February TV got off to an unusual start with Holey Moley Australia (Seven) versus Married at First Sight: Grand Reunion (Nine). Holey Moley relied on schoolboy humour about balls going into “holes” and “uranus”, while the other had a schoolyard fight that ended with one scrag throwing their drink over the other.
Holey Moley may have overstayed its welcome as it dragged on for three consecutive nights, but if putt putt golf can become a hit, and tiggy is next with Tag (soon on Seven), surely a marbles revival and a yo-yo competition is next.
Commercial TV may be sinking to dumber lows but at least streaming services, cable TV and public broadcasters are still making shows that require a brain. 2021 has already given us three spectacularly good Aussie dramas, namely Bump (Stan), The End (Foxtel) and Aftertaste (ABC). Very differing offerings to entertainment like Holey Moley.
All of these series are right on the zeitgeist as they bravely and bawdily tackle uncomfortable subjects. Bump is about teenage pregnancy, The End digs deep into euthanasia and Aftertaste tackles toxic masculinity.
With more and more women now at the helm, female sexuality is also getting a new focus. Producer Sondra Rhimes (Bridgerton), creators Claudia Karvan and Kelsey Munro (Bump) and creator/writer Samantha Strauss (The End) all head up female creative teams who are not shy about getting their points across.
Bridgerton (Netflix), which has shocked some lovers of period dramas with its frank bedroom scenes, cleverly dropped all its episodes to binge from Christmas Day. It is now their most successful drama ever and the audience doesn’t seem to mind its colour-blind casting.
Bridgerton, Bump, The End and Aftertaste all explore issues like body shaming, losing your virginity and what happens without proper sex education. Men are on now on notice and it’s about time, like in Bump when Oly (Nathalie Morris) challenges her Chilean boyfriend and father to drop their cultural machismo and help out in the kitchen.
The End and Aftertaste both have lead characters that come across as angry and selfish, but the joy of both shows is watching them slowly transform as family problems swarm all around them. They are fearless about their subject matters, and both get better the more they go along.
Bump, The End and Aftertaste are all must-see TV events. And although every production showcases amazing new and fresh talent, it is also worth studying the smaller supporting roles being played by former showbiz giants like Val Lehman and Hazel Phillips. I wonder who might be lurking around in the background when Harrow (Sunday on ABC) returns for its third season?