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Neon’s The Great, Apple’s Swagger among great shows to stream this weekend

ANIMAL (NETFLIX)

Bryan Cranston, Rashinda Jones, Rebel Wilson and Pedro Pascal narrate this immersive, four-part nature series that follows a variety of creatures, capturing “never-before-seen moments” from the hilarious to the outrageous. Cephalopods, marsupials, dogs and big cats are among those featured.

“It has all the standard features of a documentary, great visuals, beautiful animals and an insightful outlook into quite a broad mix of animals,” wrote Ready, Steady, Cut’s Jordan Russell Lyon. “What must be said, the celebrity narrations don’t feel like a gimmick either. Each celebrity sounds as though they have a genuine interest in the topic, which is refreshing to hear.”

A second season has already been commissioned, with Andy Serkis, Anthony Mackie, David Harbour and Uzo Aduba narrating episodes on apes, birds, bears and dolphins.

ARCANE: LEAGUE OF LEGENDS (NETFLIX)

Hailee Steinfeld and Katie Leung are among the vocal talent enlisted for this nine-part, animated series inspired by the long-running online game League of Legends.

It focuses on what happens when new inventions inflame tensions between two cities. In the prosperous Piltover, Hextech democratizes magic, while, in the underground community of Zaun, a drug can now transform humans into monsters.

“Even if you have no interest in picking up any kind of gaming console, do yourself a favor and give Arcane a try,” wrote Paste magazine’s Tara Bennett. “It has more mature storytelling and emotional resonance than many live-action shows do right now. And it deserves to be lauded as the new benchmark for what can be done when it comes to successfully translating worthy videogame universes into a different medium, while refusing to dumb down or simplify complex storytelling. Arcane is a world worth getting lost within.”

Swagger, season two of The Great and Dopesick are among the great new shows available to stream this weekend.

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Swagger, season two of The Great and Dopesick are among the great new shows available to stream this weekend.

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SoHo

Season 11 of Curb Your Enthusiasm is now available to stream on Neon.

CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (NEON)

“I’m not the bad guy.”

It’s the constant refrain of Larry David, as the 11th season of this long-running comedy gets underway.

Let’s be honest though, it’s been the mantra of grudge-holding, petty, vindictive, socially awkward, mishap-prone misanthrope “fictionalised” version of the writer and stand-up comedian since the very beginning of this now 21-year-old show.

Like his more famous co-creation Seinfeld, it takes potshots at modern mores and cleverly crafts heightened conundrums based around day-to-day encounters, which often end in catastrophic results. Only this has a cadre of myopic and self-obsessed Hollywood players and not eclectic New Yorkers as its anti-heroes.

It’s frequently laugh-out-loud funny, full of situations and behaviour that will make you cringe – and most certainly an acquired taste. But, at its best, and 47 Emmy nominations attest to its quality, it is awfully hard to beat when it comes to compelling, binge-worthy comedy.

DEXTER: NEW BLOOD (NEON)

Who would have thought that, just over eight years after Remember the Monsters? outraged viewers around the globe, we’d be watching Michael C. Hall’s familiar visage sharpening knifes at the start of a new 10-part, allegedly one-and-done series?

Returning showrunner Clyde Phillips (whose departure coincided with the series highpoint in 2009) cleverly eschews the show’s defining near-ubiquitous monologue, leaving us only to guess Dexter’s thoughts while he’s suppressing his more primal urges. While newbies will think nothing of it, those familiar with the show will find it both disconcerting – and a masterstroke.

It’s also welcome back to the early black, bleak humour that initially marked out Dexter. Delivered via deadly deadpan by the brilliant Hall, lines such as “I have a thing about blood” and “you’re looking at a guy where secrets go to die” both really resonate and can’t fail to raise a laugh.

While things could get yet go pear-shaped, Dexter: New Blood has certainly started in more than promising fashion. Although it, perhaps smartly, hasn’t attempted to wipe clean its chequered past, it won’t take long to forget the bad times, if the intrigue and quality of the opening episodes continues.

DISNEY+

Dopesick is now available to stream on Disney+.

DOPESICK (DISNEY+)

Inspired by Beth Macy’s 2018 book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America, the showrunner of this eight-part drama, Danny Strong (TV’s Empire), has crafted a Traffic/Syriana-esque look at Oxycontin’s creation, marketing and effects.

While its multi-timeline and narrative approach to storytelling is initially more than a little challenging and confusing, it won’t take long for you to get hooked, thanks to Strong’s smart mix of compelling characters and scenarios, the deft direction of veteran Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) and a powerhouse acting ensemble.

As well as a quite brilliant Michael Keaton, there are also welcome, meaty roles for Will Poulter, Peter Sarsgaard, Rosario Dawson and Michael Stuhlbarg, while Kaitlyn Dever offers further proof of why she’s one of the most exciting actors of her generation.

As the action shifts from court hearings to boardrooms, doctors’ offices to private homes and 1986 to 2005, Dopesick can sometimes be a little hard to follow, but persevere and this emotion-inducing addiction will envelop you and quickly become addictive viewing.

THE GREAT (NEON/SKYGO)

An “anti-historical” look at the disastrous marriage and the crippling fallout from the growing enmity between Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) and the woman who would become Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning) had on their beloved Russia, this outrageous comedy (now in its second season) is filled with hilarious characters, acerbic one-liners and gorgeous costuming.

We rejoin the action four months into Catherine’s attempted coup to replace her husband on the throne. Progress has been slow. Now somewhere “between bored and enraged”, the heavily pregnant Empress has managed to box Peter and his followers into a small section of the palace.

Based on his own 2008 play, showrunner Tony McNamara’s creation continues to be a perfectly pitched satire, filled with witty bon mots and showcasing two terrific performances by Hoult and Fanning.

HULU

Season 2 of The Great is now available to stream on Neon and SkyGo.

OLD PEOPLE’S HOME FOR FOUR YEAR OLDS (NETFLIX)

Another social experiment meshed with the trappings of a reality series.

In this five-part, 2019 Australian documentary show, retirement village residents meet preschoolers for daily activities as part of an experiment that aims to combat loneliness.

Don’t be surprised if, in these Covid-19 times, you end up feeling emotionally warmed by the heartwarming goings-on.

“After months of wading through hours of reality show nonsense and grim politics, this social experiment – pairing 11 four-year-olds with the same number of residents at a Sydney retirement village for merged classes – just filled my soul with joy. The producers have done a brilliant job in casting a great mix of shy and outgoing personalities at both ends of the age spectrum,” wrote News Limited’s Holly Byrnes.

SWAGGER (APPLE TV+)

Inspired by NBA superstar Kevin Durant’s experiences, this 10-part drama explores the world of youth basketball, and the players, their families and coaches who walk the fine line between dreams and ambition, and opportunism and corruption.

The impressive cast includes O’Shea Jackson Jr., Quvenzhané Wallis, Isaiah Hill, Shinelle Azoroh, Tristan “Mack” Wilds.

“Whether you’re a basketball junkie or a casual fan, Swagger is an instantly captivating and authentic dramatic ride,” wrote Chicago Sun-Times’ Richard Roeper.

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