Much of what there is to like about the show comes courtesy of Harriet Dyer (Love Child), who is never less than a hoot as Stevie Nicholls, the dirtbag best mate of series protagonist AJ, a Z-list celebrity and functionally homeless manchild played by Matt Okine.
The impulsive, unfiltered, blunt-talking Stevie might not be a complete bulldozer of a woman but she’s certainly a Bobcat capable of bashing herself a path through any sort of terrain. There’s a deadpan brio in the way that Dyer delivers her dialogue, and it helps that Stevie is the series most developed character and gets most of the best lines. The way in which she laconically tries to convince Christiaan Van Vuuren’s paranoid drug dealer that the Brazilian musicians who have moved into her caravan aren’t undercover police but merely “bogans from another country” is a delight.
Unfortunately, Okine’s AJ doesn’t hold up his end of what might have been a You’re the Worst-style dirtbag duo. He’s a generally passive moper who is neither sufficiently likeable nor sufficiently detestable to anchor the show.
Like series creator Okine, AJ has endured the vicissitudes of low-level Australian showbiz. He has lost his soul-crushing FM-radio job and is pinning his hopes on TV producer Miranda (the brusquely funny Claudia Karvan) giving him a job that will pay the beer bill. When he misses out on a reality TV gig (“Another brown guy – sorry, ‘diverse option’ – turned up at the last minute”) he is left with one last and fairly nuclear option.
It’s a show titled Cuck based on how AJ’s ex (Valene Kane) spent years cheating on him with his best friend (Luke Ford).
There are plenty of ingredients there, but nothing that immediately threatens to become emotionally involving or even particularly enlightening. The situations the characters get plonked in tend towards the absurd, and the humour is resolutely crass. But if you like the sort of comedy that writes in a sex scene just so someone can end up with menstrual blood on their face, you might just have found your new show.
Disney+, from Friday
Willem Dafoe and a bunch of adorable sled dogs star in this heartwarming, action packed new movie based on a true story. It’s 1925 and the town of Nome, Alaska, is in the grip of a deadly diptheria outbreak. With foul weather cutting the town off from the outside world, only dogsled trainer Leonhard Seppala and his lead dog, Togo, can travel hundreds of miles to collect medicine. The real story, though, is the relationship between Leonhard and Togo, and the sequences involving Togo as a mischievous pup are pure magic.
One Child Nation
Amazon Prime Video
Directors Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang travel across China to revisit the horrors unleashed by the country’s one-child policy between 1979 and 2015. Wang might easily have shot the whole thing in her own home village. Her parents, being rural people, were allowed to have a second child after having her – but had her little brother been a girl that child would have been abandoned so they could try for a son once more. That revelation is the tip of an iceberg, and grand atrocities pile atop private heartbreak as this powerful film unfolds.
Australian writer-director Joel Perigut brings us a delightfully silly short that’s at its funniest in its darkest moments. And there are a few of those as Jewish siblings Jacob, Gabby and Ella (Jared Jekyll, Victoria Zerbst and Stephanie King) travel to a relative’s wedding in a hire car that comes with a hulking, bald driver (Tony Nikolakopoulos). The back-seat squabble between Gabby and Ella comes to an end when the driver goes off on an antisemitic rant. Part of nobudge’s big, free collection of short films from around the world.
There’s an odd bloodlessness to this bloody new vampire drama.
Perhaps it begins with the casting of Ian Somerhalder (Lost, The Vampire Diaries) as Dr Luther Swann, the scientist trying to get to the bottom of the highly contagious vampire prion disease that climate change has released from the Arctic permafrost. There are no doubt many research scientists who Somerhalder’s Rob Lowe-style good looks, but few of them would mispronounce thylacine as “thyla-kleen” in their first scene.
In any case, Luther and his best friend, Michael (Adrian Holmes), have been exposed to the prions, but only one of them is about to turn vamp and go on an involuntary murder rampage. As the infection spreads, the prospect of a civil war between vampires and normies becomes a possibility.
Based on the graphic novel by Jonathan Maberry, it’s a frustrating thing in that it keeps threatening to burst out of its thicket of genre and television conventions without delivering. At least the new-made vamps’ conscious horror at their transformation adds a dimension you don’t get in zombie stuff.
British Bouncers: Boozed Brits vs the Velvet Rope
Amazon Prime Video
This warts-and-all, vomit-and-all docuseries takes us into the dangeous and low-paid world of Britain’s pub and nightclub bouncers. Some are just starting out, some are trying to get out, and some can’t imagine doing anything else. Ex-paratrooper Jim, for one, sees his job overseeing a trendy beer garden in Newcastle as paid socialising. “People come from everywhere,” he says. “There’s so much totty out it’s unbelieveable.” Rowdy patrons take us home to show how they load up on booze before they go out.
*Stan is owned by Nine, the publisher of this masthead.