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New show Famous in Love lacks bite, but there's one saving grace

With so many entertainment options, it's easy to miss brilliant TV shows, movies and documentaries. Here are the ones to hit or miss.

Famous In Love
Stan

It's a young-Hollywood version of Nashville as emerging actress Paige Townsen (Bella Thorne) and her affordably telegenic pals try to take Tinseltown by storm.

Actually, that comparison is too flattering.

While Famous In Love does aspire to Nashville levels of knotty melodrama – and its leading lady does have a striking tumble of rose-gold locks – the show lacks Nashville's emotional heft and its wonderful music.

It does, however, have a substantial asset in Perrey Reeves (who was invariably wonderful as Mrs Ari in Entourage), and an overabundance of establishing shots so spectacular that the Los Angeles Tourism Board can pretty much put their feet up from here on out.

The second season begins with Paige delighting in her shiny new romance with old pal Jake (Charlie DePew), for whom she is doing a low-budget indie flick while production on the studio movie she's supposed to be starring in is shut down.

Main character Paige Townsen, right, is a young woman whose life changes when she's cast in a blockbuster movie.

Main character Paige Townsen, right, is a young woman whose life changes when she’s cast in a blockbuster movie.

It's shut down because Paige's co-star, Rainer (Carter Jenkins), is dragging out his stay at an expensive seaside rehab joint – partly because he enjoys being a sun-lounge lizard, but mostly to punish Paige and his mother and producer, Nina (Reeves), and studio boss Alan (Days of Our Lives heartthrob Shawn Christian).

The series has a sense of humour, albeit an occasional and underdeveloped one. When Alan tells rising star Jordan Wilder (Keith Powers) that the studio won't be pushing him at awards season because they're trying to get Matt Damon an Oscar for wearing a fat suit and a bald wig it conjures up an amusing image but not much more.

There's plenty else going on, with sleazy reality-TV shows, ruthless mums-turned-managers (Vanessa A. Williams among them) and other showbiz staples.

But it's all delivered straight, rather than with the bite of something like UnREAL.

Bella Thorne plays Paige in Famous in Love.

Bella Thorne plays Paige in Famous in Love.

Reeves is the best thing about it, bringing a touch of softness to her sharp, tough-talking character – though she doesn't get to push the boat out as far in either direction as Constance Zimmer does in UnREAL.

Which is also on Stan, so you should probably just watch that instead.

Daniel Sloss.

Daniel Sloss.

Daniel Sloss: Live Shows
Netflix

Stand-up comedians are now obliged to drop multiple specials at once. Here Scottish comic Daniel Sloss, a young man of unusual preoccupations, drops two.

They were recorded a year apart, and with the second referring back to the first they enhance each other a little bit.

When not covering sex and toileting or pushing audience buttons for his own amusement, Sloss works to get viewers to analyse their own gut reactions to jokes about disability and gets seriously evangelical about ending dud relationships.

A scene from I am the Blues.

A scene from I am the Blues.

I Am the Blues
Amazon Prime Video

A marvellous, immersive documentary introducing us to the characters of the old-fashioned blues scenes in Mississippi and Louisiana – places where under-appreciated legends still sit around trading sublime licks on the front porches of juke joints, at front-yard barbecues, and on what remains of the old Chitlin' Circuit.

With preternaturally youthful octogenarian Bobby Rush as his guide, writer-director Daniel Cross captures more than just the music.

There's a palpable sense of camaraderie and shared history forged through decades of discrimination that still stings.

A portion of DocPlay's excellent short film selection.

A portion of DocPlay’s excellent short film selection.

DocPlay Short Films

DocPlay

Along with its hundreds of feature-length documentaries and factual television programs, DocPlay also has a nice little collection of snack-sized short films that offer intriguing glimpses of the world around us.

In just five minutes, Vic Invades shows us some of the spectacular views that an urban explorer finds in the giddy heights and secret depths of New York.

In just nine minutes, Smut Hounds has David Stratton explain his historic battle with the Australian film censorship regime of the 1960s.

Briga Heelan plays Katie Wendelson in Great News.

Briga Heelan plays Katie Wendelson in Great News.

Great News
Netflix

Overworked, under-appreciated TV news producer Katie Wendelson (Briga Heelan) and her hyper-talkative, unfiltered New Jersey mum, Carol (Difficult People's Andrea Martin), are the best of friends.

And somehow they remain so even after Carol becomes a mature-age intern at Katie's show, bringing Katie a whirlwind of mortification and aggravation – along with plenty of maternal love and wisdom.

The show, created by Emmy winner Tracey Wigfield (30 Rock), is fast-paced, unpredictable, packed with clever gags, and full of memorable characters brilliantly cast.

Prominent among them are the mismatched newsreading duo: irascible, out-of-touch old Chuck (John Michael Higgins) and privileged millennial thought bubbler Portia (a slyly hilarious Nicole Richie).

What sets Great News apart – aside from the quality of its writing and its unsung ensemble – is its uncommon sweetness. Both Heelan and Martin are enormously appealing, their characters' relationship is genuinely touching, and the show never becomes crass or mean.

It also takes an unusual approach to the wider generation gap, highlighting divides but underlining how much each cohort can learn from the other. An unalloyed delight.

Tim Roth and Samantha Morton star in Rillington Place.

Tim Roth and Samantha Morton star in Rillington Place.

Rillington Place
Stan

Those who found Jodie Comer a revelation in Killing Eve might want to check her out in this much grimmer miniseries about the crimes of British serial killer John Reginald Christie, who murdered at least eight people between 1943 and 1953.

Tim Roth quickly establishes Christie as a loathsome creep whose pathetic physical appearance belies an aggressively brazen dishonestly and insidious evil.

The more curious character, though, is Christie's wife, Ethel (Samantha Morton), whose unhappy devotion persists through every egregious insult.

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