Radiation by Fiona Rae

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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Great British Bake Off on Tuesday (Prime, 7.30pm), which is also the last time that Sandi Toksvig will present; she has been replaced by Matt Lucas.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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