Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

HBO Max is feeling a bit Frayed

Sarah Kendall
Sarah Kendall
Photo: Lisa Tomasetti/HBO Max

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Thusday, July 30. All times are Eastern.


Top pick

Frayed (HBO Max, 3:01 a.m., complete first season, U.S. premiere): It’s U.K. Import Day here at What’s On Tonight. First up: Frayed, from HBO Max. Take it away, excerpt-from-Kayla Kumari-Upadhyaya’s-pre-air-review!

Frayed—which previously aired in the U.K. and Australia and was recently picked up by HBO Max—tracks the sudden seismic shift in protagonist Sammy Cooper’s (played by creator Sarah Kendall) life when her husband dies of a heart attack. Set in 1989, this isn’t really a story about grief—or at least not in terms of that inciting death—but rather an inverse of a self-discovery journey. Sammy’s husband lied and cheated his way into wealth, and once he’s gone, his fraud and debts surface. Sammy and her two teen children are left with nothing, so she has to return to where she came from and rediscover the person she used to be and the life she used to live before creating a whole new one for herself.

Sammy’s former life was built on falsehoods, making her not all that different from her dead, bad husband. She changed her name, traded her Australian accent for a British one, and lied so much about her personal background that her kids have no idea who she really is or where she comes from. Those lies unravel quickly once the Cooper family lands in Newcastle and moves in with Sammy’s recovering alcoholic mother Jean (Kerry Armstrong) and man-child brother Jim (Ben Mingay).

Click here to read the rest of Kayla’s review. [Allison Shoemaker]

Regular coverage

Wild cards

Another British import can be found below, as well as a timely new Apple TV+ show that’s not British but does involve Oprah.

In My Skin (Hulu, 3:01 a.m., complete first season, U.S. premiere): It took two years, a change in format—from a short TV film to a TV series—and shift in platforms (from BBC to Hulu) for In My Skin to pop up Stateside. A cloudy Cardiff (as in Wales) is the backdrop for this moving, fitfully funny coming-of-age story from Kayleigh Llewellyn. High school student Bethan (Gabrielle Creevy) is proficient in telling tall tales, little white lies, and elaborate mistruths—at just 16, she could probably teach most politicians a thing or two about false promises. But Bethan’s fabrications are actually a desperate attempt to create a presentable facade for the outside world. What her friends don’t realize is that her fabulous stories are a cover for something more than teenage turmoil. Bethan’s mother Trina (Jo Hartley) has bipolar disorder, and is frequently in and out of the hospital. Her self-centered father is an alcoholic who shows no desire to provide some stability at home. So it’s up to Bethan to hold things together, even if it’s with nothing but falsehoods. Far from punishing, In My Skin’s more wrenching moments of family drama are leavened by Bethan’s quirky fantasies and small victories (still, if you’re wavering, know that it’s only five half-hour episodes.) Creevy’s performance is a guiding light; she’s at once poised and overwhelmed as Bethan, who, unlike most teens, would probably find boredom a relief at this point. [Danette Chavez]

The Oprah Conversation (Apple TV+, 7:00 p.m., series premiere): This new series, filmed remotely with “audience engagement,” will see Oprah Winfrey lead (per a press release) “timely and intimate discussions with today’s foremost newsmakers, thought leaders, and masters of their craft.” The first episode, “How To Be An Antiracist,” features Winfrey and Ibram X. Kendi, author of the book from which this episode takes its title, speaking with white readers who confront their own prejudices. [Allison Shoemaker]


Contributor, The A.V. Club and The Takeout. Allison loves TV, bourbon, and overanalyzing social interactions. Please buy her book, How TV Can Make You Smarter (Chronicle, 2020). It’s short!