The best TV shows to stream in October

By Thomas Mitchell

What to stream in October: Bali 2002; Handmaid’s Tale; Luxe Listings Sydney.

Another month, another batch of TV shows guaranteed to keep you glued to the couch. It’s already been a massive year in television, but things aren’t slowing down as all the streamers serve up bumper entertainment this October.

Among this month’s highlights is Stan*’s moving drama series Bali 2002, which looks back at the deadly Indonesian terror attacks that took place 20 years ago. Over on Prime Video, there’s a brand-new season of Luxe Listings Sydney featuring jaw-dropping (un) real estate from Australia’s most competitive market.

Parents and kids alike will find plenty to enjoy in the new Disney + film Pinocchio while the long-awaited Shantaram TV series, based on the bestselling book, finally hits Apple TV + this month.

From factual to funny, our what-to-watch list for October is guaranteed to offer something for everyone. Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to tell us what you’re watching.

Netflix

Clockwise from main: Alex Prugo in The Real Bling Ring, Joel Edgerton in The Stranger and Lost Ollie. Credit:Netflix

Our top recommendation on Netflix is The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist, which gets ★★★★.

Safe to say, we love a true-crime documentary series, but when that series features crimes committed against real-life Hollywood stars, that’s the jackpot. Cast your mind back to 2008 and 2009 when a group of teens made headlines worldwide for breaking into the primarily empty mansions of Hollywood stars, including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Rachel Bilson, and stealing a bunch of their stuff. The media nicknamed them The Bling Ring (very catchy), and according to reporting by Vanity Fair, they stole more than $3 million worth of clothing and jewellery. Naturally, it all came undone and alleged Bling Ringleaders Nick Prugo and Rachel Lee, as well as acquaintances Courtney Ames, Diana Tamayo, and Roy Lopez, were charged. The crime was dramatised in a 2013 film starring Emma Watson, but this Netflix series sees the real perpetrators telling their side of the story over three episodes.

What else to watch on Netflix:

If you like true-crime films with a twist … The Stranger is the much-anticipated retelling of how police caught Daniel Morcombe’s killer in a complex undercover operation. Joel Edgerton plays the covert operative who engineers a chance meeting with his mark, while BAFTA Award winner Sean Harris plays the suspect, unaware of the sting unfolding around him. From October 19.

If you want something heartwarming … Lost Ollie tells the story of Ollie, a gorgeous patchwork soft toy and best friend of young Billy (Kesler Talbot), who is cruelly bullied at school and whose mother (Gina Rodriguez) is slowly dying at home. When Ollie is lost, the quest for reunion begins. Oscar-winning director Peter Ramsay (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) does a terrific job with the human cast as well as the animated one. – Brad Newsome

If you have a strange fascination with serial killers … Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes will spotlight the gruesome true crimes of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer for the third instalment of Conversations With a Killer. The series will feature never-before-heard audio interviews between Dahmer and his defence team, which shed light on his warped psyche while answering these open questions of police accountability through a modern-day lens. From October 7.

Stan

Clockwise from main: Richard Roxburgh as former Australian Federal Police officer Graham Ashton in Bali 2002; The Serpent Queen; David Attenborough. Credit:Stan

Our top recommendation on Stan is Bali 2002, which gets ★★★★.

The risks of making shows about real-life tragedies are so high, the chance of backlash so great, that it’s a wonder anyone even tries.

Witness the opprobrium that greeted Nitram, Justin Kurzel’s excellent movie about the Port Arthur massacre, before anyone had seen a single frame of it. Bali 2002 could have easily met the same response – indeed, it might yet. But it shouldn’t, because this four-part drama about the terrorist attack 20 years ago that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, is handled with care and respect and largely avoids the many pitfalls that might have awaited it.

It helps that it is mostly not about the deed or the dead but rather those who survived. And that means it’s much less about the moment’s horror than the lingering trauma that follows.

We are invited to care for multiple characters who emerge from the carnage, though not all will make it. The focus shifts throughout the North Melbourne footballer Jason McCartney (Sean Keenan) gets the spotlight for a while; English woman Polly Miller (Bridgerton’s Claudia Jessie) struggles with survivor guilt as the only one of her party of 10 to make it out alive; young Australian woman Nicole McLean (Elizabeth Cullen) is furious that the life she had planned – party, marriage, children – has been ripped apart; while Balinese woman Ni-Luh Erniati (Sri Ayu Jati Kartika) will have no peace until she’s laid to rest her husband’s scant remains.

The throughline comes from the hunt for the perpetrators, and here too the show treads respectfully. Graham Ashton (Richard Roxburgh) is the AFP officer sent to lead the international side of the operation, but he’s at all times mindful of protocol, of political and cultural sensitivities, of the need to take a partnering role with the Indonesians rather than trying to assume the lead. Roxburgh plays Ashton – who went on to head Victoria’s police force – as a man of infinite calm and patience, but he was clearly passionate about the role, and this project. – Karl Quinn

Read our review and our interview with Bali 2002 star Richard Roxburgh.

What else to watch on Stan:

If you love MAFS … then Stan’s new original reality dating program Love Triangle will be your new crush. Made by the creators of MAFS, Love Triangle is a twist on modern dating, allowing a single contestant to spend a few days talking and texting two different love interests before choosing one person to go on a blind date with, sight unseen. From October 6.

If you like your history served full of holes but full of LOLS The Serpent Queen boasts an impressive cast, including two-time Oscar nominee Samantha Morton as a flinty, hard-bitten Catherine de’ Medici and Charles Dance gently nibbling the carpentry as her jaded uncle, Pope Clement VII. But the real star of the show is young Liv Hill (Three Girls) as the young Catherine, a bewildered but scrappy girl who might easily have been murdered in the conflicts that convulsed Italy in the 1530s but instead went on to be the wife of one French king and the mother of three more. The series’ heightened yet earthy feel might briefly put viewers in mind of the deliciously outre satire of The Great (Stan), but The Serpent Queen keeps its feet pretty firmly in the muck. – Brad Newsome

If you need Attenborough to take the edge off Attenborough’s Life that Glows is a gobsmacking documentary looking at some of the thousands of different bioluminescent species on our planet and the wide range of things they do with their lights. Predatory fireflies use their lights to attract prey; glowing forest millipedes use light to warn of their toxicity; and various marine organisms use it to expose their predators to other predators. The footage is amazing — not least that of a brilliant neon-blue tide in Tasmania — and David Attenborough and other experts explain things well. – Brad Newsome

Binge

Clockwise from main: Hunter S. Thompson in Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S. Thompson; Armie Hammer in House of Hammer; Miles Teller on SNL.

Our top recommendation on Binge is Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S. Thompson, which gets ★★★.

Hunter S. Thompson expanded journalism in an extraordinary way. Emerging from the counter-cultural ferment of 1960s San Francisco, his searing reportage was participatory and partisan, fuelled by booze, drugs and righteous rage. But Thompson was no mere circus clown – as is abundantly attested by this documentary from Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief). Gibney’s focus on Thompson at his most politically relevant is welcome, but it renders the broader picture less than complete, particularly when it comes to his early life influences. – Brad Newsome

What else to watch on Binge:

If you’re an SNL tragic … Saturday Night Live returns for its 48th season, live from New York!. Celebrity hosts for this new season include Miles Teller, Brendan Gleeson and Megan Thee Stallion, while rap star Kendrick Lamar will perform in the season opener. From October 3.

If you can’t stop thinking about the Armie Hammer scandal … three-part documentary series House of Hammer explores the sordid history of the Hammer family while also catching up with several of the Hollywood star’s alleged victims. From October 9.

If you like talking about property … chances are you like watching shows about property too, so Selling In The City might be your new favourite series. The show sees designer Rosie Morley and renowned Landscape Artist Paddy Milne team up to provide a facelift to some of Australia’s most in-demand inner-city properties, helping young millennials maximise the value of their property to achieve their dream of climbing the property ladder. From October 19.

Amazon Prime

Clockwise from main: Luxe Listings Sydney; Lizzo on Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrls; Liam Neeson in Memory.Credit:Amazon Prime Video

Our top recommendation on Amazon Prime is Luxe Listings Sydney which gets ★★★★.

Welcome home! Luxe Listings Sydney returns for the third season, which means there are more properties for you to ogle while accepting that you will never have the funds to afford them. The show has become a kind of hate-to-love it, yet love-to-hate-it offering, but that hasn’t stopped Luxe Listings from developing into one of the best homegrown reality TV series. Much of the appeal comes down to the talent involved, with real estate agent Gavin Rubinstein continuing his form as a one-man one-liner machine. At the same time, his sparring partner Simon Cohen also seems to speak exclusively in memorable sound bites. Rounding out the foursome is D’Leanne Lewis and Monika Tu, both of whom know how to play into the high-stakes world of luxury real estate. This season Simon and Gavin are locked in a tense battle to sell Delta Goodrem her next house, while Monika and D’Leanne deal with highly competitive auctions. Much like many of the properties featured on the show Luxe Listings Sydney is outrageous, over the top, and yet you can’t seem to look away.

What else to watch on Amazon Prime Video:

If you’re 100% that Lizzo fan … then Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls is compulsory viewing. It’s uncommonly uplifting as plus-size pop star Lizzo sets about finding big dancers for this year’s concert tour. It’s a standard reality competition format, but a few things set it apart. One is the sheer delight that the spontaneous, funny, and infectiously joyful Lizzo brings to proceedings. Another is that Lizzo really is the boss and can do whatever she wants — in the very first episode, she yanks one dancer out of the competition and sends her straight into rehearsals for the tour.

If you’re craving a classic 80s action flick … Samaritan is a surprisingly agreeable blend of ultraviolent ’80s action flick and grim, dark 21st-century superhero fantasy. Sylvester Stallone plays an old garbage-truck driver named Joe, who might or might not be the lost local superhero that 13-year-old latchkey kid Sam (Javon Walton) wants him to be. Australian director Julius Avery gives their rustbelt city and its vicious criminal element a distinctly modern look that still evokes such classics as Mad Max. Expect tacit self-awareness, bone-crunching action and explosions. – Brad Newsome

If you want to see Liam Neeson playing an assassin … literally watch any Liam Neeson movie. But if you want to watch Liam Neeson playing an assassin in a new movie, then you should probably check out Memory. This time round Neeson is Alex Lewis (Liam Neeson), a hired assassin at a turning point. Living in El Paso, Texas, and coming to grips with a faltering memory just as he plans to retire, Alex is ready to conclude a long career of violence and secrecy when an old contact gives him a final assignment. From October 7.

Disney +

Clockwise from main: Tom Hanks in Pinocchio; Diego Luna in Andor and Steve Carell in The Patient.Credit:Disney+

Our top recommendation on Disney + is Pinnochio which gets ★★★

Carlo Collodi’s classic tale of the moral education of a mischievous puppet has entered folklore and is full of memorable images, the hero’s growing nose being just one example. No wonder there have been so many bids to adapt it for the movies, even if the 1940 Disney cartoon remains definitive (and a high point of animation history in general). Co-starring Tom Hanks as the kindly woodcutter Geppetto, this new Disney version occupies the uncanny border country between live action and animation, like much of the latter-day work of director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future). But that makes an odd kind of sense for a story about a character who yearns to be human but isn’t quite.: Collodi’s original 1883 novel was darker and more political than you might guess from the screen adaptations. Which are coming thick and fast – Roberto Benigni played Geppetto in Italian director Matteo Garrone’s version a couple of years back, and Guillermo del Toro’s take is on the way. – Jake Wilson

Read our review.

What else to watch on Disney +:

If you’ve ever wondered about Mike Tyson’s back story … Mike is a flawed bio-drama series from I, Tonya writer Steven Rogers that spends half its length going with the flow, eliding and minimising Tyson’s abuse of women. Then comes Tyson’s 1991 rape of 18-year-old Desiree Washington, and the series lands a body blow that takes the breath out of the viewer. The earlier episodes are a mixed bag, despite terrific performances, not least from Rhodes and Harvey Keitel as boxing trainer Cus D’Amato. It’s impossible not to feel for the young Tyson, a victim of relentless, damaging violence from an early age, but Rogers’ bizarre decision to structure the series as a dramatisation of Tyson’s self-serving one-man stage show builds in an excuse mechanism that works overtime. – Brad Newsome

If you’re a lifelong Star Wars fan … then no doubt you’ve been counting down to Andor. In the new series Andor, the younger Mon Mothma appears in the infancy of the Empire as an influential senator helping to build the foundations of what will become the good guys of the entire Star Wars saga, “the Rebel Alliance”. The new series Andor is set five years before the historic vents of the films Rogue One and Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, so here we meet Cassian when he is still unformed, a kid from the wrong side of the galactic tracks trying to find his way in the galaxy. – Michael Idato

If you enjoy serious Steve Carell … The Patient is a psychological thriller in which psychotherapy is both the setting and the subject – or at least a subject – and so the patient serves as both noun and adjective. It unravels slowly, just like therapy might, and it rewards the patient viewer, even if there’s no guarantee the patient himself will be cured. The Patient starts with a man seemingly trapped in a nightmare, chained to the floor in a room with three doors, each of them just out of reach. We soon learn he is therapist Alan Strauss (Steve Carell), who is being held prisoner, by a youngish man called Gene (Domhnall Gleeson), who had come to see him hoping for a cure. – Karl Quinn

Paramount+

Clockwise from main: Taylor Hawkins honoured in concert; Kathryn Eisman from Undressed; new episodes of Inside Amy Schumer.Credit:Paramount Plus

Our top recommendation on Paramount+ is Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert which gets ★★★★.

Huge emotion and high-voltage rock’n’roll make this 5.5-hour concert special filmed at London’s Wembley Arena this month a fitting tribute to Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died in March. The long list of performers includes Paul McCartney, the Pretenders, AC/DC’s Brian Johnson and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Rush’s Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, Nile Rodgers and members of Queen. There’s not a dry eye in the house as Hawkins’ 16-year-old son, Shane, joins the Foo Fighters to play drums on My Hero. – Brad Newsome

What else to watch on Paramount+:

If you love a good transformation series … Undressed is a homegrown original that seeks to examine the question: are we choosing clothing that truly reflects ourselves? The series sees everyday Australians presenting themselves to host Kathryn Eisman, who then reads their clothes and determines what is holding them back. Sign us up.

If you miss the old Amy Schumer … then it’s time to rejoice because Paramount is bringing back Inside Amy Schumer. The sketch comedy show helped turn Schumer into a household name before coming to an end in 2016, but now Inside Amy Schumer will return with a batch of five new episodes. From October 20.

Apple TV +

Clockwise from main: Sidney Poitier; Russell Crowe and Zac Efron in The Greatest Ever Beer Run; Taron Egerton in Black Bird.Credit:AP; Suppliedtar

Our top recommendation on Apple TV + is Sidney which gets ★★★★.

Sidney Poitier was the first black actor to become a big box office star. He was also a fervent campaigner for civil rights. This fond and engaging documentary about his life, work and politics occasionally verges on hagiography, but who cares? He deserved the tribute. Sidney details the challenges Poitier faced on his way to the top while also offering a glimpse of how difficult Hollywood was for a black actor at that time. Sidney is well worth a watch, and it’s near impossible not to revisit his body of work once the credits roll. Our top two seminal Poitier movies, The Defiant Ones and In the Heat of the Night. – Sandra Hall

Read our review.

What else to watch on Apple TV+:

If you once read Shantaram on holidays … the TV series based on the best-selling 2003 novel by Gregory David Roberts is finally here. Shantaram has been in production limbo land for years, with several actors and directors attached to the project. But now it finally exists with Charlie Hunnman playing Lin Ford, a fugitive looking to get lost in vibrant and chaotic 1980s, Bombay.

If you know the truth is stranger than fiction … The Greatest Beer Run Ever will be right up your alley. The film is based on the true story of John “Chickie” Donohue (Zac Efron), who in 1968 left New York to track down and share a few beers with his childhood buddies now in the Army, fighting in Vietnam.

If you enjoy prison dramas … Black Bird is one of the sleeper hits of the year. A hybrid prison drama/crime thriller, Black Bird hinges on the relationship between two men: former college football star Jimmy Keene (Taron Egerton) and Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), a suspected serial killer of teenage girls.

SBS on Demand

Clockwise from main: Yvonne Strahovski in The Handmaid’s Tale; Jay Laga’aia in Lost for Words; Dishing It Up.

Our top recommendation on SBS On Demand is The Handmaid’s Tale which gets ★★★½.

If you’ve stuck with the saga of June (Elisabeth Moss) this far, you’ll probably want to stick around to the end. Season five starts with her in Canada, wracked with a strange emotion – not guilt, not remorse, more like disappointment mixed with fury – that she appears destined to go unpunished for the murder of Fred (Joseph Fiennes) at the end of the last season. That fury ratchets up a notch when she realises Serena (Yvonne Strahovski) has somehow managed to secure a state funeral for Gilead’s greatest traitor – and to get it televised around the world in a bid to soften the image of the fascist theocracy. For all that it’s a critique of the patriarchy, the show now seems inevitably set for a violent showdown between its two strongest women. Go figure. – Karl Quinn

Read our review.

What else to watch on SBS on Demand:

If you’ve ever grappled with grief … A Beginner’s Guide to Grief is a funny, poignant and frequently anarchic exploration of grief and family from some sensational young Australian talent. Plus. Regular cameos from an adorable corgi. – Melinda Houston

If you need something uplifting … the second season of Lost for Words begins on SBS on Demand this October. Hosted by literacy advocate Jay Laga’aia, Lost For Words brings together nine courageous Australians hoping to overcome their literacy struggles. From October 12.

If you fancy yourself as a home chef … Dishing It Up sees amateur home cooks tackling some of the most famous celebrity chef recipes of all time. From Nigella Lawson’s speckled brown butter colcannon to Poh Ling Yeow’s braided beef curry puffs, this is mouth-watering viewing.

ABC iview

Clockwise from main: Nicola Walker and Sean Bean in Marriage; Jan Fran from Question Everything; Hard Quiz host Tom Gleeson.Credit:Rory Mulvey/BBC; Supplied

Our top recommendation on ABC iview is Marriage which gets ★★★.

The dissolution of marriage seems to be having a moment of sorts in popular culture. Last year we watched Oscar Isaacs, and Jessica Chastain slowly fall out of love with one another in HBO’s deeply moving Scenes From a Marriage (available here on Binge). A couple of years prior, Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver broke apart in Noah Baumbach’s unflinching film Marriage Story. Both these projects depict the breakdown of marriage not as a grand dramatic gesture but as a slow disintegration, the type of loss that builds up over the years. This same framework sets the scene for the acclaimed BBC drama series Marriage, starring Sean Bean and Nicola Walker. Across four episodes, we chart the mundane lives of Emma (Nicola Walker) and Ian (Sean Bean), a predictable, boring white lower middle-class couple of empty nesters. With their daughter having recently left home, the gap of her departure reveals how the pair love and loathe each other in equal measure.

What else to watch on ABC iview:

If you like it blunt … both seasons of the underrated Blunt Talk are now available on ABC iview. This series follows Walter Blunt (Patrick Stewart), a British import intent on conquering the world of American cable news. Through his nightly news show, Blunt is on a mission to impart his wisdom and guidance on how Americans should live, think and behave.

If you’re full of questions … then season two of Question Everything should provide all the answers. Wil Anderson and Jan Fran are back to try (and sometimes fail) to make sense of the madness of the news cycle.

If you like being yelled at HARD … Hard Quiz returns with host Tom Gleeson back to his shouty best. Now in its seventh season, the ABC quiz show sees everyday Australians laying their reputations on the line in the search for Hard Quiz glory.

Other free streamers

Matt Le Nevez and Asher Keddie in Offspring.Credit:Ten

Our top recommendation on other free streamers is Love Between The Covers which gets ★★★½.

If you grew up sneaking your nanna’s copies of Mills & Boon, you might be surprised to discover what a booming modern-day market there is for romance novels. Sure, there’s still plenty of room for the old bare-chested book covers, but now there are books that cater to all, um, tastes – sci-fi, time-travel, vampire and Amish – to name a few. Although from 2015, this documentary is an excellent look at the romance novel industry and the tight bond between writers and their fans.

Directed by Emmy Award winner Laurie Kahn, Love Between The Covers offers a piercing look into the billion-dollar romance fiction industry and its powerhouse of female writers and readers. 7Plus

What else to watch on free streamers:

If the Kardashians are your guilty pleasure … Flip It Like Disick might be the little-known Kardashian-adjacent program you haven’t yet seen. This bizarre show’s premise is all in the title: Scott Disick flipping houses. But we’re all here to catch Disick’s famous assortment of friends, including Steve Aoki, Kris Jenner and Sofia Richie. 9Now*

If you miss Nina and Patrick … true fans know what that means. Offspring remains one of the great Australian dramas, and it’s always a bright idea to check back in with Asher Keddie’s Nina Proudman. We’ll never forgive the writer for what happened with Patrick (Matt Le Nevez), but it’s still worth a revisit. 10Play

Stan and 9Now are owned by Nine, which also owns this masthead.

Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.

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