The Box: What I’ve Been Binging Recently (#2)

 MINDHUNTER

From the creative talons of David Fincher comes Mindhunter, a new Netflix series exploring the behavioural sciences unit within the FBI as they attempt to categorise a new brand of murderer: serial killers. It’s not as boring as that synopsis makes it out to be, I promise. Based on real life events and real serial killers, agents Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany)) are set on a journey into the psyche of some pretty awful people.

It takes a few episodes to get started, but when it does Mindhunter is compelling viewing. Once we start to see the resistance of the Bureau to putting any of Holden and Tench’s research into practice, the much needed tension arises. The addition of Dr Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) partway through the season also gives us another perspective on what Ford and Tench are doing – and is it right?

I struggled with parts of Mindhunter (if you’ve seen it, you’ll probably know which parts I mean). I have a serious issue with the way women are portrayed, discussed and victimised. It’s tricky because the series is predominantly about men that murder women, but I had hoped that we were past simply treating women as canon fodder. It’s why Carr’s character actually turns the show around – it runs the risk of being a bit on an unchecked boys club (a bit like Ford’s tactics on interviewing subjects) but has so far steered just about clear.

Mindhunter has also taught me that maybe the FBI just attracts people with weird sounding names – Holden, Tench, Mulder, Scully? I’m seeing a pattern here…

THE GOOD PLACE

This lovely little show snuck up on me without me even realising. Before I knew what was happening, I was six episodes in and loving every moment.

Mike Schur, creator of Parks & Rec and Brooklyn 99, brings his talent for fun ensemble cast shows to The Good Place – a TV show about heaven, hell and all things in between. Kristin Bell stars as Eleanor Shellstrop, who has recently died. She is welcomed by Michael (Ted Danson) to the Good Place, an afterlife where people who have been morally good throughout their lives have earned the right to spend eternity. The only problem? Eleanor is not a good person, not even a little bit. Whilst the first few episodes are a bit slow, The Good Place is highly addictive watching. It’s funny, easy to watch and the characters are completely lovable. And Adam Scott has a cameo appearance. What’s not to love!

The Good Place doesn’t hit the comedy highs of B99 or Parks and Rec, but it’s a different creature. It’s a comfortable show, which plays with it’s premise over and over again to wonderfully inventive results. The Good Place feel intent on bringing joy, hope and friendship to our screens – which I feel we could all use a bit of right now. It’s the perfect show for snuggling up under a duvet whilst pondering existentialism. Bonus – if you have ever studied philosophy, you’ll really appreciate some of the jokes. Also, Janet is the greatest character ever. Fact.

BETTER CALL SAUL

Series 3 of our favourite spin off returned to Netflix this summer and I’ve just got round to finishing it off. I absolutely love Better Call Saul (as can be witnessed in my essay for Bitch Flicks here) and I think it’s just gone from strength to strength each season.

This season focused on the aftermath of Jimmy’s confession to Chuck about the Mesa Verde documents he had forged to incriminate Chuck. The two brothers have never exactly been close, but this season they are about ready to kill each other. Chuck’s condition worsens, Jimmy ends up being struck off from practising law for a year and there’s a story-line about a senior citizen losing all her friends, which made me sob like a baby.

Kim, for me, has been a real highlight of series 3. She’s already been established as a damn good lawyer,  a loyal friend and someone who you’d want on your side if you are in hot water – but this season we get more of Kim’s highs and lows, making her feel more human. Equally, the introduction is very exciting, and it now feels like we are gearing up to something explosive in the fourth season. Can’t wait!

 

MY MAD FAT DIARY

My Mad Fat Diary is a 2013 Channel 4 comedy centred on Rae – a teenage girl who has just been discharged from a rehabilitation centre for young people with mental health issues. Yes, it doesn’t sound like a comedy, and sometimes it’s not at all funny, but My Mad Fat Diary is the show I so wished I had to lean on when I was a young, insecure teenager.

From explicit discussions of masturbation, to the stark reality of mental illness and eating disorders, we journey through Rae’s life in recovery as she writes her hopes, dreams and sexual fantasies in her diary – as instructed to by therapist Kester. Fortunately, she quickly makes a new group of friends (with a few boys for her to faun over) but she ultimately struggles with the freedoms she has living in the ‘normal’ world.

The show’s frank and brutally honest portrayal of just how awful being a teenager is, in addition to the messages of body positvity and sex positivity are what makes it so remarkable. My Mad Fat Diary is both progressive and utterly hilarious at the same time.

The entire box-set is streaming on All4 now, and it’s perfect for snuggling down in your duvet with a cup of tea with.

THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE

You know that feeling where you can’t work out if a TV show is a beautifully shot work of sexy art, or whether it’s beautifully shot pornography? Yeah – that’s The Girlfriend Experience. Joking aside, there is a LOT of sex. Think how much a lot of sex would be, then double it. That’s how much sex there is in The Girlfriend Experience.

It’s not just about sex, though you would be forgiven for thinking so if you have only watched the first four or so episodes. The story-line only really picks up after episode five as the first half of the series seems to exist to lure us in with semi-pornographic sex scenes and then jump us with a pretty complicated narrative in the second half. Still, for the most part it is easy watching. I mostly appreciated that The Girlfriend Experience is smashing the stereotypes surrounding women, sex and sex workers themselves. The main character Christine, clearly enjoys having sex and she enjoys being paid to have sex even more. Instead of portraying her as a victim, creator Amy Seimetz allows her to have autonomy.

And you will definitely start doing research on exactly how one becomes an escort…

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