By now, you’ve probably seen and heard a great deal about the new HBO series True Detective, which is showing on YES V.O.D. and YES Oh on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. It stars Matthew McConaughey (who is the front runner for the Best Actor Oscar this year for his role in The Dallas Buyers Club) and Woody Harrelson as police investigators in Louisiana on the trail of a perverse serial killer. HBO has poured a fortune into this show. But while it’s well written and well acted, do we need or want to see anything about a serial killer who leaves his victims in bizarre poses ever again? The HBO series True Blood and Treme have shown different but interesting sides of Louisiana, and True Detective isn’t as original as either of those two shows.
Instead of True Detective, you might want to tune in to a much lower-budget series from Britain. My Mad Fat Diary, which is being shown on HOT 3 and HOT V.O.D. on February 10, is darkly funny, often painful to watch and feels true to life. Based on the real diaries of Rae Earl, it’s the story of her teenage self in a small British town in the mid-1990s. Rae, played in the series by Sharon Rooney, was an overweight teenager whose anxiety and depression led her to cut herself and, eventually, to a stint in a psychiatric hospital. The series opens when she gets out and has to go back to her difficult everyday life again. She has to cope with a bleached-blonde mother who is having an affair with a young Tunisian illegal immigrant who doesn’t speak English, a model-skinny best friend who has grown apart from her (remember what a tragedy that can be for a teenager?) and her constant temptation to binge on food. The wonderful character actor Ian Hart plays her new psychiatrist, who urges her to continue writing in her diary. Twenty years ago, Hart played the young John Lennon in the biopic Back Beat, and a few years back he played a schizophrenic tabloid photographer on the short-lived Courteney Cox series Dirt.
Parents should be warned: This series contains a lot of graphic language and some sex scenes. On the plus side, it might get you and your kids talking about a lot of issues that teens struggle with, especially female teens: body image, self-harm, etc. But what differentiates it from so many other series about teens is that it’s painfully honest about the characters’ feelings. Rae is often so sad that you may want to hug her and beg her not to be so self-destructive. But this isn’t a movie of the week: There are no neat resolutions on My Mad Fat Diary.
Considerably more money has gone into Black Sails, the new pirate series that airs on HOT V.O.D. and HOT Zone. Created by Michael Bay, the director known for such action/adventure epics as Transformers and Bad Boys, it tells the story of pirates in 1715. But this is very different from the pirate epics of the old-movie days and even the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Basically, it has more sex and violence than you’ve ever seen involving on-screen pirates before (there are even lesbian scenes between some of the wenches and female pirates). It’s perhaps best described as Game of Thrones with sailboats. The action scenes are very well filmed, so the bigger a screen you can watch this on, the better. It features a number of good actors, among them Toby Stephens as Captain Flint, Luke Arnold as John Silver and Zach McGowan as Charles Vane.
Eytan Fox, one of Israel’s most acclaimed movie directors, is returning to his small-screen roots with a new series called Mishpacha Tova (Good Family). Fox, who directed the hit series Florentine in the 1990s, is producing and writing Mishpacha Tova with Itay Segal, the journalist who wrote the screenplay for the film Yossi. Mishpacha Tova, which will star Anat Waxman and Lior Ashkenazi, is about a Jerusalem couple who suddenly separate after being married for many years, but it also follows members of their extended family. It is being produced by Channel 1 and should be on TV later this year.