Political doco The Circus is compelling viewing – especially now

“I think the first two years of the Trump presidency will forever be known as ‘the calm years’. That scares me to death.”

But nobody on The Circus is just sitting around waiting for polling day. There’s an enormous amount of action to cover, from the grassroots to the doorstep of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

You can watch the up-to-the-minute documentary series on Stan.

You can watch the up-to-the-minute documentary series on Stan. Credit:Stan

Heilemann’s first stop is the home of Trump’s former White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who treats him to a look at the new propaganda film he has made to fire up the Trump base ahead of the mid-terms (the film, Heilemann tells Bannon with some relish, is “a cinematic reach-around”).

McKinnon, meanwhile, sees just how fired up that base can get at a rally of hardcore Trump fans addressed by former Trump adviser and self-described “dirty trickster” Roger Stone at a Florida greyhound club. Such scenes are fascinating if, perhaps, slightly peripheral in importance.

Where The Circus really excels is with the meat of things such as the Supreme Court candidacy of judge Brett Kavanaugh.

The Circus is up to its third season on Stan.

The Circus is up to its third season on Stan. Credit:Stan

Not only did The Circus land timely interviews with central figures including Republican senator Susan Collins – on whose vote Kavanaugh’s candidacy seemed likely to hang – but it also provides an illuminating deep dive back into the bitter and sometimes bizarre 1991 battle over the confirmation of Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas in the wake of sexual harassment allegations by the law professor Anita Hill.

Wagner has been a timely addition to The Circus‘ team, bringing new perspectives and insights that freshen up what had been, in terms of presenters, very much a middle-aged white man’s club.

As always, The Circus remains unparalleled in providing intimate access to globally significant events.

Catch Absentia on Amazon Prime Video.

Catch Absentia on Amazon Prime Video. Credit:Amazon Prime Video

Absentia
Amazon Prime Video

This series is like one of those episodes of Law & Order: SVU in which some psycho abducts and terrorises poor old Olivia Benson for a short while.

But in Absentia FBI agent Emily Byrne (Castle‘s Stana Katic) has been kept in a dungeon for six years.

She gets out to find that her FBI agent hubby (Patrick Heusinger) has a new wife (Cara Theobold) and that someone is framing her for a string of murders. Katic is better than the so-so script.

The second season of Norsemen is on Netflix now.

The second season of Norsemen is on Netflix now.Credit:Netflix

Norsemen
Netflix

Perhaps only the Norwegians could have turned the brutal, murderous business of 8th-century Viking raiders into a distinctly 21st-century workplace comedy full of modern-day Scandinavian solicitude, banal corporate-speak and the juxtaposition of quotidian concerns against the severed genitals of Anglo-Saxon villagers.

As the new second season begins, some of the younger Vikings are feeling uncomfortable with the rape requirements of their job descriptions.

Their tentative suggestion of a “values discussion” about the issue does nothing to improve the demeanour of their newly handless boss.

The Decline of Western Civilization, part two, can be viewed on DocPlay.

The Decline of Western Civilization, part two, can be viewed on DocPlay.

The Decline of Western Civilization: Part II
Docplay

Docplay has all three of Penelope Spheeris’s Decline documentaries. Viewers who sheepishly recall enjoying the hair-metal bands of the ’80s will find this second landmark the most captivating.

In Los Angeles in 1987 and 1988, Spheeris finds a new generation of ambitious metal bands mostly unencumbered by anything resembling self-doubt or a progressive attitude towards women.

Spheeris has a keen eye for absurdity and her interviews with older, wiser rockers underline the fact that you can’t put an old head on young shoulders.

Riley Keough, left, and Jeffrey Wright star in Hold the Dark.

Riley Keough, left, and Jeffrey Wright star in Hold the Dark. Credit:Netflix

Hold the Dark
Netflix

A grim, unsettling and ultimately forgettable Netflix horror flick that has a surprisingly high daytime body count for something that takes place mostly in the dark night of the Alaskan winter.

In a remote village a six-year-old boy has been taken by a hungry wolf. His distraught mother, Medora (Riley Keough), wants the animal tracked down and shot, but her neighbours refuse to help and her husband, Vernon (Alexander Skarsgard), is away fighting a couple of wars in Iraq in a manner that’s as startling as it is brutal.

So what’s Medora to do? She contacts a writer named Russell (Westworld‘s Jeffrey Wright) who is an expert on wolves, begging him to come and kill her boy’s killer. When Russell arrives Medora begins acting in a disturbing manner and when Vernon comes home from the war much of the violence that ensues borders on the gratuitous.

Director Jeremy Saulnier and screenwriter Macon Blair, adapting the novel by William Giraldi, conduct drive-bys of several different conflicts; the one between man and nature is well down the list.

The Amazing World of Gumball, on Stan.

The Amazing World of Gumball, on Stan.Credit:Stan

The Amazing World of Gumball
Stan

This hectic cartoon series about a young cat named Gumball, who lives with a workaholic mother, useless father, clever sister and sentient goldfish, superimposes its animated characters on real suburban backgrounds in charming fashion.

The Christmas episode that had a reindeer lawn ornament being rectally impaled by a flying Christmas tree and bursting into flames while a child looked on in tears was certainly memorable.

This first season begins with Gumball and his goldfish pal deciding that they need a new friend. Things go badly.

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