One Question Quiz
The real curse is not being able to watch The Curse (Image: Tina Tiller)
The real curse is not being able to watch The Curse (Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureNovember 17, 2023

Why can’t we watch The Curse, the year’s buzziest new show?

The real curse is not being able to watch The Curse (Image: Tina Tiller)
The real curse is not being able to watch The Curse (Image: Tina Tiller)

Nathan Fielder’s new dark comedy has emerged as one of the must-watch shows of 2023. Why does nobody have any plans to air it in New Zealand?

It wasn’t that long ago that New Zealand was routinely one of the last places in the world to get any new TV show. But these days, where it’s now rarer to not be able to watch the latest big series at the touch of a button, there’s something uniquely frustrating about discovering a new show you can’t see.

With the Hollywood writers and actors strikes now resolved, and stars able to promote their work again, we’re finally seeing the arrival of some of the many films and television shows that had their releases delayed. One of the most exciting new offerings, The Curse, premiered in the US on the Showtime network last week.

It’s critically acclaimed, debuting with a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and there’s already some awards buzz for its cast. The leading trio are as unlikely as they are exquisite: satirist and cringe comedy master Nathan Fielder alongside Oscar winner Emma Stone, with support from Benny Safdie, who co-directed Uncut Gems, one of the most exhilarating and uncomfortable films in recent memory. 

It’s Fielder’s first major scripted role in a while, having spent the past decade making us grapple with our own morality through vehicles like Nathan For You and The Rehearsal. It’s Stone’s long-awaited return to television, after her last big role in the peculiar Netflix miniseries Maniac. And it pairs both of them with one of the most exciting filmmakers of the moment in Safdie.

It’s also produced by A24, the studio responsible for bold, auteur-driven films like Everything, Everywhere All at Once and Hereditary.

Described loosely as a black comedy, The Curse centres on a married couple, played by Fielder and Stone, as they attempt to launch a new home improvement show on the American lifestyle network HGTV. All the while, they’re trying to conceive a child and, well, deal with a “curse”. It’s a mysterious and frankly batshit premise, but one that was enough to lure me in even when the trailer did so little to explain what exactly the show was about.

So why can’t we see it here? As a Showtime series, The Curse is available in the United States on Showtime’s own platform. We don’t have that in New Zealand, and other Showtime series have tended to be shopped around to other networks. In Australia, The Curse has arrived on Paramount Plus, a streamer that is unavailable in New Zealand (though there are plans for it to launch one day, because another streaming service is just what we need). 

One such home for lost shows here in New Zealand is TVNZ+, which has accrued an eclectic but exciting list of programmes in recent years, all for free viewing. But a spokesperson said they have no plans for The Curse. “It’s not something currently scheduled for TVNZ+ (if it’s the 2023 Emma Stone series you’re speaking about),” they said. “I wonder if it’s Sky as it’s got Showtime attached?” 

Good point – one of Showtime’s biggest recent hits is Yellowjackets, which found a home on Sky’s Neon. But, said a Sky spokesperson, “We have no current plans for The Curse.”

So where else could it end up? It’s unlikely to crop up on Netflix or Amazon’s Prime Video, and definitely won’t be on Apple. ThreeNow is boosting its offering, but has so far largely avoided picking up high profile (and expensive) overseas productions. But, at least according to Sky, it’s not going there either. “Aat the moment no other network has got the rights to it,” they said.

And so we wait. Netflix’s The Crown will fill the prestige TV hole this weekend, but it’s only back for four episodes. Fargo’s overdue return is next week, another example of a show that was delayed due to the strikes. But if you’re after highbrow comedy and a show that has somehow – or so I am led to believe from overseas reviews – mashed the stakes of Nathan For You with the unrelenting tension of Uncut Gems…? Unfortunately, you’re going to be kept waiting. 

Keep going!