If you're looking for terrific TV, look no further than new series City on a Hill, especially for fans of gritty crime dramas like The Wire and The Shield.
City on a Hill
Stan*, from Monday, June 17
The title is ironic. Or at least it is at the start of this high-end crime drama boasting Kevin Bacon at the head of a formidable cast. In the early '90s Boston was a byword for corruption, and as our story begins, nobody epitomises the bad old Boston quite like heavy-drinking, coke-snorting, casually racist FBI agent Jackie Rohr (Bacon).
Kevin Bacon as FBI agent Jackie Rohr and Aldis Hodge as lawyer Decourcy Ward square off in City on a Hill.
Indeed, Rohr yearns for the days when it was worse: "What used to make this city great was that it was run by bad men who understood they were bad." But the times, they are a-changing. The first bristles of the new broom come in the form of Assistant District Attorney Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge), a man hated by the Boston PD for having called for jail time for corrupt cops in his previous job, but who now has to work hand in glove with them.
Lauren E. Banks and Hodge.
Meanwhile, in the bad part of town, a bunch of crooks led by Frankie Ryan (Jonathan Tucker) is conducting a disastrous robbery on an armoured car. Is this the event that will bring Rohr and Ward together? Funnily enough, no. That event would be a bungled police raid that leaves Rohr's low-life informant Clay Roach (Rory Culkin) charged with shooting a policeman.
Home fronts are busy too. The philandering Rohr having to contend with his unhappy wife, Jenny (Jill Hennessy), while Frankie is married to the formidable Cathy (Amanda Clayton) and has an erratic, drug-addict brother (Mark O'Brien) who could bring down their whole criminal enterprise.
It's fiction but it feels authentic, from the cigarettes smouldering in the ashtrays to the antediluvian attitudes of embodied by many of those in law enforcement. Series creator Chuck Maclean got a dream showrunner in Tom Fontana (who serves as an executive producer alongside Boston types Ben Affleck and Matt Damon). Fontana, who created Oz and Homicide: Life on the Street, has long been one of America's most thoughtful dramatists when it comes to criminal-justice issues, and City on a Hill familiarises us with its Boston setting quickly and organically.
And it's not a matter of cops simply being bad for the sake of it – the pragmatically corrupt J.R. Minogue (Kevin Chapman) gives indignant voice to police perspectives. Bacon is obviously a huge casting coup – and he doesn't disappoint – but it's the likes of Chapman, Tucker and other well-cast character actors that give the series real blue-collar texture. Terrific TV.
Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City
Laura Linney, Olympia Dukakis and Barbara Garrick provide a powerful connection running back through the previous Tales of the City miniseries of 1993, 1998 and 2001. But in what feels very much like a new era – and with a new generation of writers at the helm – this latest iteration of Armistead Maupin's San Francisco feels strangely out of time.
Olympia Dukakis’ character, Anna Madrigal,is the focus of attention as she turns 90 inArmistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.
The writing is stiff, the scenes are too stagey and the edgier elements feel like they aren't there to provide groundbreaking representation as much as they are simply to transgress lines that have long since been erased.
Linney is masterful as she reprises the role of Mary Ann Singleton, who is back in San Fran for the 90th birthday of Anna Madrigal (Dukakis). Not everyone is happy to see Mary Ann again – especially not Shawna (Ellen Page), the adopted daughter that Mary Ann left as a toddler. Australian Murray Bartlett (Looking) brings a delightful, muscular brio to the part of Michael Tolliver, but the overall enterprise feels feeble. Euphoria perhaps carries more contemporary relevance.
Over and Out
If you think raising toddlers is hard try doing it in a post-apocalyptic Australia full of zombies, mutants and cannibals. This highly entertaining web series has Sydney couple Freya and Lewis (series creators Adele Vuko and Christiaan Van Vuuren) boarding up their home and bickering about baby wipes while fighting a endless bloody battles against the murderous hordes outside. All while trying to stay politically correct about hybrid pig-people. It's deftly written and performed, and the five snack-sized episodes will leave you wanting more.
Over and Out is an Australian web seriesstaring creators Adele Vuko (Freya) and Christiaan Van Vuuren (Lewis).
ABC Art Bites: Third Culture Kids
A "third culture kid" is a person whose individual culture is a fusion of two or more cultures to which they were exposed during childhood. This thought-provoking and visually striking little series has six Australian artists from non-European backgrounds explain how their childhood experiences as immigrants or the children of immigrants has influenced their lives and work. Director Santilla Chingaipe unpacks issues of identity, racism and representation in finely crafted episodes that run just five to eight minutes. Well worth checking out.
Six Australian artists from non-European backgrounds explain their childhood experiences on ABC Art Bites: Third Culture Kids.
Fortnite: Build, Battle, Survive
Amazon Prime Video
Fortnite is one of those video games that has become such a mainstream mega-hit that you can even find glossy paper magazines dedicated to it at your local newsagent. This cheap and cheerful documentary explains how the game took the concept of a last-man-standing 100-player online battle royale, added a tactical structure-building aspect, a constant stream of new whimsical character costumes and other attractions for players who will never actually win a game, and benefited from promotional feedback loops involving e-celebrities and mainstream celebrities.
Tim and Sam (Tim Robinson and SamRichardson) play erratic young ad men in Detroiters.
This silly but enjoyable comedy is a love letter – or get-well-soon card – to the battered city of Detroit. Our heroes are erratic young ad men Tim and Sam (Tim Robinson and Sam Richardson), whose agency's parlous state mirrors that of the city itself. Clients and staff have deserted en masse, leaving Tim and Sam with nothing but late-night furniture-store commercials. The city becomes a character, and the series makes great use of Detroit music – not least The MC5's eminently applicable The American Ruse.
*Stan is owned by Nine, the publisher of this website.
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