So many series, so little time – Showmax piles on the pressure

Bill Hader in Barry

WOULDN’T it be wonderful – hear me out – if all the streaming platforms just hit the pause button for a bit? Like maybe a month or so, which will give me a bit of breathing space to get through just a few of the series and movies I have piling up on all my various watch lists. I mean, five seasons of Yellowstone, come on! Even Apple TV, which barely has any decent stuff at all, is lurking there in the background with about five series I want to watch – and don’t even get me started on BritBox.

Meanwhile, Showmax hits just keep on coming. As it stands, I’m going to have to rewatch the season three finale of Succession before beginning season four; and Gangs Of London…I possibly recall that being jolly good but can I remember any of it? Pffft, not a thing (poor Peaky Blinders suffered the same fate). So that’s on the rewatch list ahead of season two. How is a person expected to get anywhere?

Still, we soldier on. Succession comes at us with weekly episodes every Monday. Used to be a time I would do my series in weekly doses but I find that so difficult, if not impossible, now; it’s been interesting to see how viewing habits (and my obsessions) have changed over the years I’ve been writing about television. I left The Last Of Us to binge (which just for fun, has an added Making Of title), and maybe I’ll be done with it once the fourth and final season of Succession has loaded.

Created by Oscar nominee Jesse Armstrong (Veep), Succession has already won over 100 awards, including the Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series in both 2020 and 2022. In season four, the sale of Waystar Royco to tech visionary Lukas Matsson (Emmy winner Alexander Skarsgård from Big Little Lies) is looming ever closer. It’s a prospect that provokes existential angst and familial division among the Roys as they anticipate their diminished cultural and political influence once the deal is completed.

Matthew Macfadyen and Jeremy Strong return to their Emmy-winning roles as Tom Wambsgans and Kendall Roy respectively this season, alongside Brian Cox as Logan Roy, Sarah Snook and Kieran Culkin as Roy siblings Shiv and Roman, Nicholas Braun as Greg Hirsch, and J Smith-Cameron as Gerri Kellman – all Emmy-nominated performances.

Binge Irma Vep from tomororow (April 7), the winner of Rotten Tomatoes’ Golden Tomato Award for the best limited series of 2022. It stars Oscar winner Alicia Vikander as Mira, an American movie star disillusioned with her career and recent breakup who travels to France to star as Irma Vep in a remake of the French silent film classic, Les Vampires.

“The Golden Tomato Award here goes to creator Olivier Assayas’ sophisticated entertainment-industry satire that is a remake of his film about a remake,” says Rotten Tomatoes, calling the series “catnip for cinephiles and a welcome spotlight for the spellbinding Alicia Vikander.” Irma Vep has a 95% critics’ rating on the site.

Directed by Cannes and Venice winner Olivier Assayas (Clouds of Sils Maria), the eight-part limited series is based on his 1996 French film of the same name, which starred Maggie Cheung.

In the second season of Gangs of London, arriving on Monday, April 10, a new, darker era of chaos and turbulent power struggles comes to London. One year after the death of Sean Wallace, the surviving Wallaces are scattered, the Dumanis broken and estranged, and ex-undercover cop Elliot Finch (Critics Choice Super nominee Sopé Dìrísù from His House) is now being forced to work for the Investors. As the Investors look down on a city sliding into chaos, they decide enough is enough and bring in reinforcements to restore control. Old favourites and new players fight back against the new order, forcing sworn enemies to work together and family members to betray each other.

Nominated for Best Drama at the BAFTAs and an Emmy for its stunts, Gangs of London is created by Gareth Evans and Matt Flannery (The Raid) and stars BAFTA nominees Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You), and Lucian Msamati (His Dark Materials, Game of Thrones), as well as multi-award winners like Michelle Fairley (Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones). BAFTA nominee Waleed Zuaiter (Baghdad Central, Altered Carbon) joins the cast this season.

Gangs of London has an 85% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In its four-star season two review, The Independent (UK) says, “The series’ pleasures are unchanged by the years: impeccably choreographed fight scenes, quick-twitch pacing, and clever, immersive direction that takes suspense as its watchword.” I really hope its the series I’m thinking of.

In the British true-crime drama Litvinenko (April 17), Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy and Kremlin critic, dies in a London hospital bed, but not before accusing President Vladimir Putin of his murder. I was on the fence initially but ended up enjoying this one.

BAFTA winner David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) stars as Litvinenko, with Margarita Levieva (The Deuce, Adventureland) as his wife, Marina (pictured above).

Directed by BAFTA nominee Jim Field Smith (Truth Seekers, The Wrong Mans) and written by Black Reel nominee George Kay (Lupin), the four-part series also stars the likes of BAFTA nominee Barry Sloane (The Bay, Revenge), BAFTA Scotland winner Mark Bonnar (Shetland, Guilt), Sam Troughton (Mank, Chernobyl) and Simon Paisley Day (This England, Brexit: The Uncivil War).

Den of Geek calls it, “Line of Duty with a Russian twist”… “a bold, powerful, furious statement on high-scale corruption,” and, “an important, relevant drama.”

And finally, fr0m April 24, Barry – also having its fourth and final season. I’m going to wing it with the recap for this one because I think all I need to know for now is that Barry (Bill Hader) was arrested, and Cousineau (Henry Winkler) was behind it. More importantly, NoHo Hank (Anthony Carrigan) was not eaten by wild animals and I’m glad because he is without a doubt the best character in this already excellent pitch dark comedy drama. Fun fact: the character was supposed to die in the pilot but (fr0m the Washington Post) “Even before cameras rolled, Carrigan had ‘everyone on set laughing,’ says executive producer and star Bill Hader, who was also directing his second scene ever. The crew was parroting NoHo Hank’s lines. Hader recalls saying to his co-creator, Alec Berg, ‘We’d be nuts to kill this guy off. He’s just too funny. Why would we get rid of him?’.”

NoHo Hank is the best

Hader has won two Emmys and two Critics Choice Awards as conflicted hitman-turned-actor Barry Berkman, the title character. As his acting coach Gene Cousineau, Winkler has also picked up an Emmy and two Critics Choice Awards. Anthony Carrigan, Sarah Goldberg and Stephen Root return in their Emmy-nominated roles as Noho Hank, Sally and Fuches. Hader directs all episodes this season, with his co-creator, 23-time Emmy nominee Alec Berg (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Silicon Valley), once again co-executive producing.

Barry has won nine Emmys and 50 awards for its first three seasons. Variety hailed Season 3 of Barry as “a masterpiece…funnier and sharper than ever,” with “a remarkable performance by Hader’.” The Daily Beast called it, “the best show on TV,” and L.A. Times, “a masterclass… one of TV’s best suspense-filled thrillers.” All true.

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