Mercado on TV: Biopics from BoRhap to Rocketman to Fosse/Verdon

• Bob Fosse’s “working style” with his female dancers wouldn’t pass muster in today’s #metoo environment

After the phenomenal success of Bohemian Rhapsody, big things are expected for Rocketman next week in cinemas. BoRhap was a biopic like most of the Aussie TV ones (Hawke, Hoges, Olivia etc) we see, in that the story is told in a linear fashion from childhood to stardom. Rocketman is less traditional given its frequent fantasy sequences and this is also how Fosse/Verdon tells its story (Sunday on FoxShowcase).

We first meet choreographer/director Bob Fosse (Sam Rockwell) and Broadway legend Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams) at the height of their fame, when they are in love and working together on the set of Shirley MacLaine movie Sweet Charity. In episode two, it’s Cabaret with Liza Minnelli and with a soundtrack like that, this series re-imagines the musical numbers to advance the drama behind the scenes.

Biopics that mix things up like this often do it very well. The Assassination of Gianni Versace told its story in reverse and The Crown bounces all over the place timewise. Fosse/Verdon is so audacious, it even includes graphics about how long each character has left to live. By its fifth episode, it is so assured of itself, the entire hour takes places over just one weekend at a beach house.

Bob Fosse’s “working style” with his female dancers wouldn’t pass muster in today’s #metoo environment and nor should it. But at least it’s not sugar coated here, especially given it is co-executive produced by the couple’s real life daughter Nicole Fosse, alongside Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Wentworth (Tuesday on FoxShowcase) and The Letdown (Wednesday on ABC) are two other shows that tell it like it is. Wentworth looks like it will have a cracking seventh season, especially given it was originally written to be the final one. It’s great to see TV Week featuring three of the characters on their cover with the headline “Who Dies” even though the victim is not on the front of the mag, nor are they featured inside. No plot spoilers here, and no pic spoilers either (but keep an eye out for some lovely tango dancing in the second episode).

The Letdown is one of those comedies that can be frustrating, but when it scores, it kicks a goal. Audrey (Alison Bell) is still very annoying, but there is a fantastic supporting cast that changes from week to week. It’s great to see Patrick Brammall back, now playing a reformed drug dealer, and the fourth episode in Adelaide is a standout. More Noni Hazlehurst though, please.

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