IIf you are reading this, congratulations: you have almost survived the great docudrama storming spring 2022. And while that outpouring produced some interesting television, Hulu stars from the past month The stall and Plainville’s daughter for david simonis not official Thread after, We own this town, most of my favorite new April shows strayed a little further from the confines of reality. Below you’ll find a dreamy teen romance, a sci-fi puzzle thriller, a bloodthirsty baby horror-comedy and more.
The baby (HBO)
In the first episode of this British horror comedy, 38-year-old protagonist Natasha or Tash (Michelle de Swarte) goes after a friend, who dared to bring her baby to a poker night, and offends another by responding to this woman’s pregnancy news with an abortion joke. A few scenes later, while Tash is smoking on a beach at night, a woman falls from a high cliff and dies a few feet away from her. Then, an adorable baby falls into her arms. Hey, do you think the universe could send her a message about motherhood?
The baby is not subtle. It’s not polite. It is sometimes extremely silly. And its unusual juxtaposition of a darling little boy and heaps of bloody gory violence is sure not going to appeal to everyone. But if you can live with all of the above, it’s more than fun – it’s also a lot smarter and more challenging than most of the shows getting all the attention this month. [Read the full review.]
Heart stroke (Netflix)
It’s hard to be a human in the year 2022, and so we all need our little treats. Mine last month was Heart stroke. Adapted by 27-year-old British YA sensation Alice Oseman from her comic of the same name, the eight-episode series follows Charlie (Joe Locke), a sweet and self-effacing gay teenage outcast, as he falls for his new office mate, Nick (Kit Connor), a surprisingly nice and seemingly straight rugby player who seems to be Prince Harry’s little cousin. It’s obvious from the very first scene where this story heads, but – as with all the best teen romances – delayed gratification is the point. There’s plenty to enjoy in the meantime, from a cast of endearing young characters who cross the LGBTQ spectrum to lively flourishes that recreate comic book intimacy. (When Charlie’s hand brushes Nick’s, pastel sparkles and lightning fly.)
Even with the inclusion of realistic antagonists among the homophobic jocks on Nick’s team, the show is undeniably twee. The soundtrack is all shimmering indie-pop, kids debate the merits of movies like Donnie Darko and most of the action takes place in the corridors of two single-sex English secondary schools where everyone wears uniform. If this kind of thing gives you a toothache, Heart stroke Probably isn’t the comfort binge for you. But if that sounds like your brand of escapism, then you’ll definitely enjoy this sweet show populated by queer and trans high schoolers whose parents love them dearly. Speaking of which: yes, it really is. Olivia Colman appearing in every few episodes to play Nick’s doting mom.
The Outlaws (Amazon)
A joint BBC/Amazon project, The Outlaws is a spiritual successor of Orange is the new black and The breakfast club, in that it brings together people who have nothing in common except their shared punishment – and it’s pleasantly aware of that. “Everybody’s a guy,” Rani (Rhianne Barreto), a teenage shoplifter and “good studious Asian girl,” points out at the premiere. “You have your right-wing swagger, your left-wing activist, your celebrity, your sneaky old.” (The latter, fresh out of prison and eager to make amends with his rightly resentful daughter, is played by a surprisingly subdued Christopher Walken.) Rani’s “bad boy” love interest and a nerdy loner round out the crew.
Slowly, in Orange-style flashbacks, everyone’s story comes out. And while it advances the plot with genre-bending vigils like gangsters and moneybags, the show fosters unexpected connections that expand the characters’ understanding of themselves and each other. It may be hokey, but mostly it’s human, merging the experiences of people from different backgrounds without mindlessly assimilating them. [Read the full essay on what makes a great crime show when so many shows are about crime.]
shiny girls (AppleTV+)
When we meet our protagonist Kirby Mazrachi (Elizabeth Moss), she’s a shy Chicago Sun-Times archivist who shares an apartment with his punk-rocker mother (Amy Brenneman) and a cat. Then, without warning, reality shifts. Kirby returns home to find she lives on a different floor of the same building, with a husband (Chris Chalk) whom she only remembers as a co-worker and a dog. Instead of explaining the twist, the show immerses viewers in its disorientation.
What we do know about Kirby is that she was well on her way to becoming a star reporter before she narrowly survived a brutal mugging. It was only after he regained consciousness that the facts of his life began to change. Since then, she’s drifted through a series of realities, which happen without rhyme or apparent reason. When a murder occurs whose details match those of his attack – the assailant leaves items in the bodies of his all-female victims – Kirby teams up with veteran journalist Dan Velazquez (Wagner Moura) to not only catch a killer in serial potential, but also to make sense of what happens to him. [Read the full review.]
We own this town (HBO)
After productive stints in Treme‘s post-Katrina New Orleans and the 1970s NYC The devil, David Simon turned his attention to his greatest muse: Baltimore. But it’s not quite the same city it was in the 90s and early 2000s, when he autopsied its failing criminal justice system in Homicide: life on the streets, The corner and his masterpiece Thread. Corrupt and decaying institutions remain a concern of Simon and his frequent collaborator George Pelecanos in We own this towna Baltimore adaptation Sun Journalist Justin Fenton’s 2021 non-fiction book about the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Tracing Task Force (GTTF). In typical Simonian fashion, the drama centers around a few main characters – the GTTF’s showboating chief, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins (Jon Bernthal) and Nicole Steele (Wunmi Mosaku), a DOJ attorney snooping the city’s halls of power serving police reform efforts, whose actions ripple outward to affect politicians locals, cops from surrounding jurisdictions, and various actors within the Baltimore Criminal Police Department. demimonde, until the cast list swells to include dozens of peripheral characters.
What distinguishes the show from Thread is its rootedness in a contemporary law enforcement environment that responds, both constructively and destructively, to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Under the microscope after Freddie Gray’s gruesome 2015 death in police custody, many officers have overreacted to this scrutiny by simply neglecting to do their job. It gives bad cops who still make arrests, like Daniel Hirsl (Josh Charles), and seemingly successful, covertly corrupt teams like GTTF disproportionate power. Although the characters, based on real people, aren’t as captivating as their Dickensian counterparts in Threadit’s a thorny and fascinating story it begs the question of whether police reform is even possible – and these two creators are exactly the right people to say so. [Read Josiah Bates’ interview with Simon and Pelecanos about We Own This City.]
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