When future humans invent time machines and other devices capable of revealing the mysteries of the world, we will know for certain who killed JFK and what happened to Harold Holt. We will know the whereabouts of the Lost City Of Atlantis and the Ark Of The Covenant. But at least one mystery will live on in eternity: how the bloody hell the Netflix homepage algorithm works. We’ve all at some point thought: why is it showing me these titles? Where did all the good stuff go? Does Netflix really think I’m interested in Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special?
Not long ago, the streaming giant recently made its rabbit hole-like homepage a tad more straightforward with the addition of a ‘Top 10 In Australia’ daily listing. This displays an often eclectic mix; one time, for instance, I noticed the magnificent high art blockbuster Blade Runner 2049 right alongside the bronzed bikinied babes from the beach-bound reality TV series Too Hot To Handle.
In recent times, the curiosity I’ve felt towards this widget intensified immensely, and I did the unthinkable: write a story chronicling my experiences watching all 10 titles in a single day.
What might I discover about what Australians like to watch? What might I learn about myself?
When I awoke early on this D-Day of butt-flattening binging, I was crestfallen to discover the Chris Hemsworth action flick Extraction straddling position #10. Hemsworth plays a black market mercenary who shepherds a kidnapped kid to safety while delivering lines such as “move fast, stay low”. Yawn. I had already suffered through this odious macho-macho B movie but a deal’s a deal; I watched it again. Even worse the second time around, it made me think that perhaps a one-star review I wrote for another publication was one star too generous.
Next at #9 was the 2003 atrocity Kangaroo Jack – popular again, perhaps, because of a recent Kangaroo Jack reunion special (pass). This alleged comedy features Jerry O’Connell chasing a CGI animated kangaroo across outback Australia. It is basically what many foreigners think this country is like: a land of sun-scorched red desert traversed by beer-drinking locals who deliver expressions such as “a banger short of a barbie”. It concludes with the roo breaking the fourth wall and reciting various speeches, claiming to be a classically trained actor. Good lord. My day is off to a terrible start.
“Does Netflix really think I’m interested in Michael Bolton’s Big, Sexy Valentine’s Day Special?”
At #8 was the noticeably better (working from a very low bar) TV series Outer Banks, a well-shot show about a handful of nosy youth from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, who drink beers and discover a mysterious sunken wreck. The discovery of said wreck triggers a rote ‘in-over-their-heads’ adventure that, by the end of the first episode, involves the hot youngsters being shot at during a high-speed boat chase. I hope at one point in the series a criminal exclaims, “And I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!”
Next I have lunch, which puts me in a better mood. Though that mood was shot to pieces by the execrable thing landing at #7: the 2018 Kevin Hart ‘comedy’ Night School. Hart plays Teddy, a nincompoop barbecue salesman who studies at night, hoping to one day be able to afford to go to a nice restaurant without plucking out pubic hairs and placing them in cheesecake in order to escape paying the bill.
I couldn’t decide what was worse: the contrived classroom scenes featuring other mature age students grappling with the Pythagorean theorem or the moments of “hijinx”, such as one involving the adults graffitiing the school and escaping late at night. Double yawn.
At #6 was Schitt’s Creek, a fish-out-of-water sitcom about a family of rich yuppies forced to shack up in a crummy motel in a backwater town. I watched the first two episodes of the first season (there are, weirdly, now six seasons) which weren’t awful. But the comedy never comes alive. No energy, no fizz, no spark. Maybe it gets better. I waited for the time when somebody finally made a joke that the family were up Schitt’s Creek.
At #5 came Rick And Morty. Ricky and Morty! I’m a big fan of this show, though it is getting increasingly difficult to admit that in public given the behaviour of some of the fans. Episode six of the fourth season – titled ‘Never Ricking Morty’ – is an absolute doozie, pumped full of metaness and playful writing.
The episode begins on a train filled with people who each want to kill Rick for various reasons. When the titular pair board the train, Rick explains that it’s “not a real train, it’s a story device” and this story device is “metaphorically containing us”. Chaos ensues, with Rick and Morty periodically falling out of the train/story device, which causes them to jump in and out of “non-canonical” narratives. It’s a wickedly good time – one of the show’s best episodes – but the next one, ‘Promortyus’, is just so-so.
The day is wearing on and I’m feeling pretty good – but White Lines, at #4, brings me crashing back to earth. This frustratingly disjointed series (from the creator of the much better Money Heist) involves a woman who flies to Ibiza to try to solve the mystery of who killed her brother, who used to be a prominent DJ. There are criminals, ravers, a meeting with the police inside a Westworld-type theme park (sans robots) for some reason, and orgy scenes featuring hot masked people.
“It is what many foreigners think this country is like: a land of sun-scorched red desert traversed by beer-drinking locals”
Next up, at #3, it’s time to shoot hoops with Michael Jordan – and by that I of course mean it’s time to continue my extreme physical inertia while watching the Chicago Bulls documentary series The Last Dance. I had seen the first two episodes, so I hit up the third, which is themed around the bad boy of the Bulls, Dennis Rodman. It’s a well-produced and engrossing series, with good momentum and a highly credible investigatory style. So far so good.
Now at #2, with my eyes feeling thoroughly squared but the end almost in sight, it’s time for Dead To Me. Revolving around a friendship formed by two women (Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini) who connect during grief counselling, the series is into its second season, but I hadn’t seen any of it – so I watched the first two episodes of season one. The drama works – it’s an affecting story of a relationship forged in unusual circumstances – and a good gag is never far away. I’ll be returning for more.
It’s now evening and, after a short dinner break, time for number one. The grand finale. The numero uno. So obviously this has to be something of merit, right? A black-and-white social realist drama about potato farmers, perhaps? An insightful documentary about important issues such as climate change or COVID-19? Not exactly. It was the latest low-brow production to fall off the Happy Madison production line: the David Spade and Lauren Lapkus (from Orange Is the New Black) romantic comedy The Wrong Missy.
Spade plays a mild-mannered teetotaler who has to suffer through a weekend with a woman (Lapkus) he had a terrible blind date with, after confusing her with another woman in his address book. I was expecting to hate this film with the fire of a thousand burning suns, but Lapkus is a fabulously high-powered comedic presence: bug-eyed, manic, elastic, shifting realities, chewing through emotions. You’d say she derails every scene if she hadn’t already been the entire point of every scene.
As the film sputters towards an inevitably sentimental conclusion, it gets laborious, but Lapkus comes close to saving it. I can’t say she was good enough to fully counter a dopey episodic screenplay but, at the end of a long day, with a sore head and even sorer eyes, there would have been worse ways to cross the finishing line. Like for example watching Chris Hemsworth play a mercenary, or Kevin Hart play a nincompoop. Or that bloody kangaroo.
As I went to bed, I felt grateful that I’d seen some decent stuff – though, there was no shortage of crap. My Netflix D-Day session was, you might say, a banger short of a barbie.