Feeling bored, disillusioned? Live in an area where lockdown is still in effect, and there’s nothing to do recreationally besides watch Netflix/Prime/Hulu etc.? Think you’ve already exhausted the infinite supply of films and TV shows on these services and don’t know what to watch next? Then Writer’s Block has got you covered! Some of our board members have taken the time to recommend some binge-worthy entertainment that is sure to keep you engaged and provide at least a fleeting moment of relief from your lockdown-infused ennui.
Rebecca: Bridgerton (2020)
The Netflix series Bridgerton, from Shonda Rhimes’s production company Shondaland came out on Christmas Day, and since then about five different people have yelled (okay fine, all caps texted) at me to watch it. Being as it is a show taking place in Regency-era England, and anyone that knows me knows I LOVE a good period piece, this isn’t exactly unusual, but it did catch my attention. Now, after I’ve watched all eight episodes in a day, it’s pretty easy to understand why so many people recommended it.
This show is quite simply: very fun! It mostly follows two families, the Bridgertons and to a lesser extent the Featheringtons, with a focus, at least in the first season, on Daphne Bridgerton as she comes out to society and spends her first ‘season’ on the marriage market. Not only is the casting‘colorblind’, with people of color as Queen, duke, and many other positions, but it is also simply excellent. Seriously, Phoebe Dynevor (who plays Daphne) gives Keira Knightley a run for her money in the department of longing stares, random sharp inhales and neck muscle flexes. Everyone in the series is ridiculously good looking, of course, but they also just work as their characters.
The plot is easy to follow and enjoyable, with the scandalous Gossip Girl-esque voiceover of Lady Whistledown readily available to move along slower plot points. Sure, there are clichés, but what else do you expect in a period drama that uses almost solely violin covers of modern pop songs as its soundtrack? You have to go into this series knowing what it’s going to be, somewhat silly and melodramatic, and I promise you’ll thoroughly enjoy the straight 8hrs you’ll sit on the couch watching it.
Eda: Downton Abbey (2010)
If you’re like me and Rebecca and absolutely love period dramas, but want something a bit more serious than Bridgerton—not to say anything bad about the show, just if you want a different vibe—I’d recommend Downton Abbey! I know, I’m a bit late to the hype, but I recently watched all 6 seasons plus the 2019 feature film, and I have to say I liked it way more than I thought I would. The story follows the aristocratic Crawley family, whose lives have just been turned upside down by the tragic loss of the heir to their estate on the Titanic. Since the entail cannot be inherited by women, their entire wealth will eventually go to a distant cousin—enter Matthew Crawley. Now, you might be thinking, “why the hell should I care about the silly little troubles of a bunch of rich Brits”? To that I’d say, what makes the show great is it focuses not just on the upper-class family, but also on the lives of the servants downstairs. Overall, the show boasts great writing, acting and characterization against a backdrop of significant historical periods such as World War I and the Roaring Twenties, which all lead to the eventual and inevitable demise of British aristocracy.
Chelsea: Haunting of Bly Manor (2020)
While I am an absolute chicken when it comes to horror, ready to flee my roost at the mere sight of some creepy figure or ghost, in 2018 I took my chances with Mike Flannagan’s highly acclaimed Haunting of Hillhouse. I ended up completely loving it, (even the nightmares it gave me). Naturally, when I heard the series was to be followed by a stand-alone second season, I was exhilarated. This time I was to enter ‘Bly Manor’, a grotesque English country home. The plot, set in the 80’s, follows Dani Clayton, an American woman hired to take care of two orphan children after their governess mysteriously died on the grounds. In the uncanny manor, muddy footprints appear in the middle of the night, the children stare at nothing, say strange things and sometimes act like adults. And while Dani is haunted by her past, if you look closely behind her she seems to be haunted by more than just that…
The viewer is invited on a beautifully written, chilling journey through human emotions: memory, trauma, grief, fear and love. This is not a series to watch to pass time or when you’re tired, the level of careful detail requires full engagement from the viewer. However, this is also what makes it so good you forget your own surroundings. Some complained that the second installment of The Haunting wasn’t as scary, or there weren’t enough jump scares. What these people fail to acknowledge is that Bly Manor, unlike Hillhouse, is not supposed to be a horror series, it’s a gothic romance, and this exactly makes it so captivating. Bly Manor does not merely scare you with its ghosts, it is terrifying on an emotional and personal level. It calls to that unsettling fear of losing those we love, to that sense of dread of fading away through the years, completely forgotten. Maybe Haunting of Bly Manor doesn’t make you throw your popcorn in the air out of fear all the time, but it makes you feel plenty of other things. The enthralling script, cinematography and storyline simply pull you in like gravity. Once you enter this haunted house, you can never leave again. It will inhabit your mind instead, as a reminder of the fragility of humanity and the beauty of love. (Sidenote: I loved it so much I am now writing my MA thesis about it!)
Eda: Princess Mononoke (1997)
Not ready to commit to at least a full season of television? Not to worry, we also have a movie to recommend! If you’re aware of Studio Ghibli you’ve probably seen Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, but Princess Mononoke I’d argue is one of their more underrated films. It’s certainly quite different from the other two in the sense that it’s much more adult and gory. It follows the hero Ashitaka, who has become infected by a demon-poison and cursed, as he travels west to find a cure and save his village from more attacks by demons. The film has a strong focus on environmentalism with elements of fantasy and myth, which is what makes some scenes and plotlines absolutely batshit, but makes the entire film a totally unique experience.
Eda: Succession (2018)
Succession is the show I’ve been religiously trying to get people to watch for months. Often hailed as a modern-day Shakespearean tale, Succession follows the lives of the Roy family as the owners of the media conglomerate Waystar RoyCo. The patriarch of the family, Logan Roy, suddenly falls ill, and his four children have to decide on the way forward for the company. Amidst brilliant writing and characters, I absolutely have to highlight Jeremy Strong’s performance as Kendall Roy (which won him an Emmy last year), the second-eldest son of Logan who believes he is the de facto successor of his father. Succession has it all: intrigue, high-stakes narrative, scandal, and a killer theme song. Is it drama? Comedy? Dramedy? Or something entirely beyond genre-ification? You gotta watch it to find out.
Chelsea: Outlander (2014)
To follow up to Eda’s and Rebecca’s theme, I would also like to recommend to you a ‘period drama’, but spice it up a little. The ‘period’ part of the drama is very fluid in this one. The series follows Claire, an English woman who with her husband, after having both served in The Second World War, goes on a second honeymoon to Inverness, Scotland. When Claire touches a standing stone in an old ritual stone circle she suddenly finds herself in 1743, a time of political unrest between the English coloniser and the Scots. Claire finds herself in trouble and has no other choice but to marry a dashing Scottish Laird, Jamie Fraser. While the two initially do not marry for love, their friendship quickly evolves into a passionate romance (as evident in the MANY, MANY steamy scenes– seriously, don’t watch with your parents). Claire is torn between trying to get back home to her first husband and her growing love for Jamie, but can she even get back home? These series are simply amazing. Everything from the Scottish Highland landscapes, cinematography, music, historical accuracy, and costumes to the actors and writing is superb. Outlander has 5 seasons and a confirmed sixth one on the way but let’s start right here at the beginning. Follow Claire and Jamie as they fight the currents of time in this gripping historical fantasy drama. (The books are also a good alternative :))
Stella: The Queen’s Gambit (2020)
In all its torturous brevity, this 7-episode miniseries is the most addicting thing I’ve seen in a good while. It’s not often I get invested enough in a show so as to finish it in a day, but this masterpiece cut right through my soul. The spectacular Anya Taylor-Joy absolutely nails her role as the detailedly crafted protagonist Beth Harmon who, orphaned very young, discovers chess, which becomes a world she can control her fate in. With a subtle yet stubborn demeanor, sharp tongue, and piercing eyes, she’s unstoppable from the very start. Despite patronizing male opponents left and right, she triumphantly works her way to the top, knocking her doubters down one king at a time.
Some of the best feats of the series are its marvelously refreshing depiction of youth and the innocence and curiosity that come with it, as well as the chillingly intense loneliness and loss, not to mention the drug-induced self-destruction brought on by Beth’s tragic past. Set in the picturesque 60s, this gorgeous story will make you feel things you have no words for. The music choices deserve their share of the praise too, as well as the elegant costumes that will make you want to reinvent your style. Prepare to be hooked from the first seconds.
Constantinos: Friends (1994)
A series that hardly needs an introduction. Six friends living in New York trying to balance dating, work and having fun is as far as I’ll get. If you haven’t heard of the basic plot then you were either in a coma since 1994 or have been living under a rock, or maybe you weren’t a good friend and lived in a box like Chandler once did. Currently rewatching the series (for the fifth – or is it sixth time?) after a two-year hiatus, which has not proven to be enough because I still somehow remember all the dialogue (ok, at least the important bits). The good thing is that I can’t really get hooked on it as I always know what comes next so that keeps my episode intake to one… ermm two, two tiny episodes (okay five!) but the point is that if you are really busy and have already watched the series at least once you won’t go Red Ross on it. After all, you know that it will always be there for you.