Fifteen Excellent New TV Shows From 2023 That You Might've Missed
Don't say that you don't have anything to watch this summer — a nun battling AI, Pete Davidson's latest riff on his own life and a new series from 'Drive' filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn all await.
December 11, 2023
When one year ends and another begins, looking back is always on the agenda. When summer holidays arrive with lazy days and cruisy itineraries, streaming binges await. Combine the two and you've got a date with 2023's small-screen highlights — but don't just stick to the shows that you saw and loved over the past 12 months. Because no one can watch everything that drops when it drops, you no doubt missed plenty of gems when you weren't glued to your couch.
A nun battling AI, Pete Davidson's latest riff on his own life, a new series from Drive filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn and a twist on Sweeney Todd are just some of the fresh 2023 streaming shows that you mightn't have had a chance to catch up with yet, but can now. There's more where they came from.
As we did in 2021 and 2022, we've highlighted 15 ace new arrivals over the past year that deserve a place in your streaming queue. Don't spend your break endlessly scrolling through the ever-growing array of streaming platforms — we've done the hard work for you.
It was back in March 2022 that the world first learned of Mrs Davis, who would star in it and which creatives were behind it. Apart from its central faith-versus-technology battle, the show's concept was kept under wraps, but the series itself was announced to the world. The key involvement of three-time GLOW Emmy-nominee Betty Gilpin, Lost and The Leftovers creator Damon Lindelof, and The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon writer and executive producer Tara Hernandez was championed, plus the fact that Black Mirror: San Junipero director Owen Harris would helm multiple episodes. Accordingly, although no one knew exactly what it was about, Mrs Davis existed months before ChatGPT was released — but this puzzle-box drama, which is equally a sci-fi thriller, zany comedy and action-adventure odyssey, now follows the artificial intelligence-driven chatbot in reaching audiences. Indeed, don't even bother trying not to think about the similarities as you're viewing this delightfully wild and gleefully ridiculous series.
There's also no point dismissing any musings that slip into your head about social media, ever-present tech, digital surveillance and the many ways that algorithms dictate our lives, either. Mrs Davis accepts that such innovations are a mere fact of life in 2023, then imagines what might happen if AI promised to solve the worlds ills and make everyone's existence better and happier. It explores how users could go a-flocking, eager to obey every instruction and even sacrifice themselves to the cause. In other words, it's about ChatGPT-like technology starting a religion in everything but name. To tell that tale, it's also about nun Simone (Gilpin, Gaslit), who was raised by magicians (Love & Death's Elizabeth Marvel and Scream's David Arquette), and enjoys sabbaticals from her convent to do whatever is necessary to bring down folks who practise her parents' vocation and the show's titular technology. She also undertakes quite the literal nuptials to Jesus Christ, is divinely bestowed names to chase in her quest and has an ex-boyfriend, Wiley (Jake McDorman, Dopesick), who's a former bullrider-turned-Fight Club-style resistance leader. And, she's tasked with a mission by the algorithm itself: hunting down the Holy Grail.
A MURDER AT THE END OF THE WORLD
Whichever miniatures are stuffed inside a snow globe, a simple shake surrenders them all to the same fate: flakes falling in their tiny dome. Pop culture's enduring murder-mystery obsession can feel much the same way. When the pieces start raining down in seven-part miniseries A Murder at the End of the World, there's much that instantly feels familiar from a heavily populated field of recent and classics whodunnits. That checklist includes a confined single setting, potential victims cooped up with an unknown killer, rampant secrets and lies, fingers pointed everywhere, Nordic noir's frosty climes, an eerie butler, a wealthy host who might just have the most to lose and, of course, a gifted gumshoe sleuthing through the group. A Murder at the End of the World radiates its own Gen Z Sherlock Holmes vibe, though. That's even how its sharp protagonist is described, and early. In the role of 24-year-old hacker-turned-author Darby Hart, who is invited by billionaire recluse Andy Ronson (Clive Owen, American Crime Story) to an intimate Iceland symposium of bright minds, Emma Corrin (Lady Chatterley's Lover) also turns Agatha Christie.
The OA creators Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij have put their own intriguing, involving, can't-stop-watching spin on their addition to the genre, as they make clear early. As the duo share writing duties and split time in the director's chair — with Marling also co-starring — they take cues from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Stieg Larsson's sequels as well, all while also sliding their series in alongside Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery; however, the mood, ambition, pursuit of weighty themes, shadowy conspiracies, earnestness and love of telling puzzle-box tales match perfectly with their last show, plus their film collaborations Sound of My Voice and The East. Two timelines unspool: the present-day storyline at the ideas salon, where bodies are soon falling; and the the road trip that Darby took with fellow Reddit-aided citizen detective Bill Farrah (Harris Dickinson, Scrapper) to solve the case that fuels her debut novel. Both are compelling; shake this snow globe for more and you won't want to stop.
It isn't by accident that watching The Changeling feels like being read to, rather than simply viewing streaming's latest book-to-TV adaptation. Landing from the pages of Victor LaValle's novel of the same name, this horror-fantasy series is obsessed with stories, telling tales and unpacking what humanity's favourite narratives say about our nature, including myths and yarns that date back centuries and longer. Printed tomes are crucial in its characters lives, fittingly. Libraries, bookstores, dusty boxes stacked with old volumes, beloved childhood texts, a rare signed version of To Kill a Mockingbird with a note from Harper Lee to lifelong friend Truman Capote: they all feature within the show's frames. Its protagonists Apollo Kagwa (LaKeith Stanfield, Haunted Mansion) and Emma Valentine (Clark Backo, Letterkenny), who fall in love and make a life together before its first episode is out, even work as a book dealer and a librarian. And, The Changeling also literally reads to its audience, because LaValle himself relays this adult fairytale, his dulcet tones speaking lyrical prose to provide a frequent guide
In a show created and scripted by Venom, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Fifty Shades of Grey and Saving Mr Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel, there's nothing more potent and revealing than a story, after all — and The Changeling believes in the power of tales to capture, explain, transport, engage, caution and advise, too. Aptly, New Yorkers Apollo and Emma meet amid books, in the library where she works and he frequents. It takes convincing to get her to agree to go out with him, but that leads to marriage and a child. The Changeling's astute thematic layering includes Apollo's repeated attempts to wrangle that first yes out of Emma, however, setting up a train of thought that has many future stations. In-between early dates and domesticity, Emma also takes the trip of a lifetime to Brazil, where an old woman awaits by Lagoa do Abaeté. The locals warn the visitor to stay away but she's mesmerised. What happens between the two strangers sends the narrative hurtling, with the lakeside figure tying a red string around Emma's wrist, granting her three wishes, but advising that they'll only come true when the bracelet falls off by itself.
In its opening moments, Bupkis unloads — twice, in completely different ways, while ensuring there's zero doubt that this is a series about Pete Davidson starring Pete Davidson as Pete Davidson. First, the former Saturday Night Live comedian gets Googling while alone in the basement of the Staten Island home he shares with his mother Amy (Edie Falco, Avatar: The Way of Water). The results about Ariana Grande, Kate Beckinsale and Kim Kardashian's ex aren't positive; so, to shake off the unpleasantness of reading '12 Things Horribly Wrong with Pete Davidson', he switches from "scumbro" with "butthole eyes" comments to porn. He's wearing a VR headset, and he's soon deep in self-love. Then his mum walks in. Bupkis clearly isn't wary about getting crude. It isn't concerned about satirising its central figure, either. Instead, this semi-autobiographical dramedy relishes the parody. At the age of 29, Davidson has reached the "you may as well laugh" point in his career, which is hardly surprising given he's spent the past decade swinging his big chaotic energy around.
Partway through the eight-episode series, while keen to claim some perks for being Davidson's mother — other than doting on her son, that is — Amy shouts at wait staff that "Marisa Tomei played me!". Add that to Bupkis' gleeful, playful nods to reality. An opening statement before each instalment stresses the difference between fact and fiction, and why the show has the moniker it has, but art keeps imitating life everywhere. There's no switching names, however. Davidson is indeed Davidson, his IRL mum is called Amy and his sister is Casey (Oona Roche, The Morning Show). As in The King of Staten Island, they've been a trio since 9/11, and dealing with losing his New York City firefighter dad still isn't easy. Off-screen, however, Davidson must be a fan of My Cousin Vinny, plus the gangster genre. Hailing from the former as Tomei does, and famed for his performances in the latter like The Sopranos star Falco, Goodfellas, Casino and The Irishman alum Joe Pesci is a pivotal part of Bupkis as Davidson's grandfather Joe — a hilarious and delightful part, unsurprisingly.
MATILDAS: THE WORLD AT OUR FEET
Passion flows as feverishly through the Australia's women's national football team as talent, and Matildas: The World at Our Feet boasts plenty of examples to show it. Covering the lead up to the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, this six-part documentary series sees enthusiasm and emotion everywhere, regardless of who the squad is playing, why or where, and the end score. Kicking goals? Joyous. Winning games? Euphoric. Taking every step needed to do their best at soccer's ultimate contest, especially because it's being held on home soil for the first time ever? A positively peppy and determined task. Inspiring girls across Australia to follow in their footsteps? For Sam Kerr and company, that's what their hard work is all about.
To start this doco's sixth episode, Kerr and several teammates chat about how much it means to them to be galvanising tomorrow's female athletes, a topic that pops up more than once across the entire series. In this particular instalment, they also discuss the equivalent influence in their own lives: Cathy Freeman's 400-metre gold-medal run at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. "We didn't have a role model in women's football, or any sport," shares goalkeeper Lydia Williams. "Watching Cathy Freeman at 2000, that just kind of ignited my dreams," she continues. "At the time, I was just amazed — blown away that every single person in the country could be talking about one person, and she was a female athlete," adds Kerr. "As I sat in my lounge room as a nine-year-old girl and watched her, that inspired me to one, be proud of who I am, but to also follow my sporting dreams to play football for Australia," says fellow striker Kyah Simon. The force of their feelings radiates from the screen, and Matildas: The World at Our Feet's audience beams the same emotions right back at them.
When Better Call Saul finished its six-season run in 2022, it was the end of an era. Not only did one of the absolute best TV shows of the past decade and the whole 21st century so far wrap up, but the Breaking Bad universe with it for now. And, it meant that the wonderful Bob Odenkirk was no longer on our screens regularly. Thankfully, with the arrival of Lucky Hank, the latter was only a short-lived state of affairs. This dramedy — because everything is a dramedy at the moment — hails from The Office actor/co-writer Paul Lieberstein, adapts Richard Russo's 1997 novel Straight Man, and casts its Undone and Nobody star as a Pennsylvanian college professor. The eponymous Hank Devereaux Jr inhabits a whirlwind of chaos, including underfunding at his university in general, unhappy colleagues in the English department he chairs, students challenging him, a wife that's tiring of academic life and the fact that he's only penned one book thanks to a hefty bout of writers' block.
If some of the above sounds familiar, that's because The Chair flicked through similar territory in 2021 — also engagingly, and with Sandra Oh at its centre. Like that series, Lucky Hank thrives through its excellent lead casting, with watching Odenkirk still one of the easiest things in the world no matter what he's in. He has excellent company, including Lieberstein's The Office co-star Oscar Nuñez as Railton College dean, Mireille Enos (Hanna) as his wife, and Diedrich Bader (Shazam! Fury of the Gods) as a friend and co-worker. As a guest star, one and only Twin Peaks legend Kyle MacLachlan is also among the cast. Odenkirk wears middle-aged malaise so devastatingly well, though, which made Better Call Saul one of the best tragedies there is, and helps Lucky Hank prove as thoughtful as it is charming. There's depth to Hank's experiences, too, with Russo's tome based on his own time teaching at several colleges.
Lucky Hank streams via Stan.
THE BIG DOOR PRIZE
Sometimes Apple TV+ dives into real-life crimes, as miniseries Black Bird did. Sometimes it mines the whodunnit setup for laughs, which The Afterparty winningly achieved. The family feuds of Bad Sisters, Servant's domestic horrors, Hello Tomorrow!'s retrofuturistic dream, the titular take on work-life balance in Severance — they've all presented streaming audiences with puzzles, too, because this platform's original programming loves a mystery. So, of course dramedy The Big Door Prize is all about asking questions from the outset. Here, no one is wondering who killed who, why a baby has been resurrected or if a situation that sounds too good to be true unsurprisingly is. Rather, in a premise isn't merely a metaphor for existential musings, they're pondering a magical machine and what it tells them about themselves. Everyone in The Big Door Prize does go down the "what does it all mean?" rabbit hole, naturally, but trying to work out why the Morpho has popped up in the small town of Deerfield, where it came from, whether it can be trusted, and if it's just a bit of fun or a modern-day clairvoyant game are pressing concerns.
When the machine arrives, it literally informs residents of their true potential. Crowds flock, but not everyone is initially fascinated with the mysterious gadget. Turning 40, and marking the occasion with that many gifts from his wife Cass (Gabrielle Dennis, A Black Lady Sketch Show) and teenage daughter Trina (Djouliet Amara, Devil in Ohio), high-school history teacher Dusty Hubbard (Chris O'Dowd, Slumberland) is nonplussed. Amid riding his new scooter and wondering why he's been given a theremin, he's baffled by all the talk about the Morpho, the new reason to head to Mr Johnson's (Patrick Kerr, Search Party) store. As school principal Pat (Cocoa Brown, Never Have I Ever) embraces her inner biker because the machine said so, and charisma-dripping restaurateur Giorgio (Josh Segarra, The Other Two) revels in being told he's a superstar, Dusty claims he's happy not joining in — until he does.
Ten years ago, Nicolas Winding Refn released his second Ryan Gosling-starring film in succession, won his second Sydney Film Festival Prize, and was a reliable source of dazzling and blisteringly atmospheric crime fare thanks to Drive and Only God Forgives — and also the Pusher trilogy and Bronson before that pair. In the past decade, however, he's only brought one more movie to cinemas. The Neon Demon was a gem, too, and about as Refn as Refn gets, but that was back in 2016. Smaller screens have been beckoning the Danish director, thankfully. He launched his own free streaming service, and also co-created, co-wrote and directed the ten-part, Miles Teller (Top Gun: Maverick)-starring Too Old to Die Young. Refn's latest effort gets episodic as well, and sees him return to his homeland for the first time since Valhalla Rising — and, while it feels filtered through David Lynch's sensibilities alongside his own, Copenhagen Cowboy remains Refn through and through.
The visuals have it, as they always do when this filmmaker is behind the lens. Neon aplenty, how he composes a room, how his characters peer on at the world around them, the use of 360-degree pans, the chilly mood, his overall aesthetic flair: they're all here. So, too, is another of the director's essentials, courtesy of a synth-heavy score by Cliff Martinez. That combination makes an entrancing mix, as it has over and over before, but Copenhagen Cowboy is never simply a case of empty style, sound and vision. Also present is an enigmatic tale, this time about the magnetic and mysterious Miu (Angela Bundalovic, Limboland). Considered a "living lucky charm" and highly sought after for her talents, she's the show's entry point to Copenhagen's criminal underworld. Can she help Rosella (Dragana Milutinovic, also Limboland) get pregnant? What kind of eerie situation has she found herself in? Are her gifts genuine? It wouldn't be a Refn project if questions didn't linger in the pulsating sense of stillness.
Copenhagen Cowboy streams via Netflix.
Not to be confused with 2023 Australian film Limbo, six-part Aussie dramedy In Limbo not only takes its title to heart, but also uses the idea as fuel for a supernatural buddy comedy. Indeed, before the first episode is out, Nate (Bob Morley, Love Me) is palling around with his lifelong best friend Charlie (Ryan Corr, House of the Dragon) from the afterlife. The former doesn't know why he's still a presence. The latter is understandably reeling from the tragedy, and initially thinks that spying Nate is just a drunken hallucination. No one else, not Nate's wife Freya (Emma Harvie, Colin From Accounts), eight-year-old daughter Annabel (Kamillia Rihani, The Twelve), supremely very Catholic mother Maria (Lena Cruz, Wellmania) and affable father Frank (Russell Dykstra, Irreverent), can see their dearly-departed loved one as a ghost. It's Christmas, too, in this Brisbane-shot and -set series, and facing the festivities after such a shock is far from easy. While heartily deploying Brisbane Powerhouse and New Farm Park as settings, that's a lot for one show to delve into — and delve it thoughtfully does.
Tackling grief, mental health and suicide is never simple, even in a show about someone haunting their best mate, and including when such topics have been increasingly popping up in Australian fare of late (see also: Totally Completely Fine). In Limbo is clearly made with care, empathy and understanding — and, crucially, doesn't attempt to offer any firm answers, instead acting as a conversation starter. At its core, the always-excellent Corr plays a complicated role with charm. That's no surprise given his resume, and he couldn't be better cast. Corr's likeable performance always dives deep into the about-to-get-divorced Charlie's struggle without Nate physically by his side, with Nate now his ghostly offsider and with his own problems, and never brushes past the character's flaws. And, just as importantly as the show's focus on 21st-century masculinity and friendship, Corr makes such a great double act with Morley that filmmakers should be clamouring to pair them up again ASAP.
In 2022, scam culture was here to stay, as drawn-from-reality hits such as Inventing Anna and The Dropout repeatedly promised. In 2023, playing fast and loose with the truth sits at the heart of Hello Tomorrow!, too, which tells a fictional tale about the deceptions people spin to chase their dreams. The show's beaming face: travelling salesman Jack Billings (Billy Crudup, The Morning Show), the regional manager for BrightSide Lunar Residences, and a passionate pusher of timeshares on the moon. He's this intriguing dramedy's version of Don Draper, but with Mad Men's 60s surroundings swapped for The Jetsons-style robot help and hovering vehicles. There's a The Twilight Zone-meets-Leave It to Beaver feel to Hello Tomorrow!, too, as its characters seek the same thing we all do: a better life. Creators Amit Bhalla and Lucas Jansen (both Bloodline alumni), also co-writers and showrunners with You're the Worst's Stephen Falk, zoom in further, focusing on the reasons anyone holds onto to hope their lot will improve.
Befitting any blend of all of the above series, the look of Hello Tomorrow! is retro-futuristic, steeped in 50s-era visions of what might come. The time and place is an alternative version of that decade, in a suburban enclave called Vistaville, where one of Jack's biggest fibs has its origins. He's summoned back with his crew of hawkers — the gambling-addicted Eddie (Hank Azaria, The Simpsons), promotion-coveting Herb (Dewshane Williams, In the Dark) and resident righthand-woman Shirley (Haneefah Wood, Truth Be Told) — by his mother Barbara (Jacki Weaver, Penguin Bloom) after his wife Marie (Annie McNamara, Severance) is injured by a self-driving delivery van. His son Joey (Nicholas Podany, Archive 81) is struggling to cope, a task made all the more difficult by Jack's absence from his family's lives for decades. He's skilled at sharing stories about his domestic bliss on the moon to customers, but being a happy head of a lunar household is merely one of his go-to falsehoods.
If there's a question that no employee wants to hear from the person setting company agendas, pulling strings and signing paycheques, it's "what do we do?". In moody and mysterious workplace nightmare The Consultant — which adapts horror author Bentley Little's 2016 novel of the same name, but plays like Severance filtered through Servant — Regus Patoff (Christoph Waltz, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio) asks a variation of it early. "What do we make?" he queries at CompWare after he arrives amid grim circumstances. The mobile gaming outfit came to fame under wunderkind Sang (TV first-timer Brian Yoon), so much so that school groups tour the firm's office. Then, during the visit that opens this eight-part, excellently cast and supremely easy-to-binge thriller, a kid shoots and kills the company's founder. That doesn't stop Regus from showing up afterwards clutching a signed contract from Sang and spouting a mandate to do whatever it takes to maximise his legacy.
Regus is as stern yet eccentric as Waltz has become known for — a suit- and tie-wearing kindred spirit to Inglourious Basterds' Hans Landa, plus Spectre and No Time to Die's Ernst Stavro Blofield. He first darkens CompWare's door in the thick of night, when only ambitious assistant Elaine Hayman (Brittany O'Grady, The White Lotus) and stoner coder Craig Horne (Nat Wolff, Joe vs Carole) are onsite, and he won't take no for an answer. There's no consultant job for him to have, Elaine tells him. There's no business to whip into shape, she stresses. By the next morning, he's corralling employees for an all-hands meeting and telling remote workers they'll be fired if they don't show up in-person within an hour, even if he proudly doesn't know what CompWare does — or care. From there, The Consultant gets creator Tony Basgallop, who is also behind Servant, doing what he loves: kicking off with a blow-in, unsettling a group already coping with tragedy and reordering their status quo with severe methods. Both of his current shows lace the chaos that follows with nods towards the supernatural, too, and both ask what bargains we're willing to make to live the lives we're striving for.
THE HORROR OF DOLORES ROACH
It takes place in New York, not London. The era: modern times, not centuries back. Fleet Street gives way to Washington Heights, the demon barber to a masseuse nicknamed "Magic Hands", and pies to empanadas. There's still a body count, however, and people end up in pastries as well. Yes, The Horror of Dolores Roach namedrops Sweeney Todd early, as it needs to; there's no denying where this eight-part series takes inspiration, as did the one-woman off-Broadway play that it's based on, plus the podcast that followed before the TV version. On the stage, the airwaves and now via streaming, creator Aaron Mark asks a question: what if the fictional cannibalism-inciting character who first graced penny dreadfuls almost two centuries back, then leapt to theatres, films and, most famously, musicals, had a successor today? Viewers can watch the answer via a dramedy that also belongs on the same menu as Santa Clarita Diet, Yellowjackets and Bones and All. Amid this recent feast of on-screen dishes about humans munching on humans, The Horror of Dolores Roach is light yet grisly, but it's also a survivalist thriller in its own way — and laced with twisted attempts at romance, too.
That knowing callout to Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street comes amid an early banquet of knowing callouts, as The Horror of Dolores Roach begins with a play based on a podcast that's wrapping up its opening night. Newspaper clippings in actor Flora Frias' (Jessica Pimentel, Orange is the New Black) dressing room establish that the show takes its cues from a woman who got murderous in the Big Apple four years prior, and helped get unwitting NYC residents taking a bite out of each other. Meet the series' framing device; before the stage production's star can head to the afterparty, she's face to face with a furious Dolores (Justina Machado, One Day at a Time) herself. The latter isn't there to slay, but to haunt the woman spilling her tale by sharing the real details. Two decades earlier, Dolores was a happy resident of Lin-Manuel Miranda's favourite slice of New York, a drug-dealer's girlfriend, and a fan of the local empanada shop. Then the cops busted in, The Horror of Dolores Roach's namesake refused to snitch and lost 16 years of her life. When she's released, gentrification has changed the neighbourhood and her other half is nowhere to be found. Only Luis Batista (Alejandro Hernandez, New Amsterdam) remains that remembers her, still in the empanada joint, and he couldn't be keener on letting her stay with him in his basement apartment below the store.
In High Desert, the always-excellent Patricia Arquette (Severance) leads a private investigator comedy that dapples its jam-packed chaos under California's golden sun, against the parched Yucca Valley landscape and with an anything-goes philosophy — not to mention a more-mayhem-the-merrier tone. She plays Peggy Newman, who isn't letting her age get in the way of perennially struggling to pull her life together. That said, when the eight-part series starts, it's Thanksgiving 2013 and she's living an upscale existence in Palm Springs, with gleaming surfaces abounding in her expansive (and visibly expensive) home. Then, as her husband Denny (Matt Dillon, Proxima) jokes around with her mother Roslyn (Bernadette Peters, Mozart in the Jungle), and her younger siblings Dianne (Christine Taylor, Search Party) and Stewart (Keir O'Donnell, The Dry) lap up the lavish festivities, DEA agents swarm outside. Cue weed, hash and cash stashes being flushed and trashed, but not quickly enough to avoid splashing around serious repercussions.
A decade later, High Desert's protagonist has been sharing Roslyn's house and trying to kick her addictions while working at Pioneertown, a historical attraction that gives tourists a dusty, gun-toting taste of frontier life. Peggy would love to step back in time herself when she's not pretending to be a saloon barmaid — to when her recently deceased mother was still alive, however, rather than to her glitzy post-arrest shindigs. Still angry about being caught up in a drug bust, Dianne and Stewart have zero time for her nostalgia and a lack of patience left for her troubles. Their plan: to sell Roslyn's abode with no worries about where Peggy might end up. Her counter: doing everything she can to stop that from happening. High Desert doesn't just embrace the fact that living and breathing is merely weathering whatever weird, wild and sometimes-wonderful shambles fate throws your way; in a show created and written by Nurse Jackie and Damages alumni Jennifer Hoppe and Nancy Fichman, plus Miss Congeniality and Desperate Housewives' Katie Ford, that idea dictates the busy plot, too.
TOTALLY COMPLETELY FINE
In Thomasin McKenzie's breakout role in 2018's deeply thoughtful and moving Leave No Trace, she played a teen being the responsible one while living off the grid with her PTSD-afflicted father. She turned in a magnificent performance in a film that also earns the same description — one of that year's best — and a portrayal that rightly ensured that more work came her way. In Totally Completely Fine, the New Zealand actor is again excellent, as she's been in Jojo Rabbit, The Justice of Bunny King, Old and Last Night in Soho in-between; however, this six-part Australian series, which makes ample use of its Sydney setting, casts McKenzie as the least responsible among her siblings. Vivian Cunningham's elder brothers John (Rowan Witt, Spreadsheet) and Hendrix (Brandon McClelland, Significant Others) are conscientious and family-focused, respectively, while she has internalised her bad decisions to the point of thinking that she ruins everything. But then her grandfather passes away when she's at a particularly low moment, wills only her his cliffside house and also leaves a note saying that she'll learn what to do with it.
When Totally Completely Fine begins, Vivian is close to saying goodbye. Soon, she discovers that her inherited home is a destination for others feeling the same way. Creator Gretel Vella (a staff writer on The Great, and also a scribe on Christmas Ransom and Class of '07) doesn't shy away from a a tricky topic, as her definitely-not-totally-completely-fine protagonist becomes an unofficial counsellor to strangers — like runaway bride Amy (Contessa Treffone, Wellmania) — who step into her yard planning to commit suicide. This character-driven series doesn't ever reductively posit that only struggling people can help struggling people. Instead, it sees life's difficulties everywhere, the many ways that folks attempt to cope and don't, and the parts that others can have in that journey. McKenzie's performance is pivotal, selling the deep-seated grief that has defined Vivian's life, the chaos she's embraced as an escape, and how telling others that they have something to live for is both complicated and crucial.
Totally Completely Fine streams via Stan.
When high school is hellish on television, sometimes that happens literally; Buffy the Vampire Slayer's teens did their studies above a hellmouth and Stranger Things' crew is constantly trying to avoid the Upside Down. In Bad Behaviour, hell is the girls of Silver Creek, the wilderness campus of an exclusive all-female boarding school where young women decamp to spend a year learning resilience away from the wider (and supposedly wilder) world. It's where Joanna Mackenzie (Jana McKinnon, We Children From Bahnhof Zoo) attended on a scholarship, sharing a cabin with Alice Kang (Yerin Ha, Sissy) before they cross paths again ten years later — Jo striving to become a writer, but paying the bills in hospitality; Alice a musical prodigy-turned-global classical star. While Jo doesn't have fond memories of her year away, she's shocked at Alice's frosty reception. Indeed, she'd always thought that the domineering Portia (Markella Kavenagh, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power) was the bully of their dormitory, making her own experience a nightmare. But this blast from the past gets Jo rethinking her own behaviour.
Adapted from Rebecca Starford's book of the same name by Pip Karmel (Total Control) and Magda Wozniak (Neighbours), with Corrie Chen (New Gold Mountain) directing, Bad Behaviour is spot-on about the Mean Girls-meets-The Lord of the Flies realm it navigates. Starford's tome is a memoir, after all. For anyone who has ever been or known a teenage girl — so, everyone — this four-part series feels deeply lived-in, even if you've never attended a private school, let alone such an education institution's remote campus. With McKinnon, Ha and Kavenagh all delivering potent performances, and the latter making a memorable antagonist, the mood is equal parts tense and reflective. As Bad Behaviour flits between Jo's time at Silver Creek, including the thrall that Portia held over her, and her adult awakening to who she really was while she was there, it's unafraid to face stark truths about our teenage demons as well.
Concrete Playground Trips
Book unique getaways and adventures dreamed up by our editors