The End (TVNZ OnDemand)
English actor Harriet Walter has been in so many things it's impossible to say with any authority that her performance as Edie in The End is "a career highlight" or "her best yet", as tempting as those sort of superlatives are. Let's just say this one's right up there.
The first time we see her in this Australian series she's lying on her bed with a plastic bag over her head. But this attempt on her own life is interrupted by a smoke alarm after a log falls out of the fireplace and starts a house fire, so she gets up and throws herself out the window instead.
"It says, Do Not Resuscitate," she growls at the paramedic in the back of the ambulance, pointing to a handwritten paper bracelet. "But love," the chipper ambo replies, "you're still conscious."
With the cast still on her arm, Edie is put on a plane to the Gold Coast so her daughter Kate (Frances O'Connor) can keep a closer eye on her. A doctor specialising in palliative hospice care, Kate already spends her workdays helping terminally ill patients. "You're depressed," she diagnoses for her mum, "it's treatable, not terminal."
Kate's husband is in prison for vague, white-collar sounding reasons ("You have to go to jail sometimes if you're gonna do big business, it's the Gold Coast," her youngest child explains in the first episode's funniest throwaway line), which means she's also solo parenting their two kids, the elder of whom is in the early, confusing stages of navigating their gender identity.
It sounds like heavy going – but led by a powerful performance from Harriet Walter and some smart, sensitive writing, The End tackles it all head-on, and with heaps of humour and compassion. Rarely has a show about such serious topics been so enjoyable to watch.
Intergalactic (Neon, from Tuesday)
We return, once again, to space, where this time a group of convicts have escaped while being transported to a women's space prison. Created by Julie Gearey, who wrote for Coronation Street during the incredible Evil Richard era before going on to write Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Intergalactic is set in the year 2143, by which time climate change has stuffed the Earth up good and proper. Among the escapees is a sky cop who's been framed for a crime she didn't commit, and now has to fly the actual space criminals to safety so they don't catch on to her. Sounds stressful.
Halston was the name on everybody's lips in the New York City fashion scene and in the discotheques in the 1970s. He famously designed the hat Jackie Kennedy wore to her husband's inauguration in 1961, and sold a lot of perfume that came in a cool-looking bottle. There's a good documentary about him that came out a couple of years ago, about the complicated relationship between fashion and commerce. And now, if you prefer, there's also a dramatisation of his life directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Ewan McGregor.
Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
The Underground Railroad didn't actually involve any trains – that was just the name given to a network of secret routes and safehouses that African-Americans used to escape from slavery in the 1800s. In his 2016 novel, Colson Whitehead reimagined it as an actual railroad, and the story followed a young woman escaping Georgia and riding the train to freedom. That book won the Pulitzer Prize, and this TV adaptation is directed by Barry Jenkins, whose last two director credits were the Oscar-winning Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk. So, you can see why The Underground Railroad is one of the more eagerly anticipated new TV series of the year.
Movie of the Week: The Woman in the Window (Netflix)
Amy Adams is The Woman in the Window – an agoraphobic child psychologist confined to her New York City apartment, where one day she witnesses a brutal crime from her spot upstairs. Sounds familiar, right? This is a total rip-off of that Simpsons episode where Bart breaks his leg. Adapted from the 2018 novel of the same name by Tracy Letts (August: Osage County), it's Rear Window updated as a modern thriller – that's got to be better than a shot-by-shot remake, at least.
From the Vault: Frontline (1994) (Netflix)
Not Spotlight nor any of the great journalism films have ever come as close to capturing the essence of the newsroom as accurately as the great Australian satire Frontline. Made in 1994 (although it looks way, way older on Netflix), the first series centres around Rob Sitch's current affairs anchor Mike Moore trying to shed his "likeable" tag and become a proper hard-nosed newsman. It's also got Bruno Lawrence, along with Dennis Denuto from The Castle and Kim from Kath & Kim.
Podcast of the Week: Stay Away From Matthew Magill
Most of us have one: a box full of documents and things too important or sentimental to ever throw out. Have you ever thought about what will happen to this box after you die? If you're lucky, someone might use it as the starting point for a podcast series about you!
That's what has happened to the mysterious Mathew Magill, who died alone in a small town in Florida a few years back. When he was alive, people assumed he must have been some kind of compulsive liar, so unbelievable were some of his stories – but as podcaster Eric Mennel discovers when an acquaintance of Magill's handed him the box, he was mostly telling the truth.
How did someone born into such tremendous wealth and opportunity, who lived a life likened to a high-society Forrest Gump, end up dying alone in a small town in Florida? That's the question that drove Mennel to start investigating, and ultimately inspired him to start asking questions about his relationship with his own family.
Part-investigative biography, part-family history, part-personal essay – exactly where or how the story will end might be its biggest mystery.