The Sons of Sam: A Descent into Darkness
Another month, another historical murder case exhumed by Netflix. The true-crime story getting the in-depth-documentary treatment this time is the Son of Sam murders, postal worker David Berkowitz’s seemingly random rampage in New York in the late 1970s, during which he killed six people.
Berkowitz and his bizarre defence that his neighbour’s Labrador had ordered him to commit the crimes has been a source of fascination throughout pop culture, from Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam to Seinfeld and Netflix’s own Mindhunter, but this documentary delves deeper into some of Berkowitz’s other curious claims.
The Sons of Sam is an exploration of journalist Maury Terry’s investigation of the crimes. It relies heavily on his book The Ultimate Evil, where interviews with Berkowitz and the writer’s own findings led him to suggest that the murders were not solely acted out by Berkowitz but instead had links with supposed Satanic cults active in New York at the time.
Based on the graphic novels of Mark Millar (Kick Ass, Kingsman), Jupiter’s Legacy is a multigenerational superhero story that ponders the future of mankind as the ill-prepared children of a group of superpowered defenders must eventually step up to replace their parents. Basically it’s like a superhero Succession, with capes and Spandex and less swearing.
The domesticated-superhero trope is having a moment this year, with the sublime WandaVision and now Jupiter’s Legacy touching on what happens on those days between fighting baddies and saving the world from impending doom. The show spans decades, moving between the origin stories of this league, the impact they had on the world and their complicated home lives and fractured relationships.
Love, Death & Robots volume 2
The second outing for David Fincher and Tim Miller’s adult animation anthology series is another melange of the whimsical, the beautiful, the violent and the depraved. As with the last volume of the series, Love, Death & Robots gathers together a group of diverse animators who, through their various styles and artwork, create a clutch of random tales that touch on everything from sexuality to cyborgs. This season includes eight stories about lust, class conflict, existential philosophy and poop-scooping robots – a little something for everyone.
Haunted season 3
This horror pseudo-documentary series is a sort of Crimewatch reconstruction of paranormal tales. Haunted sees regular people sharing their experiences of late-night terror, unexplained happenings and unforgettable scares that have plagued their lives. Haunted attracted an audience with its promise that the tales were true, but, coming from the producers of The Purge, and with several of the stories following the plots of well-known horror films, more than a little artistic licence is taken. But it makes for an entertaining scare at bedtime.
Ryan Murphy continues to plunder his favourite pop-culture eras – this time his sights are set on the fading glamour of New York in the 1970s and early 1980s, in this series about the hedonistic fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick, more often known simply as Halston. The series will no doubt encompass Studio 54, Andy Warhol Polaroids, cocaine blizzards, sunglasses at night, disco dancing, pill popping, bed hopping and general fur-lined delirium.
Murphy’s Netflix output has been a mixed bag, but when delving into the fashion world with The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story, he managed to cover the glorious vacuity of the industry and touch on weighty topics like the Aids epidemic with incisive sensitivity. Halston’s story is a morality tale about the fleeting nature of fame and the bewitching American dream that Murphy will with luck capture in its full fevered beauty.
Special season 2
The hit dramedy is back for its farewell season. Ryan O’Connell’s show based on his book I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves, about his life as a gay man with cerebral palsy, was a critical and commercial success for Netflix. Its wry, witty tone, which managed to be sweet as well as startlingly frank, felt fresh, honest and unpredictable.
This season is as raw and sardonic as ever, but now the show has been extended from 15-minute vignettes to a full sitcom-style half-hour that provides time to flesh out the characters and their stories.
With his unresolved issues and turbulent relationship with his mother, Karen (Jessica Hecht), still a problem, Ryan is trying to move on with his life, breaking out on his own. He recklessly embarks on a passionate affair with a man who is already in a relationship, but the challenges in his working and social life remain the same, with Ryan facing discrimination and ignorance on a daily basis.
Master of None: Moments in Love
The return of Master of None is slightly muted. This is not the same show that burst on to our screens in 2015 in a hail of joyous, goofy optimism. Its creator, Aziz Ansari, has been in a semi-reclusive state following an accusation in 2018 of sexual transgression. As the show – a comic treatise on modern living – had dealt with issues surrounding harassment and sexism, Master of None had to change its course. Season two, which arrived in 2017, was full of cinematic flair with Ansari’s character’s Italian love affair, but its devastating poignancy was contained in the Emmy-award-winning episode Thanksgiving, which concentrated on Lena Waithe’s character’s coming out.
This third season now has Waithe’s Denise as its focal point, moving away completely from Ansari’s character’s high jinks. Subtitled Moments in Love, the series centres on Denise’s relationship with her partner, Alicia (Naomi Ackie), and their lives in the UK as they struggle to deal with fertility issues. It’s a more intimate look at the nuances of relationships – the magic and the banality as well as the fragility – something that was touched on in the show’s first season.
Written by Ansari and Waithe, and directed by Ansari, Moments in Love is more like an extension of the themes of the show than a straightforward linear follow-up.
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America
Part travelogue, part culinary documentary, this series celebrates African-American food and its influence on the American palate, as well as showing how such recipes and meals survived – passed on through generations from the days of slavery to emancipation and beyond. It marks the tenacity and resourcefulness of black Americans and the vibrancy and creativity within their cooking that have shaped the US’s relationship with food.
Nail Bomber: Manhunt
Nail Bomber: Manhunt is a documentary that analyses the crimes of David Copeland, a far-right extremist who murdered three people and injured hundreds more using home-made nail bombs in his attacks on London in 1999. Copeland’s targets were LGBTQ+ people as well as London’s black and Bangladeshi communities. This documentary not only details Copeland’s motivations and crimes but also interviews members of the Brick Lane, Brixton and Soho neighbourhoods who bonded together in the face of these atrocities.
The Parisian Agency: Exclusive Properties
With The Parisian Agency, Netflix is hoping to attract the subset of viewers who are missing Selling Sunset and who loved Call My Agent! This French reality show follows the ridiculously photogenic Kretz family, who run an exclusive property agency. Working from their private mansion in Boulogne, the family deal with several celebrity clients in the sports and entertainment worlds. Expect lots of interfamily squabbles, as well as a selection of stunning houses, apartments and mansions that will make Room to Improve look like Homes Under the Hammer.