Friday 23 March 2018

New on netflix: Bowie the Goblin King in a children's classic

Labyrinth - Available from Wednesday

David Bowie as Jared the Goblin King in Labyrinth.
David Bowie as Jared the Goblin King in Labyrinth.
Denis Menochet in Spotless.
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

The screenings of this put on in Dublin after Bowie died sold out in jig time and for those who missed out, they can now enjoy goblins, epic music and David Bowie's distracting crotch in the comfort of their own home. This is one of the children's masterpieces of the 1980s, with the genius triad of Bowie, Jim Henson and George Lucas coming together to create a hallucinatory escapade that borrows from, and surpasses, The Wizard Of Oz.

This was Jennifer Connolly's first role and she looks like a child from a John Singer Sergeant painting, all dewy eyes and apple cheeks. The real stars, however, are the wonderfully gnarled and varied goblins - created in Henson's gloriously named 'creature workshop' - and Bowie, as the Goblin King, Jared, a being, like Bowie himself, whose personality swerved from playful to imperious and back again. This came out in 1986, so naturally Jared has to have huge shoulder pads and the best blonde, feathery mullet this side of Sharon Stone in Casino. Labyrinth was not a big hit when it came out but its lore has grown over the years and it's more than just respect for Bowie's legacy that has it now regarded as a bona fide classic.

Bojack Horseman

Available from Friday

Many years ago when the book Maus won the Pulitzer Prize, there were those who wondered if a cartoon could contain the emotional depth to merit such an honour (it did, and then some). In a way, you could say that the same prejudices hang over Bojack Horseman. You read the blurb - a cartoon celebrity horse (voiced by Will Arnett) whose personal morals are pretty much nonexistent - and think it's just another smartarse Family Guy knock-off. But Netflix and creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg have made something profound and layered, stunning and slightly frightening. Like Huxley's Brave New World it shines mirrors and satirises the worst of the present while predicting the worst of the future. For instance, the first episode of Bojack contains the initial nihilist message that TV exists not to solve your problems, but to suppress them. (That's what happens, it implies, with a series about a washed-up TV star sailing by on transient fame.) Plus Bojack has Amy Sedaris, whose own show is a forgotten TV gem, and Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, making the good go of it we hoped he would.

Orphan Black, Series 4

10 episodes, available now

When Toni Collette played several characters on The United States Of Tara the results were strangely underwhelming - as though the whole was less than the sum of the parts, especially given what a talented actress Collette is. Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black doesn't seem to suffer from this problem, however. In this Canadian-made sci-fi series her character discovers that she comes from a family of clones, with Maslany playing each one. The performances are nuanced and multilayered. It's always clear which clone she's playing - accent, attitude and body language, along with music and makeup come together to create Maslay's collection of characters. Plotwise, it bends here and there, mixing in science and suspense, as the clones get closer to the facts of why they were created. You so know Netflix is going to suggest Doctor Who to you after this.


Available now, 10 episodes

There's something of a Breaking Bad feeling to Spotless, and while that might sound like high praise, this series is delivering so far. Some of the similarities are down to the look of the show - two guys in bodysuits - and the black humour that's interwoven with the plot, but there's also the aspect of an essentially good man getting in over his head by making a regrettable but pragmatic choice. Brendan Coyle, that's Mr Bates from Downton Abbey, has a supporting role as a crime boss.

Catch-up TV - In case you missed it

Doctor Foster

RTE Player, season 1, episode 2, ends tonight

One of the best dramas on TV this year - and one of the biggest hits - Doctor Foster was originally shown on BBC1, and has, happily, been recommissioned. The first series is now being drip-fed on RTE Player - no binge watching. Suranne Jones, pictured left, is Dr Gemma Foster, a Midlands GP who apparently leads a charmed life, at home and at work, until things begin to go wrong. Over the course of five episodes, she discovers ever-more hair-raising financial and sexual secrets about her property developer husband, who appears to be cheating her and everyone around him. The tone shifts between high drama and bleak humour and often the bloody and brutal revelations seem to be delivered at dinner parties, in gastro-pubs and other deliberately middle-class settings. Humour, however, is the perfect foil for the many dark twists.

Mr Selfridge

UTV Player, series 1, episode 1, until July 26

Summer, when TV schedules are lighter than normal, is the perfect time to catch up on all the things you missed. Enter Mr Selfridge. Now into series four in 'real' time, UTV are going right back to basics and beginning at the beginning again. A British-American co-production, the series tells the story of Harry Gordon Selfridge, who set up Selfridge & Co department store in London in 1908. Visually alluring, well-acted and scripted, the drama deals with the ups and downs of the departments within Selfridge's, the personality clashes and combinations of those who work there, set against the wider story of the changing times. The early 1900s were a time when women had greater freedom, more money and a growing determination to be more than wives and mothers. All of this is reflected in the script, along with the love and life stories of the characters. If this is your first introduction, you've got plenty of enjoyable viewing ahead.

- Emily Hourican

Podcasts - Listen back at your leisure

More Or Less: Behind The Stats


We all know the kind of thing this podcast sprang from - the kind of tyranny and misinformation by numbers that is rampant, and frequently misleading: 'Half of all 12-year-olds have watched porn online!', 'More than 90pc of girls want to change at least one aspect of their bodies!', '25pc of people fear attacks by giant killer ants . . .!' So, what we really need is a calm, measured mathematically-minded person to take a closer look at some of the statistical hysteria. Tim Harford is that person. In More Or Less, Harford takes a close look at some of the numbers-driven stories - the Brexit referendum, unemployment claims, immigration, even celebrity deaths and whether this has been a particularly dense year - and hard-checks them. And of course, very often, the story he finds is not necessarily the story the numbers give. Invaluable listening.

HBR IdeaCast


A weekly podcast put together by the Harvard Business Review, this manages to steer clear of too much jargon and too narrow a 'business' focus. Instead, these podcasts are loosely business-themed, really, more motivational and enquiring than prescriptive, and very engaging. They make use of what is the best format - an articulate, interesting person discussing an area they are passionate and informed about. So, Goldie Hawn, right, on female leadership, Gretchen Rubin (author of the New York Times best-sellers Better Than Before and The Happiness Project) on habit-setting, Isabel Allende on fiction and feminism, champion diver Greg Louganis on achieving peak performance, and many more.

- Emily Hourican

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