What to Watch – Summer 2017

As the nights start to draw in, it’s the perfect time to get comfy with your beloved/fluffy pet/preferred beverage on the sofa and watch some great TV. Here are my picks from the past few months:

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Last Chance U

I loved this series and was delighted to have season two back on my screen. It felt slightly different of course; the effects of the on-pitch brawl last season (not a spoiler – the first series actually begins with it) are still being felt, athletes and coaches are reactive to their portrayals on screen and the associated ‘fame’ that goes with it and the breakaway star (and heart) of it all, Miss Brittany Wagner, announces she’s leaving. It hammers home the last chances for the athletes, with some overcoming their past and some unable to escape the cycle they’re stuck in. Expect tears.

Available on Netflix

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Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

A documentary on the Gawker vs Hulk Hogan case that saw Hogan winning $140 million in damages. It starts with a simple sex tape/invasion of privacy ruling and ends in the destruction of a company with multi-millionaires funding lawsuits to effectively silence dissenting or critical voices. It’s a fascinating (and sometimes flawed) look at the American legal system and first amendment rights and the scary AF notion that people with all the money can win at everything.

Available on Netflix

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Game of Thrones

The greatest show on Earth. No, really. I don’t think there’s enough hyperbole to describe this season. It had e v e r y t h i n g with some episodes taking my breath away and others making me shout at the television like a hooligan. The production, the cinematography, the special effects, the budgets (!) are incomparable to anything else out there on television right now. Forget that it’s a fantasy series and forgo the snobbery of people who proclaim they’ve never seen it (it doesn’t make you a better person y’know *eye roll*) to envelope yourself in winter. It’s not coming, it’s here.

Available on Sky Atlantic

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Ozark

Imagine Breaking Bad without the drugs, cancer and science in the desert, add the Ozarks (actually filmed in Georgia for the tax breaks) and money laundering and brilliant performances from Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. Seriously good.

Available on Netflix

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Atypical

An eighteen year old decides to start dating throwing his family into chaos at his new found independence. Not unusual but it presents challenges as he is also is on the autistic spectrum. It’s funny, touching and insightful to life with autism – as much as it can be – with penguins. I love the relationship between brother and sister too: “My sister doesn’t let anyone beat me up. Except herself.”

Available on Netflix

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Glow

This had me laughing out loud alone. A quirky look at the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling with a fantastic retro soundtrack and heartwarming performances. Watch it for the brilliant costumes and parody of stereotypes, stay for the sisterhood.

Available on Netflix

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How The World Made America

I really wish I could make every single racist bigot watch this and then see their ideology crumble. A fantastic series documenting the immigration patterns of different ethnic groups from across the world to the US, merging with historical events. The interviews with descendants of key figures in the making of America are fascinating. It poses the question of what is it to be American, and can you be anti-immigrant when your entire nation is founded on the backs of those very same immigrants?

Available on History

What to Watch – Spring 2017

Following on from my What to Watch post late last year, here’s what I’ve been watching since then and heartily recommend:

O.J.: Made in America


Set some time aside to watch this. Seven and half hours might seem a crazy amount of time for a documentary on OJ but it’s worth it. This is NOT the David Schwimmer/Cuba Gooding Jr one (also very watchable if only for the doppelgänger-esque casting for some of the roles) but goes into the history of race relations in California and Los Angeles, OJ’s standing in the community, what happened after the “Trial of the Century” and what a thoroughly unpleasant man he was to the women he was involved with. Beware of the crime scene photos, they are horrendous but give an idea of the brutality of the attack. The whole thing cements in my mind that this killer got away with it in a criminal court. Available on BBC iPlayer.

Big Little Lies


This caught my eye with the exceptional cast, Cold Little Heart song in the titles and Monterey location (to which I’m headed soon!) and I was surprised that it held Hubby’s attention too. The female cast are everything in this. I’m a born again Reese Witherspoon fan (genuinely, her character is excellent) and even applauding Nicole Kidman for some shockingly horrifying scenes with the so pretty-he-makes-my-eyes-water Alex Skarsgard. I loved how the whodunnits story flips on its head with you knowing someone gets killed from the start, but you don’t know who or why but it could be any of the characters. Who knew parenting in beautiful Monterey was so cut-throat?! Available on Sky Atlantic.

Girlboss


I’d heard of the brand and the book by founder Sophia Amoruso but never really followed it until I’d read about the company failing – you can understand why it does from Sophia’s character. It claims it’s loosely based on reality and whilst it probably does take a huge pinch of dramatic salt to flavour things up, you get the marked impression that if this girl was your friend, you wouldn’t be friends for long. She’s rude, arrogant, narcissistic and disorganised with sparks of creative genius which of course makes her a brilliant character played by Britt Robertson. The costumes are amazing – I WANT the leather jacket – and the soundtrack is a playlist of cool, revitalising but angry rock. Plus it was so lovely to be taken back to the Noughties and reminisce my twenties! Available on Netflix.

13 Reasons Why


A girl takes her life and tells us why through recordings on a series of cassette tapes, a moment of retro-ness that comforted me as a child of the 80’s. It’s a simple premise, with a decent soundtrack and a deeply complex story. This really reminded me of the play An Inspector Calls in the sense that it is not one main cause that causes a suicide but a series of related events that leave the protagonist in such despair it becomes an option. One person after another compounds Hannah Baker’s misery until the horrifying scene in the bathroom. I actually thought they wouldn’t show it but I’m glad they do. There is nothing glamorous about Hannah’s suicide – and people who think it is, I suggest you seek counselling. It is painful, distressing, stomach churning, portrayed with care but without sheen and left me sobbing. Available on Netflix

House of Cards


I finally got round to watching this and now I see what all the fuss was about. The only problem was seeing this in a world where Trump was elected president so sometimes I didn’t know whether real life or fake life was scarier/more preposterous, or if the new administration were taking notes. Robin Wright is sensational, Kevin Spacey is tormentingly creepy and conniving. I can’t wait for the new series to air at the end of the month, lord knows it won’t be as bonkers as what’s happening in DC. Available on Netflix.

Line of Duty


I’d heard whisperings about this series and thought it might be too late to catch up, however the lovely schedulers at Netflix and iPlayer had all three series between them for me to view at leisure before waiting for the weekly installments for series four. Allow me to say this: it makes the Top 5 of greatest British crime drama series. My license fee is worth it for this quality. Excellent performances from some of the top names in Brit drama, with a special mention to Vicky McClure who is an integral part of Anti-Corruption 12. Watch this and remember “you have the right to be interviewed by someone at least one rank senior.” Available on Netflix and iPlayer. 

Party of Five

Excuse the trip down memory lane but (*puts on rose tinted glasses*) weren’t the 90’s so awesome?! Not really, but this series was my companion throughout my early teens and it was a comfort to see the Salingers, if only to half crush on Bailey again and realise that I’d go for Charlie now. I fell in love with their amazing house and now about 20 years later I actually get to see it (and San Francisco) for myself in a few weeks. Listen to the soundtrack for more retro reminiscings – Send Me On My Way and Closer To Free anyone? Available on Netflix.

S-Town


A curveball as it’s a podcast but it’s so full of descriptive commentary and the personalities within the story are so vivid it’s worth a mention. From the team at This American Life and Serial comes the tale of John B. McLemore and the eponymous Sh*t town he lives in. It’s complex and weird and wonderful and shows how fascinating people are as well as carrying a hefty warning on never mixing chemicals for gold plating in enclosed spaces. Available on iTunes/Podcast. 

What To Watch…

The nights are unbearably dark, cold and require nothing more than snuggles on the sofa under duvets and long sessions watching the telly box. With the Christmas break giving some a chance to catch up on their viewing and hibernate until the new year I thought I’d share a few of my favourite shows and films from the past few months. 

Showing On Netflix…

The OA – I am writing this having just finished watching episode eight no more than 15 minutes ago and I still have tears in my eyes. I can’t remember the last time I was so moved by a programme (not counting ones about sick animals) that is a tale of fiction. Brit Marling is perfection in the lead role – a blind girl who returns from a seven year disappearance with her sight intact. If you like storytelling and stories of love and loss, sci-fi and the afterlife, then this is the one for you. Even if you don’t… watch this. 


Gilmore Girls – I’m ashamed to say I completely missed this the first time it was on screens back in the late 90’s/early 00’s. Thank goodness for streaming services and my current unemployment status – I managed to watch all seven seasons in about a month and a bit. There’s laughs aplenty and tears too but the magic for me is when all three Gilmore ladies are together. Snappy dialogue, clever witticisms and a lot of heart binds this into a show that makes a mark. I finished in time to watch the special four part A Year In The Life which revisits Stars Hollow ten years later. Watch out for the bombshell last four words.


Stranger Things – Another nostalgia trip, this time to the 80’s and a terrifying reminder of the evil monsters who lurked in the shadows crossed with the buddy feel of The Goonies and Stand By Me. The young actors steal the show despite a great performance from era stalwart Winona Ryder. Feel comforted by the amazing attention to detail (the duvet covers are exact replicas of ones seen in the Argos catalogue) and string up all the fairy lights you can get your hands on.


Designated Survivor – A show about US Government, Congress and Senate being blown to smithereens by evil terrorists during a State of The Union address (hello NSA/GCHQ filters) and Jack Bauer, I mean, Kiefer Sutherland is put in charge. That’s still a better choice than what’s going in to the White House next year. It’s a decent, easy to watch, political whodunnit of our current times but frankly I’m just happy to hear Kiefer’s slightly whispered tones/angry “DAMMIT” back on a screen. 


The Crown – So Prince Phillip was a fox, who’d have thought it?! An interesting series shedding a little (fictional?) light on the early years of the Royal family as we know it today. Queenie struggles between being a wife and a monarch (mainly because of the men surrounding her and demanding she kow-tow to them and/or tradition, hashtag so much mansplaining) but she keeps on reigning strong. 

Showing on Sky… 


Westworld – The robots are ALIVE! Or are they? This show had a tonne of secrets, plot twists and theories reminiscent of that old favourite, Lost. You get over the GoT levels of nudity quickly mainly because you’re trying to keep track of who’s who and where’s where. Amazing performances from the female leads – Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood. Watch it through without spoilers the first time round and then rewatch to see what clues you missed. 


Mars – A mix of 2016 science fact and 2033 science fiction, with a lot of interesting scenes featuring today’s finest minds and space explorers trying to make humans on Mars a thing. Of course nothing comes easily for the “future” crew but I really enjoyed how they focused on the human, as well as the scientific, aspect of space travel. Very interesting but never too taxing. 

Hope you find these as enjoyable as I did! I’m going to try and watch House of Cards next but feel free to recommend others in the comments or via social channels!

Must See TV… Gomorrah

Based on the book and the subsequent film, this Neopolitan crime drama had me watching with baited breath back in 2014. 

Imagine if Shakespeare lived in modern day Naples and wrote about a crime family that had a power struggle at its heart. King Lear meets The Wire in Italy with texting and scooters, if you will. 

They’ve made us wait two whole years for the second season but it has finally returned to Sky Atlantic. Catch up with the first series on demand now.

The people – gone are the days of the good guys and the bad guys; there’s more shades of grey here than a billionaire sadist. No situation is black and white, the characters are beautifully manipulative. You think they can’t be that cruel (they can) or that kind (even creepier). I won’t give spoilers, but it’s a joy to watch the metamorphosis of Genny from spoilt chubster to terrifying wannabe mobster. There’s a real struggle between the new and old generations where gentlemanly conduct and deference to the ruling family gives way to disrespect from the younger clan members. Even Facebook gets a mention. 

The music – who knew Italian rap was such a good thing? Jokes aside, the music in this series is brilliant. If I remember correctly, there’s a hilarious scene with a car journey and the radio and two dangerous criminals having a sing song. Plus I’m now trained to have a Pavlovian reaction to the synth string music, knowing that something terrible is about to happen.   

The violence – as I type this, I’m watching a man being beaten to death with a snooker cue. A few episodes before someone had their throat sliced open. This is not the programme for you if you blanch at the sight of blood or violence. Revenge is a common card dealt in this series and it’s often brutal and relentless. Guns and bullets are a more common sight than wallets. 

The places – forget the glamorous Italy you’ve seen in other shows. This is not the Italy or Naples we see. Most of the action takes place in the huge housing estates. Delapidated and gritty, the streets are shared by the haves and have-nots, the only difference being the interiors varying from a Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen gilt nightmare to Spartan frugal modernism. The estates begin to resemble an illustration of Dante’s Inferno and the many circles of hell. 

The language – no, not necessarily bad language. The Neopolitan dialect has me all sorts of confused if I try to follow the action without reading the subtitles. It’s a sing-song for the ears. 

I can’t recommend Gomorrah enough. Don’t be a stronzo and watch it NOW!!