Discover Calum Henderson's definitive list of what's hot right now and from the vault.
A Love Yarn (TVNZ 1, 8:30pm Sunday; TVNZ OnDemand)
We still have a long way to go before the rest of the world stops seeing us as anything other than The Lord of the Rings – but Canadian-NZ co-production A Love Yarn is another step on the path to Aotearoa also becoming internationally recognised as the setting of sweet, generic, easy-watching rom coms.
It comes just a couple of years after Netflix's Falling Inn Love, and the similarities don't end at their cringeworthy almost-but-not-quite-a-pun titles. Where that one was about a city girl from San Francisco coming to the Coromandel to renovate a dilapidated inn, for example, this one's about a city boy from New York coming to Matakana to audit the family farm.
Samuel has been sent over to see about closing down his aunt's yarn mill because it's not making the family enough money. That's because the anti-capitalist Ida insists on selling all her lovely yarn to the local wool shop, owned by fellow American-Kiwi Sophie, instead of getting top dollar for it on the export market.
There are cultural misunderstandings. "I'm American, I can't get enthusiastic about rugby," Sophie tells her rugger-mad Kiwi boyfriend after he refuses to wear the jumper she knitted him. "Yeah, well I can't get enthusiastic about knitting or wool," he counters in what is easily the most intense exchange of the whole film. They call the whole thing off, leaving the door open for Sam to win Sophie's heart via unsolicited marketing advice.
The cosy, familiar story ambles along so mildly that it almost feels like a radical act of film-making. No one dies, nothing bad really happens to anyone and if you fall asleep on the couch after five minutes then wake up in the middle of the Maker's Fair, you'll still be able to enjoy the thoroughly satisfying ending.
Domina (Neon and SoHo, from Monday)
Until now, the name Livia Drusilla has meant nothing to anyone but the biggest Chaser-level trivia buffs, who'd no doubt be able to tell you she was a Roman empress, who reigned from 27 BC to 14 AD. Soon everyone will know her as the star of Domina, a blockbusting new historical drama series that brings several museums worth of marble busts to life. Starting with the young noblewoman's marriage to Tiberius Nero, the eight episodes here are part Game of Thrones, part intense political thriller, and a Classics teacher's dream.
Intelligence (Neon, from Wednesday)
While we're all still processing the news that David Schwimmer nearly had a thing with Jennifer Aniston during the first season of Friends, here he is in a British comedy series. Intelligence was created by and stars Nick Mohammed, whom some might recognise as the funny kit man from Ted Lasso. In this transatlantic clash of the cultures comedy, he plays a bumbling computer analyst at the UK's Government Communications Headquarters, whose team has to adjust to working together with Schwimmer's slick, confident American NSA agent to tackle cybercrime.
Sweet Tooth (Netflix)
Like A Love Yarn, Sweet Tooth is another international production that filmed in New Zealand while the rest of the world was well and truly locked down last year. However, that's about where the similarities end. Based on the DC Comics adventure series, Sweet Tooth is set 10 years after the apocalyptic "great crumble", which led to the emergence of new half-human, half-animal hybrid babies. The series itself is a kind of hybrid baby of Hunt For the Wilderpeople and X-Men, following a boy who's half-human, half-deer (like in the Fall Out Boy music video) and a (fully human) wandering loner as they embark on a dangerous adventure in search of answers.
Movie of the Week: The King of Staten Island (Neon)
Sometimes the way a song is used in a movie can change the way you hear it forever. After watching The King of Staten Island, for example, you won't be able to hear "One Headlight" by The Wallflowers without feeling the strong urge to drink beer with 20 firefighters and sing the chorus at the top of your lungs. Directed by Judd Apatow, it's loosely based on the life of star Pete Davidson getting his life together and dealing with the death of his dad.
From the Vault: The Jaquie Brown Diaries (2008) (TVNZ OnDemand)
If you've run out of Kath & Kims and are looking for a new comedy classic to revisit, add The Jaquie Brown Diaries to your watchlist ASAP. It captures the final days of a golden era for TV news, when it was still conceivable that a late-night bulletin could afford to employ two full-time public interest reporters. Threatened by the arrival of a talented newcomer (Madeleine Sami), Brown is under the pump from the get-go to try to keep her job at Flower Street, resulting in some of the finest cringe comedy ever made in this country.
Podcast of the Week: A Death in Cryptoland; Exit Scam
In 2018, the 30-year-old founder of Canada's biggest cryptocurrency exchange was reported to have died while on honeymoon in India. This was a problem for the 75,000 people who had a combined quarter of a billion dollars worth of coins held in his exchange, because it turned out he hadn't told anybody else his passwords. He also might not have died at all, if you listen to the online sleuths and sceptics who quickly jumped into action.
If you're thinking, "wow, this sounds like it would make a really good podcast", you're not alone – there are currently two series about the mysterious life and (alleged?) death of Quadriga CEO Gerald Cotten being released. Both have pretty strong credentials: A Death in Cryptoland is produced by Canadian public broadcaster CBC, who certainly know how to make a good true-crime series, while Exit Scam, which beat the CBC to market by a couple of weeks, is hosted by Aaron Lammer, one half of CoinTalk, the world's only entertaining cryptocurrency podcast. Take your pick, listen to both, or if you wait a couple of months there'll inevitably be a TV documentary series to follow.