So, this year has been a weird one, full of days that seem both epic in proportion and somewhat
monotonous in equal measures. The regulated bed time regime that you’ve not really had since you
were at school, consists now of making a lengthy dinner using that new casserole dish you bought
from Amazon and sipping Sauvignons Blanc from a fishbowl. Your playlist “Autumn Acoustics has played on repeat most evenings and you’re likely to always have that bar of chocolate in the cupboard ready for afters. You then pop your utterly exhausted body down on the sofa – tired from
all those ten-minute walks around the block- and turn to your girlfriend or pillow girlfriend who
affectionately answers to “Rita” and say “ooh what should we watch tonight babe?” – this then leads
to a endless stream of old familiar and new experimental shows to consume accordingly.
I won’t pretend that I am not a relentless re-watcher, I’d be lying if I told you, that I hadn’t
got to the end of The Office USA and started it again from the beginning within the same heartbeat. I
was even one of those saddo’s who watched all of the first and only season of “Invasion” roughly
four times even when I knew that it had been cancelled and no chance of more being made. Mydedication to watch the same shows, embracing them like each character is someone I know, or
might know, is somewhat an example of my loyalty, or in purer forms, proves that I am a total geek.
This has stretched into lovingly tailored shows like Parks and Recreation, a lifesaver for those who
want to have their belief in humanity restored. The main character Lesley Knope, played by Amy
Poehler, is extraordinarily ordinary, where her excitable love of politics and the parks department is
very humbling. It’s a comedy obviously and you will find it very hard not to fall in love with the
simplicity of it, the twenty odd minutes will go by without you knowing it and you will just tell
yourself to watch one more. I can say I have seen this show, about five times, and if I was offered an
afternoon viewing marathon session, I would not hesitate to say “oh yes please.
After I devoured the life out of Russel T Davies’ heart breaking, ballsy and ultimately incredibly
important “It’s a Sin”, I needed some of more of his brilliance. So, I went back to Channel 4 and
found “Cucumber”, a proud arc style queer show, wonderfully framing the complications of
relationships, sex, lust and grief. I knew what was coming all along of course, but I was still
marginally shaken, I won’t spoil it but I would make sure Rita the pillow girlfriend is nearby for a
Something new, well there have been a few, I have surprised myself on this side actually, always
holding onto the past has been really helpful but alas the change needed to happen. So I wrapped
up some of the oldies in delicate paper for later and tried something that I had been recommended.
Firstly, I would be remiss to not mention “I May Destroy You”, the world has been gifted this
incredible talent in Michaela Coel. This brave show on BBC iPlayer makes you shamefully cover your
mouth with disbelief. I am yet to see a writer so bold, brazen and honest than Michaela. The same
lady who gave us quirky/naughty/vulgar ”Chewing Gum” was not afraid to be risky, hilarious and
outrageous back then, yet it was still tinged with the innocence of the sexually frustrated main
character. I May Destroy You explores our “miseducation” of sexual consent driven with themes of
hedonistic nights out and Grindr hook ups. It beckons questions on “victim shame”, self-worth and
trauma, yet because Michaela is clearly a funny lady, it still has a lightness through it that strangely
makes you smile through the pangs. Its not one to watch with the parents on the sofa – so don’t do
what I did with “FleaBag” – and suggest it’s a great watch but realise within five minutes it was
basically just my dad and I watching someone having anal sex. I May Destroy You is achingly real. It will make you think “shit… I think something similar happened to me, or to my friend, my sister, my
brother…” it’s painfully relatable, raw and a must watch.
Staying on a theme of brave, I was guided onto Adult Material, written by Lucy Kirkwood, this
explored the complication of a woman working in the porn industry, whilst balancing being a mother
and monogamous partner. It was a very uncomfortable watch, I felt rumbles of acid in my throat as
it really tested the role of the voyeur, ie You, me, us. I felt like I shouldn’t have been watching yet
the journey was too interesting to turn away, I felt like I was slowing down to look at an accident,
the shame from the screen radiated somehow but I felt I was educating myself too. Head to Channel
4 again for this, and make sure you have plenty of paper bags in case you need help breathing.
For some light relief, I made sure there was some fun to keep me from going into a bubble of
overwhelming thoughts. When Rita my pillow girlfriend didn’t mind sharing me, my actual girlfriend
got into Strictly come Dancing. She had once believed it to be some hyper patriotic dull creation for
old nannas but she totally embraced the glitz, glamour and dare I say, dancing! I even bought one of
the series, the one with Stacey Dooley obviously on Prime, so that we didn’t have to spend a
weekend without it!
Together with re-watching Friend’s in the background of idle tasks and trying to ignore the
heteronormality and a decade of gentle homophobia I tried out Behind her Eyes on Netflix… it was
fast pace show with some well written glimpses of something interesting but fell a little bit short for
me, as I guessed the ending. Smugly though I continued and felt the reflective issues bounce back at
me when I finally got to the end. There are some very obvious phobias that possibly unconsciously
make this show a bit hard to enjoy, but I shall not spoil anything.
Lastly, on the re-watch list is The Fall, one cannot hide the pull of any Gillian Anderson show, her
ability to make even Margaret Thatcher confusingly hot was worth it in The Crown, her hilarious lack
of boundaries and layered complexities in Sex Education and of course her tough core playing Scully
in The X-Files could not go unnoticed through my younger years. Stella Gibson in The Fall is a
personification of “maiden/whore”. Gillian’s character is a very sexually charged, sexually aware,
sexually comfortable woman, who enjoys sex – I want to say provocative but that it seems give her
away to the insecure men that cannot help desire her. She is smart, knows what she is and wants
bundled together with the misogynistic serial killer she is trying to arrest the power of their parallel
is striking and fascinating. This I believe can also be found on its original maker, BBC iPlayer.
The theme I think for most of the shows I am personally drawn to are well written, well rounded
stories with women or by women. If something is inconsistent, or badly penned I cannot help but
give up and go back to the familiar shows I know best. Women are slowly but surely becoming
celebrated; women of colour should be at the absolutely heart when we think about our telly habits.
Its so easy to glaze over it but the spotlight has helped raise the issue, and it’s a bloody triumph to
see changes. If you have something for me, send it over.
I will leave you now to think about all the other shows you can perhaps recommend me, as re-
watching represents perhaps my need for security, or comfortability, however seeing new shows
does not have to mean I am surrendering those things – and as long as I have Rita in my arms, I will
By Abigail Mansfield
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