With its unseasonably good weather I spent a lot of the last outdoors – running, cycling and gardening. I’ll forever associate a particular corner of the garden with the daily coronavirus press briefings – I used to sit there, airpods on, basking in the last of the late evening sun.
This time I won’t be sitting in the garden, nor will I be watching any of the depress conferences, I’ll be indoors taking it especially easy I’ve decided. More reading, more writing, more Zooming, maybe a computer game and bit more TV.
I always thought that at least some of my retirement life should be devoted to box-set watching and maybe now, with most other forms of entertainment unavailable, it’s time.
I’m tempted to start another binge-watch of the greatest TV series ever, Breaking Bad but that would be my fourth in five years, it’s time for something new.
So here from a Guardian article of January 2019 which has 30 recommendations is my top 10 shortlist of ones to watch.
This saga of two Russian agents posing as a married couple in 1980s Washington, DC is the thinking person’s spy thriller, elegant and cerebral but with tense jeopardy in every scene. A precisely judged blend of jittery espionage action and the timeless drama of everyone living their own lie.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Seinfeld co-creator Larry David played his misanthropic personality for laughs in Curb, which began life as a one-off mockumentary in 1999. While its 2017 comeback received patchy reviews, its outrageous, largely improvised misunderstandings on everything from paedophilia to the Holocaust remain some of the most brilliantly wince-worthy TV ever made.
The Good Place
Set in a pastel-hued afterlife populated by virtuous, philanthropic sorts who can’t even swear and, er, someone who got in by accident, The Good Place was Parks and Recreation co-creator Michael Schur’s attempt at channelling Lost, via the great philosophers and, presumably, The Sims. The result is a meta comedy that’s forking great.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s tale of near-future oppression was never going to make for a sunshine-and-rainbows kind of show. However, the second season of The Handmaid’s Tale – packed with forced labour, sexual violence and even a suicide bombing – was particularly demanding. Stick to the first run, however, and the scares are among the most prescient of recent times.
Return to Britain’s south coast in the mid-1980s and relish the salty thrill of hobnobbing with the Hampshire yachting set. Huge hair and piratical fashions swamp the senses as the Howard family win yacht races, the women glisten like sexy dolphins and the men take their seduction tips from coffee adverts. Delicious.
Nothing can fully replicate the experience of watching the broadcast run of Lost – back when online recaps and deep-dive Easter egg analyses were in their infancy – but the box sets run a close second, not least because they allow you to pummel your way through the hellish third series in a single weekend.
The Sopranos is still a top-five-of-all-time television series. Imbibe it via box set and you can watch the thing expand in real time, from a drama about a mob boss in therapy to a genuinely poetic meditation on life and death.
Where the hell was Jesse Armstrong’s resplendent family saga at the Emmys? This contender for best show of 2018 stars Brian Cox as an irascible Murdoch-alike, keeping the ambitious teeth of his offspring from his ankles as his health fails. King Lear in New York with Armstrong’s trademark The Thick of It smart talk and ugly truth. Pure gold.
The West Wing
Although it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny as much as many other shows – even before Aaron Sorkin left, it often functioned as a wheelbarrow for his hubris – The West Wing was nevertheless capable of hitting extraordinary heights. And, you know, why not wallow in a show with an American president whom people actually like?
Artfully fleshed-out characters, institutional corruption, skilful story arcs … the Baltimore-set series was likened to a Greek tragedy by its creator David Simon, a comparison that perfectly encapsulates the themes of fate and futility at its core. As well as seriously upping expectations for cop shows, it also introduced the world to one Idris Elba as Adam Smith-reading gangster Stringer Bell.