The first series up this week is a pandemic-driven dark comedy from New Zealand. It brings up an interesting conversation when it comes to genre. Shows about pandemics are hardly new. Hits from “The Last Ship” and “12 Monkeys” to more procedural takes like “The Hot Zone” and “Helix” have dominated the last decade. Hell, even “The Strain” kept on straining for four seasons.
Yet during COVID, shows like “The Stand” and “Y: The Last Man” have not lived up to expectations in terms of either viewership or quality. Now, both were in substantial development before COVID hit, so it may not be a case of platforms thinking this is a topical moment. That’s reserved for tackling ill-advised pursuits like “Love in the Time of Corona”. What it does show us is that the fascination with pandemic-driven fare may have waned. After all, it’s no longer escapism for many.
Where does a dark comedy from New Zealand that features pretty explicit imagery of a pandemic and a similar premise to “Y: The Last Man” land? I couldn’t say, but it is one that I have some hope for – in part due to the involvement of Roseanne Liang, director of this year’s massively underrated “Shadow in the Cloud”. The film’s an ambitious period thriller that veers from tight “Twilight Zone” storytelling into absurd pulp action and makes astonishing use of a relatively small budget. If one person can fuse the starkness of a pandemic to a dark, gender-driven comedy, it’s Liang.
Ultimately, interest in pandemic-driven stories is going to be up to the viewer. Some may not want to be reminded in their escapism, while others will see making comedy out of it as a way of reclaiming a sense of control within their escapism. Neither takeaway is right or wrong; just be sure to respect your own reaction about whether watching pandemic-driven stories feels stressful or relieving.
CW: pandemic imagery
directed by Roseanne Liang
A plague has killed nearly all men on the planet. The remaining 1% of men are sent to a facility in New Zealand. It’s thought that even they died, until three dairy farmers run over a seemingly impossible survivor.
“Creamerie” is created by actress-producers J.J. Fong and Perlina Lau, and producer-director Roseanne Liang. As mentioned, Liang delivered “Shadow in the Cloud”, which may not be for everybody but is one of my favorite films of the year.
You can watch all six half-hour episodes of “Creamerie” on Hulu.
Under the Vines (Acorn TV)
showrunner Erin White
A man and woman who hate each other inherit a failing vineyard in rural New Zealand. Neither knows a thing about how to run or work a vineyard, so of course they make a go of it.
Erin White is a longtime director in New Zealand and Australian TV.
You can watch the first two of six episodes of “Under the Vines” on Acorn TV, with a new weekly episode dropping every Monday.
The Unforgivable (Netflix)
directed by Nora Fingscheidt
Sandra Bullock plays Ruth. She’s being released from prison after a 20-year sentence for killing a cop. Very few people are willing to give her a chance or forget her past, even as she searches for the little sister she may have been protecting.
In addition to Bullock, Viola Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Bernthal, and Rob Morgan also star.
Director Nora Fingscheidt helmed the incredible “System Crasher”, an unflinching yet sympathetic portrayal of a girl with rage issues. It was one of the best films of 2020.
You can watch “The Unforgivable” on Netflix.
Off the Rails (VOD)
directed by Jules Williamson
Three women in their 50s bring the daughter of their late friend on a European rail trip. Things go “Off the Rails” in a series of comedic accidents, with a bit of romance sprinkled in.
This is the first feature film from director Jules Williamson.
See where to rent “Off the Rails”.
Anonymously Yours (Netflix)
directed by Maria Torres
In this Mexican romantic comedy, a mistaken text message between classmates leads to a real friendship. The pair fall for each other without realizing they’ve already met and can’t stand each other. I can’t find a trailer with English translation online, but the film will have one available.
This is the first film directed by Maria Torres.
You can watch “Anonymously Yours” on Netflix.
CW: NSFW, body horror
directed by Mar Targarona
This Spanish horror film finds a man and a woman waking up next to each other and realizing their abdomens have been attached.
Director Mar Targarona helmed “Secuestro” and “The Photographer of Mathausen”.
You can watch “Two” on Netflix.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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