From Olivier Assayas’s sexy, postmodern Irma Vep remake to a look inside a New Orleans hospital post-Hurricane Katrina; here are the best things to watch on TV in August 2022
Irma Vep (Sky Atlantic/Now, August 2)
French auteur Olivier Assayas’s new show riffs on his cult 1996 film about a Hong Kong action movie star who comes to Paris to film a remake of a silent-movie classic. Unlike his earlier film, the series features an American in the title role (played, confusingly, by Swede Alicia Vikander). But the broad outline is the same, as Vikander’s character disappears, quite literally, into her role as criminal mastermind Irma Vep, a proto-feminist figure in the annals of cinematic history. It all adds up to a sexy, postmodern look at the strange passions that animate the filmmaking process, interspersed with some witty – and intensely French – musings on the state of the modern film and television industry. And if that doesn’t grab you plenty, there are contributions from Thurston Moore on the soundtrack and Nicolas Ghesquière – who designed Irma Vep’s catsuit costume – to boot.
The Sandman (Netflix, August 5)
The fantasy television boom continues to swell Neil Gaiman’s not-inconsiderable coffers with The Sandman, an adaptation of his 1980s comic-book series which follows hot on the heels of Starz’s American Gods and a planned production of Anansi Boys from Amazon. The story sees God-of-dreams Morpheus journey to the waking world to pursue a “rogue nightmare”, only to find himself imprisoned by Charles Dance in cruel patriarch mode. When he finally manages to escape, he returns to find his kingdom in tatters. Should we care about any of this? Well, in the first episode there’s a lot of solemn speechifying that is absolutely the curse of this sort of fantasy show, but there’s an intriguing queer thread running through the story that marks it out as different, not least in Tom Sturridge’s turn as Morpheus, looking like a kind of K-pop Man Who Fell to Earth.
Bluey (Disney+, August 10)
The return of Australia’s finest cultural export to British screens is cause for celebration, not just for those with children. For anyone who’s seen Bluey will tell you these seven-minute slices of animated heaven about a family of dogs living in Queensland are miniature marvels of imagination and perfectly pitched humour. Silly and profound in equal measure, the show mines a rich seam of longing for childhood pleasures that has reduced many a parent to tears before breakfast – including, presumably, Natalie Portman and Eva Mendes, who guest-star in this bound-to-be-stellar third season.
Five Days at Memorial (Apple TV, August 12)
Now, here’s a story that looks like it has serious pedigree – providing you have the stomach for it. Adapted by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley and Carlton Cuse from Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Sheri Fink’s book of the same name, this eight-part medical drama tells the tragic story of a New Orleans hospital in the five days after Hurricane Katrina hit, and addresses, among other things, allegations that members of staff euthanised terminally ill patients as power to the hospital failed and floodwaters rose. But who was the real villain in all of this? Expect a tale of everyday heroism played out against a backdrop of corporate negligence, in a show that looks likely to do for privatised healthcare what Craig Mazin’s Chernobyl did for late-period Russian communism. A heartwarming glimpse into the near future for Brits, then.
Bad Sisters (Apple TV, August 12)
Bad Sisters opens on a scene involving a corpse with a hard-on – which is how you know you’re watching a Sharon Horgan ‘joint’ – and continues in pretty much the same vein from there, serving up the kind of small-town black comedy the McDonagh brothers have made their own in recent years. The show stars Anne-Marie Duff as the recently bereaved wife of an abusive and deeply weird man played by Count Dracula himself, Claes Bang (he of the posthumous boner). But how did she come to be bereaved? A dodgy insurance broker, played with weaselly comic flair by Brian Gleeson, reckons her sisters might know a thing or two about that.
House of the Dragon (Sky Atlantic/Now, August 22)
After the heavy-metal excess of Game of Thrones’ final seasons, House of the Dragon faces a dilemma: go big from the start, or return to the kind of small-scale storytelling that gave the original series the dramatic heft it sometimes betrayed in later moments. With whopping great dragons among the supporting cast of this fantasy prequel, the smart money is on the former, but with George RR Martin on board as a writer, the chance to revisit Westeros may yet prove too tempting to pass up.