Whether on sweltering hot days which demand drawn curtains and air conditioning, or cold rainy days that beg for cuddle-time with your blanket, there’s one common activity that comes to mind – binge-watching TV shows.
The problem about TV shows is not the lack of variety, but the fact that there are too many of them! From fantasy-based series with dungeons, dragons and demons alike, to those firmly grounded in realism – there is something for everyone, regardless of taste.
TV shows usually get a bad rep for spurring on unproductive time-wasting and inertia; and there is no doubt that some do result in such tendencies, but there are also those which educate and inspire its viewers.
Here are 6 guilt-free picks for the weekend that have both entertainment and educational value:
Bloody Monday (2008 – 2010)
Adapted from a manga series of the same name, Bloody Monday follows protagonist Takagi Fujimaru, a regular high school student who moonlights as a talented hacker. In the first season, Japan’s public safety special unit THIRD-i approaches Fujimaru (who uses “Falcon” as his hacking alias) for help after believing that biological terrorists plan to unleash a deadly virus, Bloody X, which killed off a Russian town, onto Tokyo.
Fujimaru’s initial duty was simply to decode the chip which contained a video file documenting the viral outbreak, but as with all dramas, the plot soon thickens when his father (a high-ranking official in THIRD-i) is framed for the murder of his superior. This successfully throws the boy into a web of danger and deception as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the terrorist group and the deadly and impending “Bloody Monday”.
If you’re looking for a no-nonsense, jargon-heavy show, you might want to look somewhere else. Bloody Monday is first and foremost a Japanese drama, so do expect to see scenes of friendship, romance and family interjected with main storyline. Still, it makes for an entertaining watch, and with the good looking cast brightening up the screen – we’re not complaining.
Mr Robot (2015)
Another series on hacking, the show features Elliot Alderson, a cybersecurity engineer by day and hacker by night, who is recruited to be a “hacktivist” (a combination of the words “hack” and “activist”) by an anarchist known as “Mr Robot” who aims to erase all debt records.
Alderson suffers from clinical depression and social anxiety, and watching him fumble through his interactions further fuels the sense of a cold, dark alienation which works very well for the dark, complex content. As compared to the niche business of hacking, the series takes a good, hard look at issues present among all of us – capitalism, income inequality, and ruthless, powerful leaders.
Mr Robot is a rather heavy watch, but with its widespread critical acclaim, it’s safe to say the rough ride is well worth it.
Interesting fact: The episode titles are faux file names, such as “eps1.0_hellofriend.mov”, “eps1.4_3xpl0its.wmv” and “eps1.9_zer0-day.avi”, and make the show even more immersive than it already is.
Halt and Catch Fire (2014 – present)
Set in the 1980s at Silicon Prairie (a take on the better-known Silicon Valley) in Texas, do not expect to see smartphone-toting executives with Starbucks cups in one hand in this one. Halt and Catch Fire is a dramatisation of the personal computing boom in the 80s, which was also the heyday of technological revolution.
The series follows a visionary, an engineer and a prodigy, who work fearlessly against corporate giants of that time like IBM to realise their vision of building a revolutionary computer. The show covers not only the pitfalls that come with success – such as greed and ego, but also the changing culture that is brought about by technological advancements. It is also an interesting way for those presently in the tech industry to get a history lesson on their predecessors.
Despite generally dismal ratings, the show received generally positive reviews from critics and a third season has been confirmed for summer this year (though no date has been given up till now), giving us yet another to binge-watch the first two as soon as possible!
Silicon Valley (2014 – present)
Silicon Valley is a funny, light-hearted look into the lives of 6 young men trying to make it in, you guessed it, Silicon Valley, with their startup.
The main protagonist is Richard Hendricks, who, at the start of the show, is your stereotypical introverted and socially awkward computer programmer working at a large company. His real passion lies in his creation, a music app called Pied Piper, which he works on in a live-in startup business incubator. Though off to a rocky start, the assistant of venture capitalist Peter Gregory soon realises that the app contains a revolutionary data compression algorithm.
Eventually, after going through the pains many aspiring entrepreneurs undergo such as backstabbing, dire living conditions, a lack of a social life and funding problems, Hendricks and his motley crew manage to impress investors – the definition of a true fairy tale ending for the startup community.
The show is perfect for everyone who wants an insight into the startup community, and also a reminder to aspiring entrepreneurs about the hard work that goes into each and every step of the journey.
CSI Cyber (2015 – 2016)
From the franchise that brought us 10,000 (I exaggerate) episodes of dead bodies, evidence-filled ziplock bags, and flashbacks comes CSI Cyber, which focuses on cyber crime. Its inception, if you think of it, is pretty inevitable, given the reach of technology in our daily lives and thus the number of potential crimes that can be conducted.
Instead of the usual detective-forensic scientist tag team in the original CSI series, this version follows an elite team of FBI Special Agents based out of Washington which specialise in solving crimes such as Internet-related murders, cyber theft, hacking, sexual offences and blackmail. The team is led by Dr. Avery Ryan, who was a renowned psychologist, and she works tirelessly with both federal agents and former cyber criminals – a rather interesting, yet potentially effective combination.
Unfortunately, the series was cancelled after two seasons, but it is definitely still worth checking out if you’re a fan of the original franchise.
Black Mirror (2011 – present)
Black Mirror is a British anthology series from journalist and presenter Charlie Brooker, who takes a break from his usual satire-infused productions to create this dark, critically acclaimed series which examines modern society and the unanticipated, usually negative, consequences of technology.
When asked about the rational behind the title, he states, “If technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror, my new drama series, is set. The ‘black mirror’ of the title is the one you’ll find on every wall, on every desk, in the palm of every hand: the cold, shiny screen of a TV, a monitor, a smartphone.”
If that’s not enough of a reason to intrigue you, I don’t know what is.
The seemingly disconnected format of the show, which features “a different cast, a different setting, even a different reality” in each episode is actually intentional, and serves as a warning to remind us how increasingly connected we are, and how “we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy”.
The show has received both international attention and special interest from master of horror Stephen King, and with such a strong backing, I’m pretty sure that Black Mirror would not disappoint.
So there you have it, some addictive shows that you can check out over the weekend – don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Feature Image Credit: remezcla.com