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Culture Club

Season one of Big Little Lies was a perfect must-see ‘limited series’. Marquee names like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern teaming up for a TV project joined by newer talents - Zoe Kravitz and Shailene Woodley -it boasted serious star power. The first season was a slow burn that went from a seemingly simple soap-y premise into a thoughtful and moving meditation on difficult topics.

Although season one was billed as a complete story, the acclaim for the show prompted a second season. A chance to see these characters back together was too good for many of us to resist and the addition of Meryl Streep to the cast only heightened expectations.

It’s frustrating then that season two was so desperately uneven. While the cast were uniformly excellent it was hard to shake the sense that the plotting and through-line of this follow up season wasn’t as well conceived as the first. Laura Dern’s performance as Renata had always been darkly funny and meme-worthy but with depth. Season two’s writing turned her into a character always seconds away from a GIF ready meltdown.

Season two would feature a harrowing scene that understood the nuances of sexual violence and how it impacts victims then, in another scene, careen into some barely thought out plot line. Halfway through the run, a report emerged that director Andrea Arnold had her work significantly re-edited in post-production as producer David E Kelley and series one director Jean-Marc Vallée wanted it to reflect the feel of the first season more. The cast and creative team denied the reports but it seemed to confirm for some fans why this season felt so disjointed.

The new season, without spoiling it, ramped up the focus on its biggest selling point: the ongoing showdown between Mary-Louise and Celeste, played by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman respectively. Few would want to deny themselves the pleasure of seeing two performers of such calibre spar but the narrative leaps taken to get them there felt forced.

Writer David E Kelley’s TV career took flight thanks to hits like The Practice and Ally McBeal, shows with mass appeal that existed before HBO led the ‘prestige TV’ revolution -giving a supposed gravitas to the medium. But the courtroom twists of season two felt like Kelley harkening back to the cheesiest impulses of his earlier work.

So while season one of Big Little Lies blended the best of TV and film, season two, in its seeming unwillingness to trust Andrea Arnold, reflected the worst impulse of both mediums: cashing in on previous successes to diminishing returns.

Listen

With their debut single, ‘Fear’, Elm set out how they just might be the Irish answer to Years And Years and Clean Bandit. Now with their latest release, ‘Paris’, they’ve unveiled another gorgeous pop gem. Melancholic but hopeful, the track’s sleek pop production gives it a rousing quality. The video is a moving ode to the kind of private gender expression many queer kids limit to their bedrooms as they weigh up how much they can be themselves in the wider world. Irish music is in rude health and in Elm we may just have a bonafide Irish pop supergroup on our hands

Listen

If the weird world of US reality TV, particularly The Real Housewives franchise and Drag Race, has caught your eye, then Come Thru Queen is the podcast for you. Best friends Brendan and Dan offer a weekly recap of their favourite shows with wit and insight. From their scorn at the slow moving Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills to their adoration of the New York and Potomac branches, they offer a no-filter take on their faves. Throw in their analysis of queer TV shows like Pose and you have a quirky and insightful deep dive into a very specific pop culture realm.

Read

Irish writer Sue Rainsford’s debut, Follow Me To Ground, was released by an Irish publisher last year but is being reissued by Penguin ahead of her next novel in 2020. Now is the perfect time to delve into Rainsford’s work which, if this debut is any indication, is set to leave a mark. The book follows Ada and her dad - non-humans who use their connection to the ground around them to heal the local humans. It’s hard to explain and defies easy categorisation but the writing is lyrical, eerie and transports you effortlessly. Weird, wonderful, unique and worth your time.

This article appears in the 357 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 357 Issue of GCN