14 Apr 2022

Perlina Lau's must-see TV

3:27 pm on 14 April 2022

Perlina Lau casts her eye over six shows to put on your favourites list this month.

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Photo: Apple TV, Netflix

Pachinko - Apple TV

Just the opening sequence alone may be a good enough reason to watch this epic family drama. Based on the New York Times best seller of the same name by Min Jin Lee, this story moves between a poor fishing village in Korea in 1915 to the electric Tokyo and New York in 1989.

Visually stunning, it centres around the character of Sunja who’s played by three different actresses as the story moves through her life. The elder Sunja is played by the scene-stealing Yuh-jung Youn, who won over audiences for her portrayal as the blunt but loving grandma in last year’s Minari. The elder Sunja lives with her son in Osaka who owns Pachinko parlours (arcades where people play a game like pinball). It’s successful but in a polite society, the business isn’t considered respectful; bringing in the issue of class and discrimination that ripples through the decades.

The series moves through time, as it does locations and languages with a mix of Korean, Japanese and English. It’s a dazzling and beautifully shot series with actors who can express so much through doing so little in their subtle expressions.

At the centre is a multi-generational immigrant story about the decisions and sacrifices people have to make through life in order to survive. The executive producer was told the show would never sell and it’s now heading towards being seen as one of the best of the year. Get on board I reckon. 

White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie and Fitch - Netflix

An entire company built on the back of exclusion; that’s the angle of the documentary about the rise and fall of the popular fashion brand in the ‘90s and early 2000s. It tracks the retail brand through its scandals and ultimately its demise.

The company’s former chief executive, Mike Jeffries, had boasted about its “ideal” demographic which was described as “thin, conventionally hot, and popular”. It packaged and sold the “All-American” image and I even remember desperately wanting one of their hoodies when my sister did a “Work USA” stint in San Francisco. But eventually, this ethos led to its demise - as the exclusion and discrimination practices began to envelop the company in scandal.

The documentary features interviews with former employees, models and executives. The brand has closed more than 100 stores in recent years and has moved online. But it’s a look inside a company which thrived on exclusion and had no shame or qualms about targeting only the young, white, cool kids.

Old Enough! - Netflix

This is without a doubt the perfect antidote to the often grim and depressing world events surrounding us at the moment. It’s been playing in Japan for years and I’m so pleased they have finally put this on Netflix for the world to see. I have seen this but only on rare YouTube clips.  It’s also a show that could only originate from Japan. You’ll soon understand why.

My First Errand - is the hugely popular Japanese version - a hilarious and entertaining show where kids, as young as two-and-a-half go on their first errand shopping - alone. Yes, alone. They are followed by an incognito camera crew who hide so they can’t be spotted by the toddlers - as they navigate public transport, crossing roads, remembering the grocery list from memory as most can’t read yet, and try their best to complete their tasks.

It’s narrated, there’s cartoonish style fonts and what sounds like canned laughter. It’s subtitled and I guarantee it will have you in stitches within minutes - if not seconds. Don’t worry - it’s very safe and the routes are all scouted by producers and inspected for danger. All 20 episodes are less than 20 minutes long. You can thank me later. 

Ten Percent - Amazon Prime 

The British remake of France’s Call My Agent, Ten Percent (the amount of commission agents usually take) is finally landing. It follows a group of agents at a fictional British agency as they begin to face fierce competition with American agencies. The agents are also tripping up to keep their clients happy while trying to keep the business afloat after the sudden death of its founder.

Littered with stars including Jack Davenport, Jim Broadbent, Lydia Leonard and Maggie Steed; with guest appearances from Helena Bonham Carter, Dominic West and Emma Corrin - just to name a few. Behind this rendition is the BAFTA winning writer - John Morton of W1A (I also urge you to watch this) and Twenty Twelve

The Shining Girls - Apple TV

I’m starting to think Elisabeth Moss is never not working. Her latest series, starring alongside Jamie Bell, is a time-travelling thriller based on the novel by Lauren Buekes. It’s the early ‘90s and Moss plays Kirby Mazrachi - a newspaper archivist at the Chicago Sun-Times. She’d been on track to become one of the reporters in the hectic newsroom, but a brutal attack put her out of the game for too long; taking her time, confidence and memory.

A mind-bending story which has taken the novel and deconstructed it to put together for the TV series. Kirby investigates her assailant and when a recent murder mirrors her experience - she’s called in to identify a suspect. But she has no memory of him other than his voice and what it felt like. She works with her colleague to try and continue digging and connect the dots between cases.

As the audience, you know early on exactly who they’re looking for - so this isn’t a whodunnit but rather, how? You’ll have to be in the mood for this intense series. It could be a good one for when the weather packs in!

Roar - Apple TV

I am still very much enjoying Nicole Kidman’s TV renaissance and it looks like she’s made yet another intriguing choice. Just from the trailer, she’s gazing at a photo of a kid eating ice cream in her living room, before she eats the photo. Cue - quirky vocal choir music.

It’s a collection of eight different dark comedy stories told through the eyes of eight different women - each with a different genre. The show touches on issues surrounding women today (well, mostly middle-class straight women) depicting mum-guilt, misogyny and abusive relationships but portrayed in a fable-like style. The story genres range from psychological horror to magical realism with a star-studded cast including Alison Brie, Issa Rae, Kara Hayward and Betty Gilpin. 

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