Caryn James picks out the biggest offerings, from groundbreaking Marvel show Echo to Netflix drug lord drama Griselda – and Naomi Watts and Demi Moore in Feud: Capote vs the Swans
1. The Tourist
Jamie Dornan returns for season two of this comic thriller, but in a different part of the world. In the first season his character found himself in Australia, trying to recall his name and past after a car crash left him without a memory. He discovered that he was an Irishman named Elliot Stanley and – no spoilers for anyone who hasn’t caught up with that season – what he learned about himself wasn’t pretty. In the new episodes he is back home in Ireland, now in a couple with Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald), the police officer he met in Australia. As they try to find out even more about who he is and was, they land in the midst of a dangerous feud between two families. The Guardian calls the new season “wildly fun”, saying that with “more 80s bangers and Dornan doing ballet”, it is “a hoot”.
The Tourist premiered on 1 January on BBC in the UK, and premieres on 29 February on Netflix in the US.
2. The Brothers Sun
Michelle Yeoh, always a treat to see, stars in this comic action series as Eileen Sun, the reluctant matriarch of a crime family. Her older son, Charlie (Justin Chien), was left in Taipei with his crime-boss father and joined the family business, while Eileen raised their younger son, Bruce (Sam Song Li), in the safety of Los Angeles. When the father is killed, Charlie flees to Los Angeles, and Eileen tells Bruce, a young man ignorant of all the crime-ing in his family, the truth: “Our family is head of the Jade Dragons”. Bruce the All-American guy asks, “So, we’re like criminals?” and wails “I don’t want to be a gangster!” like a kid saying “I don’t want to go to bed.” It seems he has no choice in this raucous series, co-created by Brad Falchuk (American Horror Story, Pose) and Byron Wu.
The Brothers Sun premieres on 4 January on Netflix internationally.
The latest Marvel series is a spinoff of Hawkeye but very different. Echo is a deaf Native American superhero, real name Maya Lopez, whose superpower is the ability to mimic anyone else’s actions. Played by Alaqua Cox, she returns home to Oklahoma – after breaking with the crime boss Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) and turning to the good – and grapples with family issues as well as that thorny good and evil thing. The series has gotten attention for its many firsts in the Marvel world, including its Native hero and TV-MA rating (for mature audiences). Grittier and more violent than most shows in the franchise, here characters “bleed, they die, they get killed”, executive producer Sydney Freeman has said. American Sign Language is featured prominently, and the largely Native supporting cast includes some greats, including Zahn McClarnon (Dark Skies) Tantoo Cardinal (Killers of the Flower Moon) and Graham Greene (Wind River).
Echo premieres on 10 January on Disney+ and Hulu in the US and on Disney+ internationally.
4. Criminal Record
Peter Capaldi is the jaded London Detective Chief Inspector Daniel Hegarty and Cush Jumbo is the idealistic Detective Sergeant June Lenker in this engrossing, fast-paced thriller with two intense lead peformances. When Lenker gets an anonymous tip that one of Hegarty’s old cases resulted in a wrongful conviction and imprisonment, she wants to investigate, and Hegerty’s resistance makes it clear that he has a lot to hide. Capaldi is at his most sinister and wily as the condescending Hegerty, and Jumbo’s Lenker is just as stubborn and tough. “We got our man,” he says of the old case, face to face as he glares at her. She glares back and snarls, “No, you got a confession.” As their cat-and-mouse game continues, more murders happen, and the show’s old school vs new school dynamic comes to include themes of racism, sexism and police corruption.
Criminal Record premieres on 10 January on AppleTV+ internationally.
5. True Detective: Night Country
The series that started out on a high note in 2014 with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConoughey was followed by two uninspired seasons, each with a different story and cast. But this fourth instalment has a new creator and director, Issa Lopez, who brings the show back to chilling life. Jodie Foster plays Liz Danvers, police chief in a small town in Arctic Alaska, where all eight scientists living in a research station mysteriously vanish. To investigate, she reluctantly partners with a state trooper, Evangeline Navarro, (played by boxer turned actor Kali Reis) despite a terrible falling out in their past. Set during the period when the sun never rises, the show is atmospheric and eerie as it teases out the characters’ backstories while the mysteries keep piling up. Comparing her show to the original season, Lopez told Vanity Fair, “Where True Detective is male and it’s sweaty, Night Country is cold and it’s dark and it’s female.”
True Detective: Night Country premieres on 14 January on HBO and Max in the US, and 15 January on Sky Atlantic and Now in the UK.
6. Monsieur Spade
It’s an unexpected, fun conceit. In the 1960s Sam Spade – yes that Sam Spade, the San Francisco detective made famous by Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon – retires to the French countryside. Clive Owen plays the no-nonsense Spade with a swagger and a sardonic grin but wisely doesn’t try to mimic Bogart. This is a softer guy, who is hired to escort a young girl to the small French village, where he falls for a glamorous woman (Chiara Mastroianni), and stays for love. He gamely speaks French with an unmistakable American accent, and of course is unable to resist a murder mystery or two (or more) when they land on his doorstep. And because World War Two wasn’t too long before, the shadow of Nazism still hovers over the town. Scott Frank (The Queen’s Gambit) and Tom Fontana (Oz) created the show, and Frank directs all the episodes with his usual crispness and writes it with drollness and heart.
Monsieur Spade premieres on 14 January on AMC and AMC+ in the US and Acorn TV in the UK.
Amazon Prime Video
In her first major project after her stirring comic drama The Farewell (2019) Lulu Wang directs this series about the intersecting lives of Americans in Hong Kong, based on Janice Y K Lee’s 2016 novel, The Expatriates. Nicole Kidman produced and stars as Margaret, the mother of young children. Mercy (Ji-Young Yoo) is a single Korean-American whose life becomes entangled with Margaret’s through a tragedy fraught with grief and guilt. Wang’s casting creates more diversity than there is in the book, with Japanese-American actor Brian Tee as Margaret’s husband, and the Indian-American actress Sarayu Blue as her friend, Hilary. And she expands the story to include the working class people in Hong Kong who serve the expatriates. There was some public backlash to the production, which was shot in Hong Kong, after Kidman was given an exemption from Covid quarantine rules. Wang has said shooting in the city was important to her, because she wanted “to capture Hong Kong as it is changing”.
Expats premieres on 26 January on Amazon Prime Video internationally.
Sofia Vergara is known for comedy, notably the sitcom Modern Family, and for her exuberant appearances as a judge on America’s Got Talent. But in a head-swivelling dramatic turn, she plays the real life, tougher-than-tough Griselda Blanco, known as La Jefa (The Boss), the head of a Miami drug cartel in the 1970s and 80s. The show, which Vergara also produced, follows Griselda’s rise and fall as the so-called Godmother of Cocaine, as she leaves Medellin for Miami with her three young sons. The singer Karol G plays her confidante, one of the many sex workers she recruited from Colombia to help in her schemes. The team who made the hit Netflix series Narcos, including the producer Eric Newman and the director Andres Baiz, are also behind Griselda, which should give the show the same textured feel of the drug-trafficking world, but with Miami’s neon brightness and a brutal femme fatale at its centre.
Griselda premieres on 25 January on Netflix internationally.
9. Masters of the Air
Elvis, Doctor Who and that creepy guy from Saltburn walk on to an airfield. Austin Butler, Ncuti Gatwa and Barry Keoghan are among the large cast in this expansive action-filled drama about Americans flying bombing missions over Nazi Germany. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced the show, a companion piece to their acclaimed World War Two series, Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Butler is the lead as the real-life Major Buck Cleven in a story based on the actual exploits of the US Army’s 100th Bomb Group, known as the Bloody Hundred. The show promises spectacular air battles along with personal drama. “At one point, the statistic was that only one in four men would make it back,” Butler has said. “There’s the psychological horror of that reality.” The high-profile directors for one of the year’s most anticipated series include Cary Joji Fukunaga (the first True Detective), Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Captain Marvel) and Dee Rees (Mudbound).
Masters of the Air premieres on 26 January on Apple TV+ internationally.
10. Feud: Capote vs the Swans
Following Feud: Bette and Joan, about Davis and Crawford’s Old Hollywood rivalry, Ryan Murphy’s next instalment of the Feud anthology is a gossipy delight, with a supertalented cast. Tom Hollander plays Truman Capote in his later years, when he was part of an intimate circles of ladies-who-lunch-while-extravagantly-rich, socialites he called his swans. Then in 1975 he published a barely veiled story, La Cote Basque, betraying them by spilling their darkest secrets. Naomi Watts’s Babe Paley is, only on the surface, a picture of serene perfection. Diane Lane is the sardonic, cynical Slim Keith, and Chloe Sevigny is CZ Guest. Calista Flockhart appears as Lee Radziwill, and the late Treat Williams is Babe’s husband, CBS television founder William Paley. But Hollander is the revelation. At the height of his fame, this Capote is sad, needy, egotistical and alcoholic. Playwright Jon Robin Baitz wrote the series and Gus van Sant (Milk) directed most episodes.
Feud: Capote vs. the Swans premieres on 31 January on FX in the US.
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