Batman, gossip and The Battle For Uber: Top TV picks for the week

Watch, listen and be inspired by Calum Henderson’s definitive list of what’s hot right now and from the vault.

Raised By Refugees (Prime/Sky Go/Neon)

2001 was a pivotal year in the life of comedian Pax Assadi. The 12-year-old started a new school, reached puberty, developed his first crush, was called a terrorist for the first time… all the usual milestones for a young Iranian-Pakistani New Zealander growing up in the aftermath of September 11. This coming-of-age experience is something Assadi has talked about a lot in his stand-up over the years, which is probably what makes his new autobiographical sitcom, Raised By Refugees, feel authentically funny right from the first episode.

Pax is played with an understated adolescent awkwardness by Kenus Binu, one of the many crack-up youngsters the show has unearthed. His first day at school coincides with basketball trials, where he forms a misfit friend group with the handful of other brown kids, plus Chris (Rufus Adam), an extremely weird self-styled inter-racial love guru. Funniest character in the show is probably between him and Pax’s little brother Mahan (Adam Lobo), who loves Martin Luther King jnr and bemoans his generation of “frail-minded children”.

Although the kids are mostly all laughs, the parents face more complex challenges in order to keep it that way. The real-life Pax plays his own dad Afnan, a good-natured appliance repairman, taxi driver and ideas man who goes by “Alf” at work because his boss (Jono from Jono and Ben) is a bit of a casual racist who’s too lazy to remember his name. Mum Safia (Kalyani Nagarajan), meanwhile, wears a brave face while facing quieter struggles of her own at home.

The show’s breezy sitcom exterior belies an emotional depth only really hinted at in the first episode. The further you watch, the more you come to appreciate how good a series it really is.

Sorry For Your Loss (TVNZ OnDemand)

When Facebook began commissioning a handful of original TV series a few years ago it seemed only a matter of time before they’d flick the switch and start properly competing with the global streaming giants. Instead they pivoted, then pivoted again, until they somehow ended up stranded in the metaverse. All that means hardly anybody saw Sorry For Your Loss the first time around. The drama series starring Elisabeth Olsen as a young widow dealing with the sudden loss of her husband is a genuine hidden gem and, now it’s found a second life on TVNZ OnDemand, it’s worth checking out.

Super Pumped: The Battle For Uber (Neon/Sky Go, from Monday)

The first season in what is planned to be a drama anthology series about “businesses that have affected the culture” stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who just about filled the whole bingo card of toxic tech CEO behaviour before he resigned in 2019. It’s based on the book of the same name by New York Times tech journalist Mike Isaac, which gave a gripping blow-by-blow account of all the workplace bullying, industrial espionage and other scandals. Isaac’s next book is apparently about Facebook, and will form the basis for the second season of Super Pumped.

Joe vs Carole (TVNZ OnDemand, from Thursday)

It doesn’t matter how many podcasts and documentary series are made, it’s never truly over until the events have been dramatised. Two years on from Tiger King, Joe vs Carole could – fingers crossed – be the final word on the whole affair. Based on the Wondery podcast series (season two of Over My Dead Body), this darkly comedic drama has a greater focus on kooky big cat lover Carole Baskin (Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon) than the Netflix documentary. Her rival, Joe Exotic, is played by John Cameron Mitchell, whom some might recognise as the insufferable magazine editor in both Girls and Shrill.

Movie of the Week: Those Who Wish Me Dead (Neon)

Angelina Jolie is a smokejumper – a kind of extreme firefighter who parachutes in to try and nip forest fires in the bud before they get out of hand. In new action-thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead, she has to try to help a young boy avoid being killed by ruthless assassins he witnessed murder his forensic accountant father. Straightforward, no-nonsense, very exciting – a throwback to a simpler and some may say better era of blockbuster cinema.

From the Vault: Batman (1989) (Netflix)

A new Batman – The Batman, with Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne – comes out this week. For some it will be the most hotly anticipated movie event since the last Batman movie; for others, an opportunity to go crawling back to the still unbeaten “original” 1989 Batman movie. Keaton and Basinger, Jack Nicholson as The Joker, the (deeply under-rated) soundtrack by Prince … Reboot it as many times as you like, you can’t improve on perfection.

Podcast of the Week: Normal Gossip

When was the last time you heard a truly wild bit of gossip? Not celebrity gossip, we’re talking long and impossible to verify stories about the friend of a friend’s sister who started dating this guy but it turns out he was also dating her best friend and neither of them knew about it until they both posted a pic of him on Instagram on Valentine’s Day. This type of gossip feels like it’s been in very short supply lately – but cometh the hour, cometh the podcast.

You don’t know the people being gossiped about in Normal Gossip. Most of the time host Kelsey McKinney doesn’t know them either. In each episode, she sits down with a different guest to share a low-stakes, utterly banal bit of gossip that’s been sent in about an anonymous stranger with them, and you inevitably end up totally captivated by it.

The stories are always at the harmless end of the gossip spectrum – in one, the friend of a friend uncovers acrylic wool hypocrisy in a small-town knitting circle, another is about sorority wedding etiquette gone too far. What would you have done? What happened next? Like all good gossip, the story itself is just the start of the conversation.

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