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Harold Perrineau in From (Photo: Supplied / Image: Tina Tiller)
Harold Perrineau in From (Photo: Supplied / Image: Tina Tiller)

Pop CultureAugust 28, 2023

What to watch when there’s no new TV

Harold Perrineau in From (Photo: Supplied / Image: Tina Tiller)
Harold Perrineau in From (Photo: Supplied / Image: Tina Tiller)

With much of Hollywood on strike, the normally gushing pipeline of new TV is slowing to a trickle. That may not be such a bad thing, writes Chris Schulz.

This is an excerpt from The Spinoff’s weekly pop culture newsletter Rec Room. Sign up here.

It was the weekend. It was raining outside. There was nothing to do. I’d already been to the movies to see Barbie, Oppenheimer and Gran Turismo (don’t judge me, I have a 13-year-old son). I needed a TV show. You know the kind: something I could easily binge four episodes of then find myself dusting off the popcorn crumbs while looking at the clock going “How is it 2am already?”

From – yes, the name of the show is From, probably the most un-Googleable show in the world – seemed like it might do the job. “From the creators of Lost,” promised one tagline. It’s got a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The trailer showed plenty of suspicious spookiness. Reviews were promising.

Here’s the premise: a random selection of people are stuck in a small American town. They can’t call for help. They don’t know why they’re there. They also can’t leave: all roads lead back to the town. At night, they have to lock their windows and doors or they’ll be captured by spectral figures wafting around outside.

It’s a mystery box show, kind of like Wayward Pines and Under the Dome hanging out in a forest with The Blair Witch Project doing arts and crafts with twigs.

By the end of From’s first episode, a new family has turned up, a small girl’s been grabbed through an open window by a ghoul and a very stressed sheriff (played by Harold Perrineau, another Lost link) has found a few reasons to wave his gun around. There’s also something strange going on with the rock totems hanging on everyone’s walls. Everyone could be dead? Perhaps it’s purgatory? Theories abound. Why are they here? It’s that kind of show.

From isn’t a new show – it’s taken 18 months to find its way onto local screens. The fact I only heard about it last week is an indication of just how much content there’s been lately. Every week brings a deluge of big new shows to choose from. We’ve been spoilt for choice. Just a few months ago, I was juggling new weekly episodes of Dead Ringers, Succession, The Bear and Silo – an embarrassment of riches.

This appears to be coming to an end. The cupboards are bare. The writers’ strike is now into its fourth month, and the actors’ strike into its second, with few signs of a deal being struck any time soon. Right now, writers are not writing and actors are not acting. They’re picketing streaming services, protesting over low pay, a lack of support and the threat of AI taking over their jobs. Here’s Bob Odenkirk, along with his Better Call Saul cast mates, donning handprinted tees and enjoying the Los Angeles sun.

For us at home looking for shows to watch, it means the pipeline is slowing to a trickle. With no one available to promote them, few big shows are being given launch dates. On Vulture’s recent list of its 37 most anticipated shows for the rest of the year, I found about four that I was really, truly excited about, and even that was a stretch. Severance isn’t coming back anytime soon. Neither’s House of the Dragon or The Rings of Power.

The glory days appear to be over. But that might not be such a bad thing. Three months ago there was too much content, so much it seemed impossible to stay in the loop and keep up with the zeitgeist. Now, you have time to catch up on all that content you missed. Didn’t have time for Wild Horses or Hijack on Apple TV+? Go for it! Missed out on Prime Video’s Deadloch or Dead Ringers? Now’s your chance!

Get creative. Go digging. Find some back catalogues to dive into. Now is the time to sink your teeth into all five seasons of What We Do in the Shadows, or (re-)watch all of Breaking Bad then chase it with Better Call Saul. Personally, I’ve been loving Alone, the extreme survival show that has one season on Netflix and three on TVNZ+. Painkiller, the Netflix series about the opioid crisis, is also calling me.

Apparently everyone in the US is ripping through Suits again, even though the legal drama finished after nine seasons in 2019. If that’s not for you, you could get among all those corporate crash stories like The Dropout (Disney+), Super Pumped (Neon) and WeCrashed (Apple TV+). Or maybe you want to divert your streaming dollars to sport – there are rugby and cricket World Cups just around the corner, and the European football season is back underway.

I know someone who has still never seen a single episode of The Sopranos. His time is now. You’re free to go exploring, take some risks, indulge. Turn the content crisis into a content adventure. Become the David Attenborough of streaming. A world of riches awaits.

Keep going!