For most people, living a life of lies and deceit isn’t a lasting one but for John Meehan, he turns it into a house on the waterfront, access to copious amounts of money and a lifestyle he could only have ever dreamed of.
Taking shockingly brutal and unbelievably incredible tales of true crime and turning them into binge-worthy documentaries really is the flavor of the moment. From Making a Murderer to The Keepers, The Staircase and Evil Genius there seems to be a story for everything. And it’s only been recently where those stories have been glossed over for scripted television and and sometimes it’s good (The People vs OJ Simpson) and sometimes it’s not so good (The Assassination of Gianni Versace – unpopular opinion I know)
The next ‘glossed over for TV’ story is Netflix’s Dirty John (via a full season run on America’s Bravo channel) based off the hugely popular L.A Times Podcast of the same name that follows well-off but unlucky in love interior designer Debra Newell (played by Connie Britton and her fabulous hair) who, with four failed marriages to her name, decides to get back on the online dating train and after a slew of disastrous dates, John Meehan (Eric Bana) with his cargo shorts, sweet demeanor and good looks arrive at the perfect moment in her dwindling love life to sweep her off her feet.
Though red flags begin to appear by the end of the first date, that doesn’t stop Deb and we watch as she dives very quickly into a new relationship with the mysterious John and it’s not long before the people in her life, including her children, start to realize he may not be the perfect man he is making himself out to be resulting in a devastating attack that threatens to destroy the lives of everyone Deb loves.
Netflix, in either a cruel joke (or delight for those who hate the day) are dropping the entire eight episodes of Dirty John for us to binge on Valentine’s Day aka February 14th. Check out the trailer below.
Netflix is starting the year off with a bang (literally) with the release of their new gawky teen sex comedy series Sex Education that brings in elements of Freaks and Geeks, Dawson’s Creek and Porky’s to create one of the year’s brightest and funniest series that shows regardless of sexual experience, sex is never the cut and paste answer to any problem that may arise.
Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) is living a semi-complicated life. At 16, he’s found himself in the middle of a sexual awakening but it’s just not his…which is partly in fault thanks to his mother Jean (Gillian Anderson) who’s profession as a sex therapist muddles itself between what’s appropriate to talk about at work and home causing Otis to be more sexually repressed than his school friends. Though, being the son of a sex therapist does have it’s own rewards when school outcast Maeve (Emma Mackey), looking to make a quick buck, talks Otis into giving out the advice he has learnt at home to the sexually active and confused students at his school. The beauty here is the diversity within the students at the school and the problems they are needing help with. A popular girl with a touchy gag reflex to a lesbian couple having trouble with sex to a shy and awkward teen with an almost stalkerish crush on a girl all find themselves in the presence of Otis who doles out sage advice all the while knowing full well, he’s still yet to experience anything of the like.
Along with Otis and Maeve, there’s Otis’ best friend Eric (Ncuti Gatwa) who doesn’t struggle with his sexuality but with how difficult it is to find someone when there’s only one other openly gay student at the school. He’s also become the target of the school bully Adam (Connor Swindells) who spends most of the season making Eric’s life a living hell – and being a major disappointment to his father, the head master of the school and as the season progresses, there’s little snippets into Adam’s life that reveal why he does what he does.
Gillian Anderson as Jean is just one of the standouts from this series but singling out her performance as the sexually open therapist is a must as this role feels so….un Gillian Anderson that it’s perfect. We’re used to seeing Anderson in constricted, quiet and closed in roles (X-Files, Bleak House, Hannibal) that it feels like a breath of fresh air watching her character smoke a joint and get high with one of her son’s classmates or don a red shag wig and grope and stroke an over sized phallic shaped eggplant.
At only eight episodes long, this first season does not feel rushed or have things swept under the rug to deal with later – though – no spoilers – there is a lot of stuff set up if (fingers crossed) the show comes back for a second outing.
Check out the trailer below:
At the heart of all this though are the three relationships that are either existing or formed throughout the season and how they stretch and break and mend with each passing day. Otis and his mother Jean. Otis and Maeve. Otis and Eric.
Sex Education Season One is now streaming on Netflix.
Can Roseanne survive without Roseanne? That’s the one big question on everyone’s tongues when it comes to the Roseanne rehash titled The Conners. When Roseanne returned to screens earlier this year, it did so with a major political vengeance and brought in millions of viewers. That version of the show retained its original biting humor and comedic look at working class living and offered a touching nod to the original.
Then Roseanne went on a ambien induced twitter tirade that saw her make offence and racist comments about former Obama administration adviser Valerie Jarrett and suddenly ABC cancelled the show and cut all ties with its namesake thus leaving an entire staff of cast and crew suddenly out of a job.
The news also meant that here in Australia, Channel Ten pulled any unaired episodes off its schedule.
So as it goes, that didn’t last very long and show made a quick return to our screens, now titled ‘The Conners’ and did so without Roseanne allowing instead the series to land safely on the shoulders of John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert. Yes, Roseanne is gone and without adding spoilers, how she goes and the ripples it causes, continue throughout the first four episodes. But don’t assume that’s the new tone of the show. Roseanne’s absence causes the first episode to go to some dark places as Dan comes to terms with just what happened, how it happened and who was responsible but the overall tone remains the same blue collar family comedy, just with less political/pro trump propaganda that littered Roseanne’s reboot season.
As noted, Goodman, Metcalf and Gilbert come front and centre to take charge while Lecy Goranson (Becky) continues to improve with each and every episode. It’s just a shame that Michael Fishman’s DJ Connor is kind of tossed to the side like an unwanted salad that came with your parma. As a staple from the original series, he kind of had to be there but aside from his war veteran wife and daughter, Fishman retains the least amount of scenes of the core cast per episode.
So long story short….The Conners works incredibly well without Roseanne. There is an absence though you’re not distracted by it. No beat was missed from Roseanne to The Conners and it’s a testament to the entire returning cast and crew who became unemployed off the back of one single cast member.
Premieres Thursday, 22 November From 7.30pm with a Double Episode on Network TEN
Let’s be real here. Those cop/doctor/fireman procedurals flooding the airwaves right now, would not really make for exciting watching if the emergencies they were attending were not of major grandeur. A bomb in chest of a man, multiple plane crashes, a 20 story apartment building on fire with no fire exits….it’s rudimentary that the bigger the emergency, the bigger the show (no matter how outlandish) and that’s what new show 9-1-1 is aiming to do – except most of the emergencies featured in each episode are based off actual real-life events.
Created by the minds of Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk (American Horror Story, GLEE, Nip/Tuck) this ‘first responders’ drama takes the most insane “what could possibly go wrong” horrors and amps them up ten fold to offer up some of the most skin crawling, “ewwww” ensuing and spine tingling emergencies.
Let’s just say a new born baby flushed down a toilet in the series opening episode (written by Murphy, Falchuk, and showrunner/co-creator Tim Minear and directed by Murphy series regular Bradley Buecker) isn’t even scraping the surface of what’s to come.
Along with the freakishly outlandish scenarios, 9-1-1 is fitted out with a dream cast of core characters including Angela Bassett as tough as nails cop Athena who is dealing with some home life dramas, Peter Krause as fire station captain Bobby Nash who is a recovering addict with a family secret he’s not telling anyone (well just yet), Connie Britton as 9-1-1 responder Abby Clark who is struggling to balance work and looking after her ailing mother and Oliver Stark as the rookie rule-breaker firefighter who may or may not be a sex addict.
The day jobs of these characters see them often intertwining with one another though Britton’s 9-1-1 call centre responder Abby Clark is virtually cut from any real involvement until she forcibly inserts herself into the life of young firefighter Buck.
Of all our heroes personal struggles, I found Krause’s Bobby Nash the most difficult to swallow with his former addict status sending him to the local priest to confess his sins on a regular basis. It does takes five episodes of this sullen and private Bobby to finally reveal just what is causing him such depression and that reveal in itself is quite shocking and heart breaking but once revealed and dealt with, is quickly swept under the rug and never mentioned again.
For the most part, 9-1-1 seems to offer up a somewhat even balance between the daily emergencies our heroes deal with and the personal struggles waiting for them at home though a note I took down while watching the first few episodes read “get back to the life saving action!!” – not to say that the home life aspect of our heroes was boring.
9-1-1 starts Wednesday August 1st, 8:30pm Channel 7.
The True Crime genre love that has been drawing in viewers for some time now from Making a Murderer to The Keepers and The Staircase among others, has a new must-watch show featuring one of the most bizarre cases ever documented. Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist recently dropped on Netflix and the four part documentary has enough of all the right genre ingredients for it to be binged in a single sit and leave us wanting more.
At the very base of this case is the town of Eerie, Pennsylvania and a pizza delivery driver named Brian Wells who robs a bank with a working walking cane gun (it’s literally something out of James Bond), a note demanding $250,000 – and a collar bomb around his neck.
After obtaining less than $9000, Wells leaves the bank, is apprehended and while waiting for the bomb squad to arrive, dies when said collar bomb explodes in one very graphic and horrific scene that has traumatized me since viewing. Moments after Well’s shocking death, it’s discovered he was on a scavenger hunt, following a map and instructions in order to defuse the Saw like collar bomb.
The web of this case begins to expand when one of Well’s co-workers mysteriously dies only days later and two people – Bill Rothstein and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong – enter the fray with a third dead body sitting frozen in Rothstien’s chest freezer.
This fascinating case features master mind criminals, red herrings, crazy theories and law enforcement bungles – just as others in the genre have – but unlike those, the focus on the judicial system is just a haze as the unusual circumstances within this case are just too outlandish to not be put front and centre.
Of the two criminals in this case, Diehl-Armstrong is the only one still alive and the only one to actively communicate with director Trey Borzillieri about Well’s case and the ever expanding landscape that surrounds it.
Check out the trailer below:
Evil Genius is streaming now on Netflix Australia/New Zealand.
p.s – for fans of the genre’, the compelling The Staircase is coming to Netflix along with three all-new episodes starting on June 8th!
Taking the what-if around this murder as gospel, the follow up to The People Vs OJ Simpson is more flash than facts but is still a good watch.
I’m putting it out there front and center – the actual murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace is only a fraction of what is featured within the world of Ryan Murphy’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace so much so, the show would have been better titled The Delusional Life of Andrew Cunananas Assassination delves into the world of Versace’s killer (played by Glee’s Darren Criss) more than Versace’s terrible fate as the title would suggest.
Opening with soaring operatic music and a flowing visual tour of Versace’s gaudy Miami mansion, Versace is dead even before the title credits. However, the aim for Murphy wasn’t for us to follow those trying to solve this murder (hence the title) but in fact send us back in time and follow Cunanan and how he ended up with a gun in his hands aimed at the famed fashion designer. Yes, Versace’s untimely death at the hands of Cunanan plays as the pilot episode’s main premise but that’s more to do with Versace’s celebrity status over Cunanan’s four other victims, who also get a look in during the shows eight other episodes in the form of time jumps.
Based off the book Vulgar Favors: The Hunt for Andrew Cunanan, the Man Who Killed Gianni Versace by author Maureen Orth, Assassination is spread among three different lines – Cunanan and his victims, Versace’s loved ones (including Ricky Martin as Versace’s long-time partner Antonio D’Amico) dealing with the fashion empire pre and post murder and the bumbling FBI who can’t seem to get to grips with the ‘gay’ aspect surrounding the murders (it was the 90’s).
The source material also happens to blur the lines between truth and made-up and Assassination quickly becomes a show that will have you asking “did that really happen?” while trying to decide what is fact and what is fiction considering to this day, there is still no actual proof that Versace and Cunanan had even met prior to the murder.
Gianni’s sister Donatella (played with startling verbal similarity by Penelope Cruz) has claimed the series as “a work of fiction” while the programme itself carries the disclaimer: “Some events are combined or imagined for dramatic and interpretative purposes. Dialogue is imagined to be consistent with these events” and that’s because the main players within this world are….well, dead.
Cunanan’s prior interactions (or lack thereof) with his victims – Versace (Édgar Ramírez), Jeffrey Trail (Finn Wittrock), David Madson (Cody Fern), Lee Miglin (Mike Farrell) and William Reece (Gregg Lawrence) – is somewhat pure speculation so while the work is based off fact, it is done so with much “let’s assume this is what happened“.
That aside, the character study of Andrew Cunanan is a rather intriguing one and is explored heavily within the series. Cunanan’s ability to seamlessly morph into any given situation or social standing and flee when his lies have all been revealed is quite remarkable though giving so much focus on his life, his lies and his troubled youth feels like we’re being forced into empathizing with Cunanan in light of the fact he is/was a notorious serial killer.
Part of this comes down to how star Darren Criss brings the killer to life, playing Cunanan as mysterious yet suave with an air of charm, a believer in his own lies and the false world around him that he has created while trying to decide just how much of his true self he needs to reveal. One could only presume by the middle of this series, much more freedom for Criss was enabled with Cunanan as this is where most of the fact/fiction lines become very blurred.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Assassination is the glaring fact that unlike season one’s OJ Simpson story, there is no real hero to root for. While we all knew the end result, Sarah Paulson’s Marcia Clark still had us backing her to go and get hers in a male dominated environment yet in Assassination, that task is less male dominated environment and more gay acceptance.
That job is pretty much left vacant even though it may feel like we’re being forced into believing it should be Cunanan who, while never ashamed of his sexuality, understands how being gay can be perceived by those less educated on the topic.
The missing hero however is through no fault of anyone’s as there just was never one in this story to begin with. It could never have been Cunanan (regardless of his childhood), the FBI, as it’s shown, were a bunch of bumbling bigots who couldn’t have cared any less about Cunanan’s victims and others such as Versace or even Lee Miglin’s wife Marilyn (played wonderfully by Judith Light) were so far removed from the central story line it would have meant stretching the truth even further to find that hero.
On the whole, this tale of Andrew Cunanan is a worthy watch and while lacking in the suspense and law and order that drove American Crime Story’s first season of The People Vs OJ Simpson there is still enough substance to dig in and make your own mind up about how much truth is actually found within this series.
American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace begins Thursday May 24th at 8:30pm AEST, on Foxtel’s showcase.
At some point during the two hours of this part one Olivia Newton John bio, A young Olivia Newton John (played by Morgan Griffin) finds a review about her album with the now infamous quote “If white bread could sing, it would sound like this.”….
Needless to say, that white bread is what we’re being delivered up in the first part of this ONJ biopic that literally speed-balls through two decades of her career within the blink of an eye, bypassing the darker, meatier topics that could have added a bit of wholegrain to the loaf.
Hopeless Devoted to You opens with one of ONJ’s most iconic film moments, the transformation of Sandy in Grease with her ink black leggings, figure hugging corset and hair tizzed within an inch of it’s life singing ‘You’re the one that I want’. She’s riding a wave of praise with the world at her feet at the movie’s premiere wondering “how did I get here?” before we’re thrown all the way back to Melbourne 1965 with 16 year old ONJ (Morgan Griffin) about to get her first break with boyfriend TV presenter Ian Turpie (Will Ewing) by her side.
A move to London, a failed attempt with her first single and movie plus a new boyfriend in Bruce Welch (Hugo Johnstone-Burt) from the band ‘The Shadows’ and suddenly ONJ is 22 years old and she’s beginning to make a name for herself with thanks to her boyfriend and manager Welch. There’s a slight hint within this first part that attempts to look at Welch’s jealousy of ONJ has her career begins to soar (he left his band to manager her) but because that might delve a bit to deep into the dark side it’s quickly brushed aside and ONJ moves on.
It’s a full 45-odd minutes before the Delta Goodrem version of ONJ re-appears just as she’s about to sing her first mega hit “I Honestly Love You” with new boyfriend by her side, Englishman Lee Kramer (Todd Lasance) who, also happens to be her new manager. And very much like before with lover/manager Welch, ONJ finds herself struggling with the jealousy of Kramer as her lover/manager as her career continues to keep going higher and once again, she lets him go before we get into the meatier parts of their relationship.
The nitty gritty of this part one is that there is none. It’s simply white bread and in all honesty there is really nothing wrong with it as it makes for a nice and pleasant viewing filled with some hit songs and a couple of broken hearts.
As a young ONJ, Morgan Griffin shines, giving us the doe eyed soft spoken Aussie girl about to take on the world with her music though as this is the Delta Goodrem show, she’s brought in to play ONJ in her early 20’s and that may not have been the best move as Goodrem is too present, too self aware, too…well…Delta Goodrem.
Sure Delta and ONJ both embody the ‘good girl next door’ image but the similarities between the two end there and I had to remind myself constantly that this wasn’t a Delta singing singing ONJ’s greatest hits special and that’s through no fault of her own. Delta is just too big a name, face and brand to easily morph into someone else – someone just as well known in the form of Olivia Newton John.
When you compare this to 2014’s Michael Hutchence/INXS biopic, Luke Arnold, while known, did not have the same status as Goodrem which allowed the actor to become Hutchence to a point the two were eerily alike but then again, there was more substance and darker, personal material being explored in that movie.
Part two, which airs the following week, delves into the more recent(ish) and more tabloid ONJ era with crazed stalkers, the Xanadu years, battle with cancer and a lover missing at sea.
Don’t expect too much depth from this part one, if we’re talking white bread it’s a cucumber sandwich made to look like a cheese sandwich but we still can clearly see it’s a cucumber sandwich. Enjoyable but sadly not satisfying that hunger.
Olivia Newton John: Hopelessly Devoted to You – Part one airs Sunday, May 13th at 8:30pm on the Seven Network.
We’re strong into the era of the ‘reboot’ where the feelings of days gone by nostalgia is breathing new life into shows long forgotten. Sometimes it works a treat and sometimes it leaves us with a nasty sour taste in our mouths. Will & Grace came back with a force, molding itself into modern era culture and The X-Files continues it’s bumpy sci-fi ride traipsing through aliens and government conspiracies. 2009’s Melrose Place reboot lost viewers the moment anything relating to the original series was thrown out the window while Gilmore Girls Netflix revival seemed to have lost it’s quip and heart.
So where does Roseanne sit on the reboot/revival scale?
Well, the ‘working class’ family comedy that debuted 30 years ago was biting in its humorous take on the less than glamorous, shining a light on everyday family problems from teenagers to low income, unemployment and health care though its final season embraced ‘jumping the shark’ culture with the Connor family winning millions in the state lottery and killing off Roseanne’s husband Dan (John Goodman) with a heart attack.
This Roseanne revisit needed to fix the wrongs of the past and does so using familiar techniques as seen very recently with Will & Grace, using one line quick quips to glaze over what we knew and wipe the slate clean for those old enough to remember how things left off.
This cleanse leaves us with a Connor family at war within itself in 2018, some of which being the result of the diabolical political state America is currently enveloped in. Jackie (Laurie Metcalfe) has been pushed aside after a voting clash with Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), Darlene (Sara Gilbert) has moved back home as a recently divorced mother of two, DJ (Michael Fishman) has returned home after a stint in the army over in Syria and brings with him his young daughter and Becky (Lecy Goranson) is a struggling single who can’t seem to keep away from her childhood home.
In general, almost everything looks the same about Roseanne from when we last saw them (albeit older and including a sweet nod to ‘other Becky’ Sarah Chalke, who guests in the first few episodes) though there are some minor ‘token’ attempts to pull the show into current times with DJ’s bi-racial daughter and Darlene’s gender fluid son Mark, who takes center stage in the revivals’ second episode that features some semi-touching moments pinched between some grimacing looks from Dan early on in the piece.
In a move similar to that of the Will & Grace revival, Roseanne’s first episode back is a very politically charged episode, commenting on the current landscape with Trump in charge but unlike Will & Grace, Roseanne proudly voted for Trump and plays as the reason why she and Jackie have had a falling out. Thankfully though, politics seem to take a back seat for the next few episodes and putting that topic in the hip pocket allows the show finds that magical stride, balancing brutal cutting humor with heart warming touching moments the show was known for.
So again, where does the Roseanne reboot sit on the scale?
After a heated first episode that feels unfamiliar and a questionable second episode, Roseanne settles in nicely to produce one of the more welcome returns to television after being revived from the crypt.
The Roseanne revival begins with a double episode starting Sunday April 30th on Channel 10.
In the era of modern technology and instant ‘moment sharing’, cooking failures in the kitchen are no longer restricted to shamefully tossing out the food abomination one has created. Pinterest Fails and #NailedIt hash tags allow us to poke a little fun at our kitchen disappointments and now, Netflix have gone one step further with a new fun filled baking show filled with ‘bakers’ just as inept at baking as most of us are.
‘Nailed it’, hosted by Nicole Byer, salutes all the wrongs we do in the kitchen by pitting three willing home chefs against each other in a two round bake-off where the aim is to re-create decadent and over-the-top baked goods (in what I feel is a very restricted amount of time), all for the chance to win $10,000 and the Nailed It trophy cup.
From kit kats in the microwave (when the recipe requires melted chocolate) to unflattering self portrait cookies to a President Donald Trump cake that looks like it has come directly out of your nightmares, Nailed It celebrates the fun in failing.
While the format is nothing really new and the contestant introductions feel like they’re on a daytime infomercial spruiking the latest in kitchen utensils, it is Nailed It’s judges that inject the life and festivity to the show. Host Byers along with renowned chef Jacques Torres and an episodic special guest judge play along with the frivolity of the show and aren’t afraid to laugh at the baking results so much so, I believe the title of the show should actually be “I don’t mean to laugh but – “
While there is laughter at our bakers and their skills, there is no nastiness whatsoever. Byers, Torres and the guest judge are encouraging and are even able to be called up to offer advice if one of the bakers press their allocated ‘panic’ button.
In the end, our bakers know they’re crap in the kitchen. There’s no egos, no arguments and no casting of the villain role (hello MKR). These bakers are here to have a good time, get some baking pointers and have a crack at possibly fluking a challenge to win the $10,000 prize.
Nailed It is currently streaming on Netflix Australia.
We’re all freaks, we’re all fragile, and we all survived. This tagline for Netflix’s docuseries ‘Mortified Guide’ rings true for all us 30-something year old’s who can remember the awkward, angst ridden life we all lived ‘back in the day’ of our teen years and the dairy entries that accommodated those life defining moments.
The six episode series takes heed from a generalized topic such as “The Mortified Guide to Fitting In” and “The Mortified Guide to Pop Culture” among others and puts willing participants on stage, in front of a live audience, to read aloud actual diary entries written in the moments of rage, love, happiness and oblivion.
Think of it as a live action, modern day version of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.
The beauty behind Mortified Guide is just how affirming it is to know that what we experienced and felt and believed all those years ago, mimics that of pretty much everyone else and that is in thanks to how Mortified Guide is presented.
This is about the celebration of our awkward years, the celebration about how inept we all really were about love and sex and family and well….pretty much life in general and the celebration of how we all saw this and interpreted it into written form.
Each of the six episodes offer plenty of standout diary moments including a re-telling of a very erotic story written about an encounter with Jon Bon Jovi in the high school corridors, a star trek obsessed lad who wrote his diary entries in the form of ‘captains logs’, one girls attempt to get popular with online fanfic readers with her clueless homo-erotic Harry Potter fan fiction and my personal favorite – episode one’s closing of two life long friends re-enacting their old MSN chats where being friend-zoned is painfully hilarious.
There’s so much warmth to this awkward humor, so much so that you’ll be encouraged to pull out your own teenage journal from the back of wardrobe and cringe a little less than the last time you read it.
And so rings true it does, the shows tagline “We’re all freaks, we’re all fragile, and we all survived.”
Mortified Guide To is now streaming on Netflix Australia