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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10 Best South African TV Drama Series in 2021
The finest drama TV and streaming series in South Ah this year. Comment with your favourite local drama and subscribe to our channel!
We countdown the 10 best South African television and streaming drama series. The list consists of shows that premiered between 2020 and 2021, in case you were ready to call us out. Rather than focusing on popularity and ratings, the shows here have been listed according to their power of storytelling, quality of production, cast performances and their impact on the culture.
You Should Be Streaming ‘Gangs of London’
What to binge this week.
Hailed as “a modern crime family masterpiece” by Rotten Tomatoes, Gangs of London is now streaming on Showmax.
Nominated earlier this year for both a BAFTA and a Hollywood Critics’ Association Award for Best Drama, as well as an Emmy for its stunts, Gangs of London tells the story of a city torn apart in the wake of the assassination of Finn Wallace (Golden Globe nominee Colm Meaney from Layer Cake), the head of its most powerful crime family.
The 10-part series, which has a 91% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, is the latest offering from action auteur Gareth Evans (who wrote and directed the multi-award-winning Indonesian martial arts crime classics The Raid and The Raid 2) and his co-writer and cinematographer Matt Flannery.
As Rolling Stone says, “Gangs of London will grab you by the scruff of the neck, hurl you against a wall, and remind you with repeated blunt force that the show comes from Gareth Evans, one of the great action directors alive.”
The cast is led by BAFTA nominee Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders) as heir-apparent Sean Wallace and 2021 Critics’ Choice Super nominee Sope Dìrísù (His House) as Wallace-empire footsoldier Elliot Finch. Emmy nominee Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You); BAFTA nominee Lucian Msamati (His Dark Materials, Game of Thrones); Screen Actors’ Guild nominee Michelle Fairley (Game of Thrones’ Catelyn Stark); and BAFTA Breakthrough Brit Award winner Ray Panthaki (Away, Marcella) co-star.
There are lots of African connections among the cast: Sope’s family is Nigerian and Paapa’s Ghanaian, while Lucian was raised in Zimbabwe by Tanzanian parents. Nigerian-born actor Jude Akuwudike (Fortitude, Beasts of No Nation) and Ethiopian-born multiple SAFTA nominee Pamela Nomvete (Lockdown, Sometimes in April) also have recurring roles.
“We didn’t want to revisit those familiar gangster tropes,” Gareth explains, “so a large part of our remit was to find a unique way into the story. We wanted it to be about family and relationships that get torn apart by the sins of the father, something that felt operatic and cinematic. Within that, there’s a story mushrooming out from a single event to a lot of different cultures and a diverse cast.”
The variety of characters, cultures, and languages – including Albanian, Danish, Kurdish, Urdu and Gareth’s native Welsh – reflected in the cast were vital to anchoring the story firmly in the cultural melting pot that is modern-day London.
As Lucian puts it, they’re “showing London in its truest light: multicultural, multiracial, multinational – it is the London of now. Those who would be considered the establishment are not all old, crusty, white people any more. Times have changed and I liked that the script has been unapologetic about that. We’re not resorting to clichés.”
But let’s not forget that all those diverse characters are, mostly, very bad people. This is not the London the tourists see. Executive producer Lucas Ochoa (The Witch) says, “London has become a global centre for money laundering, crossing over with politics, big business, policing, corruption, property, black market, the deep state of government… Gareth has created a sort of Gotham to play out that fable with these clans in the middle of it, from all corners of the empire and now making their homes in London.”
But while our investment lies with the powerfully portrayed human stories in the battle for the streets, alleyways and secret boardrooms of London, it’s the action that steals the spotlight here.
“When we started designing the fight sequences,” Gareth says, “myself and the stunt coordinator, Jude Poyer, worked to find aspects that could feel like a nod to the culture in question. So, for example, I knew we wanted to use ashtrays and darts as weapons in a pub fight. But we also had to adapt to suit a person’s physique and muscle memory, as we did with the Raid films.”
“We knew we needed someone for Elliott who was capable of doing the choreography we were designing,” he adds. “Enter Sope, an incredible actor and performer. Chris Wright, who trained Sope, came down from the first fight assessment saying, ‘This guy can move!’ The more we saw him train and rehearse, we realised he could do quite a lot of the sequences – we were using him for 85-90% of the action by the end. He brought everything to it. I started treating him like a fighter as much as an actor – we had no right to put him in some of the fights we did!”
And the 10 to 15 percent of the stunts Sope didn’t do himself? Those earned his stunt double, Mens-Sana Tamakloe, known for his work on blockbusters from Inception, Skyfall and the Mission Impossible films to three of the Star Wars films and Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a 2021 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Stunt Performance.
As The Atlantic puts it, “Gangs of London exists on a fully realized plane of its own, where brutality is power, death is inevitable, and even the pigeons are on cocaine. I love it. I cannot get enough of this show.”
On our Showmax Binge-Watch List: The White Lotus
Dreadful rich people.
On season 5 (vol 1) on Money Heist, Berlin makes a troubling statement in a flashback; “To get something in this world, you have to steal from it someone”. He said it to defend and legitimise heists to someone burdened by concerns of morality.
Whatever your assessment of this cynical outlook, the dreadful rich elites on The White Lotus remain intentionally oblivious to the darkness attached to the stolen possessions in which they take pride. This lie, which haunts them even in exotic paradise, insulates them from dealing with themselves. Think about Berlin.
The White Lotus has a critics rating of 87%, on Rotten Tomatoes, which was more than enough for me to give it a go and see what the buzz around this weird HBO satirical comedy drama series is all about. The trailer might leave you even more confused, in this case it’s a good thing. It’s six episodes documenting eccentric rich people as they go on about their bizarre, dramatic and sad lives through an unravelling of crazy events succeeding each other towards a blood-soaked shocker.
The Mike White written and produced series, which premiered on HBO on 11 July 2021, has recently arrived on Showmax. The first season chronicles events that take place over a number of days in the lives of guests and staff at a tropical resort in Hawaii. The guests arrive with unsettling privilege, drugs, human ashes and a ton of dysfunction on the first episode. Absurdities begin to unkink from check-in all the way to sinister endings of an unbelievable stay.
I started laughing from Jennifer Coolidge’s “Belinda behind you” all through the binge. Starring alongside the brilliant Murray Bartlett (who gives an outstanding performance here), Connie Britton, Alexendra Daddario, Jake Lacy, Natasha Rothwell and Steve Zahn, Coolidge plays a wealthy middle-aged woman desperate for affection and stability. She’s there to grieve the loss of her mother, and has brought her ashes along on the trip to spread in the ocean.
Insufferable rich people are entertaining to watch the more absurd their lives (think Crazy Rich Asians). The White Lotus is able to frame with precision their inhumane prejudices, glutted with excess privilege and haunted by near-dead hearts in a way that is funny and tragic.