Pick of the Week: Mare of Easttown (Neon, from Wednesday)
Sometimes the place a TV series or movie is set is almost like a character in itself, and sometimes that character is a massive down buzz. The small Pennsylvania town where the new HBO crime drama Mare of Easttown is set is a classic example. This might be the coldest, bleakest place we've seen on screen since Manchester by the Sea.
Easttown is where Kate Winslet's character Mare Sheehan grew up and still lives. In high school she was a basketball sensation, whose jersey still hangs on the wall of the gym. Now she's the town's detective and fits almost all the usual gritty small-town detective cliches, with the one concession to modernity being that she vapes instead of smoking.
And she vapes quite a lot, because her life is quietly and slowly falling apart. If it's not difficult family stuff to deal with at home, it's an old lady calling her on her cellphone at the crack of dawn to report a prowler disturbing the bins. Then there's the year-old cold case her boss wants her to go back on and reopen the file, because the missing woman's mum keeps going on the news and making them look bad.
That's not the main grisly crime at the centre of this series, though – that comes a bit later, after we've already followed Mare around and got to meet some of the Easttown locals. In most series, you sit through this type of exposition impatient to get to the big murder mystery moment. But if the whole series was just Kate Winslet huffing about in heavy flannel overshirts trying to avoid getting involved in other people's problems, it'd still be worth watching.
Not many shows are so good that you almost wish less would happen. Led by a career standout performance from Winslet, Mare of Easttown is one of them.
Young Rock (Prime, 7:30pm Tuesday)
Despite common logic and plenty of stories to the contrary, about how he actually grew up in New Zealand and all that, it's impossible to envision Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a child. The imagination goes back as far as that photo of him in the black turtleneck with the gold chain, and that's where it stops. But maybe that'll change once we get to see Young Rock, the sitcom based on his early years as a 10-year-old growing up in Hawaii, a high school student in Pennsylvania and a college football star in Florida. Okay, so no New Zealand scenes, but there are a handful of local actors pop up throughout the series.
Creamerie (TVNZ OnDemand, from Monday)
Think of a world where all the men have died of a mysterious plague, leaving all the women to get on with it – is that a utopian or dystopian image? That's what's happened in new local series Creamerie, a darkly funny take on The Handmaid's Tale set on a New Zealand dairy farm. It's eight years since the last man coughed up his last lungful of blood, and things aren't quite as idyllic as any of the women working the land (Ally Xue, Perlina Lau and JJ Fong from Flat 3 and Friday Night Bites) might have hoped. Then a mystery man (Jay Ryan from Go Girls) shows up, and things get even stranger.
Snabba Cash (Netflix)
In Swedish, "snabba" means "fast", which must have made "Mr Loverman" a novelty hit. Snabba Cash started life as a popular crime novel by Jens Lapidus, first published in 2006. There was a film adaptation in 2010, released in English-speaking territories as Easy Money, and now we're back with a series-length remake written for the screen by the book's original author. It's a tense, high-stakes drama about a tech entrepreneur looking for "snabba cash" to fund her start-up and the criminal underworld she gets drawn deeper and deeper into in her efforts to find it. If you love your Nordic noir but sometimes wish it moved at a more frenetic pace, this is the answer.
Movie of the Week: Stowaway (Netflix, from Thursday)
If you could choose three people to go to Mars with, who would you choose? Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette and Daniel Dae Kim? Well, that's who you're getting in Netflix's new intergalactic thriller about three astronauts on a mission to Mars who, as the title suggests, discover a fourth person on board once it's too late to turn back. It's written and directed by Joe Penna, a Brazilian musician who became famous as YouTuber "MysteryGuitarMan". That doesn't sound very promising, but his first feature film, Arctic, starring Mads Mikkelsen – got great reviews when it premiered at Cannes in 2018, so you never know.
From the Vault: Flatmates (2007) (NZ On Screen)
Flatmates has a claim to being the first New Zealand reality series, and certainly the most authentic – just a bunch of young people flatting together in a big Auckland villa and filming their arguments over who's going to do the big flat shop. Nearly quarter of a century later it's a remarkable time capsule to what is starting to feel like a whole other time, and now the first five episodes are available on NZ On Screen, not just the first one. If you ever feel like going back and living in 1997 for a bit, now you can.
Podcast of the Week: Bed of Lies
How well do you really know your significant other? If you're fairly confident they are who they say they are, well, that's what the women in Bed of Lies thought too.
The series is a mind-bending story of deception that gets wilder – and better – with every episode. It's not technically true-crime, but very true-crime adjacent: Telegraph journalist Cara McGoogan starts out by introducing us to four women with stories so similar she's constantly having to remind us who's who. Each met a man, they've spent several years together, then one day the bloke's just up and vanished without a trace.
Only when you put all their stories together do the red flags really start to flutter. All the men have kind of hazy backstories, all the partners seem to have stumbled across documents in other people's names, and a lot of them seem to drive vans.
As always, the less you know before you start listening, the better – just know the truth they uncover when they put it all together is even more scandalous than you imagine. And never trust a man who drives a van.