Sights and sounds: The List's A-Z of home entertainment
From TV shows to podcasts, here are some ways to keep yourself occupied over the coming weeks
In the light of us all being invited to stay indoors, we've compiled an alphabetical run-down of some of the TV, podcast and radio shows that can keep you entertained over the coming months.
American Elections: Wicked Game
With the 2020 US presidential campaign looming ever closer, it's looking set to be another bitter battle for the White House. But has it ever been thus? Presented by Lindsay Graham, this series looks at all 58 elections from George Washington in 1789 to Trump in 2016, and wonders if a fair fight has ever been undertaken.
Poor old Baldrick gets slowly tortured by various Edmunds through the ages in four series of Ben Elton and Richard Curtis' landmark 80s comedy. There's even a classic Christmas special to catch up on featuring Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Miranda Richardson with Rowan Atkinson's titular miserabilist coming over all Scrooge-like.
Inspired by the children's armchair storytelling of the 1970s, there are four whole series of this more grown-up affair. Among those lending their voices are David Mitchell, Sharon Horgan, Emilia Fox, Robbie Coltrane, Carrie Fisher, Miriam Margolyes and Mackenzie Crook.
In case you needed reminding of the corruption, fraud and 'creative accounting' that people in positions of power are capable of, two seasons of Alex Gibney's documentary series should do the trick. Among the recent targets under his microscope are financial services company Wells Fargo, former Malaysian PM Najib Razak, and Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of a season-one crook: a guy called Trump.
Empire Film Podcast
We may not be able to get into cinemas for a bit but those obsessed with movies can catch up with some irreverent film-related chat. Among the recent interviewees are Bong Joon-ho, Emilio Estevez, Elisabeth Moss and Steve Coogan.
Anna Sorokin thought she had the world fooled while sauntering confidently around New York pretending to be a wealthy heiress named Anna Delvey. Dubbed the Soho Grifter when her scamming of individuals and businesses out of many thousands of dollars was exposed in 2018, you're likely to listen to this with your jaw slowly dropping to the floor.
Amy Will presents this podcast in which she chats to successful businesswomen about advances they've made in their particular field. Among the interviewees to date are BossBabe's Kay Snels, author Tara Schuster, BuzzFeed's Maycie Timpone and British Vogue's Carlotta Constant.
Written by Gwyneth Hughes, Keeley Hawes stars as Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode in a no-doubt highly controversial two-parter based on the life and death of Banaz Mahmod. This young Londoner was murdered in 2006 by members of her own family after leaving her husband when she fell in love with the 'wrong man'.
This HBO chamber drama shows us the inside of a therapist's office (and mind) with Gabriel Byrne in excellent form as Paul Weston, a psychologist who inevitably has his own issues to deal with. Among the supreme acting talent involved are Melissa George, Blair Underwood, Mia Wasikowska, Irrfan Khan, Dane DeHaan and Alison Pill while Dianne Wiest plays Paul's own supervisor, Gina. Indulge yourself with 106 episodes and you might end up wishing you were in counselling. Not every therapist is as cool as Gabriel Byrne though.
Just One Look
The Walter Presents strand on 4 has been spoiling us with an excellent stream of European drama since 2015. As well as the likes of Deutschland 86 and Blue Eyes comes this taut French thriller adapted from the Harlan Coben novel. Virginie Ledoyen stars as a woman who discovers something odd about her husband, leading to revelations that were best probably kept secret.
Kath & Kim
It's hard to conjure up memories of the mass adoration afforded this Australian comedy at the time of its initial airing in 2002, but creators and performers Gina Riley and Jane Turner had certainly put in the hard work given that the two Ks arose from an early 90s sketch show called Big Girl's Blouse. This might be the time to enjoy all four seasons plus their Kountdown Specials.
League of Gentlemen
All four members of the League have gone on to do some special stuff: Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith with Inside No 9; Jeremy Dyson with Funland and Ghost Stories; and Mark Gatiss with the Lucifer Box novels and Sherlock. But for many, they will always be the purveyors of sinister, local entertainment from Royston Vasey. Deliciously dark even after all these years.
BBC iPlayer / Netflix
My Left Nut
Based on Michael Patrick's one-man play which was rooted in his own experiences as a teenage boy, this BBC Three comedy-drama brings laughs to a tender topic: the discovery of a testicular lump. Billed by one paper as a 'male Derry Girls' (yes, it's Irish and set partly in a school), Mick is played by newcomer Nathan Quinn-O'Rawe, while the under-rated Sinead Keenan is his single mum Patricia.
Dubbed the 'Netflix of UK stand-up comedy', you could easily while away many months on a large number of recent shows from Fringe comedians such as Joseph Morpurgo, Alice Fraser, Fern Brady, Jordan Brookes and Laura Davis. Plus, there's a smattering from the all-time greats: Bill Hicks' Relentless, Sean Hughes' Penguin and Tommy Tiernan's Crooked Man are all must-sees.
In times of weirdness, it goes without saying that we should all try to keep our brains sharp. Admittedly, the BBC Two show presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell might make all that matter in your bonce frazzle away to nothing as you try desperately to come up with the connections. But it's got to be worthy trying, right?
Parks and Recreation
Starring a veritable stable of top US comedic talents, including Amy Poehler, Aziz Anzari, Nick Offerman, Adam Scott, Rashida Jones, a post-West Wing Rob Lowe and a pre-Jurassic Chris Pratt, this workplace mockumentary took a while to find its bureaucracy-baiting mojo but once found, the show positively soared.
Sky Comedy / NOW TV / Amazon Prime
Queer as Folk
Relive the end of the 90s with the Channel 4 drama which tore a hole right through the conservative TV schedules. It probably feels a little tame now, but back then the torrid lives and loves of the Manchester three aka Stuart, Vince and Nathan, was a wake-up call to modern Britain. And it set creator Russell T Davies on the long road to Doctor Who.
A couple of former lovers (Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson) drop their current lives to take an impromptu and wholly inexplicable train trip across America. Scripted by Vicky Jones and produced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge (who makes a cameo in one episode), it looks like the theme is honesty.
Sky Comedy / NOW TV from Wed 15 Apr. Watch trailer
A podcast for 'the weary and restless', which, let's face it, is pretty much of all us right now. Otis Gray, a baritone-voiced storyteller, writer and radio producer from rural Vermont reads old books of yore, such as Moby Dick, To the Lighthouse, and Heart of Darkness. New episodes arrive every Sunday, the sleepiest of all the days. This man will send you quietly to the land of nod. Guaranteed.
This American Life
Hailed as a pioneer of the early podcasting era, This American Life has continued to thrive in an ever-crowded field. Described by its creator Ira Glass as 'true stories but not boring, I swear', it has an enviable archive with some episode titles which get immediately to the heart of the matter: 'Switched at Birth', 'Break-Up', and 'If You Don't Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS'.
A violent death and a series of dramatic revelations cause a rupture in the previously idyllic married life of Grace (Nicole Kidman) and Jonathan (Hugh Grant). Penned by David E Kelley (he of Ally McBeal and Big Little Lies scripting fame), it also features Sofie Gråbøl (she of the Nordic jumpers) and Donald Sutherland (he of the white beard and dad of Kiefer thing).
Sky Atlantic / NOW TV from Mon 18 May. Watch trailer
Under the creative tutelage of Spike Jonze, this is where some of the less regular online TV content resides. Enjoy the likes of Jamali Maddix ribbing the far right, giggle uncontrollably at the Italian Weed Grandma in Bong Appetit, and cringe equally as uncontrollably at the episode of Slutever entitled 'Why I Own Anthropomorphic Monster Dildos'.
Bookworms are going Hilary Mantel-crazy with the publication of The Mirror and the Light, the conclusion to her historical trilogy charting Thomas Cromwell's rise and fall. Hopefully, there will be more small-screen action to follow at some point, but Wolf Hall will always work as a magnificent standalone series. Directed by Peter Kosminksy, it stars the perfect pairing of Mark Rylance as Cromwell and Damian Lewis as the athletic-era Henry VIII.
X Files, the
The ultimate in paranoia TV might just be the ideal viewing for those who want to detect deeper meaning in today's medical emergency. Others might stay for the weird chemistry between Mulder and Scully. Either way, there are 11 seasons of the stuff for you to wade through.
It's the stalker thriller that's had people up in arms; though only long enough for them to click onto the next episode in gripped anticipation. Everything begins with a seemingly cute encounter in a perfectly charming bookstore, before everything goes haywire, horrific and a little bit hilarious.
Zeta Family, the
An eccentric band of folk are holed up on a large ranch in rural upstate New York. Are they just a set of oddballs hanging out in the woods or is there something a bit more sinister and cult-like going on? Natasha 'Russian Doll' Lyonne is one of the voices you'll hear.
Unless stated, all the above is available right now.
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