The 15 Best New TV Shows of 2024 So Far

From gloriously surreal comedies and unforgettable true tales to stunning remakes and savvy sci-fi mysteries, 2024 has been filled with new small-screen highlights.
Sarah Ward
Published on July 09, 2024

The inimitable terrain of Julio Torres' mind. Japan from centuries ago. Italy in black and white. Brisbane in the 80s. Another multiverse. Another wasteland, too. These are some of the places that 2024's best new television shows across its first six months have taken viewers — be it with laughs, heart, thrills, scheming, bloodshed, ghouls or multiple Joel Edgertons.

No one can say that there's been nothing that's new and good to watch between January–June, then. In today's streaming age, no one can make that claim anyway at any time, because there's always something joining a platform somewhere. So if you don't already have your own list of 2024 highlights, you must've been avoiding the small screen. Don't worry — we're here with 15 recommendations.

Do you feel like slinking into a spectacular spy series that's also about a relationship, and puts a Brangelina movie to shame? That's also among our cream-of-the-crop TV picks for 2024's first half. So is the based-on-a-true-story Netflix surprise that got everyone talking — and that no one will forget after they've seen it. Here's the full list, ready for you to binge your way through now or help fill the rest of the year's couch time, whichever suits you.



With Fantasmas, creator, writer, director and star Julio Torres welcomes viewers into a world that couldn't have been conjured up by anyone else but the former Saturday Night Live scribe, who then became the co-guiding force behind Los Espookys and filmmaker responsible for Problemista. Torres also leaves his audience grateful that they exist in this particular world, where HBO has given him the means and support to make a comedy series so singular, so clearly the work of a visionary and so gloriously surreal. Fantasmas has no peers beyond Torres' work, other than the patron saint of spilling the contents of your mind and heart onto the screen with zero willingness to compromise or hold back: David Lynch. That said, even that comparison — and the utmost of praise that comes with it — can't prepare viewers for a show where clear crayons are one idea whipped up by the on-screen Julio, another sees Steve Buscemi (Curb Your Enthusiasm) playing the letter Q as an avant-garde outsider, Santa Claus is taken to court by elves (including SNL's Bowen Yang), and series-within-a-series MELF riffs on 80s and 90s hit sitcom ALF but starring Paul Dano (Spaceman) and featuring quite the twist on its alien-adopting premise.

As the sets appear like exactly sets but with a DIY spin, star-studded cameos stack up, and absurdist vignettes pop in and out to flesh out Julio's mindscape as much as the futuristic realm imagined by the IRL Torres, there is an overarching narrative at the core of Fantasmas. The series' take on Julio trades in concepts, plus in being unflinchingly himself, but doing anything is impossible without a Proof of Existence ID card in this dystopia. He's on a quest to secure one, which isn't straightforward. In the process, he's also searching for a tiny gold oyster earring, and pondering whether to upload his consciousness and jettison his body. By his side: robot companion Bibo (Joe Rumrill, The Calling) and agent Vanesja (Martine Gutierrez, returning from Los Espookys and Problemista), who is really just a performance artist playing an agent. As phantasmagorical as everything that the show flings at the screen can get, which is very, it also tears into relatable issues such as societal status, class clashes, housing, capitalism's many woes and inequities, and the treatment of immigrants. As purposefully eager as it is to show its crafting and creativity, too, it does so to stress the fact that it's being made by people chasing a dream rather than corporations bowing to an algorithm.

Fantasmas streams via Binge. Read our full review.



Casting Hiroyuki Sanada (John Wick: Chapter 4), Cosmo Jarvis (Persuasion) and Anna Sawai (Monarch: Legacy of Monsters) as its three leads is one of Shōgun's masterstrokes. The new ten-part adaptation of James Clavell's 1975 novel — following a first version in 1980 that featured Japanese icon and frequent Akira Kurosawa collaborator Toshiro Mifune — makes plenty of other excellent moves, but this is still pivotal. Disney+'s richly detailed samurai series knows how to thrust its viewers into a deeply textured world from the outset, making having three complex performances at its centre an essential anchoring tactic. Sanada plays Lord Yoshii Toranaga, who is among the political candidates vying to take control of the country. Jarvis is John Blackthorne, a British sailor on a Dutch ship that has run aground in a place that its crew isn't sure is real until they get there. And Sawai is Toda Mariko, a Japanese noblewoman who is also tasked with translating. Each character's tale encompasses much more than those descriptions, of course, and the portrayals that bring them to the screen make that plain from the moment they're each first seen.

As Game of Thrones and Succession both were, famously so, Shōgun is another drama that's all about fighting for supremacy. Like just the former, too, it's another sweeping epic series as well. Although it's impossible not to see those links, knowing that both battling over who'll seize power and stepping into sprawling worlds are among pop culture's favourite things right now (and for some time) doesn't make Shōgun any less impressive. The scale is grand, and yet it doesn't skimp on intimacy, either. The minutiae is meticulous, demanding that attention is paid to everything at all times. Gore is no stranger from the get-go. Opening in the 17th century, the series finds Japan in crisis mode, Toranaga facing enemies and Blackthorne among the first Englishmen that've made it to the nation — much to the alarm of Japan's sole European inhabitants from Portugal. Getting drawn in, including by the performances, is instantaneous. Shōgun proves powerful and engrossing immediately, and lavish and precisely made as well, with creators Justin Marks (Top Gun: Maverick) and Rachel Kondo (on her first TV credit) doing a spectacular job of bringing it to streaming queues.

Shōgun streams via Disney+. Read our full review.



Boasting The Night Of's Steven Zaillian as its sole writer and director — joining a list of credits that includes penning Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York and The Irishman, and also winning an Oscar for Schindler's List — the latest exquisite jump into the Ripley realm doesn't splash around black-and-white hues as a mere stylistic preference. In this new adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1955 book, the setting is still coastal Italy at its most picturesque, and therefore a place that most would want to revel in visually; Anthony Minghella, The Talented Mr Ripley's director a quarter-century back, did so with an intoxicating glow. For Zaillian, however, stripping away the warm rays and beaches and hair, blue seas and skies, and tanned skin as well, ensures that all that glitters is never gold or even just golden in tone as he spends time with Tom Ripley (Andrew Scott, All of Us Strangers). There's never even a glint of a hint of a travelogue aesthetic, with viewers confronted with the starkness of Tom's choices and actions — he is a conman and worse, after all — plus the shadows that he persists in lurking in and the impossibility of ever grasping everything that he desires in full colour.

On the page and on the screen both before and now, the overarching story remains the same, though, in this new definitive take on the character. It's the early 60s rather than the late 50s in Ripley, but Tom is in New York, running fake debt-collection schemes and clinging to the edges of high-society circles, when he's made a proposal that he was never going to refuse. Herbert Greenleaf (filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, who has also acted in his own three features You Can Count on Me, Margaret and Manchester by the Sea) enlists him to sail to Europe to reunite with a friend, the shipping magnate's son Dickie (Johnny Flynn, One Life). As a paid gig, Tom is to convince the business heir to finally return home. But Dickie has no intention of giving up his Mediterranean leisure as he lackadaisically pursues painting — and more passionately spends his time with girlfriend Marge Sherwood (Dakota Fanning, The Equalizer 3) — to join the family business.

Ripley streams via Netflix. Read our full review.


Mr & Mrs Smith

2005 movie Mr & Mrs Smith isn't the first time that title adorned a spy caper about a literally killer couple. That honour goes not to the Brad Pitt (Babylon)- and Angelina Jolie (Eternals)-starring, Brangelina-sparking film, but to a 90s TV series. No one remembers 1996's Mr & Mrs Smith, where Scott Bakula (who was not long off Quantum Leap at the time) and Maria Bello (Beef) took on the eponymous parts. It didn't last, with just nine episodes airing and a further four made but left unseen. But its existence gives 2024's Mr & Mrs Smith a full-circle vibe, with Donald Glover (Atlanta) and Maya Erskine's (PEN15) now both adopting the monikers and ushering the premise back to episodic storytelling. Bakula and Bello's Mr & Mrs Smith didn't inspire Pitt and Jolie's; however, the latter did give rise to Glover and Erskine's — and any history isn't mere trivia. Instead, it speaks to a concept that's so appealing that it keeps being reused, whether coincidentally or knowingly, and to an idea that's now being given its full Mr & Mrs Smith due, in line with True Lies and The Americans: that relationships are mysteries, missions and investigations.

The backstory behind Glover and Erskine bringing glorious chemistry to John and Jane Smith doesn't stop there, because Mr & Mrs Smith circa 2024 has been in the works for three years. When announced in February 2021, it was with Atlanta-meets-Fleabag hopes, with Glover co-starring and co-creating with Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny). Then creative differences with Glover saw Waller-Bridge — who also co-wrote the No Time to Die screenplay and created Killing Eve — leave the project within six months. While it's impossible to know how that iteration of Mr & Mrs Smith would've turned out, whether with more overt comedy, talkier or boasting a darker tone, Glover's interpretation with fellow Atlanta alum Francesca Sloane lives up to the promise of two creatives from one of the 21st century's best dramedies turning their attention to espionage and romance. There's an intimacy, a lived-in feel and hangout charm to this Mr & Mrs Smith, even as it swaps Brangelina's already-wed pair discovering that they're assassin rivals for a duo only tying the knot for the gig.

Mr and Mrs Smith streams via Prime Video. Read our full review.


Baby Reindeer

A person walking into a bar. The words "sent from my iPhone". A comedian pouring their experiences into a one-performer play. A twisty true-crime tale making the leap to the screen. All four either feature in, inspired or describe Baby Reindeer. All four are inescapably familiar, too, but the same can't be said about this seven-part Netflix series. Written by and starring Scottish comedian Richard Gadd, and also based on his real-life experiences, this is a bleak, brave, revelatory, devastating and unforgettable psychological thriller. It does indeed begin with someone stepping inside a pub — and while Gadd plays a comedian on-screen as well, don't go waiting for a punchline. When Martha (Jessica Gunning, The Outlaws) enters The Heart in Camden, London in 2015, Donny Dunn (Gadd, Wedding Season) is behind the counter. "I felt sorry for her. That's the first feeling I felt," the latter explains via voiceover. Perched awkwardly on a stool at the bar, Martha is whimpering to herself. She says that she can't afford to buy a drink, even a cup of tea. Donny takes pity, offering her one for free — and her face instantly lights up. That's the fateful moment, one of sorrow met with kindness, that ignites Baby Reindeer's narrative and changes Donny's life.

After that warm beverage, The Heart instantly has a new regular. Sipping Diet Cokes from then on (still on the house), Martha is full of stories about all of the high-profile people that she knows and her high-flying lawyer job. But despite insisting that she's constantly busy, she's also always at the bar when Donny is at work, sticking around for his whole shifts. She chats incessantly about herself, folks that he doesn't know and while directing compliments Donny's way. He's in his twenties, she's in her early forties — and he can see that she's smitten, letting her flirt. He notices her laugh. He likes the attention, not to mention getting his ego stroked. While he doesn't reciprocate her feelings, he's friendly. She isn't just an infatuated fantasist, however; she's chillingly obsessed to an unstable degree. She finds his email address, then starts messaging him non-stop when she's not nattering at his workplace. (IRL, Gadd received more than 40,000 emails.)

Baby Reindeer streams via Netflix. Read our full review.


Such Brave Girls

If Such Brave Girls seems close to reality, that's because it is. In the A24 co-produced series — which joins the cult-favourite entertainment company's TV slate alongside other standouts such as Beef, Irma Vep, Mo and The Curse over the past two years — sisters Kat Sadler and Lizzie Davidson both star and take inspiration from their lives and personalities. Making their TV acting debuts together, the pair also play siblings. Josie (Sadler) and Billie (Davidson), their on-screen surrogates, are navigating life's lows not only when the show's six-part first season begins, but as it goes on. The entire setup was sparked by a phone conversation between the duo IRL, when one had attempted to take her life twice and the other was £20,000 in debt. For most, a sitcom wouldn't come next; however, laughing at and lampooning themselves, and seeing the absurdity as well, is part of Such Brave Girls' cathartic purpose for its driving forces. If you've ever thought "what else can you do?" when finding yourself inexplicably chuckling at your own misfortune, that's this series — this sharp, unsparing, candid, complex and darkly comedic series — from start to finish.

Creating the three-time BAFTA-nominated show, writing it and leading, Sadler plays Josie as a bundle of nerves and uncertainty. The character is in her twenties, struggling with her mental health and aspiring to be an artist, but is largely working her way through a never-ending gap year. Davidson's Billie is the eternally optimistic opposite — albeit really only about the fact that Nicky (Sam Buchanan, Back to Black), the guy that she's hooking up with, will eventually stop cheating on her, fall in love and whisk her away to Manchester to open a vodka bar bearing her name. Both girls live at home with their mother Deb (Louise Brealey, Lockwood & Co), who also sees a relationship as the solution to her problems, setting her sights on the iPad-addicted Dev (Paul Bazely, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves) a decade after Josie and Billie's father went out for teabags and never came home. With actor-slash-director Simon Bird behind the lens — alongside first-timer Marco Alessi on one episode — if Such Brave Girls seems like it belongs in the same acerbically comedic realm as The Inbetweeners and Everyone Else Burns, there's a reason for that, too.

Such Brave Girls streams via Stan. Read our full review.


Boy Swallows Universe

A magical-realist coming-of-age tale, a clear-eyed family drama, a twisty crime and detective thriller, a time capsule of Brisbane in the 80s: since first hitting the page in 2018, Trent Dalton's Boy Swallows Universe has worn its happy flitting between different genres and tones, and constant seesawing from hope to heartbreak and back again, as confidently as readers have long envisaged Eli Bell's wide grin. That hopping and jumping, that refusal to be just one type of story and stick to a single mood, has always made sense on the page — and in the excellent seven-part adaptation that now brings Australia's fastest-selling debut novel ever to the screen, it also couldn't feel more perfect. As played by the charmingly talented Felix Cameron (Penguin Bloom), Eli's smile is indeed big. As scripted by screenwriter John Collee (Hotel Mumbai), and with Dalton among the executive producers, the miniseries embraces its multitudes wholeheartedly. Like style, like substance: a semi-autobiographical novel penned by a writer and journalist who lived variations of plenty that he depicts, learned and accepted early that everyone has flaws, and patently has the imagination of someone who coped with life's hardships as a child by escaping into dreams of an existence more fanciful, Dalton's tome and every iteration that it inspires has to be many things in one bustling package. Its characters are, after all.

Seeing people in general, parts of a city usually overlooked, and folks with complicated histories or who've made questionable choices — those forced in particular directions out of financial necessity, too — in more than just one fashion flutters at the centre of Boy Swallows Universe. In the Australian Book Industry Awards' 2019 Book of the Year, Literary Book of the Year and Audio Book of the Year, and now on streaming, Eli's nearest and dearest demand it. So does the enterprising Darra-dwelling 12-year-old boy who knows how to spy the best in those he loves, but remains well-aware of their struggles. His older brother Gus (Lee Tiger Halley, The Heights) hasn't spoken since they were younger, instead drawing messages in the sky with his finger, but is as fiercely protective as elder siblings get. Doting and dedicated mum Frankie (Phoebe Tonkin, Babylon) is a recovering heroin addict with a drug dealer for a partner. And Lyle Orlik (Travis Fimmel, Black Snow), that mullet-wearing stepfather, cares deeply about Eli and Gus — including when Eli convinces him to let him join his deliveries.

Boy Swallows Universe streams via NetflixRead our full review, and our interview with Bryan Brown.



When the words "DO NOT MESSAGE" greet someone that's looking through their friend's phone, curiosity kicks in. When that mysterious contact is spied, plus a list of deleted texts and apologies for unintended hurt, immediately after your best mate has taken her own life and left you to find their body, uncovering the person on the other end of the thread becomes an obsession. Twenty-seven-year-old photographer Jacs (Alice Englert, Bad Behaviour) is all impulse and immediate gratification when Exposure begins, when she's at a rave hooking up with a stranger and dancing with her lifelong BFF Kel (Mia Artemis, Anyone But You). The next morning, everything changes forever, except a haunting truth that no one likes realising when tragedy strikes: our worst moments alter us forever, but they can't fix our worst traits or paper over our other traumas. So Jacs keeps being Jacs as she heads home from Sydney to Port Kembla, where she'll barely let her mother Kathy (Essie Davis, One Day) and Kel's ex Angus (Thomas Weatherall, Heartbreak High) lend their support, and where her self-sabotaging spiral only gains momentum as she attempts to turn amateur, fixated, dogged detective.

Pain ran in the family in the aforementioned Bad Behaviour, the 2023 New Zealand film — not to be confused with the 2023 Australian miniseries that streamed via Stan, as Exposure also does — that Englert made her feature directorial debut with, plus penned and co-starred in. The movie told of a former child actor (Jennifer Connolly, Dark Matter) and her stunt-performer daughter working through their baggage around the former's attendance at a new-age retreat. Filmmaking talent also ran in the family, given that Englert is the offspring of Oscar-winner Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog). While she's solely on-screen this time, with Lucy Coleman (Hot Mess) scripting and Bonnie Moir (Love Me) helming, Englert is superb again, including at excavating life's agonies once more. Exposure's moniker applies in multiple ways, spanning the controversial contents of an award-winning snap, facing past distresses, playing sleuth and confronting your own chaos — and it equally fits the raw and rich performance at the centre of this six-parter, which also showcases Davis and Weatherall's typically excellent work.

Exposure streams via Stan.


The Vince Staples Show

It was true when Seinfeld made a series about a real-life standup comedian playing a fictionalised version of himself one of the world's biggest sitcoms in the 90s. It remained accurate when Larry David started riffing on his own existence in Curb Your Enthusiasm — and also when Pete Davidson leapt from making his life movie fodder in The King of Staten Island to turning it into TV in Bupkis. Donald Glover wasn't directly referencing his own career in Atlanta, and neither The Other Two nor Girls5eva bring exact replicas of real-life figures to the screen, but the same idea pumps through them as well: fame or proximity to it doesn't stop anyone from grappling with life's frustrating minutiae. Add The Vince Staples Show to the list, with the five-part series featuring its namesake as a take on himself. Whether or not you know who he is is part of the show's joke. On- and off- screen, he's a rapper and actor. Staples' very real single 'Norf Norf' gets quoted to him in the TV comedy. The fact that he's been in Abbott Elementary is referenced in the debut episode. But just attempting to have an ordinary day doing everyday things in an average way — driving home, heading to the bank, attending a family reunion, visiting an amusement park and returning to his old school — is as impossible for him as it is for us all.

Sometimes, Staples' celebrity complicates matters in The Vince Staples Show. It also never helps. Usually, he's stuck navigating Murphy's law, so asking for a loan ends up with him caught up in a robbery, while endeavouring to source something decent to eat at a theme park takes him on an absurdist odyssey that winks at David Lynch and the Coen brothers. Having an entertainment career doesn't stop him from being confused for someone else by the police (Killing It's Scott MacArthur, You People's Bryan Greenberg and The Menu's Arturo Castro) — the same cops who ask for free tickets to his shows while they're locking him up — or ensure that cashiers treat him politely. If it assists with anything, it's with giving Staples a deadpan acceptance that anything and everything might come his way. Twice asked if something interesting happened during his day by his girlfriend Deja (Andrea Ellsworth, Truth Be Told), his reply is "not really", even though viewers have just witnessed the exact opposite in both instances.

The Vince Staples Show streams via Netflix. Read our full review


Dark Matter

When an Australian actor makes it big, it can feel as if there's more than one of them. Joel Edgerton, who has been on local screens for almost three decades and made the leap to Hollywood with the Australian-shot Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones, is such a talent. He's usually everywhere and in almost everything (such as The Stranger, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Thirteen Lives, Master Gardener, I'm a Virgo, The Boys in the Boat and Bluey in just the past two years), and viewers would follow him anywhere. Dark Matter wasn't written to capitalise upon that idea. Rather, it hails from the page of Blake Crouch's 2016 novel, with the author also creating the new nine-part sci-fi series that it's based on. But the show's lead casting leans into the notion that you can never have too much Edgerton by multiplying him in the multiverse. For the characters in Dark Matter, however, the fact that there's more than a single Jason Dessen causes considerable issues.

The series' protagonist is a former experimental physics genius-turned-professor in Chicago. He's married to artist-turned-gallerist Daniela (Jennifer Connelly, Bad Behaviour), a father to teenager Charlie (Oakes Fegley, The Fabelmans) and the best friend of award-winning college pal Ryan Holder (Jimmi Simpson, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia). And, he's been happy living the quiet family life, although pangs of envy quietly arise when he's celebrating Ryan's prestigious new accolade. Then, when another Jason pops up to pull off a kidnapping and doppelgänger plot, he's soon navigating a cross between Sliding Doors and Everything Everywhere All At Once. Everything is a multiverse tale of late, but Dark Matter is also a soul-searching "what if?" drama, exploring the human need to wonder what might've been if just one choice — sometimes big, sometimes small — had veered in a different direction. While a box is pivotal mode of transport like this is Doctor Who, as are all manner of worlds to visit, this is high-concept sci-fi at its most grounded. Neither version of Jason wants to hop through parallel worlds in the name of adventure or exploration — they're simply chasing their idea of everyday perfection.

Dark Matter streams via Apple TV+. Read our full review.



A young woman sheltered in the most literal sense there is, living her entire life in one of the subterranean facilities where humanity endeavours to start anew. A TV and movie star famed for his roles in westerns, then entertaining kids, then still alive but irradiated 219 years after the nuclear destruction of Los Angeles. An aspiring soldier who has never known anything but a devastated world, clinging to hopes of progression through the military. All three walk into the wasteland in Fallout, the live-action adaptation of the gaming series that first arrived in 1997. All three cross paths in an attempt to do all that anyone can in a post-apocalyptic hellscape: survive. So goes this leap into a world that's had millions mashing buttons through not only the OG game, but also three released sequels — a fourth is on the way — plus seven spinoffs. Even with Westworld' Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy as executive producers, giving Fallout the flesh-and-blood treatment is a massive and ambitious task. But where 2023 had The Last of Us, 2024 now has this; both are big-name dystopian titles that earned legions of devotees through gaming, and both are excellent in gripping and immersive fashion at making the move to television.

Fallout's vision of one of the bleakest potential futures splits its focus between Lucy MacLean (Ella PurnellYellowjackets), who has no concept of how humanity can exist on the surface when the show kicks off; Cooper Howard aka bounty hunter The Ghoul (Walton Goggins, I'm a Virgo), the screen gunslinger who saw the bombs fall and now wields weapons IRL; and Maximus (Aaron Moten, Emancipation), a trainee for the Brotherhood of Steel, which is committed to restoring order by throwing around its might (and using robotic armour). The show's lead casting is gleaming, to the point that imagining anyone but this trio of actors as Lucy, Howard-slash-The Ghoul and Maximus is impossible. Where else has Walton's resume, with its jumps between law-and-order efforts, westerns traditional and neo, and comedy — see: The Shield, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, The Hateful Eight, Vice Principals and The Righteous Gemstones, as a mere few examples — been leading than here? (And, next, also season three of The White Lotus.)

Fallout streams via Prime Video. Read our full review, and our interview with Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell and Aaron Moten.


The Sympathizer

Fresh from winning an Oscar for getting antagonistic in times gone by as United States Atomic Energy Commission chair Lewis Strauss in Oppenheimer, Robert Downey Jr gets antagonistic in times gone by again in The Sympathizer — as a CIA handler, a university professor, a politician and a Francis Ford Coppola-esque filmmaker on an Apocalypse Now-style movie, for starters. In another addition to his post-Marvel resume that emphasises how great it is to see him stepping into the shoes of someone other than Tony Stark, he takes on multiple roles in this espionage-meets-Vietnam War drama, which adapts Viet Thanh Nguyen's 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name. But Downey Jr is never the show's lead, which instead goes to Australian Hoa Xuande (Last King of the Cross). The latter plays the Captain, who works for South Vietnamese secret police in Saigon before the city's fall, and is also a spy for the North Vietnamese communist forces. It's his memories, as typed out at a reeducation camp, that guide the seven-part miniseries' narrative — jumping back and forth in time, as recollections do, including to his escape to America.

As the Captain relays the details of his mission and attempts to work both sides, The Sympathizer isn't just flitting between flashbacks as a structural tactic. The act of remembering is as much a focus as the varied contents of the Captain's memories — to the point that rewinding to add more context to a scene that's just been shown, or noting that he didn't specifically witness something but feels as if he can fill in the gap, also forms the storytelling approach. Perspective and influence are high among the show's concerns, too, as the Captain navigates the sway of many colonial faces (making Downey Jr's multiple roles a powerful and revealing touch) both in Vietnam and in the US. Behind it all off-screen is a filmmaker with a history of probing the tales that we tell ourselves and get others believing, as seen in stone-cold revenge-thriller classic Oldboy, 2022's best film Decision to Leave and 2018 miniseries The Little Drummer Girl: the inimitable Park Chan-wook. He co-created The Sympathizer for the screen with Don McKellar (Blindness) and it always bears is imprint, whether or not he's directing episodes — he helms three — with his piercing style, or getting help from Fernando Meirelles (who has been busy with this and Sugar) and Marc Munden (The Third Day).

The Sympathizer streams via Binge. Read our full review.



If a great getaway to a beach, island or faraway city can be life-changing, what does a journey to space do? So ponders Constellation, among other questions. Inquiries are sparked instantly, from the moment that a mother in a cabin in northern Sweden, where there's snow as far as the eye can see but a frost infecting more than just the temperature, leaves her pre-teen daughter to follow a voice. The screams that she seeks out are yelling "mama!" — and what they mean, and why she's abandoning one girl to find another, is just one of the matters that Constellation interrogates. The woman is Jo Ericsson, as played by Noomi Rapace with the maternal devotion that also marked her turn in Lamb, plus the protective instincts that were key in Prometheus and Alien: Covenant as well — and the fierceness that helped bring her to fame as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films. Jo, an astronaut, is Europe's representative on the International Space Station when Constellation jumps backwards from its opening icy horror to a different kind of terror. Not long out from returning back to earth, she FaceTimes with her nine-year-old daughter Alice (Rosie and Davina Coleman, The Larkins) and husband Magnus (James D'Arcy, Oppenheimer). Then, something goes bump in the sky.

Trauma leaves people changed, too; what if this incident, during which setting foot on our pale blue dot again is anything but assured, isn't the only distressing facet of travelling to the heavens? On the at-risk ISS, on a spacewalk to locate the source of the collision, Jo finds the mummified body of what looks like a 60s-era Russian cosmonaut. There'll soon be another astronaut dead inside the station, destroyed infrastructure, the first escape pod shuttling her three remaining colleagues back to terra firma and Jo left alone trying to repair the second so that she herself can alight home. Where both Gravity and Moon spring to mind in Constellation's initial space-set scenes, plus Proxima in the show's focus on mother-daughter connections (Interstellar, Ad Astra and First Man have dads covered), it's the earthbound Dark that feels like a touchstone once Jo is back among her loved ones. There's a similar moodiness to this series, which also features Nobel Prize-winning former Apollo astronaut Henry Caldera (Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul), who has had his own incidents in space — and there's a feeling that characters can't always trust what they think is plainly apparent to the show, too, plus a certainty that nothing is simply linear about what's occurring.

Constellation streams via Apple TV+. Read our full review, and our interview with Jonathan Banks.



Colin Farrell's recent hot streak continues. After a busy few years that've seen him earn Oscar and BAFTA nominations for The Banshees of Inisherin, collect a Gotham Awards nod for After Yang, steal scenes so heartily in The Batman that TV spinoff The Penguin is on the way and pick up the Satellite Awards' attention for The North Water, Sugar now joins his resume. The Irish actor's television credits are still few — and, until his True Detective stint in 2015, far between — but it's easy to see what appealed to him about leading this mystery series. From the moment that the Los Angeles-set noir effort begins — in Tokyo, in fact — it drips with intrigue. Farrell's John Sugar, the show's namesake, is a suave private detective who takes a big Hollywood case against his handler Ruby's (Kirby, Scott Pilgrim Takes Off) recommendation. He's soon plunged into shadowy City of Angels chaos, bringing The Big Sleep, Chinatown, LA Confidential and Under the Silver Lake to mind, and loving movie history beyond sharing the same genre as said flicks.

Softly spoken, always crispy dressed, understandably cynical and frequently behind the wheel of a blue vintage convertible, Sugar, the PI, is a film fan. The series bakes that love and its own links to cinema history into its very being through spliced-in clips and references elsewhere — and also foregrounds the idea that illusions, aka what Tinseltown so eagerly sells via its celluloid dreams, are inescapable in its narrative in the process. Twists come, not just including a brilliant move that reframes everything that comes before, but as Sugar endeavours to track down Olivia Siegel (Sydney Chandler, Don't Worry Darling). She's the granddaughter of worried legendary film producer Jonathan (James Cromwell, Succession); daughter of less-concerned (and less-renowned) fellow producer Bernie (Dennis Boutsikaris, Better Call Saul); half-sister of former child star David (Nate Corddry, Barry), who is on the comeback trail; and ex-step daughter of pioneering rocker Melanie (Amy Ryan, Beau Is Afraid). Trying to find her inspires heated opposition. Also sparked: an excellently cast series that splashes its affection of film noir and LA movies gone by across its frames, but is never afraid to be its own thing.

Sugar streams via Apple TV+Read our full review, and our interview with Kirby and Simon Kinberg.


Criminal Record

It was accurate with side-splitting hilarity in The Thick of It, as dripping with heartbreak in Benediction and in the world of Doctor Who in-between: Peter Capaldi is one of Scotland's most fascinating actors today. Criminal Record uses his can't-look-away presence to excellent effect, casting him as DCI Daniel Hegarty, one of the eight-part series' two key detectives. By day, the no-nonsense Hegarty is a force to be reckoned with on the force. By night, he moonlights as a driver, seeing much that lingers in London as he's behind the wheel. In his not-so-distant past is a case that brings DS June Lenker (Cush Jumbo, The Good Fight) into his orbit — a case that she's certain is linked to a distressed emergency call by a woman trying to flee domestic abuse, and who says that her partner has already committed murder, gotten away with it and sent another man to prison for the crime in the process. Hegarty contends otherwise, and gruffly, but Lenker is determined to discover the truth, find her potential victim, ascertain whether someone innocent is in jail and learn why every move she makes to dig deeper comes with professional retaliation.

This is no odd-couple cop show. It's largely a two-hander, however — and saying that it couldn't be better cast is an understatement. Capaldi is already someone who makes every moment that he's on-screen better. So is Jumbo, which makes watching them face off as riveting as television gets. Passive aggression oozes from the frame when Hegarty and Lenker first confront each other. Tension drips throughout the series relentlessly, but do so with particular vigour whenever its key cops are in close proximity. Criminal Record doesn't waste time keeping audiences guessing about who's dutifully taking their role as part of the thin blue line and who's part of policing at its most corrupt; instead, it lets those two sides that are both meant to be on the upstanding end of the law-and-order divide clash, surveying the damage that ripples not just through the fuzz but also the community. While twists and mysteries are also layered in, they regularly come second to Criminal Record's extraordinary performances, plus its thematic willingness to tear into what policing should be, can be and often is.

Criminal Record streams via Apple TV+. Read our full review.


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Published on July 09, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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