The week in TV: Candy; The Elon Musk Show; Wreck; Bad Sisters – review

Jessica Biel has an axe to grind and an 80s look to rock in Disney’s slow-building take on a brutal Texas murder; Elon Musk’s chat-up technique is revealed; and here’s to the finale of the magnificent Bad SistersCandy Disney+The Elon Musk Show BBC Two | iPlay…

Candy Disney+The Elon Musk Show BBC Two | iPlayerWreck BBC Three | iPlayerBad Sisters Apple TV+

Has the true crime boom gone bust? Have we gorged too long on the all-you-can-eat buffet of Murder Most Streamable? Or are we just getting pickier? It’s hard to object to drama of the calibre of Sherwood (BBC One) and Black Bird (Apple TV+), but you can understand why relatives of the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer objected to Netflix’s well-acted but preternaturally gory Dahmer: Monster.

The same goes for last week’s Maxine (Channel 5), about the 2002 murders in Soham of 10-year-olds Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, which focused on Ian Huntley’s partner, Maxine Carr. Despite solid performances and a modicum of restraint, it was still an exercise in primetime rubbernecking; so grubby that, post-viewing, you felt like apologising to the shower before getting into it.

Now there’s Candy (Disney+). A five-parter created by Robin Veith and Nick Antosca, it’s about the savage real-life axe-slaying in 1980 of Texas housewife Betty Gore by frenemy Candy Montgomery, who was having an affair with Gore’s husband. It says it all about this overstuffed genre that another TV dramatisation of the case, starring Elizabeth Olsen, is expected from HBO Max next year. Soon it could get like Shakespeare: “Adored your Aileen Wuornos at the National, darling!”

Jessica Biel plays alpha Christian mom Montgomery. With her big glasses and short, tight perm, Biel is quite a vision – like a sexed-up Sophia from The Golden Girls – especially when, post-murder, she dashes naked to put blood-stained clothes into the washing machine. Melanie Lynskey plays frumpy, angry, needy Gore, whom another mother describes as “Saint Betty of Perpetual Distress”. Despite Betty’s husband, Allan (Pablo Schreiber), exuding all the sex appeal of week-old ranch dressing, he’s propositioned by a sexually unfulfilled Montgomery.

Having watched the first two available episodes, I’m undecided about Candy. Working in two timelines – before and after the murder – it’s slow, and heavy-handed with period details: from the strains of David Soul’s Don’t Give Up on Us, to the pulp erotic fiction Candy reads in her tacky corner bath, to the symphony-in-beige interiors. Enough of the set dressing, tell the story! That said, there’s a genuinely eerie buildup – an unanswered phone; a crying baby – to the discovery of the body. There are also credible performances, particularly from the ever-impressive Lynskey as a peevish, all-too-human frustrated hausfrau.

What’s going on with that shy, retiring Elon Musk fellow? You never hear from him these days. Yes, I’m being sarcastic, seeing as barely a day passes without Musk proving that more money than Croesus can’t buy a nerd billionaire the sense not to, say, spout off on Twitter (the internet platform he’s trying to buy) about Ukraine and Russia.

The first episode of Marian Mohamed’s three-part BBC Two docuseries The Elon Musk Show examines his South African origins; early Silicon Valley career; the PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX missions to transform humankind into a “multi-planetary species”. Oh, and Musk raging about employees not being at their desks at 9pm. And leaving a message for his first wife at their marital therapist’s office to say he’s filing for divorce.

There’s a whiff of deja vu to this opener, which covers much the same territory as other Musk documentaries. Still, there’s also much to enjoy: his striking silver-haired mother, Maye, styled in purple like a human Cluedo character, speaking of always knowing he was a genius. And second wife, actor Talulah Riley’s revelations about his chat-up technique: inviting her to his room to watch his rocket videos and then… erm, showing her his rocket videos.

Is Musk truly a genius or just an obsessive, attention-craving workaholic nursing an existential inner void? If there is an Elon Musk “show”, it’s fast-morphing into The Truman Show, which seems to be exactly how he likes it.

Over on BBC Three, the six-part Wreck, created by Ryan J Brown, is a comedy horror slasher set on board a mega cruise ship. When young female crew member Pippa (Jodie Tyack) goes overboard after being chased by an assailant in a duck costume, her brother, Jamie (Ladhood’s Oscar Kennedy), joins the crew undercover to prove it wasn’t suicide.

I’ve only watched one episode, and by the end of it (spoiler alert) the duck has struck again, dragging the victim down the corridor. (Part of me thought, what is this – The Masked Singer set in a bloodbath?) While some of Wreck is overworked, it’s also lively and witty. It establishes ship life as a grisly circus of hierarchy and hard partying, and the characterisation is sharp and strong, especially from Jamie’s acerbic lesbian friend Vivian (Thaddea Graham): “I thought running off to be a sailor was the gayest option.” On the strength of the opener, the show could become a hyperreal whodunnit that knows its way around the comedy intersection of hysteria, irony and claustrophobia.

I’ve been pathetically slow to catch on to Bad Sisters (Apple TV+), which has just reached its series finale. Set in and around Dublin, Sharon Horgan’s 10-part pitch-black comic rejigging of Belgian drama The Out-Laws concerns itself with the Garvey sisters (Horgan, Sarah Greene, Eva Birthistle, Eve Hewson) and their plot to murder John Paul (Claes Bang), the controlling, gaslighting husband of their struggling sister Grace (a heartbreaking Anne-Marie Duff). Opening with John Paul already dead, the show is all about how he got there; insurance men Thomas (Brian Gleeson) and Matt (Daryl McCormack) try to undermine Grace’s claim on her husband’s life insurace.

Weirdly, the last episode is the weakest (it all goes a bit Eat, Pray, Murder), but the rest is magnificent, managing to be at once serious, moving, bitchy and hilarious. There are stellar performances all round, with special mention to Hewson as a spectacularly chaotic millennial, and to Bang, whose smirking, unrepentant smoothie-from-the-dark-side is a joy to behold. Bad Sisters feels like a twist on Big Little Lies, but with laughs and Coen brothers flourishes. Consider this, rather belatedly, a hard recommend.

Star ratings (out of five) Candy ★★★The Elon Musk Show ★★★Wreck ★★★Bad Sisters ★★★★★

What else I’m watching

Sensationalists: the Bad Girls and Boys of British Art (BBC Two)Not unlike the movement itself, this three-part docuseries about the Young British Artists has proved to be a wild ride. This week’s final episode (all are on iPlayer) examines controversies surrounding works by Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and co.

I Hate You(Channel 4) This new comedy from Robert Popper (Friday Night Dinner) stars Tanya Reynolds (Sex Education) and Melissa Saint as shambolic flatmates trying to make sense of twentysomething life and friendship.

Russia 1985–1999: TraumaZone(BBC iPlayer)Subtitled What It Felt Like to Live Through the Collapse of Communism and Democracy, this ambitious seven-film series from the Bafta award-winning film-maker Adam Curtis uses obscure archive USSR footage to reveal how the collapse of communism affected western democracy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *