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‘Creamerie’ Brings a New Emotional Spin to a Fictional World Without Men

There are more laughs and pastels than its “Y: The Last Man” counterpart, but this New Zealand show (available on Hulu) still finds a sharp edge.

Creamerie Hulu TVNZ

“Creamerie”

TVNZ

[This post originally appeared as part of Recommendation Machine, IndieWire’s daily TV picks feature.]

Where to Watch ‘Creamerie: Hulu (the show originally aired in New Zealand on TVNZ)

Sociologists will look back at this point in pop culture history and see 2021 as a year that a certain corner of TV immersed itself in fictional pandemics. “Sweet Tooth,” “Y: The Last Man,” and the upcoming “Station Eleven” all kick off their stories with a world in rapid decline. There may be a bit of a placid intro to kick things off, but it isn’t long before things take a drastic, doomed turn.

To that subgenre, add “Creamerie,” which will probably end up being the funniest of this growing group of on-screen overnight societal transformations. The show leads off with its own share of blood, splattered against a locker room wall. A tracking shot time lapse shows how one building goes from the epicenter of an outbreak to a makeshift hospital to an empty staging ground for a mass pyre. But, as the show jumps ahead eight years, a tiny peaceful hill grows in its place.

A surprisingly tongue-in-cheek start to a series, but it’s an opening that sets the stage for a six-episode season that takes the cheery with the dark in alternating bites. In this future, where (like “Y: The Last Man”) men have all been wiped out by a contagious virus, a trio of friends are making do living on a dairy farm. Alex (Ally Xue) is a troublemaker, content with adding her small dose of chaos into the seemingly idyllic new society. Their fictional New Zealand enclave of Hiro Valley is managed by Wellness, an ambiguously bubbly service/company/governing force that has managed to maintain order in the area.

On the anniversary of the outbreak that killed family members and friends, Jamie (J.J. Fong) is still mourning her late husband, while Pip (Perlina Lau) is looking to find a higher place of acceptance in the convoluted Wellness hierarchy. Alex’s troublemaking sets off a chain of events that ends up in these friends discovering that the actual percentage of men who survived the plague is the ever-so-slightest tick above 0.

“Creamerie” is so locked into the unfolding experiences of the three women at the center that the show rarely feels distracted when men pop up, either in real life or hallucinations. As a trio, Lau, Xue, and Fong have honed their chemistry as a longtime comedy group, including three seasons of “Flat3.” That ease plays out here, not to mention how director Roseanne Liang paints each woman’s respective headspace as the series goes on. Alex’s savvy reaction to a government-ordered “bliss ball” toys with the imagination/reality line early on. Jamie’s persistence in the absence of her husband and son cuts to the heart of what so many women are papering over, all in the name of putting on a good face on for the rest of the community.

As the institution driving a lot of the playful tonal contradictions in “Creamerie,” Wellness is a blended smoothie of a holistic day spa, a meticulously scheduled bachelorette party, and a college bookstore used copy of “The Orwell Reader.” Wellness presents itself at the outset as a self-proclaimed catalyst for sisterly peace and generosity, but “Creamerie” soon shows the cracks in that neat sense of order. Tandi Wright brings that same sense of faux beneficence to Wellness leader Lane, while the ever-reliable Rachel House unsurprisingly steals her handful of scenes as the lead Wellness doctor.

What “Creamerie” most capitalizes on is the sense that, when the world is thrust into chaos, it’s not blanketed by a single emotion. Jamie, Alex, and Pip don’t spend the entire series in a state of despair or anger or pure determination. They get bored and sad and tempted and goofy at plenty of turns, particularly as they switch from cattle inseminators to fugitive harborers. There’s a looseness in the downtime that makes the more tense sequences between them more effective. (One huge reason to watch: About halfway through the season, “Creamerie” has the greatest mirror hallway set piece since “The Guest.”)

That ability to be both things at once is no easy feat. As a more sinister vibe seeps in the longer the season goes, there’s still room for some fantastic jokes. One particular piece of phone call code, a costumed escape attempt, a disastrous attempt at seduction, and a running gag about eggs are all perfectly sprinkled throughout as a counterpoint to the dire circumstances playing around them. And that makes absolute sense: If the world as you know it is disappearing, sometimes the only thing left to do is laugh at the absurdity along the way.

Missed any other outputs from Recommendation Machine? You can read every past version here.

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