Alternate entertainment options to help you stay sane during the lockdown.
In these troubled, divisive and uncertain times, finding solace in art, history and literature moves beyond the realm of entertainment. They become essential tools in grounding us during this capricious pandemic that has brought the global community to its knees.
Turning to books, TV or movies isn’t just a great way to while away the slow hours at home but can also keep you engaged enough to keep anxiety at bay. While most of us are turning to streaming giant Netflix for our regular dose of escapist entertainment, there’s a world beyond this convenient platform waiting to be explored. Here are our top picks of alternates that you can dig into and maybe learn a thing or two along the way.
The OG of the crime drama genre, The Sopranos set the precedent for all our favorite gritty TV back in 1999. Spread over six seasons, chronicling the life an American Italian Mafia boss, Tony Soprano (played by James Gandolfini in a three time Emmy award winning powerhouse performance) and his struggle to maintain congruence between work, family and personal. It was one of the first shows that tackled men’s mental health and started a commentary on toxic masculinity, normalizing therapy and the mob culture, previously romanticized and glorified.
There are very few TV series that consistently live up to the standards they have set in previous seasons (we’re looking at you GoT, Lost) for themselves. The Sopranos perhaps is one of the only series that gets better with each season, each new layer of story added. It’s long, dense and really makes you think about narrative and plot devices when you catch yourself rooting for Tony, even though you know he’s a murderous sociopath. Definitely the most recommended pick of the list!
Quite possibly one of the best comedy franchises from the last two decades, The Office is a hilarious mockumentary style sitcom, created by Ricky Gervais and brought to life by Steve Carrell and his motley crew of colleagues. Set in a suburban Pennsylvania town, the show follows the 9-5 life of the employees of a paper company as they attempt to navigate their place in the world and work in a declining industry, beset with financial woes and lay-offs. The show, originally created for British TV was then adapted for the US and went on to become one of the most successful shows during its nine year run. While awkward and cringe-y in the first few episodes, it is an extremely well written, rewarding series that will have you in fits of laughter and hoping for a Jim-Dwight rivalry in your office as well. It is also a series that has aged well in terms of humour. The sitcom Friends might be a global favourite but it’s off colour jokes, homophobia and stereotypical character tropes don’t stand well against the test of time.
The Office however, not only had a diverse cast, representative of various demographics of society but also a diverse set of young comics as writers and producers, including Mindy Kaling who first started out on the series. If you’re looking for something smart with levity, download/stream The Office and forget the global crisis for a bit.
While the terrible taste that the Hobbit trilogy left in our mouths has taken quite a few years to cleanse, there is hype once again around quite possibly the most famous fantasy fiction series in the world. The original works which have since inspired countless other authors and works (why yes, Harry Potter included) by J. R. R. Tolkien are once again at the center of an adaptation.
The extremely detailed, thoroughly sketched out universe of Middle Earth was all set to make it to our screens in 2021 courtesy a new Amazon series but shooting in New Zealand has been delayed due to COVID-19. However, a great way to bid time and understand the universe that will unfold is to read The Silmarillion by Tolkien.
Serving as the history of Middle Earth’s creation and divide, the mythopoeic stories were published posthumously by Tolkien’s son and set the stage for the epic battle to come. It chronicles the First and Second Ages, the creation of the Valar, the war over the Silmarils, the fall of the line of Numenor and the final part that touches briefly on the Third Age and the battle for Middle Earth. Dense, enchanting and written to inspire a willing suspension of disbelief, The Silmarillion is a captivating read that’ll fulfill all your fantasy fiction or mythological cravings.