THE LOOMING TOWER
The ever-enigmatic Jeff Daniels, in an Emmy-nominated performance, plays John O’Neill in this thrilling limited series that depicts the growing threat of Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda in the decade prior to 9/11. Brash, vitriolic and utterly entertaining, Daniels steals the show as O’Neill, the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s counter-terrorism unit. The series gives us a visceral examination of the toxic rivalry between the FBI and CIA at the time; the producers focus upon the bitter infighting for ownership of information and cite this as a key cause of tragedy of 9/11. Dan Futterman, the Oscar-nominated writer of “Capote” and “Foxcatcher,” served as showrunner on the series, which highlights how dangerous government dysfunction can be. Timely in the current political climate.
LAST CHANCE U – Season 3
Netflix’s sports docuseries focused on the most at-risk junior college American Football athletes returned with a new school and new egotistical, repulsive head coach. Director Greg Whiteley’s compelling, refined approach to relational tension elevates this series from its predecessors, with the attention shifting acutely to the non-football aspects of the players lives. As educators and coaches attempt (through varying, questionable means) to stress the juncture between success and failure that these young men find themselves in, many seem undaunted by the risks. It is arguable that this ineffective educational system, and the personalities it recruits to mould the minds of future Americans, only serves to fuel the social issues the country spends billions of dollars trying combat every year. Essential for any sports enthusiast!
A triumphant return for Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church as we leave the highly agreeable yet tragic and suffocating first season behind in favour of an undoubtedly lighter and more optimistic second season in which both characters look towards a more amenable future. The great success is that we don’t lose any of the black in the comedy in doing so. It also remains one of the most authentic shows on screen with sharp writing, two loveable characters who are given plenty of development, and plenty of moments that explore the honesty of human emotions. Tracey Letts and Molly Shannon return to provide wonderful supporting cameos in this must see TV comedy of the year.
SBS recently brought to our screens the unnerving dramatisation of the infamous FBI and ATF siege of religious leader David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound near the small Texas town of Waco in 1993. Koresh and 82 of his followers died in the siege, including over 20 children. The series is worth the watch purely for the performances of Taylor Kitsch (of Friday Night Lights fame) as Koresh, and the imposing Michael Shannon as FBI hostage negotiator, Gary Noesner. Based upon two memoirs, one from survivor David Thibodeau and the other from Noesner, the series has divided opinions amongst critics primarily for its sympathetic angle on self-styled prophet Koresh, who was accused of stockpiling illegal firearms, statutory rape and child abuse. Despite the series’ flaws, it is no doubt an apt, engaging think piece about domestic security and firearms, two of the most important political agenda items in modern day America.
Honourable mentions: THE SINNER – Season 2; GLOW – Season 2; COME HOME; SHARP OBJECTS