6 TV shows to cure those lockdown blues

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Vikings Final Season is the second half of Season 6 and landed on Amazon Prime last year. The epic saga which began with legendary Viking leader Ragnar Lothbrok, comes to an end with the usual high body count. For me, the series never really recovered from the loss of Travis Fimmel, but I learned to love Lothbrok’s sons and all the plotting and bloodthirsty battles. However, I think it was time to end the show.

The final season has a few surprises along the way and some attempt out rounding off some character arcs which at times seemed to be going nowhere. However, when it comes to Ivar the Boneless I prefer the characterisation in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. A lot of the action in latter seasons seemed to revolve around Alex Høgh Andersen’s character and he didn’t really hold my attention as much as Fimmel did.

If you have never seen Vikings but enjoyed the Bernard Cornwell TV adaptation The Last Kingdom or Game of Thrones then you could do worse than giving it a go. The battles are better than in The Last Kingdom and while there’s not as much sexposition or magic as GoT, it still has a good atmosphere to it and it at least tries to follow real characters and events in history. Even Erik the Viking pops up for this last season and it ends perhaps where The Last Kingdom begins.

Ted Lasso is a comedy on Apple TV+ and tells the story of an America sports coach (Jason Sudeikis) brought over to manage an English soccer team. Club owner Rebecca Welton (Game of Thrones’ Hannah Waddington) wants to drive the Premiere League club into failure to spite her ex-husband and has hired Lasso to botch it all up for her. Problem is, Lasso is actually very likeable and very good at his job.

It’s a feel-good comedy with quite a unique character in the form of the ever-optimistic Lasso. Sudeikis and Welton are very good, along with an interesting performance from Juno Temple (Maleficent) as a footballer’s feisty model girlfriend.

Back to Life is a BBC comedy drama now available on Netflix which stars Daisy Haggard (recognisable to some from the Harry Potter films, but known to me from her role as Myra in the brilliant comedy Episodes) as an ex-con trying to get her life back after years of being in prison. Unfortunately, she has to move back in with her parents who still live in the place where she committed her crime.

It’s one of those comedy dramas that is often more drama than comedy, and what laughs are available are muted and loaded with sympathy. Tonally it reminded me of After Life and it was good to see somewhere on camera which wasn’t London, L.A. or New York but a non-descript English coastal town.

Brave New World is a Peacock original which aired last year on Sky. I recorded it and then finally plucked up the courage to watch it. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is one of my very favourite sci-fi books which I feel is somewhat of an antidote to Orwell’s rather heavier 1984. Not that Brave New World is a happy tale but at least the utopia featured initially seems nicer than 1984‘s dystopia. The basic premise of the novel is pretty much covered in the first two episodes of the TV show – the Prozac-like drug soma that everyone takes, the test-tube based baby system based on intelligence levels where Alpha (Plusses) are the ruling elite, and the Savage Lands reflecting contemporary society.

When the characters aren’t busy having sex orgies there is some interesting stuff to think about. The ideas of monogamy and being a member of a more important social body are put through the grinder. There’s a feeling that everyone in New London is in a soma-based cult and when John the savage (Solo‘s Alden Ehrenreich) comes onto the scene things start to unravel. The TV show takes things a few steps further with a storyline about a bunch of ‘founding fathers’, a sociopathic ruling AI system and all-seeing interconnected eye implants that make SocMe look like a child’s toy.

Game of Thrones actor Harry Lloyd and Jessica Brown Findlay play New London residents form a love triangle with Ehrenreich’s character and unfortunately their brilliantly nuanced and often emotional performances put him in a bad light. For me, there’s something about Ehrenreich which isn’t comfortable to watch, like he’s trying too hard to be like James Dean and at turns under- and over-acting from scene to scene. Perhaps it’s all a brilliant portrayal of a stranger in a strange land, but I get the feeling that it might just be bad acting.

The Great has no such problems. Every actor shines. It’s a hulu original which is currently showing on Channel Four in the UK. Maleficent‘s Elle Fanning is captivating as Catherine newly wed to Peter Emperor of Russia played with aplomb by Nicholas Hoult. It’s a period comedy drama with more emphasis on the comedy. The script is brilliant and it’s by far the best show in this list. It’s simply glorious.

It probably wouldn’t have got the green light if it wasn’t for the success of the very similar feeling historic comedy movie The Favourite but it’s far funnier than that and has more energy to it somehow. While I’ve not seen Fanning in anything but the two Disney films I’ve seen a lot of Nicholas Hoult’s stuff and he is simply splendid in this. Huzzah! Also Sacha Dhawan who is lacklustre in Iron Fist and was downright awful as The Master recently in Doctor Who is actually really good. Just like every supporting actor. There’s not an Ehrenreich among them.

It’s a Sin is an HBO Max original which like The Great is currently showing on Channel Four in the UK (actually I think the last episode is on tonight). It’s a good drama about gay life and AIDs in mid-80s England and the only sin is that it doesn’t have the Pet Shop Boys track as it’s theme song. I was big fan of Russel T. Davies’ Queer As Folk and retrospectively have come to appreciate his writing on Doctor Who, so this series was obligatory viewing for me, and so far I have not been disappointed.

Obviously it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and don’t expect to see much of Neil Patrick Harris. He’s very good in it, but doesn’t have a big part. Years & Years lead singer Olly Alexander is great in the show, while some of the other cast members’ acting is bit crap to be honest. Will Alexander be the next Doctor? Who knows?

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