Brilliant international series lineup on Showmax this month

1883 Emmy nominated for cinematography

THE streaming platform has some great content for subscribers in September, especially if they don’t have DStv Online or M-Net, because these I’ve picked for you have all been aired there, and I’ve seen them. Except Avenue 5 because I wasn’t paying attention to the dates and it was gone before I watched it. So yay for Showmax.

Of this month’s bounty, Based On A True Story was the one I binged most recently. It stars triple-Emmy nominee Kaley Cuoco (The Flight Attendant, The Big Bang Theory) and Critics Choice nominee Chris Messina (Sharp Objects, The Mindy Project) as Ava and Nathan, a married couple with a baby on the way. She’s an estate agent, he’s a former tennis player who once beat Federer, now being sidelined at the club where he coaches. The injustice of it all.

One day, handsome plumber Matt (Tom Bateman from Murder On The Orient Express and Death On The Nile and not related to Jason Bateman who is an exec producer for this show) comes around to fix their toilet. Elsewhere, LA is living in terror of the “Westside Ripper”, a brutal serial killer. Ava comes to believe he and Matt are one and the same but instead of turning him in, she convinces Nate to indulge her true crime obsession and create a podcast including Matt.

It’s a zany often over the top dark comedy with some gory scenes of violence, so don’t go into this one being too complacent. The Los Angeles Times calls the Peacock Original “a hilarious indictment of the public’s preoccupation with morbid crime and the media’s fire hose of content in service of that addiction.”

Also ready to binge now is Tulsa King, starring three-time Oscar nominee Sylvester Stallone (aka Rocky Balboa) as New York mafia capo Dwight “The General” Manfredi, who’s just been released from prison after 25 years, only to find himself exiled by his boss to set up shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, even though he kept his mouth shut. Realising his mob family may not have his best interests at heart, Dwight sets out to build an disorganised empire of his own, in a city that never knew it had need of such a thing, starting over with an unlikely new crew and his old school criminal code.

This includes Tyson (Jay Will), the taxi driver who picks him up at the airport and then becomes Dwight’s driver and the first member of the Manfredi syndicate. Also present is Lawrence “Bodhi” Geigerman, played by Martin Starr (Silicon Valley), who owns the local weed shop. It seems like a logical place for Dwight to begin, even though marijuana is legal now.  There’s some hotness with Mitch (Garrett Hedlund), ex-rodeo cowboy and bar owner, and a hint of romance with the rich divorced owner of a local ranch as well as – of all things – an ATF agent. Plus drama with the mob as well as Dwight’s estranged daughter.

Stallone’s previous television credits include early pre-fame work, hosting or playing himself. He’s more enjoyable in this series than you might expect, and quite the funny guy. And he does’t look as short as he is.

Tulsa King is exec-produced by Oscar-nominated creator Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone et al) and Oscar-nominated co-writer Terence Winter (The Sopranos, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Boardwalk Empire), so its street cred is impeccable. It was nominated for two 2023 Critics Choice Super Awards – Best Action Series and Best Actor in an Action Series (Stallone) – as well an Emmy for its stunt coordination. It’s been renewed for a second season.

Crossroads (later known as Crossroads Motel and Crossroads King’s Oak) was a British television soap opera that ran on ITV over two periods – the original 1964 to 1988 run, followed by a short revival from 2001 to 2003. Long story short, Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) used council money and her late husband Charles’s insurance, to convert their large Georgian home into a motel.

Born in 1919 (like my granny), Noele – Nolly to her friends – was credited as the first woman to be seen on colour television sets, as she took part, as a teenager, in John Logie Baird’s world’s first colour transmission on 3 July 1928, so that’s quite something. However, it is Crossroads for which she will be remembered. Two-time Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown, The King’s Speech) stars in Nolly (binge now, it’s just three episodes), the new series from BAFTA winner Russell T Davies (It’S A Sin, Years And Years, A Very English Scandal).

Nolly was quite the character it seems, controlling everything on Crossroads. But then suddenly she is fired for no apparent reason – none that anyone will say anyway. Everyone, from her fellow cast and crew to the legions of fans and the media wants to know why. Nolly doesn’t know. She does find out eventually, and it’s a testament to how women were perceived and treated in the television industry – and in general, really – in those days. Sometimes even now.

Directed by BAFTA winner Peter Hoar (The Last Of Us, It’S A Sin, The Umbrella Academy), the series has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Guardian saying, “Helena Bonham Carter is brilliantly camp in Russell T Davies’s impeccable drama… It’s a joy to watch this warm, thoughtful tribute to soaps, fabulous older women – and showbiz itself.”

The Watergate scandal remains topical and enticing for filmmakers and television producers, but I really wish modern news outlets would stop adding “gate” to every other scandal; the Watergate Office Building was an actual place, not a catchy phrase for what transpired. Anyway.

White House Plumbers (available from 11 September) tells the true story of how Richard Nixon’s own political saboteurs and Watergate masterminds accidentally toppled the presidency they were trying to protect. I’ll watch triple-Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (True Detective, Triangle Of Sadness) in anything, even his rubbish (this is not rubbish). He stars as CIA officer E Howard Hunt, with Emmy winner Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) as White House lawyer G G Gordon Liddy, who seems to have been quite the character. For another perspective, watch Gaslit (also on Showmax), starring Julia Roberts and an unrecognisable Sean Penn. Shea Whigham plays Liddy in that one.

Daily Telegraph (UK) says, “Americans may find it depressing – but for everyone else, it is a period hoot begging to be binged.” I concur.

White House Plumbers dominated the nominations in the Supporting Actress category at this year’s Hollywood Critics Association Awards, with Judy Greer (Leah Askey in The Thing About Pam, Ant-Man’s Maggie Lang, Karen in Halloween and Halloween Kills, Karen in Jurassic World), multiple-Emmy nominee Lena Headey (Game Of Thrones’ Cersei Lannister) and Oscar nominee Kathleen Turner (The Kominsky Method) all vying for the award.

Season two of Perry Mason is up on September 11 too, with reluctant private investigator Perry Mason (Emmy winner Matthew Rhys from The Americans) now an attorney, defending two Mexican brothers accused of the brutal murder of the son of a powerful oil family.

To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of detail so this info from Showmax has to help me out, with this accurate account: “Up for 2023 Emmys for its 1930s era production design and costumes, S2 of Perry Mason has an 84% critics’ rating onRotten Tomatoes, with ABC News hailing the HBO series as ‘haunting and hypnotic.’ They even compare it to the film noir classic Chinatown. ‘Yup, it’s that good, they say.”

Great cast – Juliet Rylance (The Knick) and Chris Chalk (When They See Us, 12 Years A Slave) are back as Della Street and beat cop Paul Drake, while new cast this season include Oscar nominees Paul Raci (Joe in Sound Of Metal) and Sean Astin (Bob Newby in Stranger Things, Samwise Gamgee in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy), Emmy nominee Hope Davis (Succession’s Sandi Furness, Sandy Borden in Asteroid City, Gina Baxter in Your Honor), and Teen Choice nominee Katherine Waterston (Tina in the Fantastic Beasts movies, Daniels in Alien: Covenant).

And would you look at that? Shea Whigham is in it too, as a not too honest cop. TV veterans will remember him as Elias “Eli” Thompson in Boardwalk Empire, where he played a similar part.

The Suspect is typical British crime drama; it arrives on 15 September. My memory is hazy on this one too but I know I did watch the whole thing so it must be good. With so much choice these days, if it doesn’t keep me interested and off my phone, it must go.

Empire Award winner Aidan Turner (aka Ross in Poldark, Kili in The Hobbit trilogy, and Glenn Lapthorn in Fifteen-Love) stars as clinical psychologist Dr Joseph O’Loughlin, with the perfect life… “Until the body of a young woman is found in a shallow grave in a West London cemetery, and veteran police officer Vince Ruiz (BAFTA nominee Shaun Parkes from Small Axe) and his young partner Riya Devi (Anjli Mohindra from Vigil) call on Joe’s expertise to help them understand her disturbing death. But it soon emerges that Joe is closer to the case than anyone imagined.” And yes, he lies about it, so did he or didn’t he?

The first Yellowstone origin story comes to Showmax this month, on the 18th. It’s called 1883, and set in the aftermath of the Civil War. It follows the Dutton family as they flee poverty on a journey west through the Great Plains towards the last bastion of untamed America. While Yellowstone is Neo-Western modern cowboys and native Americans, this is the old fashioned kind.

Grammy-winning country music stars (and real-life couple) Faith Hill and Tim McGraw play Margaret and James Dutton, and there are guest appearances (cameos) from Oscar winners Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Hanks. Wait, what? How did I miss them? Gosh darnit, now I have to go back and watch again. Never mind…I googled (both in episode two).

Oscar nominee Sam Elliott (The Contender, A Star Is Born, The Hero) won a 2023 Screen Actors Guild Award as wiry cowboy Shea Brennan. There are fan theories that Shea is a relative of Lloyd Pierce (Forrie J Smith), the old timer ranch hand from Yellowstone. They point to similarities in their appearance and mannerisms as clues to a possible link. There’s also the fact that they are both the oldest (but arguably most capable) men in their respective positions. Possible? No? Either way, they are wonderful characters and I love them both.

The star and narrator is Elsa Dutton (Isabel May, pictured), James and Margaret’s feisty daughter, destined for great love and – as is so often the case – great heartbreak. 1883 was nominated for three Emmys last year – one for its musical score and two for its cinematography, which is breathtaking.

Season two of Avenue 5 will be online on 25 September. Silly fun, starring 10-time Emmy nominee Hugh Laurie (House M.D.) as Captain Clark: “His space cruise ship has been thrown off course, making its eight-week scenic flip around Saturn a life-threatening, years-long journey back home to Earth.

“As the season begins, Avenue 5 is on course for a close encounter with the sun, while Clark is still trying to work up the courage to tell his passengers the truth about their ‘adjusted’ ETA. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Judd Mission Control is under threat, and a planned rescue mission drums up less support than a TV dramatisation of the events aboard the ship.

“From Oscar-nominated creator Armando Iannucci (Veep), Avenue 5’s season two has an 89% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Decider praising the show’s ‘manic absurdity’ and ‘stream of jokes hurling along at roughly the speed of light’.”

  • If like me, you’re waiting for all the episodes to drop, Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty season two will be available to binge from 18 September.
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