To chime in with International Women’s Day, here are two of my most recent womany TV favourites.
First Sandi Toksvig’s Extraordinary Escapes on Channel 4. Now, I’ll watch anything with this diminutive witty woman in it, to be honest. Why? Because she’s just so human, somehow.
She comes across as genuine, caring, sensitive and ‘normal’. With a big scarf. And super-human cleverness. And a wit that passes you at the speed of light. It’s not fair, really, that so much talent had been packed into such a teensy-statured woman. Being vertically-challenged myself, she reminds me of the way I was once described by a teacher: “like Jif liquid: powerful but concentrated“. The Jif reference does rather date me. It changed to Cif in 2000. Ugh.
Anyway, I digress. Back to goddess Sandi.
This is a short series (no, I’m going to stop with the height references now. I am allowed to because I also belong to the short women club, but I’ll resist). Only 4 episodes. FOUR! What were Channel 4 thinking. Oh, I just got that: 4 eps on C4. Deliberate?
OK, only four 45 minute episodes, but each one is a gem. It’s basically UK property-, food-, wildlife- and travel-porn with a little QI thrown in. In each outing, Sandi takes a famous woman with her to discover and stay in some breath-taking properties around the UK. I did get the feeling that each episode was sponsored by the houses as they were like little staycation adverts that wouldn’t have been out of place in The Telegraph. And I had my suspicions whether they actually stayed there – I know no woman who takes such little luggage, for a start.
No matter. Suspension of disbelief and all that.
The programmes are soothing, full of beautiful landscapes, gorgeous homes, plenty of wine (and whiskey, Sindhu!) and locally-sourced food. Sandi and guest visit three different places in a particular county and we get to ooh and aah with them as they experience welcoming pods of porpoises, comfy chairs by the fire in the Cotswolds, stunning architecture hidden in Scotland and local produce cooked by Sandi and Prue Leith in the last episode. Although, I was somewhat distracted in that last one by the gorgeous kitchen, I must say. I like a room so streamlined, you’ve no idea where the oven is.
This series is the womany version of Mortimer and Whitehouse’s Gone Fishing. In that, I loved the banter between two friends who clearly enjoy each other’s company and the beautiful river greenery. It’s the same in this one, although I wasn’t quite sure Sandi and Alison Steadman quite gelled in the same way as the other three ‘friends’. In this series, you’ve got property and cooking on top. Winning combination.
Sandi gets a little emotional at times, overwhelmed by how lucky they are to be experiencing such gorgeousness. Seeing such gratitude is a balm to the soul.
And that is just the feeling you get with this programme. Treat yourself if you missed it.
Now for something entirely different in energy: Love Life with Anna Kendrick. You can binge all ten episodes of this on BBC iPlayer – which I did, in fact, this weekend.
This is a simple, funny, cute take on dating, love and relationships in New York City. The ever-watchable Kendrick (Pitch Perfect, for a start) plays Darby, whose past we discover and whose present we go through with her as she discovers herself through various relationships.
It’s a great homage to all kinds of love. Each episode is based around one relationship Darby has, be that with her first love, unrequited love, long-term love, friend-love, mother-love, and others.
I don’t usually like American romcom series, so I wasn’t expecting much. I didn’t actually like the first episode: the NYC drawl and characteristically-fast speech was not exactly soothing to my British ears. But once I settled in, I found I was hooked enough to watch the whole lot. It’s uncomplicated and funny, which is sometimes all you have headspace for.
Best bits for me included the Friends-like banter with her flatmates, and their clear love for each other, her background story as it was slowly revealed, the difficult relationship with her mother and the way she has grown into a strong, independent woman by the end of the series.
It’s never going to win any awards for complexity, but the simplicity and hope is what charms you. I liked it despite myself. Try it.