Thursday means another excellent collation of art and culture from our Voice Contributors for you to discover and enjoy. This week it is the turns of Saskia, Mary and Tayo to deliver their top picks, and they're looking at Film and TV!
TV and Film are about the only distraction we have these days from the mess that is the world around us. Being stuck inside pushes us into the arms of social media, and although it’s important to see events around the world unfold, it’s also essential to take some time out to just relax and unwind. In that spirit, I’ve put together a list of shows that are feel-good and distracting.
Out – Disney+
Disney+ features Pixar SparkShorts, which produces authentic shorts that are often more diverse than your typical Disney feature. ‘Out’ is the latest release, and is about a gay man who has yet to tell his parents he is in a happy, interracial relationship with another man. The fear of coming out is one that LGBTQ+ people can relate to. What’s great about ‘Out’ is that it normalises gay couples and has good representation without trying too hard. Although there is nothing particularly original about the story, it’s a lovely ode to the gay community, expressing a timeless message in under 10 minutes.
Kimmy Schmidt Vs The Reverend - Netflix
As a fan of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, when season three ended so abruptly, I knew it wasn’t over. Enter Netflix’s feature-length interactive special, ‘Kimmy Vs The Reverend’. Not only does this show feature the interactive technology that made its debut on Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, it’s packed with great laughs, good fun and Daniel Radcliffe. Tina Fey is a comedic genius, and Kimmy Schmidt highlights the best of Fey. Not seen the series? Don’t be put off by the special, it’s not hard to follow, and it WILL leave you wanting more from the most loveable, outlandish ensemble on TV.
90 Day Fiancé - TLC
If you follow any Instagram meme account, you’re unlikely to have missed Ed from ‘90 Day Fiancé’. The American who travelled to the Philippines to meet the 24-year-old he fell in love with on Facebook, but has done nothing but disrespect her and her culture since he got there. It’s everything that is wrong with TV, but it’s so addictive, funny, and cringe that, for two hours on a Thursday night, you forget all the sadness in the world and laugh at the people who inflicted this on themselves in the pursuit for “love”. It’s reality TV at it’s best.
Harley Quinn – E4
With the disappointing release of Birds of Prey starring Margot Robbie, the Harley Quinn animated series is just what the doctor ordered. Voiced by Kayley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn ends her relationship with Joker and is now looking to be the new face of the Legion of Doom; only no one takes her seriously. This is Harley Quinn’s time to prove herself, and with the help of her unlikely ally Poison Ivy, the animated series is full of girl power, kick-ass action and a lot of swearing. It’s twenty-minutes of non-stop hilarity that you simply shouldn’t go without.
Central Park – Apple TV
Apple TV has been slightly underwhelming since its release last September. Producing a few good shows like The Morning Show and then a few fails like See, it seems that Apple TV is on the way to redemption with its new animated series Central Park. Produced by Josh Gad (Olaf from Frozen) and starring him, Kirsten Bell, Titus Burgess, and Stanley Tucci to name a few, it’s a show about the preservation of one of New York’s staple landmarks. With well-written music sung by the cast and a good developing storyline, Central Park seems to be on its way to becoming a new fan favourite.
The world is rough for a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons right now. Film and TV have a really important role in dealing with difficult times, whether it’s to bring us joy or to focus, make us laugh, or remind us that a better world is possible. So here’s some films and TV shows which I think will help with that.
Astronomy Club - Netflix
Astronomy Club is an incredibly funny sketch show. Moving from topic to topic, they manage to make pretty much anything funny, transitioning with ease from a ridiculous sketch about sentient gingerbread people being eaten, to a satirical sketch about a rehab centre for Hollywood’s magical negroes. There’s also a really fun meta-layer, where all of the comedians play hyperbolic versions of themselves in a mock reality TV show about them as a sketch group. This is ultimately a really fun and clever show which you should go and watch for a good laugh.
Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer - Youtube
Based on the Janelle Monáe album of the same name, Dirty Computer is a film which follows an android, Jane 57821 (played by Monáe) as she tries to break free of the constraints of a totalitarian state and its brutally enforced heteronormativity. Every part of this film is visually stunning, from the sets, to the lighting, to the iconic outfits. Todd Banhazi’s phenomenal cinematography captures all of this brilliantly and captures the energy of every scene. Monae’s fantastic performance alongside Tessa Thompson and Jayson Aaron hold the film together, managing to communicate heaps of emotion in a relatively limited time frame. Combined with the album’s amazing music, Dirty Computer is a beautiful and powerful piece of queer resistance which you should give your attention.
My Neighbour Totoro - Netflix
If you’re looking for something nice and calming in the midst of the plethora of bad things happening in the world right now, look no further than My Neighbour Totoro. The film is about a family who moves to a new house in the country and comes into contact with mystical creatures there – most notably the giant and adorable Totoro. There’s a fundamental kindness and sweetness to all of the characters, which is really refreshing and uplifting. All of this is underscored by an incredible soundtrack which underpins the delightful and sweet vibe of the film. I could honestly put several films of the Studio Ghibli filmography in this slot, but My Neighbour Totoro epitomises that Miyazaki charm that makes you believe in magic and kindness again.
Spaced - All4
Spaced is a sitcom that follows two 20-something North Londoners (played by Jessica Hynes and Simon Pegg) who have to pretend to be a couple so that they can rent a flat for cheap. Pretty soon that premise falls to the wayside, as we end up in hijinks with an eccentric cast of characters. Every episode is silly and hilarious, something heightened by the frantic editing of Edgar Wright. The show is also just incredibly nerdy in a great way, providing a fun display of what nerd culture looked like at the turn of the millennium. Spaced is an irreverent sit-com which is definitely worth giving a watch.
Lockdown has resulted in us all trying to find interest and fulfilment whilst being stuck at home in the same-old everyday environments. I’ve tried to list TV shows that manage to do this, and find the extraordinary within the ordinary. Lockdown has made us all look at our lives and the world slightly differently. All the shows I’ve listed also do this, looking at the world with a different eye, taking a unique stance, breaking barriers in the television world or not being afraid to be crazy, explorative and out-there. Most importantly, all these shows offer utter escapism from the outside world, which we all need more of right now.
Whether it’s entering the comic book or superhero worlds of Riverdale and Batwoman, or finding the fun within the ordinary in The World According to Jeff Goldbloom and Piper.
The World According to Jeff Goldblum - Disney+
This show is difficult to describe, and it’s easy (although accurate) to say that there is no television programme quite like it. It is quite simply bonkers and utterly out-there in the best possible way. Each episode explores the most mundane boring subject matter imaginable, and yet Goldbloom makes it interesting, imaginative and funny. It offers a different way of looking at the world, finding fascination in the overlooked and hidden interests in the ordinary. It’s not afraid to push the boundaries of the usual television tropes for tv shows. It takes a while to get your head around this concept but if you are looking for something different and altogether crazy then this is it.
Batwoman - E4
Batwoman has been rocking the headlines recently with the reveal that Ruby Rose will no longer be playing the lead caped crusader, but don’t let that put you off giving this show a watch. The cast is strong and the storylines are gripping. This show is not afraid to voice its political opinion, or to dive headfirst into subjects that need to be expressed more often on American TV. It’s full of Bat-lore and shout outs to DC comics too, so if you like all things Batcave it’s time to hear from the women. Oh and did I mention that it’s lead antagonist is ‘mad, bonkers, completely off her(sic) head’.
Riverdale - Netflix
Speaking of absurdity, you don’t get much crazier than Riverdale storylines. Cannibalism? Rape? Drugs? Gangs? Murder? Incest? Bear fights? Pedophilia? Cults? Yes, Riverdale has been there and done that. Don’t let these hard-hitting themes fool you, it is actually fun, frivolous and definitely does not take itself seriously.
Moving on from all that and looking a little more recently, I still haven’t quite recovered from their latest musical episode. Based on Hedwig and the Angry Inch, it finally gives Casey Cott’s Kevin time to shine – complete with full drag – and I am here for it. Recent news tells us the next series will be set five years in the future after they’ve all left college, but we have a while to wait until that arrives, which makes it the perfect time to catch up on this guilty pleasure.
Piper - Disney+
This follows a super cute little sandpiper as it learns how to forage food for itself. It’s a story about growing up, overcoming your fears and finding ways to cope with insurmountable problems whilst gaining independence. It explores ways to override the barriers put in place by the world and how to find your own way to survive. Beyond all these thematic ideas, it’s just so adorable and sweet to watch. The animation is beautiful, the seascape tranquil and it melts your heart. During lockdown we’ve all taken to craving nature, appreciating wildlife and the outdoors more; this short film is also a celebration of all things organic and the beauty offered by the natural world. If you need a six minute escape from the craziness and chaos of the world at the moment then this is it.
View more of our Culture lockdown picks here.