This might have lost what many consider to be its brightest star, but its lustre (and lustiness) remains intact.
The Duke of Hastings (Rege-Jean Page) may have gone in search of greener fields, but there is still plenty of scandal, sauciness and repressed sentiments swirling about Bridgerton, as the second instalment of eight parts begins.
And while it leans into its Austen-ness (or should that be Will-ful-ness?) even more during this sophomore season, based on author Julia Quinn’s second tale The Viscount Who Loved Me, series creator Chris Van Dusen and the rest of the Shondaland team ensures this adaptation is more than just “plain Jane” or “Summer Shakespeare”.
That means the seemingly endless array of sumptuous costumes are back, the pacing perfectly pitched for both those who like to binge and those who love to savour, and the magnificent, classical versions of 20th and 21st century pop hits are once again sneakily and masterfully scattered throughout proceedings.
MOON KNIGHT (DISNEY+)
Freed, at least at this stage, of any connection to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the increasing talk of multiverses, this six-part series offers up a refreshingly fresh canvas on which to paint its action-packed and engrossing tale.
Sure there might be some Egyptian mythology to get your head around, but this doesn’t feel bogged down by portents and pretence the way last year’s big-screen “immortals-assemble” amble Eternals was.
At its heart is a terrific performance by Oscar Isaac. Thanks to turns in Dune and the most recent Star Wars trilogy, we know he can do gravitas and derring-do in his sleep, but here, sporting an impressive British accent, he displays a nebbishness and comedic-chops we haven’t really seen since his breakout performance in 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.
* Neon’s First Lady, Amazon’s Outer Range, Apple’s Roar amongst April’s must see TV
* Downton 2, Fantastic Beasts 3, New Zealand-shot X amongst April’s must see movies
* Question Team: Richard Ayoade and friends hilariously ‘rewrite the panel show’
* The Chase USA: Bigger money, extra Jeopardy, but somehow not quite as much fun
* Winning Time: Neon’s wildly entertaining look back at a crazy decade
THE NEWSREADER (THREENOW)
Set against the backdrop of a fertile and turbulent time for world events (1986), Michael Lucas’ (Offspring, Five Bedrooms) six-part drama’s template might be Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom or Abi Morgan’s The Hour, but it’s hard not to watch without thinking of that brilliant Australian current affairs show satire Frontline. That’s especially thanks to some of the colourful and kooky characters amongst the staff.
However, this is really Anna Torv’s (Fringe, Mindhunter) show. Looking almost like a dead ringer for Cate Blachett, she delivers a performance of power, grit and authority that her more illustrious countrywoman would be proud of. In Torv’s hands, her ambitious television news frontwoman Helen Norville seems like Australia’s answer to Murphy Brown or Mary Tyler Moore.
PIECES OF HER (NETFLIX)
Fans of ‘90s and noughties action movies The Long Kiss Goodnight, Nikita and A History of Violence should definitely check out Toni Collette’s latest series.
The awesome Australian actor plays the mysterious Laura Oliver in this eight-part thriller, based on the 2018 novel by the magnificently monikered American crime writer Karin Slaughter.
The show’s creator Charlotte Stoudt (a former writer on Homeland) and series’ sole director Minkie Spiro (The Plot Against America) balance the moments of action nicely with the human drama and make terrific use of Collette’s ability to bring gravitas to even the most pulpy of premises.
Yes, there’s a familiarity about the conceit, but there’s also enough intrigue and mystery to keep you coming back for more, greatly assisted by the supporting cast, who also include Top of the Lake’s David Wenham, The End of the F…ing World’s Jessica Bardem, Yellowstone’s Gil Birmingham and Lost’s Terry O’Quinn.
SCREW (TVNZ ONDEMAND)
Teachers’ Nina Sosanya and Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell team up for this six-part British dramedy which reveals the uncensored, shocking and often darkly funny reality of life as a prison officer in an all-male prison in 21st century Britain.
Veteran officer Leigh (Sosanya) lives for her job at Long Marsh, but when new recruit Rose (O’Donnell) arrives, C Wing will never be the same.
“This is broad and warm and welcoming, with enough of a sharp side to make it worth sticking with,” wrote The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson.
SUPER PUMPED : THE BATTLE FOR UBER (NEON)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kyle Chandler, Elisabeth Shue and Uma Thurman team up for this seven-part drama which chronicles one of Silicon Valley’s most successful and destructive start-ups.
The story focuses on Uber’s hard-hitting CEO Travis Kalanick (Gordon-Levitt) and his sometimes tumultuous relationship with mentor Bill Gurley (Chandler). From the creators of The Girlfriend Experience and Billions.
“The story of Super Pumped is fascinating, with a cast clearly up to the challenge of telling its compelling story, which has the feel of a serialized version of The Social Network,” wrote Paste magazine’s Terry Terrones.
VIKINGS: VALHALLA (NETFLIX)
This eight-part sequel to the hit series Vikings is set more than 100 years later and begins with their armies plotting to avenge a humiliating massacre in England. However, siblings Leif (Sam Corlett) and Freydis Eriksson (Frida Gustavsson) have a different kind of retribution on their minds.
The cast also includes Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Leo Suter and Laura Berlin.
“Like its predecessor, Valhalla is a beautiful show, dark and gloomy and vicious, with all the adornments of warfare that make the Vikings so fascinating in the first place,” wrote Paste magazine’s Shane Ryan.
WINNING TIME (NEON)
Those who have seen and enjoyed Adam McKay’s cinematic offerings like The Other Guys, Don’t Look Up and, most notably, The Big Short will know what to expect from this smart and slickly told, sometimes hilarious 10-part basketball-themed black comedy subtitled “The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty”.
There are plenty of verbal and visual gags, memorable one-liners and fourth-wall-breaking moments, as John C. Reilly’s eccentric entrepreneur and aspiring NBA franchise owner Dr Jerry Buss regularly shares his thoughts and observations with the audience.
No doubt lured by the attraction of working with McKay, there’s a truly impressive roster of supporting stars, running the gamut from Oscar-winners like Sally Field and Adrien Brody, to immersive talents like Tracy Letts, Julianne Nicholson and Gillian Jacobs.
It may not be exactly what The Last Dance fans are looking for in terms of their next nostalgic basketball fix, but Winning Time sure is a hell of an entertaining ride.