TV still looms rather large in The Hedonist Jive household, at least as large as it did the time in 2011 when I gave you a rundown on my recommended world of television, yet I'll sadly admit I fall about 4 hours short of the American average of 4 hours, 39 minutes of daily viewing time per person. I'm doing my best, folks, but only so many hours in the day, and all that. I try to keep my viewing to, uh, "cinematic"-like television, and to the handful shows of the recent past that have elevated TV from a diversionary failure pile in a sadness bowl into something more artful and edifying. You know - "Breaking Bad", "The Wire", "Sopranos", "Mad Men" and so on.
It sort of came and went rather quickly, but I've found a show easily the equal of the aforementioned, and it just happens to have come from a film director. You may have heard of it - it's called "TOP OF THE LAKE", and all 7 episodes of Jane Campion's dark, sparse and thrilling miniseries are available for streaming on Netflix (the series originally ran on Sundance Channel in the US, which no one except for the fabulously wealthy subscribe to). It was actually shown at the Sundance festival as a film, a 7-hour film with one pee break in the middle. Filmed entirely on location in a stunningly beautiful, rural lakeside village in New Zealand, "Top of The Lake" combines police procedural, some ugly & raw tropes that are common to thrillers and even horror films, much high drama, and a drawn-out, twisted, understated direction and set of acting performances that are as good as anything I've ever seen on "TV". It's the equal of any film that's come out this year for sure.
Elizabeth Moss (Robin) - you may know her as Peggy on "Mad Men" - dons a kiwi accent and swoops in from Sydney to the town (Laketop) in which she grew up to investigate the rape and impregnation of a 12-year-old girl, Tui. It's clear early on that the town, which had a seedy and ugly side when Robin lived there, has even darker secrets now, and a host of speed-crazed and possibly murderous individuals who would very much prefer that Robin stay the hell away. Robin has her own Laketop rape issues she's still working on overcoming, and it's initially quite clear that Laketop's "devil" figure, the outstandingly evil psychopath Matt Mitchum (Tui's father!), is potentially behind both rapes, as well as being the town overlord and drug supplier as well.
Sound uplifting? While it often descends into darkness and hell, the show actually gains some levity from the whodunnit police procedural stuff. Robin's boss on the Laketop police force, Al Parker, is incredible as a conflicted (to say the least) individual, in too deep in the machinations of the town and Mitchum's world to be a real detective and much help to Robin. We had to rewind the thing many times to try and understand his New Zealand accent; unless Ms. Moss, he's the real kiwi deal. Robin also falls in love with Johnno, who happens to be one of Mitchum's other children. You'll find out that he's got a few, spread over many women, and a few questions surround Johnno's "suitability" for Robin that never quite go away until things resolve quite surprisingly in the last two pulse-rushing episodes.
Perhaps you've also heard Holly Hunter's in this. We love Holly Hunter at The Hedonist Jive, but are a little unsure on where we stand on her character, "GJ", a mystic weirdo who presides over a women's colony at the edge of the lake. At best, she's annoying and fits an essential, almost Greek-like part as the "seer" who comes in the silently observes what's happening and reticently speaks truth to power before leaving. At worst, she's just annoying.
The show adds a bizarre, unconventional and strange layer to a mostly linear storyline, and therefore makes itself absolutely captivating. I was very disappointed to see it end. Moss is terrific, the scenery is drop-dead gorgeous, and it's as weird, slow and wonderful a show as you're going to find anywhere. If you've got seven hours to invest in a binge-watch this coming weekend, I have to say that this would be an excellent way to spend them.