In 1948, Mickey Mouse became the first Disney character to get an Australian adventure, and John Meillon starred in the first live-action Disney movie, Ride a Wild Pony (1975). Today it’s all about streaming, and Disney+ has finally got around to making local productions. Coming soon is The Artful Dodger, about the classic Oliver Twist character sent to Australia as a convict, and Last Days Of The Space Age, set in 1979 as Skylab hurtles towards Perth.
First up though, The Clearing (Disney+) is about as far away as you can get from Walt Disney’s original vision. His company’s first Aussie streaming series is about a cruel cult that tortured children with beatings, starvation and psychedelic drugs. The story is heavily based on a real-life Aussie cult which can be seen in more detail in the doco The Cult Of The Family (Stan).
The Clearing is a “fictionalised’ version that keeps most of the key facts, including the secluded Lake Eildon property, the “adopted” kids with creepy blonde hairstyles, and the demented leader who insists on being called Mummy, Adrienne (Miranda Otto). She’s a master manipulator, with a team of evil acolytes like Doctor Bryce Latham (Guy Pearce) and hideous housemaids, Tamsin (Kate Mulvaney) and Hannah (Anna Lise Phillips).
Half of the story is told in flashback, and the other is in the present-day as former cult member Freya (Teresa Palmer) is triggered by a child kidnapping. The Clearing is atmospheric with stunning cinematography from Katie Millwright and Campbell Brown, and flawless direction from Gracie Otto and Jeffrey Walker. It’s nasty though, and there is probably more horror to come with six more episodes to follow the first two ep drop.
Lighter fare can be foundry reuniting Neighbors (2014) co-stars Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne. In Platonic (Apple TV+), they play former friends re-connecting after several years. Will (Seth Rogen) is now a too cool for school micro beer brewer, while Sylvia (Rose Byrne) is still a stay-at-home mother with three kids and a husband Charlie (Luke McFarlane).
Rose Byrne is hilarious when she gets good material, great chemistry with another actor, and the opportunity for them to improvise. Platonic is feel-good fun and unlike so many other comedies that give every supporting character their own subplot, Platonic sticks to the core grown-ups. It doesn’t want to be a family sitcom so kids are seen occasionally and have little to say. But it’s good to be reminded every now and then that they are happy and safe, which is a relief after The Clearing.
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Welcome to TV Gold: The all-new weekly TV podcast
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Listen now on your favourite podcast platform for 30 minutes of TV reviews and recommendations every week from Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado and James Manning.
This week on TV Gold: The Clearing, Platonic and Love to Love You, Donna Summer
The Clearing is the first Disney+ Australian original drama production. It’s well made with a great cast, but will audiences shy away from the subject matter? Also Rose Byrne is reunited with Seth Rogan on AppleTV+ in a relationship that is very Platonic. Then relive some great dancefloor classics and learn about the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer on Foxtel & Binge.
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