What to Watch in Lockdown: 7 Shows to Make You Think

By Lucia Messent



Years and Years

Fast-paced and uncannily perceptive, this near-future drama tracks one Manchester family across 15 years in a post-Brexit landscape. Trump gets a second term, a far-right populist party rises in Britain, nuclear war begins and a pandemic of ‘monkey flu’ takes over the world. As Edith, political activist of the family, vehemently warns us: ‘the world keeps getting hotter and faster and we don’t pause, we don’t think, we don’t learn, we just keep racing to the next disaster.’ Harrowing as they are, her words help shed positive light on today’s era of internationally enforced pause. Where to watch: BBC iplayer


When They See Us

A shocking retellling of the 1989 case that saw five Harlem teenagers, as young as 14, unjustly accused of raping a white woman in Central Park. This harrowing dramatization reveals how a group of racially-motivated police officers bullied the boys (questioning them for hours on end, refusing them food or toilet breaks and using physical force) into signing confessions. Asante Blackk, Caleel Harris, Ethan Herisse, Marquis Rodriguez and Jharrel Jerome are excellent in the roles of the central five. Their collective performance captures the innocence of children, highlighting the sickening perversity of a system which seeks to falsely condemn them. Where to watch: Netflix



Unbelievable

Another haunting drama about America’s legal system. We follow Marie Adler, a vulnerable young woman fresh out of the care system. She tries to report her rape to the police and, after hours of intrustive, endless questioning, is ultimately disbelieved. Meanwhile, a parallel rape in the second episode — the victim another girl, a college student — shows how Adler’s class and background affected her treatment. The case is then taken up by two female detectives whose commitment to catching the rapist enables them to succeed where those first apathetic (male) police failed. Taking a fiercely feminist look at the skewed power dynamics underpinning society, this bold, stand-alone series is both compelling and necessary. Where to watch: Netflix




The Young offenders

For a lighter option, try BBC7’s Irish comedy. Set in Cork, the show follows Jock and Connor, two hapless delinquents whose attempts at crime (stealing bikes, drugs and, in one perfectly-pitched episode, a large fish) are more farcical than threatening. While it doesn’t shy away from darker elements — Jock is covered in bruises meted out by his alcoholic father — the boys retain an endearing innocence, taking girls out on cycling dates and getting ‘love me mam’ tattoos on their arms. With its strong regional feel, this coming-of-age sitcom gives an affectionate account of life in working-class Ireland whilst marking a welcome rejection of that ‘lads lads’ mentality so often paraded on our screens. Where to watch: BBC iplayer, Netflix


Russian Doll

Lockdown has me relating all to keenly to Nadia, the wisecracking New-Yorker reliving her birthday in a traumatic loop, as she screams ‘I’m sorry for YELLING, but I’m having a very BAD, NEVERENDING day.’ Engaging with today’s viewers in ways the creators could never have envisaged, this modern Groundhog Day has an important message at its heart: sometimes we need to step outside of life’s routine in order to reconsider the world and our relationship with those in it. It is dark, funny and masterfully absurd — with a great soundtrack to match! Where to watch: Netflix



Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s expert comedy tears down the boundaries between television and theatre. Glittering with witty asides, lively dialogue and heartfelt monologues (I was particularly impressed by Kristin Thomas’s soliloquy about women’s embodied pain and the liberation of menopause), it’s a real feat of artistic skill. The twelve-part series centres on a grieving, sexually frustrated young Londoner navigating her sinking business and a tangle of unfulfilling relationships. Sarcastic, beautiful and painfully middle-class, Fleabag seems at first a difficult character to relate to. But stick with it: as the show progresses, Waller-Bridge really comes into her own, combining startling sexual and emotional honesty to create a heroine so fiercely vulnerable that it becomes impossible not to root for her. Where to watch: BBC iplayer, Prime Video



Pure

Emotionally nuanced as she is, even Fleabag pales in comparison to Marnie, the protagonist of Channel 4’s latest and boldest comedy-drama. Marnie suffers from a type of OCD known as Pure 0, meaning she constantly battles invasive, debilitating thoughts about sex. Moving to London to seek ‘some fucking answers,’ she embarks on a series of hilariously misjudged sexual encounters — including one failed, drunken attempt at lesbianism— before finding a diagnosis and learning to open up about her condition. Devastatingly sincere and simmering with cautious optimism, this series plays an essential role in the drive to broaden discussions about mental illness and its effects. Where to watch: All 4, Netflix


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