Some people think watching TV is a waste of time.
I’m not one of those people. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s a perfectly good way to spend your time. When I say TV, I don’t mean that free-to-air, How I Met Your Mother sewerage runoff, but, like, actual good TV that makes you laugh, cry, and think about something other than the questionable state of your own life. What are those shows, and how do you watch them? Answers, ahead.
To date, I have dedicated 12 hours of my life to watching Netflix’s six-episode documentary series, Cheer. At first I went into it thinking, ‘Ugh, who cares about cheerleading?’, only to find myself fist-pumping the air 20 minutes later when Lexi lands a front handspring front tuck step out round off back handspring double full layout. Created by the same genius behind Netflix’s other sports-based masterpiece, Last Chance U, Greg Whiteley’s Cheer is about so much more than what happens on the mat. Following an incredible cast of young athletes—many of whom come from broken homes and difficult circumstances—it’s impossible not to become emotionally invested in the Navarro College competitive cheer team. As in Last Chance U, the cinematography is spectacular, and the resilience of these kids (looking at you Morgan, LaDarius, and Jerry) is seriously inspiring to witness. The entire series culminates with a 2-minute-and-15-second performance at the 2019 NCA National Championships in Daytona, and I can confirm that it will be the longest 2-minutes-and-15-seconds of your life. Pretty sure I stopped breathing for it. Easily one of the best series I’ve ever seen.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
Perhaps you followed some of Aaron Hernandez’s criminal case back in 2013, or maybe his name rings a bell from the unexpected turn of events in the news a few years later. But after watching this three-part documentary on Netflix, I can guarantee you don’t know the half of it. It’s an absolute rollercoaster of a story that begins with the pro NFL player charged with his friend Odin Lloyd’s murder. Without giving too much away, this series seeks to discover a possible motive for Hernandez’s crimes, delving into theories around his sexuality, his childhood, and even how Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) caused by football-related head injuries could have played a role. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty safe to say Hernandez was a messed up guy with an evil streak in him—and same goes for his fiancé. As far as true crime docs go, this is about as dramatic and complex a story as you could hope for, with more twist and turns than Mulholland Drive (the road, or the film.)
I almost forgot how good of a show Sex Education was until I got about three minutes into season 2, which dropped on Netflix last week. First of all, what a cast. I mean, for starters, Gillian Anderson playing a sex therapist may just be the greatest role of her life, and I say that as a huge Agent Scully fan. Then there are the school kids, played by (mostly) up-and-coming actors who I’ve never seen in anything else but still devotedly follow on Instagram. Sex Education tackles so many pressing (and kinda heavy) issues affecting young people today, and does so with wit, humour, and heaps of heart. From family shit, to STI’s, virginity, masturbation, feminism, and masculinity—you name it, it’s in here. Taboo? Never heard of it.
Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020
If you’ve never watched a single episode of the Japanese reality series, Terrace House, prepare to bid adieu to all your friends and social plans for at least the next six months. Terrace House is like the thoughtful, soft-spoken and well-mannered younger cousin of Big Brother. Over four seasons on Netflix (and 147 episodes and counting), six strangers (three women and three men) live together under one roof. But unlike shitty Western versions of this concept, there are no popularity competitions and no rules, with housemates able to come and go from the house as they please, keeping down jobs and other hobbies.
Most of the time, it just feels like you’re at home with a bunch of friends shooting the shit, but somehow this is way, way more interesting. Not only does it offer you an incredible window into Japanese dating culture and living customs, it also schools you on manners too. Honestly, spend one night watching the way these housemates communicate and share food together and you’ll realise how fucking rude the rest of us are. Once you burn through all the episodes of the most recent series, Tokyo 2019-2020, you’ll have to wait for Part 3 to drop later this year. Or, you could just get a VPN and watch it every week direct from Japan, but who would honestly be desperate enough do something like that?
Everything’s Gonna Be OK
Okay, yes, this trailer is OTC cheeseball. And I guess, in a way, this show kind of is too. But creator Josh Thomas has an amazing way of telling traumatic and heart-wrenching stories in a funny and relatable way (cc: almost every scene in Please Like Me). Also, isn’t it kind of cool to be in touch with your emotions now? Anyway, Josh’s new show is all about death, family, autism, sexuality, and the trials and tribulations of growing up and the responsibility that comes along with it. Sure, there’s a bit of Hollywood sap wandering around the edit bay halls, but the lols far outweigh the ughs. So go on, let yourself have a bit of a cry—everything’s gonna be okay.