If there is such a thing as a mild-mannered bloodbath, then Netflix’s Ozark, created by Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams, with Chris Mundy as showrunner, delivered it over the course of three series. Jason Bateman (also co-executive producer and co-director) plays Marty Byrde, the accountant who placates a Mexican drug cartel by transplanting his family – wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and children (Sofia Hublitz and Skylar Gaertner) – to the Lake of the Ozarks, central Missouri, to launder money in floating casinos and the like. By the close of series three – spoilers ahead! – Wendy’s unstable, inconvenient brother was dead and cartel-fixer Helen (Janet McTeer) had her brains shot out by drug lord Omar (Felix Solis), all over the Byrdes, whom he’d decided were more useful.
This fourth and final series will be delivered in two parts, with the first seven episodes available now. It follows the Byrdes as they scrape bits of “Helen” out of their hair, then deal with the aftermath. Omar wants to live legitimately, but FBI deals don’t come easily. A PI is digging for dirt. Omar’s nephew, Javi (Alfonso Herrera), arrives as a trigger-happy playboy-gangster. Then there are the Ozark locals, including fiery hustler Ruth (Julia Garner), once Marty’s protege, now bereaved, betrayed and in league with heroin poppy grower Darlene (Lisa Emery), a hillbilly sociopath so petrifying and unpredictable, I find myself watching her scenes in full fight-or-flight mode.
When Ozark first appeared – another middle-class family dragged into the underworld – it was dismissed by some as a mere Breaking Bad rehash. Give over. Ozark is its own beast: a chilling, slow-churning opera of frayed loyalties, burnt bridges and familial decay. Bateman saved himself from a career path of playing endless benign dads with the grimly urbane Marty. Linney’s Wendy has evolved into a scheming lakeside Lady Macbeth who has sold her soul so many times it’s virtually on eBay. Immersed in this slurry of ethical bin juice, it’s little surprise that their children coolly ponder their parents’ deaths as though discussing unreliable wifi. By the half-season finale, only Ruth – raging, broken, eyes blazing like hot coals – retains any semblance of moral core. Garner has already won two Emmys for this role; another should be on the way.
Holly Willoughby does her gorgeous but accessible thing (the Asos Marilyn Monroe)
In the week the government threatened the BBC, please remember that Channel 4 also remains endangered. How long before terrestrial British television is reduced to a series of test cards, with Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch and Nadine Dorries taking it in turns to be the little girl chalking on the blackboard?
On BBC One and Three there was the two-part docuseries Stacey Dooley: Stalkers, directed by Alana McVerry. Far from being a rare celebrity phenomenon, one in five women are stalked and one in 10 men. Dooley embedded herself with Cheshire police’s specialist stalking unit, interviewing understandably distraught victims. Sabrina, a single mother, spends her life looking over her shoulder. Dancer Abby’s stalker hid in her shed and is revealed – conflictingly for her and Dooley – to be autistic. Katie’s stalker tried to claim that she was harassing him. His Google searches were found to include: “How do you get a black eye without pain?”
In the second episode (both available to stream), Dooley examines the less prevalent stranger-stalking. Along the way she interviews (disguised) former offenders and considers ways to help stalkers: could psychotherapy be effective? Still, Dooley reserves her empathy and hugs for the victims, and rightly so. Stalking is shown to be a grotesque matrix of mind games, fixation, narcissism, entitlement, threats and worse. Half of convicted stalkers reoffend, and restraining orders make little difference. Such scrutiny is good, but with stalking victims stuck in what amounts to a hellish, hyper-vigilant Groundhog Day, what’s clearly needed is action.
Amazon Prime’s new eight-part dramedy about autistic flatmates, As We See It, was created by Jason Katims (Parenthood), who himself has an autistic child. The main characters are played by people on the spectrum: Rick Glassman is Jack, a computer programmer who is abrupt and outspoken: “Harrison smells. It’s probably because he’s so fat.” Albert Rutecki plays Harrison, who’s scared of the outside world. Sue Ann Pien is Violet, who yearns to be in love and “normal”. Sosie Bacon (Mare of Easttown) is their aide, who’s offered a career opportunity but can’t bear to leave them.
This is an intriguing, inventive project, based on an Israeli show, with a strong message. The first three episodes, directed by Jesse Peretz (Girls) and Jaffar Mahmood, have an offbeat tone but address real issues: Jack’s father (Joe Mantegna) dying of cancer (“I need to know you’re OK, Jack”); Violet’s brother, Van (Chris Pang), exploding with anxiety: “You’re not fucking normal!”. Glassman, Rutecki and Pien should be commended for giving such distinct portrayals of autistic personalities. As We See It isn’t merely instructive – it’s a genuinely engaging watch.
Last, I thought I should take an in-depth look at the opening instalment of ITV’s Dancing on Ice, so that the world could be made aware of the atrocities being committed there.
At first, all was calm and strangely beautiful. A dreamy opening sequence showed celebrity contestants staring up at the main judges, fabled Olympians Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, skating in the heavens. Next came the presenters: Holly Willoughby, doing her gorgeous but accessible thing (the Asos Marilyn Monroe), and Phillip Schofield, sporting a suit made from carpet underlay.
Celebrity skaters included former Pussycat Doll Kimberly Wyatt (good) and Sally Dynevor from Coronation Street (nervous). Bez from Happy Mondays (hopeless) was lowered on to the ice atop a gigantic pair of maracas; now there’s a man who knows how to give the public what they want.
DOI isn’t Strictly Come Dancing, even though two people from it are involved: past and present professional dancers Brendan Cole, as a contestant, and Oti Mabuse, as a judge. The ambience is 1970s Butlin’s if the weather turned chilly. It doesn’t even have an orchestra; it sounds as though a radio has been left on in a giant fridge-freezer. But what DOI does have is glorious unstuffiness and real lurking danger. Good luck, ice-bound celebrities, you’ll need it.
What else I’m watching
Why Ships Crash
A documentary about the running aground last year of the Ever Given cargo vessel in the Suez Canal. There’s no mystery as to how it got stuck (it’s as long as the Empire State Building), but how could it affect so many global supply chains?
Dolly Parton: Here I Am
This 2019 documentary, previously aired on Netflix, is included in a night of programmes paying homage to the Nashville goddess, LGBTQ advocate and so much more. Interviewees include 9 to 5 co-stars Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.
Keeping Up With the Aristocrats
This three-part docuseries explores hard-up British aristocratic families so cash-strapped they’re considering supper clubs with Jean-Christophe Novelli and starting up vineyards. Do you end up feeling sorry for them? No, you don’t.