The nine best Netflix shows to watch in September
‘Maniac’ is the most eagerly-awaited show of the streaming service’s autumn offerings
Sierra Burgess is a Loser
Fans of Stranger Things will finally get some justice for their beloved Barb, as actress Shannon Purser stars in this warm high-school drama about the familiar difficulties of fitting in that’s a modern catfishing take on the Cyrano de Bergerac tale. Purser plays Sierra, a sardonic, intelligent student who cannot wait to free herself from the repressive shackles of school and the dominant cliques that stalk the corridors who consider her to be disastrously uncool.
When a phone number mix up happens, classmate hottie Jamey (played by To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before heartthrob Noah Centineo) begins texting Sierra under the assumption that she’s actually school queen bee and Sierra’s nemesis, the pony-tail swishing Veronica (Kristine Froseth) leading Sierra to an emotional and ethical dilemma. With this and the joyous To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before Netflix is reviving the teen rom-com genre for a new generation and for those who seek some self-care tenderness in the often relentlessly grim, pop culture landscape.
First and Last
Like the 2016 Sky One documentary series First & Last 24 Hours (which concentrated on the prisoners in the Scottish prison service) this Netflix original follows inmates from Georgia’s Gwinnett County Jail on the most important days of their incarceration – the day that they arrive and the day they are finally released. This emotional film is a snapshot of the lives of the prisoners showing how they have coped within the system and how it has changed them.
City of Joy
City of Joy is a powerful documentary which captures the lives of some of the thousands of women and young girls who were sexually brutalised during the conflict in the Congo where rape was used as weapon of war. These voiceless women who were continuously assaulted and tortured unite in the City of Joy, a refuge centre set up by Congolese-Belgian women’s rights activist Christine Schuler Deschryver, Congolese gynecologist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Dr. Denis Mukwege, and American playwright and feminist activist Eve Ensler (The Vagina Monologues author).
The documentary shows the women beginning their journey of rehabilitation and trying to regain their dignity and sense of self. The centre is the space where the survivors can tell their stories and come together as a community to confront the atrocities they suffered and finally begin to heal.
The Land of Steady Habits
Starring Ben Mendelsohn as a belligerent but beguiling misanthrope, Nicole Holofcener’s (Friends with Money, Enough Said) latest film, based on the novel by Ted Thompson, focuses on the complexities of fatherhood and middle-aged frustrations. With an all-star cast including Edie Falco, Thomas Mann and Connie Britton, The Land of Steady Habits tells the story of divorced father Anders Hill who leaves his Wall Street job and his wife (Edie Falco) in an attempt to grasp some personal freedom or perhaps abandon his responsibilities. Instead, he must contend with his listless son (Thomas Mann) and his involvement with his friend’s troubled teen (Charlie Tahan) along with fresh complications brought by a burgeoning relationship with new love interest Barbara (Connie Britton). Through these entanglements, Anders is confronted by his failures and the impact he has on other people’s lives – something that he cannot escape from.
The surprise Peabody award-winning hit mockumentary is back for a second season. With its deft skewering of the true-crime craze that has seen series such as The Staircase, Making a Murderer and The Jinx become massive successes, American Vandal takes the essence of these tension-filled social justice dramas and applies them to more juvenile fare, exposing the trite sensationalism of the genre. This time around fictional sleuths Peter Maldonado (Tyler Alvarez) and Sam Ecklund (Griffin Gluck) are on the trail of the “Turd Burglar” trying to uncover the truth and the identity of this mysterious blackmailer who is terrorising a private Catholic high school. With its razor-sharp satire and giddy silliness, the American Vandal series is the perfect pastiche of Netflix’s most popular crime shows.
Directed by his daughter Rashida Jones, Quincy is being heralded as the definitive Quincy Jones documentary. It promises an intimate look at the artist with footage made up from home-movies as well as fascinating documentation of his influential 70 years in popular culture as a composer, producer, conductor and arranger of some of music’s most recognisable hits. It is a film that documents the history of 20th century music through the lens of Jones’s genius and explores his tireless work ethic and passion for discovering and mentoring new talent. Also, with Jones’s reputation as a colourful raconteur and incorrigible interviewee, this documentary will no doubt be a gleefully unpredictable account of his life mingling with icons of the industry.
With its prestige cast and award-winning creative team, Maniac is the most eagerly-awaited show of the streaming service’s autumn offerings. Superbad buddies Emma Stone and Jonah Hill team up once again in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s multi-dimensional, shape-shifting sci-fi series based on the Norwegian show of the same name. With touches of Kaufman and Gondry surrealism and Black Mirror human-spirit romanticism, Hill and Stone play participants in an experimental drug trial run by sinister James Mantelray (Justin Theroux in 1970s style specs) where depressed volunteers can create a new reality for themselves and be “cured”.
The dreamlike elements within the multiverse give the imaginative Fukunaga license to dazzle with thrilling set pieces and offers writer Patrick Somerville (The Leftovers) an abundance of inventive scenarios for the protagonists to deal with as they try to navigate their new world.
The Good Place
It’s season three of Michael Schur’s philosophical sitcom which manages to pose big questions with a lightness of touch and a genuine charm that has captured the souls of a growing number of viewers with every new series. This season sees the group of moral misfits heading back to earth to the time before their demise in an effort to test if their near-death experiences have improved their behaviour towards others. This comeback causes a ripple effect on the timeline with confusion reigning but the ever-mischievous Michael (Ted Danson) believes this is the only way to assess if “bad” people can transform into good characters after their death.
Lessons from a School Shooting
Director Kim A. Snyder’s 2016 work Newtown exposed the rawness and frustration that emanated in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre which saw 20 primary school students and six teachers murdered by gunman Adam Lanza. It was a historical document of loss and profound grief, of America in the aftermath of another school shooting which should have been the full stop in their violent, devastating history of gun crime.
In Lessons from a School Shooting, Snyder returns to the Sandy Hook tragedy but this time she focuses her lens on spirituality as she tells the story of Fr Bob Weiss who buried eight of the children that died in the massacre. Fr Basil O’Sullivan from Dublane (who also dealt with the repercussion of the murder of young children in the Scottish school shooting in 1996) contacts Weiss to offer solace to the priest and share his experiences dealing with the heartbreak of a small community. Through this unique bond they reflect on gun policies and the efforts in trying to reform American federal law.
Amazon Prime, September 14th
Forever is the much-anticipated black comedy series from Master of None co-creator Alan Yang and 30 Rock writer Matthew Hubbard. Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen star as June and Oscar a married couple who have settled into a comfortable if not dreary domestic routine of evening walks, the same nightly dinners and a yearly holiday to a picturesque lake house. With June beginning to feel trapped by their predictable suburban life, she endeavours to shake up their conventional cosiness by suggesting they take a ski-trip which ends up throwing the couple into uncertain territory where chaos ensues.