There’s something quite wrong with them – or maybe just between them. You can tell as much from the nervous solicitude with which Dorothy welcomes their new nanny, Leanne (Nell Tiger Free, who played young Princess Myrcella in Game of Thrones).
Not that Dorothy’s solicitude extends all that far – she gives Leanne the coldest, dingiest and most water-stained room in their otherwise expensively decorated terrace house. But Leanne isn’t about to complain, she’s a humble and pious Wisconsin farm girl who refuses a drink because she’s not yet 21 and who kneels beside her bed to pray in a nightdress that leaves little to the imagination of the highly frustrated Sean.
As to how that particular bit of tension is going to play out, it’s not quite clear who’s going to be creeping on who. And is it even possible for someone else to boil your bunny when the moment the providore delivers the rabbits you set about butchering them, boning them and cooking them three different ways yourself?
Right from the outset Servant brings surprises that keep the viewer wrong-footed. It also retains a delicious ambiguity. When a pivotally bizarre thing happens it’s not clear whether there’s something supernatural going on, or whether there’s a mundane explanation – one that might be equally frightening.
Into the middle of the muddle strides Rupert Grint, putting on a thoroughly enjoyable turn as Dorothy’s brother, a confidently jaded day-drinking enthusiast named Julian. As the Shyamalan-directed first episode fades into a couple directed by estimable Emmy winner Daniel Sackheim (The Americans, NYPD Blue), Julian becomes a bit of a keyhole into things. He knows Dorothy and Sean, he knows their secrets, he’s about to uncover some of Leanne’s, and he ain’t exactly Ron Weasley. Get the popcorn on.
Even dug-in purists who haven’t enjoyed a single Star Wars thing since Return of the Jedi might find themselves loving this exquisitely judged new series about a bounty hunter who gets around in the same sort of clobber as Boba Fett.
Series creator Jon Favreau delivers a dopamine drip of vehicles and creatures that recall the original trilogy, and he goes suitably spaghetti Western, even as Werner Herzog and a bunch of dishevelled stormtroopers evoke the disarray of the Nazis after the fall of Berlin. Magic.
The US version of No Activity feels much more lightly improvised than the Australian original, but there are chuckles to be had as newly-demoted San Diego detectives Cullen (series co-creator Patrick Brammall) and Tolbeck (Tim Meadows) adjust to life back in uniform.
Brammall and Meadows have a great chemistry, and neither they nor guest star Amy Schumer miss a beat as she lights up the first episode of this new season in typically filthy fashion. Keegan-Michael Key and Dylan McDermott don’t pay such immediate dividends.
The Toys That Made Us
This series is no mere exercise in nostalgia for kids of the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. It’s a surprisingly intriguing, good-humoured and even gimlet-eyed dive into the very human stories behind some of the Western world’s biggest toy phenomena.
The latest batch of episodes begins with a ripper about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a self-published comic book that became a global merchandising colossus. But it’s the one about My Little Pony that provides the most insights into product development, marketing and mansplaining.
If Glee taught us anything, it was don’t stop believin’. But can you still recapture the magic decades after your own high-school musical? From the moment Encore! begins it’s clear that’s quite a tall order, and there’s going to be a whole lot of emotion bubbling up along the way.
The first instalment of this expertly crafted documentary series has former classmates from a San Diego high school getting together to reprise Annie, the musical they put on way back in 1996. It’s no Mickey Mouse production, either – Disney and host Kristen Bell supply them with a professional director, choreographer and musical director to get them into some sort of shape before a performance at a venue packed with family and friends.
Along the way though, things get raw. Life’s disappointments are magnified and old wounds are pulled open, but there are new opportunities for people to understand each other and to make peace with themselves. The results are a joy to behold, and there won’t be a dry eye in the house.
It’s not so much “Off with her head!” as “Off with her knickers!” as the young Henry VIII disports himself in royal fashion in the early episodes of this rollicking medieval bloodletter.
Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) has quite an eye for the ladies, but not for Catherine of Aragon, his humiliated but dignified Spanish wife (Maria Doyle Kennedy). It doesn’t take long for that roving eye to land on young Anne Boleyn (Game of Thrones‘ Natalie Dormer), and it’s a generally riveting ride to the old chopping block.
*Stan is owned by Nine, the publisher of this masthead.