We’ve Been On The Boxsets Again: What We Watched In June

Football? What football? We’ve not had a moment to even check the scores so deep are we in a Netflix binge. So here’s what’s been keeping us busy this month, from Love Island (season one: retro) to The Staircase.

Kicking us off, Emily’s been topping up her Love Island obsession by dually watching seasons one and two on Netflix. If you’re a regular follower of this column you’ll notice that she’s watching something other than a murder mystery! Whoops, too soon, she’s also gotten into Happy Valley a… murder mystery.

Love Island Series 1 and 2

Love Island. It needs no introduction, you can’t escape it. Who’d have thought that putting a bunch of singles looking for love in a villa and watching them try and forge relationships whilst constantly having their trust and feelings challenged would bring the nation together like it has? And what does that say about us? But it has, I’m going to put it out there more so than the Royal Wedding. Awkward moment in a meeting? Ask someone what they think of Eyal’s ‘spirituality’ as I did the other day. Uncomfortable silence diverted. And how many girls can relate to Rosie, falling for the f**k boy? I’m going to wager most of us. If an hour a day for eight weeks just isn’t enough for you then you can catch up on series 1 and 2 on Netflix.

Click here to watch…

Happy Valley

Another month another murder mystery series. It’s just been announced that Happy Valley will be returning for series 3 at the end of the year, which means you have plenty of time to catch up on series 1 and 2. Don’t be fooled by the name, this valley is anything but happy. The series revolve around the murders and events taking place in a small Yorkshire town. There’s an ongoing plot between police sergeant Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) and the father of her grandson (James Norton) who she believes drove her daughter to suicide. Norton couldn’t be more different from his role in Grantchester or War and Peace, he’s a sinister, creepy thug and series 2 sees Catherine, herself, under suspicion for murder. You’ll be hooked.

Click here to watch…

Meanwhile, Charlotte has decided to keep things light with a double dose of comedy with Arrested Development and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. 

Arrested Development

I got into this late in the game as it originally aired in 2003 whereas I only started watching it last year. It was brought to my attention by a friend whose recommendations I kept brushing off until I finally succumbed after seeing numerous adverts on Netflix (marketing paying off). A bit of a grower, I gave it the old college try and after a few episodes was a fully-fledged fan. Arrested Development follows the dysfunctional and narcissistic Bluth family, with a star-studded cast including Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Jeffrey Tambor and a baby-faced Michael Cera. It’s funny, hectic, a bit bizarre and quite sweet when needs be; best of all they’ve just released a new season on Netflix.

Click here to watch…

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

This was another gem I found late in the day, the first series aired in 2005 and is still going strong with series 13 and 14 currently in production, which at season 4 means I have plenty more bingeing to get through. Described as a black comedy, there are definitely some jokes and plotlines that I wonder how they were allowed to air (when they think they’re addicted to human flesh and try to sneak into a morgue with a hot plate for example) but I love the boundary pushing humour. The show revolves around a group of friends who own Paddy’s Pub and all of their hair-brained schemes and narcissistic behaviour. It’s one of those shows where no one is a dud character, Danny DeVito even joined the main cast in season 2.

Click here to watch…

Charlie, not to be confused with Charlotte, is a new addition to The Handbook and clearly she’s not working nearly as hard as she’s playing because she’s been all over the streaming services with the sexy You, Me, Her and the rather less sexy Staircase.

You, Me, Her

I think it’s fairly obvious from the title that this series is a bit of a raunchy watch. It’s not something I’d normally punt for, but the title intrigued me and then I began watching and before I knew it I was hooked on the three’s-a-crowd drama that was unfolding before my eyes.  Basically, it’s a series that does anything but celebrate monogamy, with a frisky, and at times risky relationship starting out between a married couple and an escort. Yup, that’s right. Jack and Emma Trakarsky with their suburban names and even more suburban lives in Portland – who are absolutely hilarious, might I add –have an affair with escort Izzy, and very quickly become a “thrupple” with a much spicier sex life than before.

Izzy is a confused, recreational drug taking hot mess, who spins the polyromantic bisexual comedy into first gear, with a lot of chats about feelings and sex scenes thrown in. Three being the number of the moment, there are three seasons, (much to my delight and to the delight of the Netflix bingers), with season one focusing on the confusing feelings brewing in thruppledom, season two illuminating Emma’s lesbian past, with a juicy couple cliff-hanger, and recently aired season three sees divorce papers thrown down and three become four…slight spoiler alert there, I’m sorry.

This is one for those who love a laugh, but also love a peek into the secret lives of white-picket fence-ers. Good things come in three’s!

Click here to watch…

The Staircase

An absolute must-watch for those who indulge in all things crime, from podcasts on the commute to those who record Miss Marple on a loop, The Staircase is a 13-part teeth-grinding documentary, not for the faint hearted. The true-crime docu-series, illuminates the events of the Michael Peterson murder case with the over-arching question being: Did he or did he not murder his wife, Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase.

Peterson is committed of the horrific crime, which is shown in abrupt and at times very gory detail throughout. It’s a compelling watch with proceedings that hook you, as you follow the journey as if experiencing it first-hand. Creepily, the documentary humanises Peterson to a level where you find yourself to-ing and fro-ing with your opinions on the matter. The American justice system is completely dismantled in a search for truth that begins to grow wider than just that of the Peterson case.

For those who love to get hooked, solve mysteries and get their fair share of crime cases, this is the perfect watch, albeit a gruesome subject matter.

Click here to watch…

Phil’s taken a leaf out of Charlotte’s book (Charlotte, not Charlie, not to be confused) and opted for something a little lighter, with Amazon Prime’s Life In Pieces and Channel 4’s Fresh Meat.

Life In Pieces

It’s the pieces that make this series especially enjoyable, it’s in bite-size chunks which is perfect for millennial attention spans, for getting an episode in just before bedtime or for having a really productive binge sesh. Each 20 minute episode is split into four five minute parts focusing on different parts of this vaguely dysfunctional family sitcom. The Short family, spread over three generations, are a West Coast middle class family with very middle class ‘problems’ and situations. On paper it should be pretty dull. Except it’s not, it’s very very easy watching and hugely entertaining. In classic sitcom form, not very much happens, but the series is so well acted (the cast includes Tom Hank’s son Colin) and beautifully written that it can’t but warm the heart.

Click here to watch…

Fresh Meat

I can’t believe this wasn’t the first boxset review I wrote because I really treasure it as one of the best pieces of comedy that Britain has produced in a long time. This show rates up with the greats, step aside Delboy falling through the bar and Manuel’s Siberian Hamster, Fresh Meat needs its place in the hall fame.

Following a disparate group of students through their university experience, from freshers to graduation, Fresh Meat is hilarious. The script is really tight, the storyline compelling and the jokes land perfectly. This is also in part to a brilliant cast, including Jack Whitehall who shares the limelight with Inbetweener Joe Thomas but despite their fame they share equal airtime with the excellent Kimberly Nixon (the bully in Bend It Like Beckham), Zawe Ashton (Not Safe for Work), Charlotte Ritchie (Call The Midwife and Siblings) and Greg McHugh (the creator of Gary: Tank Commander). As well as being laugh-out-loud funny, the show also has the ability to make you well up with tears or just relive the angst of university life as teenagers transform into adults.

I simply can’t recommend this show more. I’ve just started re-watching it for the third time.

Click here to watch…

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