Marmite shows: you’ll either love or hate these picks
Hands up if your mother ever forbade you from leaving the dinner table until you’d finished your Brussels sprouts, peas, porridge, or whatever? Battle lines were drawn, and it would come down to who cracked first.
There are many foods that are described as “acquired tastes”. This usually means you’ll hate it the first time, but if you eat enough of it, you’ll grow to love it. The logic in this is flawed; who wants to keep eating something they dislike in the hope that one day it will get better? Also, it’s okay to not like something, even if it divides the world in two. Marmite, olives, even pineapple on pizza. It’s two yeses and one hell no for me in that example.
The same theory can be applied to series and movies. There are genres some people adore, while others loathe them. Another question: who remembers when there was one television and one remote and you had to watch whatever the most powerful/bossy person in the room wanted to watch? Thank goodness for modern technology that allows us to watch in company, if it’s amiable (very important), or in peaceful solitude. The partner or spouse or parent can indulge in their favourite on their device, and you can sneak off to bed with yours.
Here are seven kinds of shows we think might lead to domestic discord – or harmony, if the other person comes to see things your way.
Not to be confused with a rotisserie roast chicken – which everyone loves, surely – a comedy roast is when a bunch of people get together to slag off and insult a guest of honour. For some reason this is considered a privilege for the roastee, and if they can sit there and take it, and laugh at themselves, they are considered cool. Sometimes there’s some praise slipped in, but for the most part, the ruder the better.
Pearl Thusi made history as the first black woman to be Roastmaster (the person tasked with keeping things ticking over, like an MC, if you will) in the Comedy Central Roast of AKA (Showmax).
Watching rapper AKA (Thusi’s BFF’s baby daddy as it happens) watch as the comedians take shots at him will make you squirm. Roasts burn, and shade is thrown.
Blood and gore
The first one that comes to mind is The Walking Dead (S1-10 are on Netflix), aka TWD.
The gruesome zombies in this series are award-winning, in terms of visual effects and make up, thanks to Greg Nicotero, who learned everything he knows at the knees of the legendary zombie film maker George A Romero (Night Of The Living Dead, 1968). The Wikipedia page has 39 award sub-categories for this show.
In 10 seasons (all ripe and ready to stream), things have come a long way from that day Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) woke up in hospital and found out a whole lot had changed while he was in a coma. He gathers a group of survivors, whose lives are a relentless battle to stay alive, and not get eaten by the zombies – or get killed or taken captive by other humans.
TWD is considered the definitive zombie series of the century, attaining cult status, but it’s not for the faint-hearted who can’t deal with rotting flesh.
Fun fact: lamb brains are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world where nose to tail eating is encouraged.
Horror comedy and horror satires
Everyone’s talking about What We Do In The Shadows (Showmax), especially since its 2020 Emmy nominations were announced in July – eight of them, including Outstanding Comedy Series, which is not bad for a newcomer.
The series is a mockumentary about vampire housemates who’ve been putting up with each other for centuries. The whole immortal live-forever thing seems a good idea at the time, but on practical levels, there can be some huge annoyances. It could even be considered a version of hell.
Critics and audiences are loving this crazy show, when they can admit to enjoying a bit of silliness – which, frankly, we can all do with right now. You think you’ve got lockdown problems? Laszlo, Nadja and Nandor are like, “Hold my beer/chalice of virgins’ blood”.
Despicable characters and antiheroes
It’s generally accepted that in any narrative you’ll have good guys and bad guys, and the distinctions between them will be clearly recognisable. But then someone somewhere throws a spanner in the works and you get a series in which everyone is awful and you are completely conflicted by your natural urge to pick a side, and what that decision says about you.
Dexter is one of the best-known examples of an antihero, as is Walter White (Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad on Netflix.
Succession (Showmax) is an entire family of unlikable greedy obnoxious characters, and Curb Your Enthusiasm (Showmax) star Larry David is very much an acquired taste, as you try to decide whether he’s genuinely funny or an irascible jerk.
As a latecomer to Schitt’s Creek (Netflix), I can offer this as a perfect example of characters you love to hate, and hate to love. See? Very confusing. Like an avocado.
Comedy. It’s supposed to be funny, which makes you feel good, right? Wrong. Comedy is one of the most terrifying things in the world. From sitcoms to stand-up comics, one woman’s hilarity is another’s anguish. What if you don’t get the joke? Worse, what if you do and you don’t think it’s amusing, while all around you, others are rolling on the floor laughing?
HBO’s A Black Lady Sketch Show (Showmax) has an impressive 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A typical sketch show (Saturday Night Live is famous and long-running, as an example), it has a core cast who are joined by celebrity guests like Issa Rae (Insecure), Angela Bassett, Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black), and Nicole Byer.
At the other end of the sketch spectrum, there’s Monty Python – Netflix has 15 titles for you to choose from, including Life of Brian and The Holy Grail, which are movies, not sketch shows. Absurdly humorous? Without a doubt. Will everyone “get” it? Not a chance.
Well. First of all, what do we consider adult? It can mean very different things in different genres. And wouldn’t “adult” animation be a bit of an oxymoron if we’re still stuck in the mindset of Saturday morning cartoons? So many questions.
Some viewers can’t get enough of Rick and Morty (Showmax), others binge Family Guy (Showmax), and anime is a genre all on its own.
I once took an online quiz that assured me BoJack Horseman (Netflix) was the perfect series for me. I’ve still not watched it; it’s described as “witty, deadpan and cynical” so maybe I should give it a try.
Love Death & Robots (Netflix) is another take, insanely visually appealing in a NSFW anthology of stories about “weird creatures, wicked surprises and dark comedy”.
These are definitely not for everyone. Those who enjoy subtitled foreign content can sometimes be a bit stuck-up and superior, implying you might be lacking in intelligence if you don’t want to read your series or movie (there are books for that).
There’s also the suggestion that foreign stuff is somehow better than the mass-produced mainstream content appealing to a wide demographic.
All of this is untrue, although I will grant that European sensibilities do often translate into more “artsy” stories.
It can come down to something as simple as not wanting to commit your full attention to the screen, in this time of multitasking. Whether you’re sitting with your phone the entire time (and I don’t for a moment think you can follow both properly, even if it’s in your mother tongue – I’ve tried) or only picking it up for a moment because your crush has sent you a Whatsapp, a subtitled show is not for you, unless you’re prepared to rewind (they should invent a new word for that anachronism).
There is an advantage to subtitled series, however: noisy snack food will not interfere with your viewing.
If you want to give it a try, ease yourself in with My Brilliant Friend (Showmax), a story about a friendship between two girls in Italy in the 1950s. Seasons 1 and 2 are both streaming on Showmax.
“HBO’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels is not the first series to portray friendship between women, but it does so with a rare sense of emotion and complexity,” says The Guardian.
Based on four books and planned for four seasons, HBO has confirmed the third.