“Top of the Lake” is every bit as harsh, eccentric and spellbinding as G.J., the witch-haired mystic-feminist that Holly Hunter plays in it.
Set in the lush, brutal backwoods of New Zealand, “Top of the Lake” opens with a failed suicide attempt by 12-year-old Tui (Jacqueline Joe), five months pregnant, possibly by her own father.
By the end of the first episode, Tui has vanished and visiting detective Robin Griffin (“Mad Men’s” Elisabeth Moss, with a convincing accent) is drawn into the girl’s hard, unforgiving world.
Particularly loathsome is Tui’s twisted father Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan), a grizzled, long-haired drug lord who seems to have fathered half the population of this remote community.
Mitcham -- a creep given to self-flagellation -- has a cozy relationship with the local cops, leaving the outsider Griffin all but alone in caring about Tui’s whereabouts.
Well, not completely. The denizens of a local women’s commune, headed by Hunter’s possibly psychic (or maybe just crazy) G.J., seem to share Robin’s concern.
“What’s beyond the void that’s so frightening?” a menacing Mitcham asks the visionary G.J.
Her reply: “A lost little girl, with a secret growing inside.”
“Top of the Lake,” directed and co-written by Jane Campion (“The Piano”) airs Monday, March 18 on Sundance Channel at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: ****
“We own a motel, Norman Bates!”
Not exactly famous last words, but Mother Bates surely will live (or not) to regret them.
And so, surely, would Alfred Hitchcock, whose 1960 horror masterpiece “Psycho” has been grave-robbed for A&E’s silly prequel series “Bates Motel.”
Oddly set in the present day, “Bates Motel” chronicles the teen years of nerdy mama’s boy Norman (Freddie Highmore) and his nagging mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) as they build a new life as motel owners in the aftermath of dad’s sudden death.
There will be blood (and a shower curtain) by the end of the first episode, though the killer and motive might come as some surprise. Let’s just say Norman comes by things honestly.
“Bates Motel” airs Monday, March 18, on A&E at 10 p.m. New York time. Rating: **
The wig arrives, inevitably and with no small build-up, near the end of “Phil Spector,” David Mamet’s talky, forgiving dramatization of the legendary pop music producer’s murder trial.
Spector, played by Al Pacino on the HBO movie with more eye-bulging gusto than anything he’s mustered since tackling Roy Cohn in “Angels in America,” arrives for his big day on the witness stand wearing a Wall of Hair.
“My hair is an homage to Jimi Hendrix, who suffered,” Spector explains to his bewildered attorney, Helen Mirren, holding firm against Pacino’s delectable scenery chewing.
Written and directed by Mamet, the 90-minute “Phil Spector” will surely outrage friends and supporters of Lana Clarkson, the failed actress and cocktail-lounge pick-up who died in Spector’s California mansion after a boozy evening in 2003.
A jury would later convict Spector of putting a gun in Clarkson’s mouth and pulling the trigger.
Mamet, who calls “Phil Spector” a work of “conjecture,” takes the possibility of suicide more seriously than just about anyone not sitting at the mogul’s defense table.
The way he writes it, Spector’s real crime is being a freak.
Mamet gives Pacino the ripest dialogue, as Spector rants about the cost of celebrity, the public’s love-hate relationship with the famous, and in the most vicious passage, his rage at former wife and muse Ronnie Spector.
“Phil Spector” shouldn’t be confused with journalism. Safer to view it as Mamet’s discourse on art, faded fame and martyrdom. Given his recent high-profile flops, it’s no surprise who he casts as victim.
“Phil Spector” airs Sunday, March 24 on HBO at 9 p.m. New York time. Rating: ***
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include John Mariani on wine and Jeffrey Burke on books.