IT’S just as well season five of The Handmaid’s Tale only arrives on Showmax on September 15, because that will give you time to binge some of the international series that are already available to stream.
I’ve had a conflicted relationship with The Handmaid’s Tale since season one. There are episodes when barely anything has happened. I have slept through them, played on my phone through them, and never felt like I’d missed anything important. However, I cannot not watch, as much as I tear at my hair every time June goes back to Gilead. I’m not sure what that says about the series, or me, but I think it’s a good thing.
For now, if necessary, catch up with the previous four seasons of the adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel, the story of life in the dystopia of Gilead, a totalitarian society in what was formerly the United States, where the few fertile women, known as Handmaids, struggle to survive as reproductive surrogates. Government sanctioned rape is what it is.
In season five, June (Elisabeth Moss, featured image) faces consequences for killing Commander Waterford (Joseph Feinnes), while struggling to redefine her identity and purpose. The widowed (evil) Serena (Yvonne Strahovski, pictured) attempts to raise her profile in Toronto as Gilead’s influence creeps into Canada. Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) works with Nick (Max Minghella) and Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) as he tries to reform Gilead and rise in power. June, Luke (OT Fagbenele) and Moira (Samira Wiley) fight Gilead from a distance as they continue their mission to save and reunite with Hannah (Jordana Blake), Luke and June’s daughter.
The show’s 15 Emmy Awards include wins for Moss, Dowd, Whitford, and Wiley, with nominations for Strahovski, Minghella, Fagbenle, and Madeline Brewer, all of whom return for the new season.
Right. Let’s have a look at what on now. Pretty Little Liars; Original Sin. Not my vibe, but this is what they say: “Twenty years ago, a series of tragic events almost ripped Millwood apart. Now, in the present day, a brand-new set of Little Liars finds themselves tormented by an unknown assailant, known only as ‘A’.
“HBO Max’s Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin revives the hit teen franchise with an eerie new setting, a sharp left into the horror that the original 2010s hit series took its time coming around to, and an all-new line-up of teens we can’t wait to meet (with the bonus of a literal Karen we can’t wait to hate).
“The ensemble cast includes a host of fresh faces, along with Critics Choice Award nominee Bailee Madison (Good Witch, Brothers) as Imogen, Chandler Kinney (Lethal Weapon the series) as Tabby, and Mallory Bechtel (Hereditary) as the Beasley twins, mean-girl Karen and her sister, Kelly. Singer and YouTuber Alex Aiono (Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.), and award winner Eric Johnson (Smallville, The Knick) are among the support cast.
“Created by Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’s Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lindsay Calhoun Bring, the slasher series has an 88% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Daily Beast headlining, ‘Believe It or Not, Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin Is the Next Great Teen Drama.’ As Decider says, ‘It’s The Breakfast Club meets Scream, and it’s a breezy blast that’s perfect for summer.'”
Well, when they put it like that, it looks like it’s worth a watch even if you’re not in the teen demographic. Widen those viewing horizons, I always say.
The biographical drama series The Offer is inspired by Oscar-winning producer Albert S Ruddy’s never-before-revealed experiences of making the 1972 smash-hit gangster classic The Godfather, and is everything I love in a series – it’s set between New York and Hollywood in the 1970s, it has the Mafia, it’s about making a movie, and that movie is one of the greatest of all time. The book is appalling though. I read it fairly recently and I wanted to throw up many times; the writing is abysmal and the sex scenes are horrendous. Anyway. The Offer is brilliant and I enjoyed every moment of the 10 episodes.
“Godfather cultists, and we are legion, will find the entire 10-part dramatic series – presented by the studio that almost didn’t make the movie – not just impossible to refuse, but nerve-racking,” says Wall Street Journal. BAFTA nominee Miles Teller (Top Gun: Maverick, pictured) stars as Ruddy, alongside Emmy nominees Matthew Goode (A Discovery of Witches, Downton Abbey), Juno Temple (Ted Lasso’s Keeley Jones), Giovanni Ribisi (Parker Selfridge in the Avatar films, but I always remember him from Friends and if you do too, you will go “oh my word, look at him now!” but that is also hair and makeup departments at work, he’s only 47), Tom Hanks’s son, Colin (Fargo), and Dan Fogler (The Walking Dead, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). Look out for People’s Choice winner Justin Chambers (Grey’s Anatomy’s Dr Alex Karev) as Marlon Brando, and Frank John Hughes (The Sopranos’ Walden Belfiore) as Frank Sinatra. But look carefully; I don’t think either of them really look like who they are playing.
We Own This City was co-created by David Simon (The Wire – still “the greatest TV series of the 21st Century”, according to a 2021 BBC Culture Critics’ poll) and George Pelecanos (Simon’s co-creator on The Deuce) – impeccable credentials – this series chronicles the rise and fall of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force and the corruption and moral collapse that befell an American city in which the policies of drug prohibition and mass arrest were championed at the expense of actual police work.
Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green (King Richard), the six-part series stars BAFTA-nominated Nigerian actress Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country, Loki), Screen Actors Guild Award nominee Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, pictured) and Emmy nominee Josh Charles (The Good Wife), alongside a number of alumni from The Wire, including Jamie Hector, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Domenick Lombardozzi, Trey Chaney, Delaney Williams, Jermaine Crawford, Anwan Glover, Chris Clanton, Nathan Corbett, Maria Broom, Susan Rome and Michael Salconi.
Adapted from Justin Fenton’s non-fiction book of the same name, We Own This City has a 93% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the critics’ consensus calling it “a spiritual successor to The Wire”. Requires concentration, but worth the effort.
Ah George Carlin. What a guy. Regarded as one of the most important and influential stand-up comedians of all time, his counter-culture comedy lives on. Besides that, he was so darn clever. And right about so many things. The two-part HBO documentary George Carlin’s American Dream is nominated for five Emmys this year, including Best Documentary Special and Directing (Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio, legends themselves). I think I’ll watch this tonight.
Described by Stephen Colbert as “the Beatles of comedy”, Carlin’s fearless comedy spanned five decades, including 14 HBO comedy specials and more than 130 appearances on The Tonight Show, until his death in 2008. The documentary chronicles the life and work of the legendary comedian; it opens an intimate window into Carlin’s personal life, and includes both material from his stand-up specials and footage from his personal archive, as well as interviews with Carlin’s family, friends, and the people he inspired – legends like Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Patton Oswalt, Bette Midler, W. Kamau Bell, and Jon Stewart.
George Carlin’s American Dream holds a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus calls it, “an exhaustive and revealing retrospective on the beloved comedian’s career that ought to be mandatory viewing for standup fans.”
Based on Michael Connelly’s 2014 novel The Burning Room, the seventh and final season of Bosch sees Harry Bosch (People’s Choice Award winner Titus Welliver, Sons Of Anarchy, pictured) investigating the death of a 10-year-old girl in a fire caused by arson. Risking everything to bring her killer to justice despite opposition from powerful forces, Bosch must make good on his credo: “Everybody counts or nobody counts”.
Well, having just learned from that paragraph that it was the final season, which is only eight episodes and I watched them all yesterday, has just ruined my day. That’s how it ends? I object most strenuously.
Elsewhere, Detective Jerry Edgar is falling apart as he grapples with the consequences of shooting Jacques Avril in season six, while Maddie assists attorney Honey Chandler on a high-profile case that draws Bosch in and puts them in the crosshairs of dangerous criminals.
Season seven has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Lance Reddick (John Wick) and Madison Lintz (The Walking Dead) returning in their Saturn Award-nominated roles as Irvin Irving and Maddie Bosch respectively, along with Emmy nominee Mimi Rogers (Captive) as Honey Chandler, and Black Reel nominee Jamie Hector (We Own This City, The Wire) as J Edgar.
Moving on to later in the month, from September 15 you can watch The Staircase, for which Oscar winner Colin Firth and Oscar nominee Toni Collette (both pictured below) are nominated for Outstanding Actress and Actor in a Limited Series at this year’s Emmys for the biographical drama series. The Emmys will be presented on September 13.
Inspired by a true story, the eight-part series explores the life of Michael Peterson, a crime novelist accused of killing his wife Kathleen after she is found dead at the bottom of the staircase in their home, and the 16-year judicial battle that followed. It’s a gripping story, and you’ll change your mind several times along the way as to whether Michael had anything to do with Kathleen’s death or not. If you don’t know the (true) story, don’t Google it; it’s much more enjoyable to go in cold, so to speak.
The star-studded cast includes Emmy nominees Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones) and Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire), Oscar winner Juliette Binoche (Chocolat, and another “wow, look at her now” moment), Teen Choice nominee Patrick Schwarzenegger (Midnight Sun, yes he’s their son), MTV Movie & TV Award nominee Parker Posey (Scream 3), and Olivia DeJonge (Priscilla in Elvis).
Last but not least, season two of Industry lands on September 23. I found this one by chance some months ago in the “people also watched” tips and was immediately hooked. Created by former bankers Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, Industry follows new bankers Harper (Myha’la Herrold, pictured), Yasmin (Marisa Abela) and Robert (Harry Lawtey) as they forge their identities within the sex- and drug-fuelled pressure cooker environment of Pierpoint & Co’s London office. Lots of sex and drugs. Like really lots. I cannot overstate it.
In season two, they can no longer hide behind their graduate status. The market is ripping and Pierpoint’s back-to-work-or-else mandate has the post-Covid trading floor more charged up and paranoid than ever. New US management will be gasoline (we see what they did there…) on the flames – an injection of cross-Atlantic energy that lights a fire under each and every employee. Definitely something to look forward to when you’re nursing pre-payday blues.
Rated 18LSDN, season one won casting and cinematography awards from The Royal Television Society Awards in 2021 and earned five-star reviews in places like The Guardian and The Independent, who hailed it as, “A millennial Mad Men with plenty of swagger… the kind of thrillingly fresh series that only comes along once every few years, a drama that makes its rivals look tired and uninspired….” As Vanity Fair put it, it’s like “the missing link between Euphoria and Succession.”