Radiation by Fiona Rae

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Views June 27: Five Chasers are better than one

SATURDAY JUNE 27

Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art (Sky Arts, Sky 017, 8.00pm). There was graffiti before Banksy, but perhaps his pungent political messages hit home a bit harder. Anyways, a doco about his influence on street art featuring a bunch of cool people.

SUNDAY JUNE 28

Beat the Chasers (TVNZ 1, 8.30pm). Judging by the tweets, which is probably a bad idea, over lockdown all of New Zealand found itself in front of The Chase every night at 5pm. It is a brilliant fomat: hardly anyone wins any money, so it's really exciting when they do. Now they've put all the Chasers on one show together and pitted them against members of a studio audience. The drama! The excitement! The set-up jokes! The format is way too complicated to explain, but the fun, as always, is in trying to answer the questions yourself. In other game show news, TVNZ 2 is starting a new local kids' series on Monday: Brain Busters (4pm) features four players answering questions before the top two tackle the "brain buster" obstacle course. 

Head High (Three, 8.30pm). They've been promo-ing it for weeks, so thank goodness it's finally here. I have often wondered why rugby-mad New Zealand has never produced a decent rugby television drama, but perhaps Head High is the one we've been waiting for, addressing, as it does, many other issues surrounding the game, including poverty and privilege, according to the Herald's interview with Miriama McDowell. It's co-created by Tim Worrall and Kate McDermott and features a brilliantly diverse cast, from old hands such as Joe Naufahu to newcomer Te Ao O Hinepehinga Rauna.

The Windermere Children (Rialto, Sky 039, 8.30pm). The Rialto Channel on Sky is having its annual unlocked extended weekend, starting today and ending on Tuesday. Films include this biographical drama based on the story of child survivors of the Holocaust who arrived at a camp set up near Lake Windermere in the north of England. It's sad and beautiful and features some of the real survivors at the end. With Iain Glenn, Romola Garai and Tim McInnerny. Other highlights include Australian film The Nightingale (Saturday, 8.30pm) and the documentary Iron Fists and Kung Fu Kicks (Thursday, 8.30pm), an homage to the impact of Hong Kong film-makers.

MONDAY JUNE 29

Shortland Street (TVNZ 2, 7pm weekdays). Surely there is no better indication that we've beaten Covid-19 than seeing Shortie come back to its regular five nights a week. Not only that, but the show reaches its 7000th episode on Friday; the episode was one of the first to be filmed under pandemic rules. 

I May Destroy You (SoHo2, Sky 210, 8.00pm). It began on Neon a couple of weeks ago, but now arrives on linear telly. It's blimmin' brilliant; Michaela Coel and her co-stars Paapa Essiedu and Weruche Opia talk about hook-up culture, consent and code-switching in this Guardian interview.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark (SoHo2, Sky 210, 9.30pm). One for the true-crime crowd: a documentary series based on Michelle McNamara's book about the Golden State Killer.

THURSDAY JULY 2

Around the World by Train (TVNZ 1, 8.30pm). No, nothing to do with Snowpiercer: Tony Robinson globe-trots by rail, with plenty of stop-offs to explore his surroundings, from herding camels by helicopter in the Australian Outback to abseiling a tree in the Malaysian forest. Whether you care for this sort of travelogue or not, it's the only kind of travel we can do at the moment.

STREAMING

Inna de Yard (TVNZ OnDemand, Wednesday). TVNZ has added this 2019 documentary that screened at the NZIFF last year; it has a Buena Vista Social Club Feel, featuring some reggae old-timers, including Cedric Myton, Kiddus I, Ken Boothe and Judy Mowatt, recording an acoustic album.

Transplant (TVNZ OnDemand, Wednesday). A Canadian medical drama with an unexpected political aspect: lead character Bashir "Bash" Hamed (Hamza Haq) was a refugee from Syria trying to rebuild his career and life in Toronto. However, due to problems with his credentials, he begins the series as a line cook.

Warrior Nun (Netflix, Thursday). Okay, we'll bite.

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Views June 20: Savage and Eddyfying

Painting, Lego, honey and a lawyer.

SATURDAY JUNE 20

Landscape Artist of the Year (Prime, 6.00pm). Want to literally watch paint dry? Stephen Mangan and Joan Bakewell begin the quest for a new British landscape artist in Yorkshire.

Great British Railway Journeys (Living, Sky 017, 7.30pm). Michael Portillo and his many colourful jackets are on the rails again for season 10 of the series. He's taking three new trips through England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, including King George V and Queen Mary's royal tour of Britain’s industrial heartland in the early 20th century.

SUNDAY JUNE 21

Lego Masters Australia (Three, 7.00pm). How is it there are so many adult Lego nerds? This confuses me. However, I often get sucked in at that crucial flop-on-the-couch point of the evening. In the final of season two, the winners take home AUD$100,000, more than $106,000 in our money.

Honey Wars (Prime, 8.00pm). A new local series perhaps along the lines of Shearing Gang or The Loggers – it follows the Murray whānau of Tai Tokerau Honey, producers of the famously potent mānuka honey.

MONDAY JUNE 22

Perry Mason (SoHo, Sky 010, 8.30pm). We’d watch anything with Matthew Rhys in it, and you can add Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) and John Lithgow to that list. Rhys takes the role occupied by Raymond Burr in the 1960s, except that this is a kind-of prequel, set in 1932 before Mason became a defense attorney. He’s hired to investigate the kidnapping of a baby that seems to be mixed up with a lot of people, including Maslany’s evangelical church preacher.

Bully. Coward. Victim. The Story of Roy Cohn (SoHo2, Sky 210, 9.30pm). Shiver. Did it just get cold in here? The guy who was McCarthy’s chief counsel, who prosecuted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and who mentored Donald Trump in his early business career is profiled by the Rosenberg’s granddaughter Ivy Meeropol. The documentary “captures in emotional detail the enduring chaos and grief he inflicted on others” according to the Atlantic.

THURSDAY JUNE 25

Quiz (SoHo, Sky 010, 8.30pm). The show of the play of the book of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? cheating scandal that gripped the UK in 2001 – did Major Charles Ingram, his wife Diana and college lecturer Tecwen Whittock cough their way to a million quid? A court found Ingram guilty of … something. Matthew Macfadyen plays Ingram, Sian Clifford plays Diana, and Michael Sheen is typically brilliant as quizmaster Chris Tarrant. Also available on Lightbox.

Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein (Rialto, Sky 039, 8.30pm). Ursula MacFarlane's film tells that dreadful story, prioritising the victims, says the Guardian's Lucy Mangan, who gave the film five stars.

STREAMING

The Twilight Zone (TVNZ OnDemand, Thursday). The first season of Jordan Peele and Simon Kinberg’s rebooted series was kind-of Black Mirror-lite, but it had its moments, particularly the camcorder that could rewind time. Season two, which streams from today, once again features a great cast, including Joel McHale, Topher Grace, Gretchen Mol, Morena Baccarin, Tony Hale, Colman Domingo and Jurnee Smollett-Bell. Peele has written one of the episodes, as have sci-fi author Steven Barnes with his wife Tananarive Due, who is a film historian with expertise in black horror. Season one is still available on TVNZ OnDemand

Savage (Amazon Prime Video). Clever and funny Australian comedian Alice Fraser talks movingly about her mother in this stand-up special; you’ll laugh, you’ll cry; you’ll nod in agreement. Fraser has her own podcast, Tea with Alice, and is often on The Bugle with Andy Zaltzman. There are a bunch of Aussie comedians on Amazon Prime Video, including the lovely Celia Pacquola, whose comedy series with Luke McGregor, Rosehaven, is also available on the platform. 

The Eddy (Netflix). It’s perhaps trying too hard to be a French Treme, but the vibe is backstreet Paris and the cast is a refreshing melting pot, centred around an unprepossessing jazz club. Creator Jack Thorne has written some real corkers, including National Treasure, Kiri and The Last Panthers as well as the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Damien Chazelle (La La Land) directs the first two episodes and American pianist and composer Randy Kerber is in the band. The lead is André Holland, who was in Moonlight and The Knick.

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Views of the Week June 13

SATURDAY JUNE 13

Exhibition on Screen: Van Gogh & Japan (Sky Arts, Sky 020, 8.00pm). One of those 8K tellys would be awesome for this Exhibition on Screen doco about the influence of Japanese art on Van Gogh. It seems so obvious when they put it like this.

Stockholm (Sky Movies Premiere, Sky 030, 8.30pm). The reviews weren’t brilliant, but this 2018 film sounds interesting nonetheless. It’s based on the 1973 bank heist that spawned the term Stockholm Syndrome and Ethan Hawke is, according to those reviews, the best thing in it. Based-on-a-true-story films can often seem overly embellished, but many of the bizarre details are true, according to the New Yorker.

I Love Lucy (Jones!, Sky 008, 9.00pm). The amazing Lucille Ball, housewife. It seems wrong, but it was the 1950s and she and Desi Arnaz had already overcome CBS's objections to Arnaz being Cuban. Jones! is screening the show from the beginning. 

The Happytime Murders (TVNZ 2, 9.15pm). This Melissa McCarthy comedy is very silly – especially the puppet sex scene, which is like an explosion in a silly string factory – but what the hell. It's Melissa McCarthy, it's directed by Jim and Jane Henson's son Brian and McCarthy's co-star, a puppet PI called Phil Phillips, is voiced by Dr Teeth.

MONDAY JUNE 15

Endeavour (Vibe, Sky 006, 8.30pm). I have a soft sport for Endeavour, the Inspector Morse prequel in which Shaun Evans plays the young Morse, the clever-clogs copper of Oxford who seems to be the subject of much professional jealousy, if season six is anything to go by. It's slow and they left the other "o" out of Morse (after the "r"), but it's beautifully filmed and rather subtle. The season starts in 1969, Morse has a moustache, and he and Thursday are on the trail of police corruption. There's also the Apollo 11 Moon landing and a murder in the Bodleian. We're a little behind – season seven screened in February in the UK.

TUESDAY JUNE 16

High School Mums (TVNZ 1, 8.30pm). There are spaces for 30 pregnant or teenage parents at He Puāwai Teen Parent Unit at Fraser High in Kirikiriroa – and room for a camera crew, which follows some of the young women as they work towards graduating. According to Fraser's website, there is transport available for the students, a nurse practitioner, Plunket visits and a campus creche, which is just the sort of wraparound care that can make all the difference.

STREAMING, ETC

The Nest (TVNZ OnDemand, Thursday). A knotty, moreish new thriller, according to the Guardian's Lucy Mangan, although their tolerance for distraction in the UK may have recently been way higher than usual. Line of Duty's Martin Compston and Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders) play a couple struggling to conceive who meet a teenager (Mirren Mack) who offers to help.

BLACK LIVES MATTER (Netflix). The streaming giant has curated a BLM playlist, which includes LA 92, a doco looking at the acquittal of the officers who beat up Rodney King in 1992; When They See Us, about the wrongful conviction of the so-called Central Park Five in 1990; the comedies Black AF, Dear White People and She's Gotta Have It; and the movies Moonlight, See You Yesterday, Mudbound and What Happened Miss Simone?

 

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Views of the Week June 6

The 60 Years of New Zealand Television celebrations, such as they were, seemed to rely heavily on the classics: here we go again with Lynn of Tawa, A Week of It and the Country Calendar spoofs. Wonderful highlights of our televisual past, to be sure, but after hearing Paul Holmes’ interview with Chloe of Wainuiomata on RNZ National, I thought there were more recent productions that also deserve a mention. So, in no particular order:

The Almighty Johnsons; Harry; The Gulf; The Casketeers; The Cul de Sac; Back of the Y; Go Girls; New Artland; Let’s Get Inventin’; Back Benches; Insiders Guide to Love; Brokenwood Mysteries; Mercy Peak; Fresh Eggs; Find Me a Maori Bride; and numerous Sunday Theatre true stories, including How to Murder Your Wife; Seige; Venus and Mars; Ablaze; Safe House; Jean; Runaway Millionaires; and Black Widow. Oh, and Media 7. Remember that?

Feel free to add your own and here’s NZ On Screen’s 60 TV Moments: 1960-2020.

SATURDAY JUNE 6

A New Zealand Food Story (Three, 5.30pm). Cooking shows! Some people like them. This one follows Baduzzi chef Ben Bayly as he opens his own restaurant and wrestles with the question of what is Kiwi cuisine. In the first episode, this entails a trip to the South Island for a squiz at crayfish and paua. The pandemic also impacts the restaurant’s development. In other cooking show news, it’s the final of The Great British Bake Off on Tuesday (Prime, 7.30pm), which is also the last time that Sandi Toksvig will present; she has been replaced by Matt Lucas. 

The Farewell (Sky Movies Premiere, Sky 030, 8.30pm). Rapper and comedian Awkwafina is in a more serious mode in this movie in which she explores the difficulties of living between two cultures. Her character, Billi, travels from the US to China when her grandmother is diagnosed with cancer and struggles with her family’s decision to keep her gran in the dark. Awkwafina, aka Nora Lum, was the first Asian-American to win a Golden Globe in the lead actress film category. Other movie highlights this week: Rialto (Sky 039) is screening Samoan comedy Take Home Pay Saturday night (8.30pm)

SUNDAY JUNE 7

Trackers (SoHo, Sky 010, and Neon, 8.30pm). I don’t know the novel this is based on, but it sounds terribly thriller-y. South African author Deon Meyer’s 2011 book has been adapted by British screenwriter Robert Thorogood (Death in Paradise) and directed by Fin Jyri Kähönen. There’s organised crime, smuggled diamonds, state security, black rhinos, the CIA and an international terrorist plot and it’s been bigger than Game of Thrones in South Africa, according to this Stuff story.

MONDAY JUNE 8

Bodyguard (TVNZ 1, 8.30pm). If you haven’t caught up with Bodyguard this far, where have you been? The six-part thriller was a sensation in the UK and big on Netflix. It certainly gave Richard Madden something to do after Game of Thrones. It’s a twisty thrill-ride – just wait until the final episode – and as it was created by Jed Mercurio (Line of Duty), has political points to make. The Herald’s Chris Reed interviewed Mercurio recently about his two biggest shows.

Here’s the amusing super-cut of every time Madden says “ma’am”. 

TUESDAY JUNE 9

I May Destroy You (Neon, then SoHo2 from June 29). The brilliant Michaela Coel (Chewing Gum and Black Earth Rising) wrote and stars in this series that explores the aftermath of a sexual assault in a way that is, according the New York Times “touching and quietly hilarious”. Coel has revealed that an assault she suffered while making Chewing Gum served as an inspiration for the series. It also appears to be an examination of modern relationships and London nightlife. Can’t wait, although you’ll need Neon to see it before June 29.

THURSDAY JUNE 11

Insecure (SoHo2, Sky 210, 8.00pm). The also brilliant Issa Rae (no relation) returns with season four of Insecure. Modern life and relationships in LA look as difficult as in London, and Rae is really great at the awkward-funny situations. Clearly, all done before Covid and protests swept across the Land of the Free: one of the show’s actors, Kendrick Sampson (who plays Nathan), has posted some graphic pictures on Instagram after he was shot with rubber bullets by LA cops. 

FRIDAY JUNE 12

Singapore on Film (Sky Arts, Sky 020, 7.00pm). Restored footage of Singapore dating back to 1900 – amazing to think there has been film for that long – thanks to the British Film Institute. Jenny Agutter narrates and there are interviews with historians, writers and film-makers.

STREAMING

Homecoming (Amazon Prime Video). The second season of Homecoming lacks the weird paranoia and off-kilter feel of the first season, but it’s still a good thriller and the soundtrack seems to have been influenced by 50s sci-fi and horror movies. Sam Esmail (Mr Robot), who directed the first season, is not involved, but is credited as an executive producer (as is season one star Julia Roberts) and Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz, who created the podcast on which the TV series is based, have written the first and last episodes. The season works backwards from the opening scene in which Janelle Monáe’s character wakes up in a rowboat adrift on a lake.

White Lines (Netflix). Mad Spanish-UK series from the creator of Money Heist, Alex Pina. It’s like something between Quentin Tarantino and Ken Loach – Laura Haddock’s Zoe travels from Manchester to Ibiza when the body of her brother, Axel, is unearthed after 20 years. Zoe seems to stumble from one absurd situation to another, mostly of her own making, and in between there’s ultra-violence and sex courtesy of the island’s leading crime family, Romanian drug runners and gratuitous orgies. If you ever saw Good Behavior, in which Michelle Dockery got as far away from Downton’s Lady Mary as she could, you may recognise Juan Diego Botto.

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Views of the Week May 30

SATURDAY MAY 30

Six60: Live at Western Springs 2020 (TVNZ 1, 8.45pm). Remember live concerts? The day will come again, friends, when we will be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in an uncomfortable sweaty venue with people we don’t know. It will happen. Sometimes the sound of concerts drifts over to the Chev, but we never heard a peep of this one, unlike that AC/DC concert that was so loud they were rockin’ it up in Devonport. Six60 may be the most anodyne reggae act since UB40, but their sell-out shows at Western Springs were genuinely a moment in New Zealand pop history; a local act so popular they could fill that stadium. Twice. And such is their broad appeal the filmed show is on TVNZ 1.

SUNDAY MAY 31

Tosca (TVNZ 1, 10.00am). More local arts on the telly? Goodness. New Zealand Opera’s 2015 production of Tosca, featuring superstars Simon O’Neill and Orla Boylan in the lead roles. 

MONDAY JUNE 1

Dolly & Friends: 50 Years at the Opry (TVNZ 1, 7.00pm). These specials tend to be a bit too variety for my taste – there’s a medley of her hits – but you know, it’s Dolly. Emmylou Harris, Lady Antebellum and Hank Williams Jr also appear. Recommended: the podcast Dolly Parton’s America, in which WNYC’s Jad Abumrad gets to the heart of Dolly’s appeal across all sectors of America. The episode where Jad and producer Shima Oliaee visit the ersatz one-room “Tennessee Mountain Home” at Dollywood, then actually visit the real cabin in the woods where Dolly grew up is especially good.

The A Word (UKTV, Sky 007, 9.30pm). British drama The A Word was always about how the adults were coping, not autistic Joe, who was usually fine in his own world. In the third series, Joe is 10 and his parents (Lee Ingleby and Morven Christie) are living miles apart, which is too disrupting for Joe. The wee chap who plays Joe, Max Vento, is not on the spectrum, but Travis Smith, who plays teenager Mark, is. Christopher Eccleston is especially good as grandad Maurice.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 3

Earth from Space (BBC Earth, Sky 074, 8.30pm). I’m imagining Buzz Lightyear: it’s Earth … from spaaace! Cameras in space – none of your tatty drones here – capture the beauty and colours of our Goldilocks planet. Here’s the BBC website if you want to check out the episodes.

THURSDAY JUNE 4

Rhys Darby: Big in Japan (TVNZ 1, 8.45pm). Rhys Darby follows in the footsteps of … well, loads of other comedians and travel presenters. Sue Perkins managed to find female sumo wrestlers, weird girlfriend cafés and shouty camps for businessmen. Joanna Lumley went a more traditional route with white cranes, sake and a robot hotel. Perkins’ trip was pre-publicity for the Tokyo Olympics; hopefully Rhys’s researchers have found similarly interesting stuff for him to look at. After all, Japan isn’t exactly the mysterious East anymore.

FRIDAY JUNE 5

Women’s Day (Sky Arts, Sky 020, 8.00pm). A documentary featuring an incredible breadth of women in Russia, from a 94-year-old who marched with the Red Army from Stalingrad to Prague to an internet make-up artist. Deets here.  

STREAMING

From the Vault: 60 Years of Television (TVNZ OnDemand). I seem to recall writing about 50 years of New Zealand television in the Listener. Tempus fugit. This NZ On Screen collection includes footage of the Wahine disaster; the start of colour television; Lotto’s first broadcast; and the launch of Māori Television. It seems ironic that it’s on TVNZ OnDemand.

Killing Eve (Monday, TVNZ OnDemand). It’s the season finale of Killing Eve, although the show has been meandering a bit in season three, punctuated by Villanelle’s assassinations. A show about her alone would have worked a treat, as much as we love Sandra Oh. Eve seems to be turning towards the dark side – pressing her foot down on Dasha’s chest was a dead giveaway – so perhaps she, Villanelle and Konstantin will go on the run in season four and work their way through assassinating the Twelve. Big ups to the great Harriet Walter, who plays Dasha. As newly-introduced assassin Rhian, Welsh actress Alexandra Roach goes from Sanditon’s Regency bodices to black leather, proving she is awesome.

Space Force (Netflix). The Greg Daniels-Steve Carell workplace comedy arrives on Netflix. The cast includes John Malkovich reportedly parodying Dr Strangelove; Jane Lynch; Noah Emmerich; and Lisa Kudrow, although despite these riches, reviews have been brutal.

The Guilty Feminist Podcast. Remember live events? The day will come again, friends, when we will be able to sit shoulder-to-shoulder in a relatively comfortable venue with people we don’t know. It will happen. The episode of the Guilty Feminist that was recorded at Auckland’s Q Theatre in February has arrived online. The special guest is the clever and brave Ali Mau, who talks about her #metoo work. Awesome singer-songwriter Grace Petrie performs at the end, although the podcast doesn’t include her version of I Will Always Love You, which was amazing. I should know, I was there.