It’s always fun (but terribly conflicting) to look back over the year on TV and settle on just 5 titles as the pick of the bunch.
For this task I always limit myself to new productions, so apologies to some stellar telly that we watched in successive seasons.
This year I’ve highlighted 4 Aussie titles, and all 5 are scripted, which probably nods to my personal tastes more than anything.
Once again these 5 are in no particular order, and I’ve added excerpts from site reviews.
Chernobyl is the most compelling drama of its kind since The Day After in 1983. Back then 100 million Americans looked on in horror as a nuclear disaster movie ripped through Missouri and Kansas. With 21st Century filmmaking and storytelling techniques, Chernobyl is easily the superior product. Based around the catastrophic events of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of April 1986 this 5 part series hits overdrive in next to no time, when a distant “boom” disturbs the residents of Pripyat, near the Ukraine–Belarus border and fireman Vasily (Adam Nagaitis) is called to duty in the dead of night. But engineers at the burning nuclear reactor are in denial about the magnitude of their unfolding disaster, despite the clear evidence and the crumbling mess around them.
The first new Australian drama for 2019 is a treat. Bloom takes its time to wash over you, but it does so with quiet awe, a nod to the past, and moodily arouses your senses. While the opening scenes of a small-town flood result in the deaths of 5 locals, they are arresting enough to put the viewer on notice: this show means business.
Robbie Hood SBS
Robbie by name, robbin’ by nature….Robbie Hood is a charismatic, streetwise Indigenous kid who knows how to survive in the Alice. And he and his mates are a sheer joy to watch. Although his mother passed away on Christmas Day, 14 year old Robbie (Pedrea Jackson) is left to fend for himself with his d***head white fella dad (Andy Golledge), his elderly grandmother (Audrey Martin) and best mates, the gangly perpetutally-hungry 16 year old Johnny (Levi Thomas) and tough-nut 13 year old ‘Blue’ (Jordan Johnson). Unsupervised on the hot asphalt of the Alice, these three loiter from misadventure to misadventure, struggling to scrape enough cash together for a swim in the local pool, nicking BMX bikes or sneaking into a night at the local speedway.
Total Control ABC
The series explores all kinds of moral dilemmas for a newly-installed Senator and Alex finds herself torn between representing her mob, compromising at every turn and becoming a pawn in party politics. Issues of skin colour and gender are front and centre, all personified by Mailman. (Alex) is prone to lashing out and getting barefoot in TV interviews, allowing Deborah Mailman to rip through some of the scenes at category one, whilst still showing vulnerability behind closed doors. Episode 2 makes a nice comment that the politics of negotiating with Aboriginal elders is far more complex than anything Canberra has to offer.
Lambs of God Foxtel
Lambs of God is the best miniseries Foxtel has produced since Cloudstreet in 2011, and the best local drama of 2019. At just 4 episodes it has a clear vision, executed with precision by a collaboration of skilled storytellers. Tapping into a trend for dark, bingeworthy dramas, it looks quite magnificent in the hands of acclaimed cinematographer Don McAlpine. While it’s easy to be swept up in the arresting visuals of a crumbling monastery perched high atop a cliff face, there are some insidious themes explored in the script by Sarah Lambert.
Honourable mentions (also in no particular order):
Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds,
The Loudest Voice,
Years and Years,
Fosse / Verdon,
Exposed: The Case of Keli Lane,
and Dancing with the Stars.