There was a time when your trashy TV thriller would come but once a week, usually on a Sunday, ending each episode with a cliff-hanger leaving you hungry for more, counting down the days until the next instalment. While those days aren’t exactly no more – BBC, ITV and even RTE are still hammering away at the traditional format, and finding success with the likes of Line of Duty, The Bodyguard and Dublin Murders – but streaming services’ habit of dropping entire series in one go onto their platform has now extended to thrillers, the latest of which is Harlan Corben’s adaptation of his own novel, The Stranger.
Can I say I resisted the binge expected of me by the powers of be at Netflix? I cannot. Since it was uploaded last Thursday I have watched five of the eight episodes. Granted, the last three of those have largely been background noise while I’ve scrolled mindlessly on my phone, but keeping half an eye on it has its rewards, when every so often a twist will come in the absolutely bonkers plot to catch my full attention again.
We start with a family man’s entire life imploding after the titular stranger casually approaches him after his son’s football match, to inform him in no uncertain words that the pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage his wife suffered two years before was all a lie. In disbelief, but with a niggling suspicion he just can’t shake, he does some simple online sleuthing to uncover the truth and is appalled to learn that the stranger was telling the truth, for some reason as yet to be revealed.
He confronts his wife (played by Ballykissangel’s Dervla Kirwan), who neither confirms or denies the accusation, but indicates mysteriously that there is more to it than meets the eye and then takes off for some time alone before she can reveal the whole story. Meanwhile the stranger is causing further mischief all around town, blackmailing everyone from slimy businessmen to the nice local baker. It seems that everyone in the community has a secret big enough to warrant a little hush money.
Throw in a side story about a severed alpaca head, some teen antics at a boozy bonfire, (the likes only seen on TV when in reality most underage drinkers are content to share a can of Dutch Gold between three behind a bush) a comatose adolescent, found naked in the woods, the accusation of grand theft, and a murderous policeman on the prowl, and there’s a whole lot going on in The Stranger. And that’s before we get in to the complicated personal lives of literally everyone who has the camera pointed at them for more than five seconds.
There is so much packed in to the eight episodes that none of it is even filler, and it’s clear that Corben had no intention at all of killing any of his darlings in order to tighten up the storyline for a more coherent TV production. Every twist and turn gets more and more tangled, and it will be interesting to see which of the many sub-plots end up being red herrings with no connection to the overall storyline at all. It is definitely ridiculous and most certainly completely cuckoo, the performances are over the top and disbelief must be continuously suspended, but that’s what ultimately makes it great fun to watch. Even it is from the corner of your eye.
Another series that emerged fully formed on to Netflix last week was reality show Next in Fashion. Like Project Runway, it’s a competition unlike many reality shows that score the highest ratings across the globe, in that its contestants are highly skilled in their field, from all walks of life that led them to the world of fashion design and are entirely focused on winning the prize of €250,000 towards their own fashion line.
Capably hosted by an affable Alexa Chung and Tan France, and judged by the hosts plus guest judges each episode, it’s not entirely po-faced; there are clashes between teams, larger-than-life personalities and authentic banter between the hosts, so while it doesn’t take itself too seriously, it is serious about fashion. Worth a watch it you’re interested in the skill and talent behind the garments you see on the red carpet, especially if you’re making an effort to invest in sustainable clothing and making the move away from fast fashion.