“We’ll get through this if we don’t panic.” Ah yes, the famous last words of the under-pressure conspirators in some criminal matter. Who will panic first, who will crack, and what if the police figure out what’s going on? There have been many crime dramas anchored in the premise of a secret kept among a small group. Think of the well-off mothers and wives in Big Little Lies keeping their secrets. Remember that I Know What You Did Last Summer is back, rebooted as a TV series.
The Pact (Sunday, Super Channel, 9 p.m. and Super Channel on Demand) seems to fit right into the familiar format, but this isn’t set among the rich in a California town, or among cool, rich twentysomethings in Hawaii. Here the main characters work on the line at a brewery in South Wales.
In what is a nifty, down-to-earth thriller the inciting incident is emphatically ordinary. Four women, close friends, work at the brewery and their boss Jack Evans (Aneurin Barnard), son of the owner, is an arrogant young misogynist with a cocaine habit. He gets particularly nasty at a workplace party. Then he collapses outside, drunk. One of the women has an idea. She and her friends plonk Jack in her car, deposit him in nearby woods and take photos of him passed out, with his pants around his ankles. They plan to post the pics online and humiliate him. But soon, two of the gang feel remorse and go back to the woods to retrieve him. Turns out, he’s now dead.
They make a pact to keep secret their involvement. Hence, “We’ll get through this if we don’t panic.” But by the end of the first episode, they know that someone else knows about their actions. In Episode 2 (there are six), they watch as their young colleague Mandy (Sophie Melville), whom they loathe because she had sex with Jack to get a promotion, is revealed to be the No. 1 suspect for the police. Will they let innocent Mandy take the blame? They really do hate her, her youth and her looks. One of them calls her “Covid Mandy” because “the only thing she’s ever been good at is infecting people.” Ouch.
The pull here is the kitchen-sink drama aspect. There isn’t an ounce of glamour. (The writer/creator is Pete McTighe, main writer of the Australian cult-hit prison drama Wentworth.)
The gang-of-four include Anna (Laura Fraser), a mom marred to a local police officer, Louie (Eiry Thomas), who is Jack’s aunt but hates him, and Nancy (Julie Hesmondhalgh) who is older than the others and doesn’t want her hard-earned small comforts ruined. The fourth woman, Cat (Heledd Gwynn), recently did time in prison. They could be characters from Coronation Street. (Julie Hesmondhalgh was on Corrie for years.) They’re ordinary, put-upon women in an outlandish, out of-control drama they created themselves.
There are plenty of cliff-hangers and twists to keep you guessing in this very solid British mystery, but the true pleasure is in watching these unremarkable women, who live humdrum lives, try to extract themselves from a very anxiety-inducing nightmare.
Also airing/streaming this weekend
Invasion (streams on Apple TV+ from Friday) is, unsurprisingly, about an alien invasion of earth. What little that can be said in advance, with embargoes in mind, is very positive. It’s a slow-burner, but eventually explosive. We meet various people in various parts of the world – a curmudgeon sheriff in the U.S. Midwest (Sam Neill), a woman in the Middle East with a cheating husband, a tech expert in Japan – and follow their experiences as aliens gradually wreak havoc.
Fake Famous (Sunday, HBO, 7:30 p.m., streams on Crave) is a repeat, but a must-see if you missed it. A doc about Instagram fame, made by first-timer Nick Bilton, a former tech journalist, it amounts to an experiment. But, really, it’s a kind of dare. Can Bilton and a small team find three unknowns and make them very famous via Instagram? Can he make them seem like big-shot influencers who get paid to peddle products and get lots of free stuff? What happens features some surprisingly bittersweet insights into what Instagram fame means – it’s like being a toddler all the time and getting constant attention and love – and what is soul-destroying about it.
Finally, Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sunday, HBO, 10:30 p.m., streams on Crave) is back. It’s set in a post-pandemic world that Larry David says, is “Very chaotic, and I cause a lot of problems for people.” Same as it ever was.
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