Are you running out of things to watch as we move into the 5th week of lockdown? Then this is for you! I’ve compiled a list of 7 series to help see you through the remaining weeks. I’ve tried to pick my favourites from Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO in nearly equal measure, so no matter how you currently watch your series, there should be something for you!
I’ve also made a special effort to be as varied as possible with the genre so as to avoid “my top series”, which would inevitably end up being a mix of comedies and crime dramas! My intention is to take you off the beaten track as much as possible, so hopefully a good proportion are relatively new to you.
A few from Netflix
Crime, Drama, Gangs
I couldn’t resist starting with this one. It’s my all-time favourite series and despite growing in popularity gradually over the last few years, it still surprises me how many people have never seen it or even heard much about it. On the other hand, about 99% of the people that have seen it, absolutely love it!
You’re plunged into the lives of the brilliantly intelligent but dangerously ambitious Tommy Shelby and his fiercely loyal family as they work, plot and, most of all, fight their way to the top of the post first world war British criminal underworld. The first series starts in the Shelbys’ home territory of Blackheath, Birmingham and rapidly branches out to London as the series progresses.
The series thrives on a number of engrossing rivalries that Tommy, played by the brilliant Cilian Murphy, forms across the 5 series. From the no-nonsense Inspector Campbell (Sam Neill), to the unhinged gangster Alfie Soloman (Tom Hardy) and the Italian mafia boss (Adrien Brody), the battles that the Shelby family endures between both police and rival gangs throughout the 5 series are full of suspense, drama and clever plot twists that leave you guessing right up to the very end. All that, combined with acting that is consistently straight from the top drawer, make this very much a must watch!
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Next out of the Netflix box is this refreshing teenage comedy drama that follows the main character, Otis, as he starts up a lucrative side business as a self-appointed sex therapist at his high school. Not particularly experienced himself, he draws upon his mum’s teachings, who is an actual sex therapist, and is egged on by his highly intelligent business partner, Maeve, as he dishes out relationship and sex advice to fellow students in return for cash with messy and often hilarious consequences.
Don’t let the “teenage romantic drama” stamp put you off. Sex Education has plenty to offer adults as well. It expertly navigates its way through a number of important real-life topics in a consistently thoughtful and honest way. Delivering laughs and real heartfelt moments in equal measure, you might even learn a thing or two yourself!
Fantasy, Drama, Romance
Now for a fantasy offering. I would have gone for Stranger Things, but assuming you all know that one already, I’ve gone for the lesser-known Outlander. Being from the fantasy genre is where the comparisons with Stranger Things ends, Outlander is a time-travelling epic that follows World War 2 nurse, Claire Randall, as she’s unwittingly whisked back in time to 18th-century Scotland while on holiday in Inverness with her fiance.
The story takes us through the Jacobite risings of 1743 as Claire accidentally travels in time and falls in with a group of rebel Scottish Highlanders as they are relentlessly pursued by English redcoats led by the brutal captain Jonathan Randall, the ancestor of Claire’s present-day fiance. To make things even more complicated, Claire quickly falls in love with the leader of the rebel group, Jamie Fraser, and the series follows their romance and adventures as they travel back and forth in time.
Packed with action, romance and drama, this a great option if you’re looking for some good old fashioned escapism!
Police drama, Murder mystery
Last on my Netflix list is this excellently-written police drama. Set in the sleepy fictional town of Broadchurch, Dorset, the series follows worn-out detective Alec Hardy (David Tenant) and his upbeat partner DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) as they investigate the tragic murder of a young boy in the town.
The series expertly develops each character in a patient and absorbing fashion that will leave you guessing who did it right up until the very end. By building out each character in such detail, it also manages to portray in perhaps more detail than your typical police drama would, the impact that such a crime can have on a small community.
If you enjoy it as much as I did, you’re in luck! There are 3 series all on Netflix, and each one is as good as the last.
A few from Amazon Prime
Comedy, Drama, Period
First on my Amazon Prime list is this one-of-a-kind, New York-set comedy. Miriam Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan), AKA “Midge”, has her idyllic life as an upper-class 1950’s housewife in New York turned on its head when her businessman husband, Joel, announces he’s leaving her for his secretary.
Midge gets drunk and ends up in the comedy club where her husband, a wannabe comedian, performed (badly) every now and then. She gives a brilliant improvised standup comedy performance in her drunken state, but is arrested for obscenity and spends the night in jail. Her performance was enough to capture the attention of Susie Myerson, a comedy enthusiast and employee at the comedy club. The two team up and get to work building Midge’s career in comedy with plenty of laughs along the way.
The whole series is great and packed with laughs, but watch out in particular for Tony Shalhoub as Midge’s stressed-out and frustrated father, as well as Alex Borstein as Midge’s partner-in-crime Susie Myersen, who are both consistently hilarious.
Crime, Espionage, Thriller
Next up for Amazon Prime is this espionage thriller based on the book of the same name by the legendary John le Carré. Another of my favourites, the story is brilliantly brought to life in this edge-of-your-seat miniseries as main character Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddlestone), teams up with MI6 handler Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) to bring down “the worst man in the world” and international arms dealer Richard “Dicky” Roper (Hugh Laurie).
Jonathan Pine, driven by revenge and morality after Richard Roper organises the killing of his girlfriend in the Egyptian hotel where he worked as the “Night Manager”, sets about installing himself in the upper echelons of the criminal organisation to later bring it down from within. With lots of twists and suspense along the way, it’s sure to have you hooked from the first episode.
Hugh Laurie, perhaps surprisingly, makes an excellently-evil villain, while Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman both won plaudits for their roles as Jonathan Pine and Angela Burr respectively. A great cast plus a Jonathan le Carre story make this great lockdown viewing!
Romance, Comedy, Drama
Last on my list is Amazon Prime’s Modern Love. Don’t be fooled by the name, this isn’t your typical, straight-forward romcom. Each episode tells a stand-alone story based on real experiences that were sent in by readers to the New York Times column of the same name. The series is consistently poignant and relatable and excellently explores the complexity and range of real-life love stories. It hits a great note between being realistic but upbeat.
The series is backed up by several acting heavyweights; look out for Dev Patel, Anne Hathaway and Andy Garcia just to name a few. I’m not going to pick out my favourite episodes as I think they’re all well worth watching and don’t want to encourage you to skip any!
A few from HBO
Now onto HBO. First up is the American drama Big Little Lies. Centring around a murder that takes place at the beginning of the first episode, the story shoots back to the buildup to the murder and the lives of 5 mothers from Monterey, California who are all connected in some way to each other and the murder.
The show makes for compelling viewing as we’re taken through the complicated lives of Celeste Wright (Nicole Kidman), Madeline Mackenzie (Reese Witherspoon) and Jane Chapman (Shailene Woodley). Celeste is seemingly happily married with young twins living in an idyllic house by the sea in California. However, we quickly see that all isn’t as it seems as she is being violently abused by her husband Perry. The domestic abuse and violence inflicted by Perry is a central theme to the series as we’re taken through the weeks leading up to the murder shown in the first episode.
Thanks to an intriguing story and brilliant acting, you’ll quickly find yourself hooked and wanting to know how it all ends, and, most of all, what happened on the night of the murder.
Period drama, Foreign language
Next up is another drama. But far from the privileged and wealthy California setting of Big Little Lies, My Brilliant Friend takes us to a poor village on the outskirts of 1950’s Napoli. Shot in the regional dialect (even most Italians require the subtitles), the series is based on a novel by Elena Ferrante and tells the story of the shy-but-clever Elena “Lenù” Greco’s life as she grows up and out of the village along with her even more intellectually-gifted best friend, Raffaella “Lila” Cerullo.
The series acts as a great insight into 1950’s life in Napoli with particular care being given to realism and scenery. It’s an epic story that centres around the complicated and often competitive relationship between the two best friends, Lenù and Lila, as they grow up to lead very different lives. Lenù is allowed to continue her studies while Lila is forced to drop out of school at an early age in order to help her family in their shoe shop.
Each season is based on one of the 4 books originally written, so far you can get stuck into the first 2, with season 3 and 4 still in the works.
Comedy, Startup life
We’ll end on a lighter note with this San Francisco-based comedy. The series follows the massive ups and sudden downs of a group of 5 friends, a mixture of techies and businessmen, who try to successfully build their own startup based around the main character, Richard Hendricks’ supposedly ground-breaking data compression algorithm.
Chaos and lots of laughs ensue as they successfully secure millions of dollars in funding before quickly running into disaster after disaster. Not only is the series genuinely funny and full of witty jokes and humour, but it’s also a great insight into the topsy-turvy world of startups in Silicon Valley, with the show benefiting from the real-life experiences in the industry of its co-creator Mike Judge.
If you’re in need of some light-hearted viewing and looking for some guaranteed laughs, then this is an excellent option.
That brings my what-to-watch-during-lockdown list to an end. Hopefully I’ve motivated you to watch a few that you wouldn’t have otherwise given a chance. If on the other hand you’re already fed up of watching series and films and are in need of a different kind of lockdown entertainment, check out my previous posts on board games or online courses.
Until next time, enjoy the series!