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Lockdown recommendations from the Black Swan team

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As we’re in an unprecedented period of national lockdown, many of us have been looking for ways to pass our time.

Turning to popular culture, including television, films and books has been a popular choice for many, particularly with Disney finally introducing its streaming service in the UK this week. In addition, bookseller Waterstones has, this week, announced that online book sales rose by 400% week on week.

To help you to find the very best TV, books and films to keep you entertained during this period, the Black Swan team have shared their recommendations. Hopefully, there’s something to inspire you!

TV box sets to binge

There’s plenty of classic British drama on streaming and catch-up services right now, and where better to start than Rob Young’s recommendation of the modern BBC classic Line of Duty. Five seasons of the crime drama are available on the BBC iPlayer, so you can catch up with the work of anti-corruption unit AC-12 and their search for mysterious crime lord ‘H’.

If you prefer your drama more sedate, three series of The Crown can be found on Netflix, and both Rob and Tracey Veares recommend the story of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

Also found on Netflix is The Spy, an Israeli espionage miniseries based on the life of Israel’s top Mossad spy Eli Cohen, portrayed by Sacha Baron Cohen. Both Rob and Jess Lyons recommend this taut thriller.

Sci-fi is another way to escape the current situation, and James Anderson highlights the Amazon Prime series Picard in which Patrick Stewart returns to his most famous TV role in this ‘sequel’ from the Star Trek universe. Steve Slough also recommends the Netflix sci-fi Lost In Space, describing it as ‘an easy watch’ adding that it ‘will take your thoughts away from all the bad that’s happening outside.’

Multi Emmy award-winning series Breaking Bad is the choice of Tom Warren and Andrew Peters, and it’s also worth looking out for spin-off Better Call Saul. Other US dramas popular with the team include Amazon Prime’s The Man In The High Castle (Jess) and Jack Ryan (Paul Hutton), Game of Thrones (Tom), Altered Carbon (Andrew Peters) and This Is Us, which Mel Abplanalp says is ‘a really interesting show with good characters and storyline’.

If you want something more light-hearted, Andrew Nuding suggests the Netflix comedy-drama After Life. “Ricky Gervais is brilliant in this – it’s hilarious and sad at the same time.” Chris Sims adds Curb Your Enthusiasm and the BBC comedy This Country to his recommendations, while Jodie Mitchell suggests revisiting the brilliant BBC sitcom Only Fools and Horses during these uncertain times.

Finally, for a bit of real life, Jodie suggests checking out the Louis Theroux documentaries, also on Netflix.

Recommended films

With cinemas around the word currently closed, there’s a great choice of films on streaming and catch-up services – and you don’t have to pay the earth for them.

Steve Midgley highlights the Netflix original The Irishman – the Oscar-nominated hit from acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. Don’t be put off by the running time: as Steve says, “most people should have enough time to watch The Irishman at the moment!”

The arrival of Disney+ brings a huge choice of classic Disney films to streaming, from peerless animations to the latest Star Wars and Pixar output. Few films in recent years have been as popular or successful as the Marvel movies, and Chris Sims highlights the highest-grossing film of all time, Avengers Endgame, as one to watch (streaming on Disney+ now).

Imagine a world where a young alien boy crash lands in rural America and is brought up by caring parents desperate for a child of their own. While this may be the premise of the classic 1976 Superman movie, 2019’s Brightburn imagines a situation where the child turns out to be evil rather than an all-American hero.

Starring Elizabeth Banks and David Denman alongside Jackson Dunn as the titular character, this is a horror-infused superhero origin story with a difference, and Chris recommends it highly.

If you prefer your comedy-dramas to come from the UK then Julie Cooper recommends a couple of classics: Rita, Sue and Bob Too and Damien O’Donnell’s 1999 hit East is East.

Books to keep you enthralled

With online booksellers seeing a huge spike in sales it seems Brits are turning to the written word to keep them engrossed during the lockdown.

Both Rob and Steve recommend the French historical novel The Order of the Day by Eric Vuillard, while Rob also suggests Wilding by Isabella Tree.

Waterstones report that classic fiction is particularly popular at the moment and Steve highlights To Kill A Mockingbird as a particular favourite. James suggests Treasure Island while, ahead of a big-screen adaptation coming in 2021, Paul suggests Frank Herbert’s Dune.

If you fancy something non-fiction, then Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is Rob’s suggestion. James suggests the excellent Freakonomics while Mel recommends The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. “It provides a different philosophical thing to think about every day of the year with real-world examples, so it is something to read every day.”

Other authors to look out for are Charles Cumming (Rob), Michael Baigent (James), Rhonda Byrne (Jodie), Robert Harris (Jess), Stephen King (Andrew Nuding) and Martina Cole (Julie).

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