Image: (Top) Netflix, Channel 4, Ovation (Bottom) Fox, NBC

The shows we can’t stop watching

Five of our writers make the case for the show that they enjoy re-watching the most. Which of these shows do you like best?

 

The Simpsons – Matthew Dale

The Simpsons is the show I’ve been able to watch from being a small child to a small young adult; a show I can watch when I feel at my best or at my worst; a show I can watch for light-hearted viewing or an intricate, well-written comedy. In its prime, it perfectly balanced funny and absurd jokes with incisive satire. Episodes such as ‘Lisa vs Malibu Stacy’ offer amusing quips and poignant critiques of our society, forcing us to consider how sexist stereotypes permeate throughout our culture. Alternatively, they could pull off absurd skits such as Skinner’s steamed hams and kitchen localised aurora borealis. The quality of the golden era means everyone has their favourite episode, character, and gag (mine being their ridicule of Richard Nixon).

I can watch for light-hearted viewing or an intricate, well-written comedy

The satire and humour of the show, especially in the first couple of seasons, mocked the abundant family sitcoms of the 80s with “relatable” characters. Ironically though, The Simpsons did a better job building audience relationships with characters intended to be caricatures. My most beloved episode is ‘Summer of 4ft 2’ where a beach holiday becomes a journey of self-affirmation for the lonely and socially awkward Lisa. Not only could teenage me relate, but it’s a testament to their storytelling talent that I was rooting for Lisa. And who could forget heart-warming moments such as the Maggie-inspired “do it for her” sign Homer makes at his work desk? This is what made it an era-defining comedy, and one I will always watch.

 

Hannibal – Steph Campbell

When Bryan Fuller and HBO’s modern conceptualisation of Thomas Harris’ Hannibal hit screens in 2013, it followed a similar trend to a lot of recent television shows. Our protagonist, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), was a quirky and vastly intelligent character who was haunted by his own demons, not unlike the titular characters of the immensely popular House or Sherlock.

What immediately set Hannibal apart however, aside from the extreme likability of the cannibal antagonist (Mads Mikkelsen), is the journey Graham embarks on. Over the three seasons, viewers watch as Graham quietly accepts Hannibal for what he is, and indeed embraces shifts in his own morality as his relationship with Hannibal intensifies. It makes for immensely entertaining viewing, as Graham’s thought process and inner conflict on whether he should side with Hannibal or the FBI is left somewhat ambiguous.

Incredibly written, performed, and shot, it is impossible to appreciate fully the show upon a first viewing

In between the predominant arc of Hannibal and Will’s relationship, most episodes see their own detective plot, often consisting of a particularly gruesome murder or crime. Although not for the faint hearted, each story is remarkably well thought out, and it’s composed with beautiful cinematography – Fuller manages to make even the goriest of images elegant, which when combined with the high calibre cast makes for a very impressive finished product.

Ultimately it is the immensely intelligent way the show is composed that makes it worth viewing time and time again. Incredibly written, performed, and shot, it is impossible to appreciate fully the show upon a first viewing, and I remain in high hopes that we have not seen the last of Hannibal.

 

Grace and Frankie – Jordan Maxwell Ridgway

A show about two women in their 70s whose husbands leave them for each other doesn’t sound like the typical viewing of a uni student. But if you have ever experienced life not going to plan, this show will speak to you.

What I love most about this show is that it tells a story of how life can throw you a massive curve ball at any point, even when you think you have everything sorted. And I find that thought oddly comforting! In my hour of need, I will turn to Netflix and watch the very first episode when I’m feeling low. Then find myself binge watching the whole four seasons!

you can be assured you’re in for a fun ride as the leading ladies take on their dysfunctional families and lives head on

Grace and Frankie – played by the two icons that are Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin – have brilliant chemistry, as the series centres on their growing friendship. If you have that one friend who you simultaneously love to pieces whilst they also drive you up the wall this show is for you. I find myself aspiring to be a combination of both characters in many ways when I grow older.

Co-created and produced by Friends veteran Marta Kauffman, you can be assured you’re in for a fun ride as the leading ladies take on their dysfunctional families and lives head on.

I apologise in advance for the money you will spend on throw pillows and driftwood furniture in imitation of the show’s stunning beach house.

 

Versailles – Nerissa Taverner

If I had to recommend a recent historical drama, it would definitely be the Franco-Canadian show Versailles. Versailles details Louis XIV’s (also known as Louis the Great or the Sun King) life during the construction of the titular palace in 17th century France. I found myself quickly caught up in the show’s intrigue, surrounding various plots to overthrow the monarchy and also with the relationship between Louis and his younger dashing yet effeminate brother Philippe, excellently played by Merlin’s Alex Vlahos. I found myself on the edge of my seat during every episode, especially in the first season where a series of poisonings are going on in Versailles.

I found myself quickly caught up in the show’s intrigue, surrounding various plots to overthrow the monarchy

Romantic relationships are weaved in too throughout the action. While Louis’ relationships with his mistresses are explored, the standout couple is definitely Philippe and his lover, the Chevalier of Lorraine, portrayed by Evan Williams. Their relationship has so many ups and downs but it’s clear that they adore each other. Vlahos and Williams have so much chemistry together but what I particularly love about the pairing is that a label isn’t put on them throughout the show.

Versailles is also amazingly designed. I am still in awe of the show’s wardrobe and costume design which was excellently researched and presented, adding to the show’s mysterious yet opulent atmosphere. The show’s opulence is also built up by the incredible opening theme (M83’s ‘Outro’) which immediately gets you in the mood with its opening lines – “I’m the king of my own land / Facing tempests of dust, I’ll fight until the end”. Because of all these elements, Versailles is a compelling drama filled with high stakes and drama that you should definitely check out!

 

The IT Crowd – Gezy Vaughan

The IT Crowd is a firm favourite I return to time and time again. The show is simplistic in its tongue in cheek humour. The acting trio of Chris O’Dowd, Richard Ayoade and Katherine Parkinson all bring a different style of acting and humour that works perfectly with one another.

The IT Crowd is a brilliant show to return back to on a lazy evening

My favourite episode is ‘The Dinner Party’, where the three IT team are invited to a dinner party hosted by Jen. Of course, the dinner party doesn’t go smoothly and various mishaps occur much to Jen’s dismay. Perhaps my favourite element of this particular episode is Noel Fielding’s character Richmond (my personal favourite) leaving him room to interact with the IT department and being the only one who is successful during his dinner date.

Overall, The IT Crowd is a brilliant show to return back to on a lazy evening as it’s lighthearted and a testament to the brilliance of British Sitcom TV.

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