Adam Dawson and Lucy Rivers guide us through their summers of binge-watching.
Adam: It was a long, hot summer, the days designed for lounging outside under the shade of a tall tree with a classic novel as heavy as a doorstop resting gently on your knees. Finally, the right time and place and atmosphere to make a sizeable dent in War and Peace. Alternatively, you can stay in bed and watch enough TV to turn your eyes square.
The summer began with comedy. You’re the Worst, you’re the best. Still airing its first season (which doesn’t have a bad episode yet), a young English writer living in L.A. struggles to write a second novel or get the credit he thinks he deserves for his first when he meets Gretchen. She doesn’t change his world, just fits nicely into it because she’s just as hilariously cruel as he is. This is a little bit like a romcom, but one which is actually honest about how difficult it is to navigate the emotional minefield of being not-quite-an-adult. The jokes are sharp and self-aware, like a sentient razor blade aiming itself at your jugular. During one episode, the two main supporting characters realise they’re the supporting characters in the lives of their friends. It won’t be for everyone due to the mean humour, but it’s a great break from the happy, brightly lit world of shows like Parks and Rec.
Next, I caught up on a show I definitely should have already seen, Masters of Sex. Set in the late 50’s, Dr William Masters and assistant/sex partner/confidante Virginia Johnson conduct experiments into human sexuality. It’d been avoided because of Mad Men – the trailers made it look exactly the same, only with more explicit sexy fun times. Don’t worry if you live on the prudish side of life, the sex is so clinical it smells of antiseptic. The sex takes a backseat to the emotional lives of the characters. If Mad Men is a little too slow for you, try Masters of Sex instead. It has all the fashion and characters study, with a stroke more of plot. It does lack the spark of Mad Men, which may be why it’s not quite as successful.
Honourable mentions go to BoJack Horseman, the show about an animated horse so funny you’ll literally wet yourself, and to season two of House of Cards, which will definitely be finished at some point soon.
Lucy: This summer, following the shocking and tragic news of Robin Williams’ passing, I rediscovered Mark & Mindy. For those who don’t know about it, Mark & Mindy was Williams’ breakthrough role and centred on the relationship between Mork, an alien from Ork, and Mindy (Pam Dawber), the Earth girl he lived with while learning all he could about Earth and humanity. It was actually spawned from a one-off (if unusual) appearance on the usually-realistic series Happy Days in which Fonzie encounters an alien. Mork had potential, so a whole series was formed around him.
Through his friendship (and romance) with Mindy, Mork is exposed to our world (or at least Boulder, Colorado) and the full spectrum of human experience; everything from emotions, to getting a job, to learning not to drink with your finger. Gradually, Mork becomes as much human as he is alien – though there’s always an element of a zany other-world in Williams’ magnetic performance.
It isn’t easy to get hold of this overlooked gem. Amazon third-party sellers and eBay are the only legitimate options. However, if you can get your hands on it, it is worth it. Yes, it is very ‘70s, and yes, there are moments of full-on cheese, but the fizzing, frenetic genius of Williams’ performance is not to be missed.
Sticking with humour, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, was consumed in 3 weeks on Netflix. That’s 9 seasons equalling 104 episodes in just 21 days. Only on Netflix for UK viewers, it has been around for years but remains largely unknown.
Following the scams and schemes of Charlie, Mac, Dennis and Dee – with Danny DeVito as Dennis and Dee’s foul father – this unique US sitcom is unafraid of playing with taboos. Its main characters are amoral and mean (sometimes just plain stupid) to a degree that is very unusual for an American comedy series and has more in common with British greats like Blackadder, Fawlty Towers and Bottom.