Kirsten Provan recounts everything (from Netflix to YouTube) that has been helping her procrastinate writing her Masters dissertation. She explains her theory that all US sit-coms are inherently terrible, and delves into why we’re all so obsessed with other people’s mental health.
Image description: In the words of the author "We are just another product of society, we end up being all the same losing our true selves".
Procrastination is something that comes easily to me. I’m quick to get distracted and love nothing more than fostering a new obsession. It isn’t necessarily bad—it helps keep me up-to-date with current culture and stops me from getting burnt out—but right now, with dissertation deadlines looming, it’s hindering my productivity. To make myself feel better, I’ve compiled a list of everything that has been keeping me occupied over these unproductive weeks in the hopes of successfully distracting you too.
Comedian Mae Martin has created something special here. Their two-series comedy-drama, which came first to Channel 4 then was renewed by Netflix, explores queer love, identity, and the bumpy road of drug addiction recovery. Heavily inspired by Martin’s own life, the topics dealt with are weighty and deeply personal, but it’s this honesty, as well as the intricate love story at its core, that makes this series worth watching. There’s no denying that Phoebe Waller-Bridge has done wonders for alternative, female-centred comedies, but this is no Fleabag rip-off. Feel Good hits with its nuanced portrayal of addiction, its inclusion of infuriatingly loveable characters, and its incredibly deft exploration of trauma. It’s a show about figuring yourself out, learning to love healthily, and taking time to grow from past mistakes. If that wasn’t enough, Feel Good is also beautifully shot and acted, with Martin and Charlotte Ritchie (Ghosts; Fresh Meat) confidently at the helm. I watched the whole thing in two days (top procrastination there), and honestly, I’m a bit bereft now that it’s over.
Feel Good is streaming now on Netflix. Trigger warnings: drug and alcohol abuse; addiction; homophobia; gender dysphoria; implied sexual assault.
I have a theory that all sit-coms are terrible. For me, the reason we love them is that they are so formulaic and once you watch enough episodes, it becomes easy to switch your brain off and passively consume. That’s my experience with Superstore anyway. If you watched just one episode at random, it might be a genuinely awful show, but I’ve become obsessed. Following a ragtag group of shop assistants working in a giant American superstore, you get all the drama and laughs that come with disrespectful customers and volatile co-worker relationships. Anyone who has worked a minimum wage retail job, Superstore will either make you feel vindicated or hit far too close to home.
Seasons 1-5 of Superstore is streaming now on Netflix.
Bo Burnham’s stand-up specials are something to behold. Before watching his latest instalment Inside, I went back to relive the brilliance of what. and Make Happy. However, the contrast between these specials is a little scary. If you’ve never seen Burnham before, he’s a musical comedian offering astute observations about society under the guise of farcical songs. With Inside, Burnham’s latest endeavour, filmed alone throughout lockdown, his earlier silliness has given way to a kind of mania. And yet, I couldn’t look away. Burnham has always hinted at his struggles with mental health but never have they been laid so bare. Over an hour and a half, we watch him have a breakdown, set to a jaunty tune, accompanied by colourful lights. While Burnham’s signature humour is there, I wouldn’t go into this expecting laughs; it’s more of an artsy documentary than anything. Afterwards, I was left feeling quite hollow. It made me wonder why we are all so obsessed with each other’s mental health, why we feel the need to shout our problems into the void that is the internet. I’m still unsure, but what I realised, ultimately, is that Inside is about processing our collective, inner pain. When the lockdown was wrenching apart all our scabbing wounds and opening them up to the air, the only way to stitch ourselves back together was with words and honesty. Burnham’s vulnerability is inspiring and thought-provoking. He achieves what he set out to do with intelligence and artistry, leaving us with the message that, after the tough year we’ve had, catharsis is on the cards for us all.
Inside, Make Happy, and what. are all currently available on Netflix.
No More Jockeys
Throughout the pandemic, renowned English comedians Alex Horne, Mark Watson, and Tim Key have been playing No More Jockeys. The rules are simple enough: you name a famous person and a category—for instance, Bo Burnham: no more people over six foot—and then every subsequent person named must not fall into any of the preceding categories. Not only is the game one you’ll want to adopt as your own and play down the pub, but the trio also aren’t afraid to ask the big questions, such as: are birds animals? and, does a spider have a heart? Undoubtedly, it’s just chaotic nonsense, but No More Jockeys has been one of the main things keeping me entertained throughout the pandemic. Horne, Watson, and Key have been mates for decades, playing this game for decades, and their chemistry—and various levels of drunkenness—make for hilarious viewing.
New episodes of No More Jockeys are available on their YouTube channel every Friday.
Diss Won’t Do: A Rundown of Everything That’s Been Distracting Me from Writing My Dissertation by Kirsten Provan
Just kidding. I’m not about to get all meta. Although, I have been prioritising this article over everything else. I’m hoping that it’ll clear some brain space and allow for top-quality dissertation writing to ensue. We’ll see…