Monday, 13 September 2021

TV review: Clickbait, Netflix (2021)

Punctilious and austere, Detective Roshan Amiri (Phoenix Raei) is one of the standouts in this police procedural that has a very contemporary edge because driven by an idea centred around social media. The search engine the characters use (“SearchNow”) might be fictional but the ways that people lower the tone online in the show is true-to-life. In fact all of the leads do a good job of rendering this little world in living colour, including Zoe Kazan as Pia, the sister of the dead man, Nick Brewer. Nick’s wife Sophie (Betty Gabriel) compels, bringing a soft but steely charm to muscle out Pia’s nervous abruptness. 

The writing is also good, with clean and effortless sophistication bringing the viewer up to date while, almost at the same time, pushing the plot along relentlessly. As soon as you think you’ve got a handle on things, something else comes along to disabuse you and to inject a dash of madness into the mix. Episodes are subtitled – for example episode 1 is “The Sister” and episode 5 is “The Reporter” – and as each one opens you’re given a different character on whom to focus more completely. 

The casting is more than competent, and Abraham Lim as Ben Park crackles with suppressed energy, the reporter going the extra few yards to get his story, elbowing aside obstacles in his eagerness for the promotion, for the headline, for the exclusive. I was mesmerised Park, who is gay, and by his ambition to succeed at all costs, a tendency in journalists that is all too common. His boyfriend’s (Jake Speer) reticence in this regard created a distinct contrast to highlight his forward motion into a chaos that the public sphere must seem to form for victims of conspicuous crimes, such as the Brewers in their comfortable suburban Oakland house. 

Though much of the filming was done in Melbourne, the capital of the Australian state of Victoria, Sacramento gets a show-in in this series, adding novelty that other aerial views rarely match because used too often; how many helicopter pans over Manhattan can one Netflix subscriber tolerate? The writers have gone to town also with the variety of people Nick got involved in in his truncated life, with associated characters including a health insurance manager (Jessica Collins) and a content moderator (Daniel Henshall). But it’s more than just a concise snapshot of the United States of America in all of its West Coast glory, it’s a compulsive thriller.

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