By Gen Terblanche16 October 2023
Showmax curates the ultimate Pride Month watchlist, with something for everyone
We’re all different, and we all have different tastes. That’s the whole premise of streaming; that no two people’s home pages look alike. So to celebrate Pride Month in South Africa, Showmax has compiled the ultimate LGBTQIA+ watchlist, with something for everyone.
Best horror: Chucky S1-3
Yes, it’s about a serial killer-possessed doll who makes horrible puns and murders people, but Don Mancini’s Chucky series has one of the most multi-faceted portrayals of queer identity and exploration of the world on TV.
It starts when Jake Wheeler (Zackary Arthur), a 14-year-old gay boy and doll collector, finds Chucky (voiced by Brad Dourif), who returns the “favour” of being rescued from the yardsale trash pile by targeting Jake’s bullies, including his abusive alcoholic father (Devon Sawa). As well as giving us a queer revenge story that turns to horror, Chucky delivers a voyage of discovery between Jake and his crush-turned-friend and more, Devon Evans (Bjorgvin Arnarson).
And Chucky and his lover turned enemy Tiffany’s (voiced and embodied in the series by Jennifer Tilly) genderfluid child Glen/Glenda has been exploring their identity throughout the series – with both mom and dad’s blessing and support.
Chucky is headed for the White House in Season 3 as he cosies up to America’s First Family. Season 3 has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Collider saying, “This killer doll series is only getting better…” and adding, “There is no horror series out there quite like Chucky… It is all killer with almost no filler… Its cast is impeccable, the kills wonderfully unhinged, and the humour remains as sharp as ever.”
Chucky S1-2 is available to binge now, with S3 arriving 23 October.
Special mention: Yellowjackets S1-2
Best post-apocalyptic show: The Last of Us
A horror series about the end of the world is also one that clings to love and hope in all forms. Joel (Pedro Pascal) the smuggler escorts 14-year-old Ellie (non-binary performer Bella Ramsey) across an apocalyptic version of the United States in which society has collapsed thanks to a fungal outbreak that turns its human hosts into zombies. Episode 7 centres on Ellie’s backstory, including her playful love for her best friend Riley (Storm Reid) and their first kiss.
Series fans have also fallen in love with gay couple Bill (Nick Offerman), a grumpy doomsday prepper, and Frank (Murray Barlett), an outgoing survivalist in episode 3, who get a far kinder and more moving story than they did in the game on which the series is based. In flashbacks, we see Bill and Fred thriving together despite the world going to hell.
The Last of Us has raked in 24 Emmy nominations this year – behind only Succession S4. Pascal and Ramsey both received their first-ever Emmy nominations, with Melanie Lynskey nominated as Guest Actress for The Last of Us as Kathleen, as well as Lead Actress for Yellowjackets as Shauna. The hit Playstation adaptation also earned Guest cast nominations for Bartlett, Offerman and Reid, not to mention Anna Torv as Tess and Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Montreal Woodard as Henry and Sam Burrell.
Best high school drama: Euphoria S1-2
Zendaya has taken home two Emmys for her role in Euphoria as troubled teen addict Rue. The series’ first season offers a heartfelt look at trans experience and identification through Rue’s girlfriend Jules (trans performer Hunter Schafer) and her discussions with her therapist, along with a look at the damage that repression does through Nate (Jacob Elordi) and Cal (Eric Dane).
Euphoria has an 8.3/10 rating on IMDb and an 82% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the consensus says, “Euphoria balances its brutal honesty with an empathetic — and visually gorgeous — eye to create a uniquely challenging and illuminating series, held together by a powerfully understated performance from Zendaya.”
Best university comedy: The Sex Lives of College Girls S2
Four best friends embark on multiple journeys of self-discovery at university in this comedy series created by Mindy Kaling and Justin Noble. Along with tackling student debt, sexual harassment, and racism in academia in relatable and sensitive ways, the series also delivers queer joy in the budding relationship between closeted rich girl Leighton Murray (Reneé Rapp) and out-and-proud feminist Alicia (Midori Francis).
As the series goes on, Leighton continues to experiment in ways that’ll ring a bell with many viewers – including one relationship that sees her dating another woman, Tatum (Gracie Dzienny), who may as well be her double. Messy, shameless, fun and freeing, Leighton gains confidence as she gives free rein to parts of herself that she was cut off from growing up.
18SNL-rated, The Sex Lives of College Girls has a 95% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Mashable calling it “a hilarious, sexy treat,” Entertainment Weekly saying it’s “smart, sharp and sassy,” and The Wrap calling it “raunchy rom-com fun.”
Best medical drama: This Is Going To Hurt
Winner of four BAFTAs, This Is Going To Hurt follows a junior doctor in an obstetrics ward in the UK’s overburdened and collapsing public health system during 2006. Adam Kay adapted his own tragic-comic memoir of the same name, winning the Writing: Drama BAFTA in the process.
Adam (Ben Whishaw in a BAFTA-winning role) spends most of the series at the end of his rope from exhaustion as he tries to train another junior doctor, Shruti (Ambika Mod), and to be present in his relationship with his supportive boyfriend, Harry (Rory Fleck Byrne), but there’s just not enough of him to go round and everything is starting to buckle.
The series shows Adam clinging to survival by his wits as his parents urge him to marry a nice girl and go into private medicine, and he’s battling with just not fitting in with the posh, straight friends he grew up with, or Harry’s hard-partying queer friend group. The struggle is real.
This Is Going To Hurt has a 95% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Time hailing it as “the best medical drama in years”.
Best comedy drama: Somebody Somewhere S1-2
Actress, comedian and singer Bridget Everett breathes life into this HBO semi-autobiographical midlife crisis drama-comedy. Sam (Everett) is 40-something and lost after returning to her small-town Kansas home to help take care of her dying sister, Holly.
Sam gets back a piece of the joy that she’s lost in her life when a new friend and co-worker, Joel (Jeff Hiller), reunites her with people who share Holly’s determined individualism and courage at “church choir practice night” – a front for a secret social club where the town’s queer community can laugh, socialise, dance, and be themselves without fear.
Joel, a practising Christian gay man, is the event’s co-founder, with Fred Rococo (real-life trans actor Murray Hill) as the host of the space, a dapper, delightful transgender man. PS: If you love Fred, Season 2 places him front and centre in the countdown to his wedding.
Nominated as Outstanding New TV Series by the GLAAD Media Awards, Somebody Somewhere’s second season was hailed as “laugh out loud funny” by Rolling Stone; as “a “revelation” that “exudes compassion” with a “nuanced take on the everyday” by The Boston Globe; and as “TV’s sweetest slice of life” with “performances that will break your heart and heal it all over again” by The Daily Beast.
Special mention: Mrs Fletcher S1.
Best period drama: Gentleman Jack S1-2
This historical romantic drama is based on the coded diaries of real-life Victorian-era landowner, lesbian and industrialist Anne Lister (Suranne Jones), and explores her courtship and relationship with Ann Walker (Sophie Rundle).
Gentleman Jack’s treatment of their relationship covers everything from discreet and guarded flirtation in public, to non-exploitative, sensitive and tender sex scenes that build off the couple’s relationship without ducking entirely behind steamy metaphors. At the start of the series, Anne is a woman who adopts male-leaning versions of feminine dress for the time (hence Gentleman Jack), while Ann favours the full-blown floral femininity of Victorian dress, and it’s interesting to see how they influence one another’s style choices across the series.
Directed by BAFTA winner Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley, Last Tango In Halifax), Gentleman Jack has an 8.2/10 rating on IMDb and a 92% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the consensus is, “Suranne Jones’ boundless charisma brings the indomitable Anne Lister to vivid life in Gentleman Jack, a gently revelatory series that mines terrific humour from the icon’s unapologetic forward-thinkingness.”
Best dating drama: The L Word: Generation Q S3, and The L Word S1-6
In this sequel to the ground-breaking, Emmy-nominated 2004-2009 series, Golden Globe nominee Jennifer Beals (Flashdance), Kate Moennig (Ray Donovan, Grown-ish) and Leisha Hailey (CSI) reprise their original roles alongside a new generation of diverse, self-possessed LGBTQIA+ characters as they take on love, heartbreak, sex, setbacks and success in LA.
The show has an 83% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics consensus says Generation Q “has style and charm to spare and announces a new phase for The L Word that will please new and old fans alike.”
Special mention: Looking S1-2
Best reality TV: We’re Here S1-2
In this fun and moving reality series, drag queens Shangela, Eureka and Bob The Drag Queen (from reality competition show RuPaul’s Drag Race) travel around the US visiting small town to help LGBTQIA people to claim their space, celebrate their individuality, find their allies and establish community as they put on a drag show.
Their clients are a true reflection of what it’s like growing up queer, neurodivergent, differently abled – or any kind of different – in small-town USA now. We’re Here doesn’t gloss over their battles with family, pressure to stay in the closet, constant risk of assault, darkening political mood, and the mental effects of social isolation at church, work and school. The goal? Freeing people to be themselves despite all of that because, according to the word of Bob, “There is nothing more powerful than becoming what you imagine”.
Decider lauded the show as “nothing short of a miracle,” and “bigger, bolder, peak excellence”, saying it’s “unlike anything else on TV”, while A.V. Club called it “show stopping” and “a glammed up, emotional road trip.”
Best sex ed: Sex in Afrikaans
South Africa’s Afrikaans community is often seen as deeply conservative but this docu-reality series blows the lid off that potjie.
As clinical psychologist Bradley R Daniels leads a panel of 10 Afrikaans people in opening up about what they do when the neighbours aren’t looking, and what they’re curious about, we see the true range of how Afrikaans people pursue pleasure.
The panelists also comment on-screen interviews with sex workers who reveal what their clients ask for, owners of adult entertainment shops, and a host of people who enjoy alternative expressions of sexuality.
Sex in Afrikaans won the 2023 SAFTA for Best Structured or Docu-Reality Show.
Best local and international movies
If you’re looking for something shorter, Showmax also has multi-award-winning African films like the GLAAD winner Rafiki and nominee Kanarie; the BAFTA-nominated Moffie; the Oscar-shortlisted Inxeba | The Wound, and the Showmax favourite Umakoti Wethu, not to mention five of Rotten Tomatoes’ Best Queer Movies Of All Time: Booksmart, Parallel Mothers, Call Me By Your Name, The Fallout and Swan Song. Also look out for the AFI Docs Audience Award winner Transhood.
PS: ACE representation can be hard to come by but Conleth Hill who plays Varys in Game Of Thrones has confirmed that his character is asexual, as is Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons) in Watchmen S1.
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