21st Nov 2020
Instant gratification is usually the norm in all aspects of life, right down to the entertainment we consume. Everybody wants things to happen now. They want to know the end of a series before it’s aired (we have the Westworld Reddit threads to thank for that), they want plot twists and big reveals; to watch an entire series over a two-day period. Of course, since Covid-19, nothing happens at such a speed. On World Television Day, here are the series we loved that are even better the second time around
And thankfully, some TV shows are taking this on board. Elizabeth Moss, star of The Handmaid’s Tale said herself that the show wasn’t meant to be watched all at once because it was so intense. And she was right; seeing the horror unfold week after week only made watching it more unnerving, and you need a respite from that. Equally, often you need time to take in what you’ve just seen (every Twin Peaks episode ever).
Below are nine that make for even better viewing when consumed slowly the second time, as we work to #FlattenTheCurve:
THE GOOD WIFE
Alicia Florrick (a superb Julianna Margulies) has been a good wife to her husband, a former state’s attorney. Stepping back from her own career to raise her children while her husband vies for his political career. After a very humiliating sex and corruption scandal, he is behind bars. She must now provide for her family and returns to work – and the spotlight – as a litigator in a law firm. The fact that this was said to be based on Hilary Clinton’s reaction to her husband’s affair makes it all the more intriguing. And like any courtroom drama, all the finer details are best taken in when you’ve had a chance to watch it again. It doesn’t always get it right, but with seven seasons and memorable plot twists and female characters, in particular, there’s no better show to binge-watch now. Think, The West Wing, with less of a nineties vibe.
THE NIGHT MANGER
I skimmed through this brilliant 6-part series when it first aired – and I’ve no idea why. Each episode is perfectly crafted, teaming with suspense and intrigue as we follow Jonathan Pine (played by an enigmatic Tom Hiddleston) – an ex-British soldier, hired by an intelligence officer (Olivia Colman is brilliant as always) as a covert operative.
He is tasked with infiltrating the inner circle of Roper (played by a frightening Hugh Laurie), a secret arms dealer, and Pine has a personal gripe to settle. Based on the novel of the same name by John le Carré and adapted for the present day, this thrilling 2016 series has lost none of its potency; at the end of every episode, you’ll move right on to the next. Even watching it all again, my heart was in my mouth. And there truly seems no better time to get re-acquainted with it for their will be another series.
LINE OF DUTY
From the creators of Bodyguard (only with more corruption), seasons 1 to 5 follows DS Steve Arnott after a transfer to a police anti-corruption unit after he refuses to be part of a cover-up involving an accidental shooting. The series follows AC-12, a fictional police squad assigned with uncovering corruption within the police force, comprised of Arnott (Martin Compston), DC Kate Fleming (Vicky McClure) and Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar).
Gripping and intense, this one is the most binge-worthy of the lot and brilliant TV – it’s even better the second time around. Pre-Covid-19, the cast and crew were filming its sixth season, and while the finished product might be a while away, the initial seasons will keep you going in the meantime.
SIX FEET UNDER
Set in a funeral home, Six Feet Under attempts to find the meaning of life by focusing on a family whose funeral parlour business means they deal largely in death. It’s a brilliant but tough show to digest – each episode begins with a death and looks at how the loss affects so many – and will make you question and think about life and death. Life can leave as many scars on the soul even when up against the finality of death and through moments of hope, humour and despair, this comes across beautifully on screen. Watch it you should, but it’s just too tough to watch in one go.
This series looks at the narcotics scene in Baltimore through the eyes of law enforcers as well as the drug dealers and users as well as taking a look at raw look at urban life. It was a consistently brilliant show, full of heart and depth – you empathised with corrupt cops, the drug dealers as well as those affected by their actions – but don’t try to marathon The Wire. You’ll miss so much about what makes it one of the greatest shows ever to air on TV (it received no awards when it originally aired in 2008 but has since developed a cult following), the subtleties, the incredible characters, amazing dialogue. It’s a cop show that isn’t really a cop show at all but revel in it; you’ll be so so sorry when it’s done.
It was easy enough to overlook Hannibal when the show was first announced. Yes, it depicts the mind and evil intent of the infamous serial killer pre-Silence of the Lambs, but if you think you’ve seen it all already, you’d be very much mistaken. Brilliant, but deeply disturbing and grotesque – it centres on the hunt and profiling of serial killers after all – with its terrifying, eerie mood and dream sequences, this is best taken in at a slow pace – you’ll understand when you watch it.
Many of those who aren’t Mad Men fans argue that nothing much happens over the seven-series run. It centres on 1960s New York, where alpha male Don Draper struggles to stay on top of the heap in the high-pressure world of Madison Avenue advertising firms and the people in his world. Yes, there’s a lack of cliffhangers and shocking plot twists, but what it is, is an incredible character study that tries to capture a complicated time in American history – and it’s incredible to look at. As dark as it can get, there’s a light sensibility to it – perfect during Covid-19. You’re better off taking the time to really get into the hearts and minds of the intriguing cast of characters rather than digesting this all in one go.
If you haven’t already caught up on Charlie Brooker’s excellent and extremely dark Black Mirror – a contemporary reworking of The Twilight Zone with stories that tap into the collective unease about the modern world – then this is one to start watching right now. But this is another prime candidate for the slow and steady approach, simply because the themes that Brooker examines are twisted in ways that make you stop and think, and leave you with intentional feelings of mild dread.
The much-lauded Twin Peaks centred around the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer (it was this show that spawned the ‘whodunnit‘ concept) and the lives of the inhabitants of a fictional Washington lumber town.
The show ended prematurely in the early nineties after David Lynch, and Mark Frost were pressured by studio bosses to reveal Laura’s killer at the beginning of the second season (Lynch has since said this was his greatest professional regret) and since the anticipated third season aired in the summer of 2017, we were left with, as predicted, more questions than answers. But it works because of this and because it’s best taken in the way Lynch intended – slow and steady. Even after Laura’s killer is revealed, you’re only scratching the surface of the world. It’s one of the most unique shows to ever air on on TV this past two years.
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