The familiar meets the otherworldly in a groundbreaking new sci-fi series. Katherine McLaughlin finds that universal stories of love, loss and loneliness can work in any context

T he digital paintings of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag provide an eerie inspiration for a quietly atmospheric, understated and meticulously drawn live-action sci-fi series. Created by Nathaniel Halpern (previously a writer for Noah Hawley’s Legion), Tales from the Loop is breaking new ground as the first television show to be adapted from the medium of digital illustrations. This eight-parter is based on Stålenhag’s Tales from the Loop project which presented images of 1980s Swedish country life coalescing with future technology. Stålenhag’s online art amassed a big cult following, his work recalling the imagery of science-fiction titans such as Ralph McQuarrie and Syd Mead, best known for Star Wars and Blade Runner respectively.

Tales from the Loop’s stories have been relocated to North America, where an underground laboratory contains a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe. This machine has caused rifts in the space-time continuum and each episode tells the story of a local resident whose life is altered, or mind opened by inexplicable phenomena. The show begins with a simple introduction from ‘The Loop’ creator Russ (Jonathan Pryce), speaking directly to camera. From then on, the drama unfolds with little explanation but lots of intrigue. Contained tales about love, loss, grief and loneliness are wonderfully acted by a diverse cast, with the script

acknowledging those from all walks of life. Episode six tells a story about longing and betrayal from the perspective of a gay security guard, while the opener stars Rebecca Hall and places the spotlight on motherhood and career. Hall plays a scientist, Loretta (daughter-in-law to Russ), and Paul Schneider appears as her husband George. As the creators and keepers of ‘The Loop’, the family play a central role in the series, with George and Loretta’s son Cole (an impressive Duncan Joiner) making significant discoveries about life through the actions of his guardians. The otherworldly yet familiar setting, where retro robots roam freely in woodland areas, while technology, fashion and furnishings from multiple eras merge, is complemented by a powerfully melancholic score by Philip Glass and Paul Leonard- Morgan. Its haunting refrain recalls Carter Burwell’s magnificent composition for Todd Haynes’ Carol, with the separate stories playing out to a similarly restrained tone. The characters are faced with moral conundrums and the whole gamut of human experience, making for poignant viewing. Tapping into universal anxieties, this beautifully constructed series paints a timeless and compelling portrait of humanity.

Tales from the Loop is available on Amazon Prime, Fri 3 Apr lllll



RULE OF THREE Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley have written for Charlie Brooker and created those rebooted Ladybird Books. They’re now on the fifth collection of their podcast which asks comedy people to talk about their own favourite funny thing. To date, they’ve featured Chris Addison paying homage to Victoria Wood, Aisling Bea discussing Father Ted, and Sue Perkins drooling over Spinal Tap. CALL YOUR GIRLFRIEND Two pals, Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, call each other regularly about all manner of stuff within pop culture and politics, and record their conversations for our pleasure. Among the topics they’ve covered are activism, friendship, books and scams.

CAUTIONARY TALES Why do we humans often make the wrong decisions? Is it simply bad judgment or are our brains hardwired to keep letting us down? Among those discussed in the series are Galileo and John Maynard Keynes. THE HIT PARADE Through stories, trivia and songs, Chris Molanphy and guests tell the true tales of artists who have dominated the airwaves. Recent episodes have pondered Whitney Houston’s unique crossover appeal, wondered why the anti- establishment Woodstock festival spawned so many chart-toppers, and explored the decade which has just passed to ask: what the hell happened there? (Brian Donaldson)

Our alphabetical column on viewing marathons continues with shows in the C section About to reach its 100th episode, the quality control of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm (NOW TV) remains impressively high. But the all-time classic moments arguably

reside in the back-catalogue with episodes such as ‘Beloved Aunt’ (when an obituary goes wrong) and the final shot of ‘Club Soda and Salt’ which miraculously brings together five separate plot strands.

A sleeper hit from 2015, Call My Agent! (Netflix) is an addictive romp about an acting agency in Paris,

with real-life superstars (Béatrice Dalle, Monica Bellucci, Juliette Binoche) attempting not to have their careers ruined by a crew of loveable incompetents. Other C binges: Community (All 4 / Amazon Prime), Californication (NOW TV), Criminal Justice (BBC iPlayer).

100 THE LIST 1 Apr–31 May 2020