Small Screen Highlights: Parenting with zombies, robot mothers and more

Screenhub Hivemind

Award-winning comic web series Over and Out, Netflix sci fi movie I Am Mother and ABC iView's State of the Union are just some of this week's Hivemind picks.
Small Screen Highlights: Parenting with zombies, robot mothers and more

Image: Peter and Shonda (Brooke Satchwell and Nick Boshier) age just your average neighborhood Pig-Mutants in Over and Out. Source: Midwinter Films.

Over and Out web series (On YouTube from 14 June)

Maintaining your sanity while parenting toddlers is hard enough without having to combat ravenous zombies, cannibals and mutants in a harsh post apocalyptic world. This comic web series is the latest project from the Van Vuuren brothers (Bondi Hipsters, Soul Mates), and was the shortform winner of the recent CannesSeries 2019. (Screenhub caught up with writer/creator/stars and real life married couple and parents of young children Adele Vuko and Christiaan Van Vuuren while they were in France for the awards and you can read that interview here.)    

Over and Out also stars Anni Finsterer, Bali Padda, Brooke Satchwell, Nick Boshier and Rachel House. It's produced by Bridget Callow-Wright, Gemma Knight and Abi Tabone of Midwinter Films, and is directed by Connor Van Vuuren. We haven't had a chance to watch it yet before it releases tomorrow on YouTube, but the trailer's a hoot.

I Am Mother (1hr 53m, Netflix)

This Australian Netflix feature comes recommended by Screenhub editor David Tiley, who says it's an impressive speculative fiction film (a genre rare in this country) from first time feature director Grant Sputore. "There's a great performance by young Danish actress and singer Clara Rugaard, backed by cold, fascinating visuals and design. The idea is very simple - robots take over the world and try to raise a new generation of humans. The parenting approach of the mechanical mothers is designed to remove destructive traits and perfect the abilities of the child trapped in an enormous steel chamber.  There is plenty to chew on as a rogue woman played by Hilary Swank breaks into the bunker, and the two take off into the real world. There is plenty of mystery and ultimately adventure as the truth of the perfect baby experiment is revealed. At the same time the meditation on motherhood and the growth of a child will stay in your mind and raise questions in your heart.'  David also recommends this interview with young star Clara Rugaard.


Black Mirror Season 5 (Netflix) 

Recommended to us by ArtsHub/Screenhub Content Director, George Dunford, Black Mirror Season 5 is also reviewed (positively with reservations) by Adrian Martin on our site over here

Dunford says he finds Black Mirror is unbingeable. 'Each episode has that dark-chocolate richness that needs to be digested over a week. This week I caught up with the episode titled 'Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too' which sees Miley Cyrus playing on her pop persona as Ashley O, a facile representation of female empowerment that also comes in the conveniently monetised form of an Alexa-like doll called Ashely Too. When teen Rachel finds herself in real need of help from her robo-doll, Ashley Too coos 'We could try a makeover - or I could read motivational quotes from inspiring women!' At a time when old-school pop royalty the Spice Girls are touring, it feels like an all too topical way for Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker to play with authenticity and artifice in the music business as real sisterhood saves the day, not rehashtagged Girl Power.'

Good Omens (Amazon Prime)

Based on the comedic novel jointly authored by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett, Good Omens is a six-part series streaming on Amazon Prime about the rise of the Antichrist and the end of days. ArtsHub’s Richard Watts recently binge-watched the series over two days. He says: ‘Gaiman has adapted the book a little too faithfully. The script’s reliance on an omniscient narrator (genuinely omniscient in this instance: it’s God, as voiced by Frances McDormand) in order to fit in the novel’s many jokes and comedic footnotes results in a clunky and sluggish first episode. If you persevere you’ll be rewarded by an engaging supporting cast and sparkling chemistry between series leads David Tennant (as the demon Crowley) and Michael Sheen (the angel Aziraphale). Sadly, some sluggish plotting and Gaiman’s insistence on treating the screenplay like an extension of the novel, instead of recognising that TV is a different medium from prose and needs to find its own pace and form, means that Good Omens is never more than B-grade viewing. Fans of the book and members of the cult of Gaiman will probably love it. For the rest of us, it’s more like fool’s gold – sparkling but of little real significance.’

Chernobyl (Fox Showcase and streaming on demand) 

Alex Lofting, our Digital Product & Marketing Manager, has been watching and loving Chernobyl. He says: 'Confronting, nauseous and haunting, this 5-part docu-drama is based on the 1986 nuclear accident and attempted cover up by USSR. While some facts and people have been massaged to make for better storytelling it’s, by all accounts, a very accurate picture of the human toll and political manoeuvering that lead to the worst nuclear accident in history. There's an interesting use of British accents as a proxy for Russian ones rather than taking on a comical 'Boris and Svetlana' approach. It's currently the highest-rating TV show on IMDB - ever. Go watch it!'

You can also read Mel Campbell's rave review of Chernobyl on Screenhub now.


What / If (Season 1, Netflix)

Aussie Philip Noyce directed the first two eps of this neo noir social thriller anthology series, that according to Wikipedia will explore 'the ripple effects of what happens when acceptable people start doing unacceptable things. Each season will tackle a different morality tale inspired by culturally consequential source material, and the power of a single fateful decision to change the trajectory of an entire life.'

The first season was released a couple of weeks ago and Jane Chisholm, our Head of Business Development is loving it. 'OMG when you can't sleep in your hotel room in Rome there's nothing better than bingeing the 10 episodes of What/If on Netflix!' she enthuses. 'Renee Zellweger is great, playing against Bridget Jones type, and looking more like herself than she has in a long time, she's brilliant here as a ruthless, very successful venture capitalist who agrees to invest $80 million in a young woman’s company if the entrepreneur lets Montgomery have one night alone with her husband. Well-written and absorbing, it's reminiscent of 1993's Indecent Proposal but has upped the ante with the payment amount, has a gender twist, and it's a great yarn of money versus ethics, a couple's trust and childhood secrets. I loved it. Come on season 2!'

State of the Union (ABC Comedy and ABC iView)

Written by Nick Hornby and directed by Stephen Frears, State of the Union has impeccable dramedy credentials as the British pair try their hand at short form content in this See Saw Films production. Made for Sundance TV, these 10 x 10 minute episodes feature a troubled married couple (Chris O'Dowd and Rosamund Pike) who meet each week for a quick drink before their marriage counselling session. She's a successful career woman, he's an unemployed dad who voted for Brexit to annoy her friends. The show comes recommended by Screenhub journalist Rochelle Siemienowicz, who says she's only watched three episodes so far, but is already impressed by what can be achieved when two skilled performers have a smart, funny script to work with. 'It's stripped back to the bones of good drama: two people in a room with a serious relationship problem to sort out. The fact it can be watched in snackable ten-minute grabs makes this all the more tasty.' 

For some reason it's incredibly hard to locate a trailer link for this one, but it's embedded here or you can watch it now on ABC iView.

Image: Chris O'Dowd and Rosamund Pike in State of the Union.

About the author

Mostly David Tiley and Rochelle Siemienowicz, with contributions from friends, fans and Artshub staff. Between us, we flinch at nothing.