Things seem to be finally starting to brighten up after what has, most wouldn’t deny, been a fairly grim year. But the desire for escapism goes unabated. Most of April’s crop of new TV shows involve some vicarious fantasy, like a long foreign holiday or being incredibly rich, and even the one about an abusive relationship tempers it with a bit of a road trip. Read on:
1. Made For Love | April 1
A vaguely Black Mirror-ish concept, this. Cristin Milioti leaves her controlling husband Billy Magnussen, but he’s had a tracking chip implanted in her brain. Strangely, it’s billed as a comedy, and even the presence of Ray Romano as Milioti’s father doesn’t quite seem to reconcile that with the troubling-sounding premise.
Made For Love makes use of a split timeline, hopping between Milioti’s unfortunate life with Magnussen, and her subsequent escape. And, yes, this kind of plot is an escape, the same as any Shawshank Redemption or Escape From Colditz, albeit without quite so many armed guards.
2. The Serpent | April 2
If there’s one thing that’s clear from modern television, it’s this: people like stories about villains. And with only so many Breaking Bads and The Sopranoses to go around, the industry’s even resorted to dusting off the villains from older works and giving them their own moments in the spotlight (Bates Motel, Nurse Ratched, et al).
The Serpent also dusts off a bad guy from history, but this time from real-life history, recreating the story of con-man and murderer Charles Sobhraj (played here by Tahar Rahim) – a kind of Eastern hemisphere Charles Manson, who used his superficial charm and lack of morals to slaughter his way up and down the Southeast Asian ‘hippie trail’ of the 1970s.
Alongside Rahim, The Serpent stars Jenna Coleman as Sobhraj’s girlfriend/follower Marie-Andrée Leclerc, opposite Billy Howle and Ellie Bamber as the Dutch diplomats who notice people going missing. If nothing else, it’s one of those period pieces, set in exotic locations, with a cast of attractive people, which you can stick on purely for the aesthetic.
3. Snabba Cash | April 7
Is the technology boom ever likely to end? In Sweden, same as anywhere else, the story is the same – some device or app or new kind of .gif pops up overnight and suddenly has more money than God. The conceit of Snabba Cash is that these firms don’t just pop up out of nowhere, and most have large investments riding on their success and failure.
Where it gets tricky is when the up-front investment was a huge amount of drug money from the Stockholm underworld. Now, the firm is successful, and the gang wants their cut, and Evin Ahmad plays the woman in the middle trying to balance these two worlds. A lively-looking TV branch of the acclaimed Stockholm Noir book series.
4. The Nevers | April 11
My first instinct was to call this a kind of Victorian X-Men, except the concept of the all-star ensemble cast with an array of wacky powers is hardly limited to the X-Men these days. There was Misfits, and Umbrella Academy, there’s Doom Patrol of course, The Boys flipped the script by having the super-people as the antagonists, not to forget both Marvel and DC chasing this dragon with their big crossover films, The Avengers is four films in by now and we’ve just seen the much-awaited Snyder cut of Justice League…
Where was I? Yes, The Nevers. Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly take in a bunch of orphans who have mysterious powers, and society reacts badly, you know the drill. Although possibly more interesting is how they’ve cast the normally-chummy Nick Frost as a thuggish razor-man, which could be some interesting playing against type.
5. Rutherford Falls | April 22
Rutherford Falls comes with a solid comedy pedigree off the bat, the product of Mike Schur, creator of Parks & Rec and The Good Place, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine writer Sierra Teller Ornelas. Their co-creator Ed Helms stars as one of the Rutherfords of Rutherford Falls, who’s outraged when local government plans to move a statue of one of his ancestors from its pride of place – in the middle of an intersection.
The marketing makes a lot of Rutherford Falls’ Native American representation, both in front of and behind the camera, although this kind of kooky, awkward comedy has never been good at tackling Serious Issues. Observe how Brooklyn Nine-Nine was caught utterly flat-footed when the police came under scrutiny last year and declared they’d be retooling the whole show – or how, towards the end, The Good Place visibly struggled to reconcile the idea of an afterlife with its obviously secular morality. Maybe they’ll get it right this time?
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