Keep or Trash — A Review of Top 10 Mzansi TV Shows in 2020
A Mzansi TV Year in Review
While Uzalo still rakes in fairly huge ratings for SABC in comparison to other daily soaps, it has fallen out of touch with reality.
The storyline has been stale to say the least, rehashing what worked in the past to get its fans watching. Viewers haven’t taken this lightly, and shown their disapproval over time through dwindling ratings.
The taping of the soapie took a production break during the year, as a result of the Coronavirus. We thought the break would possibly bring some freshness in the writing department and new takes on how to navigate KZN.
However, it was a disappointing flashback of what we’ve seen before. Without fail, the soapie will add a new character that will infiltrate the church. The presumed ‘good guy’ will find him/herself embroiled in a bitter conflict with Nkunzi and his cronies, which will result in their untimely death.
Takeaways from Uzalo’s 2020 that prove that something has to change include loss of over 3 million viewers from April to October, contract disputes between the actors and producers of the show and the threat of possibly cancelling the show.
With all that said, we think Uzalo should be kept rolling. They’ve taken a production break again and will only resume shooting next year. We think the time will be beneficial for all those involved, and may see other actors move on from their roles.
KEEP OR TRASH: Keep for now.
When rumours began swirling recently that the Fergusons had been hatching a plan to license their popular telenovela The Queen to SABC 2, where it would potentially replace Muvhango, we saw somewhat of a lifeline for the show.
Once the highest-rated program both across the DStv ecosystem (before Uyajola 9/9 dethroned), and on Mzansi Magic, the daily drama was once unstoppable. The secret behind its success lies in several ingredients.
The cast had a diverse assortment of roles ranging from comic brilliance to intense portrayals of sheer emotion. We had T-Gom, Petronella, Prince, Brutus, Mjekejeke and amongst others the Queen herself, Harriet, all in one show, playing these larger than life characters that each have a steady fan following. At its peak, the show was exceptionally good at navigating comedy, action thriller and romance.
Unfortunately, the cast departures and entrances have neutralised the show’s potential throughout 2020.
The telenovela has slowly lost the elements that once made it the giant of local daily dramas, and it’s not just about the major cast shakeups. In its entirety, the show feels stretched beyond its potent impact. That goes for all dramas that become telenovelas. It becomes a never-ending cycle of predictable patterns.
KEEP OR TRASH: Keep. The Queen has about half a year left in it, and then we are seriously signing out. The commissioning of a new primetime drama in that time slot would freshen things up for everyone involved.
Every year we wait in anticipation of the next group of talented musicians to offer an alternative sound to what exists in the music industry currently.
The odd contestant that offers comedic relief is also a welcomed reaction. But after 16 seasons, the show has gotten monotone, with judges peddling their favourite instead of judging the contestants solely on their talent.
We can definitely do without another season of Idols SA. This one should definitely be trashed. More than that, the artists that eventually win the competition evaporate into thin air while the finalists continue to thrive years after the competition. The music show has morphed into something else, a satiric talent show that owes its ratings more to what Somizi is wearing than what the contestants do on stage.
KEEP OR TRASH: Trash it. But they won’t do that because 1) this is a ratings smasher and 2) people can’t seem to get enough of it. Plus, some contestants from the recent seasons are making a mark for themselves on the charts these days. It’s not going anywhere, you all.
Gomora has started showing signs of recovering from its recent slump of boring storylines.
The Mzansi Magic telenovela, which started out as one of the best things to happen to SA television this year, took a dive from its initial peak. Blame it on storylines that were downgrades compared to the mind-blowing plot twists and dark secrets that gave it a strong hook in the beginning.
The dramatic cliff hangers, speed chases on the high way with drone shots, unraveling of lies that threatened to blow up the township, and stellar performances from a fresh cast with a few new faces, were slowly replaced by mediocre plots that lacked substance and direction.
That pyramid scheme storyline was lukewarm, at best. The school debate thing felt like a filler. Mohato’s entire existence remains unjustified.
They did all of that despite having explosive plot questions that still needed to be attended to. These include the unresolved murder of Mbongeni, Langa’s paternity and Glady’s secret.
In the latest episodes of the telenovela, however, things look to be picking up again. Teddy and Ncebakazi Manzi’s storyline is good not just because it’s a fascinating plot, but also because the writing allows us to explore the psychological trauma and power dynamics that surround rape. Elsewhere, the introduction of detective Mahlasela shook Sonto, Mazet and Ntokozo’s world in ways that kept us on edge.
KEEP OR TRASH: Keep, definitely! We are hoping they don’t drop the ball again, because there’s a fair amount of oxygen in Gomora.
Sunday evenings have been owned by the Moja Love channel largely thanks to the religious audience that tune in to watch the escapade that South Ah cheaters get up to on Uyajola 9/9. Jub Jub and a host of other media personalities make cameo appearances trying to burst lovers that are unfaithful to their partners for our entertainment.
This show is a definite must keep, not only for the entertainment value, but for doing country duty. This show is all that stands between social deviance and order in relationships. Jub Jub, as the host, provides a mixture of unhelpful commentary and adding fuel to the fire that make Uyajola a perfect recipe for disaster. This and him being a generally nice guy has made his Mr Moja Love Sunday Nights, hosting another show dubbed You Promised to Marry Me on the same time slot.
KEEP OR TRASH: This one is for keeps.
There isn’t really much to write home about when it comes to eTV’s flagship soapie, Scandal!.
The highs that defined the year for the daily drama were followed by record lows that made fans change their tune about their favourite show. Over and above the downward spiraling ratings, there’s been a lot of discontent coming from production and actors involved.
As a result, Scandal ‘temporarily severed ties’ with its drawcard Hungani Ndlovu. Despite the soap doing damage control issuing a statement refuting claims that Ndlovu was fired from the show because of his bad behaviour, they weren’t able to find a suitable replacement or captivating storyline. This is after the show also lost Kgomotso Christopher to M-net’s Legacy, things over there were never the same.
After canning Rhythm City, it doesn’t seem like eTV would cancel another of its flagship shows any time soon. But if the writing team can’t get it right, might as well shelve the show as well.
KEEP OR TRASH: Keep, and improve.
Like most South African reality shows, uThando NesThembu seems like an obscene excuse to shine the spotlight on how the other half of the economy class are living.
The reality program is neither entertaining or informative. It merely glorifies men’s insatiable appetite to have multiple partners. Also, there was little to no drama between the wives that we saw in the past.
Clearly, a different direction was taken from the last season but it isn’t working. Another season has come and gone and we weren’t given insight into who the older kids are as well as a final decision of accepting wife number five. Because there was so much resistance in the past, the storyline would have benefited from the wives picking up from where they left off.
This show should be canned. There’s too much fronting and it lacks relatability with audience members
KEEP OR TRASH: Trash it. It’s time.
The award-winning BOMB Pictures production once dominated not only in the ratings, but award shows and social media hype. It’s not a stretch to say that in its prime, Isibaya revolutionised South African television, giving us something fresh and uniquely South African.
In its heyday, Isibaya was unrivaled. I would watch the entire week’s reruns during the weekends and fall deeper in love with the characters and their world in Ebhubesini.
Portrayals of the complex world of the taxi industry, explorations of the Zulu culture and its rich texture, the parallel navigation of rural KZN and Joburg are just a few elements that made the soapie so rich and so consistent.
I’m afraid that’s a thing of the past now. With high profile cast departures that included Siyabonga Twala and Nomzamo Mbatha, Isibaya feels and looks entirely different. The storylines have lost the plot along with the declining ratings, as the soapie continues to lose favour in the eyes of its audience.
Word on the streets is that Isibaya is facing cancellation, but there’s been no confirmation to that effect.
KEEP OR TRASH: It’s rather sad to admit, we can’t commit to this anymore. Trash it.
DATE MY FAMILY
The dating reality show is one of the biggest things to come out of Mzansi Magic in the last decade. It’s a big reason why for the longest time, Mzansi Magic led the pack when it came to Sunday TV.
With Idols SA, Our Perfect Wedding, and a hot drama series afterwards, the channel owned the Sunday prime-time block, cultivating a new culture of Sunday black family viewing that had nothing to do with sports.
The show, which continues to trend at #1 on Twitter every Sunday, has a format that works every single time. A single girl or guy goes through three families (or friends) of three potential love interests. Each family hosts them over lunch as they get ‘date’ each other on behalf of the suitor, who won’t be revealed until the single hopeful pick them based on their family.
Obviously, the show is not as fresh as it used to be, so the buzz has been chilled through the seasons. What’s more, more and more people seem to go on the show for clout more now than ever, which takes away from the show’s authenticity and purpose.
That said, Date My Family can go on and on, and on. It’s feel-good and harmless TV that is funny, engaging and full of noteworthy moments.
KEEP OR TRASH: Keep.
With the exception of the new local dramas launched by M-Net this year (Legacy, Inconceivable and them), The River has maintained its spot as the best daily drama/telenovela in the country. By now, we should have seen the same cracks that are haunting other long-running telenovelas, but nix.
Instead, the 1Magic flagship hit continues to sustain momentum with the stellar writing, a cast that does not drop the ball, storylines that keep us on the edge of our seat, as well as a high-quality production overall.
The Tshedza Pictures production knows when its time to switch it up and transition, and they do so timeously. Lindiwe may be the main character, but they’ve offloaded a whole lot of pressure from her, sprinkling some worthy storylines around other characters.
She’s always in the picture, but she’s no longer a Chuck Norris archetype.
Secondly, they know how to keep exploring new storylines and introduce new characters without ever straying away from the foundations of the show.
The mine is always omnipresent even when it’s not central. The line between the haves and the have nots is always there, even if they don’t beat the point to death. And, Lindiwe’s character has evolved without losing itself.
Everything works here. The script, the acting, production quality, chemistry amongst the actors, the length of each key storyline, the comic relief, drama, and the shade. I said everything.
KEEP OR TRASH: We’d trade this entire list if that’s what it took to keep The River on air. Just kidding. But you catch what we’re throwing.
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Top 10 Best South African TV & Streaming Dramas in 2021
From thrilling action to spooky mysteries and feminist manifestos.
You’ve come to the right place for the best South African drama and television and streaming series. This list, which reviews the shows based on the quality of storytelling, performances and overall production, rather than popularity and ratings, consists of titles that premiered between 2020 and 2021. Dig in!
10. THE STATION
South African acting heavyweights Sello Maake Ka Ncube and Lerato Mvelase lead a fresh cast on new Mzansi Magic TV drama The Station. They portray the roles of husband and wife on the show, in which four employees suddenly become shareholders in the business.
When Don leaves the joint to the staff, a lot of scheming and backstabbing comes into play. Now they all attempt to gain control of the station. Soon, a clash of personalities threatens to destroy the legacy left by Don. The strife and tensions might undermine Don’s work in the community, now replaced by self serving agendas.
In addition to the great cast and the interesting way in which this story unfolds, you might also appreciate the warm colour grading that creates that 90’s kasi nostalgia for the show.
Dam is a story of a family in a town of dark secrets. Shot on location in the Eastern Cape, the small-town psychological thriller that likely to absorb you into its paranormal undercurrent. It’s spooky.
Things start off with a man plunging to his death. From here on out, everything unravels in back to back scenes that contain a haunted atmosphere. It leads up a shocking end. Lea Vivier stars as Yola Fischer, who returns from Chile to the Eastern Cape to bury her father, only to be tormented by spirits in the farmhouse she has inherited.
With her mother institutionalised, and her own meds running out, Yola has to wonder if the spirits are real or just in her head? Pallance Dladla co-stars as her love interest Themba.
Skemerdans revolves around the Fortune family, whose eldest son Glenn owns The Oasis with his wife, Shireen. The series is set at the Oasis jazz club, the centre of a power struggle between two brothers, a scorned widow and an organised crime syndicate.
Other members of the Fortune family are played by Brendon Daniels, Vinette Ebrahim, Carmen Maarman, rising star Trudy van Rooy and Ceagan Arendse, who tragically passed away earlier this year. All 13 episodes of the Cape Flats murder mystery, are now available to binge on Showmax. The show is also a balanced mix of both Afrikaans and English and is worth watching through the subtitles for parts you don’t understand.
7. KINGS OF JOBURG
Kings of Joburg marked a massive pivot for the Fergusons as they stepped out of their own multiverse on DStv to partner up with Netflix. The result is a crime thriller that arrived on the 4th of December in 2020. The series focuses on loyalties being put on the test under the gritty, crime-ridden streets of Johannesburg. Laced with a layer of dark fantasy, the action drama found the Fergs challenging themselves to execute some epic action stunts packed with magic and African occult
The late and dearly loved Shona Ferguson portrays the character of Simon Masire, a member of the KOJ brotherhood and the eldest of the Masire siblings. He’s in charge of the family business. One of the standout performances on the show for me is definitely Zolisa Xaluva, who portrays the role of Mogomotsi “Mo” Masire. He is Simon’s younger brother and an ex-convict who must choose between his crime family legacy, and the life that got him in jail.
The only serious critiques we have about this show is that it’s too close to The Queen, currently airing on Mzansi Magic. The recycling of the same actors makes for stale outcomes.
It’s a cold and crazy world that’s raging outside. But inside the max security prison in which a group of women reveal layers to their souls, survival comes at a price. The Mzansi Magic drama, now on its 5th season, has consistently delivered tough and edgy storylines through the years.
Set in a fictional prison, this Black Brain production brings maximum drama through a group of fascinating characters. Their mind-blowing backstories will have you all the way hooked in as the characters start to reveal the paths that led them behind lock-up. The crew of Lockdown’s female inmates is led by the tough Ma Z (Dawn Thandeka King), a leader who wants nothing more than to gain her freedom so that she can go home to Der daughter. She’s manipulative and cunning, so she uses those around her to achieve end goal.
One of those people happens to be the beautiful and talented Monde, a young woman who left the cocoon of her small town life to pursue fame and fortune in the dazzling lights of Joburg. Instead, what she got was a ghetto scam that led her to prison.
And so the rest of the show is based inside the correctional facility, showcasing the complex realities of these women as they live to see another day behind unforgiving walls. Through the 5 seasons of this brilliant drama series, the layers of their humanity unravel as the characters evolve. The cast is a force with no weak links. All those awards are deserved.
Abomama tells the tale of four church women who find themselves sucked into the criminal underworld. It happens when their stokvel transitions into a money laundering scheme. The women’s lives intersect in the church. It is here the pursuit of salvation is undermined by the sinister world in which these women now dabble.
Season one begins with the group of ordinary women taking it upon themselves to turn a tragedy into a blessing. The prayer group comes together, haunted by darks pasts and confronted by moral dilemmas. These women are navigating a tough reality in the fiercely patriarchal world that awaits them outside the church everyday.
Although the first season, which premiered on 8 April 2018, was met with generally positive reviews, the second season really takes the show to the next level. The cast has delivered some of the most captivating performances this season, as the ladies attempt to wash off the blood on their hands with holy waters.
They must repent, however, as what lurks in the dark continues to haunt and undermine their holy display. Khabonina Qubeka replaces Khanyi Mbau as the new Tshidi, while Busisiwe Mtshali has now been recast as the new Lumka. The cast changes have not interrupted what this group of women is bringing to our screens.
Revenge is best served cold, and Linda Ndlovu is out for blood on Housekeepers. On the hard hitting crime drama, Thando Thabethe takes on the role of a Linda Ndlovu. We meet a young lawyer who goes undercover as a housekeeper for the wealthy Zwide family in order to bring them to justice for framing her mother of a murder.
It happened when her mother, a helper in the mansion at the time, become a witness to a murder. The madam gets the bright idea to pin in on her, sending her to jail for something she didn’t do. So dirty. Now Linda has taken up a job to clean the house, knowing she’ll be cleaning up in more ways than one.
And of course, no one would know the sins of the Zwides more than the women cleaning up their mess everyday. Season 2 marked a departure however, as Linda sets on taking a whole new family to the slaughter.
Nqobile is a fascinating document of a woman who navigates a toxic, abusive environment as she defiantly moves up the ranks of a dynasty. Her reign comes with a mission to liberate women who don’t have a voice. Led by the outstanding Nqobile Khumalo, whose name means victory, the show delivers a moving melodrama layered with themes of gender based violence, toxic masculinity, feminist overtones as well as empowerment.
The Mzansi Magic series is based on the story of a woman who is married to the Nkosi family and their business empire. She manages to outsmart her entitled, abusive husband Simo Nkosi and take over the family empire. She becomes the head honcho of the family company at the request of her father in law, George Nkosi, who dies in a crossfire between a criminal unit and his bratty son.
The message on the show is important. The cast is strong, with Kagiso Modupe nailing the role of the husband dribbled by a fragile masculinity.
2. BLOOD & WATER
Blood & Water is the most popular South African series on Netflix. Now with a second season on the way, the show centres around Puleng Khumalo. She’s a 16-year-old who manoeuvred her way into the prestigious Parkhurst College to investigate the cold case of the abducted-at-birth older sister she’s never met. Shot on location mostly in Cape Town, the teen mystery is directed by an outstanding black female director, Nosipho Dumisa. The show is a hit and we love this for her.
The first season premiered on May 20th in 2020 with a perfect mix of newcomers and some established names. With Ama Qamata leading the diverse ensemble, the official trailer for season 2 has given us riveting glimpses of what could be their best season yet.
Here’s a scenario; your best friend is going through some heart wrenching grief. Because of it, she does something pretty messed up. You understand the magnitude of their trauma and sympathise with them for a while, but what they’ve done is unethical, criminal, dark and disturbing. Would you remain loyal or do the right thing to save a family affected by their actions?
Marieke, a qualified gynaecologist, finds herself running out of time to expose a dark truth about her best friend Rachel. When the pair find out during an ultra sound scan that Rachel has suffered a miscarriage nine months into her pregnancy, Rachel struggles to come to terms with the truth. Instead of telling her husband, she asks Marieke to help her deliver the stillborn baby in secret.
That’s when she gets the bright idea to switch babies with a woman who’s given birth in the next room. What comes next pure drama as Marieke finds herself caught between gently making her friend give the baby to its rightful parents, and the legal implications of her keeping quiet for so long.
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10 Single Hotties Revealed for Temptation Island South Africa
And they are talking a good game so there’s also that.
Showmax has released first-look images and a new Temptation Island South Africa video introducing all 10 single men. The video streaming has lined up a temptation for every taste, from sculpted bodies to chiselled jawlines, award-winning stand-up comedians to professional firefighters and dancers, successful entrepreneurs to stable 9-5ers. Oh, yes.
Premiering on 26 August 2021, Temptation Island South Africa is the ultimate relationship test. Based on the Banijay-owned hit reality format, the show follows four couples at a crossroads in their relationship, where they must mutually decide if they are ready to commit to one another for the rest of their lives, or go their separate ways.
Together, the couples experience a luxurious holiday in paradise (aka Knysna), where they live separately – with 20 sexy single men and women who are looking for love. This last taste of the single life is meant to help answer their most difficult questions about their relationship, like, “Are we meant to be?” and “Is there someone better out there for me?”
Here are the 10 potential upgrades for the four South African women who were brave enough to put their love on trial: Estelle Langa, Musa Qubinkomo, Nthabiseng Maphago and Precious Khumalo.
Brandon ‘Shabangz’ Tshabangu
23 | Cape Town | Zone controller
Originally from Durban but now living in the Mother City, Brandon is all about the “good vibes, good times and good people.” He describes himself in his Instagram bio as the life of the party. ‘Mr Amapiano Moves’ has been single for a year, but he’s ready to get back in the game and intends on using much more than his smile and poetry skills to do that.
“My power of seduction? Being as persuasive as the snake that made Eve eat the apple,” says Brandon.
Calim ‘Muggz’ Mgagula
28 | Durban | Firefighter, dancer and entertainer
You’d never guess this sculpted firefighter, entertainer and dancer used to be a skinny kid. His journey means he’s passionate about motivating people to be the best version of themselves. Now this chiselled guy is looking for a woman with great legs and an even better personality to share his life.
“How far am I willing to go? I’m going to go all the way,” says Muggz. “I know what I’m here for and what I’m capable of… I’m a temptation on my own.”
Dainamiaro ‘Dain’ Ogulu
23 | Durban | Model and commercials actor
Describing himself in his Instagram bio as an ‘African prince’, ‘a sexy chocolate slab’ and ‘a Nigerian lost in SA’, Dain is a momma’s boy with a picture-perfect smile. He’s very charming and knows how to talk to the ladies. He admits he loves being chased and isn’t afraid to go all in at the beginning of a relationship.
“I really do want to find love,” says Dain. “If I do find love on this show, I’ll be more than happy, because outside on the streets it’s been tough.”
Jerry ‘J-Moscow’ Sereme
26 | The Vaal | Sound engineer and DJ
Get ready to party with this sound engineer and DJ who performs as J-Moscow. His cool, calm demeanour makes him a great listener and he’ll be the perfect man to help the ladies on Temptation Island South Africa talk through their problems. Jerry is looking for an intelligent woman to share romance with.
“My power of seduction is that there’s only one me; there’s none before and there’ll be none after me,” says Jerry.
Kwanele ‘Finch’ Thusi
29 | Pietermaritzburg | Celebrity coach, business owner and choreographer
A softly spoken gentleman who’s tired of playing the field, Kwanele is ready to settle down with a woman who complements his busy lifestyle. He’s a reformed player who regrets not being serious about some of his past relationships and is now seeking someone who’s willing to learn about real love with him. While you wait for Temptation Island South Africa, get to know Kwanele better in The Art of Survival on Showmax, about how creatives survived being unable to perform live during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“I come from a royal family so I am looking for my queen,” says Kwanele.
Minenhle ‘CeeJay Clyde’ Mvubu
26 | Pretoria | Musician and marketing and sales manager
He’s recently taken time out of the dating scene to focus on his music, but CeeJay Clyde is ready to get back in the game and find the woman of his dreams. His confident exterior masks a shy boy who’s not afraid to discuss his emotions.
“My ideal partner? She needs to be very, very confident, outgoing and the main attraction when she walks into the room,” says CeeJay Clyde.
26 | Gqeberha | Entrepreneur and model
Sbu’s charm and good looks mean he’s left a trail of shattered hearts, but, having been single for four months, he says he’s now ready to find a new woman who knows how to have some fun and stands out in a crowd.
“I’m 98kg of pure man meat,” says S’bu. “My power of seduction is my appeal: I don’t need to say much; you just feel it.”
28 | Joburg | Digital content creator
From humble beginnings deeply rooted in KwaMashu, Sethu has built himself a trendy life in Jozi. You might recognise him from Tropika Island of Treasure. He’s been single since 2019 and he’s ready for a confident woman with a nurturing soul and an adventurous spirit.
“My power of seduction? I’m authentically me. I’m just a naturally charismatic person, I’m energetic and I give off a positive vibe wherever I’m at,” says Sethu.
36 | Joburg | Stand-up Comedian
An award-winning comedian and former host of Uyang’thanda Na?, Tats will bring the laughs, but will he bring the love?
Admitting he cheated on his last partner, he adds, “If I had a partner who would allow me to come to Temptation Island as a single, I think that would be my ideal partner.”
Uzair ‘Uzzi’ Williams
25 | Cape Town | Personal trainer | @uzair_021 on Instagram
Uzzi is the guy any girl’s father can’t help but like. His chiselled exterior hides a marshmallow heart and he wants to take time out of his busy workout routine to finally find love with a good woman.
“My power of seduction is that I am confident, I have a great smile, I’m a funny guy, I know how to treat a girl well and I can do what a girl wants,” says Uzzi.
Temptation Island South Africa premieres on 26 August 2021, with new episodes every Thursday until 4 November 2021.
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I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE | Binge now
No, I Know This Much Is True isn’t new, but last night Mark Ruffalo won his first ever Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Limited Series for his dual role in HBO’s I Know This Much is True, beating out Hugh Grant in The Undoing, Ethan Hawke in The Good Lord Bird, Jeff Daniels in The Comey Rule and Bryan Cranston in Your Honor.
This follows on from his Emmy win for the role last year, so if you’ve been sleeping on this series, may we humbly suggest it’s time to watch one of the best acting performances we’ve ever seen?
Based on the Wally Lamb bestseller about how you don’t just give up on the people you love, I Know this Much is True follows the parallel lives of identical twin brothers Dominick Birdsey and his brother Thomas, a paranoid schizophrenic.
As The Times UK wrote, “I know this much about I Know This Much Is True: it won’t cheer you up. However, its unrelenting misery did not stop it being almost exhilarating to watch, mainly due to beautiful, near-perfect performances by Mark Ruffalo.”
Mark lost 20 pounds to play Dominic, then gained that back and put another 20 pounds on to play Thomas. I Know This Much Is True, which has an 8.2/10 rating on IMDb, also stars Oscar winner Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Emmy winner Rosie O’Donnell (SMILF), Emmy nominees Kathryn Hahn (Mrs Fletcher, Transparent) and Rob Huebel (Transparent), Golden Globe nominee Archie Panjabi (Run, The Good Wife), and Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers).
ALLEN V. FARROW | First on Showmax | 15 March
Co-directed by Oscar nominees Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering (The Invisible War), Allen v. Farrow goes behind the years of sensational headlines to reveal the private story of one of Hollywood’s most notorious and public scandals: the accusation of sexual abuse against Woody Allen involving Dylan, his then seven-year-old daughter with Mia Farrow; their subsequent custody trial; the revelation of Allen’s relationship with Farrow’s daughter, Soon-Yi; and the controversial aftermath in the years that followed.
Along with new investigative work — pieced together via intimate home movie footage, court documents, police evidence, revelatory videotapes, and never-before-heard audio tapes — the four-part documentary series includes exclusive interviews on the subject with Mia, Dylan and Ronan Farrow, family friend Carly Simon, and prosecutor Frank Maco, among others. Allen v. Farrow also examines the effects of trauma on a family, and features prominent cultural voices exploring Allen’s body of work in a broader context and reflecting on how public revelations about the personal lives of artists can lead to re-evaluations of their work.
Allen V. Farrow has an 87% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with The LA Times hailing it as “a comprehensive, convincing and ultimately devastating documentary… The story of the girl who spoke out against her dad, was silenced, lived in shame for decades and decided it was time to speak truth to power.”
WE ARE WHO WE ARE S1 | First on Showmax | Streaming
From Oscar nominee Luca Guadagnino (Call Me By Your Name), We Are Who We Are follows a group of teens growing up on an American Army base outside of Venice, Italy, struggling to find their own identities as they move into young adulthood.
The eight-part HBO series has an 89% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The New York Times calls it “a finely detailed, living fresco of libido and intoxication, all these teenagers inhabiting their bodies as if they were just-unwrapped birthday presents,” while Variety says, “It’s so visceral as to become unsettling — but what else is being a teenager like, if not immersive, visceral and unsettling?”
The cast includes MTV Movie Award winner Jack Dylan Grazer (It, Shazam!), Grammy winner Kid Cudi (Westworld), Oscar nominee Chloë Sevigny (Big Love, American Horror Story), Francesca Scorsese (yes, she’s Martin Scorsese’s daughter, and started acting in his films The Aviator and The Departed) and breakout star Jordan Kristine Seamón.
ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST S1 | Streaming
Jane Levy (Suburgatory, Castle Rock) was nominated for the 2021 Best Actress Golden Globe as Zoey, a young woman who suddenly gains the ability to hear other people’s innermost thoughts… in song.
Pitch Perfect star and Teen Choice winner Skylar Astin (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) co-stars as her bestie Max, with Glee star and Grammy nominee Alex Newell nominated for a 2021 Critics Choice Best Supporting Actor award as Mo. Golden Globe nominee Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood), Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (The Last Man on Earth, Back to the Future III) and Critics Choice and Teen Choice nominee Peter Gallagher (Grace and Frankie, The O.C.) also feature.
Exec produced by four-time Emmy nominee Paul Feig (Love Life, The Office, Bridesmaids) and Emmy-nominated Two and a Half Men producers Kim and Eric Tannenbaum, this quirky musical comedy won a 2020 Emmy for its Outstanding Choreography and has an 8.2/10 score on IMDb. Globe and Mail says it’s “brimming with both joy and compassion, this strange contrivance, and highly recommended.”
SUPERSTORE S5 | Stream now
Golden Globe winner America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Emmy nominees Ben Feldman (Silicon Valley), Mark McKinney (The Kids in the Hall) and Colton Dunn (Key and Peele), and Nichole Sakura (Shameless) are back at work at supersized megastore Cloud 9.
The new season of the ever-popular workplace comedy opens with immigration officers coming for Mateo (Nico Santos, nominated for Critics Choice Awards two years in a row for the role) and the arrival of a robot named Glenn, designed to replace some of the staff.
The fifth season has racked up a 100% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and features guest stars like Screen Actors Guild winner Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) and Emmy nominees Jason Ritter (A Million Little Things) and Fred Armisen (Saturday Night Live).
“In terms of laughs per minute and laughs per character, no show comes close to touching Superstore‘s large cast,” says Decider. “This is the biggest, funniest cast since The Office, and they are at the height of their power.”
HIGHTOWN S1 | Binge eps 1-4 from 12 March, eps 5 – 8 from 9 April
Set in the beautiful but bleak Cape Cod, Hightown follows Jackie Quiñones, a hard-partying addict whose journey to sobriety is overshadowed by a murder investigation.
Created by The Mentalist and Gotham writer Rebecca Cutter, with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Black Panther, Mudbound) directing, the murder mystery is executive produced by multiple-Emmy winner Jerry Bruckheimer, who’s produced everything from the CSI franchise and worldwide reality phenomenon The Amazing Race to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Armageddon.
Already renewed for a second season, Hightown stars Teen Choice nominees Monica Raymund (Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D.’s Gabriela Dawson, and Lie to Me’s Ria Torres), James Badge Dale (The Departed, 24), and Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break, Deception). Hightown has an 80% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with numerous critics praising Monica Raymund’s stellar performance.
LA’S FINEST S2 | Streaming now
Gabrielle Union (Good Deeds, Being Mary Jane) reprises her Bad Boys 2 role as Marcus’ sister Syd in this spinoff series, which earned her the 2019 Teen Choice Award for Choice Actress: Action.
Syd’s now working for the Los Angeles Police Department, where she partners up with Nancy McKenna, a working mom, played by Golden Globe nominee Jessica Alba (Fantastic Four, Sin City, Dark Angel) in a Teen Choice-nominated performance.
Beau Knapp (The Good Lord Bird’s Owen Brown) joins the cast this season, along with Kurt Yaeger (Sons of Anarchy, The Village), Kelly Hu (Arrow, The Orville), Timothy V. Murphy (Snowpiercer, True Detective) and Miguel Gomez (The Strain). Also look out for Grammy-winning artist Kelly Rowland, Emmy nominee Michael Graziadei (American Horror Story, and yes, he was Y&R’s Daniel Romalotti) and Machete himself, Danny Trejo.
LA’s Finest is executive produced by multiple Emmy winner Jerry Bruckheimer (Hightown, CSI), with former CSI: NY showrunner Pam Veasey co-showrunning.
PARTY OF FIVE S1 | Streaming
It’s a cruel world for TV shows right now, where a gem like Freeform’s reboot of the six-season, career-launching, Golden Globe-winning family series Party of Five can get cancelled despite being #31 on Rotten Tomatoes’ Best TV Shows of 2020, with a 96% critics rating. Still, we have one lovely season for the whole family to enjoy.
The teen drama follows the five Acosta children – Emilio, Lucia, Beto, Valentina and baby Rafael – in the US as they navigate daily life and struggle to survive as a family unit after their parents are deported to Mexico. Created by the original show’s producers, Humanitas Prize winners Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman, the reboot has all the heart of the 1994 series, with a social conscience for today’s world.
As NPR says, “At a time when the immigration debate still involves kids kept in cages, there is no better moment for America to see a series like this.” Newsday calls it “The rare reboot with a purpose – and a heart,” while New York Magazine says, “The underlying message of this lovely series enables the audience to hold nostalgia and a bracing sense of reality in their heads and hearts all at once, and that’s a rare and special thing.”
The cast includes Brandon Larracuente (13 Reasons Why), Emily Tosta (Mayans M.C.), Niko Guardado (The Goldbergs), Elle Paris Legaspi (who plays the young Lyn in Vida), Bruno Bichir (Narcos) and Fernanda Urrejola (Narcos: Mexico).
FARGO S4 | Tuesdays at 23:30, same day as M-Net. Binge from 16 March 2021
Created by Emmy winner Noah Hawley (Legion, the upcoming untitled Star Trek sequel) as a spin-off of the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning classic movie, Fargo has won three Golden Globes, six Emmys and a Peabody Award. It’s #38 on IMDb’s Top Rated TV list, with an 8.9/10 score, and holds a 93% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Season 4, which was Complex’s TV show of 2020, is set in Kansas City in 1950. Four-time Emmy-winning comedian Chris Rock stars as Loy Cannon, the head of the African American crime family. He trades sons with the head of the Italian Mafia as part of a tenuous truce.
Golden Globe winner Ben Whishaw (A Very English Scandal, Mary Poppins Returns), Emmy winner Glynn Turman (Super 8), BAFTA nominee Jessie Buckley (Chernobyl), and Teen Choice nominee Jason Schwartzman (The Grand Budapest Hotel) co-star. Rock and Turman are up for Best Actor and Best Supporting actor respectively at the 2021 Critics’ Choice Awards.
“Fargo, as in past seasons, manages to be both more dramatic, and more comic, than almost any other show on TV right now,” says NPR, while Complex hails it as “high art for TV lovers… There aren’t many shows shot this well, nor are there many shows taking this many risks between the first and last frames, seemingly without a care for convention or consideration… If only more TV series could operate at Fargo levels of greatness.”
THE STAND | Binge episodes 1-4 now and eps 5-9 from 16 March
Based on Stephen King’s bestselling novel, The Stand is an apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague and embroiled in an elemental struggle between good and evil. The fate of mankind rests on the frail shoulders of the 108-year-old Mother Abagail (Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg from Ghost, The Color Purple, Sister Act) and a handful of survivors. Their worst nightmares are embodied in a man with a lethal smile and unspeakable powers: Randall Flagg, the Dark Man (Golden Globe winner Alexander Skarsgård from Big Little Lies, True Blood).
Showrunner, executive producer and Emmy nominee Benjamin Cavell (Justified, Homeland) says, “None of us could have imagined that Stephen King’s 40-year-old masterpiece about a global pandemic would come to be so eerily relevant.”
The stellar ensemble cast includes 2020 Emmy nominee Jovan Adepo (Watchmen), People’s Choice winner Katherine McNamara (Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, Maze Runner), MTV Award winner Heather Graham (Boogie Nights, Californication), Teen Choice winner Nat Wolff (The Fault In Our Stars), MTV Awards nominees Amber Heard (Aquaman) and James Marsden (Westworld), Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets, Little Miss Sunshine), Golden Globe nominee Irene Bedard (Pocahontas, Westworld), Sundance winner Brad William Henke (Orange Is The New Black), and rising star Owen Teague (It, Mrs Fletcher).
Daily Beast hails The Stand as a “faithful and gripping translation of King’s end-times drama about the dangerous allure of individualism (and tyrannical leaders), and the vital necessity of togetherness in times of turmoil.”
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