How do you cure ignorance?

I started rewatching ER at the beginning of 2020. It has kept me company throughout the pandemic, during the first scary lockdown, the milder second lockdown in October 2020 and the never-ending lockdown at the start of 2021. (And I’m still not finished, partly because there are 15 seasons but also because I’ve been watching lots of other things as well.) In April and May last year, when I was very anxious about everything, it helped to watch someone else’s terrible day play out on ER. It also helped that the first few seasons are really good. The storylines are diverting and the writing is quirky and fun. It feels like an ensemble, workplace drama. It’s about more than just the hospital. It stays pretty good until around the end of season eight, when Mark Green dies and Dr Romano has his first run-in with the helicopter. After that they start recycling storylines, and it gets a bit sanctimonious. By the end of season 12, you start to see the influence of Grey’s Anatomy – the final episode ends with a Snow Patrol song and the lives of several beloved characters are in peril.

Continue reading “How do you cure ignorance?”

TV shows I watched in 2020 – an incomplete list

This list is vaguely in the order of when I watched things or when I started watching them. Almost half of them are on Netflix, others are on All 4 or NowTV. There’s a few I watched on a proper tv channel. I actually streamed The Good Fight on the RTE player and it wasn’t terrible.

1. Sex Education (Series 1 & 2)
2. Big Mouth (Series 1 – 3)
I started watching both of these on my tablet on the plane back from Spain at the start of the year. They’re both a bit saucy and maybe not completely suitable to watch in a public place, but it was a late flight and I was tucked in against the window. Unlike the time I watched the first episode of You’re The Worst on another flight. It was on Aer Lingus’s in-flight entertainment list and I wanted to have a look to see what they’d cut. The answer was nothing. They had cut nothing. I was sitting in the aisle and I had to turn if off during Jimmy and Gretchen’s first sex scene out of sheer embarrassment.
Sex Education is sweet and fun and Gillian Anderson is wonderful in it. Big Mouth is surreal and subversive and deeply weird. I loved them both.

3. This Life (Series 1)
This kicked off a year of rewatching tv from the 90s. I wrote a bit about what it was like watching something after a 15 year gap here. I enjoyed it immensely, for the nostalgia factor and because it’s great telly.

4. ER (Series 1 – 9)
Anther rewatch that I’m really enjoying, and I still have 6 more seasons to go. I saw lot of it the first time round and it’s really interesting to revisit a much loved show. It’s still very good, especially the first handful of series when I think they were really doing something new. We’re now up to series 9 and it’s getting a little bit ropey – Rocket had had his first run-in with the helicopter. I’ll say no more.

5. Unorthodox
I watched this around the beginning of the first lockdown. It’s ridiculously good, and a good distraction from unpleasant world events.

6. Collateral
There’s a bit too much going on in this BBC drama and not all of it added up. It wasn’t terrible.

7. Press
This confused me. The set-up is tabloid v’s broadsheet but everyone keeps switching sides, and the overall message seemed to be the press are terrible.

8. New Girl (Series 1 – 7)
I’d seen the first couple of series but it was lovely to revisit and to watch to the very end. It’s a very charming show, and it’s also really funny. The characters are ridiculous and I love them all.

9. Chernobyl
I watched this around Easter time when everything was pretty grim. It kinda helped. It reminded me that things could be worse. I learnt a lot about something that I thought I knew about but didn’t really. I didn’t know the level to which the government lied about what happened. I thought it was a great series.

10. Succession
I tried watching Succession a couple of years ago and gave up after two episodes. I hated all the characters and I just didn’t have time for them. (That baseball game in the first episode is so horrible.) In lockdown, I gave it a second chance and it was either the pandemic or the numerous awards and accolades it has collected since then, but it clicked for me the second time around and I enjoyed it immensely. I still think they’re all terrible people but now I enjoying watching them be terrible to each other. I also enjoy seeing the similarities between it and Peep Show. With Succession, you don’t need to hear the inner monologue, you just see it on their faces.

11. Run
This was a bit of a disappointment. It started rather beautifully with two college sweethearts abandoning their old lives and getting back together on a whim, after not seeing each other for 10+ years. They run away together by train and there’s some lovely scenes in the first couple of episodes where they’re working out where they stand with each and how much they want to disclose about their current life. Then they get off the train and the whole thing goes off the rails. There’s a big bag of cash and an accidental murder. Phoebe Waller-Bridge turns up as a taxidermist who sings karaoke, and there’s a mysterious man we never meet but who loves mac & cheese. It’s gets strange and confusing. It’s a shame. The other snag for me is that Domhnall Gleeson plays a motivational speaker, and an Irish man. Are there any Irish motivational speakers? I don’t think as a people we have the right temperament for it.

12. Normal People
This show made me miss everything. It made me miss college. It made me miss parties and pubs and wandering through Trinity on a sunny day. It even made me a little bit sentimental about the Leaving Cert. When I read the book, I read it in short bursts. It felt too intense and I needed to take frequent breaks from the characters because being inside their heads felt claustrophobic. For me, the tv show did a great job of capturing that same feeling.

13. I May Destroy You
In a throwback to the way we used to watch television, I missed the first episode of this series and instead of trying to find it online, I just watched from episode 2. This might be why the show always felt slightly off kilter to me, but I also think that might be what they were going for. I feel like it broke a lot of tv rules, especially for a half-hour show which are usually sitcoms, and instead this was pitch dark. It also jumped around time-lines and switched protagonists a lot. Some of the scenes had a dreamlike or fantasy quality even when they weren’t. It used social media really well, and it played with addressing the audience directly without breaking the fourth wall. It was sublime. I read a lot about the show when I finished because I wanted to know more. It left room for me to interpret things for myself and decide what I felt had happened and I loved that.

14. Schitt’s Creek (Series 6)
The final series of Schitt’s Creek was so nice. I loved being reunited with the Roses during lockdown, and it was such a happy reunion. Seeing them win all those Emmys later in the year was also very nice!

15. The Umbrella Academy (Series 2)
I love this ridiculous show about a dysfunctional family of superheroes. It just makes me happy. I also love a bit of time travel and setting the series in 1963 really worked for me.

16. What We Do In the Shadows (Series 2)
This vampire comedy was as wonderful as the first series. I really enjoyed Guillermo learning to value himself and his unique talents, and all the petty grudges between the vampires. It’s just really, really funny.

17. Mrs America
I loved this show about the feminist activists in America in the 1970s and their work to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. It was about a period of American history I didn’t know much about and I thought it was told really well, particularly as they covered big chunks of time. I liked the story and the characters. It also felt very relevant, especially in relation to politics in America this year.

18. Jane The Virgin (Series 4 & 5)
I finished this wonderful series this year and I miss the Villanueva women terribly. It took me about a year to finish the first series and then it clicked for me and I watched the second series in a matter of weeks. It is an unusual show; it takes a bit of getting used to. It’s part telenovela, part magic realism. There’s a narrator who drops clues about what’s going to happen next. There’s lots of fantasy sequences and a few song and dance numbers. There’s a lot to romance and love triangles. It has the most ridiculous soap plots – like the central premise of a woman who gets pregnant before she has sex – but it also has such heart and such wonderful characters that you really feel for them when they are entangled with criminal masterminds or evil twins.

19. Homeland (Series 8)
I have watched Homeland since the beginning. It has had its ups and downs. I’ve almost given up on it many times but I keep coming back because I love Clare Danes and Mandy Patinkin. And I am so glad I did because they did a really good final series and gave those characters a great ending and I was so glad.

20. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I’m only a couple of series in to this rewatch, which was prompted by Emily Nussbaum’s tweets about her own rewatch. I remember so much of this show so clearly, particularly the terrible monster costumes. I love it, though some episodes make me really wish I could go read a recap on Television Without Pity after watching. I feel that way about ER as well sometimes. Recaps made every show better, I miss the snark.

21. I Hate Suzie
One of my favourite things I watched this year. It had this really dark centre that showed all the shit women put up with, but then dressed it up with jokes and songs and dream-sequences and fabulous clothes. (Personally I was very taken by Suzie’s fringed dressing gown.) In a way, that’s what being a woman in a patriarchal society is like – pretty shit but we do our best to dress it up and get on with things. I loved the characters, I loved the writing, I loved the visual style of it. I want to watch it again.

22. The Deceived
This murder mystery is written by Lisa McGee and set in Cambridge and Donegal. It’s pretty good, though I didn’t really like the vague supernatural aspects of it. I did like that almost everyone in it was a bit of a baddie, or at least telling a few fibs.

23. Misfits (Series 1 & 2)
Another very enjoyable rewatch. It’s such a ridiculous premise – a bunch of teenagers suddenly get superpowers, while they’re doing community service – but it’s done so well. They have so much fun with it that it’s just really enjoyable. There are three more series but we stopped after two, before it starts taking itself a bit too seriously and is a lot less fun.

24. The Good Fight (Series 4)
I love this show so much. I started watching the new series the day after Joe Biden was officially declared the winner of the US Election, and I think that was the perfect time to see the weird and wonderful series opener. This series is slightly shorter than usual but includes eccentric bosses and a good old-fashioned conspiracy. It also has it’s usual episodes inspired by real-life events.

25. The Undoing
This was all a bit of a mess really. Far too many red herrings and too many scenes that were maybe memories or maybe imaginings. Some of the clothes were fun and I enjoy Donald Sutherland but if you haven’t seen it, I wouldn’t bother.

26. Stath Lets Flats (Series 1 & 2)
This is a very sweet show. There is something of Kimmy Schmidt about Stath, if Kimmy was a Greek estate agent. He and his sister Sophie are just too pure for this world. I’m delighted that there’s going to be a third series, I can’t wait.

27. Glow (Series 1 – 3)
I rewatched this after it was announced that the previously commissioned fourth series had been cancelled. So it was a bittersweet rewatch but I did get to watch it with my sister who hadn’t seen it before and that was nice. It’s a wonderful show and I love how it branches out and goes deeper with each series. I’m still so disappointed that we don’t get to see what happens next. Are the series four scripts anywhere on the internet?

28. His Dark Materials (Series 2)
This show feels Christmassy to me. Partly because it’s on at the tail-end of the year but mostly because it’s on Sunday evening, which is when I watched The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a tiny child which is another snowy series based on a book with a Christian allegory at its heart that also makes me think of Christmas. It’s also an enjoyable adaptation.

TV that’s worth your time: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

This is my fourth and final tv pick for the moment. Our usual (ir)regular blog posts will resume shortly. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a show on Amazon Prime. Now, I don’t like Amazon – I’m a fan of bookshops so Amazon feels like a natural enemy but I also really don’t like how they treat their staff. I don’t use Amazon as a rule. I watched the first series of Mrs. Maisel with a free trial of Amazon Prime and consoled myself with the fact that I wasn’t actually giving them any money. Now I’m in a bit of a bind because I want to watch the second series of Mrs. Maisel (and I really want to see Dietland because I loved the book when I read it last year) and I’m going to end up giving them money and I’m a little bit disappointed in myself for that. I would be very grateful if someone else could please boycott Amazon for the next month on my behalf.

Continue reading “TV that’s worth your time: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

TV that’s worth your time: The Bisexual

My third tv pick is actually something that was on this year and doesn’t feature the after-life or clones or anything other worldly at all. The Bisexual started on Channel 4 in October and all six episodes are available on All4 in the UK and Ireland, and Hulu (I think) in the US. It’s set in London and revolves around a group of young people but it’s not like the happy, shiny portrayal of adulthood that I grew up on.

Continue reading “TV that’s worth your time: The Bisexual”

TV that’s worth your time: Orphan Black

My second tv pick is another Netflix show – the wonderfully dark and twisty Orphan Black. This one is definitely not for everyone but if you enjoyed Killing Eve and feel a lack of wise-cracking, murderous women on your tv, you will like Orphan Black. It’s a mix between The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer with our own Maria Doyle Kennedy playing the Giles role – paternal, bit of a worrier but also a secret bad-ass. It’s full of strong women and government conspiracies; no aliens but lots of dodgy science.

Continue reading “TV that’s worth your time: Orphan Black”

TV that’s worth your time: The Good Place

Last summer, while waiting for the new series to start, I rewatched The Good Place and found myself getting a little weepy at one of the late series 2 episodes. It was a Sunday and I was hungover and feeling a bit delicate but also it’s a lovely, heart-felt show with characters that you really care about and definitely worth having a little cry over! Have you watched it? Do you love it?

Continue reading “TV that’s worth your time: The Good Place”

Sunday Round-up

1. Back from my holidays
I was lucky enough to spend the last couple of weeks in Spain, which was wonderful. I swam, I sat in the sun drinking wine, I ate lots and lots of tapas and read lots of books. (Yep, old-fashioned, paper books.) I also attended a Golden Wedding Anniversary, which was a first for me!

Nerja

October is a good time of year to go away and get a bit of necessary sunshine before facing into the winter because it has the added benefit that you arrive back to wonderful autumn colours on the trees. You don’t get that spectacular colour palette in southern Spain. The colours you do get include bright blue skies and warm yellow sunshine so I’m not complaining, but all those greens and yellows and reds makes the bus journey back from the airport a bit less depressing!

2. Waking The Feminists
Being back in Dublin also means lots of chats about Waking The Feminists in theatre bars and foyers. It’s often been the first topic of conversation. I know I’ve said it before but it’s so incredibly exciting. It’s going to get even more exciting this week when the first public meeting happens on Thursday at 1pm. Venue will be confirmed tomorrow and women in the arts are asked to arrive at 12.30 for a photo-shoot. Change is coming!!

If you want to catch-up on everything that’s happened in the last 10 days and to see all the things that have been said by women in the arts, as well as what’s been said in the press – check out the WakingTheFeminists website.

3. White Label Symposium
WhiteLabelI spent Saturday in Wood Quay at the White Label’s Story Machines – Theatre and Technology Symposium. White Label are a collective of theatre makers and the symposium was about how technology is represented on stage and how it can be used in the theatre.

The workshop on Saturday morning was run by Identity Problem Group. They are a interdisciplinary artistic collective from Poland who use a lot of technology in their work. There is a huge focus on technology in their work which was very interesting, as was their use of improv and the six months they get to rehearse a show!

In the afternoon, there was a reading of Override, a new play by Stacey Gregg. We only got to hear the first half but it raised lots of questions about medical improvements and enhancements to the human body. I’m looking forward to seeing the full production next year.

This was followed by a short documentary about theatre artists who want to replace actors with machines and a presentation by Akhila Krishnan who works for 59 productions. That link is worth clicking because they have worked on some amazing projects – when she joined the company Akhila’s first project was the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics! They also run a paid internship.

The final event was a panel discussion with Sophie Motley, Jack Phelan, Kris Nelson and Akhila Krishnan about the using technology in theatre productions and the challenges in presents, particularly in the context of the work being made in Ireland. Some of lessons here were that if you are including technology, it should be absolutely vital to the show, it’s important to do loads of prep work and have a realistic budget! I also thought it was interesting that they described themselves as “video artists”. There’s more from the panel on the White Label’s twitter.

It was a really great day of exploring ideas and hearing about new technology. I enjoyed it and look forward to White Label’s next event.

4. New Writing
You can see six new plays at the New Theatre this week, as part of their New Writing Week. Tickets are €4 and available on the door. Shows start at 7.30pm. I’m not going to get to see all six but I am hoping to make it to one or two.

Full Line-up
Mon 9th – Dummy by Emma Hughes
Tue 10th – Another Billy Conn by Andrew Kenny
Wed 11th – Normal by Caitriona Daly
Thur 12th – Drawing Crosses on a Dusty Windowpane by Dylan Coburn Gray
Fri 13th – The Entrepreneurs by Neil Pearson
Sat 14th – Loveboxxx by Lauren Shannon-Jones

5. You’re The Worst
This American sitcom is still one of the funniest things on telly right now, and the second season is also breaking my heart on a weekly basis right now. If you like Catastrophe, you will love this. It’s not on tv this side of the Atlantic yet, but it might be possible to find a few episodes online.

YOU'RE THE WORST -- Pictured: (l-r) Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler, Chris Geere as Jimmy Shive-Overly, Kether Donohue as Lindsay Jillian, Desmin Borges as Edgar Quintero. CR: Autumn De Wilde/FX
YOU’RE THE WORST — Pictured: (l-r) Aya Cash as Gretchen Cutler, Chris Geere as Jimmy Shive-Overly, Kether Donohue as Lindsay Jillian, Desmin Borges as Edgar Quintero. CR: Autumn De Wilde/FX