This might have lost what many consider to be its brightest star, but its lustre (and lustiness) remains intact.
The Duke of Hastings (Rege-Jean Page) may have gone in search of greener fields, but there is still plenty of scandal, sauciness and repressed sentiments swirling about Bridgerton, as the second instalment of eight parts begins.
And while it leans into its Austen-ness (or should that be Will-ful-ness?) even more during this sophomore season, based on author Julia Quinn’s second tale The Viscount Who Loved Me, series creator Chris Van Dusen and the rest of the Shondaland team ensures this adaptation is more than just “plain Jane” or “Summer Shakespeare”.
That means the seemingly endless array of sumptuous costumes are back, the pacing perfectly pitched for both those who like to binge and those who love to savour, and the magnificent, classical versions of 20th and 21st century pop hits are once again sneakily and masterfully scattered throughout proceedings.
DEVS (DISNEY +)
Nick Offerman, Sonoya Mizuno, Jin Ha, Alison Pill and Cailee Spaeny star in this eight-part sci-fi drama about a computer engineer who investigates her company’s secretive development division, which she believes is behind the disappearance of her boyfriend.
Created by 28 Days Later and Ex Machina’s Alex Garland, the show was nominated for four prime-time Emmy Awards.
“It’s a deep, dark, wild ride. How much of it deals in pure imagination and how much of it is grounded in stuff already here I don’t know. And please – nobody tell me. It’s better this way,” wrote The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan.
* Neon’s First Lady, Amazon’s Outer Range, Apple’s Roar amongst April’s must see TV
* Downton 2, Fantastic Beasts 3, New Zealand-shot X amongst April’s must see movies
* Question Team: Richard Ayoade and friends hilariously ‘rewrite the panel show’
* The Chase USA: Bigger money, extra Jeopardy, but somehow not quite as much fun
* Winning Time: Neon’s wildly entertaining look back at a crazy decade
Dirty Lines is now available to stream on Netflix.
DIRTY LINES (NETFLIX)
Six-part, 1980s-set Dutch dramedy about a university psychology student who stumbles into a new career at the country’s first-ever phone sex line. Started by two brothers, one more conservative than the other, being in the business of sexual desires leads them to question their own.
“Dirty Lines does a good job of taking on a not-so-serious topic with a good mix of comedy and personal drama,” wrote Decider’s Joel Keller.
HARRY WILD (ACORN TV)
Best known as Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman and for playing Bond girl Solitaire in Live and Let Die, Jane Seymour may have just found a new iconic role.
The now septuagenarian actor plays one-half of an unlikely detective duo in this eight-part Dublin series that’s most definitely for fans of light murder mysteries like Brokenwood and Midsomer.
As you’d expect with a show of this type, the crimes really are secondary to the characters on display. Creator David Logan delivers Seymour a real gift of a role – part Jane Halifax, part Vera Stanhope, part Agatha Raisin – and she throws herself into it with gusto. Imagine Murder She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher with a rampant libido and short-fuse when it comes to the mangling of the English language.
MOON KNIGHT (DISNEY+)
Freed, at least at this stage, of any connection to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the increasing talk of multiverses, this six-part series offers up a refreshingly fresh canvas on which to paint its action-packed and engrossing tale.
Sure there might be some Egyptian mythology to get your head around, but this doesn’t feel bogged down by portents and pretence the way last year’s big-screen “immortals-assemble” amble Eternals was.
At its heart is a terrific performance by Oscar Isaac. Thanks to turns in Dune and the most recent Star Wars trilogy, we know he can do gravitas and derring-do in his sleep, but here, sporting an impressive British accent, he displays a nebbishness and comedic-chops we haven’t really seen since his breakout performance in 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis.
THE NEWSREADER (THREENOW)
Set against the backdrop of a fertile and turbulent time for world events (1986), Michael Lucas’ (Offspring, Five Bedrooms) six-part drama’s template might be Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom or Abi Morgan’s The Hour, but it’s hard not to watch without thinking of that brilliant Australian current affairs show satire Frontline. That’s especially thanks to some of the colourful and kooky characters amongst the staff.
However, this is really Anna Torv’s (Fringe, Mindhunter) show. Looking almost like a dead ringer for Cate Blachett, she delivers a performance of power, grit and authority that her more illustrious countrywoman would be proud of. In Torv’s hands, her ambitious television news frontwoman Helen Norville seems like Australia’s answer to Murphy Brown or Mary Tyler Moore.
SCREW (TVNZ ONDEMAND)
Teachers’ Nina Sosanya and Derry Girls’ Jamie-Lee O’Donnell team up for this six-part British dramedy which reveals the uncensored, shocking and often darkly funny reality of life as a prison officer in an all-male prison in 21st century Britain.
Veteran officer Leigh (Sosanya) lives for her job at Long Marsh, but when new recruit Rose (O’Donnell) arrives, C Wing will never be the same.
“This is broad and warm and welcoming, with enough of a sharp side to make it worth sticking with,” wrote The Guardian’s Rebecca Nicholson.
SECRETS OF PLAYBOY (TVNZ ONDEMAND)
To some, he was one of the most important Americans of the 20th century, to others, he was the devil.
A man with egalitarian ideas who wanted to change the country’s existing social sexual structures and encourage freedom, or a bloke with a propensity for smoking jackets who made a fortune off the backs (and fronts) of women.
It’s that conflicting and complicated perception of the late Hugh Hefner and his empire that this new 12-part documentary series seeks to explore.
Through extensive interviews with former staff, residents, Playmates and girlfriends, the facade of an enlightened, empowering organisation that offered a variety of roles for women is quickly shattered, as they reveal that “paradise was not all it was cracked up to be”. Director Alexandra Dean also makes terrific use of extensive archival footage, which details how Hefner became the “face of sexual liberation” at just age 27 and was a popular, regular guest on TV talk shows. It all serves to demonstrate, not only the fascinating American cultural changes between the 1960s and the ‘90s, but also how he was able to control the narrative and perception with regards to his organisation for so long.