A show set in a strange future world where a virus has killed off the entire male population may not sound like ideal viewing for pandemic times, but this one comes from New Zealand – the country that gave the world Taika Waititi, Flight of the Conchords and programs such as Wellington Paranormal and What We Do in the Shadows.
Go in expecting something oddball, intriguing and blackly comedic, and you won’t be disappointed.
Streaming on SBS on Demand, the six-part series was conceived by director Roseanne Liang and writer-actors Ally Xue, JJ Fong and Perlina Lau of New Zealand’s Flat3 Productions, which describes itself as “a bunch of medium-to-flat chested Kiwi ladies who make award-winning scripted comedy”. In Creamerie, Xue, Fong and Lau play central characters Alex, Jaime and Pip, who all work on an organic dairy farm in a fictional place called Hiro Valley.
The first episode opens with the trio attending a gathering of women in a hall presided over by the leader of a “Wellness” committee who, in a “repopulation lottery”, draws the name of a woman selected to become pregnant using sperm stores established pre-pandemic.
This is a community that sounds idyllic – free menstruation leave is mandatory and the community meeting begins with a choir singing “It’s a Wonderful World” – but it quickly becomes clear it’s not all peace, love and mung beans in Hiro Valley.
When Alex rudely interrupts proceedings with a spinach and flaxseed smoothie, she’s dragged off by a police officer and – after some unexpected shenanigans in the cell – is shot in the back of the neck with a “bliss ball” that induces the kind of stupor you might experience after scoffing a truckload of Tim-Tams and binge-watching all 10 seasons of Friends. And that’s just a taste of what’s to come.
In an interview with New Zealand’s stuff-co.nz, Lau has said Creamerie wasn’t inspired by COVID-19. Rather, the idea originated back in 2018 when the four creatives were watching The Handmaid’s Tale at the same time then US president Donald Trump was enacting disturbing new policies. Lau said they started thinking: What’s a crazy thing that could happen?
“What about a virus that killed all men? You know, it’s completely unimaginable, it’s unthinkable. It was so big that it was absurd and you can find comedy in that.”
Underneath the whacky plot, there are some intriguing ideas at play, including that this supposedly progressive feminist society extolling wellness is actually a proto-fascist regime where utterances like “Oh my God” are banned and “civil negativity” is a crime. It’s certainly not Gilead, but it’s a far cry from Utopia, and the Wellness boss (Tandi Wright) does have a touch of the Aunt Lydias about her.
The three central characters are well portrayed and delightfully quirky: Pip is determined to stay on the right side of the regime, Jaime (who lost her partner and child to the virus) is desperate to have a baby, and spiky Alex is hell-bent on uncovering Wellness’s secrets. Also part of the cast is wonderful actor Rachel House, a familiar face from New Zealand films Hunt for the Wilderpeople and the recent Cousins.
So are all the men really dead? A bump in the night (and the official Creamerie trailer) answers that early on, setting the three friends on a dangerous quest to uncover what’s really going on in this crazy dystopian world.
Creamerie is free to stream on SBS on Demand.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.