In a raunchy, rollicking post-pandemic (not that one) comedy from New Zealand, the men are gone but the women are as nasty to one another as ever.
By Mike Hale
Contains many spoilers for Season 1 of “Creamerie.”
The New Zealand post-viral-apocalypse comedy “Creamerie” likes to begin an episode right where the previous one left off. So the show’s second season, which premiered Saturday on Hulu, begins mid-cliffhanger: Its three heroines cowering and aghast as they watch their mean-girl nemesis French kiss the traitorous man they thought they loved. (One of them is his sister, another his widow. It’s complicated.) Underscoring the action are the moans of the naked men in the background who are attached, like dairy cattle, to stainless steel tubes that are rhythmically collecting their semen.
Oh, did I forget to mention that the viral apocalypse in question only killed humans with Y chromosomes? “Creamerie” is in the science fiction subgenre of world-without-men shows; others include the new Netflix anime “Ooku: The Inner Chambers” and FX on Hulu’s “Y: The Last Man” from 2021. These are actually, almost invariably, world-with-a-handful-of-men shows, since much of their pleasure comes from seeing what happens when the power balance is reversed.
“Creamerie” was created by the actresses who play the leads — J.J. Fong, Perlina Lau and Ally Xue — along with the writer and director Roseanne Liang. The four have been collaborators for a decade, making Web series about relatably snarky young women in urban New Zealand. What distinguishes “Creamerie” is how seamlessly it incorporates the raunchy, silly, casually comic vibe of those online shorts (along with their female point of view) into a sci-fi-series framework. It’s a clever but unassuming show, which is why its package of laughs, sentiment, consciousness raising and low-budget Saturday-serial action has considerable appeal.
Fong, Lau and Xue play Jamie (determined, sorrowful, sexy), Pip (uptight, repressed, resourceful), and Alex (rebellious, profane, loyal), the proprietors of a dairy farm in rural New Zealand. (That they’re in the milk business is a joke that pays off in full with the reveal of the semen farm at the end of Season 1.) Eight years before, a virus was thought to have killed all men and it continues to kill male embryos; the survival of the remaining half of the human race is presumed to depend on the leftover inventory of sperm banks, which is distributed by lottery to prospective mothers.
The fundamental question of these shows is how women would act if they were in charge, and the answer “Creamerie” offers is deflating but comically fertile: They would be really, really mean. The area around the farm is governed by Nordic-featured, yoga-toned, ecru-linen-wearing Amazons, led by Lane (the excellent Tandi Wright), an unholy cross of Gwyneth Paltrow and Martha Stewart who wields “wellness” as a tool of oppression. In the new world ruled by women, if you question authority, you are dispatched for a lobotomy — it’s called being permed — and if you don’t fit the right physical and racial mold, your place in society may be tending cows in the countryside.
Of course, Lane and her cohorts are keeping secret the existence of a few surviving men, one of whom, Bobby (Jay Ryan), shows up at the farm. His arrival turns Jamie, Pip and Alex into reluctant insurgents, sending them on an antic, highly messy journey of discovery, liberation and violent payback, one that continues through the second season against ever greater odds.
Liang, who has directed all 12 episodes of “Creamerie” and written them with several other writers, primarily Dan Musgrove, is best known for the rousing 2020 action-horror feature “Shadow in the Cloud.” Starring Chloë Grace Moretz, a B-17 bomber and a toothy special-effects gremlin, the film played like an extended, well-choreographed “Twilight Zone” episode. Like “Creamerie,” it wasn’t that deep or self-serious, but the confidence and brio with which it was made gave weight to its mix of feminist and maternal motifs and to its emotional payoffs.
Something similar happens in the series: the jokes, the shambolic action and the matter-of-fact satire of gender, race and class alchemize into something funnier and more moving than you might expect. Fong, Lau and Xue aren’t, individually, expert comic performers, but together they have a rapport and timing that expertly serve the material.
In Season 2 the scope of the story expands, moving into Auckland, where the national government is led by a gently woke prime minister (Isabella Austin) with pink-and-blue hair and a furry green hipster hat. The heroines continue to find improbable escapes from their increasingly perilous situations, falling out and making up with one another in classic buddy-comedy fashion. And they remain gloriously themselves, no matter how dire things get.
Waking up after being tranquilized, not knowing where she is or why, Pip frantically checks her hair, in a joke that reaches back to the characters Lau plays in the collective’s online shorts. Against the notion of a female utopia, “Creamerie” stubbornly insists on the primary value of the individual.
Mike Hale is a television critic. He also writes about online video, film and media. He came to The Times in 1995 and worked as an editor in Sports, Arts & Leisure and Weekend Arts before becoming a critic in 2009. More about Mike Hale
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