And … relax. After the festive fusillade of eyeball-grabbers on your streaming service of choice, here’s your chance to sink into the sofa and do nothing much – just like the participants in Japanese reality television show Terrace House: Opening New Doors.
Hang on before you switch off: although watching six strangers move in together, then gossip, shop, cook, eat, sleep and occasionally do something sporty might sound as interesting as repeats of the Chinese Communist Party’s 19th national congress, this is like the Big Brother franchise with manners – a polite take on global trash TV.
Opening New Doors is the fourth season of Terrace House, and if you haven’t seen the other three, where have you been? The first 40 of 45 episodes are now available for bingeing on Netflix.
The concept is not complicated; put three males and three females of the species together in a house and hope for the sake of viewing figures that some fall in love, preferably with each other. Not, you understand, hope that they do anything as coarse as have sex, but instead develop old-fashioned romantic attachments.
Opening New Doors begins with a student and wannabe model, a trainee chef, a freelance writer, an amateur ice hockey player, professional snowboarder and a fledgling model, aged 19 to 31, all of whom live together in a large, fetchingly designed house in the woods outside mountain resort town Karuizawa. Snow sports, hot springs, waterfalls, attractive people in cosy communal gatherings; what could possibly go wrong?
Cue yelps of laughter – not from new friends but from the other players in this effortlessly likeable production. Six random commentators (also evenly divided between the sexes) back in the studio constitute a sort of truncated Greek chorus voicing opinions on potential resident interaction and linking the on-location scenes.
It’s all unscripted authenticity and it’s impossible not to develop favourites as characters emerge. But as for who gets it on with whom … watch and learn.
True Detective returns with a third season
Shape-shifting crime thriller True Detective has reappeared for a third series with new leading faces, Mahershala Ali and Stephen Dorff stepping in from the casting department’s revolving door.
Written as an anthology featuring different primary characters each season, True Detective made its big splash when Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were the flawed-personality badge wielders. Their winning, odd-couple collaboration in the inaugural run was always going to make life hard for whoever followed, hence the largely misplaced critical panning of successors Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell.
Now here comes True Detective three, arriving to no little fanfare on HBO Go and Now TV channel 115 at 10am, on January 14 (to coincide with its American broadcast), but with a 10pm rewind for those who find that jobs inconvenience their viewing. Episode two will follow episode one immediately, with six subsequent hour-long instalments available at the same time on Mondays.
True Detective remains a creature that rewards patience, with events unfolding slowly in various periods. Here, a true-crime documentary-maker interviews retired state policeman Wayne “Purple” Hays (Ali) about the disappearance of two Arkansas children 35 years earlier.
Flashbacks revisit associated grisly events as well as Hays’ alliance with Roland West (Dorff), who looks like he might go all KKK on his black partner any moment. Hays is haunted by more than one storyline too, not least that concerning his love interest (Carmen Ejogo).
The case delivers shocking twists as new leads surface, while the memories of the ageing, frustrated Hays fade. True Detective is the classy kind of whodunit, provoking, teasing and taking as long as it likes before demolishing all your convoluted conspiracy theories.