What We're Watching, Vol. 3
At The Attic on Eighth, we are obviously a multimedia bunch, with our regular reading discussions and film lists. In fact, some of our very first interactions as friends were excitedly messaging scene for scene reactions to some of our favorite shows across oceans and time zones. In this monthly series we paraphrase group chats surrounding our most recent views. Nothing keeps us together like binge-watching together, even if we’re not in the same room.
Somehow June is a blur, and I’m convinced that my husband and I spent the entirety of the month continuing our rewatch of Frasier, which continues to be the most soothing sitcom to escape to. The month was such a hot one with the continental heat wave that I feel like it literally just melted away, somehow propelling us into July and turning us away from making any long term commitments to any shows. I’ve consequently found myself watching more movies, turning back to old favorites like To Catch a Thief (inspired by Zoë Burnett’s “Summer Films for a Stormy Afternoon” piece), Moonrise Kingdom, Notting Hill, and Julie & Julia. I love comfort in the heat and that means revisiting things I know on screen, whether it’s a show or a film (or a miniseries — looking at you Brideshead and my forever June association to watching it in vintage Laura Ashley with a bowl of cherries on hand), especially if it means pulling me away from the present and into another time, whether on the shores of the Riviera or into the air conditioned 90s.
One show — and one show only — consumes all of my summer. That is ITV’s Love Island, which, if you haven’t heard, is a British reality dating show not unlike a cross between The Bachelor(ette) and Survivor. As with the latter, it demands that its winners outwit, outplay, and outlast other couples throughout the span of the show. And like the former, the key to surviving the span of each season is a highly idealised — albeit heteronormative — notion of romance. But this is also where Love Island differs from Survivor, and precisely its appeal, I think, to the millions who tune in night after night: at its heart is the promise of a perfect human connection, that which we all feel a tug towards from time to time. Sure, Hozier might’ve called it the equivalent of “putting spiders in a jar and rattling it to see what happens,” but is this sense of being accidentally thrown into the lives of others not also what begins all relationships anyway?
As much as I hate to admit this, I have grown to become painfully invested in the partly-scripted lives of those tanned and smugly-gorgeous individuals who now pretty much populate my laptop screen. I am frustrated for the women who might not have had the best of luck with their recent choice of partners, just as I am delighted by both the charms of the competition’s current frontrunners, Tommy and Molly-Mae, and the strong display of female friendship this season. Perhaps I’m just a sucker for drama, but perhaps it’s also because the show allows us to see ourselves in the faults of its protagonists’ relationships —whilst at once selling us such a tempting ideal of a perfect coupling — that we find it so compelling. In short, Love Island lets us hope that a happily-ever-after (and one that is worth a whopping £50,000) is possible after a few mistakes, several quibbles, and one or two partner-swaps if necessary. It lets us believe that the first fuzzy feelings of a holiday romance can last one’s whole life, and such optimism is all I need, I think, amidst the grim and sweltering heat of summer.
I myself am in full summer re-watch mode at the moment. I finally got my brother into Grace & Frankie and his falling in love with it as much as I am means I get to enjoy it all over again, even if we still have to wait at least six more months for a new season. If you’re not up to date, Grace & Frankie follows the fabulous Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as two nemeses turned best friends when they find themselves with only each other after their husbands come out of the closet and get married. Think of it as the Grumpy Old Men of our generation and a million times better. Additionally, their hot mess conglomerate of snarky and sassy children speak to my soul as a fellow child of divorce who had to act as psychiatrist to both my parents and my own self when it all went flying. Is this what catharsis feels like?
Just before Grace & Frankie I finished Broad City, and I’m still emotional over that one to be honest. That show was like the purest, friendliest hug anyone could ever get. I once described it as pure ‘shenanigans,’ and it was quite funny to see an episode titled just that in the final season, as our female leads Abbi and Ilana came to the startling realization that their everyday misadventures may have gotten them where they are, but perhaps not where they want to be. Constantly questioning my own life and future, it was comforting to see such similarity in female characters, even if it was only for a short amount of time. They weren’t stereotypes, or “cool girls,” or fantasies — they were real and I will miss them terribly, but I know they’ll be okay and maybe that’s enough to be able to let them go.
Raquel — Speaking on the phone with my mother yesterday she reminded me of A Discovery of Witches, that gorgeous show featuring our beloved and gorgeous “guy also from Downton.” I started it ages ago when Lauren and Olivia alerted me to its existence but didn’t finish the first season. I’ve now been tasked with catching up ASAP should I wish to speak to my mother again.
Olivia — I’m with Raquel and Lauren on this one and desperately waiting for A Discovery of Witches to come back. I’m not normally one for vampires, but the show does such a good job of capturing an aesthetic while also being sappily romantic in an outrageous way that works incredibly well because it features Matthew Goode.
Rachel — Having been out of the loop for the past few months — I was writing my thesis — my Netflix queue has morphed to become quite the monster. Off the top of my to-watch list: new seasons of Stranger Things, Jessica Jones, and a personal favourite, Aggretsuko.