‘This show floored me’: Here is the first must-see series of 2023

Rain Dogs ★★★★★
Binge, from March 4

The first essential new series of 2023, this unfiltered, revelatory comic-drama is the strongest TV example of London calling since Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You. A tale of the marginalised – economically and emotionally – that unfolds with a refusal to embrace easy outcomes, Rain Dogs has a naturalism that is eye-popping, bittersweet and sometimes tragic. It reaches the depths of an unconventional friendship with defiant humour and finds the peaks equally have sombre drawbacks. This show floored me.

Daisy May Cooper in the revelatory series Rain Dogs.Credit:HBO/Binge

“Don’t die. I need you,” nine-year-old Iris (Fleur Tashjian) reminds her mother, Costello Jones (Daisy May Cooper), on the day they’re evicted from their London apartment. The pair are old hands at the inflexible cycle of shelters and missed housing opportunities, which is complicated by the release from jail of Costello’s best friend, Selby Florian (Jack Farthing), an aristocratic gay man whose money helps and whose need to hold close those he loves hinders. They are a true family: they know and accept the best and worst of each other.

This BBC/HBO co-production was created by Cash Carraway, whose 2019 memoir of dysfunctional British poverty, Skint Estate, informs much of Costello’s circumstances. A working class aspiring writer, Costello works both peep show shifts and the school gate mother’s circuit with equal diffidence. A survivor of childhood abuse and a recovering alcoholic, she – like Selby – is dedicated to Iris. It’s the toxic bond with the indolent Selby that torments her – to the point where Costello physically attacks him.

Rain Dogs can sound unhinged or excessive, but it’s grounded in relationships that feel genuine. The conversations between Costello and her other close friend, Gloria (Ronke Adekoluejo), have a ferocious, flippant honesty. Even as housing authorities are trying to deport mother and daughter to a rural estate, progressive media try to twist Costello’s situation for middle-class tastes and her own family history looms menacingly, there’s a place for heartfelt affection and barbed affirmations.

Convenient, polite successes, such as Costello being courted by a friendly photographer, invariably reveal more stress points, while always leading back to the complex connection between Selby and Costello. One episode gives them a hopeful life together, only to become a chamber-piece of self-destructive cruelty; both Cooper (This Country) and Farthing (Poldark) give exceptional performances as two people whose platonic love for each other is so vast that it’s constantly threatening to crush them. Nothing is simple with this series, and much of it is staggering.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Daniel Radcliffe dons a mighty wig in Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.

Per the career of a musician who became a star parodying hit songs, this biopic of “Weird Al” Yankovic is a send-up of the genre. It invents crazy childhood details, relishes in oddball accordion motivations, and flips around narrative details with a straight face: here Yankovic (Daniel Radcliffe in a mighty wig) has a hit with Eat It, then Michael Jackson cuts Beat It. It’s fitting, given Yankovic co-wrote the movie with director Eric Appel, but also fleeting. It’s a collection of sketches where the whole is less than the pieces.

The Law According to Lidia Poet

Matilda De Angelis plays a 19th century feminist lawyer in The Law According To Lidia Poet.Credit:LUCIA IUORIO/NETFLIX

Based on the now celebrated historic figure, this zesty 19th century period drama gives a bracing, buoyant slant to the story of the first modern female lawyer in Italy, whose success led to her being disbarred and launching a campaign that galvanised the country’s women. Matilda De Angelis’ Lidia is a rebel without pause, defying the legal system, fencing with her family, and cracking crimes to defend her clients. Her energy and inquiry set the show’s tone – these six episodes have a delightful drive that allows the relevant lessons to linger.

The Reluctant Traveller with Eugene Levy
Apple TV+

The Reluctant Traveller, Eugene Levy, is not chit-chatty.Credit:Apple TV+

This fish out-of-water destination series, which sends Schitt’s Creek patriarch and perpetually awkward comic presence Eugene Levy on holidays he would never willingly choose, is a pleasing gimmick that thankfully knows when to ease off on the string-pulling. The septuagenarian guide bumbles his way from one encounter – and meal – to the next, although the reliance on luxury hotels as a backdrop grows repetitive after a few episodes. Levy is a more intriguing host when he’s interacting with everyday folk.

LADbible, YouTube

A new studio interview series from the Australian arm of the British digital publisher LADbible, Hindsight is a pared-down version – most episodes are approximately 15 minutes in length – of the ABC’s You Can’t Ask That. While OnlyFans sexual content creators is a somewhat predictable starting point, there’s a frankness to the participants’ answers that cuts through, and subsequent episodes on paramedics and experiences with organised religions bring a focus to subjects that too often are framed by assumptions. There’s a yen for the risque here, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be illuminating.

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