A Hollywood parody, a tragicomedy and a Nordic thriller : three art-house TV series not to be missed
Taking a break from the current blockbusters (The Crown, The Young Pope), Numéro shares its favourite auteur TV series as 2016 draws to a close…
Norskov (SF Films) : the thriller coming from the cold
A new drama series straight in from the cold, Norskov continues the excellent line of Scandi-noir shows begun with The Killing, The Bridgeand Borgen. Created by Dunja Gry Jensen, it starts out on a fairly classic note – an inspector goes back to his home town – but moves off on an instantly efficient tangent : a unique atmosphere and biting tension has this detective show serving up a chiselled and crystalline narrative chord. Tom Noack, the policeman with no background, goes home to Norskov to fight drug dealers who’ve honed in on the local teenagers and along the way meets up with former friends, lovers and acquaintances : the small community he left behind. Over the course of ten 40-minute episodes, the web of characters is intricately woven and the intrigue so tight you’d think the little town of Norskov represents the whole of Denmark with its issues and cultural peculiarities. An excellent introduction to the world of Nordic noir carried brilliantly by Thomas Levin.
One Mississippi (Amazon) : the endearing tragicomedy
Heir to a movement of autobiographical art-house series including Fleabag and Master of None by American humourist Aziz Ansari, it’s now the turn of stand-up actress Tig Notaro. Inspired by a more gritty, realistic and darker vein, in direct contrast to the feel-good sitcoms a la Friends, the singularity of One Mississippi comes from an intimate storytelling based around illness and grieving. We follow the eponymous character of Tig as she returns to her home town following the unexpected death of her mother, and has to face her own health problems in a daily existence that’s anything but smooth (a family busy imploding and a high maintenance girlfriend…) Concentrated into just six episodes, each one 20-minutes long, she deals pertinently with this particularly sensitive moment in her life by focusing on key moments, sometimes touching, sometimes comic, always authentic. As we watch Tig evolve, it’s hard not to be reminded of Maura Pfefferman inTransparent, where the tragi-comic beauty of that transitioning character was so endearing.
Better Things (FX) : the twisted Hollywood parody
After several years of featuring in the American show Californication, it was the 2010 series of Louie – the comedian Louis CK’s eponymous show – where Pamela Adlon was finally able to really show off her acting skills. Six years later her bitingly off-beat role would give birth to the ultra-biographical Better Things. Produced by the brilliant afore-mentioned comedian himself, she exposes the warts-and-all life of a 40-something actress slash single mother-of-three living in Los Angeles. In the same register as One Mississippi but with a less weighty tone, the series delights as its creator’s top notch writing deftly dissects the clichés and crosses of Hollywood with cynicism and a delectable honesty.
By Marion Ottaviani