What I’ve been watching (and enjoying) on TV this year

I’ve probably watched more television so far in 2020 than I watched in the whole of last year, thanks largely to the fact that my family spent 11 weeks shielding from coronavirus and not leaving the house.

Several friends and relatives have been asking me for TV recommendations so I thought I’d write a blog post on the subject. Here’s a guide to what I’ve been watching this year and whether or not I’ve enjoyed it.

The Vampire Diaries

Title: The Vampire Diaries

Genre: Drama, supernatural, horror, fantasy

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 171 episodes over 8 seasons, each episode approx. 45 minutes

What is it: Featuring vampires, werewolves and witches, the main story concerns the love triangle between teenage Elena and two brothers, Stefan and Damon.

Who’s in it: Ian Somerhalder (Damon) has also appeared in Lost and V Wars. Nina Dobrev (Elena) has been in feature films including The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Flatliners (2017).

Thoughts about it: Watching The Vampire Diaries was a big part of my routine over the course of three months and when I finally reached the end, there was a gap in my life (fortunately, this was filled by The Originals – see next entry). It was a long series but I never got bored. Full of drama, emotion and lots of actors who are very easy on the eyes, it’s a definite must for anyone who enjoyed The Twilight Saga.

The Originals

Title: The Originals

Genre: Horror, fantasy, supernatural

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 92 episodes over 5 seasons, each episode 45 minutes

What is it: This spin-off from The Vampire Diaries focuses on the Mikaelson siblings, known as ‘the originals’ as they were the very first vampires.

Who’s in it: Happily for fans of The Vampire Diaries, several familiar faces have roles or at least cameos.

Thoughts about it: Although you don’t have to have seen The Vampire Diaries to see The Originals, you’ll get more out of it if you have. If you enjoyed The Vampire Diaries, you’ll enjoy this as it’s basically more of the same: lots of good-looking vampires, werewolves, witches and humans. Have a box of tissues ready for the finale. The Originals has a spin-off too, called Legacies, which I haven’t watched yet but plan to at some point. It’s got big shoes to fill.

Zoo

Title: Zoo

Genre: Drama, thriller

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 39 episodes over 3 seasons, each episode 40-45 minutes

What is it: Based on the science fiction thriller novel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, it’s about a group of varied professionals who investigate a mysterious pandemic of violent animal attacks on humans.

Who’s in it: Billy Burke plays veterinary pathologist Mitch Morgan.

Thoughts about it: The first two seasons, exploring an interesting concept to an animal lover such as myself, were gripping but the third season wasn’t quite up to the same standard. Obviously I wasn’t alone in thinking this as the series was cancelled after three seasons, explaining why the end to the show was not a satisfying one. It should have finished at the end of the second season.

The L Word: Generation Q

Title: The L Word: Generation Q

Genre: Drama

Where to see it: Sky

Number of episodes/seasons: 8 episodes, each just under 1 hour

What is it: The sequel to the groundbreaking series The L Word, TV’s first ensemble cast of lesbian characters, about the trials of life and love in Los Angeles.

Who’s in it: Jennifer Beals (Bette), Katherine Moennig (Shane) and Leisha Hailey (Alice) are back, alongside a host of new characters.

Thoughts about it: We had to wait 10 years for this sequel, so it was under a lot of pressure. But it was so nice to see Bette, Shane and Alice again. For me, the return of these characters was the best thing about this series, but as the series progressed I found myself warming to the new characters and getting sucked into the story, and I was disappointed there were only eight episodes. It’s a must-see for anyone who enjoyed The L Word. But probably not one to watch with your parents.

Gilmore Girls

Title: Gilmore Girls (and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life)

Genre: Comedy-drama

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 153 episodes over 7 seasons, each episode approx. 40-45 minutes (plus A Year in the Life: 4 episodes, each 88-102 minutes)

What is it: The main focus is on the relationship between single mum Lorelai Gilmore and her daughter Rory, who live in a small fictional town, Stars Hollow, which is filled with colourful characters.

Who’s in it: Melissa McCarthy plays the role of chef Sookie.

Thoughts about it: I wasn’t grabbed by the first episode because I didn’t find it very relatable. Lorelai was just 16 when she had her daughter Rory and they are the best of friends, but she has a more difficult relationship with her upper-class mother Emily. However, the show grew on me and this was another one that I really missed when I finished watching it. I loved the large number of characters, from the kind-hearted diner owner Luke to the quirky young man Kirk, who seems to have a different job in every episode. Although Lorelai and Rory can actually be pretty mean and selfish people, they are very witty. I really enjoyed the feature-length episodes of A Year in the Life, made around 10 years later, and was delighted that so many characters returned.

Orphan Black

Title: Orphan Black

Genre: Science fiction, biopunk, drama, thriller

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 50 episodes over 5 seasons, each episode approx. 45 minutes

What is it: It focuses on Sarah Manning, a woman who assumes the identity of one of her fellow clones, Elizabeth Childs, after witnessing her suicide. The series raises issues about the moral and ethical implications of human cloning and its effect on identity.

Who’s in it: Tatiana Maslany is the star who plays five main characters.

Thoughts about it: The series has plenty of edge-of-your-seat tension but also lots of moments that made me laugh out loud. The most amazing thing about it is the actress who plays five very different clones – how many lines she must have had to learn and how confusing it must have been! I would definitely recommend this one. It stayed with me long after I finished watching it.

Dead to Me

Title: Dead to Me

Genre: Dark comedy

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 20 episodes over 2 seasons, each episode approx. 30 minutes

What is it: It’s about a friendship that blossoms between two very different women who have both recently lost their partners.

Who’s in it: Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini play the two main characters, with James Marsden also having a major role.

Thoughts about it: I enjoyed this, but it was probably my least favourite show of all the ones on this list, perhaps because it was billed as a comedy but it didn’t make me laugh a lot and perhaps my expectations were too high. It must be very difficult to make a comedy about loss and grief. Having said that, the performances were good and the plot twists kept the story interesting. I would watch season 3, if and when it becomes available.

Stranger Things

Title: Stranger Things

Genre: Science fiction, horror, period drama

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 25 episodes over 3 seasons, most episodes approx. 45-60 minutes, finale 77 minutes

What is it: Set in the early 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, this show starts by focusing on an investigation into the disappearance of a boy amid supernatural events around the town, including the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities.

Who’s in it: Winona Ryder heads the ensemble cast.

Thoughts about it: Stranger Things deservedly received lots of awards and nominations, as well as praise for its characterisation, atmosphere, acting, soundtrack, directing, writing and homages to 1980s films. The young actors in particular are brilliant – better than many adults I’ve seen recently. Unlike some of the shows in this list, the third season was as strong, if not stronger, than the first. Stranger Things has been renewed for a fourth season and I’m looking forward to it.

Killing Eve

Title: Killing Eve

Genre: Drama, spy thriller, black comedy

Where to see it: BBC iPlayer

Number of episodes/seasons: 24 episodes over 3 seasons, each episode 40-55 minutes

What is it: The series follows Eve Polastri, a British intelligence investigator tasked with capturing psychopathic assassin Villanelle. As the chase progresses, the two develop a mutual obsession.

Who’s in it: Sandra Oh plays Eve Polastri and Jodie Comer is Villanelle.

Thoughts about it: I was really looking forward to the release of the third season but was disappointed that, unlike the previous season which could be binge-watched, I had to wait a whole week between each episode – like the old days! Perhaps it was partly for this reason that I didn’t get into season 3 as much as the first two. Perhaps I never recovered from the shock of them killing off one of my favourite characters in the first episode. Perhaps it was the different head writer. Perhaps it’s just running out of steam, despite being renewed for a fourth season. However, I really enjoyed the episode where we got to meet Villanelle’s family. Jodie Comer is an awesome actress and her role as Villanelle is enough reason to keep the faith.

Z Nation

Title: Z Nation

Genre: Action, horror, comedy-drama, post-apocalypse

Where to see it: Netflix

Number of episodes/seasons: 68 episodes over 5 seasons, each episode approx. 45 minutes on average

What is it: A zombie virus has swept across the USA and there’s just one person, Murphy, known to have survived the infection. He’s the world’s last hope at creating a vaccine so a team of strangers attempt to safely transport him from New York to the last functioning viral lab, in California.

Who’s in it: I don’t remember seeing any of the actors in anything previously. Keith Allan and Kellita Smith get top billing.

Thoughts about it: I was a bit concerned when I first started watching Z Nation that it was going to be all action and little plot. It’s well made and the zombie killing is gory – don’t watch it over dinner. But it didn’t take long for me to engage with the story and invest in the characters, even though some of the episodes feel a bit drawn out. I’m near the end of season 2 at the moment, so there’s a long way to go. I’d say I’m enjoying it so far.

Neighbours

Title: Neighbours

Genre: Soap opera

Where to see it: Channel 5/My5

Number of episodes/seasons: More than 8,300 episodes, each episode 20-25 minutes

What is it: The storylines concern the domestic and professional lives of the people who live and work in Erinsborough, a fictional suburb of Melbourne, Australia. It primarily focuses on the residents of Ramsay Street.

Who’s in it: There aren’t any household names in it although many former cast members have gone on to achieve global stardom like Kylie Minogue, Jason Donovan, Guy Pearce and Margot Robbie.

Thoughts about it: I loved watching Neighbours as a student in the late 1990s and early 2000s and it was the only soap I’ve ever enjoyed watching. I outgrew it, I guess, but then in 2012 I visited Australia, saw ‘Ramsay Street’ and met some of the cast including Alan Fletcher (Dr. Karl Kennedy) who is still part of the show. I didn’t know all of the cast members I met, so I started watching it again out of curiosity and then became addicted. I’m a little embarrassed to admit to watching it – I know it’s not the highest-quality TV – but for me it’s a daily bit of escapism and nostalgia.

Living Big in a Tiny House

Title: Living Big in a Tiny House

Genre: Documentary

Where to see it: YouTube

Number of episodes/seasons: The show was started in 2013. New episodes are usually available on Fridays, each episode approx. 15-20 minutes

What is it: New Zealander Bryce Langston meets people around the world who live in unique and interesting small homes including tiny houses on wheels, micro apartments, shipping container homes, buses and vans.

Who’s in it: The show is presented by Bryce Langston.

Thoughts about it: I’m relatively new to this show but I love watching it. The episodes are the ideal length for watching over lunch or a tea break and I find them really inspiring. I always aspired to owning a larger house, not a smaller one, but this show has made me reconsider, having made me see not only the financial benefits of downsizing but also how beautiful, well-designed and practical tiny homes can be. Even if you don’t want to live in a tiny house, you could be inspired by some of the storage solutions or even locations featured in this show.

So there you have it – pretty much all the TV I’ve been watching in 2020. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the programmes I’ve mentioned as well as any recommendations that you might have for me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *