by Stephen Pitt
I used to consider myself to be quite a connoisseur of quality television. I’d binge-watch series after series like a fish taking in water; such as a notable summer where I managed to get through 7 seasons of Mad Men and 2 seasons of The West Wing (22 episodes each). These days, full time employment has hampered my viewing habits a fair bit; resulting in me missing out on recent gems (“No I haven’t seen Stranger Things. Yes I’d like to…if I can find time/be bothered to pay Netflix”). Though, that hasn’t stopped me from dipping my toe into some shows, whilst also keeping up with a misunderstood favourite.
The Circus: Inside the Biggest Story on Earth
After running through the first series, which covered the 2016 presidential election and the rise of Donald Trump, I’m 2 episodes into the newest series, and it’s as enthralling as it is surreal. Political analysts Mark Halperin, John Heilmann, and Mark McKinnon follow and showcase the goings-ons of the Trump administration and the new political establishment shortly after they happen. The series has kicked off with President Trump and House speaker Paul Ryan’s ill-fated attempt to pass an alternative healthcare bill against opposition within their own party. For political nerds such as myself, The Circus provides an interesting insight into what to many seems a gaudy, rollercoaster of a spectacle not far off from a literal circus. The latest series of The Circus is showing in the UK Tuesdays at 22:10 on Sky Atlantic.
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
Carrying on from the theme of current events, John Oliver carried over his razor sharp wit and thorough ‘journalism’ into the era of Trump. Oliver uses his show as a platform to highlight serious matters, with the odd wink and smile. Oliver’s taken Trump to task over his aversion to the truth, his flimsy healthcare plan, and his questionable relationship with Vladimir Putin. Another feature of note has been on the Dalai Lama and China, with Oliver having a poignant and charming interview with the Lama. It’s a show that hits you in the gut for its poignancy as hard as it hits you in the funny bone (I’ll never stop laughing when Press Secretary Sean Spicer is referred to as ‘Melissa’). The latest editions of Last Week Tonight are available Mondays at around 10.40 on Sky Atlantic.
The brainchild of actor/writer/rapper Donald Glover (Childish Gambino), Atlanta is a series not unlike Louie. Eclectic with a dry sense of humour that adds to the show’s subdued tone. We follow Glover’s central character of Earn as he struggles being broke with the responsibility of raising an infant daughter with his kind-of girlfriend, and having to mooch off of his rapper cousin ‘Paperboi’. Despite the setting of inner-city Atlanta being worlds apart from my environment, I still find the characters and their situations universally relatable; especially Earn’s financial worries. If you enjoy comedies that have as much warmth as they do madcap scenarios and wry dialogue, this is the show for you. The first season has come and gone on FX, but it’s available on catch-up/box sets.
WWE Smackdown Live
This next tangent may seem like something more fitting of another section of the site, and is definitely the odd one out here. However, I usually defend wrestling against the insipid ‘fake’ arguments by saying it’s a fictional show not unlike that of Eastenders. And the funny thing is that Smackdown Live has had me the most engaged in its storylines and cast of characters since the summer, mostly due to my decrease in TV consumption. But the efforts of head writer Ryan Ward shouldn’t be dismissed. In the build up to WWE’s biggest annual event; Wrestlemania, feuds such as AJ Styles vs. Shane McMahon have been presented in a bombastic, compelling way that has peaked my interest. Smackdown Live is shown weekly on Sky Sports Tuesdays at 1am, with repeats at a more reasonable time of 10pm Thursdays.