I don’t know about you, but this week – despite being only four days long – has felt like it’s neverending. Add to that the fact that I’ve been in terrible form (I’m blaming everything: the hour difference in the clock, the moon, Donald Trump…) and I am badly in need of a weekend of R’n’R to rest, relax and recover.
When I’m in this kind of mood, feeling lethargic and unmotivated, the number one thing I want to do is eat. But as I’m on a mission, I’m going to have to settle for the second best option – sitting on the couch, in my onesie, watching TV. And there are two ways this can go. Either I’ll find something amazing to watch, and watch episode after episode after episode… Or, I’ll skip through the channels for about eight hours at a trot, watching everything and nothing, and seriously regretting the waste of time.
It seems pretty clear which option is preferable: while there is a strong argument to be made – and my personal trainer makes it all the time – for the fact that watching TV all weekend is sinfully wasteful, whatever way you paint it, watching TV that is thrilling and exciting and, crucially, contains some top TV totty, is definitely better than a weekend watching the Kardashians. Which is why I’ve compiled this handy list.
10 binge-worthy box sets
I’m even going to categorise them, so that you know what kind of mood you have to be in. I know, I’m the best. You can thank me when you’re done.
For a dark mood, at night-time, with coffee
I know, I know – I should have watched the original Danish version. I gather the jumpers were better and all. Anyway, all I’ve seen is the Netflix version, and it is brilliant. It’s dark – in that way that TV programmes with Scandi roots often are – and thrilling and sad and intriguing. The acting is incredible and the storyline seems to walk that fine line between overly simplistic and overly complex. In other words, you can get distracted by Snapchat for five minutes and still know what’s going on. Always a priority for me.
For a good mood, Sunday morning, maybe a bit hungover
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is another amazing Netflix creation, with Tina Fey pulling the strings. For a TV show that centres around the release, after years of underground imprisonment, of a young woman from a freaky preacher (played by Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm, who was actually the lowlight of the whole series for me, bizarrely), it’s surprisingly hilarious – and even though it has its semi-sweet moments, it’s not earnest, which is important because YAWN.
For weeknights, on your own (no interruptions)
For some insane reason, I avoided watching How to Get Away with Murder for ages – despite the fact that people kept recommending it to me. Viola Davis is an acting powerhouse, with the downside being that everyone else looks a bit crap next to her. But that’s okay, because she could carry this entire show with just a look – I defy you not to be awestruck by the kind of monologue moments we’re given of her sitting in front of her mirror. The story is ridiculous, but suspenseful enough to keep you coming back for more. And more. And more. This is where the last three weeks of my life have gone.
For Friday night in with the girls (minimal talking)
I mainly remember Gabrielle Union for her role in She’s All That (what? I’m a woman of a certain age, okay?) – but this shows her as, actually, a pretty decent actress. It’s a light, soapy show about a TV presenter grappling with being single, successful, in her 30s and black – watching it from little old Ireland made me really think about representations of black women in the US, and how engrained racism is even in the most enlightened societies. So it’s super entertaining, but also a thinker. Good for post-watch analysis.
For when you’re feeling nostalgic, with toast
Before you ask yourself, why toast?! Ask yourself: why not toast. There’s something about white bread, toasted, with Kerrygold butter, that brings me right back to my teenage years – a similar feeling elicited by watching old episodes of Dawson’s Creek. I remember DC as the first show I was allowed to watch that made direct, unveiled references to sex, which made it pretty damn important. (My parents were so protective that I wasn’t allowed to watch Glenroe, for fear of “adult content”. True story.) It’s kind of hilarious, in hindsight, to watch these 20-somethings pretend to be teenagers, but the moment Pacey turns up after the summer holidays with frosted tips still gives me chills.
For when you’re feeling angry about feminism (or lack thereof)
I’m pretty much in the mood for shows like Netflix’s Jessica Jones all of the time, so angry am I about the patriarchy, but this Marvel show is brilliant and, in a weird way, gives me hope for woman – and person – kind. Krysten Ritter is brilliant as the title character; she’s this incredibly flawed, nuanced female character who is, bizarrely, completely unique in TV terms. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a character as unapologetically difficult as Jessica – she’s not the virgin or the whore, and she’s not trying to be, either. (I want to be just like Jessica when I grow up.)
For when you’re sad cos Jessica Jones is over
Clearly, one can’t talk about an ass-kicking female heroine – or, even anti-heroine – without giving the nod to Buffy, the original female ass-kicker. Right after I finished Jessica Jones, I went right back to basics and watched all seven series of Buffy again. Now, let’s not get it twisted: some of the seasons are a bit rubbish, Sarah Michelle Gellar makes some terrible decisions with her hair, and the entire Riley story arc got boring – like Riley himself – very quickly. But overall, Buffy is TV gold, and crucial watching for any aspiring feminist.
For when you don’t want to get sucked in for three weeks
The Returned is another Netflix remake, and I’m sure the original is far better, but when I started, I didn’t know it existed, so, y’know, whatever. It’s about a town where a whole bunch of dead people start to reappear, but it’s kind of moving and gripping without being overly creepy… It asks a lot of questions about how we process grief, and whether we ever move on. But you should know before you begin: there’s only one season. Don’t do what I did, and finish season one then immediately go searching for season two. I’m still devastated.
For when you’re with a man
Friday Night Lights is the only good sporting thing I’ve ever seen, because, for a show that’s about American football, it’s not about American football at all. It’s about love and relationships and team spirit! It’s also about TIM RIGGINS. If you don’t know who TIM RIGGINS is, then you should most definitely watch FNL. You can thank me later. (Just don’t Google TIM RIGGINS in real life, because he’s not as sexy out of his dirty hair, and his later work is rubbish.)
For when you’re feeling (country) musical
I’ve left this one until last because, let’s face it, country music is still a bit niche. But Nashville has a lot going for it. Like Connie Britton (who you’ll now love, having watched her have the world’s best hair in Friday Night Lights). It also has Hayden Panettiere, being a little firecracker, and Charles Esten, who was also in the Kevin Costner film, The Postman (bit of trivia for you there). It starts off being about a fading country music star, but I heard a horrifying rumour that Connie Britton wasn’t happy with her story arc and insisted on getting a better one. What a diva! Still, it’s amazing. Just close your eyes ever time Scarlett comes on-screen so you’re not blinded by her wig.