However it's not okay to be missing new HBO show The Undoing, which is airing here on Sky Atlantic and Now TV and is based on the 2014 novel You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Part Big Little Lies, part Bonfire of the Vanities, it starts off as a portrait of Gossip Girl-rich New Yorkers which mirrors Taffy Brodesser-Akner's brilliant Fleishman is in Trouble – if you added murder into the mix.
Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant star as Grace and Jonathan Fraser, an extraordinarily well-to-do New York couple (he's a famous children's oncologist, she's an heiress and an in-demand couples therapist). He is charming, British and really very sexy in the way that only older Hugh Grant can be. She is rich but not flashy, favouring long velvet coats over the designer labels of her peers, and seems kind – the best of a bad bunch. Their son Henry attends the Reardon School, an astronomically expensive private academy with a set of PTA moms to be reckoned with. Picture the matriarchs from that amazing/awful article about how New York nannies were being treated during the first wave of COVID-19 and you're somewhere in the right ballpark.
This is the 1% in action. The Frasers' Upper East Side apartment is bigger than most four-bedroom family homes out of the city (it's really big, and actually for sale here if you want to take a further look). At a fundraiser for Reardon (the aim of which is to increase diversity at the school, which appears to have precisely one child from a low-income background to show for this), someone buys a glass of water for $1,000. The parent-to-parent gossip network is strong and judging others is treated as sport. Sadly, no one is more of a target than Elena, the young mother of the kid from the low-income background. For all the school's talk of 'inclusion' and 'diversity', she is ritually excluded by the other mums and sparks a particularly vicious group text session for breastfeeding her baby.
But all of this is about to change. When the mother of a Reardon child is murdered, the school community is ripped to shreds. The safe haven these people have carved out for themselves using their wealth and influence is invaded by police, reporters and people who may share the same city as them but who live very different lives indeed. And for Grace, the only person to show any compassion, a nightmare that will challenge everything she thought she knew about her charmed life is only just beginning.
Here is where the show takes an abrupt turn, ditching the satire and going full thriller, but don't fret, there are still secrets to be uncovered and twists to be turned. The acting is top notch, as to be expected with this cast (Donald Sutherland, Noah Jupe, Lily Rabe and Sofie Gråbøl also star). Hugh Grant is marvellous, dropping the comical whimsy we've come to expect and exploding in fits of rage and anguish as his character teeters, a man on the edge.
The Undoing is the kind of TV distraction one can only hope for at times like these. It's perhaps not quite as gripping as creator David E. Kelley's other show Big Little Lies but it's big budget, with a great cast and puts you in safe hands. It's a whodunnit thriller which takes a snide look at how the other half live before toppling their carefully constructed world. There's tension and shock but it's contained, fictional and delivered in manageable amounts, unlike, say, the real life news. The Undoing is smart, slick, guilt-free TV. So sit back, turn off social media and let HBO take the wheel for a while. You've earned it.
The Undoing is airing on Mondays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic and is available to stream on Now TV until 30th December 2020