As our exam period lockdown continues, the Roar Editorial Team has some binge-worthy TV shows (and a few movies) to recommend for the rapidly approaching summer months.
Tara Sahgal – Editor-in-Chief – Home Before Dark and Defending Jacob
With the mind-numbing stress of exam season and the general uneasiness that seems to accompany life in quarantine constantly clawing at us, it is important to step back and take some time for ourselves. My favourite way of doing so is binge-watching movies and miniseries.
Somehow – and this is unfathomable to me – I seem to have watched every mainstream show on Netflix, Prime and Hotstar. The miniseries that have captured my attention recently are thus lesser-known, but completely worth the watch.
Home Before Dark and Defending Jacob both premiered in April 2020. I like to think that they were made for the sole purpose of adding some spice to life in lockdown. Both are murder mysteries, but Home Before Dark – which is based on the story of nine-year-old American journalist Hilde Lysiak – is slightly more nuanced, subtly combining violence and crime with the simple yet beautiful notion of following one’s dream. The show has a unique storyline and takes you (or maybe it’s just me) on an emotional rollercoaster.
In contrast, I found Defending Jacob slightly grittier and more emotional. It stars two of my favourite actors, Chris Evans and Michelle Dockery, as parents of a boy accused of murdering his classmate. Although it definitely isn’t a light watch, the show is phenomenal in its raw portrayal of characters and fluctuation between the narratives of the past and present.
I would definitely recommend binge-watching the two. We all have the time right now and I guarantee that you’ll be at the edge of your seat for more episodes than you can count – I know I was.
Virjinia Vassileva – Deputy Editor – Explained
TV series can be very tricky, a source of relaxation and inspiration, but one of frustration and self-accusation as well. The open endings that make you want to watch “just one more episode,” typically resulting in binge-watching if you don’t have the will to stop yourself or a devastating feeling of emptiness once your favourite show has ended, drive me crazy.
Regardless, I still love exploring old and forgotten TV shows as well as new ones, and I recently found one that leaves viewers with good feelings only; the Netflix documentary series Explained (2018). With only two seasons and short, and episodes around 20 minutes long, it’s perfect for anyone who feels they are spending too much time in front of the screen. Even if you binge-watch it, your time spent will be minimal.
Even better is the series’ educational element. Each episode focuses on a random topic from our daily lives that may not typically well-discussed. Themes vary from the origins of tattoos and their meaning to the way our memory works, from an explanation of music to theories about extraterrestrial life. Put simply, the episodes quickly grab attention by providing easily digestible information. It is more or less a “fun facts about life” show (with strong evidence behind claims). Pictures of primary and secondary sources are shown often, so who knows – you might even be able to find potential papers for your next bibliography.
Marino Unger-Verna – Comment – Star Trek: The Next Generation
Summer’s on the approach, the birds are singing, and we’re all stuck inside until further notice. With everything going on in the world right now, it can be easy to get stuck in a state of lockdown depression and nihilism. For those of you feeling down about our future as a species, I’d recommend the second Star Trek series, The Next Generation, as essential viewing.
TNG is the last Star Trek series directly overseen by original series creator Gene Roddenberry – he passed away midway through the show’s run. His vision was always that of a human race which grew to leave its shortcomings behind, and this vision is presented at its zenith in The Next Generation. The cast, with Sir Patrick Stewart at their head, has amazing chemistry – it’s near impossible to become invested in their journey once the show hits its stride in the second and third series. Tacklings themes of philosophy and morality, it’s hard not to be hopeful while watching the crew of the Enterprise take on whatever problems come their way.
Alex Blank – Culture – Orange Is the New Black, This is Us, and Once Upon a Time
I started watching Orange Is the New Black a few weeks ago. I’m now at the beginning of season 4, and I have to actively force myself not to watch more than a few episodes a day because I don’t want it to end. Watching those who are locked down while in a vaguely comparable situation to oneself feels somehow fitting. When I got to the lake scene in the season 3 finale, I couldn’t help but imagine it to be a good representation of what might happen to some of us post-lockdown.
For something more uplifting: I often use TV series to tame the misanthropic side of my nature, and to live vicariously through mushy and unrealistic portrayals of so-called togetherness – series such as e.g. This Is Us (Amazon Prime) or Once Upon a Time (Netflix). Both are more or less a guilty pleasure of mine, but they’re great for escaping tough times, that’s for sure.
Alfie Wilson – Sports – FIFAtv, UEFAtv, and a few films
For those who love their sports, the return of the Bundesliga in May is sure to lift the spirits of all football fans. Until then, here are some recommendations. Firstly, FIFAtv and UEFAtv regularly put up replays of live games from past tournaments; so fill your boots with some classic matches, such as what was arguably the World Cup’s greatest ever game in Italy vs Brazil in 1982, England vs Netherlands at Euro 96, and that night in the Mineirão in 2014.
There are also some classic films out there to check out. Sommeren ’92 (Summer of 92), available on Netflix, is an excellent biopic of Denmark’s shock triumph at Euro 92, pulling at the heartstrings with the touching stories of players Kim Vilfort and manager Richard Møller Nielsen. As for Rugby, though the gameplay in the film is often tenuously unrealistic (as is the case in most sports films), Invictus is another moving story about South Africa’s unexpected World Cup triumph on home soil in 1995 in the wake of the dismantling of apartheid.
Above all, unquestionably the best sports film I’ve ever seen is The Damned United, currently available to rent on Amazon Prime or free on BBC iPlayer. It is another biopic about the great Brian Clough’s time at Derby County and Leeds United, but the film is essentially a moving “bromance” story about him and his assistant Peter Taylor. The wit, charisma, arrogance and charm that Michael Sheen manages to portray in Clough make this a truly excellent watch.
Sam Light – News – Unorthodox
I finished Unorthodox in one night. The four episodes are so gripping I would be sceptical of anyone claiming to have resisted burning through them all at once.
An empowering story that gives a rare and honest insight into Brooklyn’s Hasidic Jewish community, Unorthodox follows Esty, a teenage bride, as she battles with the community and culture which shaped her.
Asher Gibson – Comment – Skins
Skins is a bit of a Great British institution, so is ideal for international students new to the UK. Though much has changed in the 13 years since the series was first screened (and the outfits and technology are rather dated), its approach is timeless. Each episode presents one of 6-7 young people’s perspectives as they grapple with death, drug abuse, trauma, love, and betrayal; I would almost call any of them passing their A-Levels a plot hole. The end of lockdown looks far away, so with three character-generations, six seasons, and 3 hour-long prologue episodes, you’ll have more than enough time to immerse yourself into this series.
Ally Azyan – Culture –The Crown
If you haven’t seen this already, what are you waiting for? Nowadays, the Royal Family seem to be under the spotlight, especially with Harry and Meghan’s resignation and Charles’ upcoming ascension to the throne as he takes on more royal duties. What better way to get to know them than to watch a series all about them?
Currently, The Crown has three seasons featuring ten hour-long episodes each, with a fourth season on its way. The series takes on a chronological format depicting the Queen’s treacherous journey as a ruler. What really attracted me to this series was Claire Foy’s brilliant acting; she replicates the Queen’s unique accent and mannerisms very well. The undeniable chemistry between her and Matt Smith, who plays the Queen’s husband, is equally engrossing.
If TV isn’t your thing, we’ve recommended some books to dig your teeth into during lockdown. Check them out here.