Terry and I watched a lot of TV over the Christmas holidays. Like, a LOT of TV. It’s actually kind of embarrassing how much time we spent parked in front of the TV, actually, but hey – I sit on my ass so you don’t have to … or something… so, just in case you want to watch a lot of TV too this month, here are some recommendations for you…*

15 must-see TV showsThe O.A.

It feels a little redundant to even mention The O.A. at this point, because I think everyone in the whole world has probably seen it already, but just in case you haven’t: watch it. Go and do it now, before you forget – you can thank me later.

This is the story of a blind woman who goes missing, only to turn up several years later with her sight miraculously restored. Well, that’s what you’ll get from the trailer, anyway: The O.A. is actually about much, much more than that, which is why Terry and I managed to binge-watch it in just a couple of days. I actually didn’t think I was going to like this, initially: the first episode started off a little slow, but then, towards the end, things started happening, and I was all, “Yup, that’s my next couple of days accounted for…” This one’s probably not for everyone, but my life has felt meaningless and empty since it finished, so take from that what you will…

Mrs Biggs

This was one of two shows we watched back-to-back, both set in the 60s, and both starring a red-headed Sheridan Smith. Yes, it was confusing. This one is about the eponymous ‘Mrs Biggs’, who was probably better known as the wife of Great Train Robber, Ronnie Biggs. I only knew the bare bones of this story – I mean, I knew there was a great train, and it was robbed, but that was pretty much it – so I found it fascinating to see how it all came about, and what happened to Charmian (Mrs Biggs) and Ronnie afterwards. Oh, and I also loved the 1960s sets and outfits, which were also in evidence in…

Cilla

This was the second Sheridan-Smith-in-the-60s show we watched, and, again, it’s a true story – this time about the early career of Cilla Black. I honestly hadn’t really considered watching this, not being a massive Cilla fan, but it was worth it for Sheridan’s singing alone – and for those awesome outfits.

Detectorists

This is possibly a slightly odd choice, but I kind of loved it: it’s a British comedy/drama following two metal detectorists who’re convinced they’re going to find buried treasure somewhere under the ground. Not only does that idea really appeal to me (When I was a child, I frequently used to go out digging in the field behind our house, because I was ALSO convinced I would probably find buried treasure there. Hands up if you’re surprised by that revelation? No one? Didn’t think so…), I also found this show really relaxing to watch – it’s a very gentle kind of drama, filmed in a place where it always seems to be summer, and while it’s not exactly laugh-out-loud funny, it’s nice and easy to watch, with some great, under-stated acting.

Olive Kitteridge

So, I’m not sure if “recommend” is a good word to use about this show, and how I feel about it. “Depressing,” would be a good word, on the other hand: I found Olive Kitteridge hugely depressing, but, then again, given that it opens with a shot of the main character preparing to kill herself (that’s not a spoiler, by the way: it’s literally the first few minutes of the show…). that’s probably not too surprising, is it? With that said, this is actually a wonderful drama – beautifully acted and very deserving of all the Emmys it won – which is very, very touching, and incredibly well done. It’s just … really freaking depressing, and probably not one to watch if you’re looking for something light, you know? If you’re in the mood for something slow, dark and thought-provoking, on the other hand, you’ll probably love it.

Mildred Pierce

So, yeah, I apparently developed a bit of a thing for mini series with women’s names as the title, didn’t I? This one stars Kate Winslet as Mildred: a divorced mother-of-two who decides to start her own restaurant chain, in 1940s America. Evan Rachel Wood plays her daughter, Veda, who is one of the most unpleasant little madams you’ll ever see on TV, and Mildred and Veda’s relationship is at the heart of this series, which gives a nice bit of insight into middle-class life and manners in 40s California. It’s a re-make of the 1945 film of the same name, and has much of the same ‘film noir’ feel of the original, which makes it all the better, as far as I’m concerned.

The Syndicate 

The Syndicate is a British drama which is now on its third series: we hadn’t seen either of the first two, but it didn’t matter, as each series has a different cast, and a different story, all revolving around the concept of a syndicate of friends/colleagues who win the National Lottery. The syndicate of season 3 all work in a crumbling stately home, and their lottery win is somewhat overshadowed by certain other events, which I won’t spoil for you. I really enjoyed both the country house setting, and the exploration of how a huge lottery win could change people’s lives – and not necessarily  in the ways they might have expected – so I’ll be looking out for the first two seasons, too.

DSC_3377In Plain Sight

When my mum was a little girl, she was traumatised by news reports of the time, about the evil doings of Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel, who lived just twenty or so miles away. In Plain Sight is the true story of that time, and, having watched it, I can totally see why my mum was so afraid of him, let’s put it that way. If you like true crime dramas, this is a good one to watch: and if you just enjoy lying awake at night, jumping at every slight noise you hear, well, you’ll like it, too.

Rillington Place

Yet another true crime drama: sometimes when I get hold of a theme, I just don’t let it drop.  Rillington Place was the London home of 1940s serial killer John Christie, who left the bodies of his victims under the floorboards, and plastered into the walls of the property: nice guy, huh? I recommended this one to my mum, only for her to say it, “Seemed a bit dark,” – which is a fair assessment, really, although if you like this kind of thing (and I apparently DO…), you probably won’t mind too much.

Brief Encounters

For a complete change of pace, Brief Encounters is about a group of women who become Anne Summers reps. So, no serial killing, then: phew. (OR IS THERE?!) (No, there isn’t.) It’s set in the 1980s, and although I didn’t really fancy it when Terry put it on, it ended up being surprisingly entertaining: in fact, I was quite disappointed when it ended. It’s surprising how much a show about sex toys and lingerie can grow on you, isn’t it?

(OK, OK, it’s not actually ABOUT those things, other than incidentally. My observation still stands, though.)

Frequency

Just your typical, “woman discovers she’s able to communicate with her dead father via the ham radio in the garage,” tale. Pretty standard stuff, really.

The Jinx

I actually watched The Jinx around this time last year, and have been meaning to write about it ever since. It’s a documentary following the bizarre life of Robert Durst, who has been accused of murder on three separate occasions now (Aaand, we’re back to murder!).  Durst is, quite honestly, one of the strangest individuals around, and if you liked Making a Murderer, you need to watch this – enough said.

Someone Knows My Name

Based on the novel,  The Book of Negroes, this series basically tells the story of the slave trade, through the eyes of Aminata, a young girl captured in Sierra Leone, and sent to South Carolina as a slave. It’s pretty sobering stuff, as you can imagine, and although the characters are fictional, the Book of Negroes itself is a real document – which makes it even more so.

Victoria

In my last TV-related post, I was singing the praises of The Crown, which tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II: this time I’m singing the praises of Victoria, which tells the story of… I don’t really need to finish this sentence, do I? As you can probably tell (I’ve also obsessed over The Tudors on this blog…), I’m quite fascinated by TV shows about royalty, so I was always going to be pre-disposed to like this one. Luckily, it didn’t disappoint: the first season follows the early years of the young Queen Victoria’s reign, and I’m now impatiently awaiting the next instalment.  In the meantime, I’ve been dipping in and out of Queen Victoria’s diaries, which are archived online: unfortunately they’re not quite as exciting as I was hoping – either she left out all the juicy stuff, or the young Victoria was just really preoccupied with recording what time she got out of bed every morning – but they’ll tide me over until season two.

To Walk Invisible 

Finally, if you’re a fan of the Brontë sisters, you’ll love To Walk Invisible, which is a made-for-TV movie (a good one, though…) about the lives of the three sisters, and their lesser-known brother, Bramwell. It gives an interesting insight into the circumstances that gave birth to great novels like Jayne Eyre and Wuthering Heights, as well as being a poignant reminder that, no matter how well you think you’re doing in life, all three sisters Brontë had published best-selling novels before they were 31, so beat that, suckers.

What have you been watching lately? 

(*Er, needless to say, we didn’t watch ALL of these over Christmas – not even I can watch THAT much TV in a short space of time!)5

10 Comments
  1. Omg, I was just talking about how I had run out of TV shows to watch last night with my friend. I’m SUPER picky when it comes to shows – Scandal is too scary for me (LOL – I mean, Pretty Little Liars is a bit too scary for me sometimes so…), The Good Wife is too boring and technical for me, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is too stupid for me, etc etc. I only really liked OITNB and Unreal. I’m going to try some of your suggestions, hopefully I find one I like. The OA sounds hopeful!

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Ahh YES, so many recommendations! I’m a massive TV geek so this should come in handy. I can’t believe I still haven’t watched Victoria – need to do it soon!

    Laura // Middle of Adventure

  3. I’ve never heard of the O.A. Do I live under a rock? To be fair I don’t watch much TV these days unless it’s Thomas, PJ Masks or football.

    I do have the Walk Invisible film saved on my virgin box though, recorded it over Christmas and I’d like to sit down and watch it before next Christmas…. We shall see!

  4. Queen Victoria’s diaries were apparently very racy indeed but her daughter Beatrice edited them for publication and cut out all the juicy bits. Killjoy!

  5. I also really enjoyed the Detectorists! It’s one of those shows that I only started watching because there was absolutely nothing else that looked interesting but it really grew on me and I’m glad I stumbled across it.

  6. I LOVED The OA! After I finished I had to take some time processing what I had just seen before looking into fan theories. I also watched Stranger Things, which I found to be as great as everyone said and more. Winona Ryder back on the spotlight, great child actors and an up-and-comming young actor that looks like Leo DeCaprio circa Titanic? And all of that plus a fantastic story set in and full of 80s detail? You have me at hello. After that I saw the second season of Daredevil and Jessica Jones- I adored and suffered both of them. When you have a tendency to get anxious, seeing people getting their butts kicked and almost dying and (as in Jessica Jones) talking about rape and PTSD can be harrowing. Doesn’t mean I didn’t love every bit of them though. Now onto watching Luke Cage and waiting for Iron Fist and The Defenders to come out. Superhero shows are my version of you royalty shows.
    I’m waiting until my sister gets back from her travelling around Europe to watch The Crown and A Series of Unfortunate Events

  7. I don’t need to watch making a murderer. I worked at a local TV station when the trial was happening and live in the area. Avery is guilty.

    Haven’t tried the OA yet, and Victoria is just airing in the states. Trying to get thru The Crown, one episode 3 but it’s not a must binge watch.

    Olive Kittridge is a book, as is Mildred Pierce. The 1940’s film version won Joan Crawford her Oscar. The HBO remake is truer to the book & is excellent.

    I would love to see To Walk invisible. The Bronte’s always intrigue me.

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