New Idris Elba show has all the right ingredients, but one thing lets it down
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New Idris Elba show has all the right ingredients, but one thing lets it down

With so many entertainment options, it's easy to miss brilliant TV shows, movies and documentaries.

Here are the ones to hit play on, or skip.

Turn Up Charlie
Netflix, from Friday

We don't need another Three Men and a Baby, but what about Idris Elba and a Little Lady? It's not the worst idea ever, particularly since Elba is going to be playing the sort of decent, daggy working-class London lad that he seems to be in real life.

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Turn it up: Elba plays Charlie, a wannabe nightclub DJ and music producer.

Turn it up: Elba plays Charlie, a wannabe nightclub DJ and music producer.Credit:Nick Wall/Netflix

But despite the workable premise, Elba's star wattage, a thoroughly solid cast and a pair of directors who've worked on many of the best-loved British TV comedies of the past 20 years, Turn Up Charlie is let down by writing and characterisation that render the whole thing a chore.

Elba plays Charlie, a wannabe nightclub DJ and music producer who had one fleeting pop hit of his own a couple of decades ago. Now he's skint and effectively unemployed, living with a stern but loving African aunt who keeps demanding money with which to feed the electricity meter. Charlie's luck might be about to change, though.

His old childhood friend David (J.J. Feild), now a big Hollywood actor, has returned to London so he and his American wife, superstar DJ Sara (Piper Perabo), can raise their demanding, precocious nightmare of a daughter, Gabby (newcomer Frankie Hervey), in some semblance of sanity.

With Gabby being a little terror who causes nannies to quit as fast as her parents can hire them, and with Charlie in desperate need of a few quid, it's clear that Charlie is going to have a crack at the nannying caper himself.

Idris Elba with J. J. Feild in Turn Up Charlie.

Idris Elba with J. J. Feild in Turn Up Charlie.Credit:Nick Wall/Netflix

Charlie's and Gabby's first day out works well enough, with him deciding to ditch the expensive boutiques that she's used to shopping in and instead take her to the clothes stalls at Camden Market. There they have fun and seem to begin bonding. Sadly, Gabby is destined never to develop anything resembling charm.

She's written to remain an almost irredeemably rotten little thing – as evidenced by her determination to keep addressing Charlie as "Bitch" throughout. Fleeting sympathy for her pain as a child of largely absent parents – or for the parents' pain at leaving her while they work to provide for her – vanishes as they all continue carrying on like selfish arses.

Ian McShane (centre) has work to do to raise the excitement factor in American Gods.

Ian McShane (centre) has work to do to raise the excitement factor in American Gods.Credit:MYLES ARONOWITZ

It's nice that Elba and series co-creator Gary Reich chose to go with a small group of relatively new writers; adding a seasoned old pro might have helped bring out their best.

American Gods
(New season) Amazon Prime Video
American Gods is back, but it's as cruelly and sadly diminished as poor old Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane) and the motley crew of Old World deities he's trying to rally for an existential last stand in the modern-day US of A. After the short but stunning first season aired way back in 2017, showrunners Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan) were pushed out, Gillian Anderson quit, apparently in protest, and nothing seems to have gone right since.

Amy Schumer.

Amy Schumer.Credit:Elizabeth Sisson/Netflix

The first two episodes of this season have lacked momentum and mystery, trading the first season's mesmerising, cortex-untethering visuals and concepts for a dully conventional and even cartoonish recapitulation of the same – with dollops of unsubtle didacticism ladled on top.

What little intrigue there has been is about the extent to which old African goddess Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) and her ravenous ... libido ... might be working for new business god Mr World (Crispin Glover). Fans of the first series should probably go back and enjoy that again immediately. Anticipation for the second will likely evaporate on contact.

Spike Lee.

Spike Lee.Credit:Charles Sykes

Amy Schumer: Growing
Netflix, from Tuesday

Growing is the sort of stand-up special that Amy Schumer fans have been waiting for. Schumer is a wickedly funny woman whose sketch show (Inside Amy Schumer, Stan and Foxtel Now) has been brilliant in the way it tackles social issues, and in its general muckiness. All too often, though, Schumer's own stand-up material has seemed a bit beneath her. She's still thoroughly filthy here, but her recent marriage and pregnancy, and the notion that men are having a difficult time now, provide fine inspiration.

Minding the Gap.

Minding the Gap.Credit:MADMAN ENTERTAINMENT

Pass Over
Amazon Prime Video

The term "pass over" is loaded with meanings in Antoinette Nwandu's gut-punch of a play, directed here by Spike Lee at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company. There's the biblical sense, of course, and homeless black man Moses (Elementary's Jon Michael Hill) wants to lead himself and his friend Kitch (Julian Parker) off the street and into a brighter future. But as the pair of them energetically echo Waiting for Godot, we see that they continue to exist only at the whim of violently racist police. Heavy stuff.

Stephen Campbell Moore in BBC series Stag.

Stephen Campbell Moore in BBC series Stag.Credit:Jim Field Smith

Stag
Stan*

It takes a few minutes to twig as to what's happening in this British horror-comedy mini-series about blokes behaving badly on a buck's weekend. For once it's not scantily clad women being stalked through the forest, terrorised and murdered, but a group of braying, overprivileged wankers from London. Most likely to cark it: Stephen Campbell Moore (The History Boys), Pilou Asbaek (Game of Thrones) and Christiaan van Vuuren (Bondi Hipsters). Most likely to survive: Jim Howick (Sex Education).

Minding the Gap
Docplay

At first it seems as though young documentary maker Bing Liu is returning to Rockford, Illinois, to catch up with a couple of childhood friends and film some of the wild skateboarding stuff they can all still get up to on the streets of their depressed home town. But such things tend not to get nominated for Oscars, and it soon becomes apparent that all three of them are struggling to become adults while dealing with the legacies of childhoods devastated by family violence.

*Stan is owned by Nine, the publisher of this website.

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