in exchange for jobs-boosting filming (cf The Doctor Blake Mysteries) – which helps a lot.
All of this comes together in some way or other with The Kettering Incident, a production from Foxtel Showcase (think of it as Australia’s Sky Atlantic, UK readers) made in association with BBC Worldwide and Screen Tasmania. It’s also got its eyes firmly on what appears to sell well to the overseas market – beautifully shot, moody locations (Top of the Lake) and ‘Australian Gothic’ (Glitch).
Elizabeth Debicki, who of course was faux American in The Night Manager, is here a faux Brit – well, an Australian who used to live in the town of Kettering in Tasmania until she was a teenager. Then, while she and her friend were out in the forbidden woods one night, they see some lights, hear some noises and suddenly it’s eight hours later, Debicki is all alone and covered in blood and her friend has gone missing.
Fast-forward 15 years and she’s now a haematologist living in London. Problem is, she’s starting to have black-outs, during which she does weird things. She wakes up in the bins at the side of the street, covered in bruises. She wanders into her hospital and starts tap dancing. Then worst of all, she wakes up back in Kettering, having unknowingly bought a plane ticket and flown over there.
Before you know it, she’s having more time gaps, other people are disappearing having seen the lights, huge moths are gathering for no good reason, and she’s having visions. All while she gets angrily stared at by all the people who think she killed her friend.
Is there some secret military base, aliens, fairies or something weirder out in the forest? Or is Debicki psychotic like her mum and killing people when she blanks out?
The first two episodes are a tad on the slow side, something that’s not helped by the fact Debicki’s character is shit to everyone she meets or just spaced out the whole time. Most of it is Debicki milling around, meeting people, having a vision (usually of a moth) then passing out, only to discover something terrible/awkward has happened while she was out. There’s also not much by way of investigation of the central mystery, which given this first season is eight episodes and the showrunners are angling for additional seasons, makes me worry it’ll be about another five weeks before anyone does anything except pass out/complain about all the logging going on/have secret meetings to discuss Debicki.
But it does look very pretty and a bit eery, thanks to all the Tasmanian filming, the time losses are disconcerting (more so than in The Anomaly, thankfully) and there’s a good chance there might be a decent mystery behind it all, so I’ll probably stick with it for another couple of weeks at least. I’m not going to recommend it just yet, but I’ll keep my eye on it for you for now.