The Big Issue : Edition 529
THEBIGISSUE27JAN–9FEB2017 39 SMALL SCREENS CLASS: SERIES ONE While this sequel (that’s really more of a remake) to The Blair Witch Project (1999) didn’t exactly set the box of fice aflame last year, it’s safe to put some of that down to the difficulties that come from trying to replicate one of the more effective cinematic hoaxes of recent years. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (the team behind You’r e Next and The Guest) go down the found- footage route that the original popularised, but it’s more of a salute to the original than a serious attempt to convince anyone that there’s an actual real-life Blair Witch. What’s left is a series of increasingly disorientating scenes and startlingly effective scares as James (James Allen McCune), his almost- girlfriend, filmmaker Lisa (Callie Hernandez), and a group of camera-wearing friends head into the woods after James finds a clip online that suggests his long- lost sister (Heather from the first film) might still be alive. Creepy noises in the woods after dark are scary; when the night never ends, it’s a whole lot worse. ANTHONY MORRIS The less you know, the better. So goes the marketing hype about Netflix’s latest series – a small-town mystery deliberately pitched in the wake of smash hit Stranger Things. After seven years, missing blind woman Prairie Johnson (played by co-creator Brit Marling) miraculously returns with sight. The ethereal sphinx refuses to tell either her parents or the FBI where she’s been. Each night, Prairie gathers a band of misfits from the local high school, revealing her journey in storytelling that’s apparently so empathy-building that even the homophobic bully bonds with his nemesis teacher. The question of whether Prairie is actually a miracle or a delusional PTSD-sufferer seems more crucial than the show wants to suggest. Tension dissipates as the bizarre tale unfolds, a kidnapping thriller-cum-sci-fi speculation that is obsessed with alternative realities. The more you know, the more of a ludicrous let-down it becomes. REBECCA HARKINS-CROSS If you’ve caught a glimpse of Seven’s Summer of TennisTM, chances are you’ve seen a promo for the network’s upcoming mini-series Hoges: the Paul Hogan Story. Exactly when it’ll air remains a mystery, but at this stage early February seems fairly close to the mark. Which isn’t something many are saying about the casting of Josh Lawson as Hogan: while Lawson is a strong comedy actor, his funniest work usually relies on smarm or insecurity, not the thousand-watt charm that made Paul Hogan into a world-famous star. And while it’s always best to cast a good actor over one who looks like the subject, the scripts of recent Australian television biopics have been so simplistic the lead’s physical resemblance to the subject is often the only way audiences can tell who the biopic is meant to be about. To be fair, as the promo clip contains the line “Look out Hollywood, here come the Hogans”, maybe every scene will feature someone calling Lawson “Paul Hogan”, just so we know who he’s meant to be. At least the required elements for Australian biopic success – 70s clothing and some kind of relationship problem – are present, so there’s a good chance it’ll be a hit. Fingers crossed Seven’s other biopics for 2017, tackling Olivia New ton-John (played by Delta Goodrem) and Shane Warne, can squeeze some corduroy flares in there somewhere. THE OA: SEASON ONE ANTHONY MORRIS > Small Screens Editor While Doctor Who enjoys a gap year, the upstart kids of new spinoff Class are getting into all kinds of trouble. All kinds of horror, actually, as this teen-friendly series wastes no time getting surprisingly visceral. Limbs are lopped off and schoolroom sweethearts dispatched by an alien sword. Writer Patrick Ness is a stranger to TV writing, but has a massive following off the back of a string of young adult novels. It’s safe to say he knows his audience inside out. Sadly, Class struggles to fuse social realism and high fantasy horror. Given the bleak and bloody events our young heroes endure, it seems remarkable the school hasn’t been closed pending a royal commission. But Ness understands that his core audience probably cares less about verisimilitude than representation (the cast is delightfully, if not meticulously, diverse). Having female characters joke about failing the Bechdel test will no doubt play well on Twitter. Still, stick with it. Like many a teen, it’s self-conscious but quite fun once you get to know it. MYKE BARTLETT BLAIR WITCH DVD STREAMING BLU-R AY THAT’S NOT A HOGAN.