Mae's parents: Linda (Lisa Kudrow) and Malcolm (Adrian Lukis).

Mae’s parents: Linda (Lisa Kudrow) and Malcolm (Adrian Lukis).

But it’s to be a fateful night. A teacher named George (Charlotte Ritchie) has brought a braying posh nitwit named Binky (Ophelia Lovibond) to the show. George’s need to apologise for Binky’s behaviour leads to a George and Mae embarking upon a whirlwind romance, and for Mae to move in with George and her goofy American housemate, Phil (Phil Burgers).

The first sign of any real issue comes in a Skype call from Mae’s mother, Linda (Lisa Kudrow, getting some good lines and giving a masterful performance of what you might call aggressive emotional distance). George soon learns, to her horror, that Mae has had an addiction to cocaine – but has been off it for 15 months – and that she spent time on the streets after her parents kicked her out. A return to the 12-step program and the acquisition of a delightfully batty sponsor (Sophie Thompson) augurs well, but there are other problems emerging. George has never dated a woman before and wants to stay in the closet, much to Mae’s hurt and humiliation. Mae’s fear that George is essentially a straight woman who will break her heart leads her down some dark paths in her own mind.

It’s utterly compelling, and quite a journey over just six short episodes. Martin doesn’t lean too heavily on her own stand-up act, or on the stand-up caper in general, and the show’s emulsion of the absurd and the deeply real achieves its own perfect balance – albeit a balance quite different to what many viewers will be expecting.

Troop Zero
Amazon Prime Video

Funny, truthful and touching but never saccharine, this brilliantly cast family movie written by Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is one of the most delightful things streaming anywhere. In rural Georgia in 1977 adorable young outcast Christmas Flint (Mckenna Grace) has lost her mother and is obsessed with outer space. When NASA offers the chance for one lucky Birdie Scout troop to make a recording to be sent into space, Flint – who has no troop – must recruit her own group of misfits.

The Kingmaker
Stan*

Viewers who lost track of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his infamously extravagant wife, Imelda, after they fled the Philippines in 1986 will be astonished to see the popularity and power that Imelda and her children enjoy inside the country today. It’s grimly compelling viewing as Marcos gives filmmaker Lauren Greenfield intimate access to her opulent life and oblivious narcissism, even as Greenfield enlists survivors and opponents of Marcos’ regime to provide a refresher on its horrors.

Guerrilla
Acorn TV

Writer-director John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) turns to the bitter racial politics of 1970s Britain in this engrossing, eye-opening drama series. Black English teacher Marcus (Babou Ceesay) has been unfairly fired and blacklisted, and he and his wife, Jas (Slumdog Millionaire‘s Freida Pinto), are outsiders even in their own activist community. With the government bringing in a racist immigration policy, and with Jas and Marcus forced to witness shocking acts of police brutality against their friends, something will snap.

Freida Pinto, left, and Babou Ceesay in Guerrilla, written and produced by  John Ridley.

Freida Pinto, left, and Babou Ceesay in Guerrilla, written and produced by John Ridley.

Lo Sound Desert
Amazon Prime Video, YouTube

Rock fans will have heard tell of the legendary “Palm Desert Scene” that sprung up in the sun-blasted plains and canyons around Palm Springs, California in the 1980s and ’90s. In Joerg Steineck’s celebratory documentary the story begins almost like a punk version of Footloose. Palm Springs, a retirement village of a town that was home to reputed rock’n’roll hater Frank Sinatra, effectively banned rock. No concerts were permitted, and police were quick to shut down bands playing at parties or even practising in garages. Undeterred, a younger generation wild about punk, heavy metal and the experimental fusion of musical styles took the action out into the desert, where portable generators powered amplifiers for wild, anarchic jam parties beyond the reach of the police.

Steineck makes great use of the surprisingly diverse music, stark desert scenery, grainy old party footage and new interviews with numerous scene veterans, including Josh Homme and his former Kyuss bandmates Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri. The DIY ethos will inspire, and the images and stories will shimmer on down the decades.

Spenser Confidential
Netflix

You don’t need to remember the ’80s private-eye series Spenser for Hire to enjoy this witless, charmless Mark Wahlberg Netflix movie. All you need is a general lack of discernment and to have no qualms about cheering Wahlberg on as he pretends to commit acts of violence all over his native Boston – even if it reminds you that in the past Wahlberg has committed numerous acts of real violence against real people in Boston. Alan Arkin and Iliza Shlesinger do what they can but should have done something else.

*Stan is owned by this masthead.

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