BC (before Covid) you knew you were at a bad dinner party or get-together when people started talking about what films they had seen and what they had watched on TV.
Now, at a time when most of us are having to stay at home, TV has become a lifesaver. For an hour or more (usually more) you are transported away from your anxiety about Covid-19, contagion, lockdown and vaccines.
At the start of lockdown OH (other half) and I signed up to Netflix. I am so glad we did as terrestrial TV seldom offers anything that appeals to us.
Our conversations with friends on Zoom, once we have checked that everyone is still alive and well, are often about what we have seen on TV – because what else is there to talk about? Especially among our contemporaries who are mainly retired.
Covid may have brought about new hobbies and interests. Some of us have become more creative – maybe even blogging! But the one thing we all share is that of an evening (and sometimes an afternoon or even a whole day in some cases) people are settling down in front of the box.
So what are we watching?
Here are some of the programmes OH and I have enjoyed. They are listed in no particular order.
Currently we are enjoying the third series of Shtisel, an Israeli television series focusing on the everyday life of a Haredi family living in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem. A soap opera by any other name, it has had amazing success worldwide. Although it is about people quite alien to our experience, it reaches out to all of us with its humanity. We forget we are watching actors. We believe in those characters, feel their joy and their pain. Their experiences are our experiences In 2014 the series won 11 awards – best drama, best actor (Dov Glickman who plays the patriach, Shulem Shtisel), drama director, screenplay, make up, photography, original music, soundtrack, artistic management and editing.
We’ve also enjoyed Call My Agent and Emily in Paris. Both are set in Paris, are witty, subtitled in French and about a newbie starting work. In the case of Emily in Paris it’s PR and in Call My Agent they’re agents for actors, celebrities and film stars. Unusually each episode features a real French film star playing an OTT version of themselves. Apparently there is soon going to be an English version of Call My Agent made in the UK, but I cannot imagine it being anything like as entertaining or successful as the French original.
Schitt’s Creek is complete light relief. It’s about a very affluent family who find that they have lost all their money and have to move out of their home into a small town motel. Beautifully acted and highly entertaining, it’s fun viewing. I have to admit to skipping a few episodes towards the end just because it seemed to be going on for ever (80 episodes spread over 6 seasons) but we did enjoy it.
The Marvellous Mrs Maisel is an American series about a New York Jewish housewife who becomes a successful stand up comic. The pace is fast. The actors speak so quickly that you almost feel that you need subtitles! It took us a while to get into this but it was well worth persevering beyond the first episode. We found it very funny and entertaining.
Hinterland. Something completely different. Set in Wales and featuring a quirky detective with a dark past. Slower in pace but totally absorbing. Although each episode can be viewed in its own right they do link up so it is worth watching them all from the beginning. The scenery around Aberwystwyth is stunning. Have you noticed how during lockdown scenery seems to matter more? We can’t be the only ones who find ourselves almost salivating when viewing desirable locations such as beaches and mountains.
The Crown. You have no doubt seen this series by now. We were late to it as we’ve only had Netflix since the first month of lockdown so had some catching up to do. But remember – especially all my followers in the USA – that you are watching fiction. Some of it is based on truth. But much of it is imagined. Having seen some of the recent antics of our Royal family I do agree that it is sometimes difficult to separate fiction from reality. For me, the most moving episode was the one on Aberfan. I felt that it was very sensitively handled. Seeing some of the real footage (which I remember seeing on TV at the time) was heart-breaking.
The Queen’s Gambit is a gripping mini series about a young, female, gifted chess player. You might think a drama about chess might be boring but not this one. It’s highly watchable and binge-worthy.
Line of Duty. OH and I are currently – along with the rest of the nation – watching series 6. Episode 1 of the new series was recently shown on TV. It had a record audience of 9.56 million – unheard of for TV watching nowadays – which just shows how it has gripped the nation. The earlier episodes of this British TV series are available on Netflix. You really need to watch all the episodes right from the beginning to understand the characters and their relationships to one another. A must-see.
Somebody Feed Phil. If you love food and want to watch something that’s light and frothy, then Somebody Feed Phil might be for you. An American Jewish guy, Phil, trawls the cities of the world for great food. He talks food, eats food, makes jokes about food. You see a few sights as well but the whole ethos of the programme is about enjoying food from different countries and cultures. Phil can be annoying and irritating at times but he also makes us smile. One word of warning. Watch Somebody Feed Phil after you’ve had your meal otherwise you will find yourself salivating even more than you do when you see all the places you can’t visit!
Hidden and The Stranger are two different highly watchable and gripping drama series by the talented American writer Harlan Coban. A number of his books have been turned into TV dramas and films including Tell No One. His plots have multiple twists and turns, keeping you guessing all the way through. Highly recommended.
The Kominsky Method. A witty, entertaining and touching series starring Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas, playing two elderly friends. This is great lockdown watching. It takes you completely out of yourself. There’s no sex or violence but plenty of tenderness and laughs. If, like me, you are now a senior, you will find plenty to empathise with. And if you’re younger, there’s still plenty to enjoy from these two Oscar winning actors. I just hope it’s not their swan song.
As I said, no particular order but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Shtisel. This week we have watched all the episodes of series 3 and now I want to view all three series all over again from the beginning! I had never understood the appeal of binge-watching – until now!
What’s been your lockdown viewing? Let me know in the comment box below.
© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems