Lockdown Recommendations: "The Great," "Staged," "Grand Designs" and more...
Here's some great television distractions for the next few weeks.
I know. It’s a hugely unsettling time, but thankfully there’s a lot of great television on.
Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that we’re not running out of television either. Production has been able to continue despite the last two lockdowns. In addition, a lot of broadcasters have held back shows that they were going to air last Autumn until now, just in case gaps started to appear in the schedule. This means that we’ve got a bumper month of shows ahead.
Here’s a quick list of all of the shows that I have enjoyed of late:
Bridgerton (Netflix) - Essentially, it’s Gossip Girl but with Top Hats. I love it.
The Great (Channel 4) - Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult (together in the photo above) star in this satirical drama looking at the life of Catherine The Great. It never takes itself too seriously, and also relishes in being historically inaccurate. The tone feels completely escapist at the moment. If you just finished Bridgerton this is the show you should be watching next. Episodes out weekly.
Staged (BBC Two) - The lockdown sitcom created by Simon Evans, and starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant, returned for a second series on Monday. Each of them plays exaggerated versions of themselves, whilst attempting (and failing) to rehearse a play on Zoom. The joy is the in-jokes that develop throughout the series, so I would recommend watching the first series on BBC iPlayer, before watching any new episodes.
Grand Designs (Channel 4) - It usually airs in the Autumn but it’ll be airing weekly from this month instead. Traditionally, the person deciding to build the house either has more money than sense, or more sense than money. By the look of the programme description for the first episode, the house includes a moat. So much hunch is that it will be the former rather than the latter.
The Serpent (BBC iPlayer) - A well-thought through BBC One thriller that looks at serial killer and fraudster Charles Sobhraj. The story jumps forward and back in time over and over, so it requires your concentration (basically, put down your phone). Heck, perhaps not looking at your phone for an hour or so is not that much of a bad thing.
Ghosts (BBC iPlayer) - This BBC sitcom, by the same people who brought you the series Horrible Histories is a modern classic. It is full to the brim with great one-liners and hilarious characters. It is also so full of heart. Make sure you watch the Christmas episode if you haven’t already.
Celebrity: 21st Century Story (BBC Four and iPlayer) - A good four hour documentary (split across four episodes) that looks at the rise of people being famous for being famous, or for participating in reality shows. The show’s strength is its highbrow take at something lowbrow. It also provides a nostalgia hole for all things noughties. You’ll end up going “oh yeah, that happened” over and over.
Max Richter’s Sleep (BBC Four and BBC iPlayer) - Last year, at the height of the first wave, BBC Radio 3 played an eight hour piece by the celebrated musician Max Richter during the night. This song was designed to be heard whilst you were asleep. This documentary looks at how he pulled it off. It’s an interesting watch; one that ironically won’t make you nod off.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (BBC iPlayer) - All 148 episodes of the classic sitcom are now available to watch BBC iPlayer. To celebrate 30 years since the show first aired (☠️) there’s a reunion episode on iPlayer too, which also looks back at the life of the late James Avery.
That’s not all. Russell T. Davies’ drama It’s A Sin is out later this month on Channel 4.
Drag Race UK also returns for its second series weekly from January 14th (that’s week Thursday) on BBC Three. The latest episode of the latest US series drops on Netflix on Saturday mornings.
In February, Disney+ will be massively expanding their library with a new channel on the platform called Star. Shows broadcast in the UK for the first time, such as Love, Simon will be on there, alongside classic TV favourites such as Family Guy, The X-Files, Black-ish, Lost, 24 and Desperate Housewives.
And if you want any more suggestions, I asked for suggestions on Twitter today and I got loads back, from The Queen’s Gambit to Sewing Bee. Click on the thread and you can see a whole lot of great shows.
The latest Must Watch podcast had two fabulous guests… Simon Evans from Staged talked about making the second series in a ridiculously short time-frame. He also revealed that despite starring in the same show as Tennant and Sheen, he has never been in the same room with them at the same time.
We also spoke to Mel B from the Spice Girls about The Masked Singer. She claimed that Glastonbury had been cancelled later this year. This caused a bit of news, but Emily Eavis who runs the festival, has since tweeted that there’s “no news” about the festival this year.
Subscribe to the podcast on BBC Sounds.
In case you need anythibg to cheer yourself up with, I did a big thread of TV news moments from 2020 that I found rather hilarious. If you click on the link below you can see the thread.
I’ll be back with another newsletter soon. Remember, you don’t need to watch more television during a lockdown, only better television.
Scotty / @scottygb