Stress Binge

Thrillers, a theme park doco and Gossip Girl: Top TV picks for the week – NZ Herald

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Watch, listen and be inspired by Calum Henderson’s definitive list of what’s hot right now and from the vault.

The Flight Attendant. Photo / Supplied
The Flight Attendant. Photo / Supplied

The Flight Attendant (Neon)

After serving 12 seasons as The Big Bang Theory’s standard “dumb blonde” character, Kaley Cuoco deserves all the different roles she can get. And while “promiscuous flight attendant” might not seem like that much of a step up, her new dark comedy thriller, The Flight Attendant, certainly is.

Cuoco plays Cassie, a hard-working, hard-partying flight attendant in a barely recognisable pre-pandemic world. She’ll go straight from a heaving nightclub dancefloor to the cabin of a long-haul international flight without a drop of hand sanitiser or the slightest hint of PPE. It’s already the most anxiety-inducing show on TV and we haven’t even got to The Bad Thing yet.

The Bad Thing happens on a layover in Bangkok, after a booze-fuelled night on the tiles with Alex, the impossibly wealthy and handsome passenger she met in first class. She wakes up the next morning to a stunning panoramic view of the city, and Alex lying in a pool of blood with his throat slashed.

This isn’t what you want to see when you wake up hungover with no memory of the night before. It’s a classic “what would you do” scenario, and what Cassie decides to do is remove any trace of herself from the hotel room and get on her next flight.

By this stage, we’ve already been well acquainted with one of the show’s two stylistic flourishes – more scenes than not seem to be in split-screen. Now the second part falls into place, with the arrival of the show’s tense, Hitchcockian thriller piano score. Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun.

It’s stressful riding along with Cassie as she tries to both make a clean getaway and piece together just what happened that night, with Cuoco’s performance making us care about Cassie and her plight more than we probably should. But if you can handle the stress, it’s also a lot of fun – the kind of series that’s hard not to binge.

Gossip Girl. Photo / Supplied
Gossip Girl. Photo / Supplied

Gossip Girl (Neon)

Just under nine years since the original Gossip Girl typed her final “xoxo”, the beloved teen drama franchise is back. But just as things have changed IRL since 2012, the 2021 Gossip Girl cohort is different too. The new GG is an Instagram account started up by the teachers of an impossibly rich New York school in an attempt to try to get their students to stop bullying them. And although the new teens themselves aren’t nearly as petty or mean as their predecessors, this initial six-episode instalment should still prove hard to resist for anyone who binged the series the first time around.

Clickbait. Photo / Supplied
Clickbait. Photo / Supplied

Clickbait (Netflix)

Nick (Adrian Grenier from Entourage) is missing, last seen leaving his mum’s birthday party after a row with his sister. Before a search party can be sent out, he reappears in an online video confessing to a list of quite terrible crimes. Here’s the catch: once the video has been viewed five million times, Nick will die. The race is on, then, to find him before he goes too viral. The perspective of this intense thriller changes episode to episode, gradually opening up the full story with plenty of twists and reveals along the way. If a good, solid, fairly mindless binge-watch is what you need this weekend, this fits the bill.

Departure. Photo / Supplied
Departure. Photo / Supplied

Departure (TVNZ OnDemand)

Of all the possible mysteries that can be solved over the course of a TV drama series, plane crash has got to be right up there as one of the most compelling (and anxiety-inducing). That’s what we’re dealing with in Departure – a British passenger jet has disappeared over the Atlantic on a flight from JFK to Heathrow and although the where is quickly established, the why is anyone’s guess. Transport Safety and Investigations Bureau investigator Kendra Malley (Archie Punjabi) and her boss (the late Christopher Plummer) are on the case, and there’s no shortage of potential suspects and motives to investigate.

Movie of the Week: Class Action Park (Neon)

There are theme parks, and then there’s New Jersey’s Action Park. Opened in 1978, it was both hugely popular and incredibly dangerous throughout the 1980s – local hospitals estimated an average of five-10 injuries a day would arrive from the park during peak season, and there were way more fatalities than there should have been. How a theme park with such dangerous rides and non-existent safety procedures managed to stay open as long as it did is the story of Class Action Park, a real “you have to see it to believe it” documentary. And you definitely want to see it.

From the Vault: Romeo + Juliet (1996) (Disney Plus)

As we enter our fourth week of lockdown, we need more than just movies – we need movie marathons. Here’s an extremely tempting one you can complete without leaving the Disney Plus interface – a 90s Leonardo Dicaprio triple-feature starting with Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet, followed by Titanic, then The Beach to top it all off. It covers a lot of bases, and better yet fills up the best part of an afternoon.

Podcast of the Week: Newton’s Law

Sir Isaac Newton is best known for getting hit on the head by a falling apple and coming up with the law of gravity. That whole saga would probably make a pretty dramatic podcast series, actually, but it’s not what this one is about.

Newton’s Law is about his lesser-known second career, the one he pursued after he’d pretty much clocked academia at Cambridge. In the 1690s and aged in his 50s, Sir Isaac Newton moved to London and took up a new job as Warden of the Mint.

It was quite a career change. Working out of the Tower of London, the job involved overseeing the making of all new money the government put into circulation, which in itself is a lot more nerdily interesting than it sounds. It was also his job to stamp out counterfeiters and send forgers to the gallows, which is where this series gets really interesting.

The central storyline follows the long-running game of cat and mouse between Newton and a notorious conman by the name of William Chaloner. Come for the detective story, stay for the extremely good voice acting and end up more invested than you ever thought possible in 17th-century governance.

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