The best TV shows to stream in February
By Craig Mathieson
Top streaming in February (from left): Reese Witherspoon in Your Place or Mine, Adam Scott in the original Party Down and Nolly star Helena Bonham Carter.Credit:Erin Simkin/Netflix, Supplied, Getty Images
I can’t lie: we’re one month into the year and my to-watch list of streaming shows is getting worryingly long – and I watch television for a living! I think streaming services are cyclical in their programming – Netflix is very aware, for example, of the American holiday calendar – and February is a comparatively quieter month for new releases, but even so there is no shortage of fresh shows to check out in this month. That list will just have to get a little longer.
February also offers us a fresh opportunity to debate the question of reviving long-gone shows. My top Stan* tip – the droll, despairing comedy Party Down – last aired in 2010. Can lightning strike twice? Will the show be as funny now that audiences are actually watching with anticipation, instead of randomly discovering it? The debate isn’t going away, either. 2023 will also give us new series of Frasier, Night Court and Fraggle Rock, to name a few.
There are plenty of other shows, most of them quite new, to choose from in February, so get your viewing reminders set. As ever, don’t forget to let us know what programs you’re enjoying that we may have missed. I’ll add them to my list!
Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.
My top Netflix recommendation is Your Place or Mine (February 10).
In an era of blockbuster IP, the humble romantic comedy has moved from cinemas to streaming. Few actors delivered the fizz and fantasy of the genre better than Reese Witherspoon, who was terrific in Sweet Home Alabama and Just Like Heaven. She returns in this Netflix original movie, playing a single mother who swaps houses and lives for a week with her best friend, who is played by Ashton Kutcher. I have faith in Witherspoon kickstarting the forty-something rom-com, and also writer/director Aline Brosh McKenna, who penned The Devil Wears Prada and co-created the one-of-a-kind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Also on Netflix: Few shows have better depicted misogyny and male obsession than You (February 9). The fourth season of the psychological thriller will further the crimes of Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley), a bookish American psycho who uses murder as a means of manoeuvring himself into the orbit of the young women he falls in love with. With Badgley’s slyly note-perfect narration offering self-justification, the series has seduced as many viewers as it has alarmed. That should continue with new episodes set in London.
The inside access sports documentaries continue unabated. After Break Point brought the professional tennis circuit to Netflix in January, America’s leading golfers will this month share their ambitions and anxieties with the launch of Full Swing (February 15), before the mothership of this fast-growing genre returns with season five of Formula One: Drive to Survive (February 24), charting the 2022 Formula One motor racing championship. The latter benefits from the involvement of Max Verstappen, the combative driver who dominated last year’s circuit, while Full Swing has timely coverage of leading golfers having to choose between the PGA tour and the vast guarantees of the Saudi-backed LIV tour. I still think Teeing Off is a better golfing title, though.
January highlights: With the gambit of random episodes ordered differently for each account, plus the certainty of Giancarlo Esposito fronting a heist drama, Kaleidoscope made an impression, Break Point delved into the professional tennis circuit, while Lockwood & Co was a superior teen supernatural detective drama.
Helena Bonham Carter stars in Nolly.Credit:Getty Images
My top Binge recommendation is Nolly (February 10).
Noele ‘Nolly’ Gordon was one of those larger-than-life, but deeply relatable, stars who populated the first few decades of broadcast television. A British producer and presenter, she became the star of the long-running – and legendarily cheap – soap opera Crossroads in 1964. She stayed with the show until she was sacked without notice in 1981, with network executives reportedly trying to sabotage their own series. Now, imagine the whole sacking scandal and industry satire, but with Helena Bonham Carter as Gordon. Such possibilities, right? Russell T. Davies (Doctor Who, It’s a Sin), who worked on Crossroads at the start of his career, wrote this biographical limited series, which examines Gordon as both a historic figure and a forerunner of today’s screen stars.
Also on Binge: Few adult animated series have more dedicated fans than Harley Quinn. It’s a darkly funny and seditious superhero series in which the screwball DC Comics character (voiced by Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco) stakes out her own identity in a positively madcap Gotham City. Central to the show’s three seasons is the complicated, chaotic lesbian relationship between Harley and Poison Ivy (Lake Bell), which now gets an anti-romance special in Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special (February 9). Many things will be broken, not just hearts.
January highlights: The fun(gus) never stopped with HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama The Last of Us, the adult animation Scooby Doo reboot Velma was the most divisive debut of the month, and the Wagatha Christie trial got a telling transcription in Vardy v Rooney: A Courtroom Drama.
My top Stan recommendation is Party Down (February 24).
Some cult successes cannot be denied. This withering comedy about a crew of Hollywood hopefuls working for a catering company was mostly ignored when it was released in 2010, and then cancelled after two seasons when the cast – including Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, and Jane Lynch – got bigger gigs. Party Down’s standing has only increased as audiences belatedly discovered the semi-improvised show, in which the silliest of outlines led to both outrageous predicaments and genuine pathos in a workplace setting (both existing seasons are available on Stan). It was a series about the unfulfilled and fear of failure, but with every success the cast had – Scott, for example, recently headlined the masterful Severance – calls for a reunion grew. All the regulars bar Caplan are back for the third season, with Jennifer Garner and James Marsden joining the cast.
Also on Stan: Adapted from the acclaimed memoir by Rebecca Starford, Bad Behaviour (February 17) is a mix of coming-of-age drama and psychological thriller. A young woman, Jo Mackenzie (Jana McKinnon), is trying to come to terms with the year she spent at her private school’s remote country campus, where the female students formed cliques, embraced bullying and tormented outsiders. This Australian limited series finds its sharp edge when the adult Jo starts to engage with the lead mean girl. The rural setting and helter-skelter dynamics give off Yellowjackets vibes, but a creative team steered by writer Pip Karmel (Total Control) and director Corrie Chen (New Gold Mountain) should deliver an original vision.
January highlights: The case-of-the-week mystery enjoyed a modern update with Rian Johnson and Natasha Lyonne’s Poker Face, Black Snow took the murder procedural into rural Queensland, and Sam Worthington starred in the crime drama Transfusion.
My top Amazon Prime recommendation is The Consultant (February 24).
Christoph Waltz, come on down. Quentin Tarantino’s favourite Austrian actor appears to be note-perfect casting for this dark corporate comedy, in which he plays a mysterious consultant – Regus Patoff! – who takes charge of a tech company and starts to exhibit trademark creepy behaviour, such as sniffing the bewildered staff, giggling inexplicably and possibly screwing with their psyches. Creator Tony Basgallop previously gave us the parental horror series Servant (Apple TV+), so this back-to-the-office nightmare, which co-stars Brittany O’Grady (The White Lotus) and Nat Wolff (The Intern), is very much in his wheelhouse.
Also on Amazon Prime: Before it made an actual Lord of the Rings series, Amazon was very much trying to find a hit fantasy franchise of its own. One candidate, finally returning for a second and final season, was Carnival Row (February 17). A thriller that was literally away with the faeries, the show was set in a steampunk world where humans cohabitate with – and discriminate against – winged beings, kobolds, fauns and various otherworldly denizens. Orlando Bloom, who was actually in Lord of the Rings, and Cara Delevingne, play former lovers now on either side of the law.
January highlights: High School was an empathetic tale of teenage memoir from the lives of pop stars Tegan and Sara, The Rig added supernatural terror to contemporary concerns, and cricket fans got a new season of inside the dressing-room documentary The Test.
Vincent Cassel and Eva Green headline the action-charged espionage drama Liaison.Credit:Apple TV+
My top Apple TV+ recommendation is Liaison (February 24).
I enjoy espionage dramas, but I’m especially partial to spy stories told from outside the usual CIA/MI5 perspective. One of my favourites is the French series The Bureau, which offers an intimate and gripping Gallic perspective on spycraft and deception (all five seasons are currently on SBS On Demand), so I’m all in on this European co-production that bills itself as a contemporary, action-charged exploration of espionage and political intrigue. The French casting is exemplary: Vincent Cassel (Jason Bourne) and Eva Green (Casino Royale) headline the show, hopefully as adversaries.
Also on Apple TV+: Adapted from Ann Napolitano’s 2020 novel, Dear Edward (February 3) uses a spark of hope within a tragedy – a passenger plane crashes with all on board perishing bar one 12-year-old boy – to tell a story centred on survivor guilt, the conflicting burdens of family and grief, and the goodness of strangers. In emotional terms it’s a panoramic canvas, so it makes sense that the series was adapted by Jason Katims, the American writer and showrunner whose previous successes include Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. His ensemble cast includes Friday Night Lights alumni Connie Britton, plus Taylor Schilling (Orange is the New Black) and Colin O’Brien in the title role as the devastated adolescent.
Morning Wars is beyond bonkers, but the one welcome constant in the star-studded show has been the ebullient, enlightening performance of Billy Crudup as a TV network boss. A fine actor in everything from Almost Famous to Jackie, Crudup now gets to headline Hello Tomorrow! (February 17), a science-fiction comic-drama set in a retro-style American future. He plays the head of a group of people selling timeshare apartments on the moon whose operation starts to unravel. The trailer’s vibe is Glengarry Glen Ross meets The Jetsons, so that’s a yes from me.
January highlights: Shrinking was a bittersweet comedy about the people in our lives with a wonderfully ornery Harrison Ford and Super League: The War for Football laid bare how money trumped football tradition across Europe.
My top Disney+ recommendation is Not Dead Yet (February 9).
Once upon a time, American network sitcoms – Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends – were television titans. Those networks remain in the streaming age and they’ve once again started to make sitcoms that cut through. The headline examples are Abbott Elementary (Disney+ in Australia) and Ghosts (Paramount+). The “I see silly dead people” vibe of the latter crosses over into this career rehab comedy. The terrific Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) plays a journalist who finds herself languishing on the obituaries page. Day one and she’s visited by the spirit of her first assignment, tempering the words she’s trying to write and the expectations of colleagues.
Also on Disney+: If you’re a cult documentary addict, your next obsession is likely Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence (February 8). A nightmarish story of brainwashing and abuse that culminated with the perpetrator recently being sentenced to 60 years in jail, this decade-long story began when Lawrence Ray turned up at Sarah Lawrence, a storied American liberal arts college, and moved in with his daughter and her fellow students. He soon began converting them to his philosophy: Quest for Potential. Sadly, not everyone made it out safely.
January highlights: Superpowers got a dose of twenty-something struggle in the pithy British comedy Extraordinary, Chasing Waves unfolded Japanese surf culture, while Koala Man took Wollongong to the world via an animated superhero satire (and Hugh Jackman).
My top ABC iview recommendation is High Fidelity (February 21).
File this under valuable second-chance viewing. If you passed on this Brooklyn-set romantic comedy when it debuted in 2020, perhaps figuring it was a negligible reboot of the 2000 John Cusack movie about a record store owner finding a new groove, then you lucked out. With Zoe Kravitz (The Batman) in the gender-flipped lead role, the show revealed itself – after an episode or two to warm up – to be a perceptive commentary on unavoidable truths and a terrific hangout experience. It resembles both Nick Hornby’s book and the earlier movie, but updates them in ways both smart and telling. Plus, the soundtrack kills. The one and done show has been behind a subscriber paywall on Disney+, but here’s your chance to spin it for free.
January Highlight: Australia’s Wild Odyssey was a nature documentary that encompassed the wonder of our ecological systems.
SBS On Demand
My top SBS On Demand recommendation is The Walk-In (February 2).
You probably wouldn’t notice Stephen Graham on the street, but put him in front of a camera and he is one of our most compelling screen actors, whether it’s facing off with Al Pacino in The Irishman (Netflix), cracking up in The Virtues (on Stan, absolutely heart-rending), or even the recent Matilda the Musical (Netflix). In this true drama, he plays Matthew Collins, a young British far-right activist who turned against his fellow extremists and eventually became a researcher for an anti-fascist group. The limited series details how Collins helped infiltrate a neo-Nazi organisation in 2017 and showed just how violent the reactionary fringe of British politics had become.
January highlights: Ralph & Katie was a gentle, detailed slice-of-life drama about newlyweds with Down syndrome, plus Who Killed the KLF? was the ultimate documentary about guerrilla art and banging tunes.
Lincoln Younes and Tim Roth in Last King of the Cross.Credit:Daniel Asher Smith
My top recommendation for the other streaming services is Paramount+’s Last King of the Cross (February 17).
This 10-part series – “fictionalised for dramatic purposes”, according to one of several prominent qualifying statements – is inspired by the life of John Ibrahim, the prominent Kings Cross businessman. Lincoln Younes (After the Verdict) plays Ibrahim, with Claude Jabbour (Eden) as his brother Sam. Tim Roth and Callan Mulvey are in supporting roles, providing bankable names for international sales.
Also streaming: Highly praised in Britain, BritBox’s Avoidance (February 10) stars comedian and actor Romesh Ranganathan as Jonathan, a husband and father whose aversion to confrontation has him bailing out of his own life. The show sits in a recent lineage of bittersweet British comic dramas such as This Way Up or the recent Buffering, where the humour reveals some uncomfortable realities.
Brexit may have cleaved Britain from Europe, but the second season of Acorn’s The Madame Blanc Mysteries (February 13) should continue to prove that English amateur detectives can still prosper on the continent. A variation of the case-of-the-week format where the picturesque village with a surprisingly high murder rate is in France, this British crime drama stars Sally Lindsay (Coronation Street) as Jean White, an English antiques expert who comes to France to look into her husband’s death and sticks around to help the local gendarmes solve a bunch of rural killings. It’s an above-average example of a familiar genre, but there’s no connection to Daniel Craig’s sleuth Benoit Blanc from Knives Out.
January Highlights: Mathew Macfadyen excelled in the truth is stranger than fiction 1970s black comedy Stonehouse on BritBox, Anne Rice devotees got a new adaptation with Alexandra Daddario headlining AMC+’s The Witches of Mayfair, and 7Plus brought back the groundbreaking 1990s series My So-Called Life.
* Nine is the owner of Stan, 9Now and this masthead.
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