A niche guide to the new shows on TV at the moment, because food + television are two of the small joys of a late winter lockdown.
When the sun sets at approximately 5.45pmish every night, and you’ve already been in your house the entire day, those lockdown nights are looooong, especially when the Lockdown Exhaustion hits at about 8pm and you just want to go to sleep. Last week I said, “Well, that’s enough Simpsons, time for bed,” and my flatmate replied, “Emma, it’s 7.30pm.”
We live in a television Golden Age that also comes with a Golden Cage, in that you have to belong to seven different apps in order to watch every bloody show. (There’s never been a better time to do a free trial period than now, can I just say?) Presenting a mix of new shows that exist on at least one platform you already own.
The White Lotus
Probably the most buzzy show since the last buzzy show, The White Lotus is about a group of mostly awful people who descend on a luxury Hawaiian resort for a week. Each episode – there are six – covers a different day during their week stay and it is brilliantly written, leaning very much into the awkward moments that make you cringe and squeal in turn. The acting is glorious, with star turns from Jennifer Coolidge (In a series of floaty muumuus), Natasha Rothwell (a world away from her wonderfully snarky Insecure character) and Aussie actor Murray Bartlett, as the resort’s manager who descends into self-destruction after dealing with one too many difficult guests. It’s a little Succession in that most of the tourist characters are pretty unlikeable, but it delivers enough heart along the way to keep you invested. Also, it’s laugh out loud funny.
Watch it if you like: escapism, beautiful scenery, great hats, terrible white people who never change and outlandishly excellent theme songs.
Nine Perfect Strangers
Otherwise known as ‘the resort show that’s NOT White Lotus,’ Nine Perfect Strangers is, fittingly, a stranger beast than White Lotus and so has immediately become more polarising. Nine strangers arrive at Tranquillium, a wellness resort run by Masha, a terrifying wellness warrior, played by Nicole Kidman in a Frozen wig. Things get increasingly weird and after a slowish start, the show gets a lot more gripping. In terms of David E Kelley/Nicole Kidman miniseries, it’s not as good as Big Little Lies but (in my opinion) it’s FAR better than The Undoing. The cast of actors are excellent, with Melissa McCarthy as the deserved scene stealer (if you haven’t watched Spy, which is a perfect spy satire movie, please do so – it’s the rare female-led movie that even the men in your house will enjoy) (Do not get me started on how hard it is to get men to engage with female-led content). Also it stars Manny Jacinto from The Good Place, one of the most handsome men in the world.
Co-written by Kiwi comedy icons Rose Matafeo and Alice Snedden, this series manages to perfectly encapsulate everything we LOVE about rom-coms while also being very funny, sexy and also – something that rom-coms never master – financially realistic. It follows Jessie (played by Rose), a Kiwi on her OE, mooching through her late 20s with a bunch of fine-but-average jobs, living in a fine-but-average flat. One night, she hooks up (do young people still say that?) with extremely handsome Tom (Nikesh Patel), who she then finds out is an extremely famous movie star the morning after. Hijinks ensue, there’s very good will-they-won’t-they chemistry as their different lifestyles/social standings chafe against each other, and the whole thing is clever, delightful and genuinely romantic (and horny!) Also, good luck ever getting Return of The Mac out of your head after one particular scene
Watch it if you like: Banter, Notting Hill, murder-mystery dinner parties, GOWNS, accurate depictions of our terrible dating culture and the final minute of Before Sunset.
Sandra Oh is one of the few actors who ensure something becomes a must-watch, in my book, from her work on Grey’s Anatomy through to the slinky and cool Killing Eve. Now she’s back playing Ji-Koon, an academic who’s just been put in the position of leading the English Department at a stuffy elite university. It becomes pretty clear early on that this isn’t the dream job of a lifetime, it’s more – as she puts it – that ‘the department is a ticking time bomb and they want a woman to be holding it when it goes off.’ She’s suddenly covering all sorts of crises – including a lecturer who goes viral after a controversial lecture, who she also happens to be in love with. It perfectly sums up the difficulties of the ‘sandwich’ generation of women – she’s looking after an ageing parent, a young daughter and the demands of a horrendous job. But if that makes it sound like a slog, it’s not – it’s well written, very funny and her entire wardrobe is at a When Harry Met Sally level of perfect autumn fashion. Put Sandra Oh in everything!
Watch it if you like: Autumn, layering your knitwear, rumpled professors, careless men who show GROWTH, precocious children/single mother relationships, celebrities playing really good, really unlikeable versions of themselves (David Duchovny!)
I have already written an entire treatise on this show but I will briefly recap here: It’s about a Texan man (Ted) who is well-known in the US for coaching American Football (rugby but with less head injuries) and is then poached by a UK soccer team to coach their dismal team, where everyone hates each other. He brings along his best friend and co-coach, Coach Beard, and the pair try and improve the *waves hand vaguely* sports, while really digging into the psychology of the fractured team and the football club’s manager, Rebecca, who is going through a terrible divorce from her soccer player husband. It’s whole-hearted AND laugh out loud funny, wholesome enough while also incorporating judicious use of the word ‘f**k’. Ted Lasso is about a hot and thoughtful man, who has the face, moustache and wardrobe of a handsome Ned Flanders but the wisdom, heart and quotability of Brené Brown. The initial premise seems a bit average: Ted Lasso is an American comedy (meh) with a male lead (double meh) about sport (triple meh) but manages to transcend all of these things. It is a perfect show that will make you feel hope again.
Watch it if you like: emotional D&Ms, earnest Americans, gruff men who have a heart of gold, BEARDS, tall, powerful women, THERAPY and Apple iPhone 12s (Apple as a sponsor is VERY clear in the second season).