My Top 5 TV Shows 

This can be a hot topic of conversation at the dinner table, one that may really get heated. TV shows become best friends; they are almost equivalent to “family members”(forgive me for the metaphor), with people tending to stand by them and defend them with serious ferocity if challenged! 

I think you can learn so much about someone from his/her cinematographic taste and TV shows somehow feel even more revealing than movies. This is because the characters must really relate to you in some way; there must be a genuine connection to keep you stuck in front of the screen for hundreds of hours, ready to change your dinner plans should the new episodes of your favourite series come out.  

So let’s unveil what my secret sins are, TV series related, that is…

Ugly Betty

This was the first TV series I ever watched all the way through, after having spent many years wondering how people could possibly watch never-ending sagas that seemed to continue on indefinitely and that I considered second class cinema. This was in line with the general opinion we had of TV production years ago… I’ve always been a little slow to catch up with the times and in this case I proved that point once more. 

 I watched Ugly Betty in about 5 days… every episode!!! I was in bed with the worst flu I had experienced in a long time. It hadn’t left me with much brain power, so this series kept me company and kept me sane. I’ve since watched it twice through in full health and I still love it!  

Ugly Betty is a hilarious version of Devil Wears Prada, where a plump and kitschy dressed Latino girl joins a famous fashion magazine as assistant to the editor. She is plunged into a completely different world where she looks the odd one out, something no one fails to remind her about.

Many are the themes touched on by this series, from racial and sexual discrimination to bullying and elitism at work, social injustice, shrewd competition, greed and so much more. The old me would have said that this was typical of all TV shows. True, but the novelty here is the perspective of a super positive Betty, who may as well be living in teddy bear land at times. However, that never let any of the nonsense that one tends to encounter in life, bring her down. All the while, she simply overtakes everything and everyone with her beautiful energy which no one, enemies included, can resist.

My favourite characters in this series span the spectrum of both good and bad guys. There’s Wilhelmina Slater, the evil Queen mother and her assistant Mark St. James, who’s always plotting and pulling invisible threads. Then there’s the good guys like Claire Meade, a little lost, a little wise and always full of humour and hidden resources. Claire also has a son named Daniel Meade; the publishing empire offspring, fighting hopelessly to grow up and stop messing around. And we can’t forget about Betty Suarez, the ideal assistant, always ready to clean up after Daniel. I guarantee you, by the third episode you’ll love all of these charming characters along with the many others this series is filled with, such as, the wild Latino ladies Hilda and Gina Gambarro, unforgettable and wicked Amanda, pathetic Walter and irritating Gio; all the while, you will be taking this series in against the backdrop of Manhattan’s shining business world and colourful Queens, New York. 

Betty is also about family and cultural values, hard work, loyal friendship, standing up for who you are,  and of course, Betty’s teddy bear land, where everything is pink and happy and all bad is washed away. 

Outlander 2014

Outlander is the long awaited triumphal celebration of Scotland’s history and glorious land, 21 years after Braveheart. The story of Claire Randall, mysteriously transported back to 1743, separated from her beloved husband Frank; her life threatening adventures and the new passionate love she finds in Jamie Fraser, are as fascinating as the unveiling of Scottish history and the spectacular landscapes the movies is set in.

The meeting with Black Jack Randall (her husband Frank’s ancestor, whom he was doing research on) is cleverly played by the same actor as her husband. That, along with the discovery of Frank’s dark soul and all the drama that will come with it, is simply genius.

I also love, Claire’s discovery of medicinal herbs which she combines with her knowledge of modern medicine, the magical beliefs of the Celtic people, her slow journey of appreciation for a time and a culture that balances all the inconveniences of the times with the values and the qualities of the people. A world where no electricity was available, running water wasn’t easily accessible, heating had to be provided by fire and where dying was often times easier than living, while life was ruled by a clear code of conduct and people were driven by their values, the rules of their society and firmly held beliefs.

Downton Abby

The masterpiece of Julian Fellowes tells us the story of an English noble family running a large country estate in the Yorkshire countryside during the early 1900’s . The story is narrated by the Crawleys’ family members as much as from their large number of servants. It’s two worlds that cohabit the same house: the upstairs and the downstairs. Two parallel universes intertwined and reciprocally co-dependent, and whose alliances are regulated by a strict code of conduct. This way of life about to vanish, is documented with great care and detail and allows you to plunge fully into Victorian England and the changes that WWI brought to it, from the progressive loss of land by the aristocrats after the war, to women’s right to vote.

With great characters and even better acting, this is a series that makes everyone happy, old and young, child and parent, everyone simply loves it. Mr. Carson’s adorable pompous attitude, Mrs. Hugues empathy, Thomas’s crafty mind, Ms. O’Brien’s evil schemes, Daisy and Ms. Patmore fighting in the kitchen; each of the characters is so entertaining and real.

And then there are the love stories such as the one between Lady Mary and Matthew, Mr. Bates and Hannah and finally Mr. Carson and… not telling. You’ve got to watch it!

Broadchurch

I have seen quite a few detective and crime TV shows lately and considering how well they can be written and directed, they are all guilty of the same sin: they are so unrealistic! I lose interest after a very short while. Detectives who spend their lives solving super complicated cases that have been staged and planned by serial killers with the most perverse and complex personalities and the most incredible motives. Then there’s the “crime solvers” that seem to specialise in such things as poisoning cases and miraculously, almost all of their assignments seem to exclusively be people who died from poisoning. Then there’s the blatantly obvious cases that, for some reason, still take weeks to solve, all the while you knew who did it 2 minutes into the episode.

I have to admit, we are spoiled and we have all probably watched too much TV. It’s hard to keep us interested while being original and captivating the audience. 

I loved Broadchurch because it’s set in a small town where almost nothing ever happens and the whole first series keeps the detectives occupied with solving just one murder, not a different one every single episode. The murder case isn’t strikingly strange and extraordinary, on the contrary, it’s all about the Banality of Evil as Hannah Arendt would have rightly put it; because in reality, too often, evil is just that, trivial and mundane, banal.  

Set on the stunning cliffs of Dorset, Broadchurch is animated by the fantastic acting of David Tennat and Olivia Colman along with the rest of the cast. This series is made captivating by Chris Chibnall’s beautifully written plot and by the exploration of human characters; common people going about their everyday lives as only British cinema knows how to do. Each character comes alive and the small village town springs to life with them as well. The depth of the characters brings to mind J.K. Rowling’s, The Casual Vacancy. (And that reminds me, I need to check out the TV mini-series that was based off of her 2015 novel. I forgot about that til now!)

Broadchurch is highly recommended if you need a stronger touch of realism in your murder mysteries and you’re tired of all these shallow plots where you’ve figured out all that’s about to happen three minutes in.

Stranger Things

This is a series I would have never thought I would like. I don’t enjoy fantasy or horror movies at all. So it should have been a no, no for me. I actually started watching this out of curiosity after having heard so many people going on and on about it. The first 5 minutes made me desist, so I moved on to something else, but I went back a few days later because I hadn’t satisfied my curiosity and everyone kept talking about it. Halfway through the episode I was completely hooked and I enjoyed every single episode after that. I am actually counting the days till the release of series 3. Also, this is one of the few shows that brings all the family together; I love watching it with my kids!

I am still not keen on fantasy or horror, but those are secondary factors, side stories within the larger plot. What I love about Stranger Things is the friendships that tie the four 12 year old protagonists together and the story of how these four nerdy teenagers find their tribe among each other and build a lifetime bond like those you can only build in childhood. I love Joyce, the at first seemingly fragile, single mother of two, trying to make ends meet as she raises her two kids; She later ends up showing the type of strength and courage that only a parent’s love can display. I also love Chief Hopper – nicknamed by me, “the man destroyed by life”, at the series beginning – but, who turns out to be a man with so much more to give.

The cast is outstanding. Winona Ryder, playing Joyce, is in one of her most outstanding performances and I am sure she will be remembered for a long time for it. David Harbour playing David Hopper, the police Chief of the small town of Hawkins, Indiana, is just mesmerizing. And the kids are out of this world. Finn Wolfhard, Gaten Matarazzo (my absolute favourite!), Caleb Mclaughlin, Noah Schnapp and Millie Bobby Brown. I am sure all of them have long and successful careers ahead, but they will long be remembered for their amazing debut here.

I am not going to tell you much about this series; but if you want to know what shakes the sleepy town of Hawkins, who (or what) takes Will and how the “Ghostbusters” team formed by Mike, Dustin and Lucas (along with the super powerful addition of Eleven) help the grown-ups try to find him; and above all, if you want to know about the Upsidedown, then give it a go and if, like me, you don’t generally like this genre, commit to watch the first 20 minutes, and after that you will have to commit to stop and go to bed. I promise.