American Gigolo to Heartbreak High: the seven best shows to stream this week

Pick of the week

American Gigolo

Following the 1980 film, this series stars Jon Bernthal in Richard Gere’s role of Julian Kaye, now leaving prison after a wrongful murder conviction and trying to get to the bottom of the frame that stole 15 years of his life. Gabriel LaBelle plays young Julian, as the roots of his work in the LA sex industry are explored. It’s a bleak and understated affair – Kaye’s emotional disconnection was one of the features of the film and Bernthal picks up where Gere left off, animating the inner life of an alienated, successful, damaged grifter whose troubled childhood and professional need to scroll through multiple identities have left him utterly adrift from himself.
Paramount+, from Saturday 10 September


The Serpent Queen

One of the least solemn or reverent historical dramas you’ll see – and it’s an appropriate treatment of the subject matter, since Catherine de Medici lived a life constantly turned up to 11. Born in 1519, Catherine was, in the words of Charles Dance’s Pope Clement, “the orphan offspring of the most despised family in France”. She had to live by her wits from an early age and managed to claw her way to the very highest levels of power. In this entertainingly grubby and brutish series, she’s played with arch iciness by Samantha Morton, while Liv Hill does a persuasive job of rendering the smart, sneaky younger Catherine.
StarzPlay, from Sunday 11 September


Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared

Talk about a slow burn. This oddball creation first surfaced as a web series in summer 2011. After more than a decade of amusingly glacial progress, it’s finally become a TV series. Created by Becky Sloan and Joseph Pelling, the show is disconcertingly unpredictable surrealism disguised as a children’s puppet show. Initially, there are top notes of Sesame Street and Rainbow. But macabre details of a much darker hue soon become inescapable. Delightfully demented and, despite first appearances, probably not one to share with the little ones.
All 4, from Monday 12 September


Sins of Our Mother

This week’s fresh helping of true crime is a jaw-dropping illustration of the dangers of religious extremism. Lori Vallow was a diligent mother of three until she met a man called Chad Daybell who was an adherent of various Christian doomsday cults. Vallow was seduced by his value system, and soon became erratic. The couple committed multiple killings, including those of two of Vallow’s children. This three-part series tells the disturbing story, centring on the testimony of Vallow’s son, Colby, who is currently on bail after being arrested for alleged sex crimes.
Netflix, from Wednesday 14 September


Heartbreak High

A racy reboot of the 90s Aussie teen classic. The original broke a few boundaries itself, often praised for its enlightened treatment of multiculturalism. This time, the emphasis is on sexual and gender diversity: loudmouth Amerie (Ayesha Madon) has created a “sex map” detailing all the preferences, affairs and one-night stands of her fellow students. Before long, she’s made herself a pariah, outed several classmates and earned herself the nickname “psycho map bitch”. It’s bold, brash and renders the sheer drama of adolescence with horny, unapologetic glee.
Netflix, from Wednesday 14 September



Joyce (Ophelia Lovibond) is a young feminist who edits a magazine called The Matriarchy Awakens. Business is slow – even in 1970s LA, her labour of love is a little earnest to cut through. Fortunately, she’s about to meet Doug (Jake Johnson), a porn publisher who has spotted a market for female-facing erotica. The characters are broadly drawn: Joyce is a snob who corrects people on their pronunciations of French words; Doug is a sleaze with as many different words for the penis as the Inuit are said to have for snow. But the odd couple have a certain chemistry.
Paramount+, from Wednesday 14 September


Vampire Academy

Adapted from Richelle Mead’s YA novels, this series brings the world of St Vladimir’s Academy to life – albeit not much more convincingly than the 2014 film version. It’s a coming-of-age story as two young women, Rose (Sisi Stringer) and Lissa (Daniela Nieves), become friends across social boundaries. What unfolds is an overfamiliar story of class gradations as the girls strain against the preordained limits of their society. Vampires are usually a safe bet in commissioning terms, but the teen drama gloss can’t make up for some decidedly creaky performances.
Peacock, from Thursday 15 September