YOU can’t get more topical right now than AI. Is it good or is it evil? Will it take over the world and crush humans? Can it be used for more than break up texts and cats depicted as Marvel superheroes? The eponymous Mrs Davis is the world’s most powerful Artificial Intelligence. Simone is the nun devoted to destroying her. The first two episodes of Mrs. Davis are on Showmax right now, with weekly episodes to follow.
Co-created by three-time Emmy winner Damon Lindelof (Watchmen, The Leftovers, Lost) and writer Tara Hernandez (The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon), Mrs. Davis stars Critics Choice Super Award winner and three-time Emmy nominee Betty Gilpin (Glow) opposite the likes of Jake McDorman (Limitless), Andy McQueen (Station Eleven, Outer Banks), David Arquette (Dewey Riley in the Scream movies), Tom Wlaschiha (Stranger Things, Game Of Thrones), Elizabeth Marvel (Love & Death, The Dropout) and triple-Emmy winner Margo Martindale (The Americans).
The Peacock Original is at #19 on Rotten Tomatoes’ Best TV Shows of the Year (So Far), with a 91% critics’ rating. The Hollywood Reporter calls it “a mind-bending thrill ride… bracingly, deliriously original… Mrs. Davis could never be mistaken for something engineered by computers, or even by committee. No, this feels like the work of people determined to show what they can do that algorithms still can’t: take all those storytelling tropes we’ve heard a hundred times before, and find a way to refashion them into something daring, ambitious and entirely new.”
Episode one of HBO’s The Idol is up now (to follow weekly on Mondays). You’re going to have to make up your own mind about this, although I suspect it will draw audiences purely for the controversy surrounding it. That, and that it stars Lily-Rose Depp, and is co-created and co-written by Emmy-nominated director Sam Levinson (Euphoria), Oscar nominee and Grammy winner Abel “The Weeknd” Tesfaye (who also co-stars). After its Cannes premiere, Variety’s headline screamed “The Idol Scandalizes Cannes With Five-Minute Standing Ovation for Lily-Rose Depp’s Masturbating Pop Star, Explicit Nudity and the Weeknd’s TV Acting Debut”. The Guardian ponders: “It’s undeniably seedy – but is the show a ‘toxic man’s fantasy’, as critics have said? Or is it a candid look at sex today?”
After a nervous breakdown derailed her last tour, Jocelyn (Lily-Rose Depp, who sings the songs herself) is determined to claim her rightful status as the greatest and sexiest pop star in America. Her passions are reignited by self-help guru and cult leader Tedros (Tesfaye). Will her romantic awakening take her to glorious new heights or the deepest and darkest depths of her soul?
Saying the “controversial new show shocks and awes”, Mashable calls The Idol “an electric charge of a series… a raucous, engrossing ride on an industry nightmare train bound to careen off a cliff… The way it captures the sickness of the fame machine will stay with you long after the credits roll… a surprisingly nuanced, well rounded, and deliciously bold take on the cost of fame and the drive for greatness.”
South African-born pop star Troye Sivan co-stars. Since his first, SAFTA-nominated lead role, as John “Spud” Milton in the Spud trilogy, Sivan’s career has exploded, with over 18m listeners a month on Spotify, nearly eight million YouTube subscribers, MTV Europe Music Award and GLAAD Awards, and a Golden Globe nomination.
Also look out for Ghanaian-American singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, Emmy winners Dan Levy (Schitt’s Creek), and Hank Azaria (multiple voices in The Simpsons), Black Reel winner Da’Vine Joy Randolph (Only Murders in the Building), Emmy nominee Jane Adams (Hacks), 2023 MTV Movie + TV Awards breakthrough performance nominee Rachel Sennott (Bodies Bodies Bodies) and the late Anne Heche, in one of her last onscreen roles.
Line of Duty star Vicky McClure was nominated for a 2023 BAFTA Award for Best Actress in the psychological thriller Without Sin, which follows the relationship between a grieving mother and the man she believes murdered her daughter. Binge it now. In its 4/5-star review, the Guardian calls it “a top-notch conspiracy drama,” saying, “Vicky McClure is fantastic in this heavyweight thriller.” Dorothy Atkinson (Harlots, Pennyworth) and BAFTA nominee Johnny Harris (Great Expectations) co-star.
Definitely on my list is season three of the hilarious The Righteous Gemstones (two episodes on the 19th, weekly thereafter). The comedy series tells the story of a world-famous televangelist family with a long tradition of deviance, greed, and charitable work. When the spoiled Gemstone children finally get their wish to take control of the church, they discover leadership is harder than they imagined and that their extravagant lifestyle comes with a heavy price.
Emmy nominee Steve Zahn (The White Lotus) and Emmy winner Kristen Johnston (Mom, 3rd Rock From The Sun) join the cast this season. Danny McBride (who also created, wrote and executive produces), MTV Movie Award and Teen Choice Award winner Adam Devine, Edi Patterson, Skyler Gisondo, Emmy winner John Goodman and Emmy nominee Walton Goggins all return to what Collider hails as “one of the greatest ensembles in comedic television.”
Nominated for a 2022 Emmy Award for its Stunt Coordination (what?), The Righteous Gemstones season two has an 80% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus calls it “uproariously funny.” Slate proclaims the series “the funniest one currently on air” and Indiewire sings the show’s praises for “elevating the laughs to heavenly heights.”
Season three of Warrior arrives on June 30, and even though it’s not on my personal watch list, it’s highlighted here because it was filmed in Cape Town, has South African cast members, and was nominated for two Emmys as well as Best Action Series at the Critics Choice Super Awards. The HBO series was created by Jonathan Tropper (Banshee) and based on the writings of martial arts icon Bruce Lee, with Bruce Lee’s daughter Shannon Lee and Justin Lin (director of five Fast and Furious films) among its executive producers.
Hailed by Inverse as “the most underrated action series of the century,” Warrior is set in the ruthless world of late 19th-Century San Francisco, where rival Chinatown tongs fight for dominance. In the wake of the race riots that upended Chinatown in Season 2, Mai Ling (Dianne Doan from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Descendants) uses her government connections to consolidate power, while Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji from Bullet Train, in a Critics Choice Super-nominated performance) and the Hop Wei tong must find new ways to survive.
Mark Dacascos (John Wick: Chapter 3) joins the cast this season as former gang leader Kong Pak, as do a number of South Africans, including former Idols presenter Colin Moss as mayoral candidate Franklin Thayer (hey Colin!), Neels Classen (Binnelanders, Kompleks) as the city’s new chief of police, Benjamin Atwood, and Sean-Marco Vorster (Alles Malan, Legacy) as San Francisco political insider Stewart Gumm. SAFTA nominee Robert Hobbs (The Girl from St. Agnes, District 9) and Andre Jacobs (Black Sails) return in their roles as Stone and Merriweather respectively.
Coming up at the end of the month is Witness Number 3 (June 30), described as a claustrophobic British psychological thriller. It follows Jodie (Nina Toussaint-White), who is setting up early one morning at her hairdressing salon when she glances out of the window and in a split second witnesses a killer and his victim moments before a murder. Her statement could make all the difference, but at what cost?
To fill the time until then, check out Love & Death, based on the-crazy-but-real-story of Texas housewife Candace “Candy” Lynn Montgomery, whose extramarital affair with fellow church member Allan Gore ended in the murder of her lover’s wife, Betty Gore, in Wylie, Texas, on 13 June 1980. During the assault, Betty was struck 41 times with a wood-splitting axe, leaving local authorities to investigate one of the most gory, disturbing cases in the state’s history.
Love & Death stars Emmy nominee Elizabeth Olsen (Marvel Universe) and Oscar nominee Jesse Plemons (Black Mirror) and is created by multiple-Emmy winner David E Kelley (Big Little Lies). Also on DStv Catch up until June 23.
You can also binge the third and final season of The L Word: Generation Q; GLAAD winner and Golden Globe nominee Jennifer Beals returns in the iconic role she reprised from the original series as Bette Porter-Kennard. If you’ve been wondering about the Tibette endgame, Laurel Holloman (who won a Satellite Award for her role in the original L Word) is back as Bette’s ex-wife Tina Kennard, after Bette sabotaged her engagement to Carrie Walsh (Emmy winner Rosie O’Donnell) last season. Then again, Emmy nominee Vanessa Estelle Williams is also back as Pippa, so don’t place your bets just yet.
Kate Moennig (Ray Donovan), who plays Shane (every straight woman’s crush), and Leisha Hailey, who plays Alice, both make their directorial debuts this season, helming the penultimate episode and finale respectively. Also look out for guest stars like Golden Globe nominee Joey Lauren Adams (Chasing Amy), Emmy nominee Margaret Cho (The Flight Attendant), singer Fletcher, Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner Joanna Cassidy, and Grammy nominee Kehlani.
The L Word: Generation Q was up for Best TV Drama at this year’s Queerties, having been nominated for Best TV Series and TV Performance (Leo Sheng) in 2020. It was also nominated for Outstanding Drama Series at the GLAAD Media Awards in both 2020 and 2022.
And for something completely different (for my highlights anyway, but I’ve such a nostalgic soft spot for surfing, my teen years spent reading Zig Zag magazine and following blond boyfriends to the beach, and a picture of a glassy tube will still make me catch my breath to this day even if the boyfriends are long forgotten) – 100 Foot Wave. Big-wave surfing pioneer Garrett McNamara, his surfing peers, and some surprising newcomers continue to push the boundaries of their sport and the limits of their minds and bodies in season two of the critically acclaimed HBO documentary series.
Season one won Outstanding Cinematography at the 2022 Emmys, where it was also up for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series. It won a Producers Guild of America Award for Outstanding Sports Program and was nominated for a Cinema Eye Honours Award for its cinematography.
The series has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with LA Weekly calling the series “a wild ride… both maddening and captivating to watch.”