In the past few weeks, well before the fall TV season normally begins, we’ve been overwhelmed with information and hype about a prequel to Game of Thrones and a new addition to The Lord of the Rings canon. Some of us are a tad detached from that; all the flying dragons, the pyrotechnics and flash, and the machinations in Middle-earth’s Second Age, whatever that is.
There is value too in fiction that’s anchored in familiar emotions: sadness, mortality, melancholy, mischief and vulnerability. Throw in a kooky, rather lurid British crime drama and, yes, there is an existing menu of strong, compelling recent series.
Bad Sisters (streams AppleTV+) is a dark, dry comedy about a gaggle of Irish sisters, the Garveys, who set out to rid themselves and the world of one John Paul Williams (Danish actor Claes Bang) who is married to one of the clan. He’s a controlling, smarmy twerp, as smug as all get-out. The series operates smoothly in two timelines. In one, John Paul is already dead and a slightly desperate insurance agent, Thomas (Brian Gleeson), is poking around looking for reasons not to pay out the death policy. In the other timeline, the sisters are plotting to kill John Paul.
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The actors playing the sisters are brilliant at summoning the camaraderie and wit of women bound together for life. Sharon Horgan (who adapted this from the Belgian series Clan and set it near Dublin) is Eve, the matriarch fiercely protective of her sisters, especially Grace (Anne-Marie Duff), who is married to the awful John Paul. Funny, intelligent, both scathing and congenial, it’s marvellously inventive. Five of 10 episodes available now, the rest arriving weekly.
Fakes (streams CBC Gem) might be called the anti-Euphoria. Based on a true story and set in Vancouver (outside of Canada it’s on Netflix), it opens with the statement: “Some of this actually happened. But, like, legally, we made it up.” It’s about two teenagers, best friends Zoe Christensen (Emilija Baranac) and Rebecca Li (Jennifer Tong), who managed to build one of the largest fake-ID rings in North America.
It didn’t end well for one of them, and both characters address the camera attempting to get the viewer onside with their version of the story. Going backward from the opening, where both are rich and wearing designer clothes, but only one is very drunk and stoned, it’s a wild ride from a teenager’s lark to a rather big crime empire. Smart and very engaging, it provides a novel spin on high-school life. Ten half-hour episodes available now.
Mo (streams Netflix) is the low-key but brilliant creation of comedian Mohammed (Mo) Amer, known for his two Netflix specials, Mo Amer: The Vagabond and Mo Amer: Mohammed in Texas. Here he’s playing a version of himself: a Palestinian immigrant who came to the U.S. (to Texas, specifically Houston) as a kid aged 9, with his mother and two siblings, and he’s still waiting to get official immigration status decades later.
So, he hustles, doing odd jobs, selling stuff from his car and trying to avoid the authorities, represented by ICE agents. He’s trying to fit in to both Latino and Black cultures, protect his family and occasionally have fun. There’s a warmth here that is unmatched anywhere right now, as we watch this wisecracking teddy bear of a man navigate life in legal limbo. One season of eight half-hour episodes available now.
We Hunt Together (streams Crave) is the kooky crime drama on this list. A strange, beautiful and oddly made British crime drama, it’s a cat-and-mouse thriller with a peculiar, lush and lurid atmosphere, best described as “psychosexual.” Baba (Dipo Ola), a guy who works taking care of the toilets at a nightclub while awaiting refugee status in Britain, meets Freddy (Hermione Corfield), a sex worker and woman with both a wicked sense of humour and a sexual allure that transfixes him. Together, they set out on a series of revenge murders.
Meanwhile, two bickering detectives investigate. They are Jackson Mendy (Babou Ceesay, who is wonderful), a cheerful, philosophic fella, and Lola Franks (Eve Myles), a cynic as introverted as Jackson is outgoing. Two mismatched duos are played off against each other in a storyline as baroque as it is bluntly sensual. It can seem hare-brained but the wickedly sly script usually saves it from crashing. Two seasons of six hour-long episodes available now.
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