Here we go again! Teddy bears in windows, masked neighbourhood walks and a steady diet of screen time. In Level 4 2020, it was all about Tiger King and Schitt's Creek. Now, we're all here for Ted Lasso and The White Lotus.
If anything, there's too much to choose from on the multiple streaming platforms available for NZ viewers. If you're keen for something to while away the Level 4 blues, here's 10 picks of what to watch in lockdown:
If you want to learn more about Aotearoa's recent past:
The Panthers (TVNZ OnDemand)
It might seem a million years ago now, but it premiered just this week, so it's a perfect time to watch this new six-part series based on the true story of the Polynesian Panthers. It's a gritty, heartfelt attempt to come to grips with the racist legacies of Aotearoa's history wrapped around a compulsively watchable story about a young man's coming of age. A solid reminder of how far New Zealand has come and how far it also still has to go.
If you want to watch beautiful people do ugly things:
The White Lotus (Neon)
Is this the "buzz" show of 2021 like Tiger King was last year? Possibly, but it's also a delightfully quirky, blackly comic series that is willing to surprise viewers. The story of several wealthy families on holiday at a Hawaii resort and a mysterious death that slowly is revealed over six episodes, it takes several swerves that make it feel a little more Twin Peaks than Fantasy Island, and boasts striking performances, a haunting soundtrack and gorgeous scenery - and oh, so many mean rich people.
If you just want to laugh and have a massive binge:
One of the pleasant surprises in our house is how much Mr. 17 enjoys watching a sitcom that started nearly 50 years ago, and how funny it still is today. All whopping 11 series and 256 episodes of the classic series are streaming on Disney+, from the early years to the epic final episode (still the most watched single TV episode in history, believe it or not). Often hilarious, occasionally heartbreaking, there's a reason this one endures, and it's a long enough binge watch to carry you through almost any lockdown.
If you're nostalgic for when the kids left the house for school:
Educators (TVNZ OnDemand)
Somewhat overlooked, this bite-sized comedy about the teachers at an ordinary Kiwi secondary school is for fans of What We Do In The Shadows and Wellington Paranormal. It features familiar faces like Jackie van Beek and Jonny Brugh and a dry, deadpan and quintessentially New Zealand sense of humour that'll lighten your mood over two series of short 15-minute episodes.
If you want to appreciate a master artist:
McCartney 3, 2, 1 (Disney+)
A Beatle and a fan, alone in a room talking about music. If you're of a certain age or a die-hard Beatlemaniac, this documentary series featuring music producer Rick Rubin and the legendary Paul McCartney looking back at his career is a must-watch. It's not a flashy Beatles celebration, but more of a focused, chatty look at how great music is made that gets deep into song-geek heaven, and it's utterly fascinating.
If you want to pretend you're a glamorous international criminal:
For fans of Sherlock or The Blacklist, this French import is a modern-day retelling of the famous "gentleman thief" Arsène Lupin starring the most excellent Omar Sy as a good-hearted con man out to avenge his father's death with a dazzling series of twisty double-crosses and disguises. Available in both the original French and with English dubbing, but the French is the way to go for the full experience.
If you're looking for a hero:
Superman and Lois (TVNZ OnDemand)
Yes, there's about a million movies and TV shows out there now based on superheroes, but quietly, the first and greatest of them all has come back in a terrific new series which just wrapped up its first season. This one changes the game by being a story of a 40-something Superman who's married to Lois Lane and has two teenage sons, one of whom is developing powers just like good ol' dad. Tyler Hoechlin nails the Man of Steel's core appeal with the best performance as the character since the late Christopher Reeve, and this show balances a lot of heart with some excellent heroic action.
If you want to think about the future instead:
The Expanse (Amazon Prime)
If you're sick of 2021 and want to dive into a complex, inventive possible future, you can't go wrong with The Expanse's five seasons to date, based on a series of science-fiction novels about a future where man has spread to colonise Mars and the stars, and the conflicts that result. Packed with space politics and strange alien threats, it also features the excellent Samoan New Zealand actress Frankie Adams as a kick-arse Martian commando. If you liked stuff like Star Trek: The Next Generation or the remake of Battlestar: Galactica, this is the rocket you want to ride next.
If you want to watch kung-fu kicks and fill a nostalgia longing at the same time:
Cobra Kai (Netflix)
Look, Ralph Macchio's The Karate Kid was a lot of fun back in 1984, but nobody was really dying to pick up the story 35 years later with Macchio's karate champion Daniel now a middle-aged car salesman, were they? But it turns out that Cobra Kai is way better than 90 percent of the unnecessary remakes and reboots out there, primarily because the focus turns out to be on Daniel's defeated bully nemesis Johnny Lawrence, who's an unexpected, rough-edged hero. Delightfully corny fun with plenty of kung-fu action and one adults and kids can enjoy equally. There's three series and a fourth on the way.
If you want to just hang out with a decent person who's outside your bubble:
Ted Lasso (Apple TV)
Jason Sudeikis is one of those "hey, I know that guy" faces who's popped up in movies like Horrible Bosses, but he's found his star turn as the genial, optimistic American who ends up coaching a British football club in this charming series. Everyone likes an underdog, and this show gives you someone who's fundamentally decent but not a fool to root for. Special bonus for its latest episode being a Christmas episode dropping in the middle of August, timed perfectly for a kiwi midwinter.