Our pick of the best new shows to hit Lightbox this August – plus a full list of everything arriving on the service this month.
The Killing, Season Four – Live now
I will freely and in good conscience admit to having seen every single second of the US version of The Killing and precisely none of its widely praised Scando parent. I don’t like subtitles is the problem – don’t want to mix reading and watching. Too complicated.
In any case, the original-vs-remake debate on this issue seems like a more extreme version of that which exists around the US and UK versions of The Office. The cult of Scandinavian TV fans demand that you agree that brooding Nordic dramas represent humanity’s creative peak, while the US versions are shallow trash. The most likely scenario is that they’re both good, for different reasons, and The Killing remains one of the most unjustly maligned shows of recent years.
The Killing’s fourth season marked a change from those which preceded it. Rather than the sprawling, multi-strand mysteries we saw in the first three seasons, this one centres around a single, shocking mass murder adjacent to a brutal military academy in Seattle’s rural hinterland. The contained nature of the crime is an asset, with the characters and narrative able to be more fully fleshed out than in the past. It also details the petty callousness of teenage boys in as chillingly plausible a style as I’ve seen on television, with the horror of what has occurred matched by the horrifyingly ordinary hazing inflicted on anyone who deviates from the jock culture within the academy. It works its way to satisfying conclusion for both the arc and series as a hole – then throws in a sentimental post-resolution journey into the future for no good reason, which nonetheless provides comfort to those who, like myself, grew inordinately fond of Linden and Holder, the crotchety odd couple detectives at the heart of the show.
Dance Moms, Seasons Two-Four – Live now
In the pantheon of furious, pathological reality TV talent, no one can match Abby Lee Miller. Even her name sounds like that of a charming killer from the ‘40s. She’s justly renowned as one of the most vicious characters on television, while at the same time becoming phenomenally successful. This is largely because the young – often very young – girls she coaches have a good shot at achieving transcendence within dance – if only they can endure her nightmarish teaching style. That dynamic has seen her through five seasons, with a sixth commissioned. Here’s an excerpt from Eleanor Robertson’s essay on Miller which gets at why the show is so grimly compelling:
“For me, Dance Moms really brings home the eternal Problem of Evil: how can a loving God bear to supply the conditions of actuality to a world where Miller is allowed to exist? Only by embracing the idea that Hell is real, and Abby Lee Miller will go there, was I able to finish each episode.
I bonded with my housemate over how atrociously she behaved; I wept with him when she called a 12-year-old girl “human trash” for making a few unnoticeable errors during a competitive recital. I truly appreciated – in a moment where Miller played such a sick mind game with another child that the girl in question entered a hysterical fugue – the ability of bonds of love to bring out the best in myself and other people in the face of true evil.”
It’s not comfortable viewing by any means – but Dance Moms is fascinating and deeply compelling regardless.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Season One
There are few genres as reliably ludicrous as the modern police procedural. I say this as someone who has watched well north of 100 episodes of Criminal Minds – which might be the least silly of the lot, while still regularly reminding you that no moment it contains could ever happen on this or any other planet.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a very necessary antidote, with the rare distinction of being consistently, intentionally stupid, but also likely closer to reality than the shows it mocks. It’s acted, written and produced by various veterans of Parks and Rec, 30 Rock and The Office, and shares with all those shows a cheerfully bizarre sensibility and relentless comedic pace. But instead of the increasingly worn-out mockumentary style, it instead throws back to the heyday of ‘80s and ‘90s workplace comedies like Cheers or Newsradio.
It’s a network show, so the humour is broad and generous, contrary to the acerbic drift of much 2015 comedy, and the cast is great, lead by The Lonely Island’s Andy Samberg with key roles for Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti and ex-NFL tough guy Terry Crews. Watch it when the earnest, acronymmed, crime-of-the-week shows have got you down.
Other New Arrivals for August:
The White Queen, Mini-Series – Live
Eat, Drink, Love, S1 – LIVE
I’m Having Their Baby, S2 – LIVE
Lipstick Jungle, S1 & S2 – LIVE