To be gently polemical here, what we need is love. Specifically, some love stories. No, not another Netflix rom-com you can parse and predict with ease. Just a story about someone finding love, losing it, moving on and finding love-for-keeps again.
Love Life (Crave/HBO) is it. The first scripted drama from new streaming service HBO Max (available through Crave in Canada and on cable if you have the HBO Canada package), it’s a sweetly eccentric series. The plan is to follow one person’s history of relations each season and the first is about a woman named Darby Carter (Anna Kendrick). Our Darby is no ingénue or tortured soul. She’s just a young woman who at first is drifting through her twenties, envying friends who are in solid relationships. There is formidable charm and poignancy here because Darby seems so ordinary. The high drama is never amplified and comes in small moments of joy and pain.
There is a voiceover at the beginning and end of each episode – they run about 40 minutes – done by Lesley Manville, to give a sense of the timeless quality of Darby’s ups and downs. Her first serious relationship, the one that leads her to understand that loving relationships really exist, comes too early. Her boyfriend moves away to land a dream job. Next comes a complex but comfortable relationship with a guy who is a bit older and used to be her boss. A scene in which she goes to a funeral with him is exquisitely done, the fraught layers of a relationship illuminated in just a few short minutes of drama. Highly recommended as a balm, and don’t go writing e-mails to me saying, “it’s for girls”, because it emphatically is not.
Also airing this weekend
Space Force (new on Netflix) might be a big deal for you if you can tolerate Steve Carell’s discombobulated doofus routine. Here, paired again with creator Greg Daniels, who nurtured the NBC version of The Office, in a show apparently inspired by President Donald Trump’s devotion to the idea of a non-fiction Space Force, Carell is General Mark Naird, the incompetent military man given the job of starting the Space Force from scratch. The president involved is unseen but he’s an ornery guy given to using twitter.
Based on early evidence the series can’t settle into military/political satire, madcap family comedy (Lisa Kudrow plays Naird’s wife) or a merry-go-round about Naird’s love/hate relationship with the top scientist on the project. That guy is played by John Malkovich, whose studied disdain for Naird is the funniest thing going on.
Linda Ronstadt: Live in Hollywood (Sunday, PBS 9:30 p.m.) is a music gem. Recorded in 1980 at Television Center Studios in Hollywood, the concert captures Ronstadt, then at the peak of her reign as the most popular female country-rock singer and interpreter of other people’s songs. The concert was recently released as Ronstadt’s only live album, after it was believed the original recording was lost.
Play Your Gender (Sunday, 9 p.m. documentary channel) was made in 2016 and asks the pertinent question, “Why are less than 5 per cent of music producers women?” Host Kinnie Starr explores the music industry looking for answers about the dearth of women in power when so many female artists are successful. It’s an eye-opener (directed by Stephanie Clattenburg) and points to some ugly truths. For instance, only a handful of women have ever been nominated for a producer-of-the-year Grammy Award. Starr talks to Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara, Melissa Auf der Maur of the Smashing Pumpkins, Patty Schemel of Hole, Chantal Kreviazuk and many others about their experience working in an arena run by “a bunch of dudes.”
Finally, this column continues with a “stay-at-home-period daily-streaming pick.” Today’s pick is Citizen X (Crave). This excellent one-off HBO movie from 1995 is set in the Soviet Union where, in the early 1980s, a serial killer was murdering dozens of young boys and girls. It took eight years to find him. Stephen Rea plays the central figure, Viktor, an overworked but determined forensics expert in rural Rostov-on-Don who is eventually obliged to play detective. “There are no serial killers in the Soviet state,” says a local party official. “It’s a decadent Western phenomenon.” Viktor’s only ally is a military officer (Donald Sutherland), who knows how to make the wheels of Soviet bureaucracy turn. It’s one very low-key, slow-burning but gripping story.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter, with film, TV and streaming reviews and more. Sign up today.