The excellent new and returning shows we’ll be watching on Neon this year

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Some tantalising new prospects and a couple of returning faves join Neon’s excellent selection of shows to stream in 2023. Steve Newall is here with the lowdown. 

Warning – contains minor spoilers and speculation about some new and returning shows.

Neon continues to build up a great catalogue of shows, and 2023 looks to be no exception. Joining a couple of high-profile shows making their return is a range of intriguing new viewing, which welcomely includes two very promising homegrown series (one of which is already an Emmy winner). Here are eight shows that are going to be fixtures on a lot of watchlists this year.

The Idol

A self-help guru and leader of a modern-day cult (Abel Tesfaye aka The Weeknd) develops a complicated relationship with an up-and-coming pop idol (Lily-Rose Depp) in this music industry drama series. The Idol‘s first teaser leaned into the grimy side of fame, proclaiming the show “The sleaziest love story in all of Hollywood” and hinting at showing us a lifestyle full of money, drugs and orgies. Did we mention Euphoria‘s Sam Levinson created the series alongside Abel Tesfaye? That suddenly seems relevant…

Also appearing in The Idol are musical artists Troye Sivan, TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and Moses Sumney alongside more established acting talent like Dan Levy, Rachel Sennott, Hank Azaria and Anne Heche in what’s reportedly the last role Heche shot before her tragic, untimely death. The show is remaining coy on details, but there’s sure to be plenty to get everyone’s tongue wagging once it hit screens…

The Last of Us

Our excitement for this post-apocalyptic thriller (now just weeks away!) has been scrupulously, some might say excessively, documented. But you know what? We haven’t been this amped to see something, much less a goddamn video game adaptation, for ages. A big part of that is our affinity for the magnificent 2013 action-adventure that made a huge impression on PlayStations, an acclaimed tale that took players into an immersive, emotionally-rich world full of broken characters and all manner of deadly adversaries.

Set to buck the trend when it comes to bringing gaming to the screen, aided hugely by the engaging narrative of its source material, this adaptation has seemed incredibly promising from its earliest announcements—that it was in the safe hands of Chernobyl showrunner Craig Mazin (alongside Neil Druckmann, creator of the games), would star Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, and had been given one hell of a budget by HBO. Then came the teaser and then the full trailer—and holy shit, The Last of Us looks like everything we hoped for.

Love & Death

Elizabeth Olsen (WandaVision) and Jesse Plemons (The Power of the Dog) lead this new based-on-a-true-story mini-series from TV mastermind David E. Kelley (The Undoing, Big Little Lies, Ally McBeal). Set in small-town Texas in the 1980s, Love & Death centres on two churchgoing couples, who seem happy enough—until someone picks up an axe.

Olsen seems a perfect fit as Candy Montgomery, someone you’d scarcely imagine possible of committing a gruesome suburban crime, with Patrick Fugit playing Candy’s husband Pat. Plemons makes up one half of the other couple in this tragic tale, his wife played by The Undoing‘s Lily Rabe. “It’s the dark side of the American dream,” director Lesli Linka Glatter told EW about the mini-series, adding “hopefully whether you know the end of the story or you don’t, you will be with us for the ride.”

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Not Even

From the producers of hugely entertaining local feature The Breaker Upperers comes Wellington-based comedy series Not Even, which sees five young friends and flatmates grapple with what it means to be Māori  in the 2020s. Directed by Ainsley Gardiner and Dana Leaming, the show describes its characters as crashing through Wellington city, “warring first with their cultural identities and then with each other.”

Bringing this “average group of twenty-something Māori and Pasifika living in Wellington, Aotearoa” to life is an ensemble including Aria Dehar, Manu Vaea, Rongopai Tickell, Tāne Rolfe and recent NZTV Award winner Scotty Cotter. Their characters strive to support each other as they wrestle with issues of identity, but despite their long history and familial connections their own anxieties and insecurities come to a head with once solid friendships pushed to breaking point.

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Rūrangi: Rising Lights

After its outstanding International Emmy win for Best Short-Form Series last November, anticipation is high for the return of acclaimed drama Rūrangi, which looks at modern Aotearoa through a tran lens. Possibly more familiar to viewers here combined in its feature film format—which Amelia Berry described for Flicks as communicating trans experiences like no other—Rūrangi followed out trans man Caz (Elz Carrad) as he returned home to the rural community where he grew up, and to the father who hadn’t spoken to Caz since before he transitioned.

The new full season coming next year looks to build on these narrative foundations, with Caz no longer afraid to shake things up in his conservative dairy-farming hometown. Among what’s promised in the new batch of episodes is Caz starting a rainbow youth group, Anahera invoking the spirit of a defiant ancestress and trans activists from Auckland arriving to help campaign for a phosphate rollback bylaw. Catch up by watching the feature film on Neon, and find out why we’re so excited about these next chapters for the now internationally-acclaimed Rūrangi.

Succession: Season 4

“Do you want to talk about what happened?” Tom says to Shiv in the teaser for season four of Succession. Well, damn right we want them to! Not to mention scream and swear until blue in the face. Season three ended in a betrayal hall of mirrors, with multiple dastardly schemes layering on top of one another until the biggest one of all from Tom—in other words, just what we want from the show.

Will Kendall, Shiv and Roman maintain the unity of their “rebel alliance” next season? Does that metaphor match Logan calling himself “a hundred feet tall” and other people “pygmies”? What we do know is that Waystar Royco’s sale to Alexander Skarsgård’s Lukas Matsson continues its momentum, and fittingly Succession has been shooting in location in Norway. Presumably, we’ll also be hearing the word “fuck” a lot, Kendall will provide many eye-rolls, and devastating put-downs will be leveled by everyone in all directions indiscriminately. Can’t wait.

White House Plumbers

Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux lead this miniseries as the “plumbers” of the title—not handymen, but instead hapless real-life political operatives E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Libby.  So named because they were tasked with plugging leaks from Nixon presidency and help his chances of re-election, the pair’s tactics include “sabotage, espionage, infiltration, bare-knuckle tactics. Same shit they do to us every election.”

Many of you will know how this all ends, but this looks to be an interesting take on a familiar tale for a number of reasons. Beyond the great casting of Harrelson and Theroux, other actors include Lena Headey, Judy Greer, Domhnall Gleeson and Kathleen Turner, with the mini-series looking at the pair’s family lives as their exploits create unforeseen consequences. And it’s all in the hands of Veep showrunner David Mandel (also of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm), all shows which line up well with the real-life tale he’s telling—one that may resonate further with ongoing revelations about Jan 6th investigations out of the U.S.

Yellowjackets: Season 2

With not one but two superb casts of women—one playing teens whose plane crashes in the wilderness, the other their present-day selves—Yellowjackets brought excellent acting pedigree to its increasingly mysterious premise. By the time the first 10-episode season had wrapped up, we’d been treated to Lord of the Flies survival thrills, hidden suburban secrets, cult-y creepiness, abduction, murder, banging 90s music, drug trips, and more—maybe even the occult?

Season two has a cliffhanger to pick up from, and also continues to make great additions to the cast that are also a bit spoiler-y in terms of who survives to adulthood—but are too good not to mention here, so exercise caution in reading further.

Joining Melanie Lynskey, Juliette Lewis and Christina Ricci in portraying the grown-up survivors are Aotearoa’s Simone Kessell (Muru, Obi-Wan Kenobi) and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under, Servant). According to Variety, Kessell plays the adult Lottie (whose teen counterpart, played by Courtney Eaton, was revealed as cannibal leader the Antler Queen), while Ambrose is adult Van (Liv Hewson plays her younger self). Also reportedly onscreen this season—Lynskey’s real-life husband Jason Ritter and honorary New Zealander Elijah Wood.