The 15 Best New TV Shows of 2023 So Far
This year just keeps delivering small-screen gems — don't say that you don't have anything to watch.
July 10, 2023
Streaming services overflow with TV series to watch, with new titles added daily, but the best of them achieve a particular feat. We all have our favourite television show that it feels like we live inside; however, that isn't a sensation that any old program can manage. From 2023's new TV offerings so far, only the best of the best can make that claim.
If you've already started planning a move to Tasmania thanks to an Australian murder-mystery comedy, you understand this. If you feel in your bones like you know how you'd react to the apocalypse, or having Pedro Pascal as your surrogate dad, you do as well.
They're some of 2023's best new TV shows so far — the series that, no matter how little couch time you have or how easy it is to just revisit Parks and Recreation again, you need to see. After hours and hours of viewing, we've chosen 15 of them now that 2023 is halfway through. Play catchup and you won't be able to say that you don't have anything to watch before the year is through.
Trust Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, Australia's favourite Kates and funniest double act, to make a killer TV show about chasing a killer that's the perfect sum of two excellent halves. Given their individual and shared backgrounds, including creating and starring in cooking show sendup The Katering Show and morning television spoof Get Krack!n, the pair unsurprisingly add another reason to get chuckling to their resumes; however, with Deadloch, they also turn their attention to crime procedurals. The Kates already know how to make viewers laugh. They've established their talents as brilliant satirists and lovers of the absurd in the process. Now, splashing around those skills in Deadloch's exceptional eight-episode first season lead by Kate Box (Stateless) and Madeleine Sami (The Breaker Upperers), they've also crafted a dead-set stellar murder-mystery series.
Taking place in a sleepy small town, commencing with a body on a beach, and following both the local cop trying to solve the case and the gung-ho blow-in from a big city leading the enquiries, Deadloch has all the crime genre basics covered from the get-go. The spot scandalised by the death is a sitcom-esque quirky community, another television staple that McCartney and McLennan nail. Parody requires deep knowledge and understanding; you can't comically rip into and riff on something if you aren't familiar with its every in and out. That said, Deadloch isn't in the business of simply mining well-worn TV setups and their myriad of conventions for giggles, although it does that expertly. With whip-smart writing, the Australian series is intelligent, hilarious, and all-round cracking as a whodunnit-style noir drama and as a comedy alike — and one of the streaming highlights of the year.
I'M A VIRGO
No one makes social satires like Boots Riley. Late in I'm a Virgo, when a character proclaims that "all art is propaganda", these words may as well be coming from The Coup frontman-turned-filmmaker's very own lips. In only his second screen project after the equally impassioned, intelligent, energetic, anarchic and exceptional 2018 film Sorry to Bother You, Riley doesn't have his latest struggling and striving hero utter this sentiment, however. Rather, it springs from the billionaire technology mogul also known as The Hero (Walton Goggins, George & Tammy), who's gleefully made himself the nemesis of 13-foot-tall series protagonist Cootie (Jharrel Jerome, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse). Knowing that all stories make a statement isn't just the domain of activists fighting for better futures for the masses, as Riley is, and he wants to ensure that his audience knows it. Indeed, I'm a Virgo is a show with something to say, and forcefully. Its creator is angry again, too, and wants everyone giving him their time to be bothered — and he still isn't sorry for a second.
With Jerome as well-cast a lead as Atlanta's Lakeith Stanfield was, I'm a Virgo also hinges upon a surreal central detail: instead of a Black telemarketer discovering the impact of his "white voice", it hones in on the oversized Cootie. When it comes to assimilation, consider this series Sorry to Bother You's flipside, because there's no way that a young Black man that's more than double the tallest average height is passing for anyone but himself. Riley knows that Black men are too often seen as threats and targets regardless of their stature anyway. He's read the research showing that white folks can perceive Black boys as older and less innocent. As Cootie wades through these experiences himself, there isn't a single aspect of I'm a Virgo that doesn't convey Riley's ire at the state of the world — that doesn't virtually scream about it, actually — with this series going big and bold over and over.
Twin gynaecologists at the top of their game. Blood-red costuming and bodily fluids. The kind of perturbing mood that seeing flesh as a source of horror does and must bring. A stunning eye for stylish yet unsettling imagery. Utterly impeccable lead casting. When 1988's Dead Ringers hit cinemas, it was with this exact combination, all in the hands of David Cronenberg following Shivers, The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome and The Fly. He took inspiration from real-life siblings Stewart and Cyril Marcus, whose existence was fictionalised in 1977 novel Twins by Bari Wood and Jack Geasland, and turned it into something spectacularly haunting. Attempting to stitch together those parts again, this time without the Crimes of the Future filmmaker at the helm — and as a miniseries, too — on paper seems as wild a feat as some of modern medicine's biggest advancements. This time starring a phenomenal Rachel Weisz as both Beverly and Elliot Mantle, and birthed by Lady Macbeth and The Wonder screenwriter Alice Birch, Dead Ringers 2.0 is indeed an achievement. It's also another masterpiece.
Playing the gender-swapped roles that Jeremy Irons (House of Gucci) inhabited so commandingly 35 years back, Weisz (Black Widow) is quiet, calm, dutiful, sensible and yearning as Beverly, then volatile, outspoken, blunt, reckless and rebellious as Elliot. Her performance as each is that distinct — that fleshed-out as well — that it leaves viewers thinking they're seeing double. Of course, technical trickery is also behind the duplicate portrayals, with directors Sean Durkin (The Nest), Karena Evans (Snowfall), Lauren Wolkstein (The Strange Ones) and Karyn Kusama's (Destroyer) behind the show's lens; however, Weisz is devastatingly convincing. Beverly is also the patient-facing doctor of the two, helping usher women into motherhood, while Elliot prefers tinkering in a state-of-the-art lab trying to push the boundaries of fertility. Still, the pair are forever together or, with unwitting patients and dates alike, swapping places and pretending to be each other. Most folks in their company don't know what hit them, which includes actor Genevieve (Britne Oldford, The Umbrella Academy), who segues from a patient to Beverly's girlfriend — and big-pharma billionaire Rebecca (Jennifer Ehle, She Said), who Dead Ringers' weird sisters court to fund their dream birthing centre.
THE LAST OF US
If the end of the world comes, or a parasitic fungus evolves via climate change, spreads globally, infests brains en masse and almost wipes out humanity, spectacular video game-to-TV adaptation The Last of Us will have you wanting Pedro Pascal in your corner. Already a standout in Game of Thrones, then Narcos, then The Mandalorian, he's perfectly cast in HBO's latest blockbuster series — a character-driven show that ruminates on what it means to not just survive but to want to live and thrive after the apocalypse. In this smart and gripping show (one that's thankfully already been renewed for season two, too), he plays Joel. Dad to teenager Sarah (Nico Parker, The Third Day), he's consumed by grief and loss after what starts as a normal day, and his birthday, changes everything for everyone. Twenty years later, he's a smuggler tasked with tapping into his paternal instincts to accompany a different young girl, the headstrong Ellie (Bella Ramsey, Catherine Called Birdy), on a perilous but potentially existence-saving trip across the US.
Starting to watch The Last of Us, or even merely describing it, is an instant exercise in déjà vu. Whether or not you've played the hit game since it first arrived in 2013, or its 2014 expansion pack, 2020 sequel or 2022 remake, its nine-part TV iteration ventures where plenty of on-screen fare including The Road and The Walking Dead has previously trodden. The best example that springs to mind during The Last of Us is Station Eleven, however, which is the heartiest of compliments given how thoughtful, empathetic and textured that 2021–22 series proved. As everything about pandemics, contagions and diseases that upend the world order now does, The Last of Us feels steeped in stone-cold reality as well, as spearheaded by a co-creator, executive producer, writer and director who has already turned an IRL doomsday into stunning television with Chernobyl. That creative force is Craig Mazin, teaming up with Neil Druckmann from Naughty Dog, who also wrote and directed The Last of Us games.
THE MAKANAI: COOKING FOR THE MAIKO HOUSE
At the beginning of The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, 16-year-old best friends Kiyo (Nana Mori, Liar x Liar) and Sumire (Natsuki Deguchi, Silent Parade) leave home for the first time with smiles as wide as their hearts are open. Departing the rural Aomari for Kyoto in the thick of winter, they have internships as maiko lined up — apprentice geiko, as geishas are called in the Kyoto dialect. Their path to their dearest wishes isn't all sunshine and cherry blossoms from there, of course, but this is a series that lingers on the details, on slices of life, and on everyday events rather than big dramatic developments. Watch, for instance, how lovingly Kiyo and Sumire's last meal is lensed before they set out for their new future, and how devotedly the camera surveys the humble act of sitting down to share a dumpling soup, legs tucked beneath blankets under the table, while having an ordinary conversation. Soothing, tender, compassionate, bubbling with warmth: that's The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House from the outset.
There's a key reason that this cosy and comforting new treasure overflows with such affection and understanding — for its characters, their lives and just the act of living. Prolific writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda simply isn't capable of anything else. Yes, Netflix has been in the auteur game of late, and The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House is unmistakably the work of its rightly applauded creative force. One of the biggest names in Japanese cinema today, and the winner of the received Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or back in 2018 for the sublime Shoplifters, Kore-eda makes empathetic, rich and deeply emotional works. His movies, including the France-set The Truth and South Korea-set Broker, truly see the people within their frames. On the small screen, and hailing from manga, the nine-episode The Makanai is no different. It's also as calming as a show about friendships, chasing dreams and devouring ample dumplings can and should be.
The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House streams via Netflix.
In 2019's Skint Estate, Cash Carraway told all; A memoir of poverty, motherhood and survival completes the book's full title. Penned about working-class Britain from within working-class Britain, Carraway's written jaunt through her own life steps through the reality of being a single mum without a permanent place to live, of struggling to get by at every second, and of being around the system since she was a teenager. It examines alcoholism, loneliness, mental illness and domestic violence, too, plus refuges, working at peep shows, getting groceries from food banks and hopping between whatever temporary accommodation is available. Rain Dogs isn't a direct adaptation. It doesn't purport to bring Carraway's experiences to the screen exactly as they happened, or with slavish fidelity to the specific details. But this HBO and BBC eight-parter remains not only raw, rich, honest and authentic but lived in, as it tells the same story with candour, humour, warmth and poignancy.
Slipping into Carraway's fictionalised shoes is Daisy May Cooper — and she's outstanding. Her on-screen resume includes Avenue 5 and Am I Being Unreasonable?, as well as being a team captain on the latest iteration of Britain's Spicks and Specks-inspiring Never Mind the Buzzcocks, but she's a force to be reckoned with as aspiring writer and mum (to Iris, played by debutant Fleur Tashjian) Costello Jones. When Rain Dogs begins, it's with an eviction. Cooper lives and breathes determination as Costello then scrambles to find somewhere for her and Iris to stay next. But this isn't just their tale, with the pair's lives intersecting with the privileged but self-destructive Selby (Jack Farthing, Spencer), who completes their unconventional and dysfunctional family but tussles with his mental health. Including Costello's best friend Gloria (Ronke Adekoluejo, Alex Rider), plus ailing artist Lenny (The Young Ones legend Adrian Edmondson), this is a clear-eyed look at chasing a place to belong — and it's stunning.
Rebecca Ferguson will never be mistaken for Daveed Diggs, but the Dune, Mission: Impossible franchise and Doctor Sleep star now follows in the Hamilton Tony-winner's footsteps. While he has spent multiple seasons navigating dystopian class clashes on a globe-circling train in the TV version of Snowpiercer, battling his way up and down the titular locomotive, she just started ascending and descending the stairs in the underground chamber that gives Silo its moniker. Ferguson's character is also among humanity's last remnants. Attempting to endure in post-apocalyptic times, she hails from her abode's lowliest depths as well. And, when there's a murder in this instantly engrossing new ten-part series — which leaps to the screen from Hugh Howey's novels, and shares a few basic parts with Metropolis, Blade Runner and The Platform, as well as corrupt world orders at the core of The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner flicks — she's soon playing detective.
Silo captivates from the outset, when its focus is the structure's sheriff Holston (David Oyelowo, See How They Run) and his wife Allison (Rashida Jones, On the Rocks). Both know the cardinal rule of the buried tower, as does deputy Marnes (Will Patton, Outer Range), mayor Ruth (Geraldine James, Benediction), security head Sims (Common, The Hate U Give), IT top brass Bernard (Tim Robbins, Dark Waters) and the other 10,000 souls they live with: if you make the request to go outside, it's irrevocable and you'll be sent there as punishment. No matter who you are, and from which level, anyone posing such a plea becomes a public spectacle. Their ask is framed as "cleaning", referring to wiping down the camera that beams the desolate planet around them onto window-sized screens in their cafeterias. No one has ever come back, or survived for more than minutes. Why? Add that to the questions piling up not just for Silo's viewers, but for the silo's residents. For more than 140 years, the latter have dwelled across their 144 floors in safety from the bleak wasteland that earth has become — but what caused that destruction and who built their cavernous home are among the other queries.
As plenty does (see also: Rye Lane above), Beef starts with two strangers meeting, but there's absolutely nothing cute about it. Sparks don't fly and hearts don't flutter; instead, this pair grinds each other's gears. In a case of deep and passionate hate at first sight, Danny Cho (Steven Yeun, Nope) and Amy Lau (Ali Wong, Paper Girls) give their respective vehicles' gearboxes a workout, in fact, after he begins to pull out of a hardware store carpark, she honks behind him, and lewd hand signals and terse words are exchanged. Food is thrown, streets are angrily raced down, gardens are ruined, accidents are barely avoided, and the name of Vin Diesel's famous car franchise springs to mind, aptly describing how bitterly these two strangers feel about each other — and how quickly. Created by Lee Sung Jin, who has It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dave and Silicon Valley on his resume before this ten-part Netflix and A24 collaboration, Beef also commences with a simple, indisputable and deeply relatable fact. Whether you're a struggling contractor hardly making ends meet, as he is, or a store-owning entrepreneur trying to secure a big deal, as she is — or, if you're both, neither or anywhere in-between — pettiness reigning supreme is basic human nature.
Danny could've just let Amy beep as much as she liked, then waved, apologised and driven away. Amy could've been more courteous about sounding her horn, and afterwards. But each feels immediately slighted by the other, isn't willing to stand for such an indignity and becomes consumed by their trivial spat. Neither takes the high road, not once — and if you've ever gotten irrationally irate about a minor incident, this new standout understands. Episode by episode, it sees that annoyance fester and exasperation grow, too. Beef spends its run with two people who can't let go of their instant rage, keep trying to get the other back, get even more incensed in response, and just add more fuel to the fire again and again until their whole existence is a blaze of revenge. If you've ever taken a small thing and blown it wildly out of proportion, Beef is also on the same wavelength. And if any of the above has ever made you question your entire life — or just the daily grind of endeavouring to get by, having everything go wrong, feeling unappreciated and constantly working — Beef might just feel like it was made for you.
Cards on the table: thanks to Russian Doll and the Knives Out franchise, Natasha Lyonne and Rian Johnson are both on a helluva streak. In their most recent projects before now, each has enjoyed a hot run not once but twice. Lyonne made time trickery one of the best new shows of 2019, plus a returning standout in 2022 as well, while Johnson's first Benoit Blanc whodunnit and followup Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery were gems of the exact same years. The latter also saw the pair team up briefly — Lyonne and Johnson, that is, although getting a Russian Doll-meets-Knives Out crossover from the universe, or just the Netflix algorithm, would be a dream. Until that wish comes true, there's Poker Face. It's no one's stopgap or consolation prize, however. This new mystery-of-the-week series is an all-out must-see in its own right, and one of 2023's gleaming streaming aces already. Given its components and concept, turning out otherwise would've been the biggest head-scratcher.
Beneath aviator shades, a trucker cap and her recognisable locks, Lyonne plays detective again, as she did in Russian Doll — because investigating why you're looping through the same day over and over, or jumping through time, is still investigating. Johnson gives the world another sleuth, too, after offering up his own spin on Agatha Christie-style gumshoes with the ongoing Knives Out saga. This time, he's dancing with 1968–2003 television series Columbo, right down to Poker Face's title font. Lyonne isn't one for playing conventional detectives, though. Here, she's Charlie Cale, who starts poking around in sudden deaths thanks to an unusual gift and a personal tragedy. As outlined in the show's ten-part first season, Charlie is a human lie detector. She can always tell if someone is being untruthful, a knack she first used in gambling before getting on the wrong side of the wrong people. Then, when a friend and colleague at the far-from-flashy Las Vegas casino where Charlie works winds up dead, that talent couldn't be handier.
Becky with the good hair gets a shoutout in Swarm. Facial bites do as well, complete with a Love & Basketball reference when the culprit flees. This seven-part series about a global pop sensation and her buzzing fans and stans also has its music icon unexpectedly drop a stunner of a visual album, ride a white horse, be married to a well-known rapper, become a mum to twins and see said husband fight with her sister in an elevator. Her sibling is also a singer, and plenty of folks contend she's the more interesting of the two. Still, Swarm's object of fascination — protagonist Dre's (Dominique Fishback, Judas and the Black Messiah) undying obsession — sells out tours, breaks Ticketmaster and headlines one of the biggest music festivals there is. And, while they call themselves the titular term rather than a hive, her devotees are zealous and then some, especially humming around on social media.
Donald Glover and Janine Nabers, the show's creators and past colleagues on Glover's exceptional, now-finished Atlanta — Nabers also worked on Watchmen, too — couldn't be more upfront about who they're referring to. No one says Beyoncé's name, however, but Swarm's Houston-born music megastar is the former Destiny's Child singer in everything except moniker. In case anyone watching thinks that this series is trading in coincidences and déjà vu, or just failing to be subtle when it comes to Ni'Jah (Nirine S Brown, Ruthless), the Prime Video newcomer keeps making an overt opening declaration. "This is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or events, is intentional," it announces before each episode. From there, it dives into Dre's journey as a twentysomething in 2016 who still adores her childhood idol with the same passion she did as a teen and, instalment by instalment, shows how far she's willing to go to prove it.
CUNK ON EARTH
If you've ever watched a David Attenborough documentary about the planet and wished it was sillier and stupider, to the point of being entertainingly ridiculous and ridiculously entertaining alike, then Netflix comes bearing wonderful news. Actually, the BBC got there first, airing history-of-the-world mockumentary Cunk on Earth back in September 2022. Glorious things come to waiting viewers Down Under now, however — and this gleefully, delightfully absurd take on human civilisation from its earliest days till now, spanning cave paintings, Roman empires, Star Wars' empire, 1989 Belgian techno anthem 'Pump Up the Jam' and more, is one of the best shows to hit New Zealand in 2023 so far. This series is a comedy masterclass, in fact, featuring everything from a Black Mirror-leaning skit about Beethoven resurrected inside a smart speaker to a recreation of a Dark Ages fray purely through sound also thrown in. It's flat-out masterful, too, and tremendously funny.
This sometimes Technotronic-soundtracked five-part show's beat? Surveying how humanity came to its present state, stretching back through species' origins and evolution, and pondering everything from whether the Egyptian pyramids were built from the top down to the Cold War bringing about the "Soviet onion". The audience's guide across this condensed and comic history is the tweed-wearing Philomena Cunk, who has the steady voice of seasoned doco presenter down pat, plus the solemn gaze, but is firmly a fictional — and satirical — character. Comedian Diane Morgan first started playing the misinformed interviewer in 2013, in Charlie Brooker's Weekly Wipe, with Black Mirror creator Brooker behind Cunk on Earth as well. Over the past decade, Cunk has also brought her odd questions to 2016's one-off Cunk on Shakespeare and Cunk on Christmas, and 2018's also five-instalment Cunk on Britain. After you're done with the character's latest spin, you'll want to devour the rest ASAP.
Viewers mightn't have realised they'd been lacking something crucial until now, but Shrinking serves it up anyway: a delightfully gruff Harrison Ford co-starring in a kind-hearted sitcom. Creating this therapist-focused series for Apple TV+, Bill Lawrence, Brett Goldstein and Jason Segel didn't miss this new gem's immediate potential. Lawrence and Goldstein add the show to their roster alongside Ted Lasso, which the former also co-created, and the latter stars in as the also wonderfully gruff Roy Kent to Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning effect. It too bathes in warmth amid chaos, all while understanding, exploring and accepting its characters as the flawed folks we all are. As for Segel, he's no stranger to playing the type of super-enthusiastic and super-earnest figure he inhabits again here, as seen in Freaks and Geeks and How I Met Your Mother.
If Ted Lasso downplayed the soccer, instead emphasising the psychologist chats that were a pivotal part of season two, Shrinking would be the end result. Also, if Scrubs, another of Lawrence's sitcoms, followed doctors specialising in mental health rather than working in a hospital, Shrinking would also be the outcome. Round up those familiar elements and details brought over from elsewhere, and Shrinking turns them into a series that's supremely entertaining, well-cast and well-crafted — and an engaging and easy watch. The focus: Segel (Windfall) as Jimmy Laird, a shrink grieving for his wife Tia (Lilan Bowden, Murderville), making bad decisions and leaving parenting his teen daughter Alice (Lukita Maxwell, Generation) to his empty-nester neighbour Liz (Christa Miller, a Scrubs alum and also Lawrence's wife). When he decides to start checking back in, and to also give his patients like young war veteran Sean (Luke Tennie, CSI: Vegas) some tough love, it causes ripples, including for his boss Paul (Ford, The Call of the Wild) and colleague Gaby (Jessica Williams, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore).
Sometime in the near future, Rose Byrne, Seth Rogen and filmmaker Nicholas Stoller could easily join forces on a new rom-com. In fact, they should. Until then, buddy comedy Platonic makes a hilarious, engagingly written and directed, and perfectly cast addition to each's respective resumes. Reuniting the trio after 2014's Bad Neighbours and its 2016 sequel Bad Neighbours 2, this new series pairs Australia's comedy queen and America's go-to stoner as longterm pals who are never anything but mates — and haven't been in touch at all for years — but navigate a friendship that's as chaotic and complicated as any movie romance. That's an easy setup; however, watching the show's stars bicker, banter and face the fact that life doesn't always turn out as planned together proves as charming as it was always going to. Also, Platonic smartly doesn't try to be a romantic comedy, or to follow in When Harry Met Sally's footsteps.
Instead, Platonic explores what happens when two former besties have gone their own ways, then come back together. The show knows that reconnecting with old pals is always tinged with nostalgia for the person you were when they were initially in your life. And, it's well-aware that reckoning with where you've ended up since is an immediate side effect. Enter Sylvia (Byrne, Seriously Red), who reaches out to Will (Rogen, The Super Mario Bros Movie) after hearing that he's no longer with the wife (Alisha Wainwright, Raising Dion) she didn't like. She's also a suburban-dwelling former lawyer who put work on hold to become a mother of three, and can't help feeling envious of her husband Charlie's (Luke Macfarlane, Bros) flourishing legal career. Her old BFF co-owns and runs an LA brewpub, is obsessive about his beer and hipster/slacker image, and hasn't been taking his breakup well. They couldn't be in more different places in their lives. When they meet up again, they couldn't appear more dissimilar, too. "You look like you live at Ann Taylor Loft," is Will's assessment. Sylvia calls him "a '90s grunge clown." Neither is wrong.
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.
LOVE & DEATH
In the late 70s, when Texas housewife, mother of two and popular church choir singer Candy Montgomery had an affair with fellow congregation member Allan Gore, commenting about her being a scarlet woman only had one meaning. If anyone other than Elizabeth Olsen was stepping into her shoes in true-crime miniseries Love & Death, it would've remained that way, too; indeed, Jessica Biel just gave the IRL figure an on-screen portrayal in 2022 series Candy. Of course, Olsen is widely known for playing the Wanda Maximoff aka the Scarlet Witch in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as seen in WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness most recently. So, mention 'scarlet' in a line of dialogue around her, and it calls attention to how far she is away from casting spells and breaking out superhero skills. And she is, given that Montgomery keeps fascinating Hollywood (see also: 1990 TV movie A Killing in a Small Town) due to the fact that she was accused, arrested and put on trial for being an axe murderer. The victim: Betty Gore, Allan's wife, who was struck with the blade 41 times.
It's with pluck and perkiness that Olsen brings Candy to the screen again, initially painting the picture of a perfect suburban wife and mum. She keeps exuding those traits when Candy decides that she'd quite fancy an extra-marital liaison with Allan (Jesse Plemons, The Power of the Dog) — slowly winning him over, but setting ground rules in the hope that her husband Pat (Patrick Fugit, Babylon) won't get hurt, nor Betty (Lily Rabe, Shrinking) as well. For viewers that don't know the outcome when first sitting down to the seven-episode series, that bloody end is referenced in the first instalment. With restraint, sensitivity and a suitably complicated lead performance, Love & Death then leads up to it amid local scandals over a beloved pastor (Elizabeth Marvel, Mrs Davis) leaving and being replaced (by Keir Gilchrist, Atypical). It also explores the legal proceedings that follow (with She Said's Tom Pelphrey as Candy's lawyer). Olsen is terrific whether she's in bubbly, dutiful, calculating or unsettling mode, and the show itself slides in convincingly alongside writer/producer David E Kelley's recent slate of twisty tales with Big Little Lies, The Undoing and Nine Perfect Strangers (Nicole Kidman is also an executive producer).
Looking for more viewing highlights? Check out our list of film and TV streaming recommendations, which is updated monthly.
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