One year after the first stay at home orders, the Stylist team give thanks to the series that helped them through the last twelve months.
It’s been: a year.
12 months full of things we would never have imagined becoming an inescapable part of our daily lives: face masks, roadmaps, bubble politics and debates about if a Scotch egg constitutes a substantial meal.
But if there is one thing that has remained constant throughout this time it’s our relationships with our televisions. A study last August revealed that people in the UK spent 40% of their waking hours watching TV during the height of the April coronavirus pandemic, and 12 million adults in the UK signed up to a new streaming service. And our viewing habits have shown no signs of faltering since.
But while the TV companies have delivered the goods with tense thrillers like The Undoing, vital dramas about consent like I May Destroy You and an unexpectedly compelling show about chess, we must also give thanks to the unsung TV stalwarts that have kept us going for the last year. The long-running, multi-episoded series that have soothed fractured souls, taken us out of anxiety-laden brains and given us something to focus on that’s a million miles from briefings and Boris.
So, here’s the one TV show that members of the Stylist team give thanks for.
“Look, I want to make one thing very clear: I watch a lot of good TV. Keeping up-to-date with all The Queen’s Gambits, Normal Peoples, and Bridgertons of the world is actually a vital part of my job. But, when it comes to relaxing during lockdown, I’ve been throwing it back to the 90s and working my way through old episodes of Gladiators, Supermarket Sweep, Stars In Their Eyes, Changing Rooms, and the like.
There’s just something so cosy about delving into all those old shows, isn’t there? Unlike the reality TV and game shows of today, the stakes are so much lower.
There’s no £1 million recording contract to be won, or fame to be found, or anything like that; it’s just Kate from the deli counter at Asda, dressing up as Madonna and singing her heart out for the fun of it. It’s two pals crashing round a supermarket with an out-of-control trolley as Dale Winton watches on in bemusement. It’s a (frankly) tiny-looking person facing down the musclebound Gladiators, getting a sudden boost from their cheering loved ones, and coming out on top. I love it. I love it all so much. It makes me feel happy, and optimistic, and like I’m living a very ordinary Saturday in a world without endless Zoom calls and plague reports. And who doesn’t want that, eh?”
Kayleigh Dray, digital editor-at-large
“When 2020 began, I had no idea that within a few months I’d be single and living back at my mum’s house. I also didn’t think I’d be rewatching New Girl for the first time since I was at uni. But it makes sense that Elizabeth Meriwether’s hit sitcom, which ran from 2011-2018, has been a balm to me throughout three successive lockdowns: its initial premise, after all, is a woman starting afresh after her long-term relationship collapses.
Unlike Zooey Deschanel’s New Girl character, Jess Day, I did not deal with my heartbreak by moving into an LA loft with three men I met on Craigslist: I eventually moved into a terraced house in south London with three old friends, which isn’t quite as dramatic. But at a time when the real world has often seemed horrifyingly dark, New Girl’s brand of realistic optimism is like a shot of pure California sunshine.
It’s one of the only TV shows that makes me laugh out loud when I’m alone, and its central message – that life is going to throw you some curveballs, and friendship will sustain you throughout all of them – is as comforting as it is true. It’s not the most sophisticated TV show out there, but it makes me genuinely happy – and that’s pretty much all I want from TV right now.”
Moya Crockett, deputy editor, Stylist Loves
“I never knew Superstore existed until I stumbled across it on Netflix (it’s also on E4 and ITV2) in the endless search for something new to watch. Yet I have now watched, and chuckled, along to 98 episodes of this charming comedy set in the fictional Cloud 9 superstore.
Often compared to The Office (USA) the show follows the life and loves of the shop’s staff (remember workmates?). It has one of the most diverse casts on the telly, tackles political and social issues in a very clever way (low wage, undocumented citizens), and actual Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera
Tom Gormer, photography director, Stylist
“Let it be known that I’m not a sitcom fan. But when the brain fog and lethargy of Covid descended in October last year (followed by November lockdown), the last thing I wanted to watch was one of my usual gritty dramas or crime thrillers. And so I cued up
Following the journey of the Rose family – Johnny, Moira, David and Alexis – who suddenly find themselves washed up in a backwater town after being swindled out of their fortune, the sharp dialogue and incredible character development had me hooked. What starts off as a family you despise for their blatant consumerism and rampant egos segues into a family who slowly, slowly discovers there is more to life than money and prestige – thanks to the colourful inhabitants of Schitt’s Creek. There have been many odes written about the brilliance of this show but please believe me when I say it’s not only my favourite TV series of lockdown, but one of all time.”
Gemma Crisp, content director, email and commerce
SEX AND THE CITY
“The pandemic forced me to face my fear of dating, so when lockdown restrictions eased last summer, a hazy few months of romantic highs and lows ensued. The thing I missed most was meeting up with my girlfriends to dissect dodgy dating app profiles, debrief boozy park dates and cry over the inevitable bit of heartbreak I went through. But I found a familiar comfort in rewatching all of Sex And The City.
I needed Samantha’s attitude, Miranda’s straight-talking and Charlotte’s optimism. With Carrie, I just felt so reassured by each dating mistake that she made. It also reminded me of the city, brunches and dates that are all waiting for me when I’m allowed to run around London as a free woman again.”
Hollie Richardson, senior digital writer
“It was January 2021, the beginning of lockdown 3.0, and I felt as though I had watched the whole of Netflix. I began trawling other streaming services for something – anything! –I’d missed and landed upon The Sopranos (available on Now) after a popular Instagram account @sopranosstyle, which chronicles the outfits on the show, promised the fashion would at least be good.
Three months later and four seasons deep, I am obsessed. The extravagant clothes! The long, painted nails! The wild story lines! The mafia! It is a world away from my present pyjamas-in-front-of-the-television lifestyle and, for that, I love it.”
Hannah Keegan, features writer, Stylist
“Homeland has everything. It’s tense AF and full of interesting characters; it has been the best part of my extensive lockdown TV watching. But the thing I love most is that everyone thought when (spoiler alert) Damien Lewis’s central character Sergeant Brody was written out after three seasons the series would no longer have legs, but Claire Danes’ Carrie proved to be more flawed and fascinating to watch than any leading man.
It’s not perfect, and at times its portrayal of ‘terrorists’ was facile but each episode delivers big budget blockbuster energy, with a brain. The final episode was a masterful, satisfying finish and boy will I miss Carrie’s quivering chin.”
Katy Harrington, digital commissioning editor
AMERICAN HORROR STORY
“Spoiler: Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story isn’t actually scary, but it is very entertaining, silly and fun. There are nine series and while it’s true that some are way better, and scarier than others (series three, Coven, is a particular favourite), it’s an anthology so each is a completely new story…but with the same cast and Easter eggs galore.
It’s fun to see who from a previous season is going to turn up and as which character. Also, the celeb cameos are off the scale. Stevie Nicks sashays around as a witch in Coven, Lady Gaga stars as a vampire in Hotel - based on the Cecil Hotel of the recent Netflix documentary and even Joan Collins pops up in a bunker in ‘Apocalypse’. It’s the perfect show to get into if, like me, you love to fall into a hole of Wikipedia fandom pages and I have developed an unhealthy obsession with the actors off the back of it (especially Jessica Lange), which has certainly helped distract me during lockdown.”
Lucy Robson, SEO executive
THIS IS US
“The best recommendation anyone gave me in lockdown was to start watching This Is Us. And now I wonder how I ever got by without the story of the Pearson family and their search for happiness. Never have I depended on a TV show more to entertain, distract and emotionally soothe my soul.
Being able to watch a relatable storyline of three siblings throughout different stages of their lives is a clever hour in front of the TV. But more than that, watching challenges and mistakes I know I’ve been through, through the lens of others, has taught me so much about acceptance and perspective in a year when social interaction has been so sadly lacking.
I didn’t know it was possible to watch a series and have a therapy session at the same time but somehow this beautiful show did just that.”
Megan Glynn, deputy art editor, Stylist
MARRIED AT FIRST SIGHT AUSTRALIA
“Some people have been able to lose themselves in thought-provoking documentaries or twisty thrillers this past year – I am not one of those people. During lockdown 2.0 my brain was reaching overload – the news cycle and constant pandemic anxiety was – and I desperately needed some mindless entertainment.
Enter Married At First Sight Australia, a show that does exactly what it says on the tin, pairing up ‘scientifically matched’ couples for a fast-tracked marriage experiment. It is ridiculous, and ridiculously entertaining. There are the star-crossed lovers you can’t help but root for, and there are the clear villains, their bad behaviour amped up to pantomime levels. It’s the TV equivalent of someone holding up ‘laugh’, ‘cry’ and ‘applause’ signs at the side of the stage. No thinking required.”
Meena Alexander, features editor, Stylist
“I’ve always been invested in the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite, but my Gossip Girl obsession reached new heights this past year. Our lives have been thrown out of whack so much that all I want is to dive head first into a world where the drama is simple and the biggest problem is Blair’s debut at cotillion. Not to mention the ridiculous love triangles; will Serena choose Nate or Dan? And will Dan choose Serena or Blair? But lest we forget the overarching quagmire: can the two worlds of Brooklyn and Manhattan ever truly coexist?
Even though I know what happens (having seen the whole show a few times over now) it’s become a source of comfort that I didn’t know I needed. As soon as I hear Kristen Bell utter ‘xoxo gossip girl’, I can feel my daily woes melt away.”
Kiran Meeda, editorial assistant, Stylist
“The irony of being stuck at home watching TV, and finding escape in a show about other people watching TV, is not lost on me. But far from being a Kafkaesque nightmare, the return of Gogglebox to our screens during the pandemic felt like being reunited with old friends.
How had Nutty and Nutty been coping with the madness of the past few months? Had friends Jenny and Lee managed to see each other? Would the Malones’ impressive snack supply be impacted by lockdown? It’s hard to explain the fondness I have for the cast to non-viewers – if you know, you know – and my favourites change weekly. Perhaps it says something about how much I’m missing my own family that siblings Pete and Sophie, and sisters Ellie and Izzi are right up there at the moment. While Mica and Marcus are relationship goals.
In one episode of Gogglebox, you’ll get tears (usually Nutty or Jenny), actual lols (no other TV makes me laugh out loud as much in fact) and a lesson in the power of simple raised eyebrow (thanks Mica). The perfect cocktail for surviving lockdown.”
Amy Davies-Adams, production editor, Stylist
“I remember a time, pre-Covid, when I wondered who on earth had the time to watch 153 episodes of Gilmore Girls, a show that clocks in at around 45 minutes per episode? Ha! Turns out all I needed was a world in shut down, an impending sense of doom and my anxiety spiralling to complete the task at hand.
The show charts the life of mother and daughter Lorelai and Rory Gilmore living their lovely cosy lives in lovely cosy Stars Hollows in New England. Nothing really happens: they drink coffee, talk about drinking coffee, make each other laugh, reference pop culture, have weekly dinners with grandparents, and go through the occasional relationship drama.
It’s safe, fused with community and has the bond between a mother and daughter at its centre. And it turns out it was exactly what I needed to get me through the first couple of months of absolute mayhem.”
Helen Bownass, entertainment director
Images: Shutterstock, Channel 4, Netflix, Sky. BBC