A selection of recent TV reviews and analysis
Sando review – an outrageously good performance in a hit and miss new ABC comedy
Sacha Horler stars as ‘the package deal queen’ in ABC’s newest show – but the second and third episodes don’t have the punch and pluck of the first.
Safe Harbour review – tense, compelling asylum seeker drama offers no easy answers
The question of who is right or wrong is less important than how people behave under pressure, and what their decisions say about them. And nothing is more important than their humanity.
Harrow review: brilliant, Holmes-like forensic pathologist in new ABC drama
Is ABC TV’s new, 10 part drama Harrow intelligent in a bad kind of way, i.e. smug and contrived, or idiotic in a good kind of way – like a guilty pleasure?
Riot review: ABC TV’s Mardi Gras drama
Like Ali’s Wedding, moments in Riot are refreshing, purely because they are oriented around voices rarely given narrative priority in mainstream entertainment.
Declaring my love for Tom Gleeson and Hard Quiz
Gleeson’s type of shtick is rare here. Rarer, still, to be performed without the protective shield of an alter ego.
Picnic At Hanging Rock first look – full-throttle reboot of an Australian classic
Gone are the pan flutes and soft hues. This series, starring Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer, is crazier, glossier, zeitgeisty.
Hawke: The Larrikin and the Leader TV review: a formulaic, misty-eyed love-in
The political documentary’s equivalent of dripping cheese.
Underbelly Files: Chopper – gratuitous crime drama butchers logic and style
Nine’s attempt to carve a sympathetic likeness of the notorious Melbourne gangster is a crime against good taste
You might not care about House Husbands but axing it doesn’t bode well for Australian TV
Why would Nine dump a successful show? And what does it say about Australian drama’s future?
Squinters review – Tim Minchin and Jacki Weaver take the low road in glib commuter comedy
ABC TV delivers a healthy dose of laughs alongside frivolous word salads in this patchy and meandering gabfest.
Wolf Creek season two: John Jarratt’s great, shit-eating villain returns
A send-up of the bush derro, for city folk to ogle at – gratified by knowledge they are worlds apart from these atavistic philistines in every way, including location and ideology.
Black Mirror season 4: the future is murder in the bleakest Black mirror yet
Even when it comes across as contrived or one-note, Black Mirror’s anthology structure lends it a high stakes, skin-crawling, touch-and-go menace.
Friday On My Mind review: Easybeats biopic plays like a concert you don’t want to end
Celebration of seminal Australian band who met in a migrant hostel and came to produce one of the country’s greatest songs.
No Activity season two – Will Ferrell and Bob Odenkirk join US reboot of Aussie cop comedy
K Simmons, Amy Sedaris and Jason Mantzoukas bring new energy to a winning format: Waiting for Godot in a cop car.
Struggle Street season two: ‘poverty porn’ is back – and more problematic than ever
By distilling the complexity of their lives into black and white messages, then having the gall to lecture viewers about moral rectitude, the filmmakers do a disservice to everybody.
The shameless nostalgia-mongering of Stranger Things season two
When you get down to it, there are really only two kinds of movies and TV shows: the ones we watch and the ones we remember.
Horror Movie: A Low Budget Nightmare review – surprisingly delightful gore-fest doco
A documentary with heart and sincerity – all the more surprising given the grotesque content of the film it documents the making of.
Shaun Micallef’s The Ex-PM review – a deadpan and desperate return
There were worse gags in the first season of Micallef’s political comedy, so the second is progress of a kind.
The Letdown review – an affecting portrait of motherhood with spoonfuls of comedy
Alison Bell’s bullish but endearing protagonist navigating life with a newborn baby holds ABC’s new comedy-drama together.
Sunshine review – basketball and racial tensions collide in standout Australian drama
Anthony LaPaglia’s school-of-hard-knocks coach brings star power to this superb new series set in outer-west Melbourne.
Wake in Fright review – TV remake of classic outback thriller lacks bite
Ten’s contemporary adaptation of Kenneth Cook’s novel substitutes hard drugs for cold beer but loses its sunburnt sting.
Get Krack!n review – Katering Show Kates face-plant uproariously into milieu of breakfast TV
Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan walk the line between lighthearted mockery and gallows humour in eye-wateringly funny morning show satire.
Top of the Lake: China Girl – Jane Campion’s once-masterful drama jumps the shark
Riddled with plausibility issues, on-the-nose dialogue, heavy-handed messages, spurious characterisations and dubious dream sequences.
The Other Guy review – a half-baked comedy not even Matt Okine can save
Flaunts a flavourless and unimaginative script that fails to capitalise on the natural charisma of its talented star.
Blue Murder: Killer Cop – Richard Roxburgh shines again in firecracker Aussie crime drama
When Australians make good crime dramas, man, we make really good crime dramas, and this is one of them.
Pulse review – ho-hum plots and tin-eared dialogue plague bland medical drama
The ABC’s new medical drama has every reason to be a smash: a beloved format, top-notch crew and a diverse, talented cast. But it falls way short.
The Handmaid’s Tale – review richly cinematic must-watch television
The beauty of The Handmaid’s Tale lies in its ability to pair big, chewy ideas with intimate moments of well-directed drama.
Cleverman review – Indigenous superhero show returns with political punch
In the expanded universe, the excitement of the original series has waned, but season two maintains the show’s ability to detonate allegorical truth bombs
Wanted’s second season has upped the ante. This is must-watch Australian TV
Unconventional (and long overdue) casting choices and smart, pacy writing are the making of Rebecca Gibney’s arse-walloping action thriller.
Genius review – Geoffrey Rush impresses as an unexpectedly racy Albert Einstein
National Geographic, in its first scripted TV drama, gives the physicist’s life sassy, whip-smart on-screen treatment.
The Warriors review – breezy Aussie Rules drama not afraid of sharp edges
Shades of Bruce Beresford’s classic The Club dapple this ABC series about a rag-tag bunch of footy up-and-comers with more talent than sense.
The Young Pope review: Jude Law as a sacrilegiously rock’n’roll pontiff
The character is pitched somewhere between Frank Underwood and High Sparrow, with a touch of Mr Burns.
Seven Types of Ambiguity – Hugo Weaving conjures dark magic amid a powerful cast
ABC TV’s adaptation of Elliot Perlman’s novel is full of electric performances, but turns down the heat on some of the story’s most thrilling elements.
Hoges review – biopic bombs badly as Josh Lawson parodies Paul Hogan instead of playing him
Josh Lawson’s performance in this vapid two-part miniseries seems more modelled on Mick Dundee, and reminds us what was funny in Hogan’s heyday is not so funny any more.
Shaun Micallef’s Stairway to Heaven and the glut of personality-oriented documentaries
Any series about a globetrotting Australian comedian road-testing the world’s religions lives in the shadow of 2004’s magnificent John Safran Vs God, still the Mona Lisa of the genre.
Barry review: Australian star is born in Barack Obama biopic
What a breakthrough. Devon Terrell’s speech and cadence is faultless: just like Obama, but not too much like Obama to make it feel gimmicky.
Pacific Heat review – unfunny Archer lookalike blighted by sexism and racism
Australian production company Working Dog deliver a dated comedy that manages to offend on multiple levels.
Why Liz Jackson is still Australia’s greatest television journalist
For Liz Jackson to use her declined health as opportunity for a self-exposé, illuminating a condition not many of us know much about, goes well beyond being merely inspirational.
Black Mirror is back, and social media takes a nosedive
Unequivocally this generation’s The Twilight Zone, the best episodes absolutely comparable to the finest curios that came out of Rod Serling’s imaginarium.
‘Deep Water’ first look : addictive SBS crime drama inspired by real life
An electrifying watch, with a cracking pace and several stirring performances. The fused contemporary and sort-of historical premise is a very compelling context.
Why ABC’s Recognition: Yes or No? proves Andrew Bolt can’t be beaten
A reasonably interesting if infuriating picture of a person who has their back so completely against the wall their entire public life has become an argument to justify its own existence.
The Code season 2: first look review
The Code, now with added LaPaglia.
BoJack Horseman season three
A character study by way of a slow-moving train crash.
Wolf Creek TV series review
The murderous rampage continues in Stan’s new six-part small screen series which introduces a vengeful American college student.
It’s not just about farting corpses: 10 Sydney film festival drawcards
Beyond Swiss Army Man, with Daniel Radcliffe as a flatulent corpse, this year’s festival offers a Polish mermaid musical and homegrown schlocktastic horror.
The Katering Show review
They’re like characters from a Christopher Guest film crossed with a kind of reverse Kath and Kim.
Horace and Pete: like Cheers crossed with Death of a Salesman
Horace and Pete moves like a filmed play. C.K. has subsequently revealed it is shot week to week, with very short turnaround.
There are slick production elements all round, a style-takes-backseat-to-story approach and a kind of snazzy old-time appeal.
Jack Irish review
ABC’s six-part drama has less bawdy dialogue and more humour than the telemovies, but its long-suffering, crime-chasing protagonist is as appealing as ever.
Here Come the Habibs: The outrage machine cranks up again
Basing their opinion entirely on a 42-second promo clip and the show’s official synopsis, one outrage-peddler did nothing shy of declaring airing the show would signal the end of progressive Australia.
The Family Law review
Feels a little like fan fiction written by the same person it’s about.
A Very Murray Christmas
Murray’s distinct disposition wipes away the smile that might otherwise have been stamped across the host’s face, perhaps even turning the show into a parody.
Master of None: Seinfeld with a conscience, and hot damn it’s good
Master of None seems to constantly, quietly contemplate its own identity, never boxing the writing in to a formula.
Jessica Jones: Netflix taps into zeitgeist with female-led superhero smackdown
It’s also refreshing to see Netflix continue a strong line-up of diversely cast programs, following on from Sense8, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Orange is the New Black.
Ash vs. Evil Dead: a horror movie icon returns and it’s surprisingly good news
There’s a snappy visual energy to Ash vs. Evil Dead; it’s not as peppy or pressure cooked as an Edgar Wright movie but in spirit not dissimilar.
No Activity: Stan’s gloriously good cop show about nothing
The first Australian-made commission produced for a commercial streaming service in Australia.
The Ex-PM: A comedy master struggles with single voice syndrome
Shaun Micallef can cook up a dozen zingers for breakfast but plot doesn’t come so naturally, and certainly not as stylishly.
The Principal (SBS TV) makes Dangerous Minds look like Kindergarten Cop
Reminiscent in the best possible way of the American ‘writers room’ approach, where groups of people spend weeks brainstorming what happens next for high-end shows like Breaking Bad.
Scream the TV show has arrived, and it’s a scathing commentary on social media
Intensely bleak commentary on young people and online space, so pointed it is almost polemic.
Sammy J and Randy in Ricketts Lane
A bromance between a gangly white man and his hand-operated best pal who looks like a stripped back bargain basement Muppet.
Rick and Morty: finally, a TV show worthy of Douglas Adams
Frequently laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes ingenious in the way it applies a postmodern scalpels to familiar story arcs.
Is Australia heading towards its own ‘Golden Age’ of TV?
Australia is yet to experience a Golden Age of television: because focus has remained largely on the dial, where programs such as Cats Make You Laugh Out Loud carve up the ratings.
The cumulative effect is something that takes on a vibe that’s at best encyclopaedic, at worst a downright gabfest.
Game of Thrones: smut has gone mainstream like never before, and political allegory isn’t far behind
How Game of Thrones will escalate its pattern of extremity, one-upping a countless number of one-ups, remains to be seen.
Binge watching, TV hype and the ABC’s Glitch experiment
Setting up a mystery from a storytelling perspective is easy but resolving one in a dramatically satisfying way is not.
Sense8 passes the Bechdel test and then some; in fact it’s hard to imagine a program more diverse in gender, ethnicity, sexuality and geography.
The faux outrage around Struggle Street and the controversy that never was
Tthe line determining what is ethical and what is not evidently comes down to whether final cut includes footage of a participant breaking wind.