Seeing the request to let us know what we are watching during the REMAIN INDOORS 2020 marathon actually got me stumped. What are we watching? What does that mean? Are we in thrall to any particular series? Can we not wait for the next episode (or just hit the ‘x’ button on the ps4 controller)? And the actual answers are, or at least until two days ago were, nothing much and, uh, no.

I think a little context here might help. ‘We’ are me (obvs), Mrs Dr Big John (‘MDBJ’ but this is as she is known by the local garage), sulky teenage girl-child (‘STG’) and Sweep, the five year old who is undergoing Speech and Language Therapy (SLT) as she is not speaking that well (her name is Ava but when she started to vocalise as an infant she sounded just like Sweep, you know, Sooty’s hetero life-partner, so we  I called her that without thinking and, well, she’s stuck with it now). Another thing that is worth knowing is that we do not have TV as some of us would think of it. There is no aerial for the house, no satellite dish and no cable so we are (and have been since October 2019 when we moved in) itinerant watchers, no longer rooted to pressing the ‘^’ or the ‘v’ buttons but instead watching on laptops or through the ps4.

Family viewing does not really exist in our house. Sweep will happily get up with the dawn and launch herself at PJ Masks or Paw Patrol until someone else gets up, STG exits her crypt around 11am and makes a bee line for her phone (after all, important things may have happened) and myself and MDBJ blur into waking after coffee then try to get them both to take part in some daily government approved exercise (these occasional victories are Pyrrhic).

Once the daily argument exercise is complete STG skulks off upstairs and MDBJ goes on the twitter (she tells me it’s work) leaving me and Sweep to get on with things. And those things usually end with me giving in and the TV going on (you really can only play giant snakes and ladders so many times before the appeal wears thin) but under conditions. The early morning is hers for Netflix, the afternoon involves me, um, forcing her to watch Newsround before we go through CBeebies greatest hits. Honestly, good children’s TV is excellent stuff and Bernard Cribbins is still on it (!). Recommendations for quick views are (from Sweep) Waffle the Wonder Dog (a show that revolves around a modern family who have a wonder dog called Waffle (voiced by Rufus Hound, ah…the hilarity) who can not only talk but has now (SPOILER ALERT) been enrolled in the local primary school) and (from me), Molly and Mack (a genuinely lovely show with some truly splendid music),  a show that breaks conventions of form for young audiences and does it with aplomb. Sweep loves these shows and I love hearing her sing along to the songs in them, a great way of helping her develop her language skills (and far friendlier than words she hears mummy say whilst driving).

We also, in the name of research, took the plunge to get the Mouse, so Disney+ has now appeared. Truthfully, I wanted the free trial to see The Mandalorian (I’m not decided yet, MDBJ cannot stand it) but, of course, as Disney own nearly everything there’s the Pixar school (I defy you to watch the first ten minutes of Up! and not shed a tear), National Geographic (which includes The World According to Jeff Goldblum, which is exactly as you imagine it) and, horror, the Marvel Comics Universe.

Ok, an admission. I had not seen all of those films. Certainly not all of the Avengers films anyway and, in a further bit of teetering along the precipice of honesty I could not get why they were so loved by undergrads. The ones I had seen were lumbering, lengthy, weighed down by CGI and in need of a salad for lunch in the way of plot development (the films, not the undergrads). The CGI in the films is lovely, there are very pretty colours and things exploding or being crushed but, honestly, cut some of it out and these films could easily be thirty to forty minutes trimmer. Do we need to see Hulk fight for ten minutes to show us that he’s a bit tasty in a scrap? Really? Still? Didn’t we know this already? But, anyway, myself and the good MDBJ decided that, in the name of research, we should try some of them. And the news is…well, some of them are ok. The Ant Man films were distracting enough, Thor: Ragnarok was a giggle, Captain Marvel was really good (tried to get STG to watch it but as she shouted down, she isn’t interested, thank you (door slams upstairs)) but the two biggies if you will, Endgame and the one before it, well, I just didn’t care. I can see the appeal, I understand the franchising and the fandom (well, as much as any of us do) but I just don’t get it. I think it’s the plot, more lettuce for this lot please.

Other than that, we tried Ozark, got six episodes in and basically wanted them all to get shot, Picard was slogged through (and I mean slogged, each of those episodes could have been twenty minutes shorter easily), Sex Education was a joy (and one of those shows that MDBJ didn’t notice wasn’t set in the USA until I pointed out the accents about five minutes in) and finally, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back on E4.

So, there’s not really been any one thing that has grabbed us, certainly nothing new (99!). I suppose that given the different ages of the girls it’s going to be hard to find a series or show that will work for both of them let alone something that parents can get through as well. The DVDs have been out, I made the children watch Singin’ in the Rain (two reasons for that; one, it was my birthday and two, I don’t ever need to justify watching Singin’ in the Rain to anyone). The family viewing ended and Sweep announced that she could do all the dances, dead easy, and STG exalted as it being, ‘alright.’

And then, a few nights ago, whilst watching two of the funniest three people currently on television (that’d be the Siddiqui family on Gogglebox, they are hilarious) we decided to cave and watch what everyone else was going on about.

So, to answer the request of what we are watching, well, the wee one is firmly into Pixar and Cbeebies output, the STG is working her way through Doctor Who (well, nu-Who, really and she thinks that Cybermen are getting cuter, gonna keep an eye on that I think) and myself and MDBJ are trying not to scream at the TV every night. Really trying not to shout at the people in this show, we know they cannot hear us, we know it’s not live but they are captivatingly appalling and in equal parts horrifying and mesmerising.

Want to know what we’re watching? Tonight, it’s the final two episodes of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.

After that, who knows? Any ideas?


John Ritchie spent the majority of the last twenty-five years working as an actor and performer across all media. He completed his PhD in August 2018. His thesis was written as part of an AHRC-funded project, British Silent Cinema and the Transition to Sound, 1927-1933. John’s main area of research is performance on screens.