The art of storytelling gives us the wonderful gift of catharsis, through which we purge ourselves of pent-up emotions by the performance that we digest. The characters’ journeys inspire us; we relate to their actions and decisions by forming a parallel between their lives and ours. The mark of a well written and intelligently performed piece can often be measured by the impact of its catharsis. Here are but a few TV series which, we feel, have purged us of emotion a-plenty, and have also given us a few good laughs. They make for elite company during long rainy nights indoors.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Western sci-fi. Yes, you read correctly. The Wild West meets Star Wars. The incomparable writer, producer and director Joss Whedon is responsible for this masterpiece, and Marvel fans will hear the echo of his scriptwriting in this series from The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Firefly is also renowned for its portrayal of exceptionally developed and dominant female roles such as Zoe and Inara. When asked at an interview why he writes such strong female leads, Whedon had famously answered, “Because you’re still asking me that question.” The story also plays around with code-switching, where in this context, Mandarin Chinese had at a point in history become a lingua franca on par with English, and so the characters occasionally swear in the former. Since Fox had axed the show after just one series, Whedon quenched his audience’s thirst for an ending through the film Serenity, finally explaining the origin of reavers and River’s past. Also, Christina Hendricks makes a few guest appearances as a fantastic femme fatale.
The musical giant that is Alan Menken provided the composition and lyrics for a pantomime parody of Game of Thrones, every musical on Broadway, fairy tale stereotypes and diversity type casting. This cheeky musical mini-series boasts comedy genius and outstanding performances by Ben Presley, Timothy Omundson and Joshua Sasse, not to mention a stellar cast of cameos, including Robert Lindsay, Al Yankovic, Hugh Bonneville and Ricky Gervais. I cannot tell you how hilarious the lyrics are to most of the musical numbers. This series is pure comedy gold with catchy numbers and an incredibly clever script. Oh, and Vinnie Jones plays a knight.
The level of catharsis is strong with this one, as it makes us continuously laugh, but shed so many tears of grief on so many occasions as well. It’s also an ideal medical drama for those who are squeamish, as the focus is very much on the comedy and character relationships; the medicine is more of a filler. Scrubs has gotten quite a few people I know through a lot, not just because of the comic relief it provides, but also because it touches upon life experiences such as birth, death, conflict, heartbreak and work. The show exposes you to behaviours that are truly human, without falling into the happy ending trap. This stands contrary to the traditional American comic hero, which is why the show appeals to so many who are usually apprehensive about American television, as opposed to British sitcoms. It follows a rather British comic hero in the form of John Dorian, in that he is the down-trodden lead with patterned flaws and a co-dependence on those around him. “I can’t do this all on my own. I know I’m no superman.” Utterly relatable.
This is my period drama pick of the lot (trust me, Galavant doesn’t really count). You’re going to fall in love with the introductory score, and then you’re going to crave Milady de Winter’s wardrobe, and then you’re going to develop a major crush on one of the Musketeers, and then you’re going to be reminded what a brilliant actor Peter Capaldi is… not necessarily in that order. Lovers of French literature might not immediately warm to the very loose interpretation of Alexandre Dumas’ classic, but each episode is nonetheless action-packed with superior stage combat and enticing dialogue. I’m all for one and one for all all with this series.
Perhaps I’m biased, but I find it absolutely impossible to fault Sir Lenny Henry. I’ve seen him do stand up, I’ve seen him do theatre, I’ve seen him do TV, with each role more contrasting than the next. An unsung gem of his is the situation comedy Chef!, where he plays a tempestuous Michelin-star chef at a French restaurant in the English countryside. This series will appeal to foodies and lovers of words alike. There’s nothing quite like exhausting your bottled anger through one of Gareth Blackstock’s terrifying rants, and Roger Griffiths delivers impeccable physicality and comic timing.
What’ll you be binge watching?